ACNC Annual Report 2014–15

Section 2 - ACNC overview

In this section:

Roles and functions

The ACNC Act

The ACNC was established by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) (the ACNC Act) on 3 December 2012.

The ACNC Commissioner is a statutory office holder appointed to administer the ACNC Act.

The ACNC Act sets out three objects for the regulation of the Australian not-for-profit sector:

  1. to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the Australian not-for-profit sector
  2. to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative Australian not-for-profit sector
  3. to promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the Australian not-for-profit sector.

These objects set the direction for the ACNC's work as the national charities regulator.

The Charities Act

On 1 January 2014, the Charities Act 2013 (Cth) (Charities Act) came into effect, establishing a statutory definition of charity and charitable purpose. The ACNC's implementation of the Charities Act in determining charitable status is discussed in detail under Public trust and confidence  and our work to review charity subtypes is discussed under Public trust and confidence.

What we do

The ACNC carries out the objects of the ACNC Act by:

  • registering eligible organisations that apply to become new charities under the Charities Act
  • helping charities understand and meet their obligations through information, guidance, advice and support
  • regulating charities through annual reporting and a risk-based approach to compliance
  • developing, maintaining and enhancing a free, searchable public register of charities (the ACNC Charity Register)
  • working across Commonwealth and state and territory governments to reduce unnecessary regulatory obligations, streamline reporting requirements and develop and implement a 'report once, once often'; framework.

Our vision, mission and values

The ACNC's Strategic Plan 2012–15 documented the organisation's vision, mission, values and strategic priorities for that three-year period. The Strategic Plan for 2016–19 will be finalised in the second half of 2015.

The vision, mission, values and strategic priorities in figure 2.1 will be reviewed as part of this process.

As documented in the Strategic Plan 2012–15, the ACNC's vision is to create a regulatory environment where Australia's registered charities can inspire confidence and respect.

The ACNC's mission and strategic prioritises combine to clearly outline how we will achieve the objects of the ACNC Act.

Our values guide how the organisation engages and interacts with charities, the community and other stakeholders.


  • Charities that inspire confidence and respect


The national independentregulator of charities working to:

  • promote confidence in charities
  • help charities to understand
    their obligations
  • support the health of the sector
  • streamline reporting and reduce red tape


  • Fairness
  • Accountability
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Respect

strategic priorities

  • Maintaining and enhancing public trust and confidence in charities
  • Supporting charities to be healthy and sustainable
  • Making it easier for charities by driving regulatory and reporting simplification
  • Developing an independent, transparent and well governed organisation which is enhanced
    by a positive internal culture

Our leaders

The ACNC Executive comprises the Commissioner, the Assistant Commissioner, Charity Services and the Assistant Commissioner, General Counsel. The three members of the ACNC Executive have been in their roles since the establishment of the ACNC on 3 December 2012.

image of susan pascoe

Susan Pascoe AM, Commissioner

The Commissioner is a statutory office holder. Susan Pascoe AM was appointed as the Commissioner from 6 December 2012 until 30 September 2017. Susan was a Commissioner at the State Services Authority in Victoria (2006–2011) focusing on regulatory reform. She served as one of three Commissioners on the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission. Susan’s earlier professional background was in education where she served as President of the Australian College of Educators, Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority and Chief Executive of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria. She chaired the Australian National Commission for UNESCO, and was a Patron for the Melbourne Parliament for the World’s Religions. Ms Pascoe has served on a number of boards including the Board of Cabrini Health and the Senate of the Australian Catholic University.

image of David Locke

David Locke, Assistant Commissioner, Charity Services

David Locke was Chief Adviser to the ACNC Taskforce before his appointment to the role of Assistant Commissioner, Charity Services at the ACNC. David was formerly the Executive Director of Charity Services at the Charity Commission of England and Wales, with responsibility for the strategic leadership and operational delivery of all the Commission's one-to-one services to charities. David has worked as an adviser to a number of international governments on the regulation of non-government organisations.

image of image of Murray Baird

Murray Baird, Assistant Commissioner, General Counsel

Murray Baird joined the ACNC after a career as a private legal practitioner practising in not-for-profit and charity law and governance. He was previously Senior Partner and leader of the not-for-profit group at Moores Legal, Melbourne. As well as advising, writing and presenting on not-for-profit legal issues, Murray has acted in several leading cases in the field of charity law and served on the boards of public and private companies and charities.

