Optimism and Measuring what Matters in Australia

Responding to the Government’s Second Round of Consultation on the Proposed “Measuring what Matters” Budget Document

The Australian federal government has committed to a Measuring What Matters Budget document. Federal Treasury has explored the features, strengths and weaknesses of other frameworks currently available, including the OECD's Wellbeing Framework and New Zealand's Wellbeing Budget and engaged with the IMF and the OECD, state governments and other national governments to ensure they "draw on lessons from other countries' experiences and frameworks."

The Government has initiated a second round of consultation which must be responded to by 26 May 2023.

The Centre for Optimism wants to respond to that request for further consultation to argue for including explicit measures of optimism. 

We held a vibrant and inspiring roundtable on Tuesday.  You are still welcome to use our online survey.  

The Treasury has painted "five broad themes important to well-being" for consideration:

  • prosperous,
  • inclusive,
  • sustainable,
  • cohesive
  • healthy.

 Our Centre for Optimism Members' Survey Response Ranking of Those Themes

Ranking of Governments's Themes


The Centre for Optimism made a submission in the first round of consultation, which is on the Treasury website at https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-03/c2023-379612-centre_for_optimism.pdf

The Principal Points in our submission in the first round of consultation

  • The Prime Minister and the Treasurer advocate optimism for Australia and regard it as an important Australian Quality
  • Optimism is the key trait predicting healthy longevity; underpinning national leadership, Australia’s national reputation, innovation and community resilience.
  • Most measures of optimism show it is in decline in Australia, both at the personal level, in economic optimism and consumer confidence. In the last decade, negative traits have been to the fore. There has been a doubling of Australians on PBS prescriptions for anxiety and depression to the second highest level in the world.
  • Broadening the measures for ‘what matters’ to include optimism will allow better and more coherent interventions to increase optimism, as well as ensuring a better understanding of the economy and society, especially for policy making.

Treasury's Second Phase of Consultation

In introducing the second phase of the consultation, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said, “We are asking you to help by hosting your own feedback session. This consultation paper will assist you do this and provides suggestions on how to plan a session, gather feedback and provide it to the Government. We invite – and encourage – everyone to get involved to ensure we measure what matters to all Australians. “

If we want to have an impact, this is what the government is saying:

  • “the Government committed to release a new standalone Statement and intends to publish the first Statement in 2023 (after the 2023-24 Budget). This will be informed by the OECD’s Framework and lessons from international approaches but tailored to Australia’s unique circumstances.
  • The Statement “will complement rather than replace the existing and more detailed set of progress reports such as Closing the Gap and the State of the Environment Report.”
  • The first statement will set out the framework that will capture what will be measured, including logical alignment with indicators already captured through existing strategies and plans. It is anticipated that future Statements will build on the frameworks and principles outlined in the first Statement.
  • “Just like many of our international counterparts have done in developing their wellbeing and progress frameworks, we will continue to refine ours over time. This refinement will reflect the ongoing feedback from the community, new research, improved data availability and changing community views on what matters.”
  • The release of the Statement offers a benchmark for Government agencies, business and the community sector to assess policies and operations to ensure they are reflecting what matters to Australians. Measuring What Matters will help drive broader cultural change and it is anticipated that organisations and portfolios will embed this new approach to their respective policy areas.

The Themes Set out in the Second Round Consultation

The themes are set out in the table below.  Optimism does not appear in the list.  

Although there are mentions of resiliance, leadership, good mental health, a dynamic economy, innovation, and entrepreneurship, it's important to note that each of these qualities heavily relies on optimism as a driving force and foundation.


A growing, productive and resilient economy

•     An economy that provides opportunities for all Australians.

•     An economy that is more resilient and less vulnerable to shocks.

•     People are financially secure.

•     People have access to education, knowledge and training so they have the skills to fully participate in society and the economy throughout their life.

•     People have access to necessary services and amenities.

•     A sustainable budget that can continue to deliver the services Australians rely on and can buffer the economy against future shocks.

•     A dynamic economy, which encourages and offers opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.

•     An economy that seizes the opportunities from the net zero transition and digitisation.


