Friday, 25 May, 2018


Social researcher Hugh Mackay presented his vision for a kinder, more compassionate Australia to an audience of more than 350 people at a public lecture. The lecture was co-hosted by the HRF Centre and the Centre for 21st Century Humanities in Newcastle in May.

Mackay examined population and social trends while researching his 19th book, Australia Reimagined. He said that Australia is in the grip of an epidemic of anxiety. The anxiety is precipitated by social isolation, he argued, which is the result of a raft of changes in society.

Changes include shrinking households as more people live alone; 35 to 40 per cent of marriages ending in divorce; and the record low birth rate of about 1.7 babies per woman. Mackay contends that children are the social lubricant that precipitates social contact for many. Other culprits cited by Mackay in our increasing social fragmentation include increased mobility. Australians move on average once every six years. We also have virtually universal car ownership. We are all busy. We do not seem to have the time or the energy to devote to maintaining connections in our local neighbourhood. The final contributor he mentioned is the information revolution and Australian's addiction to our devices.

So what kind of Australia is Mackay reimagining?

"I am imagining a place where we do politics differently, where we do employment differently, gender differently, religion differently, education differently. But above all, I am imagining a place where compassion becomes our defining characteristic. Where kindness and respect are taken for granted as the best way to treat each other, especially those we disagree with."

Download the full transcript.

Download pdf (121.75 KB