Compacts and accords: Australia on the move

About a decade ago, the voluntary sector in Canada was reveling in the attention it was receiving from the federal government, and was working particularly hard on hammering out the specifics of a document that would articulate the relationship between the sector and that government.  A five-year project, funded with a multi-million dollar budget and involving dozens of federal officials at fairly high levels, was called the Voluntary Sector Initiative.  The most cynical in the sector described it as a five-year diversion strategy by the government to distract the sector; others saw real value in the discussions and ancillary initiatives that were developed and implemented as part of the Initiative.

(In the interests of complete disclosure, your friendly blogger was involved in many facets of the Initiative, and has vacillated between the two opinions, to this day.)

Without a doubt, however, one of the most important pieces of the Initiative, the sector believed, was the development in Canada of what the United Kingdom had called a “compact” between the sector and the government.  Called an Accord in Canadian parlance, smart, well-intentioned and dedicated people on both sides of the table representing the two sectors developed a non-binding but morally compelling document.

However, this entry is not a nostalgic review of this time in Canada’s voluntary sector’s history (although that may be the subject of some future post).  Rather, it is by way of context, to introduce the latest document in Australia’s path toward its own compact.

In Australia, this National Compact is an important part of the government’s social inclusion agenda. The most recent report summarizes the results of a lengthy and extensive consultation by the Australian government, and lays out the government’s commitments with respect to a compact with the sector.

Released jointly by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and for the Voluntary Sectors, the report identifies support for the proposed six principles underlying the Compact: respect, inclusion, diversity, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability.  with undertakings and actions relating to each. Finally, the report identifies eight actions to be included in the Compact:

  • document and promote the value and contribution of the Sector;
  • protect the Sector’s right to advocacy irrespective of any funding relationship that might exist;
  • recognise Sector diversity in consultation processes and Sector development initiatives;
  • improve information sharing including greater access to publicly funded research and data;
  • reduce red tape and streamline reporting;
  • simplify and improve consistency of financial arrangements including across state and federal jurisdictions;
  • act to improve paid and unpaid workforce issues; and
  • improve funding and procurement processes.

Although this report does not provide text for the Compact, it does say that agreement has been reached on its contents, and that further announcements are expected early this year.  Finally, the report concludes: “Implementing the Compact will deliver a new focus to the shared vision, principles and aspirations. The Compact will provide a mechanism for focusing on the eight identified priority action areas.”

I am sure that everyone involved in the Canadian exercise, from the government side and from the sector side, joins me in wishing the Australians enduring success with their initiative.


An update on the UK Compact will be covered in a future post.

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