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Our structure

Photo of ACNC directors

ACNC leadership team

The ACNC has eight directorates.

Advice Services

  • Manage the ACNC's help service, which responds to enquiries by phone, email, mail and fax
  • Support charities by providing tailored and specific guidance
  • Assist charities in meeting reporting obligations and on related issues
  • Receive and resolve enquiries and concerns raised by the public
  • Process ACNC approved forms
  • Manage projects to 'clean up' the Charity Register

Business Services

  • Provide finance services for the ACNC including budget administration and management of financial delegations
  • Provide human resources support and management
  • Manage the ACNC's professional learning and development
  • Work with the ATO to provide streamlined back office support via a memorandum of
  • understanding (MOU)
  • Manage the ACNC's internal governance and risk management framework


  • Inform and educate registered charities on their obligations under the ACNC Act
  • Provide timely reminders to registered charities to help them meet their obligations
  • Promote safe giving through use of the Charity Register search function>
  • Maintain the ACNC's online presence through management of and our social media accounts
  • Manage internal communications to ACNC staff

Compliance and Reporting

  • Administer the ACNC regulatory approach
  • Investigate and resolve concerns about charities within the ACNC regulatory framework
  • Provide insight into new and emerging risks, including identifying trends, issues and advice into the management of these risks
  • Oversee design of the ACNC’s Annual Information Statements
  • Administer various reporting obligations set out in the ACNC Act and Reporting Regulations
  • Develop and implement the ACNC ‘report once, use often’ reporting framework
  • Promote the benefits and the sector’s uptake of the ACNC reporting framework

Information Technology

  • Develop, implement and maintain the IT systems used to deliver services to the charity sector, such as the Charity Portal
  • Develop and implement enhancements to the Charity Register
  • Provide IT infrastructure and support to ACNC staff
  • Provide ongoing technical solutions such as delivery of the Charity Passport


  • Provide legal advice to the Commissioner and ACNC staff on the interpretation and implementation of the ACNC Act and the Charities Act
  • Provide legal advice on corporate compliance
  • Provide training on relevant legal issues to ACNC staff
  • Manage the conduct of litigation under the ACNC Act Manage the ACNC's obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act

Policy, Education and Red Tape Reduction

  • Develop and coordinate ACNC policies, procedures and forms
  • Deliver guidance, education and research for charities and the community
  • Work with other government agencies (Commonwealth, state and territory) to reduce red tape for charities and align regulatory obligations


  • Determine charity registration applications, including charitable status and charity subtype
  • Provide support and guidance through the registration process and assist charities to maintain their entitlement
  • Populate the Charity Register with information about newly registered charities
  • Streamline the Commonwealth charity tax concessions application process (by forwarding applications to the ATO on behalf of the charity)

Chart of the ACNC’s organisational structure. Image shows the Assistant Commissioners for General Counsel and Charity Services, both of which sit under the Commissioner. Under General Counsel are Policy, Education and Red Tape Reduction, Compliance and Reporting, and Legal. Under Charity Services are Registration, Advice Services, Information Technology, Business Services, and Communications.

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Advisory Board

image of the ACNC Advisory Board

ACNC Advisory Board

The ACNC Advisory Board is established under Division 135 of the ACNC Act to advise and make recommendations to the Commissioner in relation to the Commissioner’s functions under the ACNC Act

The Board consists of 12 members, eight being general members with expertise in the not-for-profit sector, law, taxation or accounting, and four ex-officio members.

