ATTN What would ‘Big Society’ mean for Australia?



Our first major report in CPD’s Public Service research program, The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report, analysed political commentary and media coverage that, at times, depicts the Australian Public Service as inefficient, large, costly and unwelcome in some aspects of our lives. Our research revealed the disconnect between this rhetoric, community attitudes and the reality of public service staffing, funding and functions.

We now turn our gaze to the radical public sector reforms that are in full swing in the United Kingdom, under the brand ‘Big Society’, and to consider what they could mean for Australia.

Although the rhetoric of the Big Society agenda sounds good, we have been monitoring its effects in the UK since mid-2011 and have seen a number of dangers involved in its approach. We will be discussing accountability and the quality of public services delivered under a Big Society approach. We will also look at its potential to deepen inequality, put strain on not-for-profit organisations, and silence community voices.

Although the term is not yet commonly in use in Australia, initiatives along the lines of a Big Society agenda have been implemented in Australia, and are likely to receive further support. We hope this next stage of our Public Service program will inform and energise debates about the future of public services in Australia. Read more about our work here and here, and follow us on Twitter for more regular updates.

Join the ‘Big Society’ conversation on social media

If you want to get beyond the Orwellian doublespeak and find out what the ‘Big Society’ is really about, then join a conversation you won’t find in the mainstream media. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. We’ll be sharing links to topical online resources including CPD’s publications and media.

We’re also making our Delicious Account (the place where we save media and analysis about the ‘Big Society’ agenda) publicly available. You can find a stack of recent links here and here. Read what we are reading. Learn how ‘Big Society’ would change the public service and its place in society, and be part of the public service debate in Australia.


Our Public Service Research Program

The CPD Public Service Program aims to develop a robust knowledge base about the state of the public service: its funding and capacity; performance in delivering community services; and attitudes toward and expectations of the Australian Public Service. Click here to read more.

Find more ideas and publications on the Australian Public Service in one of our major research programs here.

Sign up for more good ideas here.


Change can happen faster than you think – help us seize the moment and point to the alternatives. Add your voice to ours!