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Victoria reduces red tape for charitable fundraisers

Native Title & Public Interest Law
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In very welcome news, Victoria has reduced the regulatory burden for charitable fundraising within Victoria. From 1 September 2020, charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) are not required to apply for a fundraising licence in Victoria.

Instead, ACNC registered charities are now only required to notify Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) of their intent to fundraise. This removes several obligations, including applying for fundraiser registration, renewing fundraiser registration and lodging annual statements. Existing registered fundraisers will also benefit from these changes, provided they notify CAV of their charity registration.

This is a significant positive step which will enable faster and easier access for charities seeking to fundraise within Victoria. Registered charities will continue to have ongoing responsibilities to CAV, including the maintenance of accurate financial records.

What about other jurisdictions?

Each State, and the ACT, operates its own regulatory processes for fundraising, resulting in multiple licences being required to fundraise across the States and Territories. Each also has its own definition of charitable fundraising, meaning licencing may be required in some jurisdictions and not others.

Like Victoria, South Australia and the ACT operate streamlined frameworks for charities that fundraise in those jurisdictions. In South Australia, ACNC registered charities are automatically licensed to collect for charitable purposes provided the charity notifies the Consumer and Business Services. In the ACT, charities are no longer required to apply for or renew an ACT charitable collections licence from Access Canberra. However, charities that intend to fundraise through authorised gaming (e.g. lotteries) need to apply for a permit from the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission.

New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland have not yet adopted streamlined processes. However, since 1 July 2020, Western Australia now issues continuous licences that do not expire, and ACNC registered charities are not required to submit annual statements or financial reports to Consumer Protection.

What’s next?

Currently, the NSW Government is working with other States and Territories and the ACNC on reducing regulatory burdens for charities that operate across Australia. A proposed cross-border recognition model which would allow ACNC registered charities to be automatically deemed to hold a fundraising authority in each participating State and Territory is detailed in the discussion paper: ‘Proposed Cross-border recognition model for charitable fundraisers’.

ABL also welcomes any moves to reduce the significant burdens of fundraising regulation and red tape for charities operating throughout Australia. However, the proposal for cross-border recognition of charitable fundraisers does not go far enough. It does not address the lack of uniformity in the definition of charitable fundraising nor in the requirements for a licenced fundraiser in each jurisdiction, and it does not improve the State and Territory based fundraising laws that are not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

The tragic bushfires of last summer and the extreme need created by the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated just how outdated and unworkable the current fundraising laws are. We endorse the Justice Connect #FixFundraising campaign and support the removal of State based regulation of charitable fundraising entirely. Reliance on the Australian Consumer Law supported by a charitable fundraising code of conduct is, in our view, the most appropriate way to regulate charitable fundraising.

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