As Australians prepare to vote, a new survey has revealed a declining national identity.
Australians are identifying less with their country and community, and for some, life in Australia has become a battle to belong, according to The Inclusive Australia Social Inclusion Index 2021–22 which was released last Monday.
Key findings of the report are that people on a low income had lower levels of well-being compared with other groups studied; half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples surveyed had experienced major discrimination (such as being unfairly fired) in the past two years and ‘everyday’ discrimination (such as being treated with less respect) at least weekly, and; LGBTIQ+ people had lower levels of identification with being Australian.
Religious and racial minorities
Religious and racial minorities were targeted by some of the highest levels of prejudice in Australia, although this has been declining since 2017.
Another trend emerging is the decline in our identification with our local and wider community, which has been steadily dropping since 2017. However, our identification with people all over the world has remained mostly unchanged.
While Australians showed some resilience to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in some areas, 80 per cent of respondents thought Australians didn’t demonstrate our national values of fairness, tolerance, respect, or equal opportunity ‘a lot’, which had deteriorated by the second year of the pandemic.
The declining identification with Australian values was a major factor in belonging and well-being dropping to its lowest level (62 out of 100) since the start of the Index in 2017. The biggest declines in well-being in the past year were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, LGBTIQ+ people and religious minorities.
Inclusive Australia CEO Andrea Pearman said identification with Australia, local community and humanity, are all important parts of promoting a socially inclusive society, where people care about and feel a sense of connection with others. ‘We are also seeing a trend towards disillusionment as well as activism, which could be an indication that people are no longer content with the status quo and are increasingly willing to act to support disadvantaged groups, which may play out in the election.’
Downward trend in prejudice
Another positive sign from the report is the downward trend in prejudice towards some groups across the last six periods surveyed by the Index.
Ms Pearman said a positive step all Australians can take is to actively connect with more diverse groups of people. ‘More contact is associated with less prejudice. When we listen to people’s experiences, beliefs, and ideas, we learn to recognise our similarities and celebrate our differences.’
Surveyed over 11 thousand Australians
Professor Liam Smith, Director of Monash Sustainable Development Institute’s BehaviourWorks Australia, said organisations are increasingly using diagnostic tools to measure social inclusion in their workplaces and communities. ‘This is the sixth release of the Social Inclusion Index and we have surveyed over 11 thousand Australians in total over the course of five years. It is unique in that it measures social inclusion as a whole, capturing numerous different groups and their experiences in one place.
‘Until the development of the Social Inclusion Index, governments, NGOs, and businesses had very few tools available to measure Australia’s progress towards social inclusion overall. Through this all-encompassing data we have access to real-time data and a “snapshot” of the nation’s wellbeing to help inform and shape policies and practises, that address discrimination.
‘As an applied behaviour change research organisation, we are committed to providing behavioural solutions to real-world problems, and if we want to tackle social inclusion, it is vital that we give stakeholders the tools they need to make change happen’.
The Inclusive Australia Social Inclusion Index is an annual survey conducted since 2017 by Inclusive Australia and BehaviourWorks Australia – a Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) enterprise – to measure the country’s social inclusion performance.