Community in Australia

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Through developing ‘spirit’ it should guide our:  Choice of holidays and houses  Economic and environmental and social policy  Health  Foreign affairs  Immigration  Political debate  Bureaucratic decision making Community development practice  How we run meetings and manage staff  How we raise children How we love our partners  How we relate to friends Community will only give to Australian’s as much as we put into it, and Muirhead (2001, p.1) states, it should be our job as friends, lovers and parents to sustain that ‘spirit’.

We as Australian people need to attend to our own lives, connect with other people and have our say in what we want out of our community. We have the power to dream of how we want this world to run. So in saying that, community gives us people everything we want, and anything it does not give, is because we are not making it happen. Over the last 50 years or more the Australian socio economic climate has changed rapidly. Such changes would include the dramatic changes in the family size and structure.

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Nuclear family was the predominant form of family structure over the last 50 years or more and recently such family structures as the single parent family, or extended family have become more apparent in communities all over Australia. In the reader “Introduction to Community Work”, a study done in 1999 by the accounting firm KPMG has confirmed that the classic nuclear family which consists of mum and dad living with one or more children, accounts for only 19 per cent of Australian households. Could this be the result of women’s increase of participation in the workforce?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics states, between 1980 and 2000, the rate of women’s participation in the workforce has risen from 47 percent to 61 per cent. This goes hand in hand-in-hand with the Bureau’s projection marriage rates currently at an all time low stating that, 42 per cent of men and 44 percent of women will never marry. This coincides with the KPMG study were researchers state, the amount of single person households already consists of 24 per cent of the total, and due to its rapid growth, it is predicted by the year 2006, single person households will be the most common.

These studies show that due to the undergoing fundamental shift of society, not only has our experience of community changed but also our values. Community in Australia, in this decade, is very different to communities in countries such as Zambia. In the reading Realizing dreams: community development in Zambia (cited in Community Practices in Australia 2003, p. 39), Marjorie Quinn states, we Australian’s live in a world where everyone has sufficient food, clean water, adequate shelter, basic health and education services, that is provided by the social sphere of support that we all take for granted.

Throughout the past decade, due to the devastating decline in economy and structural adjustment program in Zambia, 84 per cent of the people live on less then US$1 per day and 60 per cent of the population do not have access to clean water. Only 77 per cent of children are enrolled in schools, which leaves 800,000 that are excluded (The World Bank 1998/9:340 cited in Community Practices in Australia 2003, p. 40). These statistics show, how drastically different communities can be in other times and places.

In the reading, “The identification and analysis of indicators of community strength and outcomes”, (cited in Introduction to Community Work, 2001, p. 4), Black and Hughes (2001) state, community is strengthened by having a sense of community were people provide personal support for one another, through bonds of family and friendships. Communication is a key factor and in the book People Skills, Bolton (1987, p. 5) argues, many people today in society, desire warm, positive, meaningful communication with others, but seen unable to experience due to the lack of interpersonal skills.

Another key factor of community strength is civic participation. Black and Hughes (2001, p. 4) state, this is where individual’s work together for the sake of others and the community as a whole through paid or voluntary work, group activities or processes such as voting. Cleary, what we want from ‘community’ in Australia are physical needs such as food, water, clothing, shelter and medicine. These physical needs are the most basic and urgent needs and without them we cannot think about anything else.

Next we want a sense of safety and security, which follows onto how much we are loved and where we belong in the community. How much we are loved and our sense of belonging largely depends on our self-respect and personal dignity, which also contributes to our sense of independence and confidences on how much we are contributing to our community. Once these are all fulfilled, we then want to concentrate on our personal growth and develop hidden gifts and possibilities, which are hidden within us. What we get from ‘community’ depends largely upon what us Australian’s put into it.

If we all work cooperatively as individuals, support each other and contribute to our community, we have the power to make community fulfill our every dream.

References Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2002). Australian Social Trends 2002. Retrieved March 12, 2004, from http://www. abs. gov. au/Ausstats/abs%40. nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/2ca0a66d07b8e4f0ca256bcd008272ff! OpenDocument Bolton, R. (1987). People Skills. East Roseville, New South Wales: Simon ; Schuster Australia. Edith Cowan University (2001). Introduction to Community Work. [Reader]. Perth, Western Australia: Muirhead, T.Hope, A. , ; Timmel, S. (1995).

Training for Transformation. Southampton Row, London: ITDG Publishing. Kenny, S. (1999). Developing Communities for the Future. South Melbourne, Victoria: Nelson. Macquarie Compact Colour Dictionary. (2001). Macquarie University, New South Wales: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. Muirhead, T. (2002). Weaving Tapestries. Mount Hawthorn, Western Australia: Local Government Community Services Association. Weeks, W. , Hoatson, L. , ; Dixon, J. (2003). Community Practices in Australia. Frenchs Forest, New South Wales: Pearson Education Australia.


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