The ACT Council of Social Service Inc. (ACTCOSS) is a social justice organisation. We are the peak representative body for not-for-profit community organisations and people living with disadvantage in the Australian Capital Territory.
We work collaboratively with organisations and individuals who support our vision and goals for positive social change.
We advocate to government on social policy, encourage individuals and groups to take action, and provide capacity building services and resources to community organisations. We do all this with support and input from our membership.
Canberra is a just, safe and sustainable community in which everyone has the opportunity for self-determination and a fair share of resources and services.
In 2019-2022 ACTCOSS will:
- Assist and support organisations to build their capacity so that they can provide a service that best meets the needs of people experiencing disadvantage in the ACT
- Make explicit and pursue a social justice agenda for the people of the ACT
- Function as a peak body for the ACT community sector
- Participate as part of the national COSS Network.
What drives our decisions about focus areas & how we work
- Reducing growing inequality
- Advocating an agenda beyond election led decision-making cycles
- Operating environment prioritises value generation and collaboration
- Resources match costs
- Human capital better integrated as part of economic agenda.
Our Policy & Advocacy Work
Through our policy and advocacy work, ACTCOSS promotes equitable social and economic policy and extends community recognition of the rights, entitlements and needs of people living with poverty and disadvantage in the ACT. In doing this work, we also advocate for of a well-resourced and sustainable community sector.
ACTCOSS both engages with government policy processes and initiates policy work in areas of emerging and identified need.
Members of the ACTCOSS policy team undertake various activities including:
- conducting research
- convening working groups and networks
- consulting with members and other interested parties
- writing submissions, letters and papers
- meeting public officials and appearing before Parliamentary committees
- coordinating campaigns and raising social justice issues in the media
Have a look at our policy work.
Our Capability Development Work
One of our key goals is a strong and vibrant ACT community sector with the capacity to respond to the needs of people in a timely and relevant way. The sector achieves this through having effective, agile and pioneering organisations with a proficient and engaged workforce.
To this end, our sector development activities aim to build the capability and strengthen the culture, systems and processes of community managed organisations that exist to serve vulnerable citizens and the community.
We focus on:
- Improving governance and organisational strategy
- Facilitating networks and shared learning
- Supporting a person centred and outcome focussed approach
- Building human capital
- Fostering innovation
- Offering training that meets the specific needs of the sector
- Developing tools, resources and practical guides
We offer a variety of services and resources, such as:
- Learning and development opportunities, such as workshops and forums
- Tailored support
- Gulanga Program—support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community sector workers, and improving Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people's access to responsive, respectful, effective services
- Networks and working groups
- Advertising services
Engaging with Members
As a membership-based organisation, ACTCOSS’ policy and sector development work builds on the activities, priorities and needs of our members.
The objectives of our work with members are:
- To include in the public debate the lived experience of people living with poverty and disadvantage
- To facilitate the participation of communities and individuals in policy development and decision making
- To provide support and guidance to enhance the capacity and capability of community managed organisations
If you are a member and would like to discuss policy advocacy or sector development issues, please contact us and we will connect you with one of our team.
Check out our governing documents, such as the Constitution, strategic plan and annual reports.
ACTCOSS was formed in 1963 by a group of volunteers who saw the need for a Council of Social Service in the ACT.
With a grant of 10 pounds from the National Council of Women (ACT) and the driving force of a small and determined ACT Social Workers' Group led by Ethel McGuire, a provisional committee was set up to create a constitution. The inaugural ACTCOSS meeting occurred on 30 July 1963. For an annual fee of 2 pounds, community organisations and government departments could become ACTCOSS members.
The Council was established to provide a mechanism through which people in the rapidly growing city of Canberra could come together to lead local service development, promote positive social change, be part of policy debates and contribute to the national network of Councils of Social Service.
Growing from a volunteer committee to a funded peak body, we remember our humble beginnings, pay tribute to the many citizens who led and nurtured ACTCOSS, and honour our commitment to advocating for social justice and effective service delivery for the Canberra community.
ACTCOSS Jubilee Poem
The ACTCOSS Jubilee Poem was composed by local writer Hal Judge for ACTCOSS' 50th birthday in 2013.