Book review: Still Lucky | Rebecca Huntley

Donald Horne’s famous book The Lucky Country written in 1964, has long been misinterpreted as a celebration of Australia’s fortunes rather than the irony the title is meant to convey. While Horne surmised that “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck”, Huntley states her book is “a wholeheartedly positive account of the people of Australia”.

Rebecca Huntley was Director and social researcher for the Ipsos Mind and Mood Report, conducting qualitative research of various groups of Australians hailing from different social demographics. As such, this book is devoid of statistical research and draws conclusions from her discussions with groups of people in their own environments. Topics include attitudes to politicians and the role of government, job security, housing affordability, the environment, racism, immigration, generation gaps, education, parenting, gender differences, attitude to alcohol, and materialism. Glaring exclusions are research into the LGBTIQ and Indigenous communities from their own perspectives.

Much of the research findings are quite predictable. For example, Huntley concludes we are in fact a racist nation, we still aspire to home ownership, and feel our politicians have a lack of vision. It would, however, have been beneficial to back up her qualitative findings with some numbers. For example, she feels our fears of increasing immigration would be allayed if we had a better understanding of how immigrants contribute to greater prosperity in Australia. Quoting some stats here would have been helpful.

The most depressing finding Huntley discusses is with women in their 30s and 40s with children feeling “trapped by their lives”. Only 22 percent of 700 of these women surveyed considered themselves “very happy”, with money, household chores, and work and parenting balance leading to anger and depression as well as using alcohol and prescription medication to cope.

I didn’t come away from this book feeling very hopeful about the country I live in. ‘Still Lucky’ seems as ironic now as ‘The Lucky Country’ was in 1964.

Rebecca Huntley will be appearing at the Byron Writer’s Festival, 4 – 6 August. Visit the website for more information.


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