Equality and a culture of giving: exploring the role of philanthropy and its relationship with government in Australia.

Stream: Panel 64 - Political Theory: Butler, Precarious Life and the Politics of Care & Philanthropy
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 9.00 am – 10.30 am


Changing circumstances in the twenty-first century, including the ‘hollowing out’ of the welfare state, and a view that some issues are too complex for government alone to address, have led to increased interest the potential role of philanthropy. Major gifts and structured giving arrangements are becoming more prominent in Australia. However, the country is still generally considered to be distinctly ‘unphilanthropic’, and calls to establish a more sophisticated culture of philanthropy remain prevalent. Developing such a culture requires a comprehensive understanding of the nature of philanthropy, which is significantly influenced by its relationship with government. Influenced by a social liberal path dependency established from federation, government in Australia has come to occupy a central position in promoting equality which, while not necessarily precluding a culture of giving, has seen philanthropy develop in an ancillary or supporting role. This is evident in the country’s regulatory arrangements, as well as in the general ‘lack of concern’ regarding accountability and transparency in the philanthropic sector, particularly when compared to expectations of government in this area. Philanthropic organisations have also tended to view their primary function as grant-making, rather than influencing public opinion or otherwise employing their resources as leverage to challenge a prevailing position, or induce support for an alternative. The presentation will focus on the development of philanthropy’s ancillary role, and whether recent increases in prominence may be indicative of a more substantive shift in its role, something which may also imply changes for the role of government in Australia.


Elyse Chapman (Presenter), University of Adelaide
Elyse Chapman is a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide, supervised by Prof. Carol Johnson and Dr Wayne Errington. This presentation forms part of the research for her PhD thesis which explores the nature of the relationship between government and philanthropy in Australia, particularly in comparison with United States, considered the model of a well-developed philanthropic culture, and the United Kingdom which is engaging in new debate regarding the relative positions of government and philanthropy.