General members are appointed for up to three years and ex-officio members remain on the Board for as long as they hold the specified office.

The Assistant Treasurer, as the Minister responsible for the ACNC, appoints the general members. General member's terms all finish on 14 February 2016.

In 2014–15 the Advisory Board met four times:

  • 18 July 2014 – Melbourne
  • 7 November 2014 – Perth
  • 30 January 2015 – Hobart
  • 15 May 2015 – Melbourne

The Advisory Board meets across Australia as part of rolling program that aims to meet in all states and territories.

The day before the Advisory Board meeting, the Board meets with invited representatives of local charities and key stakeholders to discuss issues facing charities in that region.

Meeting summaries of past Advisory Board meetings and the location of upcoming meetings are published on the ACNC website at


Robert Fitzgerald AM, Chair

Robert Fitzgerald AM is the Chair of the Board. He has a background in law and public policy and has made a significant personal contribution to the charity and not-for-profit sector including through roles with the Australian Council of Social Service and St Vincent de Paul

Mr Fitzgerald is currently a Commissioner to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and on leave from his role as a Commissioner with the Australian Productivity Commission.

During his time at the Productivity Commission, Mr Fitzgerald chaired the Commission's major research study into the contribution of the not-for-profit sector, which produced a comprehensive and influential report in 2010. He was a member of the Inquiry into the Definition of Charitable and Other Organisations in 2001.

Fiona McLeay, Deputy Chair

Fiona McLeay is the CEO of Justice Connect. She has degrees in psychology, criminology and law.She practiced as a lawyer at DLA Piper and Clayton Utz and in 2000, Fiona became the Melbourne Pro Bono Coordinator of the Clayton Utz National Pro Bono Program. While at Clayton Utz she also established and ran the firm’s national corporate citizenship program.

She became General Counsel at World Vision Australia in 2006 and later worked in their Policy and Programs Group and Engagement Group. Ms McLeay has served on the boards of a range of not-for-profit organisations and is currently on the board of the Human Rights Law Centre.

Gina Anderson

Gina Anderson is the Philanthropy Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact and Advisory
Board Member, Initiative on Corporate Philanthropy, The Conference Board, USA. She is currently Chair of Women's Community Shelters; a Director of The George Institute for Global Health; and a Non-Executive Director of GDI Property Group and GDI Funds Management. From 2005–2010 she was Chief Executive of Philanthropy Australia, the national peak body for philanthropy and a not-for-profit membership association.

David Crosbie

David Crosbie is CEO of the Community Council for Australia and a member of the Not-for-profit Sector Reform Council.

He has extensive experience in the not-for-profit sector, including as the Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Council of Australia, Odyssey House Victoria and the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia.

Mr Crosbie has a very diverse background having taught in prison, lectured at university, and spent most of his working life advocating for the marginalised.

Anthony Lang

Tony Lang is a Victorian barrister specialising in not-for-profit law. He has practised as a lawyer, principally in the NFP sector, for nearly 25 years. Since 1998, he has served as a Director on the Board of the Victorian Council of Social Service.

Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes OAM

Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes OAM is a Professor in the Faculty of Business at the Queensland University of Technology and Founding Director of The Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (CPNS). He has advised and held board positions in a large variety of not-for-profit organisations over a period of 30 years.

Prof McGregor-Lowndes’ special research interest is the law and regulation of not-for-profit corporations and he is the author of several books and publications on such issues. He is a founding member of the ATO Charities Consultative Committee.

In June 2003, he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia ‘for service to the community by providing education and support in legal, financial and administrative matters to non-profit organisations’.

Paul O’Callaghan

Paul O’Callaghan is the CEO of Caritas Australia and the Oceania representative on the global Caritas board. He has previously held leadership positions at National Disability Services, ACFID and Catholic Social Services Australia and volunteered for the St Vincent de Paul Society for 15 years.

