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Meeting charities is a priority and a highlight for ACNC Commissioner Dr Gary Johns. “I am always struck by the dedication and innovation of people who work and volunteer in the sector. It’s great to have a conversation over a cuppa, and perhaps a biscuit or scone, and hear all about the people and causes they serve. The contribution each charity makes is extremely valuable,” Dr Johns said.

Getting to know the circumstances of charities on the ground, the challenges they confront and the creative ways they solve problems provides tremendous insights for the ACNC as the regulator and helps us to improve our own work. That spirit of innovation was evident when Dr Johns visited the Alannah & Madeline Foundation in Melbourne earlier this year. “It was fantastic to learn more about the Foundation’s remarkable efforts to keep children safe from violence and bullying. It has done so much to raise awareness about the harms that children may encounter, particularly the dangers they face in the digital realm. Importantly, it has developed practical strategies to prevent or minimise the chances of harm,” Dr Johns said.

Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO, Sarah Davies AM also appreciated the opportunity to meet. “The ACNC is a critical national support and resource for charities and the public alike and, since inception, it has added huge value to our sector. To be an effective regulator it is essential to have an understanding of the realities and practicalities of what it takes to run our critical charities so that they are effective and impactful,” Ms Davies said.

“By regularly visiting, listening and engaging directly with the range of organisations under its remit, the ACNC ensures it keeps up to date with the issues as they develop, so we maximise all the opportunities to continue to nourish and enable a thriving community and charity sector, with full confidence and rigour.”

In a meeting with the Queensland Acoustic Neuroma Association, Dr Johns heard about the experience of people who live with the condition, and their families. “Members of the association detailed the challenges of living with acoustic neuroma. They were generous in sharing their stories of struggle, but it was heartening to see how they supported each other,” he said.

Another Queensland charity Dr Johns met, the Gold Coast Youth Service, described its tremendous work with disadvantaged young people. “The service operates a lot of programs such as the Youth Foyer, which provides accommodation for those who are either homeless or might be at risk. However, the young person must commit to study as part of the deal. They achieve amazing outcomes for young people, either getting them into a job, or into studies that will open the door to a career.”

Travel restrictions over the past year meant that some meetings were held online, including one with the Gundagai Historical Museum. “Based in regional New South Wales, this charity is run entirely by volunteers. Indeed, just over half of all charities in Australia are. While they may have very limited resources, they are fuelled by the commitment of the people who so generously devote their time, in this case making a significant contribution to the cultural life of the community. The contribution of all charities to the Australian community and the economy is enormous, and it is a privilege to gain firsthand insights to better inform the ACNC’s work,” Dr Johns said.