Jacinda Ardern broke ground with a national budget for the wellbeing of New Zealanders and the Albanese government is following in her footsteps.
But the idea is not a new one for Australia's Treasury officials, who are dusting off old principles and sharpening new criteria.
The federal bean counters developed a wellbeing framework in the early 2000s. It helped guide budget thinking for years but was dumped under Tony Abbott's government.
Meanwhile New Zealand was busily broadening its definition of success to incorporate natural resources, people and communities, and released its first wellbeing budget in 2019.
In Australia, coming up with the first comprehensive wellbeing budget isn't as simple as drawing up a big-spending happiness list or just gauging who will be better or worse off.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers started a "conversation" about measuring wellbeing while releasing his first budget last October and officials continue to nut out specific best-fit criteria.
The idea is to look beyond narrow measures of living standards and economic growth to include the freedom of all Australians to lead the life they value.
Growth in child wellbeing, taking mental health seriously and supporting Maori and Pasifika aspirations underpinned New Zealand's first wellbeing budget.
Building a productive nation in a digital era and developing the economy without making climate change worse were also key measurements among more than 100 indicators.
Australia doesn't have a standard way of measuring what matters but the Closing the Gap and the annual State of the Environment report already cover key areas.
An international framework is being adapted for Australia that includes education levels, violence and abuse, health standards and mental health, the environment and sustainable economic progress, life expectancy and wealth.
Australia faces the most complex and challenging set of economic conditions in over a generation, according to UNICEF Australia's budget submission.
The organisation's own Australian Children's Wellbeing Index gives a glimpse of what life is like for those aged 0-24.
One in six Australian children live below the national poverty line, while almost 95 per cent do not meet the daily recommended intake of vegetables.
But most attend preschool and 91 per cent are fully immunised by age two.
Interest groups, including UNICEF, have been working with Treasury on what matters.
Its spokesman Elliot Stein says budgets may be excellent tools to measure government spending but they can't measure if that spending is working.
"A wellbeing budget means being able to ensure year on year that our investments for children and young people are effective in helping them thrive," he tells AAP.
"It also gives the data to be able to make informed policy changes."
Even before expanding its meaning, economic growth as measured in GDP, or gross domestic product, can be hard to grasp.
GDP is the most confusing finance term in the world, with an average of two million Google searches each year for its definition, according to new research by City Index.
Australia has an average of 4900 monthly searches for "GDP meaning", far outstripping head-scratching on "overdraft", "asset" or "net worth".
The National Ageing Research Institute wants to make sure older Australians are also included in the wellbeing push.
Older people are just like anyone else, facing cost of living pressures, housing shortages and floods but they often get hit harder, NARI director Briony Dow says.
There are also specific issues for anyone over 55, which is when discrimination usually starts in the workforce, Professor Dow says.
"People want to have a choice as to whether they continue in the paid workforce or not," she tells AAP.
"There's no reason they should be on the scrap heap because of age if they're still able to contribute to the workforce and that's what they want to do."
It also gets complicated when people of pension age are earning a few dollars - they start to lose their pension entitlements quite quickly, Prof Dow says.
That's another discriminatory barrier built into public policy and payment arrangements, she says.
Older Australians also want to be able to stay in their own homes and have independence for as long as possible.
Tracking an age group overall might gloss over specific areas of need, so the datasets need careful design.
For example, there are different requirements to support wellbeing for First Nations retirees, migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds and the LGBTQI community, Prof Dow explains.
"What we'd like to see in a wellbeing budget would be investment in preventive health measures - physical activity, nutrition - and well-funded, high-quality home-care packages that provide the assistance they need.
"And that their carers need," she adds
The new framework could also track digital barriers to check who is missing out as health and other support goes online.
"We still have a group in the population who aren't digital natives and need alternative ways of accessing services," Prof Dow warns.
The Wellbeing Economy Alliance, an international movement for changing economic systems, says more governments are developing wellbeing indicators to inform and improve public policy.
The alliance welcomed Dr Chalmers re-joining the global movement, noting Australia led the early work two decades ago.
They say multiple crises - cost-of-living, climate, housing, health and inequality - show economic growth does not equal true progress.
The Treasurer's office confirmed the first standalone Australian wellbeing report would be released this year, but not with the May budget.
Consultation is ongoing.
Australian Associated Press
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