Six years ago, as he was taking on the job of Anglicare CEO, former premier Lynn Arnold said that the job of the charity should be ‘‘to empower and leave alive the spirit of aspiration in people’’.
It’s a simple line that perfectly sums up the valuable work being done in not-for-profits across Australia.
Lynn Arnold may be an exceptional leader, but his decision to devote a significant stage of his post-political career to charitable work shows something that is common in South Australians – a commitment to a vibrant community sector.
To ensure that this sector remains strong, Federal Labor in 2012 established the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
Formed out of recommendations from the Productivity Commission and the Henry Tax Review, the commission monitors and supports the activities of thousands of charities and not-for-profit organisations.
It helps provide public accountability, which is essential given the millions of dollars Australian charities get in tax concessions charities each year.
The Charities Commission ensures not-for-profits comply with the law and that they do not rip donors off. To protect yourself against scammers, you can check a charity’s credentials on the website (acnc.gov.au).
In the same way that ASIC provides investors with the confidence they need to buy shares in companies, the commission provides donors with the confidence that registered charities are actually performing charitable works.
In the Adelaide CBD alone, there are 500 registered charities and not-for-profits, including trusts and foundations with information on the Commission’s website.
Importantly, the commission cuts red tape. It is administering a Charity Passport underpinned by a ‘‘report-once, use-often’’ framework.
Charities that work with different government departments and fundraise across the states will find that their reporting is simplified. That means charities in SA can expect to spend less time on paperwork, and more time in the community.
In its Senate submission this month, the SA Council of Social Service says reporting requirements imposed by the Charities Commission are “trivial by comparison to the onerous and often redundant reporting on grants and accreditations which afflict our sector”.
It applauds the SA Government for moving to legislate to harmonise reporting requirements and abolish the need for fundraising licences for charities registered with the Commission.
This would have “immediate benefit to charities by removing an unnecessary piece of red tape”, according to SACOSS.
Despite its obvious benefits to charities and the wider public, the Abbott Government intends scrapping the Commission. It hasn’t provided good reasons for the change, nor has it explained what will replace it.
The Government is heeding only a very small minority of critics of the Commission. According to a recent survey, four out of five charities support the work it is doing.
In wanting to scrap the Charities Commission the Government has no real plan for this country’s charities. It pretends to consult but will not listen to the sector that helps some of our most vulnerable people. South Australians deserve better.
Published as an Opinion piece in The Adelaide Advertiser
9 May, 2014