Where Australia will be by 2101 will depend on decisions made today (and decisions made in the near and mid-range future). As I see it, Australia has a great potential to become even wealthier, whilst simultaneously reducing income disparities, with more educational opportunities and better health provision for majority of the population. It has a great potential to maintain its clean environment and improve its record in this area even more. At the same time, Australia also has a potential to make itself an international pariah, for example, as far as the environmental protection measures and the humane treatment of people (such as respecting the human rights of asylum seekers) goes. If it continues to define ‘progress’ based on some past criteria (i.e. only economy matters) the second option is more likely. I thus see two scenarios:
1. Equitable, Wealthy and Futures-oriented Australia
The more desirable but perhaps less likely scenario is Australia as: equitable, wealthy and futures-oriented. What is required for this future is bi-partisan support to orient Australia towards the future rather than towards the past. Indicators of this shift towards the future would be: (1) recognition of our current and new reality: in particular related to detrimental environmental changes, in Australia and globally (rather than denial or desperately trying to go ‘back to the [idealise] past’)- and then introduction of measures to minimise or reverse these. This would help the Australian economy in the long term. (2) recognition that Australia is a multicultural nation positioned within the Asia-Pacific region & minimisation of overt and institutionalised racism would lead to the better use of human resources already here; countries that successfully utilise ‘migrant resources’ fare much better than those that do not (i.e. economy is enhanced via innovation, social conflict is minimised).
What is needed, however, is a shift away from monoculturalism or token multiculturalism and towards expansive multi/metaculturalism (difference is seen as an asset rather than a liability, cultures learn from each other rather than ‘assimilate’ into the dominant one).
Similarly, (3) women’s (and third gender’s) potential could be harnessed to contribute towards creating a more inclusive and happier Australia if numerous/current barriers preventing gender equity in the public/private sphere are removed. This does not simply mean ‘more women’ in power & on top in economic/political organisation; rather it means serious re-definition of what is considered a desirable value/priority (such as, for example, increasing the importance of traditional ‘feminine’ values of caring, nurturing, helping vulnerable, peaceful conflict resolution, equity and so on). Furthermore, ‘feminising Australia’/acceptance of the existing gender diversity would bring numerous benefits to Australian society in the near and long-term future as well as to future generations, for example, the redistribution of resources towards preventative health and education would make Australia both healthier and more educated/competitive in the global market, more equity would also have very concrete implications such as that the first home buyers are not locked outside of the housing market and in resulting in stronger middle class and consequently maintaining economy strong as well. Obviously, the way ‘merit’ is currently defined needs to change. The last indicator includes (4) investment into preventative measures which would save time, energy and resources as preventative measures bring more benefits and cost less as compared to reactive ones. For example, preventative measures to protect communities against forthcoming environmental disasters (floods, fires, cyclones etc.) would result in less destruction (i.e. human lives and infrastructure preserved). This approach would be built into merit/innovation/economic strategy and so on: it is important to stress here that it is the orientation towards preventative and forwards looking worldview rather than highly specific measures that would facilitate this scenario potentially becoming a reality in 2101.
2. Divided, polluted, internationally marginalised and conflict ridden Australia
In this future, political divisions between future oriented and past oriented groups remain, as do those across ethnic/cultural/gender/class/ideological lines. One’s own views are aggressively defended and there is a refusal to learn from and engage with others. Australia becomes even more of a dominator society: ‘a system of top-down rankings and authoritarian rule ultimately backed up by fear or force’ (Riane Eisler’s definition). The division between a very wealthy minority and struggling majority becomes the norm. Indicators of Australia remaining past oriented include: the Australian economy reliant on the use of fossil fuels and other non-renewables (such as nuclear); continual exploitation of finite ecological resources; ecology and ecological changes ‘not an issue’/deleted as a concern; patriarchy with ‘men on top’/sexism and chauvinism remain rampant; racism continues to be institutionalised and practiced; contribution towards resolving violent conflicts remains within the ‘security discourse’ and predominantly via use of policing/military – consequently creating more enemies than friends overseas/and more ‘punitive’ based society (rather than society based on conflict prevention) and so on. While elites are initially protected from the worst outcomes of this system, ultimately they too will suffer the detrimental effects of this scenario. These are some of the main indicators that Australia remains locked in the past rather than looking towards the future. Political decisions along these lines will contribute/enhance the likelihood towards this scenario becoming a reality in 2101 rather than towards more desirable first (for majority of the population and for the world).