She’ll be right mate: Australian complacency and national responses to wicked social problems

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Bill Calcutt


As the 6th largest country by land mass but 55th by population (exceeding 25 million), and ranked 13th by GDP per capita by the OECD, Australia is often characterised as an affluent developed Western democracy, and seeks to project an international image as a progressive, ethical, fair and tolerant society. This commentary explores inconsistencies between Australia’s idealised identity as a modern egalitarian society concerned with the welfare of all and the economic and social reality for a significant and growing number of citizens; it highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these discrepancies. The commentary attributes contradictions in the Australian character and culture to the absence of a national charter of core values that institutionalises respect for the principles of human dignity and equality.

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Author Biography

Bill Calcutt, Bushfire & Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre (BNHCRC), Australia

Bill Calcutt has been involved in complex social research for over three decades. He has a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Macquarie University, a Master of Human Rights Law and Policy (MHRLP) from the University of New South Wales, and a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) from the University of Wollongong. In 2019 he completed a Master thesis under the auspices of the Bushfire & Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre that examined the influence of personal and social values in motivating volunteering in Australian emergency services. His areas of interest include governance, accountability, ethics, risk management and counter-terrorism.