Wellbeing indicators to shape government policies

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A set of Wellbeing Indicators are being developed by the ACT Government based on the suggestion that quality of life cannot be measured solely by economic growth.

The ACT Government plans to launch the Wellbeing Indicators on Canberra Day next year with the government to report against them each year as part of the annual Budget process.

Using wellbeing indicators to drive decisions about government policies and budget priorities is not new. New Zealand has already adopted a similar idea and presented their first Wellbeing Budget in May.

But how should we measure quality of life in Canberra?

In May, the University of Canberra and the Australian National University hosted an expert workshop to discuss the future of wellbeing and quality of life measurements in the ACT.

In a speech to the UC and ANU Wellbeing Indicators Workshop, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr highlighted the OECD How’s Life index, New Zealand’s Living Standards Framework and the Victorian Government’s Public Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Framework as useful examples of potential approaches for the Territory.

Mr Barr said “the development of these indicators will ensure we keep up this focus on inclusion so that the quality of life and wellbeing of Canberrans keeps growing as our city does”.

The ACT Government is currently working on a draft framework, with community consultation expected to take place during the second half of the year.

According to Associate Professor Jacki Schirmer from the Health Research Institute at UC, once the ACT Government has decided on its indicators it will be important to get data “and report on it regularly”.

“When it gets worse you can look into it further and find where you need to invest.”

In addition, she said the government will have to have a “checking point” to make sure they are measuring the right things.

“In the 1950s you would have had a different set of things that were important to quality of life,” Dr Schirmer said. “Internet access wouldn’t have been a part of it.”

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts