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September 25, 2013

Reaffirm the differences

No one would seriously argue against the principle that the voluntary sector must remain independent of Government. But in recent years the tectonic plates that traditionally define who does what and how, have started to shift. As Christie’s recommendations on the future of public services are implemented, lines will be further blurred.  Occasionally the sector needs to reassert its core values and the things that make it different – sometimes with some straight talking. And sometimes you have to go half way round the world to say it. 


Civil Society 7th September 2013

Debra Allcock Tyler has called on Australian charities to stand up for themselves and not cower to demands to be more businesslike, arguing that in the UK government policy has “buggered up” the relationships between charities and government. Speaking to the Australian National Conference on Volunteering, in Adelaide, the Directory of Social Change chief executive said she was impressed with the local sector and issued a clarion call for it not to be silenced by fear of losing government funding from criticising government policy. 

She said she was hurt by government and private sector characterisation of charities as being run by well-meaning amateurs. “The condescension from the private and public sector in Britain really, really pisses me off,” Allcock Tyler told the Australian crowd.  “Many of our leaders think that business has the answer to everything. The UK government wants charities to be more businesslike. Slavish servitude to short-term corporate greed launched the British economy into crisis. They have the nerve to tell us we’re not sustainable!”

She said government policy was “buggering it up left right and centre” with regard to the relationship between charities and government. As debates rage on in the UK about charity campaigning, Allcock Tyler called on Australian charities to be ever more strident in their views. 

“We must never compromise our ethics and our beliefs,” she said. “We must speak up, serve others, and speak for them regardless of the cost to ourselves. Money is the mechanism, not the motive, and it’s what distinguishes us from the private sector.” 

She further went on to recount a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg where charities and the minister discussed using volunteering as a pathway to youth employment.  “Volunteering isn’t free!” she said. “We’re not there to serve volunteers. We don’t want some young person turning up for a couple of weeks, spend all our time and energy on them, and then they bugger off once they’ve got something on their CV.”