Dr Hugh Mackay speaking during a presentation at a lectern. Photo supplied by Hugh Mackay.

‘In conversation’ event encourages belonging and connection

‘In conversation’ event encourages belonging and connection

Launch of Dr Hugh Mackay’s new book explores social issues facing modern Australia

Our society is increasingly becoming more socially fragmented, leading to an increase in social isolation, but a new book begs the question ‘what kind of society do we want to become?’ 

For more than sixty-years social psychologist and researcher Dr Hugh Mackay AO has explored the changing social landscape of Australia, documented shifting attitudes, behaviours and interests and provided important social insights of its evolution.  

The Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (ASSH) at University of Wollongong (UOW) today (Friday 10 May) will host the launch of Hugh Mackay’s latest book, The Way We Are (Allen & Unwin, 2024). 

Dr Mackay is the bestselling author of 24 books, including nine novels. His non-fiction books cover social analysis, psychology, communication and ethics, including the highly acclaimed Australia Reimagined and The Kindness Revolution. 

Dr Mackay has had a long association with UOW both as an honorary professor of Social Sciences, and as the recipient of an honorary doctorate. 

In his latest non-fiction book, Dr Mackay uncovers some of the biggest issues currently facing Australian society, including loneliness driven by social isolation, gender inequality and the persistence of misogyny, the legacy left by Baby Boomers, the decline in religious faith and the spread of ‘fake wisdom’. 

“Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain,” Dr Mackay said. 

“None of our differences - whether based on ethnicity, politics, religion, cultural tastes and preferences, or gender - are nearly as significant as the humanity we share.” 

After a lifetime of listening and research, Dr Mackay has reflected on the changes in our society and lessons he has collected after decades in the field, drawing on thousands of interviews as research for this book. 

Dr Mackay will be joined by Senior Professor Sue Bennett, Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic and Student Life (DVCA), and Associate Professor Lisa Slater Associate Dean (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) School of Humanities and Social Inquiry for an ‘In conversation’ discussion and a Q&A session at the event. The discussion will ask urgent questions about our future, and what we want society to become. 

“This is a timely discussion about how social isolation is affecting Australian society, and an opportunity for UOW to consider the broader implications for the UOW community. Belonging and connection is essential to creating an equitable and inclusive UOW," Senior Professor Sue Bennett said. 

“At UOW, we aim to champion an inclusive, respectful and diverse community. We have been privileged to benefit from Hugh Mackay’s experience, knowledge and his generosity to ASSH in recent years.” 

Dr Mackay offers an uplifting perspective on the future in The Way We Are; he urges all of us to focus on common humanity as a solution. He believes the crucial first step is to rebuild our sense of community, starting in the local neighbourhood.  

“The state of the nation starts in your street.”   

“Kindness should be as natural as breathing. The body can’t survive without inhaling and exhaling, and the spirit can’t flourish without giving and receiving kindness.” 

He encourages people to hone their listening skills. He said that a positive outlook and dreaming might be all it takes to spark change, “sometimes the dream is enough.”  

As an Honorary Professor since 2011, Dr Mackay has helped to build the public image of the social sciences at UOW. He continues to offer his time and insights on qualitative research at the School of Psychology’s Honours Seminar Series. 


What: The Way We Are: In Conversation and Book Launch with Hugh Mackay AO 

When: Friday 10 May, 12:30pm – 1:30pm 

Where: Building 20.2, University of Wollongong campus. Register here