Not-for-profit organisations across the nation have increasingly become engaged in a dynamic of ‘self-silencing’, with demonstrated reluctance to publicly engage in advocacy for fear of risking financial security and political retribution. These are conclusions drawn in the Civil Voices report on research into not-for-profit advocacy commissioned by Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre.

As described within the report, key findings from a survey of 1,462 representatives of not-for-profits (30 per cent of whom were CEOs) included:

  • 69% of not-for-profits believe dissenting organisations risk having their funding cut
  • Almost two thirds of respondents stated it was easier to be heard in the past five years than now
  • 53% believe NGOs are pressured to amend public statements to be in line with government policy

Certainly the ‘quietness’ of NGOs is an issue that has not escaped the notice of PeakCare as suggested in the lead story of our 17th November edition of eNews.  It’s also a matter that was alluded to in the panel-led discussion that took place at our Annual General Meeting on 6 December, which you can read about in the ‘In the Spotlight’ section of this week’s edition.

The Civil Voices report challenges us to deeply and comprehensively explore the meaning and purpose of advocacy and the relationship and ‘rules’ of the relationship that should exist between government and non-government sectors and within that, the role and strategies that can be most constructively and effectively pursued by peak bodies, such as PeakCare. The report describes the state of debate in Australian democracy as ‘poor’ and argues that Australian civil society needs to be supported and encouraged to engage in frank and fearless advocacy if we are to ensure that our democracy remains vibrant and robust.

PeakCare’s view is that if we choose to not properly identify and tackle the full range of factors that may be contributing to the self-silencing of not-for-profits, the state of public debate will remain poor or worsen. Are there, in fact, factors other than those identified within the report that are contributing to the self-silencing of not-for-profits? PeakCare suspects that there are. Whatever these factors might be, acceptance of the self-silencing dynamic does not serve the interests of either governments or non-government organisations and those who will ultimately pay the price for any complacency we display in turning this dynamic around are Queensland children and young people, their families and communities.

PeakCare is keen to lead and facilitate further discussion, debate and problem-solving with both our Members and government colleagues about this issue in the new year. You can commence your participation in this dialogue by entering your comments about this important matter in the space provided below.

Click here to access the Civil Voices: Researching Not-For-Profit Advocacy report.

Click here to explore the Civil Voices website.