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*

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 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.

Civil Society Australia has been formed to counter this marginalisation of civil society in Australian public life. It aims 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.

* We are not interested in any one particular religion in faith; we are interested in the social relationships generated by religions and faith.