Civil Society

With freedom comes responsibility. A society of free individuals can only function if everyone respects the rights and liberties of everybody else. This means we have to voluntarily limit our own desires and monitor our own behaviour in the hope and expectation that other people will do the same in their relations with us.

But there is evidence that these informal norms governing our behaviour have been fraying over recent decades. The CIS asks what are the causes and consequences of the decline of civility and social cohesion, and what can be done about it?

The research also examines how government is weakening civil society by trying to eradicate risk from our lives and by ‘crowding out’ voluntary activity with state initiatives?


The Battle of Ideas: can the beliefs that feed terrorism be changed?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Denis Dragovic, Tanveer Ahmed, Peter Kurti
19 September 2016 | OP149

Defeating violent Islamic extremism has been a high priority for all western countries, including Australia, since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. However, the threat we face doesn’t so much come from zealots flying planes into buildings as from young people barely out of childhood and…

The High Court, Democracy and Same Sex Marriage
Barry Maley
19 July 2016 | OP147

The High Court in 2013 overturned the understanding of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 as an exclusive, voluntary, heterosexual union for life, and that the Constitution therefore allowed the introduction of same sex marriage if the Parliament so decided. It is argued that the…

The Democratic Deficit: How Minority Fundamentalism Threatens Liberty in Australia
Peter Kurti
12 July 2016 | Research Report 16

We are faced with a new kind of fundamentalism – call it ‘minority fundamentalism.’ It has all the features of religious fundamentalism, such as ideological fanaticism, intolerance of dissent, and a Manichaean certainty about truth and falsehood. The goal of the minority fundamentalists is to…

No Ordinary Garment: The Burqa and the Pursuit of Tolerance
Peter Kurti
11 June 2015 | Research Report 5

Islam is asserting itself in new ways in Australia. Muslim groups are increasingly asking that precedence be given to sharia law over secular laws passed by our parliaments. There are also calls for greater public acceptance of Islamic practices in economic and social life. Some…

The Fraught Politics of Saying Sorry for Forced Adoption: Implications for Child Protection Policy in Australia
Jeremy Sammut
19 March 2013 | IA138

Many Australians will believe a national apology for forced adoption is overdue. But there is a danger that the apology will delegitimise the use of adoption for child protection purposes and make it more difficult for the community to effectively address child abuse and family…

Media & Commentary

It’s time for me to face the truth – I am no longer a feminist
Trisha Jha
14 October 2016 | The Spectator - Flat White

This is a big deal for someone who was heavily involved with the Women’s Collective at university and helped to organise SlutWalk Canberra in 2011 (though I attended armed with…

Identity politics no substitute for scholarly truth
Jeremy Sammut
30 September 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

American novelist Lionel Shriver stirred an international controversy during her recent visit to Australia. Speaking at the Brisbane writer’s festival, Shriver had the temerity to suggest that novelists should not…

There's no room for child marriages in Australia
Peter Kurti
22 September 2016 | Daily Telegraph

Horrifying news of a spike in forced child marriages needs to prompt some serious questions about the wisdom of Australia’s official policy of multiculturalism. According to Australian Federal Police figures…

Lindt Café Siege: Death by Multiculturalism?
Jeremy Sammut
19 August 2016 | Spectator Flat White

Ideas about nations matter – especially when those ideas shape the attitudes and actions of those in positions of authority. This the chief implication of the stunning revelations made in…

Michael Kirby underestimates Australians on marriage equality
Barry Maley
09 August 2016 | Spectator Flat White

Michael Kirby’s anxiety to see same-sex marriage quickly legalised by Parliament reveals a pessimistic view of democracy and the capacity of Australians to make sound judgements about their government and…