This week I am in Perth for a series of sessions, including a faith-based charity roundtable, and meetings with charities and government.

These faith-based events around the country have provided us with a great opportunity to hear directly from representatives of the largest segment of Australia's charity sector – those that advance religion. We have learnt a great deal about the issues and challenges facing the variety of faith-based organisations across Australia.

My thanks go to all those who attended these events for generously providing insights and sharing their knowledge, and helping us to build our understanding of religious charities.

Whilst in Perth I was fortunate to visit Solaris Cancer Care at the invitation of CEO, David Edwards, who showed me around the Cancer Wellness Centre, a campus that hosts four cancer charities including Solaris.

The charities share the rental costs and some back office services – a very efficient mode of operation for smaller charities. Solaris Cancer Care is looking at other means of collaborating to drive further efficiencies. I greatly enjoyed the visit with them.

I will be back in Western Australia in September, and am looking forward to meeting others in the sector then.

Engaging with the charity sector

Last Friday we had the pleasure of co-hosting a conference with the Charity Law Association of Australia and New Zealand.

Speaking to some 100 attendees at the conference, ACNC Board member Emeritus Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes OAM gave the keynote address, providing an overview of recent trends and emerging issues in policy and regulation for the charitable sector. The event also included three panel discussions on key issues with leading charity experts.

A community of practice such as this provides an opportunity for people to come together and discuss the issues and opportunities facing the wider charity sector in Australia, and provides a valuable resource for the ACNC. We appreciate the chance to learn from their experience and expertise, and we graciously thank them for their time.

Red tape reduction progresses in Victoria

The ACNC continues to engage in productive discussions with officials across Commonwealth and state and territory governments to reduce red tape for registered charities.

I am very pleased to report good news regarding streamlining of reporting for charities in Victoria.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has committed to exempt Victorian ACNC-registered associations from state reporting by the end of 2017, with streamlining for fundraisers to follow soon after.

This announcement follows the Victorian Government passing the Consumer Acts Amendment Act in May 2017, which will allow the Minister to exempt certain ACNC charities from reporting directly to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

These are all steps in the right direction, and I applaud the Victorian Government’s commitment to red tape reduction for the charity sector.

You can read more about the ACNC’s efforts at streamlining reporting at acnc.gov.au/redtapereduction.

2017 Annual Information Statement released

There has been a very positive response to the launch of the 2017 Annual Information Statement on 24 July, with more than 160 charities already completing and submitting the online form.

I want to thank those charities for being so quick off the mark, and encourage them – and any charities completing the 2017 Annual Information Statement – to fill out our short Annual Information Statement feedback survey.

Your input does make a difference. In response to feedback about our 2016 process, the ACNC has made significant improvements to the 2017 Annual Information Statement. These include the new Annual Information Statement Hub, improvements to the Annual Information Statement form, and enhanced support and guidance materials.

Visit the Annual Information Statement Hub for more.

Australia’s Aged Care Charities in 2015

In late July we released a new report, Australia’s Aged Care Charities in 2015, derived from data in the 2015 Australian Charities Report.

The report found that Australia’s aged care charities support over 1.3 million older people and employ more than 170,000 staff.

And even though Australia’s 1,465 aged care charities only comprise 2.9% of all registered charities, they accounted for 9.3% of the charity sector’s total income, and 14.1% of all charity sector employees.

Aged care charities are supported by the generosity of Australians. Our aged care charities benefit from over $160m in donations and bequests each year, and 93% reported that they had active volunteers.

You can read the findings from our new report, Australia’s Aged Care Charities in 2015, and the full Australian Charities Report 2015, at australiancharities.acnc.gov.au.

Our visit to Cairns

The ACNC Advisory Board members and senior ACNC staff recently had the pleasure of visiting local Cairns charity, the Three Sista’s Foundation.

The visit was guided by the founders of Three Sista’s, Janet Guthrie and Stuart Wright, who impressed us with the mix of accommodation and a charitable foundation providing support to its residents, including an on-site food outlet.

Two sessions were held for the sector: a briefing sector attended by around 50 charities, and a roundtable for local charity CEOs. There was a wide mix of local charities at the briefing, which provided good opportunity for issues to be raised in the interactive session.

The ACNC Advisory Board then met on site at the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and was given a tour of the facility by staff.

To find more information about the ACNC Advisory Board, visit acnc.gov.au/advisoryboard.

Withholding information from the Charity Register

Registered charities are able to apply to the ACNC to have information withheld from the Charity Register, meaning it is no longer available to the public.

When charities apply to have their information withheld, we remove all of their information immediately from the Charity Register while we review the request. We do this to ensure that we are not endangering charities or their beneficiaries.

Our analysts will then review the request, and will often contact the charity to seek further information. They will ultimately make a determination based on the requirements set out in the ACNC Act. These are that information can be withheld that

  • Is commercially sensitive and publication could cause harm to the charity or a person
  • Is inaccurate or misleading
  • Is likely to offend
  • Could endanger public safety
  • Is covered by ACNC Regulations

If the request does not meet these requirements, we notify the charity and the information is again made public on the Charity Register.

The Policy Statement on Withholding or removing information from the ACNC Register states that publication of information on the Charity Register is generally in the public interest as transparency and accountability contribute to public trust and confidence in charities. Our starting point is that publication is in the public interest with very few exceptions.

To find more information about withholding information, visit acnc.gov.au/withhold.

ATO tax concessions changes for not-for-profits

From 1 April 2017, not-for-profits falling under the small business turnover threshold of $10m will have access to a range of small business concessions.

Small business fringe benefits tax (FBT) concessions include the FBT work-related devices exemption and the FBT car parking exemption.

Not-for-profits not exempt from income tax, such as clubs, societies and associations, may benefit from a 27.5% small business company tax rate and a $20,000 instant asset write-off.

For more information about the tax concessions changes, including information on exceptions, visit the ATO website.

Fraud alert

According to Third Sector, a charity in England, Bolton Hospice, managed to avoid being scammed thanks to its staff and internal financial controls.

Bolton Hospice said it had been targeted by fraudsters in what it called a "sophisticated fraud" whereby the scammers sought information on the charity through contact with one of its major suppliers.

This is a timely reminder for all Australian to be vigilant and alert to potential hoaxes – whether via phone, online or email contact.

The ACNC provides advice on fraud prevention and good governance for charities:

For information about other scams and general advice, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s SCAMwatch website.

Charity takes top award at Telstra NSW Business Awards

Congratulations to Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia Ltd for recently taking the top state award at the 25th annual Telstra New South Wales Business Awards.

MS Research Australia is working internationally to find a cure for progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The charity also received the 2017 Telstra New South Wales Charity Award.

New reporting requirement in Victoria to keep children safe

The Victorian Government has introduced a Reportable Conduct Scheme on 1 July 2017.

The scheme is a response to the Betrayal of Trust report and aims to prevent people who pose a risk to children continuing in child-related work.

The scheme requires organisations that provide certain services for children in Victoria to respond to allegations of child abuse (and other child-related misconduct) made against their workers and volunteers. The Commission for Children and Young People oversees how organisations in the scheme respond to the allegations.

To find out more about the scheme, and what it means for organisations, go to the Commission’s website at www.ccyp.vic.gov.au.

Planned system improvements

Due to planned improvements, the ACNC website, Charity Register, online forms, and Charity Portal will be unavailable from 5pm on Friday 4 August to 7am on Monday 7 August 2017.

Charities will be unable to submit their Annual Information Statement or update their information during this period.

We apologise for any inconvenience.

Good wishes
Susan Pascoe AM