Australia faces an unprecedented economic and social challenge. In addition to economic recovery, the equally crucial work of civic repair is required as part of the social transition out of the Covid-19 pandemic. A strong civic culture will be integral to rebuilding prosperity.
Classical liberalism appropriately affords great importance to the liberty of the individual. However, that liberty finds its fullest expression in a society characterised by a spirit of reciprocity and respect for the wellbeing of others. Community, informed by recognition and acceptance of mutual obligation, lies at the heart of civil society, a key mediating component of the compact between state and citizen.
Governments can help uphold the principles underlying civil society – which include trust, commitment, cooperation, and obligation – by ensuring adequate levels of funding to support charities and not-for-profit community organisations through the economic crisis. These organisations, committed to general pursuit of the common good, already provide essential services across various sectors of the Australian economy; they warrant government support for their activities in this critical role.
As the country pursues a return to prosperity, restoration of a virtuous civic culture must be a priority for governments so that all institutions of civil society may once again perform effectively the essential roles upon which the wellbeing of so many Australians depends.