Charities Roundtable Jobs and Skills Summit

Over 70 leaders from across the charities sector joined Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, the Hon Andrew Leigh MP in full and frank discussion in a Charities Roundtable on 31 August 2022, held ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit.

Our thanks to Minister Leigh, Roundtable Chair, Claire Robbs (CCA Deputy Chair and CEO of Life Without Barriers) and to all who contributed their leadership, experience and perspective.

The outcomes of this roundtable will be communicated directly to the Treasurer by the Assistant Minister for consideration as part of the Jobs and Skills Summit.  The Roundtable covered a wide range of issues.  Key points are summarised here:


Summary of key points – Charities Roundtable Jobs and Skills Summit

The important issues in relation to jobs and skills in Australia are ultimately not just about the health of our economy or the size of our GDP, but also about the kind of lives we live and the communities we belong to.

Charities employ 11% of the Australian workforce, engage 4 million volunteers and work at the heart of communities and at the heart of social and economic wellbeing and productivity.  Their value is not just in the work they do, the services they deliver – but in the way they can provide opportunity, support, development and strengthen communities by the way they go about their work. Charities are nation building workforces bringing us closer together – a key part of social and economic infrastructure. The quality of services offered by charities is dependent on the quality and commitment of staff and volunteers.


1. Opportunities to build productivity and wellbeing include:

  1. Revisit funding models with an outcomes and contribution lens – and rethink trends toward commodified service delivery that tend to focus on transactions and outputs. Link outcomes to cross-portfolio investment and wellbeing indicators in Budget processes.
  2. Recognise the true costs of delivery of services, managing volunteers etc – and paying what it takes.  This includes appropriate provision for on-costs, digital skills, training and development.  There are big risks to service quality, consistency and sustaining our workforces otherwise. See also:
  3. Embrace and nurture social procurement.
  4. Provide more certainty – through extended contract periods and indexation – to allow better planning, workforce engagement and retention, and investment in workforce learning and development
  5. Value and incorporate volunteer engagement and management into workforce planning and policy for the sector.
  6. Recognise and invest in volunteering as a pathway to skills and personal development, workforce engagement and improved wellbeing.
  7. Support realisation of the productivity gains of digital transformation and digital inclusion by investing in the digital capacity of the sector.  
  8. Encourage a greater focus on impact, and less the cost of delivery, as the measure of quality and effectiveness – and invest in capacity to measure impact.


2. Our workforce should reflect the diversity of our communities.

Diversity in our workforce and our workplace improves productivity and supports innovation. It also promotes inclusion, resilience and flourishing within our communities.

  1. Where are the targets, investment and incentives in our policy settings to see a ‘full employment’ environment promote and support more diversity in our workforce.  How do we replace barriers with pathways e.g. for people living with disability, carers, disadvantaged groups (including ex-offenders) who are currently unemployed or unwillingly casualised or underemployed?


3. Housing availability and affordability is a critical barrier to attracting, training and retaining skilled staff in rural, regional and remote communities.


4. Improving productivity within the charities sector is not just about more funding:

  1. Complexity in awards is costing productivity, increasing risk.  
  2. The current enforcement approach of the Fair Work Ombudsman needs to move to an engagement and education first approach.
  3. Charities have experience, expertise, knowledge and connection to community that can inform and improve policy – make us integral to policy development and implementation.
  4. Red tape has to go. Work with the sector to eliminate needless or duplicative reporting.
  5. Facilitate opt out workplace giving programs (as per international experience) to grow workplace giving and value-adding engagement between business and NFPs, with benefits for volunteering and skills exchange.
  6. Facilitate secondment programs between government and charities to build the kind of ‘boundary riding’, understanding, skill and leadership development that realises more from the way governments and charities work together.

5. The migration debate should recognise the opportunity to embrace humanitarian goals.

Supporting the settlement of refugees unlocks the contribution of their skills to Australian productivity and communities.