Open Letter to Government: Civil Society Support for Independent Regulator - 18 March 2014

RE: Civil Society Support for Independent Regulator

See Media Release here.


Dear Prime Minister

We want to make it very clear to the Commonwealth Government and wider community that like most charities across Australia, we value the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, and we want to see it continue its impressive work.

Charities and the broader not-for-profit sector are at the heart of Australian communities.  They are there in the good times and bad.  They provide support to the most vulnerable; lift our sights and our hearts through culture, sport, education, welfare, support for the aged or the unwell; promote our spirituality; protect our animals and our environment; play our part internationally, and ensure those less able can still participate. 

The not-for-profit sector also makes a major economic contribution, employing approximately one million Australians and turning over close to $100 billion each year.  In tight economic times, this sector needs to be both productive and effective, regardless of whether it is supported by tax payer funds, self-generated income, public donations or the efforts of our many volunteers.  Governments all know we need a strong not-for-profit sector in this country if we are to be both economically strong, and enjoy healthy fulfilling lives.

The establishment of an independent national charities regulator was first seriously proposed through a Howard Government review of the definition of charity in 2001, and has since been supported by many, including the Productivity Commission, the Henry Review and Senate Inquiries involving hundreds of submissions and numerous public hearings.

The launch of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission in 2012 was a major step forward in creating a regulatory environment that works for the not-for-profit sector rather than against it.  In little over one year of operation, the ACNC has built a strong positive reputation by establishing the first public national register of charities, registering more than 2,600 new charities, responding to over 70,000 requests for information from charities and the broader community, investigating and resolving over 200 complaints against charities, and monitoring the extent of red tape and level of public trust and confidence in our charities.  The ACNC has done what few new regulators achieve – gained widespread support across the sector it is regulating. 

Governments in Ireland and Jamaica are the latest to set up new charity regulators as part of a world-wide push to improve public transparency of the charities sector, increase giving, cut compliance costs and reduce red tape.

The Australian Government intends to shut down the ACNC as soon as it can, and in the meantime, cut its funding and capacity.  It is planning to return the key role of determining charitable status to the Australian Taxation Office, re-creating a conflict of interest.  This approach is, at best, an unfortunate policy for charities across Australia and our community.  Red tape will continue to grow, the size of the bureaucracy will grow, and services to the sector and the public will be reduced. 

The vital work of the ACNC must be maintained, for the benefit of charities, not-for-profits and the many communities they serve.




Professor Ann O’Connell, NFP Project
Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne

Belinda Drew, Chief Executive Officer
Foresters Community Finance

Brett Williamson, Chief Executive Officer
Volunteering Australia

Dr Caroline Lambert, Executive Director
YWCA Australia

Dr Cassandra Goldie, Chief Executive Officer
Australian Council of Social Services

Carrie Fowlie, Executive Officer
Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT

Carrillo Gantner AO, Chairman
Sydney Myer Fund

Cate Sayers, Chief Executive Officer

Fr Chris Riley, Chief Executive Officer
Youth Off The Streets

Chris Voll, Chair
Church Communities Australia

Danny Vadasz, Acting Chief Executive Officer
Australian Conservation Foundation

Dawn O’Neil AM, Collective Impact Consultant,
Dawn O’Neil & Associates

David Crosbie, Chief Executive Officer
Community Council for Australia

Dr Dennis Young, Executive Director
DRUG ARM Australasia

Professor David Gilchrist, Director of Curtin Not-for-profit Initiative
Curtin University

Professor Dale Pinto, Professor of Taxation Law and Head of Department (Taxation)
Curtin Law School, Curtin University

Evelyn O’Loughlin, Chief Executive Officer                                
Volunteering SA & NT

Associate Professor, Fiona Martin
Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales

Fiona McLeay, Chief Executive Officer
Justice Connect

Graeme Danks, Trustee
Danks Trust

Heather Neil, Chief Executive Officer
RSPCA Australia

Jack Heath, Chief Executive Officer
SANE Australia

James Pitts, Chief Executive Officer
Odyssey House McGrath Foundation

Jane Hayden, Chief Executive Officer
Lifeline National Office

Jill Reichstein, Chair
Changemakers Australia

Jill Rundle, CEO

John Nicolades, Chief Executive Officer
Bridge Housing Ltd.

John Ryan, Chief Executive Officer

Karen Barnett, Chief Executive Officer
Port Phillip Housing Association


Kate Davidson, Chief Executive Officer
Community Colleges Australia

Lisa Grinham, Chief Executive Officer
Charities Aid Foundation Australia

Marc Purcell, Executive Director
Australian Council for International Development

Martyn Myer AO, President
The Myer Foundation

Mary Jo Capps, Chief Executive Officer
Musica Viva Australia

Associate Professor Matthew Harding, NFP Project
Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne

Mark Watt, Chief Executive Officer

Matthew Noffs, Acting Chief Executive Officer
Ted Noffs Foundation

Michael Thorn, Chief Executive
Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education

Michael Traill, Chief Executive
Social Ventures Australia

Nieves Murray, Chief Executive Officer
IRT Group

Pam Thyer, National Director
Missions Interlink

Paul Arnott, Executive Director
Churches of Christ Vic and Tas

Paul Ronalds, Chief Executive Officer
Save the Children

Peter LeCornu, Chief Executive Officer
St John Ambulance Australia

Peter Ridley, Chief Financial Officer
Hillsong Church

Peter Winneke, Head of Philanthropic Services
The Myer Family Company

Rob Evers, Chief Executive Officer
Wesley Mission Victoria

Robert Dunn, Chief Executive Officer
Opportunity International Australia

Rod Wellington, Chief Executive Officer

Ron Mell, Chief Executive Officer
YMCA Australia

Sam Biondo, Executive Officer
Victorian Alcohol & Drug Association

Sandie de Wolf, Chief Executive Officer
Berry Street

Sandra Dill, Chief Executive Officer
Access Australia

Sue Donnelly, Executive Director
Queensland Theatre Company

Dr Stephen Judd, Chief Executive Officer

Tim Costello AO, Chair
Community Council for Australia

Tony Lawson, Chair
Consumers Health Forum of Australia

Viv Allanson, Chief Executive Officer
Maroba Lodge