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The ACNC Governance Standards are a set of core, minimum standards relating to charity governance and how a charity is run – including its processes, activities and relationships.

Organisations must meet the ACNC Governance Standards in order to be registered as charities with the ACNC. Then, once an organisation is registered as a charity, it must continue to comply with the standards in order to retain its registration.

A charity does not need to submit anything to the ACNC to show that it meets the Governance Standards. However, it must be able to provide evidence of meeting the standards if requested.

The Governance Standards do not apply to Basic Religious Charities.

What the Governance Standards require

The ACNC Governance Standards require a charity to remain charitable, operate lawfully, and be run in an accountable and responsible way. Through these requirements, the standards help maintain public trust in charities, and help charities continue to do their charitable work.

Because the Governance Standards are a set of high-level principles rather than precise rules, each charity must decide how it will comply with them.

A charity must be able to demonstrate that the steps it has taken to comply with the Governance Standards are appropriate, considering factors such as its size, purposes and activities.

For example, a larger charity or one with vulnerable beneficiaries may need to take extra steps to comply with the standards.

A charity must be not-for-profit and work towards its charitable purpose. It must be able to demonstrate this and provide information about its purposes to the public.

A charity that has members must take reasonable steps to be accountable to its members and provide them with adequate opportunity to raise concerns about how the charity is governed.

A charity must not commit a serious offence (such as fraud) under any Australian law or breach a law that may result in a penalty of 60 penalty units or more.

A charity must take reasonable steps to:

  • be satisfied that its Responsible People (such as board or committee members or trustees) are not disqualified from managing a corporation under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) or disqualified from being a Responsible Person of a registered charity by the ACNC Commissioner, and
  • remove any Responsible Person who does not meet these requirements.

A charity must take reasonable steps to make sure that its Responsible People are subject to, understand, and carry out the duties set out in Governance Standard 5. These duties include:

  • to act with reasonable care and diligence
  • to act honestly and fairly in the best interests of the charity and for its charitable purposes
  • not to misuse their position or information they gain as a Responsible Person
  • to disclose conflicts of interest
  • to ensure that the financial affairs of the charity are managed responsibly, and
  • not to allow the charity to operate while it is insolvent.

A charity must take reasonable steps to become a participating non-government institution of the National Redress Scheme if the charity is, or is likely to be, identified as being involved in the abuse of a person either:

  • in an application for redress made under section 19 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 (Cth) (Redress Act), or

  • in information given in response to a request from the National Redress Scheme Operator (Secretary of the Department of Social Services) under section 24 or 25 of the Redress Act.

How the ACNC assesses compliance with the Governance Standards

Compliance with the Governance Standards is a condition of registration as a charity.

Failure to comply with one or more of the Governance Standards may result in:

  • the use of the Commissioner’s enforcement powers, including warnings or directions being issued to the charity
  • revocation of charity registration, resulting in the charity losing access to certain government funding, exemptions, concessions and benefits.

The ACNC expects that most charities will comply with the Governance Standards. Therefore, we focus on those charities that have seriously or deliberately breached the Governance Standards.

This might be, for example, by:

  • diverting money to non-charitable purposes
  • not disclosing serious conflicts of interest, or
  • being grossly negligent with their finances.

We will act on breaches according to our regulatory approach if we have information that indicates that there may be serious risks involved.

The ACNC's self-evaluation tool

The ACNC's self-evaluation tool aims to help charities assess if they are meeting their obligations, and to identify issues that may prevent them from doing so.

The self-evaluation poses questions and prompts charities to describe both the practical steps they are taking to meet their obligations, and to list the relevant policies or procedures.

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