Australia is a nation in the grip of anxiety and depression, with 100,000 homeless people and a widening income gap, social researcher and author Dr Hugh Mackay AO will tell an audience at the 2017 Gandhi Oration at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) on Monday 30 January.

The Oration commemorates India’s Martyrs’ Day, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on 30 January 1948, and is delivered by a person whose life work exemplifies Gandhian ideals.

Dr Mackay will speak on the topic “The state of the nation starts in your street” discussing why our neighbourhoods matter and how good neighbours build strong communities.

“We are a society at risk of becoming more fragmented, individualistic, materialistic, competitive and less compassionate,” Dr Mackay says. “If we are concerned about the state of the nation then there’s no magic wand – it’s up to individuals to engage with the life of the local community and become a good neighbour.”

In his address Dr Mackay will warn of the consequences of ignoring our biological destiny as social creatures whose desire for a sense of belonging is fundamental to our wellbeing.

“Many of us are severely stressed by the struggle to keep up with the rate of change in our lives, and one of the consequences of that stress is violence – both physical and emotional,” he says.

But we are not powerless. How we live – in our family, our street or workplace – can shape the kind of society we will become, he says.

“We build a better society by responding to bad behaviour with good behaviour; by responding to ugliness with beauty; by responding to treachery with integrity; by responding to lies with truth,” he says. “If enough of us start living as if this is the kind of society we want it to be, that’s the kind of society it will become.”

Dr Mackay has had a 60-year career in social research. For 25 years he produced a social research quarterly called “The Mackay Report” that told us who we are, what we think and why we behave the way we do. He was one of the founders of The St James Ethics Centre and is currently a patron of the Asylum Seekers Centre and an honorary professor at Charles Sturt and Wollongong universities.

The Gandhi Oration, which is sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services, is preceded by a Remembrance Ceremony on the UNSW Library Lawn. Guests are encouraged to attend both the Ceremony and the Oration.

Remembrance CeremonyTime: Arrive 5pm for 5.30pm startVenue: Library Lawn, UNSW Kensington Campus

Annual Gandhi OrationTime: 6pm for 6.15pm startVenue: The Sir John Clancy Auditorium, UNSW Kensington Campus (near Gate 9 on High St)

Registrations are essential for attendance at both events,