Coalition Government strengthens governance standards for charities

Australian Treasury

The Coalition Government has strengthened laws to ensure that Australian charities that engage in or use their resources to actively promote unlawful behaviour face enforcement action.

The new regulations will empower the Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not‑for‑profits Commission (ACNC) to investigate charities engaging in or promoting serious unlawful acts of trespass, vandalism, theft or assault and threatening behaviour.

The regulations will amend ACNC governance standard three to require that charities must not engage in these kinds of offences, regardless of whether they are prescribed as indictable or summary offences under an Australian law.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said that the new governance standards will reinforce Australians’ trust and confidence in the charities sector.

“The 59,000 registered charities in Australia do exceptional work in our community supporting society’s most vulnerable, and their efforts are recognised through their status,” Minister Sukkar said.

“However, Australians support charities through donations and tax concessions with the expectation that a charity’s resources are directed towards charitable works. By making these regulations, the Government is ensuring charities that misuse and take advantage of their status to take part in or actively promote illegal activity can be stripped of tax concessions and other benefits.

“Charities that engage in unlawful activities infringe on the rights of law-abiding Australians conducting their business and going about their everyday lives. This undermines public trust and confidence in the charities sector.”

Charities will also be required to maintain reasonable internal controls over their resources, such as their funds, social media accounts and employees, to ensure they do not use them to actively promote others to commit offences.

Governance standard three requires charities to comply with Australian laws. Acting lawfully protects a charity’s assets, reputation, and the people it works with. Compliance with Australian laws sets a minimum benchmark by which all charities should govern themselves.

Registered charities that act lawfully and do not use their resources to actively promote others to engage in unlawful activities are already complying with the amended governance standard.

The regulations do not impose a new burden on charities that are already complying with Australian laws. Rather, they give the public trust and confidence that a charity registered with the ACNC is governed in a way that ensures its ongoing operations and the safety of its assets, through compliance with Australian laws.

Charities will still be able to participate in advocacy activities provided they are consistent with their charitable purpose and conducted lawfully.

The ACNC will provide guidance and education to registered charities once the Regulation comes into effect to help them understand and comply with the governance standard.

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