Ask ACNC sessions

Susan Pascoe, Our Commissioner

The ACNC has had an overwhelming response from charities to ‘Ask ACNC’ Australia-wide sessions, with nearly 3000 people registering to attend a session to date. The response has exceeded our expectations, with several sessions oversubscribed. We have scheduled extra sessions to accommodate demand.

I would like to thank the communities we have already visited for welcoming us to their towns and cities, and to the participants for sharing their passion and insights into their work. The Assistant Commissioners David Locke and Murray Baird and I, accompanied by ACNC staff, have so far visited centres in Cairns, the Gold and Sunshine coasts, Brisbane, Dubbo, Newcastle, Whyalla, Gawler, Adelaide, Bunbury, Albany, Perth, Darwin and Alice Springs. Over the coming weeks we will be in centres in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria. See further details of dates and locations.

As the national regulator, the ACNC must ensure that charities understand and can meet their regulatory and reporting obligations by providing guidance and education. This is explicit in the Objects section of the ACNC Act. As at 30 June 2014, 80% of charities who were required to submit their 2013 Annual Information Statement, lodged by the due date. This is a pleasing result, particularly given the uncertainty regarding the ACNC's future. However we are concerned to support the 20% who did not meet the 30 June deadline, and keen to avoid them attracting a penalty. The ‘Ask ACNC’ sessions have been designed to provide charities with the opportunity for one-to-one sessions with ACNC staff, and to answer any queries or address concerns. The ACNC staff have laptops connected to the home-base IT systems and have helped a number of charities complete their 2013 Annual Information Statement on the spot.

We regulate a diverse sector, and the informal face-to-face meetings are giving participants the opportunity to clearly articulate their challenges and needs. At the Ask ACNC sessions, some charities simply want reassurance they were registered properly, others wanted advice on managing their organisation and others wanted help to reset their password to the Charity Portal. This enabled them to update online records including responsible persons and governing documents and to lodging their 2013 or 2014 Annual Information Statement.

For some charities it is the first time they have had contact with the ACNC, and I hope they feel confident in contacting us in the future. The ACNC provides comprehensive advice and education services to support charities, regardless of purpose or size, in understanding and meeting their governance and reporting obligations. As I said in the sessions, we aim to support the sustainability of the sector, and to support charities meet their regulatory and reporting requirements.

If you missed the session in your area, a copy of our presentation can be found on the Ask ACNC sessions web page.

Charity ‘watchdog’ combatting financing of terrorism

Recently, there has been a strong focus on measures to strengthen Australia’s defences against terrorism both internally and externally. The creation of the ACNC, and specifically the ACNC Register and compliance function, contributes to Australia’s compliance with Financial Action Task Force, Recommendation 8, which requires FATF members to ensure that non-profit organisations cannot be misused to generate, be conduits for, or conceal resources intended to finance terrorist activity.

The ACNC Act also has provision for the implementation of External Conduct Standards for charities. The object of the Standards (if and when implemented) will be to give the public confidence that funds sent outside Australia by charities are reaching intended beneficiaries and being used for legitimate purposes, and that funds and activities are not contributing to terrorist or other criminal activities.

Clearly, this watchdog role is one of the ways in which the ACNC maintains and enhances public trust and confidence in the charitable sector. Through the monitoring of compliance with regulatory obligations, and the provision of credible information on charities on the Charity Register the ACNC increases the transparency and oversight of all charities. The ACNC maintains constructive working relationships with key regulatory, intelligence and enforcement agencies in Australia. We have initiated a network of compliance staff working in charity regulators in common law countries so information can be shared and our respective communities kept safe.

Information for charities about managing terrorist financing risks is also available on our website, along with some useful links.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about the conduct of a charity to contact the ACNC so we can assess the risk and take action if necessary.

ACNC Website survey

You may have noticed changes to some of our site navigation as part of a refresh of acnc.gov.au. We encourage you to keep an eye out for updates to the Manage my charity tab, as well as for new publications, and to subscribe to email updates to be notified of new resources. To make sure the site is working for you, we’d like to hear of you experience in finding information on the website, and how useful it is, by completing this short survey.

Good wishes
Susan Pascoe AM

Contact us

Our phone number is 13 ACNC (13 22 62) or you can email us at advice@acnc.gov.au.

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