Jill Meagher : A clear need for root cause social change, amid government cost cutting

One of my passions within Sacred Governance is root causes. Behind any problem lies a root cause. Very often the root cause can lie under layers and layers of symptoms of a problem.

Our world seems so intent on focusing on the negative, the problem, the symptom, and demanding that something be done, but not acting from wisdom, instead acting from a shallow place of appearing to do something at a surface level. The problems are not caused at the surface level. At that level there are simply manifestations of things that are deeper, out of sight, and that take real commitment to solve.


There are two situations that have come up for me recently that relate to root causes.


A powerful and deeply sad example came up today. In Australia this last week a young ABC journalist Jill Meagher was allegedly raped and murdered. A public figure, Jill’s case got significant media attention and naturally generated deep emotion around how such violence could be perpetrated against a woman just making her way home by a short walk to her home and partner.

In social media, the massive problem of men’s violence against women was coming up for a lot of women, too many of whom have had to endure violence of some sort in their life. There was a strong reaction against violence. This is as it should be, physical violence is abhorrent!

What it brought home for me was that violence is the top layer. Adopting a mantra of ‘stop violence’ would achieve nothing. Clearly the problem has deep roots, and they lie in a lack of value in our society put on life skills, rites of passage for our young, community support for families with issues, womens support, and mens support.

Violence is the output from a very long chain, and comes from broken people created by the ‘violence of abandonment’ by our society.

Root causes crying out for addressing lie in better parenting, rites of passage programs for young people to create the transition for them into healthy adulthood, and more support resources for families, women, and men in need of help with life issues.

The usual response in our society to an issue like this is to increase sentences for rapists, or invest more money on CC-TV cameras to capture every crime on camera on every corner. Very often the most important thing for politicians is to have created the appearance of doing something.


The second current situation to which root causes are relevant is in state politics in Queensland Australia where I live. The whole state  has been hunkering down the last few months as its new Premier in Campbell Newman has initiated a massive cost saving drive. There would appear to be a need for cost saving as the government was running a large deficit and was spending funds it didn’t have.

Having spent much of my life as a Chief Financial Officer I’ve gone through lots of budget and forecast cycles in businesses where capital was scarce and had to be managed carefully, so I well understand the need to deal with financial realities.

But what I hear and observe through people I know is that the exercise was run like almost all of them are in government and commercial enterprises. Savings have been sought with target numbers, where departments have to work out how to do the work with less staff, or identify programs to cut. Large payouts are made to a great many people to get them off the payroll, and then announcements are made to celebrate an effective annual saving off future budgets, once you get over the lump of the payouts.

The trouble is no one in this process is managing the product at a roots level. To pick the topical area of our first issue, what about government services to help families, men, and women. An objective is set to “Save $X Million” in costs “full stop”. So services get shaved and problems are exacerbated, so we have more rape and murder, more prisoners, more mental health issues among perpetrators and victims, more suicide and on it goes. Many of these generate more cost on the state, and so the razor gang will come back again next term and make deeper cuts again.


As an advocate of Sacred Governance I advocate reverence for every stakeholder and every aspect of a decision. Its got to be more than appearing to do something. It has to start with why are we here and reverence for the end product or service and creating an effective outcome for the stakeholders.

We can only produce an end product or service with reverence for our stakeholders if we are prepared to manage issues to a root cause level.

The same as in our personal lives where we only truly awake and become a healthy functioning adult when we face our truth, it is true of governance too. The process of facing the truth may bring pain initially, the budget in year 1 and 2 may get worse, but it’s the only path to the place we actually need to go, and the alternatives are simply self-delusion.

To face the truth and drill down to root causes may create bigger projects, it will require better leaders, better project managers, and better project plans. It will take longer, and you might not be able to yield savings as quickly.

You know what though? When we work this way, we create change that lasts generations, we build foundations that support structures that are solid and lasting. Our work wont need to be redone by another group in 12 months when the same symptoms keep popping up or more likely getting worse. Health Care costs and many other costs in society will drop away, because we are actually solving issues.

Anything else is sleight of hand, and simply creates a magicians illusion today and a deeper hole tomorrow. Our political leaders consider this to be their reality saying, “Well we promised the people a balanced budget this term”.

There should be no need for terms like ‘Sacred Governance’. Technically its just leadership. But sadly what leadership has come to represent in commerce and in government has very little reverence, and there is a need to distinguish between the current state of leadership and where leadership needs to get to.

Our thinking in business and government is so badly distorted by KPIs that are about short term thinking and this years budget. If real leadership is applied and issues are managed to solve root causes, you may end up with new programs that need to be sustained, but massive areas of cost will disappear as a world of symptoms from an unhealthy society are eliminated.

Budget Management is an issue we need to engage with till our society can evolve to a level where enough of us recognise there are infinitely better ways to manage resources than by a monetary system.

In the mean time budget outcomes do need to be part of planning. They do. But they are an outcome, they are not the place you start, and we need to look at big pictures and understand the costs of the symptoms and the causal relationships. We need to grow up and face the truth.

I dont say the issue of managing a government and funding is easy, or that Sacred Governance is a simple pill that can be taken. Its not. But sacred governance is a commitment. Its a commitment to face the truth, to act with reverence in every situation, to sincerely acknowledge all stakeholders, and to commit to real solutions that acknowledge root causes. When you genuinely create that culture you engage people, and when they understand these objectives and can relate to the culture outcomes result.

My heart goes out to Jill Meagher and her family who have paid the price of a world that has much work to do on solving social issues at a root cause level. May her passing help more of us to see how deperate the need is for us to face the truth.

Ura P Auckland
Sacred Commerce & Sacred Governance Advocate & Advisor
Managing Director
Authegrity Pty Ltd




Image Attributions:

  1. Root Tree Logo Clip Art‘ by ArtsyBee on Pixabay.com licensed by Public Domain CC0 1.0





  1. […] This post is a visual representation of this blog post I wrote some days ago about the tragic loss of Jill Meagher and the need for governance that addresses social policy and social needs at a root cause level, and contrasting the dollar focused approach too often seen in business and government. http://uraonsacredgovernance.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/jill-meagher-a-sign-post-for-a-need-for-root-c… […]

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