I write about people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, but I want to be clear that my concern is for all generations in our society. I feel equally strongly about the struggles of younger Australians to find and keep meaningful and sustainable work and to create satisfying and happy lives. I just have more insights these days into older people…

I am seeing a number of articles at the moment about how ‘Baby Boomers are greedy / have ruined everything / won’t downsize so young people can buy a house / should leave the workforce to make way for younger ones / or…’. I also see articles saying ‘Millennials are lazy / have it tough / should save money / can’t get jobs / or..’ I am sure you’ve seen them too.

In August 2016, I went to an Ethics Centre debate in Sydney on the topic, ‘Boomers owe a debt to the young’. It was part serious discussion, part entertaining performance, and as you’d expect, both sides argued with some passion. I left the debate with the same view I had before arriving – that all generations owe a debt to the others, that we must respect those who went before us and do our best to leave our world a better place for those who follow.

I went home feeling very sad, though, much affected by the feeling of conflict and outright antagonism I sensed on both sides.

I’ve never bought into the belief that we can or should blame others for our own situation and so I hadn’t taken very seriously the whingeing in online forums and media articles about the grey tsunami ruining our country or the counter-polemic about lazy, narcissistic Gen Ys and millennials. But on the night of the debate I saw that many people do take these viewpoints seriously.

I was quite upset and thought about it a lot in the following days – and I am now determined to advocate where possible for intergenerational harmony. As a Boomer with a 21-year-old son I see things from both sides, and as a person who actually dislikes age-based labels like ‘Boomer’ or ‘Millennial’ I think we need to open a more nuanced conversation about how all Australians can thrive.

Pitting one side against the other isn’t fair or useful. We need to grow up, to find a way to work and live together, to tap into all our strengths and harness them for the good of all generations alive today and for those who will follow us. I feel very strongly about this, so watch this space!

Joanna Maxwell


Signup to have my occasional newsletters delivered to your inbox