29 August 2001

"She'll be right" might be the great Australian cure-all but trends in Australia and the USA suggest we have reasons for concern, according to a new book by Harvard Professor for Public Policy Robert Putnam.

Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community draws on nearly half a million interviews conducted over a quarter of a century to show individuals are disconnecting more and more from family, friends, neighbours and democratic structures.

Professor Putnam's work has already resonated throughout all levels and government and academic and non-government communities in Australia, stirring intense debate and discussion about community and civic engagement. His credentials include regular and direct access to U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Professor Putnam will speak at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 9.30am Tuesday, September 11. For tickets ($55 each, $35 concession including morning tea), telephone 3308 3415.

The event includes a panel discussion involving Dr Michael Woolcock, who co-chairs the Social Capital Thematic Group at the World Bank; Ms Eva Cox, a long-term activist and social scientist and presenter of the 1995 Boyer Lectures; and Associate Professor Robert Bush, executive director of the new Division of Community Engagement in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The panel will also join Professor Putnam's round table discussion that afternoon for 50 community, government and academic leaders focusing on community engagement and building social capital.

The UQ Ipswich Community Service and Research Centre (CSRC) - part of the University of Queensland's Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences - is coordinating the symposium as part of an Australian tour where Professor Putnam's only other commitments are appearances in Townsville and Melbourne.

Dr Geoff Woolcock, symposium convenor and CSRC Associate Director, shares Professor Putnam's concerns.

"Our Centre's work primarily focuses on building the social capital of local communities, including things which bind communities together, like trust - things that cannot always be measured in dollars and cents," Dr Woolcock said.

"So many forces today hinder the building of social capital but we also live in a time of unprecedented opportunities to communicate and a deep desire to be connected to community. We trust the symposium will highlight many of these critical issues."

For more information, contact Ashley Jones, CSRC (telephone 0412 104 491 or 07 3381 1542, email ashley.jones@mailbox.uq.edu.au) or Moya Pennell, UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2846).