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The Happiness Project

They say you can't buy happiness, but can you measure it? Well, you can certainly measure one of the major foundations for happiness: quality of life.

The Happiness Project does just that. It's a large-scale data journalism initiative by Bond University students which uses more than 17,000 data points to investigate the geography of advantage and disadvantage in 540 local government areas (LGAs) across Australia.

Why the project is important

Beyond simple curiosity — the sense of wanting to see if the grass really is greener in someone else's town — this undertaking was also conceived as a public-interest journalism project.

We figured that if we could see the geography of quality of life — and the factors that influence it — we might be able to identify areas of relative disadvantage and give those regions a way to understand their challenges and advocate for support.

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Male architecture student hands with ruler and pencil

How we did it

The project uses Census and other publicly available data to score each LGA out of 10 in nine categories: housing affordability, education, community, jobs, wealth, accessibility, work-life balance, safety and health.

Each category draws on a number of factors for its score, and each LGA was also given an overall quality of life score. The overall quality of life score was calculated as an average of the nine category scores for the LGA.

Project methodology

Two female students having a conversation

What did we learn

The Happiness Project unearthed plenty of regional content and context, but there are also some broad trends suggested by the data.

And the biggest conclusion is actually a really hopeful one: the biggest factor associated with overall quality of life isn't geography, or wealth. It's education.

Project outcomes FAQS

Two male students studying using laptop computers

Interactive visualisation development

This project was a collaboration between Bachelor of Journalism students and Bachelor of Interactive Media and Design students.

Our Investigative Journalism cohort conceptualised the project, collected the data, and wrote stories making sense of the trends it revealed. The interactive map was created by Alice Royster, Olivia Meredith and Yuchen Ou as part of their project work in the subject Interactive Web Design.

Explore the Happiness Project

Meet some of the students

The academics

Caroline Graham

Caroline Graham

Caroline Graham is a Senior Teaching fellow, teaching into the Journalism and Creative Arts programs
Dr Donna Henson

Dr Donna Henson

Dr Donna Henson is an Associate Professor of Communication and Creative Media at Bond University.
Dr James Birt

Dr James Birt

Dr James Birt is an Associate Professor and discipline lead of Interactive Media and Design in the Faculty of Society and Design at Bond University, where he runs the Mixed Reality Research Lab
Nikolche Vasilevski

Nikolche Vasilevski

Nikolche Vasilevski is a researcher and lecturer in the Interactive Media and Design program in the Faculty of Society and Design at Bond University.

Study at Bond

Bond University's Faculty of Society & Design offers a range of project-based authentic learning experiences, so students can innovate, hone their craft and create change, all before they've even graduated.

A wide range of courses fall under the banner of Communication and Creative Media, in the Faculty of Society & Design. However, they're all underpinned by a similar philosophy. We've thought carefully about what skills and traits the next generation of graduates are going to need in fast-changing industries and all our courses empower students to choose specialist majors and brand themselves as niche creative or communications professionals.

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The media industry is constantly evolving and the Journalism degree at Bond adapts to these changes to ensure work readiness. Our newsroom is always abuzz with students working on mobile journalism, writing books, making podcasts and investigating all manner of stories.

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The Bachelor of Interactive Media and Design prepares students for a fast-paced career in innovative design, technology and cutting edge interactive experiences. Students are exposed to a problem-based, practical skills-driven curriculum nurtured through mentoring focused on creative industries standards in art, design and coding.

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