The CEO of HammondCare has urged Christian charities receiving public funding not to become “mere government contractors”.
Speaking at the Third Bernard Judd Memorial Lecture, hosted by the NSW Council of Churches, Dr Stephen Judd said identity was the greatest and most dangerous challenge facing Christian charities in the 21st century.
“I believe that if charities don’t know who they are and why they are doing things, there is a very real prospect that they will have no idea what [they] should be doing – and what they shouldn’t be,” Dr Judd said in his address.
“Without being able to answer these questions – who we are and why do we exist – Christian charities will lose their identity and their purposes.”
Dr Judd called on governments to recognise that the independent provision of social services by charities is of great benefit to them.
He also criticised the ‘non-advocacy’ clauses which appeared in many government contracts from the mid-1990s onwards.
“Christian charities and governments must recognise that advocacy is necessary to bring about the structural and long-term change that is the only way to achieve lasting relief for the recipients of their services,” said Dr Judd.
“Charities are sometimes the only voice to advocate for the disadvantaged: they are very often the most likely to know what their clients want and what solutions are going to work.
“But for their part, Christian charities need to be smarter in their advocacy. Putting out a media release embarrassing local members or simply grandstanding to the cameras before talking to government is very poor advocacy for and on behalf of your constituents.”
Dr Judd described the Rudd Government’s plans for a compact with the not-for-profit sector as a “hopeful sign”.
Under the plan the government has said it would explore ways to develop a stronger relationship with the not-for-profit sector based on partnership and respect.
“Such a compact is a very promising development,” said Dr Judd. “But it is an initiative that is now at risk of being starved of oxygen by the global financial crisis.”