I am pleased to inform you that the final report from the mandated five-year review of the ACNC’s legislation has now been published on the Treasury website.
Strengthening for Purpose: Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Legislative Review 2018, produced by review panel chair Mr Patrick McClure AO and review panel members Ms Sue McCluskey, Dr Matthew Turnour and Mr Greg Hammond OAM, makes 30 recommendations to strengthen the ACNC’s legislative framework.
The recommendations centre on issues including the ACNC’s objects, functions and powers, the overall regulatory framework, and red tape reduction for charities.
I have welcomed the report and its recommendations, and would like to thank the Review Panel, peak bodies, government agencies and charities for their contribution to legislative review process.
The report has been tabled in Parliament, and is available to download from the Treasury website.
Treasury consultations on key charity sector issues now open
Treasury have recently released consultation documents on two key issues within the charity sector, relating to External Conduct Standards for charities operating overseas, and the design for key components of the Government’s DGR reform package.
Last week, Treasury released the draft regulations and explanatory statement on the proposed External Conduct Standards for registered charities. Consistent with the ACNC Governance Standards, the draft regulations are a principles-based set of minimum standards of conduct, governance and behaviour that registered charities must comply with when operating outside Australia.
Treasury have also announced a period of consultation on elements of the proposed DGR reforms, including the requirement for non-government organisations with DGR status to register with the ACNC.
Both consultations are accepting written submissions until 5pm, Friday 21 September 2018. If your charity will be impacted by either proposal, I urge you to consider making a submission to the relevant consultation – your feedback is valuable.
For more information about current consultations or to lodge a submission, please visit the Treasury Consultation website at treasury.gov.au/consultation.
ACNC Advisory Board meets in Brisbane
Last week, Assistant Commissioner Murray Baird and I were delighted to meet with the ACNC Advisory Board in Brisbane for our quarterly catch-up. It was a great opportunity to discuss the key issues and opportunities for the ACNC, and the charity sector more broadly.
Combined, the ACNC Advisory Board members have decades of experience in the not-for-profit and philanthropic sectors. And as such, they provide invaluable insight into how the ACNC can continue to support Australia’s charities and donors.
Our Advisory Board Deputy Chair, and CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Dr Martin Laverty, will provide an update on the outcomes of our most recent meeting in the coming weeks – I will publish Martin’s update in a future column.
In the meantime, you can read more about the members of our Advisory Board at acnc.gov.au/advisoryboard.
Royal Flying Doctor Service celebrates 90 years of supporting Australians with new exhibit
It was my pleasure to be in Canberra for the launch of a new exhibit at the National Museum of Australia, in honour of the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s 90th anniversary. The exhibit explores how transport and communication networks have changed to connect Australians to vital services across the country, highlighting the inventions that revolutionised access to medical care in remote areas.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service is one of our most well-known and respected charities, providing many decades of support to regional and rural Australians – and it is fitting that the charity’s incredible work and innovations will be on display for the next four years.
For more information about the exhibit, visit the National Museum of Australia website.
Charities are not above the law
In light of recent media reporting, I would like to remind charities of their obligations to act lawfully and reasonably in the pursuit of their charitable purpose.
The ACNC Governance Standards require charities to remain charitable, operate lawfully, and be run in an accountable and responsible way. Of course, there are some charities that are exempt from complying with the ACNC Governance Standards – those that are recognised as Basic Religious Charities (BRCs).
BRCs are not required to provide financial information in the Annual Information Statement or to submit separate annual financial reports, or adhere to the ACNC Governance Standards. The Governance Standards exemption for BRCs simply means that the ACNC is not able to take compliance action against such a charity for failing to comply with a Governance Standard.
This does not mean that charities are above the law.
In addition to being pursued by law enforcement and other government agencies, unlawful activity can lead to revocation of charity status.
Registered charities cannot have a purpose of engaging in or promoting unlawful activity – this can be grounds for the revocation of charity status, which results in the loss of Commonwealth charity tax concessions.
While our secrecy provisions limit our ability to report on compliance action taken against a charity, I assure you that all concerns about unlawful activity are taken seriously. If you have a concern regarding the activities of a charity, I encourage you to raise these by visiting the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/raiseaconcern.
Is your charity ready for its Annual General Meeting?
Many of our registered charities will soon be holding their Annual General Meeting (AGM), an opportunity to give members a report on the charity’s activities and finances for the previous financial year, and elect members of the charity’s governing committee.
One of the ACNC’s Governance Standards requires charities to be open and transparent with their members – which includes holding an AGM each year.
We recently hosted a webinar filled with tips and advice for charities on how to hold an AGM – you can watch the webinar on-demand on our website at acnc.gov.au/webinars.
In addition, we have a range of other guidance, tips and templates available at acnc.gov.au/AGM.
Scam alert for Victorian organisations
Consumer Affairs Victoria have recommended that organisations review their cyber security practices, after recent instances of email scams. Some scammers have directly hacked the email accounts of businesses, obtaining the email addresses of clients and requesting updated bank account details.
While this scam does not appear to have impacted any charities, it is a timely reminder for all organisations to ensure their cyber security practices and policies are up to date, in order to protect the data and privacy of your beneficiaries, donors, volunteers and employees.
For more information or advice, visit Scamwatch. The Scamwatch website provides news and information about scams nationwide, as well as advice for businesses and organisations looking to protect themselves from scams.