This Corporate Policy 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

This policy sets out the ACNC’s approach to deciding which external internet sites (and their resources) will be referred to, via a link on the ACNC website or in other ACNC resources.

The ACNC has an important role in supporting registered charities achieve good governance and meet their obligations by providing information and resources. On our website, we may link to helpful resources produced by credible external organisations. Examples include:

  • a government agency’s guidance explaining what charities need to do to meet requirements
  • guidance developed by peak bodies or service providers about good governance, and
  • academics sharing research about the not-for-profit sector.

Risk management

  1. There are risks to our reputation by referring to external resources; in particular, if referring to a resource:
    • makes it appear that we endorse or promote an organisation’s work or products,
    • makes it appear that we support an organisation’s policy positions or political views,
    • provides users with out-of-date or inappropriate information, or information that is no longer available.
  1. We mitigate these risks by:
    • publishing this policy, so that our approach is clear
    • following the principles set out in this policy and any contemporary work instructions for referring to external resources
    • monitoring the links to external resources that we include on our website,
    • having a disclaimer on our website explaining that referring to external resources are not an endorsement or recommendation, and that we are not responsible for the content of external resources,
    • reserving the right to deny requests to refer to external resources, and
    • reserving the right to remove references to external recourses.
  1. We will refer to external resources at our discretion and only if it is appropriate to do so. This may include when:
    • the resource contains information that is relevant and helpful to charities and other stakeholders,
    • the content is high quality and published by a reputable source,
    • referring to the resource is consistent with our statutory objects, and
    • creating our own guidance would duplicate appropriate existing information.

Principles

  • Principle 1: We will use our own resources to explain our work
  • Principle 2: We will use a government agency’s own resources to explain its work
  • Principle 3: We will refer to free resources whenever possible
  • Principle 4: We will provide options when possible
  • Principle 5: We will focus on advice and guidance, not policy rationale
  • Principle 6: We will only refer to politically neutral resources and generally accepted views

Principle 1: We will use our own resources to explain our work

  1. We develop our own guidance on regulatory obligations under the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) (ACNC Act), Charities Act 2013 (Cth), and accompanying regulations.
  2. Where our regulatory scope overlaps with that of another regulator, we will refer to the other regulator’s resources to explain its role and requirements (consistent with Principle 2), even if there is some intersection with our requirements.

Principle 2: We will use a government agency’s own resources to explain its work

  1. Rather than reproduce information or rely on a third party’s explanation, we will refer directly to a government agency or regulator’s resources when publishing information about it, its obligations, or its policy positions.

Principle 3: We will refer to free resources whenever possible

  1. As a Commonwealth agency, we cannot appear to support or endorse a particular organisation, product or service, nor appear to encourage the purchase of products or services.
  2. When we want to refer to external resources, we will prioritise:
    • free resources, rather than paid publications or services, and
    • not-for-profit providers.

Principle 4: We will provide options when appropriate

  1. We will refer to multiple resources if they complement each other, or if multiple resources are necessary to provide a user with a complete understanding. We will not generally refer to multiple resources that contain the same substantive information, but we will consider the circumstances, including where it is important to appear fair and not give rise to a suggestion that we favour one organisation over another.

Principle 5: We will focus on advice and guidance; not policy rationale

  1. Public servants may explain how policies or programs will operate in practice, rather than explain the rationale for policy decisions, which is the role of Parliament. We refer to external resources that offer advice or guidance, and avoid resources that comment on the rationale for decisions of government. However, we will refer to government policy documents and announcements from our Ministers if they relate to our legislation and how we administer or apply it, or not-for-profit law reform issues that are relevant to the sector and our work.

Principle 6: We will only refer to politically neutral resources and generally accepted views

  1. The APS Values and Code of Conduct require us to be politically neutral and perform our functions in an impartial, professional, fair and effective manner.
  2. We will not refer to resources from organisations with strong party-political views or organisations that are otherwise inappropriate (for example, content that is discriminatory, defamatory, illegal or contrary to public policy). We will refer to external resources that is likely to represent generally accepted views or current trends, such as resources from:
    • sector peak bodies or associations with broad membership and not-for-profit sector support
    • organisations with strong links to the not-for-profit sector, such as key service providers or news services that specialise in not-for-profits.

Version control

Version Date of effect Brief summary of change
Version 1 – Initial Policy 07/12/2012 Initial Policy endorsed by the Commissioner on 07/12/2012
Version 2 – Amendment 17/03/2014 Update policy to reflect current practice. Approved by the Commissioner on 17/03/2014
Version 3 – Amendment N/A Update policy to reflect current practice. Removed obsolete references. Updated links.
Version 4 – Amendment 10/05/2022 Style revisions. Moved to new policy template. Clarified that ACNC will not refer to multiple sources of same information solely out of perceived fairness, but will do so where circumstances warrant.