Civil Society comprises the relationships and
activities that make up our life at grass-roots levels of society, in families,
communities and voluntary associations, independent of both government and the
We invite you to join Civil
Society Australia, Australia's peak body for civil society.
Membership comprises individuals, associations, small businesses, and services
who together constitute the relationships and activities of civil society.
Civil Society comprises eight key segments:
Family, kinship and friendship networks
Household or domestic economies
Neighbourhoods and informal social supports
Voluntary associations, self-help and support groups
NGOs and charities
Social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals
Family farms, family enterprises, small businesses
Religion, faith and spirituality*
*note: our interest here is in the
relationships and activities generated by faith or spirituality-based
communities, not in endorsement or promotion of any one particular faith or
These diverse social forms have three
features in common:
Relational – they are defined by relationships
Associational – they are shaped by formal or
Voluntary – they are formed without compulsion
The governing Council of
Civil Society Australia is made up of three representatives of
each of these eight segments of civil society. Read about the members of the
The term 'civil society' does not
refer to 'politeness' or
'civility' in public life, as important as this is. It refers to that
part of society that is not part of the state, hence the term 'civilian' when
used to distinguish a person in civil society from military personnel or state
officials, or a civil offence in law which is an offence between
persons in civil society rather than a criminal matter. Civil society is made up
of the things we do as civilians, freely and voluntarily, outside the state and
The 'not-for-profit' sector of organisations is one
strand in civil society, alongside informal and voluntary forms of association
and activity. The 'not-for-profit' sector is not more important than informal
and voluntary forms of association, though it currently attracts far greater
attention from governments, policy makers and academics than other forms of
relationship and association.
In Australia, civil society is largely ignored in
public life. Personal and social well-being is primarily determined in and by
civil society, but discussion about civil society has been almost entirely absent
from Australian public debate for the last century.
In the last thirty years in particular, a managerial
revolution has swept through government, business and non-government
organisations which has deeply marginalised civil society. Managerialism has had
the effect of shifting agency and responsibility for personal and social
well-being away from the relationships and institutions of civil society onto a
class of public, private and NGO sector managers. This process has almost killed
off the instinct for, and practice of, voluntary association and the shared generation of moral and social capital.
Civil Society Australia has been
formed to counter this marginalisation of civil society in Australian public
life. It aims to to represent and empower civil society and provide a voice for
civil society in public life. Read our
Public Discussion Policy.
It is an initiative of the
Centre for Civil Society, a social innovation and public policy institute
established in 2007 for the empowerment of ordinary
people and strengthening of civil society.
Civil Society Australia is a
membership organisation, a peak body of civil society. Its membership is open to
individuals, associations, small business, and services. It is not a
Civil Society Australia networks its members by fields of interest and
locality, develop mutual supports by sector, and generate projects in
representation and empowerment.
It conducts an annual
Leadership Development Program which runs over a nine month period
from February to October. Participants
in this Program nominate two social challenges
they will work on over the course of the program. The Program aims
to provide resources and support to participants in developing and exercising
civil society leadership in finding solutions to these challenges.
Our core values are:
relationships and social capital
You may donate to Civil Society Australia using
this form or through PAYPAL.
We invite Australians from all walks of life to become
involved in strengthening civil society and renewing our social traditions of working together, looking out for
neighbours and strangers, offering a hand up rather than a hand out for those
who need it, unpretentiousness, and
inclusive, convivial community.