Charity subtypes and charitable purpose

What is a charity subtype?

If we decide your organisation’s purposes are charitable and that it is otherwise eligible for registration, we can register your organisation as a charity.

When we register it as a charity, we also register it under one or more ‘subtypes’ of charity. These subtypes reflect the charity’s charitable purpose, such as ‘advancing education’ or ‘advancing health’.  Your charity’s purpose is the reason it has been set up, or what your charity’s activities work toward achieving.

Your charity’s ACNC Register page will list its subtype or subtypes, under 'Registration Details', under its 'Entity Subtype'.

The ACNC Act sets out 14 categories or 'subtypes' of charity which the ACNC can register. These include the 12 charitable purposes as set out in the Charities Act 2013 (Cth), as well as public benevolent institutions and health promotion charities.

Attention - Important information!The subtype of charity we register your charity as can affect the tax concessions that may be available to it.

Choosing a charity subtype

You may need to choose a subtype for your charity:

  • when your organisation applies to register as a charity
  • if your charity was registered prior to 31 December 2013 and the introduction of the new Charities Act 2013 (Cth) (the Charities Act) resulted in one or more of your charity's subtype(s) being removed, or
  • if your charity’s purposes have changed.

Which subtype can I choose?

Each subtype has a specific meaning under the law, and to be eligible to be registered with this subtype, your charity’s objects and its activities must be directed towards specifically achieving the charitable purpose described in that particular subtype, or otherwise meet eligibility requirements. It is not enough that your charity supports or even promotes the values behind some of these subtypes, such as promoting human rights or reconciliation.

If your charity does not actively pursue a specific subtype, or it is not included as an object or purpose in the charity's governing documents, you should not apply for registration as this subtype. Choosing inappropriate subtypes will delay processing of your registration application or subtype change request.

If a subtype represents a potential future purpose of your charity, but is not something that the charity actively pursues now, you should apply for registration under that subtype after your charity’s purposes change.

Find out more about how to use the Charity Portal to update your charity’s subtypes or select new ones.

List of charity subtypes

We have set out below the definition of each subtype and included examples of some of the types of charity that can be registered under each subtype. If you are applying to register, you may also wish to review our sample charitable purpose clauses.

Attention - Important information! Remember,  to be eligible to be registered with a particular subtype, your charity’s objects and activities must be directed towards specifically achieving the charitable purpose described in that subtype

1. Advancing health

Advancing health includes preventing and relieving sickness, disease or human suffering (and is not limited to these).

Some examples of charities advancing health:

  • Associations, foundations and support groups for people with particular illnesses or diseases
  • Hospitals, ambulance services, nursing services
  • Family planning and support services
  • Medical research bodies.

2. Advancing education

Advancing education includes (and is not limited to):

  • Formal education
  • Vocational training
  • Publicly available research directed to expanding human knowledge
  • Less formal education aimed at developing core life skills
  • Providing prizes and scholarships.

Some examples of charities advancing education:

  • Kindergartens, preschools, non-government schools, colleges and universities, industry training organisations
  • Bodies for health or childbirth education
  • Historical education societies, research institutes, Scouts and Guides groups
  • Organisations offering academic scholarships and prizes.

3. Advancing social or public welfare

This is a new purpose introduced by the Charities Act, and includes purposes previously recognised in charity law (such as the relief of poverty and the relief of the needs of the aged). The Charities Act confirms that the following purposes (among many others) are included:

Relieving the poverty, distress or disadvantage of individuals or families

Some examples of charities relieving poverty, distress or disadvantage:

  • Accommodation services for people experiencing homelessness
  • International aid programs
  • Services for refugees
  • Soup kitchens
  • Employment and training services for people who are unemployed
Caring for, supporting and protecting children and young individuals

Some examples of charities that care for, support and protect children and young individuals:

  • Child care services
  • Youth-at-risk services
Caring for and supporting the aged

Some examples of charities that support and care for the aged:

  • Residential and non-residential care and assistance.
  • Alzheimer's associations, arthritis services, respite services
  • Community services that provide food, home visits, home maintenance and assistance with shopping for the elderly
  • Organisations that provide social, sporting or recreational activities may be charitable if those activities are for the purposes of addressing the needs of the elderly.
  • Residential aged care facilities
Caring for and supporting individuals with disabilities

Some examples of charities caring for and supporting individuals with disabilities:

  • Residential and non-residential care
  • Braille libraries
  • Disability employment services
  • Guide dog associations
  • Support groups for people living with particular disabilities
Assisting the rebuilding, repairing or securing of assets after a disaster

This is a specific provision in the Charities Act, and separate from disaster relief for individuals, which is also likely to be charitable and registrable e under this subtype.

Some examples of charities that assist with rebuilding, repairing or securing assets damaged by disaster:

Charities raising funds to repair not-for-profit community buildings or other assets damaged by cyclone, bushfire or other disasters.

4. Advancing religion

A religion involves a belief in a supernatural being, thing or principle and acceptance of canons of conduct which give effect to that belief. Advancing religion involves promotion of those beliefs, principles, observances and standards of conduct.

