Welcoming remarks at Professor James Nazroo’s Grand Challenges lecture on inequality

I too start by acknowledging the Bedegal people. Thank you, John Piggott, and congratulations on leading CEPAR in bringing together academia, government and industry to focus on a subject of such national importance and urgency.

I also acknowledge Professor Richard Holden, academic co-lead of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Inequality and Professor of Economics at UNSW Business School.

And, of course, it is my great pleasure to introduce and welcome to Australia and to UNSW our keynote speaker and an old friend of mine, Professor James Nazroo. James is well known to the good people of CEPAR, given his role as a Partner Investigator.

I met James when we both worked at the University of Manchester. As James will no doubt tell you, there is an element of governments across the world playing ‘catch-ups’ on ageing policy, especially in the UK, Asia and Australia.

It is an area that has been woefully neglected, despite warnings of the scales being about to tip for some time. For Australia, the Government’s first Intergenerational Report in 2002 painted a picture of our population in 2042: lower birth rates; lower death rates; and subsequent projected pressures on the Budget.
But still, little was done. The problem we seem to be battling is that we’ve never been here before.

As CEPAR researcher, Dr Neil Jeyasingham wrote about recently, most seniors today live beyond the age their parents survived so are effectively living without a road map.

At a time when people are least able to change their situation, we are seeing profound and prolonged inequality. We are the victims of our own success. Advances in medicine and women’s control over fertility have brought us to this point.

The 2015 Intergenerational Report stated that Australians will live longer and continue to have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. The report projected that in 2054-55: life expectancy at birth will be 95.1 years for men and 96.6 years for women; and there will be around 40,000 people aged over 100, compared to just 122 in 1974-75.

Finding a solution is a complex challenge, given the determinants of inequality are complex themselves – income, class, education, gender, ethnicity, mental and physical health, housing to name a few.

Here is Australia, we can learn much from Manchester, a city recognised as ‘age-friendly’ in 2010 by the World Health Organisation. That has only come about because of its cutting-edge approach to collaboration across the myriad areas that ageing touches on.

The Age-friendly Manchester program is highly regarded because of the creative partnerships proving so effective; the unique relationship it has forged with the universities of Manchester and Salford and their dementia action research programme; and, of course, the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing, of which James is a co-Director.

James is also: Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester; lead investigator for the six year interdisciplinary research program ‘Frailty, Resilience and Inequalities in Later Life (fRaill)’ (2011-2017); a Chief Investigator on the ongoing ‘English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)’; and a Partner Investigator on the ARC Discovery grant ‘Socioeconomic determinants and health inequalities over the life course’ being conducted in collaboration with CEPAR Investigators Kendig, Loh, Byles and O’Loughlin.

It is now my pleasure to introduce to you, Professor James Nazroo.

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