The Common Wealth – Community Engagement

Download The Common Wealth (word) (pdf)

The values: Community Engagement, Equity, Stewardship, Fairness, Freedom, An Ethical Culture

Community Engagement

The individual exists in a network of relationships – family, friends, acquaintances, local community, nation, global. He or she obtains fulfilment as a member of society, with rights and duties. He or she is mindful of the rights and needs of others and is compassionate towards others, no matter how far the social and kinship separations.

Many of these relationships are in the 'public realm', which includes, but is wider than the public sector. Being part of the public realm the state is part of, not apart from society.


Support and encouragement of families (broadly defined), non-government community association and collective action, including those who may be critical of government policy.

Universal programs such as health care and education as collective goods to promote social cohesion and solidarity. This encompasses, but goes beyond the need to compensate for market failures.

Government as a part of, not apart from, civic sphere, with responsibilities beyond mere accountability.

Compulsory voting and promotion of citizenship.

Alternative values

We are all individuals; 'there is no such thing as society'. Interactions between people are functional market transactions, devoid of rights or obligations other than those specified in laws designed to promote smooth commerce. Government is a separate and limited institution with arm's-length accountability to individuals (customers of services) rather than responsibility to citizens.

The state is all-encompassing.

In neither of the above situations is there space for non-government civic engagement.

Government is an agency separate from society, accountable in the same way as a corporation.

All relationships, intimate and 'stranger', are characterised by respect; the 'other' is trusted until there is reason to withdraw trust.


Governments to use rhetorical power to reduce 'stranger' fear and to encourage trust as a means of smoothing social and commercial relationships.

Alternative values

The 'other' is to be mistrusted, unless there is reason to trust.

Strong compliance and accountability mechanisms are necessary to overcome intrinsic mistrust.

We contribute to and draw from accumulated social capital; this is the essence of mutual responsibility and duty.


Governments to produce regular 'state of social capital report' as part of national balance sheet.

Alternative values

Social capital is a vague concept; because it is not amenable to measurement there is no point in measuring it.

We value self-reliance and we value care where care is needed, and that care is given and received without the expectation of immediate reciprocation.


A welfare system that is universal and non-judgemental, but which discourages passive dependence and offers choice.

Alternative values

People are left to fend for themselves. Welfare promotes dependence and suppresses autonomy and self-reliance.

People need 24/7 care with paternalistic government.

Although we provide some care through private and voluntary mechanisms, we recognize their limits and use government for the most part.


Charity and private philanthropy encouraged, but not used as substitute for public programs.

Alternative values

Charity and philanthropy are sufficient means to provide care, and can direct care more humanely and efficiently than government bureaucracies.

Communities may have some ethnic or other identities, but there are no firm boundaries between communities; rather there is a range of interaction between all of us. Society comprises all individuals and groups; to the extent we exclude or ghettoise any we have failed in our social obligations.


Public policy to give particular recognition and respect for Australia's original inhabitants.

Governments to encourage and remove institutional barriers to interaction.

Strong anti-discrimination regimes, eg race, religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual preference.

Widening the scope of individual choice without impinging on collective choice.

Alternative values

Other approaches are:

– exclusion (such as White Australia);

– assimilation,

– co-existence.

Download The Common Wealth (word) (pdf)

Other values: Preamble, Equity, Stewardship, Fairness, Freedom, An Ethical Culture

Interested in writing on Policy for the Centre for Policy Development? Click here for Policy Guideline

Leave a Comment