A Rudd Labor Government and the Third Sector
Monday, 3rd December 2007 at 12:08 pm
The Not for Profit sector will have a critical role to play in delivering an Australian social inclusion agenda according to the new Rudd Labor Government.
Senator Ursula Stephens is the new Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion in the new Labor Ministry.
Here she writes exclusively to Pro Bono Australia readers about forging a new relationship with the Third Sector.
I am humbled and excited by this opportunity to work with Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard to drive Labor’s agenda for social inclusion, not least because this portfolio will have much to do with restoring the role of the non-profit sector in Australia.
We have adopted social inclusion as an objective and organising principle of the nation’s social and economic policy. This will involve investing in Australians and their communities to ensure that economic prosperity benefits all Australians and does not leave behind the disadvantaged.
We recognise that for government to address entrenched social disadvantage, it must be able to work effectively in partnership with the third sector to deliver targeted interventions at the community level.
A well-trained, skilled and resourced community sector is a critical aspect of the delivery of social services in Australia. This is important not only for the millions of people who benefit from these services each year.
The Not for Profit sector will also play an important role in Labor’s approach to governance. We believe that policy must be evidence-based and that it must reflect a range of voices. Our approach to social inclusion will be informed by consultation with the community and not for profit sector, advisory groups and all levels of government.
It is clear that many of the goals of this Government will require a whole of government approach. We are committed to ending the blame game and this involves forming partnerships between state and federal government, and with the business and Not for Profit sectors to achieve our aims.
Our government will back the success of community-driven solutions to local problems.
– We will work across all levels of government, and with the business and Not for Profit sectors to develop matched funding pools. These funding pools will help non-government organisations better address the multiple causes of social and economic exclusion within targeted disadvantaged communities.
We want to be an enabling government, not one that vacates the field. We want to make it easier for people to give and get involved, and we need to make it simpler for community and NFP organisations to deliver their core business more effectively and efficiently.
Over the past year I have spoken to many people within the sector and it is clear to me that our Government needs to work in partnership with the sector to increase its capacity to contribute to our shared aims of a fairer society.
While community sector organisations vary widely in their activities and structures, many have lost core funding and now rely on purchase provider contracts. This has reduced the capacity for the sector to invest in equipment, facilities and assets that enable them to both deliver their services and remain viable and competitive as employers.
Given the sector’s critical role in combating disadvantage and strengthening our communities, a better balance needs to be achieved between accountability and the regulatory and administrative burden.
In order for the community and third sector to be effective, we need to restore the right to advocate to the centre of the relationship between the sector and government.
The breakdown of the relationship between the community sector and government diminished Australia’s democracy and also undermined our capacity to effectively combat disadvantage.
– We will restore the sector’s independence and right to advocate and participate actively in public debate. To this end, Labor will examine contracts between Not for Profit service providers and government with a view to removing clauses that constrain this advocacy role.
Australia does not have an accurate assessment of the social economy and its impacts.
– To redress this, in an important first step in building a critical knowledge base for future policy decisions, we will ask the Productivity Commission to construct a new tool to measure the direct and indirect contributions of third-sector organisations to our economy as the starting point for maximising the sector’s contribution to our society, including social inclusion, environmental and social health, employment and economic growth.
Community organisations provide the structure for millions of individual Australians to volunteer their time and effort.
– A Rudd Labor Government will launch a significantly revamped and expanded Volunteer Grants Program. Under this program, almost 27,000 voluntary Not for Profit community organisations will be eligible to receive financial assistance. This expanded three-year $69 million program will make it easier for volunteer community organisations to claim the financial support they deserve.
Federal Labor’s expanded and improved Volunteer Grants Program will:
– Inject $15 million of additional funding into the program over three years to ensure an estimated 6,000 additional organisations benefit from the program;
– For the first time allow volunteer community organisations to apply for funding to purchase petrol vouchers; and
– Roll the two existing Federal Government community organisation support programs into one streamlined, expanded and improved Volunteer Grants Program.
Federal Labor’s expanded Volunteer Grants Program will allow community organisations to apply for grants of up to $3,000.
We are committed to working with the sector to find the best way to structure the relationship between Government and the social economy in the Australian context. This relationship is important: it needs to be productive.
– Labor will consult with the sector about whether such a compact, such as those that operate in Canada and the UK, could or should be developed in Australia, and what might be included in such a partnership.
We will also consult with the sector about how best to ensure the regulation of Not for Profit organisations is fair, efficient and proportionate to the risk such organisations represent.
It is early days for the Rudd Labor Government. But I write this with the confidence that we will be able to work with the Not for Profit sector to help to achieve the fairer society all Australians deserve.