Dear Commissioner: ACOSS
25 July 2022 at 11:38 am
In part one of our Dear Commissioner series, the acting CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service advises the future commissioner of the ACNC to redefine the organisation’s focus in line with its founding purpose.
Note from the editor: welcome to Dear Commissioner, a five-part series we will be running each day this week. We invited five sector leaders to write a letter to the future Commissioner of Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC), welcoming them to the role and explaining what they think the priorities should be for the organisation going forward.
To the future Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commissioner,
Welcome to your new role!
Your appointment provides the ideal opportunity to reflect on the ACNC’s purpose and current activities, and work with your team to refresh the ACNC’s approach and ensure it is a best practice regulator that supports and sustains a vibrant and essential charities sector.
It is crucial to the long-term effectiveness of the ACNC, and the health of the sector, that the ACNC strives to meet all three objectives in its governing act:
- to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the Australian not for profit sector; and
- to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative Australian not for profit sector; and
- to promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the Australian not for profit sector.
Under your predecessor’s oversight, the ACNC fixated on the rigour and credibility of the Charities Register at the expense of other objectives under the Act. The manner in which reviews into DGR status were conducted, particularly for public benevolent institutions, has caused incredible stress and anxiety with many in the sector feeling overwhelmed by the process. Charities have reported being blindsided by reviews with short timeframes, voluminous information requests and stressful interactions.
Reviews of the Charities Register are necessary, but so too is working constructively and closely with charities during the process.
Your appointment will be a chance to refresh the ACNC’s approach to investigations and the maintenance of the Charities Register, and also to rebalance its focus on all three regulatory objectives in the Act. The ACNC must do more to support and sustain the sector and reduce regulatory imposts. This is especially important considering the past three years of fires, floods and pandemic, where the community sector has been at the forefront of responses while also experiencing immense pressure from the crises and responses. Understanding the realities of charities’ work is key to supporting the sector. One need only look at our latest Australian Community Sector Survey to gain an understanding of the challenges community sector charities are currently facing.
To support and sustain the sector, we encourage you to lead the ACNC to work closely and collaboratively with organisations to build their capability and support compliance, and to offer genuine help. We encourage you to create a civil space for discussing ways to improve regulatory requirements and processes to reduce time and costs charities spend on these, allowing them to focus on helping their communities. This includes proactively offering education, training and advice to the sector on leading practice in charitable governance.
For the regulator to be effective, and for the sector to thrive, each needs the other. We look forward to working with you to refresh and deepen this symbiotic relationship.
Australian Council of Social Service
To read all the parts of the Dear Commissioner series after their publication, click here.