These changes are easy to take for granted and yet they represent a significant re-ordering of moral priorities, according to demographer Bernard Salt.
"If you had said years ago that we would see many more people living together before marriage and double the number of kids being born out of wedlock, moralists would have seen it as proof of the decline of civilisation and the collapse of our moral fibre. But the reality is that the taboos we once thought immovable are completely flexible."
Salt believes such shifts show our maturity. "People are less preoccupied with sexuality and more concerned about discrimination, with sexism and racism and even with sustainability. Who cares if you're gay? Who cares if you live together without getting married?"
Two good letters from friends followed in today's SMH:
Bernard Salt's grasp on statistics is better than his grasp on logic and ethics ("God takes back seat at weddings", September 8). That the sexual taboos of the 1960s have proved "completely flexible" is an empirical assertion, not an ethical one. Whether it represents a "collapse of our moral fibre" or a growth in our collective "maturity", as Salt claims, cannot be established by statistics. To leap from what is to what ought to be is a cardinal sin in ethics, even if standard practice in demographics.
Jon Guyer, Croydon
Bernard Salt suggests the diminishing significance of marriage is a mark of Australia's maturity. Really? I think it is a mark of tragedy. Relationships have become dispensable and divorce is easy, but it is socially and economically costly, especially for the children.
Australians need to grow up and relearn what love, faithfulness and commitment mean. Perhaps a bit more substance in the celebrant services would not go astray.
Reverend Nigel Fortescue, Naremburn
Well said Jon and Nige.