An Invitation to Join Us                                     

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 commercial world.

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 spiritual tradition.
These diverse social forms have three features in common:
Relational they are defined by relationships
Associational they are shaped by formal or informal bonds
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 Council here.

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 market.

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 consultancy business.

Civil Society Australia networks its members by fields of interest and locality, develop mutual supports by sector, and generate projects in representation and empowerment.

conducts an annual Civil Society 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
ethical conduct

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.

Civil Society Australia 2015