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Hugh Mackay outlines vision for Australia at Byron seminar


Hugh Mackay is available for interviews. Phone Emma Rusher
28 August 2007
What will the next generation of children be like? Why did we lose interest in politics? Why are our houses getting bigger while our households are shrinking?

These are all questions that Hugh Mackay, one of Australia’s leading social researchers, has addressed in his new book ‘Advance Australia ... Where?’

Hugh will be the guest speaker at an evening seminar, hosted by Southern Cross University and the Bellingen Institute, at the Byron Community and Cultural Centre on Monday, September 17.

Fifteen years ago, Hugh Mackay wrote the bestseller ‘Reinventing Australia’. Now, in ‘Advance Australia … Where?’ he returns to address the big issues affecting Australians.

“While we enjoy unprecedented levels of prosperity and the promise of more to come, we are still battling an epidemic of depression, taking on record levels of debt, and yearning for a deeper sense of meaning in our lives,” according to Hugh.

In ‘Advance Australia … Where?’ he highlights a sense of powerlessness that began to affect the national mood in the late 1990s and which became further entrenched following the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and Australia’s participation in the invasion of Iraq.

“This is human psychology at its most transparent: we want to feel better about ourselves, so we try to ignore or make light of things that might make us feel worse. When our situation feels generally stable, settled and positive, we can deal more easily with bits of bad news. But when all the news seems to be bad, we insulate ourselves by becoming disengaged from it,” Hugh says.

“In the Dreamy Period, we might have been turning our backs on political and social issues that had the potential to darken our mood, but we were not apathetic: we had simply shifted our focus from the big picture to the miniature of our own lives. The issue was control. When so many issues seemed beyond our control, we began to concentrate instead on the things we could control, and there were plenty of contenders.”

The book also highlights the impact of technological change on all aspects of our lives from how we have holidays to romance.

“We are being swept along by the pace of the IT products, services and processes we have so enthusiastically embraced. Speed has become a virtue. And if speed is good, faster must be better,” he says.

“Text messages, redolent with private codes, have become the contemporary equivalent of the love letter, though it’s doubtful whether they’ll appear in the love letters of the future …”

The seminar will be held at the Byron Community and Cultural Centre on Monday, September 17, from 6pm (6.30pm start). Entry will be by gold coin donation. For information contact Callista Cooper, Southern Cross University, on 66858470.

‘Advance Australia … Where?’ is published by Hachette Australia. It will be available for sale during the evening and at the University Co-op Bookshop, Lismore campus, [email protected]

Photo: Hugh Mackay will be the guest speaker at an evening seminar in Byron Bay on September 17.