A conceptual framework for Australia's welfare summary indicators was first presented in Australian Welfare 2001. The framework was developed based on a review of national and international frameworks and indicator sets. The components reflect the welfare of Australian society and in particular, the measurable aspects of welfare status. The framework is designed to underpin the development of a set of practical and relevant statistical indicators.
Autonomy and participation are considered to be essential indicators of welfare, and reflect the very human and personal aspects of individuality, and workplace and community interactions that are vital to positive wellbeing. Data relating to autonomy the capacity to have freedom of opportunity and choice in daily living and participation in the community provide information on personal and environmental factors that make up welfare.
Further sub-dimensions are autonomy and participation:
education and knowledge, economic resources, employment, transport and communication, and recreational use of time.
These indicators not only identify our individual resources and our national employment patterns, but also reflect the ways in which Australians interact within society.
The material standard of living enjoyed by individual Australians primarily depends on their command of economic resources, both in the immediate and long term. Economic factors are related to all aspects of the welfare framework, including health, education, employment and social networks.
Indicators to describe the economic wellbeing of Australians . While income data are the most commonly reported measures of economic status, an individual's income can fluctuate dramatically across different life stages, and alone does not determine material quality of life. Other factors are the extent to which income is 'buffered' by accumulated wealth, and the amount of economic resources needed to fulfil different financial commitments.
Education and knowledge help to empower individuals and allow them to become more autonomous within society. Education is increasingly viewed as a lifelong process by which both individuals and their communities benefit from the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Education relates to many other facets of society, including employment, health and participation in the civic, cultural and social life of communities. Three major indicators of education and knowledge are : participation, attainment and literacy.
Employment provides avenues for income and as such is a major factor influencing material wellbeing. In addition, employment is strongly related to other aspects of the welfare framework. It is recognised as an integral part of adult participation in society, providing individuals with opportunities for personal development and social interaction. Indicators include:
Participation in recreational and leisure activities contributes to overall wellbeing through benefits to physical and mental health, and by providing opportunities for social interaction and community engagement. The importance of leisure time is recognised by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that 'Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays without pay' (UN 1948).
Having access to reliable transport allows people to participate and interact with the community. Reliable transport not only enhances social wellbeing but can also broaden access to jobs, which in turn may increase financial security. Access to means of communication is also beneficial to many aspects of welfare. The rapid increase in communication technologies is making interpersonal communication more accessible through mobile phones and over the Internet. This enables greater access to many more educational and social resources.
Health has been defined as 'a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity' (WHO 1946). As a part of the welfare framework, good health represents quality of life in terms of longevity, functioning and participation, all of which play an important role in everyday living. Further subdimensions that represent different aspects of health are;
Safety is an important component of both physical and mental wellbeing. The idea of safety includes perceptions as well as protection from actual harm. Experiences of crime or injury can be seriously detrimental to feelings of safety, not only for those directly affected but also for those who witness these events or are involved through family, friendship or community ties. Further sub-dimensions include: perceptions of personal safety, experience of crime and occurrence of injury (including intentional selfharm).
Access to adequate shelter and housing is recognised as a basic human need. As well as providing protection from environmental elements and access to facilities such as heating and sanitation, housing gives people a place to enjoy privacy and recreational activities, keep their possessions, spend time with friends and family, and express their identity (ABS 2001a). Housing equity is also a major component of personal wealth.
Shelter and housing are used to describe the housing circumstances of Australians and can be further devidied into three sub dimensions.
Housing tenure relates to the issues of security and stability; home ownership also gives autonomy and a form of social insurance to owners.
Housing affordability affects the broader economic and social wellbeing of individuals and communities.
Homelessness indicates housing deprivation, but as it is influenced by a wide range of social issues (such as mental health and family breakdown) it also provides a gauge of more general social dysfunction.
Social cohesion refers to the interrelatedness and unity between the individuals, groups and associations that exist within society. This unity is established through social relationships based on trust, shared values, feelings of belonging and the expectation of reciprocity. However, given the diversity of values and relationships that exist in a pluralist society, a high degree of unity between some individuals and groups may result in the mistrust or exclusion of others. Therefore inequalities and exclusion (of self or others) are to be minimised for society as a whole to be truly cohesive.
Community and civic engagement can be expressed in various ways, such as being involved in the community or political life, or through volunteering. Community and civic engagement not only allows individuals to have a say in the future direction of their communities but also promotes a cohesive network of people from various backgrounds. The networks formed within the confines of civic engagement are often seen as more formal than those that exist through family and friends. Due to the nature of these formal bonds, the community ties may not be as strong as informal bonds, although they may be more far-reaching. That is, while individuals may not have overly strong relationships that are established through community and civic engagement, more diversity and understanding is established throughout the community through the socialisation of people from various backgrounds who may not otherwise communicate or interact.
Families are the core unit of society in which people are supported and cared for and social values are developed. The role of each member within a family can be affected by changes in family situations and changes in the formation of the family itself. How well families function is a key factor in their ability to nurture personal wellbeing and serve as the basis for a cohesive society.
The structure of Australian families has undergone considerable transformation over recent years, reflecting wider social, demographic and economic changes. Further sub-dimensions include: social marriage status, family composition and age-specific and divorce rates. Together, they illustrate some of the main ways in which the concept of family continues to develop and change.
Social and support networks are the connections between individuals and groups. These networks refer to the informal relationships people have with family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and other members of their community. Support networks can act in a variety of ways, such as provision of information or emotional, practical or financial support, and these in turn provide individuals with a sense of belonging.
Trust lies at the heart of all positive relationships, whether between individuals or groups, and as such is a key dimension of social capital. People¿s trust in others is often described with reference to the type of relationship: interpersonal trust refers to individuals well known to them, social trust refers to casual acquaintances or strangers, and civic trust refers to public or high-profile institutions.