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