The Civil Society Conference: Strengthening communities and building self-help in an era of Coalition Governments.

Jay Owen Global Citizen

Overcoming disadvantage. Building civil society. Changing government.
The Civil Society Conference.
Strengthening communities and building self-help in an era of Coalition Governments.
With Hon. Kevin Andrews
Federal Minister for Family and Community Services

I’ve had a longstanding interest and involvement in civil society. I’ve served as an official with various sporting organisations, on hospital boards and with social service agencies. It’s this personal experience at the coalface of civil society that forged my views about the critical role of organisations that arise organically from the community in response to human need to the needs that people in local communities perceive.

And those views have only been reinforced by what I’ve seen as a Parliamentarian and Minister over the past 20-plus years… I’ve seen communities – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – where the basic structures of civilised society have eroded – and even collapsed:

  • Places afflicted by dire poverty where women and children are at constant risk of violence.
  • Places where dependency is the rule and self-sufficiency the exception.
  • Places where most people are employed are on the public or not-for-profit payroll;
  • Places where the last vestiges of individual initiative have evaporated, leaving behind the social residue of hopelessness and despair.

It’s these cumulative observations that have forged my views about the capacity and limitations of government. And I’ve generally concluded that while certain core functions of government are indispensable, we should strive to minimise the institutional footprint of the state wherever and whenever possible.
Rather than a cumbersome ‘top-down’ ‘government-knows-best’ approach that smacks of patronising paternalism, we believe in bottom-up, grass roots enterprise…”
Kevin Andrews. 2014

Melbourne 25-26 August 2014
Exploring the critical importance of civil society in overcoming disadvantage, strengthening communities and changing government

Indigenous communities                             Family violence
Welfare reform                       Education and school reform
Health and illness prevention   Rights and responsibilities
Alcohol/drugs and self-help              Employment supports

Civil Society
The Next Global Superpower

Around the world, the rise of civil society has been likened to the rise of the next global superpower. The term refers to the relationships and associations that make up our life at grass-roots levels of society, in families, neighbourhoods, voluntary associations, social enterprises and cooperatives, independent of both government and the corporate sector. These relationships and networks are vast, but they have been hidden from public debate and policy making for a century.

In Australia, civil society is still largely ignored in public life. Personal and social well-being is determined primarily in and by civil society, but governments, policy makers, academics and journalists alike have been seduced by the power of states and corporates and have ignored the power of communities and relationships.

Change is in the air. Governments of all persuasions have found they cannot deliver stronger communities and better social relationships. Corporates cannot deliver trust and personal responsibility. The managerial revolution of the last thirty years swept through government, business and non-government organisations, and shifted agency and responsibility for well-being away from the relationships and institutions of civil society to managements in public, private and NGO sectors. The results are now in. The social impact of this managerial revolution has been to smother the instinct for, and practice of, voluntary association, personal responsibility, and the shared generation of moral and social capital.

This conference aims to explore the emergence of civil society into the public policy arena, and chart its critical importance in overcoming disadvantage, strengthening communities and changing expectations and practices of government.

Call for Papers

Papers, presentations, workshops and strategic proposals are invited which examine these themes in relation to the following streams:

  • Indigenous affairs
  • Family violence
  • Education and school reform
  • Welfare reform
  • Health care and illness prevention
  • Disability, ageing and social support
  • Rural and regional affairs
  • Employment supports
  • Family and social relationships
  • Alcohol and drug abuse and self-help
  • Rights and responsibilities frameworks

Expressions of interest in presenting a paper or workshop or proposal should be forwarded by 30 May 2014, in no more than 300 words, using this online form.





The Angliss Conference Centre is located in the Melbourne CBD, on the corner of LaTrobe and King Streets, on the fifth floor.

It is close to train and tram services. Flagstaff railway station is one block away in LaTrobe St, and Southern Cross station is three blocks away in Spencer St. Trams 23, 24, 30, 34, and City Circle run along LaTrobe Street.

There are numerous accommodation options close by, to suit all budgets.

Start and Finish Times

All events begin at 9.15am, finishing by 5.00pm on day one and 4.00pm on day two.

Who Should Attend?

This series is open to citizens, community participants, policy thinkers and planners, government officials, service delivery organisations, and researchers who have a serious interest in overcoming disadvantage, building civil society, and changing government in the 21st century.



The Centre for Civil Society

The Centre for Civil Society is a social innovation and public policy institute which aims to empower ordinary people and strengthen civil society. Further information is available here.

Participants are invited to participate in our network in their federal electorate groups around Australia to:

– take local initiatives and hold local events
– campaign on issues that are ignored by governments and politicians; and
develop ideas for social and political change and empowerment of ordinary people.

There is no cost to join and participate. Join up here.

CLICK HERE to send in your comments and feedback.


Vern Hughes
03 5629 8400
0425 722 890
[email protected]