I wonder why?

By: Sarah Davies   |   Philanthropy Australia

Philanthropy Australia is strongly supportive of the need for a professional, responsive, and independent regulator for the not-for-profit sector, and charities in particular. As a sector that represents around 8% of GDP and employs about 10% of the Australian workforce, it is a significant part of our community economically, socially and culturally.

As a sector that relies on citizens' funds as working capital (through taxation via government grants and through charitable giving and philanthropy) it is essential that we have an effective and robust regulator that provides rigour and consistent application of regulation and frameworks, clarity of rules and expectations and transparency and accessibility of data and insight about this critical part of our society.

The Australian Charities and Not-for- profits Commission (ACNC) has quickly established itself as providing all the above and more. When it was set up, the ACNC was asked to be more than just an enforcement based regulator, but also ‘to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative Australian not‑for‑profit sector’. I have been so impressed by their work, their approach and their appetite for building a strong civil society through good regulation. In the simplest sense, when people ask me how they can start giving my never-fail response is start with the ACNC: if a charity is not registered with them, don’t go there. And in more complex discussions, their advice, fact sheets, data and openness to handling tricky questions or issues demonstrates their deep understanding of the sector. It’s no wonder they are respected and valued. The confidence they give us, as funders, volunteers and stakeholders, is essential to the vitality and effectiveness of a strong and effective not-for-profit sector, chasing the changes and opportunities we are all striving for.

The surprise news last week that the Australian Government has decided not to re-appoint ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe, is therefore a bit baffling  Of course, it is the Government’s prerogative to make decisions about the appointment of the ACNC Commissioner. But we are unsure yet of the reasons, or of the process for appointing a new Commissioner and indeed, what this might mean for the future of the ACNC (all of which might be quite benign – we’re pretty good at jumping to conspiracy theories and must resist that!). We will be watching what happens next very carefully.

But this does give us an opportunity to express our support for the ACNC and reinforce its important role and contribution. As such, the Community Council of Australia (CCA) is sending an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling for signatories who would like to express their supportfor the ACNC and the need to ensure a proper process around selecting its Commissioner - you can read the letter here (scroll down). If you would like to be part of it you can contact Deborah at the CCA (deborahs@communitycouncil.com.au).

It’s also an opportunity to express our thanks and appreciation for the work of the ACNC Commissioner, who on any measure including assessment against the objects of the ACNC Act, has done an exemplary job – thank you Susan, we are all better, more robust and more effective because of you.

Jun. 06, 2017

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