I hope you had a safe and enjoyable Christmas and New Year, and I look forward to working with you in 2018.

As we welcome in a new year, it’s a great time to consider the many opportunities ahead.

This year, the ACNC will focus on improving the Charity Register, investigating serious concerns about misconduct, and continuing to provide support to Australia’s 55,000 registered charities.

The ACNC will also be an active participant in the five-year review of the ACNC’s legislation, which will be is conducted by the review panel in the first half of this year.

2017 Annual Information Statements due soon for many charities

Over half of Australia’s registered charities are required to submit their 2017 Annual Information Statement by 31 January 2018.

I am pleased to report that more than two-thirds of these charities have already filed their report, demonstrating their commitment to transparency and accountability.

Submitting the Annual Information Statement is a legislated requirement for maintaining registration with the ACNC. Charities that fail to submit their 2017 Annual Information Statement risk financial penalties or loss of charity status.

For those charities who have yet to submit, there are just three weeks left – I recommend charities complete their reporting sooner rather than later, to avoid IT system traffic and additional wait times for our Advice Services team.

Free resources to assist charities are available at acnc.gov.au/2017AIS.

Volunteering is valuable and vital to Australia’s communities

Some of you may have seen an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last week, adapted from a presentation given by writer and educator Catherine Walsh.

The article, titled “Volunteering doesn't make the world a better place”, suggests that volunteering is inefficient and not valued – rather, it is “expected of people who are regarded as having the time to do it.” Ms Walsh also suggests that “the volunteering that has greatest impact is done upstream and has a measurable outcome… when the aim is to change a broken system, to change a law or policy.”

Ms Walsh seems to think that the ‘system’ or ‘the government’ is to blame for every wrong, and that therefore government is the solution to all problems. I disagree. There are plenty of ‘downstream’ problems that need a personal touch. Volunteers just want to help, they do not need ‘the government’ to help a fellow citizen. Volunteers provide tremendous value to communities and charities alike. The charity sector, by its nature, attracts people who are passionate and generous – let them be.

The most recent Australian Charities Report, launched in December 2017, showed that more than 2.9 million volunteers assisted Australian charities in 2016 – with one in two charities operating with no paid staff.

Many of these volunteer-run charities provide services and relief to their local community, services which cannot always be replicated by businesses and government.

Volunteers have an important place in Australian society – and they are succeeding in making a difference.

Terms of reference for the ACNC legislation review

In December, the Commonwealth Government announced the terms of reference for the mandated five-year review of the ACNC legislation, and announced appointments to the review panel.

The review, which is being run by Treasury, presents an opportunity to evaluate the performance of the ACNC’s legislative framework and our regulation of the sector. Additionally, the review gives the sector an opportunity to have a say.

Written submissions are welcomed from all interested parties, but must be submitted by 28 February 2018. The review panel will also conduct roundtables across the country to hear from interested stakeholders.

Further information about the terms of reference and the submission requirements are available on the Treasury Consultation website.

Any enquiries about the review can be directed to Treasury via email at ACNCReview@treasury.gov.au.

Recent compliance action

Late last year, we revoked the charity status of the Fitzroy Basin Elders Committee Incorporated (ABN: 18194202671) and Synergy Active Ltd (ABN: 15143778974).

Both organisations were endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office to access the following Commonwealth charity tax concessions:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) concession
  • Income tax exemption, and
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) exemption.

The Fitzroy Basin Elders Committee Incorporated and Synergy Active Ltd also had Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status.

These charities will now lose access to all Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

We are prevented from disclosing further details due to secrecy provisions in the ACNC Act.

However, we publish instances where we use our formal powers, including revocation, on the ACNC Charity Register and at acnc.gov.au/compliancedecisions.

If you have concerns about a registered charity, you can raise those with us by visiting acnc.gov.au/charityconcern, or by calling 13 ACNC (13 22 62).

Congratulations to the RFDS on 90 years of service

Congratulations to the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia (RFDS), which will celebrate 90 years of medical care for remote communities in Australia this year.

The organisation, led by ACNC Advisory Board deputy chair Martin Laverty, aided more than 330,000 Australians in rural areas last year alone. Some years ago, I had the pleasure of flying RFDS to a Cape York community.

RFDS were also recently named as the most trusted charity in Australia for the seventh year running, as per the annual Charity Reputation Index. The index is conducted each year by research consultants AMR, measuring the overall reputation of Australia’s 40 largest charities and ranking them via a scoring system.

Congratulations to the staff and volunteers of the RFDS on making an incredible impact on regional and rural Australia over the last 90 years, and we wish you the best for many more years of service delivery and improved health outcomes for all Australians.

Best Wishes,

The Hon Dr Gary Johns

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