What is a charity subtype?

When we register an organisation as a charity, we also register it with one or more charity ‘subtypes’. These subtypes are categories that reflect the charity’s charitable purpose, for example ‘advancing education’ or ‘advancing health’. A charity’s purpose is the reason it has been set up, or what its activities work towards achieving.

The subtypes with which a charity is registered are displayed on the charity's page on the ACNC Charity Register.

The ACNC Act sets out 14 charity subtypes. These include the 12 charitable purposes as set out in the Charities Act 2013 (Cth), as well as the categories Public Benevolent Institution and Health Promotion Charity.

Choosing a charity subtype

Each subtype has a specific meaning under the law. To be eligible for registration with a subtype, your organisation's objects and activities must be directed towards achieving the charitable purpose described by that subtype.

For example, if you choose 'advancing education', you must show that your organisation's objects and activities are clearly directed towards this.

You should not choose subtypes that your organisation does not actively pursue or are not included as objects or purposes in the organisation's governing document. Choosing inappropriate subtypes will delay processing of your registration application or subtype change request.

It is important to remember that a charity's subtypes can change. As a charity develops and moves onto new purposes and focuses, the subtypes with which it is registered may need to change with it. Registered charities can apply to change their subtypes - add new ones or remove ones that no longer apply - at any point.

Keep this in mind when choosing subtypes for your organisation: only choose subtypes that represent your organisation's purposes now; do not apply for subtypes that may reflect a future purpose of the organisation - you can apply for these later when they become a purpose.

Find out more about how to update your charity’s subtypes or select new ones.

List of charity subtypes

We have set out below the definition of each subtype and provided examples of some of the types of charities that can be registered under each one. If you are applying to register an organisation as a charity, you may also want to review our sample charitable purpose clauses.

1. Advancing health

Advancing health includes preventing and relieving sickness, disease or human suffering (but is not limited to these).

Some examples of charities advancing health:

  • Associations, foundations and support groups for people with particular illnesses or diseases
  • Hospitals, ambulance services, nursing services
  • Family planning and support services
  • Medical research bodies.

2. Advancing education

Advancing education includes (but is not limited to):

  • Formal education
  • Vocational training
  • Publicly available research directed to expanding human knowledge
  • Less formal education aimed at developing core life skills
  • Providing prizes and scholarships.

Some examples of charities advancing education:

  • Kindergartens, preschools, non-government schools, colleges and universities, industry training organisations
  • Bodies for health or childbirth education
  • Historical education societies, research institutes, Scouts and Guides groups
  • Organisations offering academic scholarships and prizes.

3. Advancing social or public welfare

This is a purpose introduced by the Charities Act, and includes purposes previously recognised in charity law (such as the relief of poverty and the relief of the needs of the aged). The Charities Act confirms that the following purposes (among many others) are included:

Relieving the poverty, distress or disadvantage of individuals or families

Some examples of charities relieving poverty, distress or disadvantage:

  • Accommodation services for people experiencing homelessness
  • International aid programs
  • Services for refugees
  • Soup kitchens
  • Employment and training services for people who are unemployed

Caring for, supporting and protecting children and young individuals

Some examples of charities that care for, support and protect children and young individuals:

  • Child care services
  • Services for disadvantaged youth or 'at-risk' youth

Caring for and supporting the aged

Some examples of charities that support and care for the aged:

  • Residential and non-residential care and assistance.
  • Alzheimer's associations, arthritis services, respite services
  • Community services that provide food, home visits, home maintenance and assistance with shopping for the elderly
  • Organisations that provide social, sporting or recreational activities may be charitable if those activities are for the purposes of addressing the needs of the elderly.
  • Residential aged care facilities

Caring for and supporting individuals with disabilities

Some examples of charities caring for and supporting individuals with disabilities:

  • Residential and non-residential care
  • Braille libraries
  • Disability employment services
  • Guide dog associations
  • Support groups for people living with particular disabilities

Assisting the rebuilding, repairing or securing of assets after a disaster

This is a specific provision in the Charities Act, and is separate from disaster relief for individuals, which is also likely to be charitable and registrable with this subtype.

Some examples of charities that assist with rebuilding, repairing or securing assets damaged by disaster:

  • Charities raising funds to repair not-for-profit community buildings or other assets damaged by cyclone, bushfire or other disasters.

4. Advancing religion

A religion involves a belief in a supernatural being, thing or principle, and acceptance of canons of conduct which give effect to that belief. Advancing religion involves promotion of those beliefs, principles, observances and standards of conduct.

