The role of peak NGOs in Australian civil society is considered crucial for representing marginal groups in the public and policy arena. The Howard government had particularly challenged the advocacy, coordination, information, research and policy role of peak NGOs. Instead of dealing with NGOs, the Howard government developed a 'governing through communities' process establishing new arrangements between the Federal government and local communities. It is of concern that 'governance through communities' may directly erode the values of voluntary association, broad representation of diverse groups in society and may negate non-instrumental political relations that NGOs aim to contribute to a healthy democracy. How the new Rudd government relates to peak NGOs is thus worthy of close analysis to understand what democratic role especially peak NGO's will play in Australian civil society.
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