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Government Partnerships & NFPs - Research

19 November 2007 at 9:33 am
Staff Reporter
Australian state governments have followed the lead of the UK and Canada and have developed or are in the process of developing written compacts that regulate the relationships between government and the community sector.

Staff Reporter | 19 November 2007 at 9:33 am


Government Partnerships & NFPs - Research
19 November 2007 at 9:33 am

Australian state governments have followed the lead of the UK and Canada and have developed or are in the process of developing written compacts that regulate the relationships between government and the community sector – but there is still some way to go to getting them right, according to new research.

The Australian Research Council has funded a project under the direction of Jenny Onyx and Bronwen Dalton of the University of Technology Sydney, with partners Rose Melville from the University of Queensland and John Casey, formerly from Charles Sturt University. Industry partners are PIAC and the Council of Social Services of NSW (NCOSS).

The researchers found that there is a need to stimulate a significant cultural shift towards stronger mutually collaborative relationships.

However, the research to date has also identified a number of problems with compacts. In particular, the NSW compact ‘Working Together’ has been largely ignored by government. Nonetheless, many organisations remain very active in terms of systemic advocacy.

The research says the relationship between civil society organisations and the state is not simple or obvious, with some organisations reporting ‘mature relationships’ with particular (state) departments, and others reporting difficulty with state or federal government jurisdictions.

Funding is an issue for all third sector organisations. It is particularly an issue for those human service and environmental organisations that both depend on government funding to do their work, and also wish to engage in systemic advocacy on behalf of their target group or issue.

The research identified many instances in which government departments have attempted to control or limit the advocacy by these organisations.

In a recent QUT podcast, researcher Rose Melville says a number of state governments have entered into partnership agreements to date – New South Wales, the ACT, Western Australia and Tasmania- and have written protocols between funding departments and the Community Sector.

She says in Western Australia it is slightly different in that the written protocol is actually between the Premier’s department rather than an individual funding body – which follows the UK system.

She says one of the really unique things about the British compact and one of the things that seems to have contributed to making it work is that the agreement is not made with individual funding bodies, but with the home office so it’s made with the central department that’s involved with the prime minister.

So the equivalent in Australia would be making an agreement with the department of prime minister in cabinet at a federal level or with the premier’s department at a state level, so in Western Australia the agreement has been made with the premier’s department coordinating it.

However, Melville says there is no sign of a compact or agreement at a Federal level.

She says given their may be a change of Government in the federal election it might provide a window of opportunity to develop a Federal partnership.

In the state arena the researchers found that most organisations were quite optimistic and keen for a partnership to be redeveloped and renegotiated and that it is extremely important to improve the working relationship between the sector and government.

The researchers found a partnership should:

– clearly separate out the organisational boundaries between government, funding bodies and the community sector
– what role and expectations there are of each party
– what funding levels there should be
– what commitment there should be to CPI increases, the increase in i- frastructure etc, workplace training
– there should be a decrease of micromanagement and interference of funding departments in the internal affairs of the operation of community organisations
– there should be a decrease in the use of contracting and tendering because that tends to fragment community services and decrease cooperation between them
– there should be clear ideas about accountability
– quality of the standard of services should be specified really clearly but also partnerships should help increase basic civility in terms of how people relate to each other
– and that any sort of compact or contract or partnership separate out quite clearly the difference between the operational or the inter-organisational relationship, i.e.: the funding relationship, from social politics or political participation.

Melville says taking a national approach would be extremely important even though funding doesn’t happen at the federal level, it would have a considerable amount of symbolic meaning for the sector in terms of valuing it and acknowledging that it plays a very, very significant part socially, economically and politically to our economy and to our society.

You can download Rose Melville’s podcast (Program 19) at

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