He currently serves on the board of ACFID, Micah and the Anti-Poverty Week Steering Group and played an active role in consultations with federal ministers from 2011–13 to achieve passage of the ACNC legislation. Mr O’Callaghan served as Australia’s High Commissioner to Samoa and Representative to the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (1997–2000) and, prior to that, as a senior Australian diplomat in Malaysia and Thailand.

Sheila McHale

Sheila McHale is the Chief Executive Officer of Palmerston Association. Sheila is also on the board of the Community Employers’ of WA, YMCA WA, a state councillor of the Governance Institute of Australia WA Division and vice chair of the WA Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies.

Ms McHale was a Member of Parliament of the WA Parliament for 12 years and Cabinet Minister for eight years. During this time she held a range of portfolios including Tourism, Consumer Protection, Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Disability Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Ex-officio members

Linda Mallett

Linda Mallett has over thirty years of experience in the human services sector in New South Wales in government and non-government agencies.

Ms Mallett is Executive Director, Ageing Disability and Home Care, with the Department of Family and Community Services in New South Wales. She is responsible for key reforms that will expand and improve the range of services across the sector that are flexible, responsive and individualised as NSW transitions to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2018.

Mark Cocker

Mark Cocker is the Director, Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading and the Residential Tenancy Commissioner in the Tasmanian Department of Justice. After having joined the Department of Justice in 1988 Mr Cocker has worked in many areas including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Tasmanian Magistrates Court.

He managed the implementation and transition to the new fines recovery regime – the Monetary Penalties Enforcement Service – and has a strong commitment to leadership development and alternative dispute resolution.

Dini Soulio

Dini Soulio is the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Liquor & Gambling and Corporate Affairs in South Australia. Mr Soulio is responsible for the regulation of charities and associations in SA as well as having responsibility for fair trading, liquor and gambling regulation and occupational licensing. Mr Soulio’s background is in law, consumer protection, corporate regulation and law enforcement. As a legal practitioner, Mr Soulio practiced in the areas of insurance, worker’s compensation and criminal law. Mr Soulio moved to the public sector and was the Manager Border Enforcement with the Australian Customs Service before joining the Australian Securities & Investments Commission becoming Senior Manager, National Investigation & Insolvency.

Mr Soulio has been with Consumer & Business Services for the past 5 years and oversaw the establishment of that agency, leading the merger of the state consumer affairs and liquor & gambling agencies.

Mr Soulio replaced Lindy McAdam on the ACNC Advisory Board in April 2015.

Sean Parnell OAM

Sean Parnell is on secondment from the Northern Territory Police Force as the inaugural Northern Territory Director-General of Licensing. This role includes the regulation of charities and not-for-profits incorporated in the Northern Territory. Mr Parnell has been involved in a wide range of Catholic charitable and not-for-profit organisations in the Northern Territory and holds a Masters in Theology from the University of Newcastle.

Mr Parnell has previously attended ACNC Advisory Board meetings in place of Karen Avery. Mr Parnell formally replaced Ms Avery on the Advisory Board in May 2015.

Former members

Lindy McAdam

Lindy McAdam was replaced by Dini Soulio as an ex-officio member in April 2015.

While a member of the Advisory Board Ms McAdam was the Director, Community Connect, with the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion in South Australia. This included the state government Concessions Program, problem gambling support, low income support and non-housing affordable living programs delivered through the community sector. Ms McAdam also had corporate responsibility for Workforce Health and Safety. She was previously Director of the South Australian Government Office for Women. This diverse background gave her wide experience in working with non-government organisations.

Ms Karen Avery

Karen Avery was formally replaced by Sean Parnell OAM as an ex-officio member in May 2015.

While a member of the Advisory Board, Ms Avery was the Senior Director, Gambling and Licensing Services, Department of Business, Northern Territory Government. Ms Avery was appointed to the Advisory Board on 19 July 2013.

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