NFP Survey Warning – Canary in the Coal Mine for Government
Monday, 8th September 2014 at 4:04 pm
Not for Profit leaders have called on the Federal Government to heed the findings of a national survey into the attitudes of Australian charities towards Tony Abbott’s first twelve months in office describing the survey results as the 'canary in the coal mine'.
The chair of the Communities Council for Australia and World Vision CEO Tim Costello told the National Press Club in Canberra that the survey of 1250 NFP leaders by Pro Bono Australia, Net Balance Research Institute and the Community Council for Australia was a serious warning to the Government that the charity sector needs to be listened too.
The National Press Club discussion was lead by Tim Costello, along with Jan Owen the Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for Young Australians and Toby Hall, the Chief Executive Officer for St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA).
CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians Jan Owen, left, with CEO of World Vision Australia Tim Costello and Toby Hall, the CEO for St Vincent’s Health Australia at the National Press Club
The survey found that Federal Government policy, regulation and funding have been identified as having the biggest negative impacts on the Australian Not for Profit sector.
The survey also revealed that there had been a 34 point drop in confidence in the sector after the first twelve months of the Abbott Government according to the Not for Profit Sector Perceived Performance Index.
Tim Costello called for a new accord between Government, business and the Not for Profit sector.
"The Not for Profit sector is about purpose. Not just service delivery but delivering an open, trusting and caring society," Costello said.
He said the Government could not continue to take social capital out of those working at the front line.
"Indeed the survey results are the canary in the mine," he said.
The survey also confirmed the Not for Profit sector’s support for the Australian Charities and Not for profit Commission (ACNC) which the Federal Government is in the process of abolishing.
Some 82 per cent (compared to 83 percent in the 2013 survey) believe the ACNC is important or extremely important for developing a thriving Australian Not for Profit sector.
Costello said this was a clear message to Minister Kevin Andrews that 'we don't like it’.
"It's time you take us seriously and allow the sector to keep (the ACNC),” he said.
He added that assistance from the cross-benches to retain the ACNC was still uncertain.
"But it profoundly mystifies me why repealing the ACNC is still on the books,” he said.
"My hope that is this will go the way of section 18C and the community voice will be heard."
Jan Owen and Toby Hall added their support for keeping the ACNC and forging a new accord with the Government particularly in the areas of youth employment, education and welfare.
"We need to be much smarter and more efficient as a sector," Owen said.
"And we need a better conversation around backbone organisations supporting the work of smaller organisations.
"We need newer, smarter models in the Not for Profit sector."
Owen said the issue of youth unemployment was a national problem and community, government and business must continue efforts to improve education.
Owen also called for a national volunteer program similar to that in the UK offering a system where young people contribute.
"Not contribute to work for the dole but to work for the nation's future," she said.
Toby Hall said keeping the ACNC would benefit the community and lift the public's trust levels in charities.
He also told the Press Club event that the best way to get people in health was work.
Hall described the Medical Research Futures Fund as a profound policy that should be applauded. However he said it should not be linked to the Medicare co payment.
"The Government must sit down with the sector to see how we can slow the impost on low income people in society," Hall said.
“What this new survey tells us is that the collective voice of the charities and Not for Profit sector is becoming a choir of discontent,” Community Council for Australia CEO, David Crosbie said on the launch of the survey.
“The sector is very clearly calling for more consistent and sustainable support, and a stable regulatory environment that allows the sector to get on with doing what it does best – serving our communities. It is also seeking to be more transparent, to build trust and confidence with the community and the government.
“Governments who continue to dismiss the needs of the sector are risking a very real backlash. Ignoring these survey results would place government at odds with a very substantial part of the Australian community,” he said.
More than 120 sector leaders attended the National Press Club Event.