Some examples of charities that advance religion:

  • Religious congregations
  • Religious education bodies
  • Funds for establishing and maintaining religious buildings

5. Advancing culture

Advancing culture includes the purposes of promoting or fostering culture, and caring for, preserving and protecting Australian heritage (but is not limited to this).

Some examples of charities advancing culture:

  • Organisations that promote Australian Indigenous culture and customs
  • Fine arts societies, musical societies
  • Foundations for theatre, ballet, and the opera
  • Museums and libraries
  • Foundations and trusts supporting these activities

6. Promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia

Another purpose introduced by the Charities Act, Promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia may include:

  • Promoting harmony and reducing conflict between people from different races, religions or belief systems
  • Eliminating discrimination and promoting equality
  • Promoting restorative justice and other forms of conflict resolution or reconciliation, and
  • Mediating, conciliating or reconciling those involved in dispute or conflict.

The groups of individuals referred to in this subtype must be in Australia.

7. Promoting or protecting human rights

The Charities Act defines ‘human rights’ as having the same meaning given by the Human Rights Parliamentary Scrutiny Act 2011 (Cth). which is the rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the seven international conventions and covenants named in this Act, as they apply to Australia.

The conventions and covenants are:

  • International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

People have other rights not covered by these conventions. Although these rights are important, they are not included in the definition of ‘human rights’ under the Charities Act. Subtype requests for promoting or protecting these other types of rights will be refused.

Promoting or protecting human rights may include:

  • monitoring abuses of human rights
  • seeking redress and relieving needs for victims of human rights abuse
  • research into human rights issues
  • educating the public about human rights
  • providing technical advice to governments and others on human rights
  • raising awareness of human rights issues.

8. Advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public

Some examples of charities that advance the safety or security of Australia or its public are (but are not limited to):

  • safe houses
  • organisations that promote and support ‘neighbourhood watch’ programs
  • organisations that promote the efficiency of the Australian Defence Force
  • research organisations looking into defence and national security
  • historical societies that record and research the history of the armed forces
  • organisations that look after the welfare of the armed forces, including the dependants of injured or deceased veterans
  • organisations that offer volunteer emergency or safety services, such as surf lifesaving associations.

9. Preventing or relieving the suffering of animals

Some examples of charities that prevent or relieve animal suffering include:

  • Animal protection societies
  • Animal refuges and shelters
  • Organisations that protect endangered species
  • Animal hospitals
  • Scientific bodies studying animal behaviour

10. Advancing the natural environment

Advancing the natural environment includes (but is not limited to):

  • protecting, preserving, caring for and educating the community about the natural environment
  • preserving native flora and fauna
  • rescuing or caring for native animals, and
  • preserving or rehabilitating habitats.

Some examples of charities that advance the natural environment are:

  • Conservation bodies and societies
  • Land care groups
  • Environmental education groups
  • Natural resource organisations

11. Any other purpose beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes mentioned in the subtypes above.

This purpose includes other purposes previously recognised by the courts as being charitable, and allows for the development of charitable purposes over time.

If applying to register an organisation as a charity, before you select this subtype, consider whether your organisation's purposes fall within one of the other subtypes. If all of your organisation's purposes fall within other subtypes, do not select this subtype. If you believe that your organisation's purposes are similar to but not fully covered by the other subtypes, you can select this one.

12. Advancing public debate (promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state, a territory or another country).

Where the organisation's purpose is to promote a change, this change must further or be in aid of one of the 11 other purposes listed in the Charities Act. If the organisation's purpose is to oppose change, that change must not oppose or hinder one or more of the purposes listed in the Charities Act.

Some examples of charities that advance public debate are:

  • Human rights research bodies that provides law reform submissions to government
  • Education research institutes that develops public policy position papers

Other recognised charity subtypes

13. Health Promotion Charity

A Health Promotion Charity is a charitable institution whose principal activity is to promote the prevention or control of diseases in people. This may include providing public information about a disease, research to develop cures or treatments, or providing equipment to help people who are suffering from the disease.

Some examples of Health Promotion Charities:

  • Some community health care providers
  • Some medical research organisations
  • Organisations that work to raise awareness of human diseases

For more information, see our factsheet on Health Promotion Charities.

14. Public Benevolent Institution

A Public Benevolent Institution is a type of charitable institution whose main purpose is to relieve suffering that is serious enough to arouse a feeling of pity or compassion in members of the community. Such suffering could be caused by conditions such as poverty, sickness, helplessness or distress.

Some examples of Public Benevolent Institutions:

  • Some hospitals and hospices
  • Some disability support services
  • Some aged care services
  • Providers of low-cost rental or subsidised housing for people in need

For more information, see our factsheet on Public Benevolent Institutions.