As the Commonwealth independent regulator of charities, the ACNC is responsible for registering charities and administering the national regulatory framework for over 57,000 charities that work across diverse sectors both in Australia and overseas. We also work across government to reduce unnecessary regulation impacting charities. We publish the information we collect to help the public understand the work of charities and to support the transparency and accountability of the sector.
Charities make a significant contribution to the Australian economy and the community in areas including health, social services, education, arts, the environment and religious practices. The environments in which charities work are dynamic and subject to continuous change. The ACNC has a key role in working with charities to adapt to changes in their regulatory environment, and our regulatory services prioritise building governance capability in the sector.
The regulatory environment in which the ACNC and charities work is likely to change over the next four-year period. Most charities engage positively with change and embrace opportunities to improve their governance. The ACNC develops a range of guidance resources and provides support via our multi-channel contact centre to assist registered charities understand their obligations and embed good practice governance in their operations. Where governance failures occur that present a serious risk to public trust and confidence in the sector, and relate to a charities compliance with the ACNC Act, we will investigate and work with charities to take corrective action and improve governance practices to ensure resources are being directed to meet charitable purposes.
The public, philanthropists and governments provide significant financial and in-kind support to charities to deliver their charitable purposes. The Charity Register acts as a central repository for information about charities to promote a better understanding of the work charities do. We anticipate the ACNC systems upgrade program implemented in 2018 will position us to better deliver the information we collect when charities meet their obligations back to the community. This will assist decision making about funding, donating to, or volunteering with, charities.
The regulatory environment for charities is complex and the ACNC works in close collaboration with a range of stakeholders across government to reduce unnecessary regulation. Our ability to drive change in this area is only partially within our control due to the distributed nature of regulation across tiers of government, but we continue to strive to influence the streamlining of regulation, and to make the ACNC a one-stop-shop for information about charities and where charities can update their information.
Legislative review and new policy initiatives
The final report from the ACNC Legislative Review, titled Strengthening for Purpose: Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Legislative Review 2018 was published on 22 August 2018. The report, produced by the Review Panel, comprising Chair Mr Patrick McClure AO and members Ms Su McCluskey, Dr Matthew Turnour and Mr Greg Hammond OAM, made 30 recommendations to strengthen the ACNC’s legislative framework. The recommendations centred on the ACNC’s objects, functions and powers, the overall regulatory framework, and red tape reduction for charities. As the government considers the recommendations and makes decisions on potential legislative changes, the ACNC will work with government to implement those changes.
On 26 November 2018 regulations to introduce External Conduct Standards were tabled in Parliament and unless they are disallowed, will come into effect in the second half of 2019. The standards will operate in addition to the existing ACNC Governance Standards. The ACNC has been working to prepare guidance to assist charities to ensure that they comply with the standards. Charities that operate overseas will need to consider how the External Conduct Standards may affect their operations.
Changes to the deductible gift recipient (DGR) system highlighted in our last corporate plan, including integration of the four existing DGR registers to streamline the DGR registration process, are anticipated to commence in 2020 pending the development of legislation to support the reform measures.