Social justice and society

Be the change

Activity: Whether a society is just involves thinking about what can be considered a good life and where the responsibility lies for achieving human wellbeing.

Social justice for yourself and others

Answer the following questions:

  • What do you believe to be a good life?
  • What conditions contribute to your wellbeing? If certain things were lacking would this impact on achieving a good life? You might like to consider the following as examples; equality, dignity, respect, rights, freedoms (freedoms to think for yourself, freedom of speech, freedom from government intervention), health, education, etc. You might also consider the material goods/resources required to achieve wellbeing or a good quality of life.


sample-image1Reflect on your own life and what has influenced your wellbeing by responding to the following questions:

  • What factors/conditions led you to study at university?
  • How will completing university studies contribute to your wellbeing?
  • What likely factors/conditions would have made it impossible for you to come to university? What might stop you completing your degree?
  • What choices did you have regarding the circumstances you were born into?
  • Did you choose the abilities/inabilities, talents/incompetencies that you were born with?
  • Do you think you have had any advantages or disadvantages because of the circumstances that you were born into?
  • Do you think you have had any advantages or disadvantages due to the abilities/inabilities, talents/incompetencies that you were born with?


Think about the lives of others and address the following questions, giving reasons for each answer:

  • How are some people advantaged/disadvantaged because of the circumstances that they are born into?
  • In what way are some people advantaged/disadvantaged by the abilities and talents that they were born with?
  • What factors can you identify that possibly led to people living in poverty or to being wealthy?
  • How do societal structures advantage/disadvantage some people?
  • What factors that influence a person’s wellbeing can be considered as outside of their control?
  • Some may say that individuals are totally responsible for the circumstances in which they find themselves. What is your response?
  • When reflecting on what constitutes a good life, consider who/what is responsible for providing and/or protecting the means that individuals require for wellbeing/a good life?

Social justice and wellbeing

The American philosopher John Rawls argued that one’s wellbeing should not be the result of what he referred to as a ‘natural lottery’, by which he meant factors that are distributed by chance and outside an individual’s control (Kaufman 2006). These factors include inheritance of such advantages (or lack of advantages as the case may be) including wealth, talents and social position and the fairness of social structures in which we operate.

  • Do you agree with his argument?
  • What other factors would you like to include?
  • How does what you believe about these factors impact on your understanding of what is required of a society to be called just?
  • To answer the question, ‘Is Australia a fair and just nation?’ use one of the wellbeing or quality of life measures and do some research on Australia to decide whether you think Australia can be considered a just and fair society.

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Kaufman, A 2006, Capabilities equality: basic issues and problems, Routledge, New York.

Pederson, A, Walker, I, Rapley, M & Wise, M 2003, ‘Anti-Racism—What works? An evaluation of the effectiveness of anti-racism strategies’, prepared for the Office of Multicultural Interests, Centre for Social Change & Social Equity, Murdoch University, Perth.