Community Participation and Civil Society

Community participation in decision-making should be an ongoing process, and participants should be free of the fear of retribution.

Principles

The Australian Greens believe that:

  1. The contribution of a diverse range of groups and perspectives to the political process is inherently valuable.
  2. A vibrant, diverse and independent civil society is imperative to a healthy democracy.
  3. Active, engaged citizenship should be encouraged to assist ongoing community participation in the making of laws and policy.
  4. Marginalised groups must be enabled and encouraged to participate in law-making and policy debates.
  5. Community participation requires citizens and groups to be fully informed on how to participate, with transparent and fair mechanisms utilised to translate community views into changes in policy and law.
  6. Community participation in planning should be enshrined in law and be an ongoing process.
  7. Community groups and individuals must be provided with sufficient information in plain language to enable meaningful participation in all levels of government.
  8. The role of advocacy on behalf of individuals and for systemic change is a vital part of civil society.
  9. Non-government organisations provide a vital democratic role as advocates and as providers of services.
  10. People have a right to peaceful assembly, non-violent protest, freedom of association, and freedom of expression.
  11. The civil society sector is a significant part of the economy employing many Australians in useful, productive work, that has been historically neglected by government.
  12. Employees in civil society should be awarded fair wages and conditions commensurate with other sectors.

Aims — Community Participation

The Australian Greens want:

  1. Community organisations to be able to participate in public debate without fear of adverse consequences.
  2. Marginalised groups to be provided with support and resources enabling them to participate in consultation and deliberation processes.
  3. To enable comprehensive participation by community groups in consultation and deliberative processes. Government should provide such groups adequate time and financial assistance where required.
  4. Consultation and deliberation processes to be open to independent review to evaluate their effectiveness and recommend improvement to such processes.
  5. Governments to provide free and timely information to citizens.
  6. Strong Freedom of Information (FOI) laws that exempt community groups and individuals from fees for material gained under FOI.
  7. A well-resourced, independent statutory agency to oversee freedom of information requests and appeals.
  8. Strong whistle-blower protection legislation.
  9. Stronger parliamentary and public scrutiny of government funded programs to enhance transparency and accountability
  10. Support for participatory deliberative methods or processes, where appropriate, that increase levels of interaction between decision makers and the public.

Aims — Civil Society

The Australian Greens want:

  1. The development and expansion of programs such as community centres, kitchens, gardens, cleaning facilities, toy libraries, car shares, public technology labs, and tool sheds to foster community based interaction and reduce the duplication of ownership of infrequently used material possessions.
  2. A minister with responsibility for the not-for-profit sector.
  3. Support and resourcing for an independent Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, that among other roles be responsible for the determination of charitable status.
  4. Entrenched protections for charities and not-for-profit groups to lobby governments and advocate publicly against government policy in pursuit of their objectives.
  5. To oppose restrictions on advocacy, activism or campaigning for any charities and not-for-profit groups, including those in receipt of government funding.
  6. The ability for civil society groups to have legal standing in environmental, community and other relevant issues before the courts.
  7. The introduction of a National Volunteering Strategy that is developed in partnership with representatives of the sectors.
  8. Facilitation of the establishment of co-operatives in the civil society sector.
  9. To ensure funding for programs and services delivered by charities or not-for-profit organisations are indexed and funding remains adequate and fit for purpose.

[Policy endorsed: May 2018]