About this event

Each year hundreds of representatives from civil society gather at the ACOSS Conference to engage in a meeting of minds.

The ACOSS National Conference provides a platform to discuss the policy and practice needed to address poverty and inequality in Australia, to strengthen our organisations and build an inclusive society. It’s the annual meeting place for community sector CEOs and senior level representatives, community leaders, senior government officials, business leaders, researchers, social entrepreneur, grassroots advocates, campaigners, and anyone with an interest in social justice and public policy.

The ACOSS National Conference follows a unique format. We avoid traditional plenary addresses and instead all sessions take the form of a facilitated conversation between a dynamic panel of thought leaders and the ACOSS conference attendees. We engage expert facilitators to help power the discussion. Live conference streaming, an interactive conference app, and a live Twitter feed ensures that the conversation extends beyond the physical space and engages thousands of civil society contributors across Australia.


  • Program Day One
    17 November 2016
    Keynote: Burkhard Gnärig , International Centre for Civil Society
    The impacts of disruptive change on Australian civil society organisations.
    Mr Gnärig’s proposition is that, unless civil society organisations re-invent themselves to address political, environmental and digital change they risk irrelevance and failure. This raises a number of serious implications for community sector organisations throughout Australia, and their causes. In this session, a panel of campaigners, innovators, service providers and regulators will place the ideas discussed by Mr Gnärig in a local context and examine the threats and opportunities community sector organisations must confront in the face of disruptive change.
    Dangerous new frontiers? : competition policy and human service delivery
    The expansion of competition policy principles into hitherto unexplored areas of human service delivery is increasingly likely, following the Harper Report in 2014. Does this pose a threat to vulnerable individuals and community services, or is it an opportunity to strengthen individual control and improve service quality? This session will explore some of the possible implications of competition policy reform by drawing on relevant case studies in the vocational education and disability sectors.
    Health or health care? Reducing (health) inequality in Australia
    No matter where you live in the world, the richer you are the better your health. According to Professor Sir Michael Marmot, President of the World Medical Association, “the cause is inequality in the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age; and inequities in power, money and resources that give rise to this inequality”. With rising health care costs placing increasing pressure on the federal budget and access to services declining for those living on the lowest incomes in Australia, this session will scrutinise the evidence which indicates that to improve health outcomes we need to reduce inequality and examine the impacts of this on health policy, practice and funding.
    The role of the Media in public opinion and social cohesion
    This session will look at the impacts of media representations on public opinion and social cohesion as well as the use of these representations by governments to push particular policy agendas. A panel of journalists and community leaders will examine the portrayal of marginalised groups and effects on community debate, and discuss strategies for engaging with media to shift perceptions and government policies
  • Program Day Two
    18 November 2016
    Should Australia Implement a Basic Income?
    With Finland and Netherlands to introduce a universal basic income, attention has been turned to whether Australia should consider adopting such an approach. The changing nature of employment due to technological change has led some commentators to suggest a universal basic income would provide a buffer for those employed in industries with uncertain futures. Others argue that a universal basic income would dismantle overblown welfare bureaucracies and give people the freedom to purchase their own services. What is the role of a basic income? Is it to provide a safety net or is it to provide assistance to all? And is such an approach even feasible in Australia with its highly targeted social security system?
    Education and inequality: bridging the divide
    In the context of the current debate about education funding and student outcomes leading education policy thinkers will explore the relationship between education funding and policy settings and social and economic inequality. How unequal is Australia’s education system? What impact is this having on student academic achievement and longer-term social and economic outcomes? What role can education reform play in increasing intergenerational economic mobility? How can education bridge the divide?
    Getting to net zero : A community-led transition
    Achieving the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels requires Australia to transition to a net zero-carbon economy by 2050. Given technological advances in renewable energy, the question is not if, but how quickly, the transition happens and, critically, how well it is managed. Given the potential for poorly managed change to cause devastating social impacts, it’s critical that people, communities and the community sector are actively engaged in developing policy platforms that deliver an equitable, just and planned transition.
    Keynote: Professor Gillian Triggs, President Australian Human Rights Commission
    Truth Telling: Speaking with Conviction, Living with the Consequences.
    A healthy society is one in which individuals are able shine a light on issues and be supported to speak the truth, even when it makes our leaders and decision makers uncomfortable. Taking on this role requires courage, conviction, a commitment to the truth and the support of others. Explore the lessons from Australians who have recently stepped up to take on this role – the good, the bad and the racist.


  • Address
  • Australian Technology Park, Locomotive St, Eveleigh, NSW 2015, Australia
  • Phone
  • 02 9209 4220


  • HESTA Community Sector Awards conference dinner
    $100 AUD
  • Non-Member 2 day
    $900 AUD

    Full conference registration

    General admission

  • COSS member 2 day
    $630 AUD

    Applies to COSS organisation
    members only

  • Concession 2 day
    $140 AUD

    Concession applies to students
    people receiving income support

  • Non-Member 1 day
    $500 AUD

    Half registration

    General Admission

  • COSS member 1 day
    $350 AUD

    Applies to COSS organisation
    members only

  • Concession 1 day
    $90 AUD

    Concession applies to students
    people receiving income support