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2014 - The Year of NFP Change

18 December 2014 at 11:07 am
Xavier Smerdon
It was a very big news year for the Australian Not for Profit sector and as 2014 comes to a close, Pro Bono Australia looks back at the year that was and what made the biggest impact on the Not for Profit sector.

Xavier Smerdon | 18 December 2014 at 11:07 am


2014 - The Year of NFP Change
18 December 2014 at 11:07 am

It was a very big news year for the Australian Not for Profit sector and as 2014 comes to a close, Pro Bono Australia looks back at the year that was and what made the biggest impact on the Not for Profit sector. 

From the fate of Australia’s first national charity regulator to revelations of widespread abuse in the disability care sector, Not for Profits had a lot to take notice of during the last 12 months.

1) The Abbott Government plans to scrap the ACNC.

After 17 years of reports and inquiries the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission was launched in December 2012.

The Abbott Opposition went to the 2013 election with a promise to abolish the regulator, but 2014 proved to be a year full of surprises for the new Government.

The ACNC Repeal Bill No 1 was reintroduced into the House of Representatives on Wednesday 3 December after previously being introduced in March 2014.

Federal Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, said multiple times that the ACNC created an unnecessary burden on charities.

“We have abolished the national gambling regulator, we proposed to abolish the charities commission,” Andrews said.

“Whether it is in aged care or family services or charities, we want to break the shackles of red tape around the ankles of these agencies.

“We want to allow them to do what they do best, not filling in forms and completing red tape but serving the people of Australia.”

But the future of the ACNC remains in limbo, with key crossbench Senators refusing to support plans to abolish it and the charity sector will need to wait until next year to learn of its fate.

2) Complexity of NFP sector laid bare

In September the groundbreaking Curtin Charities Report was released, revealing previously undetailed features of the Not for Profit sector.

The report analysed 38,000 charities registered with the ACNC and found that nearly one million people were employed by Australian charities and that over 90 per cent of these are employed by only 10 per cent of charities.

Additionally, it found that charities manage around two million volunteers.  The sector has a combined total income of more than $100 billion.

The report also revealed a complex Not for Profit sector that has grown by two per cent annually since 1990, and delivered a warning that the sector’s diversity should not be ignored by policy makers.

3) Federal Budget makes life difficult for charities

Tony Abbott and his Treasurer Joe Hockey always declared they would deliver a tough budget, claiming that the previous Labor Government had left Australia with a $30 billion deficit.

In May Hockey delivered his first Budget, claiming that it would create savings of more than $36 billion with major funding changes to jobs, health, education, welfare, foreign aid and the slashing of more than 16,000 public service jobs.

“We know that for some in the community this Budget will not be easy. But this Budget is not about self-interest. This Budget is about the national interest,” Hockey said.

But the Australian NFP sector was quick to raise concerns about the impact of the Budget.

“The Budget divides rather than mends. It entrenches divisions between those with decent incomes, housing and health care and those without them,” Australian Council Of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

“It undermines the fabric of our social safety net with severe cuts to health, disability support, income support, community services and housing programs.”

“The real pain of this budget – crushing and permanent – will be felt by people on low incomes, young people, single parents, those with illness or disability, and those struggling to keep a roof over their heads. These are the groups doing the ‘heavy lifting’ for the Budget repair job.”

4) Abuse in disability care sector revealed

In November the ABC Four Corners program aired allegations of serious sexual, mental and financial abuse carried out on disabled clients by their carers at the largest disability service provider in Victoria, Yooralla.

It was revealed that at least two carers had seriously abused clients, with Yooralla management also accused of mismanaging complaints.

Following the reports former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes was one of many to call for an inquiry into the “huge problem” of abuse in the sector was needed.

“What’s needed is a national independent inquiry because it will have more capacity to obtain evidence than a Parliamentary inquiry,” Innes told Pro Bono Australia News.

“I believe the media reports are just the tip of the iceberg. There is no doubt in my mind that these reports are the start of a range of similar incidents across Australia.

“I am aware of a dozen to hundreds of allegations and that’s why we need a national inquiry.”

The Federal Government rejected calls to undertake a national inquiry, saying the abuse allegations were a state issue.

Just before the November Victorian election, both of the major parties promised to undertake an inquiry.

5) Surveys reveal thoughts of the NFP sector

Pro Bono Australia delivered two major sector surveys this year that garnered national attention.

The first was the State of the Not for Profit Sector Survey which questioned 1,250 Not for Profit leaders, volunteers and sector managers.

It was the second time Pro Bono Australia had undertaken the survey, with the results revealing that the confidence of the sector after the first twelve months of the Abbott Government had delivered a 34 point drop in the Not for Profit Sector Perceived Performance Index.

The survey again confirmed the Not for Profit sector’s support for the ACNC. Some 82 per cent (compared to 83 percent in the 2013 survey) believe the ACNC is important or extremely important for developing a thriving Australian Not for Profit sector.

Six out of 10 respondents stated that they preferred the ACNC as the form of regulation for the Not for Profit sector. Three out of 10 preferred a co-regulation system (a combination of formal and self-regulation) with only one in 17 supporting regulation through the Australian Tax Office and one in 20 supporting self-regulation.

The results of the survey were launched at the National Press Club in Canberra with a forum led by CEO of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello, CEO of Foundation for Young Australians, Jan Owen and Toby Hall, CEO for St Vincent’s Health Australia.

The results of the survey were quoted in Federal Parliament several times with Labor politicians urging the Abbott Government to heed the opinions of the Not for Profit sector.

The second survey undertaken by Pro Bono Australia was the inaugural Impact 25, which asked readers to nominate and vote for the most influential people in the sector.

Almost 4,000 people took part in the survey with Tim Costello being named the most influential.

He was joined by 24 other people from across the sector including CEOs from major charities, tireless advocates, fundraisers and campaigners.

Notable inclusions on the list were domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Batty, Community Council for Australia CEO, David Crosbie, and ACNC Commissioner, Susan Pascoe AM.

Pro Bono Australia news will continue to provide the best and most up-to-date news in the Not for Profit sector in 2015.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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