Each charity has governing documents which set out its charitable purpose, that it operates on a not-for-profit basis and how the governing body of the charity (such as its committee of management, or board) makes decisions and consults any members. These documents may have different names, depending on the charity’s structure or form.
Governing document templates are examples that charities can use when they are setting up, or considering changing structure, that they can adapt to suit their particular circumstances.
You may need to get professional advice to make sure you choose a legal structure and governing documents that are suitable for your charity.
Legal requirements for governing documents
All charities registered with the ACNC must have governing documents that meet certain legal requirements. Some of these requirements are the same for all charities registered with the ACNC. The other requirements depend on things such as:
- the legal structure of your charity
- which state or territory your charity is incorporated in, and
- whether your charity is endorsed by the Australia Taxation Office (ATO) as a deductible gift recipient (DGR).
Types of template or model governing documents
Some Commonwealth, state and territory incorporating regulators provide template or ‘model’ governing documents for charities with certain legal structures. These templates meet the legal requirements for the relevant legal structure and may be adopted and used as the governing documents for charities.
Some of the template governing documents available for charities are:
- the ‘model rules’ for incorporated associations provided by state and territory incorporating regulators
- the ‘model rules’ for co-operatives provided by state and territory incorporating regulators
- the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) ‘template rule book’ for Indigenous corporations.
Each incorporating regulator provides guidance on how to use its template governing documents.
The Co-operatives National Law is uniform legislation gradually introduced in each state and territory to regulate co-operatives in the same way across Australia. The regulations under the Co-Operatives National Law have ‘model rules’ for co-operatives. You need to check the requirements for rules for co-operatives with the regulator in your state or territory.
The ACNC provides:
- a constitution template for small charitable companies limited by guarantee (incorporated with ASIC) and an accompanying guide which explains how to use the template
- a rules template for small unincorporated charities
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) provides rule book templates and related guidance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations.
For more information, see the ACNC’s guidance on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations or the ORIC website.
State and territory
Some of the state or territory model rules do not include objects clauses. The ACNC requires charities to set out their charitable purpose or purposes in their governing documents.
Access Canberra provides model rules for incorporated associations in the ACT.
New South Wales
New South Wales Fair Trading provides:
- a model constitution for NSW incorporated associations
- model rules for NSW non-distributing cooperatives (under the Co-operatives National Law).
For more information on requirements for charities in NSW, see the NSW Fair Trading guidance on NSW co-operatives and associations.
The Northern Territory Department of Trade, Business and Innovation provides provides a model constitution template for NT incorporated associations and related information.
The Queensland Office of Fair Trading provides model rules for Queensland incorporated associations.
South Australian Consumer and Business Services provides example of rules for a South Australian incorporated association.
For more information on requirements for charities in South Australia, see the Consumer and Business Services guidance for South Australian associations and charities.
The Tasmanian Office of Consumer Affairs and Trading provides model rules for Tasmanian incorporated associations.
Consumer Affairs Victoria provides model rules for Victorian incorporated associations.
Western Australian Consumer Protection provides model rules for Western Australian incorporated associations.
For more information on requirements for charities in Western Australia, see the Department of Commerce’s guidance for Western Australian associations and clubs.