The role of a Responsible Person is an important one for registered charities.

For the ACNC, a Responsible Person is not just your nominated contact person. The term Responsible Person refers to someone responsible for governing the charity.

Generally, a charity’s Responsible People are its board or committee members, or trustees (including insolvency trustees or administrators).

You may be used to terms like ‘company secretary’ or ‘public officer’ under other legislation. People may hold these roles in your charity but not be Responsible People.

Charity structure Who its Responsible People may be

Incorporated association (usually incorporated under state or territory law)

Each of the members of the committee of management of the association

Company limited by guarantee or other company under Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)

Each of the directors of the company

Indigenous corporations under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006(Cth)

Each of the directors of the corporation

Trust

Each of the trustees (and if there is a corporate trustee, the directors of that corporate trustee are the Responsible People)

Co-operative

Directors of the co-operative

An organisation or body that is incorporated in some other way (such as through an Act of Parliament)

The title used will differ depending on the legislation or charter but the term trustee or director or council member may be used

Unincorporated associations – this can include small groups such as church groups or parishes or parents associations

Sometimes, it may not be as clear who the appropriate Responsible People are. This may be because, for example, your charity is unincorporated without a well-defined governing body, or is a religious organisation with a central governing body and branches or parishes in many locations.

The Responsible People may be the members of the governing body or those acting in the role of directing or guiding the strategic direction of the charity (rather than day-to-day management). These people will be responsible for ensuring that it is solvent and well run, and delivering the charitable outcomes.

Sometimes there may be a large number of Responsible People, for example a collective where each member is equally responsible to manage the charity.

If your charity is a local parish, we suggest that you contact your administrative office because they may have made a decision about which group of people is responsible for the governance of your parish.

If your charity is the subject of insolvency arrangements

The ‘trustee in bankruptcy’, ‘receiver’, ‘administrator’ or a ‘liquidator’ may also be a Responsible Person.

The ACNC requires charities to meet Governance Standards. Under Governance Standard 4 charities must make sure its Responsible People are suitable, and under Governance Standard 5 they must ensure their Responsible People are aware of their duties and comply with them.

Under Governance Standard 5 Responsible People must:

  • act with reasonable care and diligence
  • act honestly and fairly in the best interests of the charity and for its charitable purposes
  • not misuse their position or information they gain as a Responsible Person
  • disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest
  • ensure that the financial affairs of the charity are managed responsibly, and
  • not allow the charity to operate while it is insolvent.

Read more about the Governance Standards.

In rare situations, the ACNC may suspend or remove a Responsible Person from this role. Find out more about how we ensure charities meet their obligations.

You also must tell us each and every time a Responsible Person takes on or finishes a role as a Responsible Person. This includes any change in their role - for example, if an ordinary board member at your charity becomes treasurer.

You must provide information of all board members to be listed as Responsible People, not just office bearers like the president, vice president or treasurer. Include both office bearers and ordinary board members.

When you update your charity’s Responsible Person details, you will be asked for:

  • their given names, family name, date of birth
  • any other names they are known by
  • their residential address
  • their contact phone numbers, email address
  • the position they hold and the date they became a Responsible Person.

ONLY the Responsible Person’s name and position will appear on the ACNC Register. The other information will NOT appear on the ACNC Register and is kept for proof of identity purposes.

For new Responsible People, you will be asked if you have searched the ASIC Register of Banned or Disqualified Persons.

The ACNC needs information about your charity’s Responsible People because our legislation requires us to list their names and positions on the public ACNC Charity Register. We also need this information so we can:

  • contact your charity – generally, the ACNC will talk to Responsible People as representatives of a charity, and we collect information so we have contact details and can do a ‘proof of identity’ check
  • exercise our regulatory power to suspend and remove a Responsible Person – in limited circumstances, the ACNC may need to suspend and remove a Responsible Person. To use this power, we must be able to identify the Responsible People of each charity
  • undertake regulatory activities – as part of being a registered charity, all organisations must continue to be eligible to registration. If there was evidence that a particular Responsible Person was acting in a way that affects eligibility, such as using charitable money for private benefit, the personal information of that Responsible Person may be used by the ACNC to find out more about this.

While the roles of CEO, company secretary and public officer are important for running your charity, the person in these roles can only be a Responsible Person if they are a member of your charity’s governing body, such as its board or committee.

Just because a chief executive officer (CEO), a chief financial officer (CFO) or other officer attends board meetings to report to the board, this does not make them a Responsible Person.

A good way to work out if they are a Responsible Person is to check your charity’s governing document. This will often list the positions on the board, such as president or chairperson, vice-president or vice-chairperson, secretary and treasurer, plus any number of ‘ordinary board members’ (people who do not have a named office but are still part of the board).

Often there will be rules or clauses in a governing document that states how these board members can be appointed or removed, and how they vote. This can help you decide who is actually a board member and who attends board or committee meetings only to advise the board.

For administrative purposes, the ACNC allows charities to list an 'authorised person' in the Charity Portal. An authorised person is someone that has the authority to speak to the ACNC on behalf of the charity and manage the charity’s details in the Charity Portal. An authorised person may or may not be a Responsible Person. Common examples of an authorised people are CEO, finance manager and office manager. But it is up to a charity to decide who is authorised to act on its behalf.

If you appoint a person to your charity’s governing body for a short term period, and this person acts in the role of controlling the direction and governance of your charity, he or she is still a Responsible Person as set out by the ACNC Act.

You need to notify the ACNC of any changes to your Responsible People by logging in to the ACNC Charity Portal.