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

Our media policy recognises that engaging with the media can help the ACNC meet its object to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the not-for-profit sector through accountability and transparency. This policy sets out how the ACNC will engage with the media and defines which staff can be designated authorised ACNC spokespeople.

Principles

Principle 1: Media engagement can promote confidence in the sector and in the ACNC as a regulator
Principle 2: The ACNC will adhere to the legislative limits on what it can disclose about investigations
Principle 3: The ACNC will respond to media enquiries through authorised spokespeople

Context

  1. The ACNC regularly receives enquiries from the media about our work, including whether we are investigating specific registered charities. This policy sets out how we manage requests from the media.

Definitions

  1. Protected ACNC information means information that:
    • was disclosed or obtained under or for the purposes of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) (ACNC Act); and
    • relates to the affairs of an entity; and
    • identifies, or is reasonably capable of being used to identify, the entity.
  1. This definition is taken from section 150-15 of the ACNC Act.

Principles

Principle 1: Media engagement can promote confidence in the sector and in the ACNC as a regulator

  1. We recognise that engaging with the media can help us achieve one of our objects, which is to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the Australian not-for-profit sector through increased accountability and transparency.
  1. We will engage with the media to help inform the public:
    • that the ACNC is an effective regulator
    • when registered charities are involved in misconduct, we act appropriately
    • about using the Charity Register to find information relating to Australia’s registered charities.

Principle 2: The ACNC will adhere to the legislative limits on the disclosures the ACNC can make about investigations

  1. We recognise that information about our investigations into charities is often of interest to the public and that disclosing it may promote transparency and improve compliance by deterring other charities from not complying with their obligations.
  1. However, we can only disclose information about the our compliance activities when we are lawfully able to do so. We will clearly inform the media when we cannot fully answer their query due to the secrecy provisions in the ACNC Act. Subject to certain exceptions, the secrecy provisions in Part 7-1 of the ACNC Act prohibit the disclosure of ‘protected ACNC information’.
  1. We cannot disclose protected ACNC information to the media, including:
    • whether or not the ACNC is investigating a specific charity
    • the detailed findings of an investigation that has led to a charity's registration being revoked.
  1. Unauthorised disclosure of protected ACNC information is an offence for which the ACNC officer responsible can be subject to up to two years imprisonment or a fine of 120 penalty units, or both. The value of a penalty unit is set by section 4AA of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) and is subject to change.
  1. When we can, we will:
    • alert the public (including the media)that we have revoked a charity's registration
    • correct the public record to the extent necessary to clarify information that the charity has raised in the public domain.
    • disclose protected ACNC information if it has already lawfully been disclosed to the public and the disclosure is for the purposes of the ACNC Act
    • publish compliance actions we have taken against a charity on the Charity Register - these include warnings, directions, enforceable undertakings, injunctions and suspensions of responsible persons. Such enforcement powers can only be exercised against ‘federally regulated entities’. Find out more on the definition of ‘federally regulated entity’ in the Commissioner’s Policy Statement: Compliance and Enforcement.
    • disclose general trends and information about registered charities as a group, without identify any particular charity.

Principle 3: The ACNC will respond to media enquiries through authorised spokespeople

  1. The ACNC's authorised spokespeople are the ACNC Commissioner, the ACNC Assistant Commissioner - General Counsel, and the ACNC's Education and Public Affairs team.
    • Sometimes, ACNC Directors may also be authorised spokespeople, for example when their expertise is required to respond to technical questions, or when a usual spokesperson is not available.
    • We have authorised spokespeople to protect ACNC staff from unintentionally disclosing protected ACNC information and to ensure our responses to the media are accurate and consistent.
    • When the media contacts the ACNC they will be referred to an authorised spokesperson.

References

Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission Act 2012

Version control

VersionDate of effectBrief summary of change
Version 1 - initial policy15 May 2019Initial policy endorsed by the Commissioner on 15 May 2019
Reviewed 15 February 2021 Minor style revisions