As 2018 ends, it is an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the last year and share with you the ACNC’s plans for 2019 and beyond. On the one-year anniversary of my appointment as Commissioner, which was Friday 7 December, I sat down with our communications team in a question and answer session. We have published it on our website.

I discussed what I have learned over the past 12 months, the biggest challenges, and what I have found most enjoyable about the role - which has been visiting living, breathing charities, doing good work in our communities. It has been a real highlight learning about their programs, achievements and beneficiaries.

This week, I have been travelling through country Queensland and New South Wales, meeting with charities in Warwick, Stanthorpe, Tenterfield, Guyra, Armidale, Grafton and Ballina. It has been rewarding to spend a little time with these great local charities and discuss the triumphs and challenges of their work.

I look forward to continuing meet charities across Australia in 2019.

Giving with confidence to charity this Christmas

Australians are a very generous group, particularly over the holidays.

This Christmas, make sure you give to charity with confidence by searching the ACNC Charity Register.

Our searchable database provides information about Australia’s 56,000 charities, including the activities they undertake, where they operate and who they support. It also provides access to a charity’s Annual Information Statements and financial reports, which demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

The ACNC recently published advice to help donors give safely this Christmas – visit the ACNC website for more information.

Transitional reporting arrangements ending for Tasmanian charities

Transitional reporting arrangements for Tasmanian incorporated associations have now ended. This means that from the 2018 reporting period, medium and large Tasmanian charities must now prepare and submit an annual financial report complying with the ACNC’s reporting requirements. Where audited financial statements are required for large charities, the auditor must either be:

  • A registered company auditor, or
  • A firm with at least one registered company auditor member ordinarily resident in Australia, or
  • An authorised auditor company.

South Australian and ACT incorporated associations will also need to prepare for changes, as the 2018 reporting period is the last year of the transitional reporting arrangements. From the 2019 reporting period, medium and large charities will be required to ensure their financial reports meet the ACNC’s requirements.

More information about transitional reporting arrangements is available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/transitionalreporting. Further details about the ACNC’s reporting requirements are also available at acnc.gov.au/reporting.

Exploring the definitions of the ACNC’s second object

The ACNC Act sets out three objects. This is what the ACNC was set up to achieve.

  1. To maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the sector through increased accountability and transparency,
  2. To support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative not-for-profit sector, and;
  3. To promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the sector.

While the first and third objects are easily defined, the concepts mentioned in the second object are not clarified in the ACNC Act, the Explanatory Memorandum or the Minister’s Second Reading Speech.

Recently, we commissioned a report titled Measures in support of the not-for-profit sector – Indicators of Object 1(b) ACNC Act, which proposes how to define what a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative sector looks like, and how it can be measured.

The focus is on measuring these concepts as they relate to the sector, not individual charities.

The ACNC will be conducting consultation on this issue in early in 2019 – but in the meantime, you may wish to consider the report by downloading a copy from the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/object2.

New AUSTRAC report on terrorism financing risks in the Asia-Pacific

In November, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) published a report to help the sector identify and mitigate the risks of terrorism financing in the Asia-Pacific region.

The report, NPO red flag indicators 2018, will be of particular interest to charities that operate in, or send funds to, high-risk regions.

Charities should familiarise themselves with Australia’s risk ratings, and the key factors and indicators that would be present in scenarios of misuse.

The ACNC has guidance to help charities protect themselves from terrorism financing and fraud, which charities can access on our website.

You can read the NPO red flag report on AUSTRAC’s website.

Consumer Affairs Victoria seeks feedback on fundraising regulations

Consumer Affairs Victoria are conducting public consultation on the Fundraising Regulations 2009, which are set to expire in June 2019. The regulations, made under the Fundraising Act 1998, cover key issues including classifying certain activities as not being fundraising appeals, specifying requirements for identification badges, and prescribing infringement penalties for offences.

As part of the review process, industry stakeholders are invited to share comments and recommendations for the new regulations. Consultation closes Friday 21 December. For more information, visit consumer.vic.gov.au.

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme

The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme commenced on 10 December 2018. The scheme introduces an obligation for organisations and individuals who have arrangements with, or act on behalf of, foreign principals. This definition may apply to a limited number of charities.

A foreign principal, in simplified terms, could be any of the following:

  • a foreign government,
  • a foreign government-related entity,
  • a foreign political organisation, or
  • a foreign government-related individual.

If your charity could fall into this group, you should review the guidance on the Commonwealth Attorney General’s website at ag.gov.au.

Farewell to 2018

As this is my last column for 2018, I would like to take a moment to remind to all readers that the ACNC is closed from 5pm on Friday 21 December and will reopen at 9am on Wednesday 2 January 2019.

If you have a pending application to register a charity or submit an enquiry during this period, please be patient, the team will respond as soon as they can in 2019.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.

Best wishes,

The Hon. Dr Gary Johns