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An image of Sue Woodward AM

Our annual ACNC Regulators Day was held on 28 July, both in person in Melbourne and online. It was full of energy, ideas and buzzy conversations. Significantly, Assistant Minister for Charities, The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP, announced the new members of the ACNC Advisory Board at the event.

The board provides advice to me as ACNC Commissioner, and I look forward to tapping into their considerable experience and skills, and the expertise they bring from across the country and from so many varied parts of the sector. As I said on the day, thank you to those who finished their term on the Advisory Board, many after a significant number of years of service.

Regulators Day supports our engagement with the charity sector, its professional advisers and with other regulators who play a role in the charity and broader not-for-profit ecosystem. It is valued as an information sharing event, with all the ACNC’s senior leadership team on stage and available for questions.

I have been meeting with international colleagues and was pleased my Singaporean and Canadian counterparts were able to join a panel discussion on collecting and using charity data (especially Sharmila Khare from Canada who was still up at 10pm her time). They shared challenges in getting the data in, especially after lodgment extensions given during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We need you to submit your Annual Information Statements on time, not only because it is a legal requirement, but because then we can share data that supports greater understanding of the worth of the sector by the public and policy makers. Although we are one of the newest charity regulators, the ACNC’s foundational approach of online filings (a digital by default agency) has enabled us to support the sector with data collection and analysis, such that our data and electronic filing system is envied by many internationally.

At the local level, we welcomed our State and Territory colleagues who joined for a panel discussion and a lively question-and-answer session (as well as a regulator-only meeting the day before). Implementation of the national charity fundraising principles was the hottest topic, with each of the regulators explaining how it will happen in their jurisdiction and also, signaling they will be working together on nationally consistent guidance to sit under those principles. The ACNC will continue to support them in this work and other red tape reduction opportunities.

Finally, you may have seen recent media about an appeal to the Federal Court of Australia after the ACNC’s decision to refuse Public Benevolent Institution (PBI) status to the charity Equality Australia. The definition of PBI is a challenging legal concept – as we raised in our submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Philanthropy.

I welcome the opportunity for case law to be further developed, to provide clarity on the legal definition of this charitable subtype as it is the gateway to tax benefits and concessions that can assist charities in their fundraising efforts.

Warm regards,

Sue Woodward AM