Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of addressing the CPA Australia NFP Conference in Melbourne.

I discuss the charity market in Australia, and my vision for the Commission going forward.

The speech, titled Improving the charity market in Australia: let the data speak, highlighted four priorities for the ACNC, including progressively making the information and data that the ACNC already collects more accessible to donors, and improving the search functionality of the ACNC’s Charity Register by introducing NFP sector-specific taxonomy.

I am also interested in refining our data to ensure donors can make valid comparisons of charity performance, and seeding questions that donors can ask of a charity’s responsible persons to ensure that they are considering their purpose and their activities

I believe it is important to have a healthy debate on an important part of our society – that is, the charity sector. As a regulator, among other things, my job is to provide information to help the public understand the work of the charity sector and to support transparency and accountability.

The ACNC has five years of data, and five years of experience – which can be used to good effect. I intend to place as much data as possible into the hands of donors, via the Charity Register, so that they can help drive the sector to greater efficiency and effectiveness.

My speech is available in full on the ACNC website.

Charity Compliance Report 2017 shows concerns are increasing

The ACNC this week released the Charity Compliance Report 2017, which found that concerns about Australian charities rose by 42% in 2017.

In 2017 almost 1,700 concerns were raised, up from 1,192 in 2016 – continuing a steady increase in the number of concerns raised about the activities and operations of charities. It’s more than likely that this increase is due to increasing awareness of the ACNC, and increasing media coverage of alleged charity misconduct.

The majority of Australia’s charities do the right thing and take their responsibilities seriously, carefully using their resources and being accountable to donors, the community and beneficiaries.

However, there are a small number of charities that do the wrong thing and abuse their position and privileges. There are also charities that have good intentions but place charitable assets at risk due to poor governance and mismanagement.

In instances of serious mismanagement, the ACNC acts swiftly in order to protect trust and confidence in the charity sector.

Although our secrecy provisions limit the information we can publicly release, the Charity Compliance Report 2017 shares deidentified data and information to support charities to better understand risks and increase the transparency of the ACNC’s work. In future, we hope we can provide actual accounts of investigations and findings, not just of charities that do the wrong thing, but also success stories where the ACNC was able to help charities get back on track.

The full Charity Compliance Report 2017 is available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/compliancereport.

Transitional reporting arrangements extended for charities

In February, the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar MP, announced that the Government would extend the ACNC transitional reporting arrangements for two years, to include the 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years.

The arrangements would give discretion to the ACNC Commissioner to accept documents prepared for other Commonwealth, State and Territory government agencies as satisfying ACNC reporting requirements.

Once the required regulation is enacted, I intend to exercise this discretion to accept reporting that is prepared to meet the requirements of other government agencies.

I will make further announcements regarding reporting requirements in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find information about the transitional reporting arrangements on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/transitionalreporting.

Get ahead – submit your 2017 Annual Information Statements now

While majority of charities were required to submit their 2017 Annual Information Statement by 31 January 2018, many charities report on a calendar from 1 January to 31 December. This group is required to submit their Annual Information Statement by 30 June 2018.

I encourage all charities to submit their 2017 Annual Information Statement as soon as practicable, in order to avoid any potential system issues as we approach the deadline.

More information about the Annual Information Statement is available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/2017AIS, or you can log in to the Charity Portal now to submit at charity.acnc.gov.au.

Submissions to the ACNC Legislation Review now published

The ACNC Legislation Review is well underway, as written submissions closed last week on 28 February 2018.

Several submissions have now been uploaded to the Review Panel’s dedicated website, acnclegislationreview.com.au. These are publicly available, and contain recommendations for the panel on potential adjustments to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) and related legislation, based on the first five years of the ACNC’s operation.

The panel is expected to complete further stakeholder engagement throughout March, and a report is scheduled to be presented by 31 May 2018.

The ACNC’s submission is available on our website.

Considering volunteering overseas? Be a smart volunteer

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have recently launched an important new campaign, which encourages Australians considering volunteering opportunities to be informed, child safe, and prepared.

The Australian Government discourages short-term, unskilled volunteering in orphanages due to the potentially harmful practices and risks involved for vulnerable children. The number of orphanages in certain popular tourist destinations has increased dramatically, and yet many of the children living in them have at least one living parent.

We know how incredibly generous Australians can be – but it is important to choose the right volunteer experience. I encourage all Australians to be informed and act responsibility when offering assistance overseas.

Before committing to volunteering internationally, consider these questions:

  • Is the organisation trustworthy, transparent and reputable?
  • Is the volunteering opportunity the right fit?
  • Is the organisation child safe?

If you cannot verify the integrity of the organisation, it may be more appropriate to volunteer or donate to a community-based project of interest to you.

More information and resources from the Smart Volunteering campaign are available on the DFAT website.

Best wishes,

The Hon Dr Gary Johns

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