360 ON MIX 104.9 DARWIN
TUESDAY, 22 AUGUST 2017
SUBJECTS: Reconnecting communities, marriage equality survey.
KATIE WOOLF: Joining me on the line right now is Dr Andrew Leigh, who is of course the Shadow Assistant Treasurer federally. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Katie. It’s great to be with you.
WOOLF: Great to have you on the show. Now I know you’re going to be holding a roundtable with Luke Gosling on social capital and building communities, basically brainstorming what we can do to get people involved in their local community and the benefits of doing this. You’ve been holding these all around Australia, haven’t you?
LEIGH: That’s right. This is the sixth one of these forums we’ve held. Their purpose is to bring charities together to discuss the shared challenge of social connectedness. We know that over the course of the last generation, we’ve seen some worrying trends in Australia. We’re less likely to join community organisations, less likely to play organised sports, half as likely to go to church and half as likely to join a union. We’ve seen drop offs in volunteering rates and donation rates in recent years. The challenge to that partly lies in government action. I’m the Shadow Minister for Charities and Not for Profits, so I’m very interested in that as well. But I’m also keen to bring together charities as well to have the conversation about what’s working in their organisations.
WOOLF: It is always good to have locals want to volunteer and want to be part of different events. I organise a fun run that happens every year on Father’s Day and I’m always surprised by the number of people that do actually want to help, just out of the goodness of their heart.
LEIGH: That’s fabulous, Katie. In our own neighbourhood, my wife and I organise a street party once a year and I’m sure as you find with the fun run there’s a great joy in bringing people together. A life spent with others is just a better life. But sometimes work gets too busy or we get too addicted to spending time on Facebook and our smart phones and we forget about the importance of building human connectedness. We’re healthier when we’re connected with others, we’re happier when we’re connected with others. So this is about trying to reconnect Australia through these volunteering and charitable groups, many of whom are doing fabulous work right now.
WOOLF: What do you think is the best way for us to really do this?
LEIGH: One of the challenges is trying to make sure that we use new technologies to connect us, rather than disconnect us. Sites such as MeetUp.com allow us to use online engagement of foster offline engagement. We also need to think differently about community spaces. What’s funny about libraries these days is there are fewer books in them and more meetings taking place. So repurposing libraries for a digital age is a real challenge. You’ve seen some fascinating trends around Australia with the growth of rural choirs and the interesting phenomenon of atheist churches popping up on Sundays for the one in three Australians who don’t believe in God but who recognise there’s that need to have a social connectedness that churches have traditionally provided.
WOOLF: Interesting. Andrew, when is the meeting taking place here in Darwin?
LEIGH: The meeting is taking place tomorrow, 9.30, and it will be at 38 Woods Street. Anyone who’d like to get involved should contact Luke Gosling’s office. We’ve focussed the invitations principally on charities, but if there are social activists here – people who feel they’ve got something to offer and would like to be part of the conversation – we’d love to have them there too.
WOOLF: Now, I know as well that the ABS falls under your portfolio, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and there have been some concerns here in the Northern Territory regarding the postal survey when it comes to same-sex marriage and everybody getting the opportunity to have their say. We are a bit concerned that this survey really can’t reach some of our remote communities. How do you think it is best for all voices in the Northern Territory to be heard on this issue?
LEIGH: Labor’s argued against having this postal survey. We think it’s $122 million that could be better spent on homelessness or dealing with the problems of health in the regional communities. But if we’re going to have a postal survey, we want as many people as possible to participate. So in the next two days before enrolment closes, people should go to aec.gov.au, check and update their details. Next thing after that is we’ll be putting a lot of pressure on the Government to make sure that remote communities are served properly through this postal survey. Warren Snowden asked a question of the Prime Minister in Parliament about how he’ll ensure that remote communities have their say. Frankly he didn’t get a very satisfactory answer. I really think it’s important through this second-best process that we do have as many people active as possible.
WOOLF: Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer – of course with the Labor Party – good to catch up with you this morning. Thank you very much for having a chat with us.
LEIGH: My pleasure, Katie. Hopefully I can come up and join your fun run at some point.
WOOLF: Good on you, Andrew. Thank you.