From the UK To the Charity Regulator Down Under
6 October 2014 at 9:45 am
A Chief Adviser to the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission Taskforce prior to his appointment to the role of Assistant Commissioner David Locke has also worked as an Executive Director at the Charity Commission of England and Wales.
Locke has worked as an adviser to several international Governments on the regulation of non-government organisations.
He has served as a board member and volunteer of a number of charities and Not for Profits.
David Locke is this week’s Changemaker.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
I am finalising the ACNC’s annual report. This report covers the ACNC’s first full year of operation. It gives Parliament, not-for-profits and the public a complete overview of the ACNC’s achievements and the charity landscape in Australia.
We have registered over 3,000 new Australian charities, protected $68 million of charitable funds through compliance action, and seen the national charity register come alive. The charity register provides unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability that supports charities and the public’s relationship and trust in them.
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
I started my career as a lawyer working in a disadvantaged area of North London. I saw the complexity of problems facing many individuals, families and the communities there. While the law provided solutions to individual situations it did not address any of the systemic problems that required policy or legislative change.
It was for this reason that I moved into the Not for Profit sector, taking a leadership role at a central London law centre running services and advocacy projects.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
It’s seeing policies and ideas translated into real action for charities. The ACNC has worked very hard over the last three years to co-design services that are easy to use and focused on what charities need.
For example the ACNC’s advice services staff who handled over 41,000 calls last year, with an average response time of just 55 seconds. Everywhere I have been charities have told me how much they value this service. The vast majority of board members are volunteers and I’m proud to say we have listened to their needs.
We are just finishing the Ask ACNC sessions, which have been held in 34 locations right across Australia, and attracted over 3,500 participants. Whatever the size of the charity, the cause or their passion, I am constantly inspired by peoples’ commitment and endeavour.
What has been the most challenging part of your work? And how do you overcome that?
The uncertain future of charity regulation obviously makes the environment we are operating in difficult. We understand that this causes confusion for charities themselves. I deal with this by concentrating on the clear statutory objectives in our legislation and working hard to show how the ACNC benefits the public as donors, volunteers, consumers, and beneficiaries of charities. At the ACNC, we believe in healthy and trusted charities and an appropriate regulatory regime for this important sector is clearly a key component.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
We have a fantastic team at the ACNC that is committed and empathic to the not-for-profit sector. Our people came from Not for Profits and the public and private sectors. Many staff moved interstate and five of us moved countries to work at the ACNC. This has resulted in a unique team of highly capable people who are passionate about what we do. All of this not only makes it a great place to work, but has also led to quality services.
I am always saying to colleagues we should aim to surprise and delight our customers.
Surprise is always easy to deliver, but it has to be surprise in a good way; delight is sometimes more of a challenge! But we continue to strive at it.
I’m always being asked …
Who my footy team is and what type of coffee I want. I think it’s a Melbourne thing.
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment? Why?
I could not stop watching the drama series The Honourable Woman recently. It has some of my favourite actors and brilliant writing and performances. It has very much caught the spirit of the time and the huge complexities that surround conflict. On a completely different note, I have a favourite in X Factor.
Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?
I really hope we see a vibrant, independent and transparent charity sector continue to grow in Australia. Charities are vital in every community and most of us have been touched by charities.
I very much hope to see increased trust in charities, the public feeling supported in their relationships with NFP’s and all governments working in respectful partnerships with the sector.
What (or who) inspires you?
As a group, it’s the volunteers or board members of charities that are hard to beat.
We all have incredibly busy lives but to take time out to fundraise, volunteer or spread the word for a cause is pretty special. Also I get a huge amount of inspiration when I meet volunteers who are particularly connected to a cause as well as advocating for it such as carers, or people affected by a particular medical condition who then campaign for improved outcomes, services and rights.
I was fortunate to be a judge on this year’s Hesta Community Sector awards and found it to be a humbling and inspirational experience.