Australian Charity Law Association Conference
Wednesday, 22nd September 2010 at 3:20 pm
A charity law conference keynote speaker, Justice Peter Young of the NSW Court of Appeal has called on charities to improve their communication with donors, particularly regarding their governance and the allocation of donations once they are received.
Photo (L to R) Robert Fitzgerald, Productivity Commissioner, Michael Hardy, Commissioner, Australian Taxation Office and Trevor Garrett, Chief Executive, New Zealand Charities Commission.
Justice Young was delivering the keynote address the Australian Charity Law Association's (ACLA) inaugural conference this month.received.
Justice Young also drew attention to what he described as the concerning presumption developing amongst donors that donations to certain countries are likely to fall into the hands of terrorists, citing this as a potential reason that donations to Pakistan flood appeals have been so slow in coming.
ACLA's inaugural annual conference was held from Friday 10th – Saturday 11th September 2010 at Brighton-le-Sands in Sydney. The conference was attended by 65 people from across the legal and Not for Profit sectors, as well as academics and representatives of government agencies.
Over the course of the conference there were 25 sessions and expert panels, covering a broad range of issues relevant to Not for Profit law and regulation. Topics covered included charity law reform, the impact of pro bono services on the non-profit legal market and the role of a charity regulator.
Victorian Barrister and Past President of Australian Women Lawyers, Jennifer Batrouney SC has used her address at the Charity Law conference to voice concerns over the relationship between the rule of law and the Tax Commissioner's tax rulings.
She said that there was too much of a delay between the handing down of court decisions, and the updating of the relevant tax rulings to reflect the change in common law. The High Court decision in Word Investments, for example, is yet to be reflected in any tax ruling and is yet to be applied by the ATO in practice, despite the judgment having been handed down in December 2008.
Batrouney also suggested this attitude to decisions of Australian Courts, up to the High Court itself, was indicative of the ATO's misunderstanding of those most fundamental of legal principles – the rule of law and separation of the judicial and executive arms of government.
Productivity Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald used his address to encourage the charity sector and its advisors to embrace the proposed reforms to the Not for Profit sector, and challenged them to be prepared to focus on what can be agreed, even if it is not perfection – so that some reform can be implemented after 15 years of talk.
He said that essential to these reforms are the establishment of an Office for Not for Profit Sector Engagement within Prime Minister & Cabinet, and effective regulatory reform. He called on the states and territories to improve the capacity of their agencies to implement the long overdue reforms.
Fitzgerald challenged the sector to rediscover its historically entrepreneurial nature, warning that it risks becoming too subservient to government, and warned that reform would require a united approach from the sector, focused on what can be agreed upon with government.
Anne Robinson, Chairman of the Australian Charity Law Association described the conference as a great success due to the willingness of so many key lawyers and others in the sector to actively and generously participate in the program.
ACLA was established in 2009 to provide a forum for continuing education and training for those providing legal services to the charity and Not for Profit sector.
Robinson says a vibrant and effective charity sector is best served by the provision of legal services that are of the highest possible professional competence and informed by academic excellence and the Association was established to facilitate this.
During the past year, ACLA has also arranged numerous seminars in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with international guest speakers including David Locke, the Executive Director of Charity Servies with the UK Charities Commission and Evelyn Brody, Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.