Some examples of charities that advance religion:

  • Religious congregations
  • Religious education bodies
  • Funds for establishing and maintaining religious buildings

Attention - Important information! Under the ACNC Act, 'basic religious charities' are exempt from certain reporting requirements and governance standards. To be classified as a 'basic religious charity', one of the requirements is that the charity is only registered with the subtype of advancing religion and could not be registered as any other subtype of charity (for example, could not also be registered for the subtype of advancing education). Read more about basic religious charities.

5. Advancing culture

Advancing culture includes (and is not limited to) the purposes of promoting or fostering culture, and caring for, preserving and protecting Australian heritage.

Some examples of charities advancing culture:

  • Organisations that promote Australian Indigenous culture and customs
  • Fine arts societies, musical societies
  • Foundations for theatre, ballet, and the opera
  • Museums and libraries
  • Foundations and trusts supporting these activities

6. Promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia

While this is a new charitable purpose in the Charities Act and there is no case law on it yet, it is suggested that this may include:

  • Promoting harmony and reducing conflict between people from different races, religions or belief systems
  • Eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity
  • Promoting restorative justice and other forms of conflict resolution or reconciliation, and
  • Mediating, conciliating or reconciling those involved in dispute or conflict.

The groups of individuals referred to must be in Australia.

7. Promoting or protecting human rights

The Charities Act defines ‘human rights’ as having the same meaning given by the Human Rights Parliamentary Scrutiny Act 2011 (Cth), meaning rights and freedoms recognised or declared in seven international conventions and covenants named in this Act, as they apply to Australia.

These conventions and covenants are:

  • International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Attention - Important information!People have other rights not covered by these conventions. Although these rights are important they are not included in the definition of ‘human rights’ under the Charities Act. Subtype requests for promoting or protecting these other types of rights will be refused.

Promoting or protecting human rights may include:

  • monitoring abuses of human rights
  • seeking redress and relieving need for  victims of human rights abuse
  • research into human rights issues
  • educating the public about human rights
  • providing technical advice to governments and others on human rights
  • raising awareness of human rights issues.

Remember, to be eligible to be registered with this subtype, your charity’s objects and activities must be directed towards specifically achieving the promotion or protection of human rights.

8. Advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public

Some examples of charities that advance the safety or security of Australia or its public:

These are organisations that:
  • provide safe houses
  • promote and support ‘neighbourhood watch’ schemes
  • promote the efficiency of the Australian Defence Force
  • research defence and national security, historical societies that record and research the history of the armed forces
  • look after the welfare of the armed forces including the dependants of injured or deceased veterans
  • offer volunteer emergency or safety services, such as surf lifesaving associations.

9. Preventing or relieving the suffering of animals

Some examples of charities that prevent or relieve animal suffering:

  • Animal protection societies, animal refuges and shelters, endangered species organisations, animal hospitals
  • Scientific bodies studying animal behaviour

10.Advancing the natural environment

Advancing the natural environment includes:

  • protecting, preserving, caring for and educating the community about the natural environment
  • preserving native flora and fauna
  • rescuing or caring for native animals, and
  • preserving or rehabilitating habitats.

Some examples of charities that advance the natural environment:

  • Conservation bodies and societies
  • Bodies establishing and managing botanic gardens  
  • Land care groups
  • Environmental education groups
  • Natural resource organisations

11. Any other purpose beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes mentioned in the subtypes above.

This purpose includes other purposes previously recognised by the courts as being charitable, as well as allowing for the development of charitable purposes over time.

Before selecting this subtype, consider whether your charity’s purposes fall within one of the other subtypes listed. If all of your charity’s purposes fall within other subtypes, do not select this subtype. If you believe that your charity's purposes are similar to but not fully covered by its other subtypes, you can select this subtype.

12. Advancing public debate (promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state, a territory or another country).

Where the charity's purpose is to promote a change, this change must further or be in aid of one of the 11 other purposes listed in the Charities Act. If the charity's purpose is to oppose change, that change must not oppose or hinder one or more of the purposes listed in the Charities Act.

Some examples of charities that advance public debate:

  • Human rights research bodies that provides law reform submissions to government
  • Education research institutes that develops public policy position papers

Other recognised subtypes of charity

13. Health promotion charities

A health promotion charity is a charitable institution whose principal activity is to promote the prevention or control of diseases in people. This may include providing public information about a disease, research to develop cures or treatments, or providing equipment to help people who are suffering from the disease.

Some examples of health promotion charities:

  • Some community health care providers
  • Some medical research organisations
  • Organisations that work to raise awareness of human diseases

Not all health related charities will be health promotion charities.

Read more about health promotion charities.

14. Public benevolent institutions

A public benevolent institution is a type of charitable institution whose main purpose is to relieve suffering that is serious enough that it would arouse a feeling of pity or compassion in members of the community. Such suffering could be caused by conditions such as poverty, sickness, helplessness or distress.

Read more about public benevolent institutions.

Some examples of public benevolent institutions:

  • Some hospitals and hospices
  • Some disability support services
  • Some aged care services
  • Providers of low-cost rental or subsidised housing for people in need

More information