Australian Community Sector Survey

The Australian Community Sector Survey is the longest running survey of the community sector by the community sector. It examines changes in the operating environment of community organisations, major issues of concern to these organisations, and looks at how the sector is responding to community need.

In its current form the research is coordinated and commissioned by ACOSS in partnership with the State and Territory Councils of Social Service. The research itself is undertaken by the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney.

Read the latest report: At the precipice: Australia’s community sector through the cost-of-living crisis online or download it here

This report tells how communit sevices, including disability, family violence and homelessness organisations, are at breaking point and facing a staffing crisis due to years of inadequate government funding. The report finds that only 9 per cent of leaders agreed that funding covers the full costs of service delivery, while 47 per cent of leaders said that staff turnover is too high.

Demand for community services has soared following bushfires, Covid-19 and the ongoing cost of living crisis, which is also impacting staff and organisations. As a result, some organisations reported high levels of resignations and burnout amongst their workforce. This increasingly means that people in need are struggling to find suitable help to rebuild their lives.

The survey of 1,476 community sector staff – undertaken for ACOSS and the State and Territory Councils of Social Service – found half of frontline workers and 68 per cent of leaders said they feel under pressure due to understaffing and emotionally drained from their work.






Helping people in need during a cost-of-living crisis: Findings from the Australian Community Sector Survey

This report examines changes in community need, and the ways community sector organisations and staff have responded.

Data comes from the Australian Community Sector Survey, which was conducted in September 2022. Overall, the report’s findings show rising levels of community need and shortages of capacity to meet demand for community services during 2022 – the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and a time of intensifying financial, housing, and other pressures affecting communities. 

Read the media release: New report reveals soaring demand for community services from increased cost of living 





Carrying the costs of the crisis: Australia’s community sector through the Delta outbreak

This report explores the experiences of 1828 community sector workers, including 513 service leaders (CEOs and senior managers), and 640 frontline workers , captured for the Australian Community Sector Survey (ACSS) during September 2021. Participants shared their perspectives on working in the community sector through 2021, including during the COVID-19 Delta outbreak. Questions covered service delivery, workforce, funding, and contractual arrangements.

Results show the Australia’s community sector responded to the prolonged crisis with determination, resilience, innovation, and extraordinary industriousness. Participants provided multiple accounts of the ways organisations swiftly adapted service models to sustain appropriate support for people experiencing disadvantage, poverty, and hardship, and to help communities navigate health, economic and social disruption.


Meeting demand in the shadow of the Delta outbreak: Community Sector experiences

This is the first of the reports from the Australian Community Sector Survey undertaken in late 2021. This snapshot tells the story of demand faced by the sector in the leadup to the holiday season while constrained by the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Read the report here: 

Read the media release here: Community services under strain in shadow of Delta

Valuing Australia’s community sector: Better contracting for capacity, sustainability and impact

This is the second of the 2021 reports from the Australian Community Sector Survey project. This report looks at the challenges in funding and contracting that community sector organisations in Australia face at the moment. It shows that funding insecurity is persisting, with too many organisations reliant on short-term contracts that constrain their capacity to effectively help many people experiencing poverty and disadvantage.

Read the report here:

Read the media release here:

Meeting community needs in difficult times: experiences of Australia’s community sector. April 2021

This report is the first of the 2021 reports from the Australian Community Sector Survey project. Drawing on interviews and focus groups with 35 community sector leaders working in diverse contexts across Australia, this report shows that the sector is confronting rising levels of need and increasingly complex experiences of hardship in the community.


Australia’s community sector and COVID-19: Supporting communities through the crisis. September 2020

This report provides quantitative research about the state of Australia’s community service sector specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is based on data collected in July 2020 from 744 community sector workers throughout the country. It paints a picture of community sector organisations working through a period of escalating need to provide services through new service delivery models following years of systemic under-investment, resource insecurity and undervaluation. However, the commitment of the sector is shown despite the complex and unpredictable circumstances of this crisis: It is difficult work, but we want to be there (housing & homelessness service worker).

Read the report: Australia’s Community Sector and COVID-19 – Supporting Communities Through the Crisis 

Read the media release: New survey shows impact of COVID-19 on community sector and those it helps

Read the snapshot: Impact of increased income support on community services, August 2020

The profile and pulse of the sector: Findings from the 2019 Australian Community Sector Survey

This report is based on responses to a quantitative survey into the community sector conducted in October 2019. 1,454 community sector staff responded to the survey. This report shows that the levels of poverty and disadvantage among the people and communities that these services work with have increased, with the most common issues affecting people being affordability and cost of living pressures, housing and homelessness, and inadequate rates of income support. It provides a useful picture of both the state of community services and the people they help before the twin crises of bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the report in PDF: The profile and pulse of the sector: Findings from the 2019 Australian Community Sector Survey


Read the media release: As impact of coronavirus grows, survey shows vital community services sinking with demand

Read the snapshot: Challenges for Australia’s Community Sector: ERO Supplementation and in HTML here

Read the snapshot: Demand for Community Services and in HTML here

Previous years