Peak bodies make an important contribution to the development of inclusive and innovative public policy. The close relationships that peaks hold with agencies engaged in direct service provision place them in a unique position to undertake research in relation to client and industry needs, best practice, and innovative models of service provision. Peaks have the skills, capacity and flexibility to conduct research which provides the knowledge base upon which to develop effective local solutions .
Peak bodies present a unique and cost-effective opportunity for governments to access robust and innovative advice from a single point of contact, representing the allied interests of its membership group. Peak bodies are able to provide policy input in a number of ways, through:
Participation on government reference groups and meetings
Formal and informal consultation
Formal policy submissions (government-commissioned or independent)
Preliminary research and recommendations to government on policy reform
Final comment and submissions to government on policy reform
Formal analysis of, and recommendations regarding existing policies
Sector research, data collection, collation and presentation
Governments tend to consider peak bodies only in regard to their relationship to government business units rather than in their role and value in communities.
The primary purpose of peak organisations might be to represent the interests of an identified sector, group or constituency and that they do this through fulfilling a range of identifiable functions – primarily advocacy, lobbying and member support and engagement.
Melville (2003: iv) makes it clear that a high level of dependence on government funding by peaks in Australia reflects a fragility in the capacity of peak organisations to fulfill their advocacy purpose and function.
Of the 142 peak organisations studied, 100 derived their income mainly from government sources with more than half having been threatened with the loss of funding and 10 totally de-funded. The reasons given for such threats were reported as political activity and changed funding guidelines in 40% of cases.
The TasCOSS response to the review of DHHS-funded Peak Bodies (TasCOSS,2009) highlights a concern that Governments tend to consider peak bodies only in regard to their relationship to government business units rather than in their role and value in communities.