Charities may want to contribute to conversations taking place about the Australian Government’s planned referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. They can make a valuable contribution.
This information provides clarification on charity activities in the lead-up to the planned referendum.
What is okay
- Charities can, and often do, engage in advocacy activities and some charities might want to advocate for a particular outcome on the referendum.
- If a charity plans to undertake advocacy activities, it must be able to demonstrate why it considers its advocacy furthers its charitable purposes.
- In the case of the planned referendum, some charities may just want to make a statement of support for the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ case. An example of this would be a message of support in the charity’s email signature block. This statement would not jeopardise their registration with the ACNC.
How the advocacy is conducted
- The charity’s Responsible People and senior workers (paid or volunteer) should be clear about how their charity will advocate; the type of thing that can be said and done in the name of their charity, and set boundaries.
- It’s important that advocacy is lawful, respectful, and fair as this helps ensure the charity (and its Responsible People) meet their obligations under the ACNC Governance Standards.
- The ACNC encourages charities to support workers (paid or volunteer) who want to express their views on the referendum, to make it clear they are sharing their personal views and not those of the charity.
- The ACNC has more detailed information on advocacy by registered charities and charities, campaigning and advocacy which can help charities make decisions about their contributions to the conversation on the referendum.
A referendum disclosure scheme has been introduced through changes to the Commonwealth Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984.
The changes to the Act will only affect your charity if it is campaigning, receiving donations or making donations on referendum matters and the amount is $15,200 or more. This will apply to the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Referendum matters are matters communicated to influence the way people vote in a referendum.
The Australian Electoral Commission oversees this change, and has published guidance on its website about the referendum disclosure scheme.
Charity governing bodies and their Responsible People should take care to comply with Australian electoral laws, and should refer to the AEC’s guidance if they expect to spend $15,200 or more on referendum matters.
The changes will have no effect on what registered charities are required to submit to the ACNC.