Disconnected, the new book by Dr Andrew Leigh, MP for Fraser, explores the notion of declining social capital in Australia.
Social capital, which may be defined as the connectivity and cohesiveness of a community, is one of a number of aspects of social sustainability which is inherently difficult to pinpoint or measure.Â Indicators of social capital which are applied by Leigh include civic participation through organisational membership such as union membership or political party membership, along with participation in community activities such as volunteering or participating in local sports clubs.
The decline of social capital with which Leigh is concerned he in part attributes to our growing commuter culture, and the increasing distances – and associated times – people spend travelling to and from work.
Leigh’s hypothesis highlights the critical need for significant investment in public transport in western sydney. The issues associated with socio-economic deprivation in swathes of Sydney is exacerbated by chronic underinvestment in transport infrastructure. While I would not wish to simplify what are inherently complex social issues, one thing is clear. People forced to suffer long journeys to work have so much less time and energy to become involved in those activities which may enhance social capital in suburbs where it is so desperately needed.