This Commissioner’s Policy Statement is issued under the authority of the Commissioner and should be read together with the ACNC Policy Framework, which sets out the scope, context and definitions common to our policies.

Policy Statement

  1. This Commissioner’s Policy Statement sets out how the ACNC will handle complaints from the public about charities. Our approach to investigating complaints is detailed in the Compliance and Enforcement policy.

Principles

  • Principle 1: Complaints only accepted if within jurisdiction
  • Principle 2: Complainants identifying information protected
  • Principle 3: Complainant’s further assistance to be informed and voluntary
  • Principle 4: Decision to investigate based on evidence and risk

Principle 1: Complaints accepted only if within jurisdiction

  1. The ACNC only accepts complaints about charities registered with the ACNC. The ACNC Register lists all the charities registered with the ACNC (except charities which have had their information withheld or removed).
  2. The ACNC accepts complaints relating to alleged breaches of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) (ACNC Act) and Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Regulation 2013 (Cth) (ACNC Regulation), such as allegations of charities being non-compliant with governance or external conduct standards. Examples include allegations and information about possible illegal activity, activities that are contrary to the charity’s purpose or the diversion of a charity’s resources for private benefit.
  3. In the interests of resolving matters quickly and effectively, members of the public may wish to raise concerns with the charity first. They can then approach the ACNC if the registered charity's response is inadequate and it still does not appear to be complying with the ACNC Act. While this may lead to speedier resolution of complaints, the ACNC will consider complaints that have not first been raised directly with the charity.
  4. The ACNC does not investigate certain kinds of complaints about charities including internal disputes within a charity, such as differences of opinion between board members. The ACNC also does not investigate issues relating solely to service quality, but may refer complainants to the appropriate agency.

Principle 2: Complainant’s identifying information protected

  1. The ACNC will accept anonymous complaints and understands that in some cases this may be appropriate. However, our ability to investigate a complaint relies on the quality of information we can access, including from complainants.
  2. A complaint, the personal information of a complainant, and any details relating to the charity are ‘protected ACNC information’ under Division 150 of the ACNC Act. ACNC staff will record the name of the charity and the complaint in our database.
  3. The ACNC is generally prohibited from using or disclosing such information. However, the ACNC may use or disclose protected ACNC information:
    • in the performance of duties under the ACNC Act
    • for the purpose of including the information on the ACNC Register under Division 40 (and, if the information is personal information, to achieve the objects of the ACNC Act)
    • to Australian government agencies (including State or Territory agencies) to enable or assist them to perform their functions or exercise their powers, and the disclosure is reasonably necessary to promote the objects of the ACNC Act
    • with the consent of the person or organisation which the information is about, or
    • the information has already been lawfully made available to the public and the disclosure is for the purposes of the ACNC Act.
  4. Information obtained by the ACNC is also regulated by Commonwealth laws relating to privacy, and information held by the ACNC can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (although certain information may be exempt from release).

Principle 3: Complainant’s further assistance to be informed and voluntary

  1. If the ACNC investigates a complaint, the ACNC may contact the complainant to further its investigation. In this case, we will give the complainant information about what steps to take. The complainant may choose not to be involved further.

Principle 4: Decision to investigate based on evidence and risk

  1. Members of the public can inform us of a concern about a charity by filling in Form 6A: Raise a concern about a charity or by calling us. We may ask complainants to provide further information. We will acknowledge complaints within two business days. We will assess each complaint on its merits and consider a range of factors such as the source of the information, including the complainant's relationship to the organisation, the nature of the complaint and any evidence or information that supports the complaint.
  2. We decide which complaints to investigate based on the and Commissioner’s Policy Statement 2013/01: Compliance and Enforcement.
  3. Division 150 of the ACNC Act prevents us from telling the complainant about what, if any, response the ACNC decides to take in relation to a complaint. We generally make details of our actions public only when they lead to the charity’s registration being revoked or when we issue a warning, enforceable undertaking or a direction.

References

Version Control

Version Date of effect Brief summary of change
Version 1 – Initial policy 03/12/2012 Initial policy endorsed by the Commissioner on 06/12/2012.
Version 2 – Revised policy 10/10/2016 Policy revised to clarify what information the ACNC may disclose to complainants, and other minor updates.
Version 3 – Revised policy 27/05/2021 Minor updates to existing policy