Religion and social policy in Australia and neighbouring countries

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This workshop will adopt a multi-disciplinary, multi-national, multi-level perspective to examine the role of religious organisations in social policy formulation in Australia and several of its neighbours in order to better understand how religion and social policy intersect in different national, religious and policy contexts. The workshop will bring together academics from a range of disciplines with expertise in social policy and knowledge of the role that religion plays in different national and policy settings. It will engage with members of leading Australian faith-based NGOs to discuss the practical dimensions of the role of religion in social policy by drawing on regional NGO experience.

Religion can impact on social policy through three main channels; first, religious values (e.g. the Protestant work ethic) provide a framework that can have a profound impact on the assumptions and objectives that shape social policy; secondly, religious movements can exert pressure to advocate in support of specific issues and/or groups through the political process; third, religious organisations can influence (and be influenced by) policy outcomes in their role as service delivery agents. The balance between these roles will influence how organisations are structured and their relationships with the state. The outcomes will reflect underlying values, institutions and historical circumstances, so that a cross-national, cross-religion perspective is required to fully understand the underlying dynamics.

Against this background, this workshop will adopt a multi-disciplinary, multi-national, multi-level perspective to examine the role of religious organisations in social policy formulation in Australia and several of its neighbours in order to better understand how religion and social policy intersect in different national, religious and policy contexts. The workshop will bring together academics from a range of disciplines with expertise in social policy and knowledge of the role that religion plays in different national and policy settings. It will engage with members of leading Australian faith-based NGOs to discuss the practical dimensions of the role of religion in social policy by drawing on regional NGO experience. It will provide a forum to debate an increasingly important array of issues and share experience on the factors that contribute to effective partnerships between church and state (or between religion and politics) in social policy design and delivery. The workshop will address the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between religious organisations and the state in the formulation of social policies in different countries and how has this relationship changed?
  • What are the features of the religious and social contexts which affect the growth of NGOs and social enterprises more generally?
  • What forms of partnerships between state and religious groups generate the most efficient delivery of social services?
  • How can countries in the region best learn from each other in terms of the role of religion in social policy?

Reference: van Kersbergen, K. and Manow, P. (2010), ‘Religion’ in F. G. Castles, S. Leibfried, J. Lewis, H. Obinger and C. Pierson (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 265-77.

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Contact Information

Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

    ABN: 59 957 839 703
  • Location: 26 Balmain Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601
  • Postal: GPO Box 1956, Canberra, ACT 2601
  • +61 .2 62491788
  • +61 .2 62474335
  • secretariat@assa.edu.au

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