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ABL acts for Global Citizen on landmark charities decision

Native Title & Public Interest Law
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Arnold Bloch Leibler has acted in securing a huge win for the Australian arm of the international anti-poverty charity Global Citizen, on its registration dispute with charities regulator the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

The dispute was heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) following an application to the ACNC by Global Citizen Ltd (Global Citizen), to be registered as a public benevolent institution (PBI) and be eligible for tax deductible donations. The ACNC had refused to register Global Citizen as a PBI on the basis of Global Citizen’s education and advocacy work. 

In September, the landmark decision was handed down in Global Citizen Ltd and ACNC  [2021] AATA 3313 and last week the ACNC confirmed it was not going to appeal. The AAT found that the ACNC had wrongly denied Global Citizen PBI status. The AAT decided that Global Citizen, a charity which uses advocacy to secure financial and policy commitments from world leaders to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and end world poverty, is a PBI. The AAT accepted that advocacy, awareness-raising and educational activities are common methods employed by entities tackling global issues. It confirmed the need to adopt a contemporary meaning of the notion of PBI, saying that most large PBIs were engaged with the political process as a ‘regular and indispensable part of their work’.  

As reported by The Guardian, the decision is a ‘huge win’ for Australian charities. It will also have widespread implications for the charities sector, as Arnold Bloch Leibler has successfully challenged the ACNC’s approach to the registration of PBIs.   

Partner Joey Borensztajn AM, special counsel Bridgid Cowling and lawyer Jessica Wills acted pro bono for Global Citizen throughout the registration and appeals process. They were assisted by pro bono counsel Jennifer Batrouney AM QC and Angela Lee.

Joey Borensztajn AM commented on the decision: “This win for our client Global Citizen is a huge victory. As a result of this decision, those working to relieve poverty and hardship in the Australian charities sector will have greater freedom to be involved with the kind of advocacy that we know is crucial for sustainable relief efforts.”

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