“Refreshing” roundtables begin as charities call for action on sector support
22 August 2022 at 4:19 pm
Charities are using a series of roundtables with Andrew Leigh to put forward proposals on how best to support the sector into the future.
Andrew Leigh’s community roundtable series has kicked off, with charities from across the country invited to town hall-style events with the new charities minister.
The Building Community town hall forums, described by Leigh as “the nation’s largest consultation with Australian charities”, began in Sydney last week, with charity leaders invited to discuss policies and work together to repair the sector.
Events have already been held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, with more to come in Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra and Darwin before the discussion moves to regional and remote areas.
Speaking to Pro Bono News, Leigh said while Australia was “clearly suffering a civic crisis”, there were “a remarkable number of civic entrepreneurs out there willing to not only work on social problems, but also to share their ideas with others”.
“It’s that sharing of ideas that for me is the most inspirational part of the Building Community forums,” he said.
A number of key themes and ideas have already come out of the forum, Leigh said, including an “interplay” between funding bodies and charities seeking funding, as well as discussion around red tape requirements and the value of collaborating on the challenges society faces like housing, refugee resettlement and environmental protection.
“Many charities are looking for opportunities to work with like-minded organisations, and one of the comments that the funders made is that they’re particularly attracted to proposals that come from groups of charities that have gotten together to come up with a shared vision for tackling a problem,” Leigh said.
The proposals made at the forums will be pulled together in Treasury’s charity sector blueprint – a key Labor election promise.
Leigh added that he hoped that these forums could be held throughout Labor’s term in office.
“I really enjoy spending time with charities and not for profits, hearing their stories and hearing how they’re making a difference in the community. I think it makes me a better minister for charities. If you’re going to reach out and work with the sector, you need to understand the rich tapestry that is Australia’s charities and not for profits.”
Forums a “refreshing” move
South East Community Links CEO Peter McNamara, who attended last week’s Melbourne forum, said it was “really refreshing” to see a federal minister reach out to charities.
“Sometimes there’s a bubble between government and what’s happening on the ground… so that approach is, I suppose, opening the door to trust again, because for many in the community sector and any area of advocacy, there has been a feeling that we’ve been at war to a degree,” he said.
He said Leigh’s approach also signalled a willingness from the government to listen to vulnerable people, who are given a voice by the community and charities sector.
McNamara said Leigh had told the room he was committed to addressing some of the issues raised, including on red tape and legislative issues around fundraising. The challenges around volunteering was also a key issue for discussion.
McNamara said while the discussion was positive, action was now needed to support the charities sector.
“We need a whole-of-government approach towards how they support the sector because we’re saving them billions of dollars and also saving them lives. And it’s been shown more than ever during the pandemic.
“What we’re asking for is just that same level of respect back and I know the minister and the Albanese government have definitely signalled its intention to support [us]. We just want to make sure we see the action as well,” he said.