Australia's Economic Prosperity - Williamson Community Leadership Program

28 March 2016 By Jessica Zammit on behalf of the Weedy Sea Dragons (WCLP16)

Discussion of Australia’s economic future is a topic that often goes one of two ways –1. a dissection of the impact, positive and negative, of growing economies such as China and India on Australia’s economy or 2. concerns that we are going to hell in a hand basket. How far into deficit are we really? What will set Australia apart in the future, particularly on the jobs and production front? How well are we really faring?

The day commenced with my syndicate - the Weedy Sea Dragons - presenting our white paper on our take on the topic – the impact of property on Australia’s economic prosperity with an in-depth look at Average Joe via a number of lenses – Average Joe as government enacting decisions in the best interest of competing stakeholders, as the banking sector, as a property developer and small business (with building and construction comprising 15% of small businesses), a social service lens and a family and youth perspective. This set the scene for presentations ranging from economic analysis and projections, to poverty, homelessness and worker’s rights to investment in pink bats and school halls rather than human capital.

As has come to be the case, it was the questions, sometimes polite, mostly striking, that made many of us grapple with the complexities of the topic and the myriad of consequences to what could be mistakenly construed as straightforward decisions. When should governments cease bailing out corporations, especially where the corporation is a major employer of Australians? What about when it’s clear that the industry is on its knees? Does the position change if the corporation is the only major employer in a region? How do we influence the current generation to plan for their grandchildren while continuing to promote key Australian ideas of fairness?  Is it better to be working poor or not working at all, particularly when we look at the US as a comparison?

And as has come to be the case, our sessions threw up more questions than answers, reinforcing the complexity of community leadership – if there was just one answer, we would clearly have implemented it by now.

For many in the room, a common theme emerged – that approaches to date, while well intentioned, continue to remain siloed and often guided by fixed paradigms (for example innovation and disruption were raised of a number of speakers with varying levels of engagement or dismissiveness of its impact). Good intentions are not enough to solve a problem, with collaboration - and more than just token collaboration - coming up time and again as one of the tools necessary to tackle deep seeded problems. How such collaboration is enacted presents its own complexities – when resources are tight, how do you collaborate?

To say that the concept of ‘living in the grey’ rang particularly true by the end of the weekend may be a small understatement.

In closing, a special thank you to our guest speakers, and ANZ alumni, for joining us for the day and enriching the conversation:

  • Lucy Adams, Justice Connect Homeless Law
  • Robyn Charlwood, ANZ
  • Ben Davis, Australian Workers’ Union
  • Julie Edwards, Jesuit Social Services
  • Belinda Goederee, ANZ
  • Nicholas Gruen, Lateral Economics
  • Mark Hand, ANZ
  • Gavin Heathcote, ANZ
  • Christine Linden, ANZ
  • Steven Odgers, ANZ
  • Danielle Wood, The Grattan Institute


Jessica Zammit is the National Manager, Workforce Participation and Project Manager, Diversity Field Officer Service for the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.