ACOSS Conference Report by Joneen Troup, Manager, Camden Haven Community College


The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is the peak organisation for community and social services in Australia. The ACOSS National Conference held on 17 & 18 Nov 2016 provided a platform to discuss the policy and practice needed to address poverty and inequality in Australia, to strengthen organisations and build an inclusive society.  ACOSS’s national membership exceeds 300 organisations; estimate of conference numbers: up to 400 attendees.

Relevance to Community Colleges

CCA’s involvement in ACOSS (CCA is a member) means connecting with influential advocacy on issues affecting people experiencing poverty and inequality. Community colleges advocate social justice. Most (NSW) colleges have as a key focus the Community Service Obligation (CSO) program, for disadvantaged participants in education. In many cases, CSO is largest proportion of community college activity. More community colleges are instigating Alesco schools and other socially fair, inclusive alternatives to traditional learning systems. Education, training, advice and provision of services that enhance opportunities in life and offer tools for the relief of poverty or helplessness aligns the core principles of both CCA and ACOSS. Community colleges’ registered charity status, and in a growing number of instances, registration as Public Benevolent Institutions places us firmly in the domain of community and social services.

The ACOSS Conference

Sessions took the form of facilitated conversations involving dynamic panels of thought leaders, with questions and discussion involving conference attendees. These were interesting and stimulating sessions; to be successful the use of expert facilitators is essential.

The conference included a live video streaming, an excellent interactive conference app, and a live Twitter feed. Continuous updates of changes in schedule; ability to take own notes against each session and email them; opportunity to ask questions for specific session/s.

The conference was held at the Australian Technology Park close to Redfern Station in Sydney. Great technology, vision, sound, live streaming, acoustics and layout. All conference participants in all sessions. Sponsors and organisations available for information (16 booths- everything from Attorney General Dept, socially aware Super fund, ACNC- Charities, NFP legal assistance, charity donation system etc)


Speakers included high level influences of Policy from Commonwealth and State government, media representatives across a range of media and focus, interesting proponents of social change and proposed systems.

Some of the speakers/session participants/facilitators:

  • Burkhard Gnärig, Executive Director, International Centre for Civil Society (live via technology) – see separate comment by Ted Nabung
  • The Hon Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition
  • Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Australian Greens
  • The Hon Christian Porter, MP, Minister for Social Services
  • Maha Abdo (Muslim Women’s Association)
  • Peter Martin, Economics Editor, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald
  • Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS
  • Keith Rankin, Political Economist, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Owen Bennett ,Pres, Australian Unemployed Workers Union
  • Joe Hildebrand, Journalist & NTV Host ,News Corp Aus
  • Lenore Taylor, Editor, Guardian Australia