A society that shares opportunities and enables people to fully participate

•     A society that allows all people to afford life’s essentials.

•     A society that provides people access to secure, well-paying jobs.

•     A society that supports social and economic accessibility and intergenerational mobility.

•     Gender equality, including at work and in the community.

•     A society that supports diversity and equity.

•     Leadership in government and business that is representative of our diverse society.


A natural environment that is valued and sustainably managed in the face of a changing climate for current and future generations

•     A healthy natural environment for current and future generations, protected from the damage being caused by climate change.

•     A society and economy that is resilient and adapting to a changing climate.

•     A society that sustainably uses our natural resources, on track to reach to net zero emissions.

•     A society that values the social, cultural and economic significance of our natural environment.


A safe and cohesive society that celebrates culture and encourages participation

•     A society where people feel safe at home, online and in the community.

•     A society that is Closing the Gap and values First Nations culture.

•     A society where people have the time and opportunity to participate in the arts, culture and sporting activities.

•     A society that has close relationships with family and friends.

•     A government that is trusted by the public.

•     People participate in the democratic process and engage in their community.

•     A society that supports engagement in the community through volunteering or other means.


A society in which people feel well and are in good physical and mental health now and into the future

•     A society in which people are in good physical health.

•     A society in which people are in good mental health.

•     A society that ensures the health and development of its children.

•     A society in which people are generally satisfied with their life.

•     A society where people have enough time for family, friends, personal interests and their community.

•     A society that values the contributions of all regardless of health or ability.


What does the Government say it Wants from Us?  The Treasury asks:

  • What are the top five issues most important for your wellbeing? What are the top five issues most important for your community’s wellbeing?
  • How do your priorities, and those of your community, align with the policy themes described above?
  • Which of the above policy themes are most important to you? Which are less important?
  • Is there something that you think you or your community might care about in the future that you are less concerned about right now?
  • When it comes to your wellbeing, what do you care about that isn’t captured above? What do you think members of your community would like to see represented in the above list that aren’t currently captured? What would you replace in the list above to include it?
  • Is there any additional information you would like to see in the Measuring What Matters Statement?
  • Do these themes cover the key principles we want considered when policies are developed? Do they leave anything out? Would they provide adequate guidance to decision-makers?

We held a vibrant and inspiring roundtable on Tuesday.  You are still welcome to use our online survey.  

Our Survey Results so Far

We asked: Regarding your well-being, what do you care about that isn't captured in the five themes in the Australian Government's Consultation Draft on Measuring What Matters?

The word cloud captures the sentiments:

Screenshot 2023-05-23 at 4.36.33 pm


As you can imagine, we would include the case for optimism as an explicit measure in the Australian Government's "Measuring What Matters" Statement.

Measuring Optimism

We believe that optimism should be measured in relation to personal optimism and optimism for your community, nation and the world.

Personal Optimism and Regional Optimism: Ask “What makes you Optimistic?” We believe that a measure of personal optimism should be included in the Measuring What Matters Report. We have demonstrated that this can be done at a township level, corporate level, in health settings, schools and even prisons. In the West Wimmera town of Kaniva, our study was so inspiring that a town meeting declared Kaniva to be ‘the most optimistic town in Australia’ with continuing positive ripples in driving economic and social development. The simplicity of our question “What makes you Optimistic?” means that a wide measurement can be cost-effective – we have used doorknocking, street walks and a 5-minute web version which easily sets the context. For the first Measuring What Matters Report, we would advocate samples of several thousand from urban, regional and rural settings, including parts of Australia beset by natural disasters and in areas unaffected by disasters.

Optimism About the Nation and Optimism about the World: Lowy, McKinsey, Edelman and others have reasonable surveys about these questions. These could be scaled up with more Australian data to achieve measures that would satisfy Treasury’s desire for statistical significance.

More Information

"Flourishing Across Europe: Application of a New Conceptual Framework for Defining Well-Being" by Felicia A. Huppert and Timothy T. C. So - Felicia and Tim identify "ten features of positive well-being. These combine feeling and functioning, i.e. hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well-being: competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self-esteem, and vitality."



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