Changes to ACNC Governance Standards

Recent Change to Governance Standards

A new Governance Standard came into affect recently. It will affect charities that fail to join to the National Redress Scheme for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

Governance Standard 6 requires a registered charity to take reasonable steps to become a participating non-government institution if the charity is, or is likely to be, identified as being involved in the abuse of a person:

  • in an application for redress made under section 19 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 (Cth) (Redress Act) or
  • in information given in response to a request from the National Redress Scheme Operator (the Secretary of the Department of Social Services) under section 24 or 25 of the Redress Act.

This could include, for example, a registered charity that was named in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse but may not have been identified so far in a redress application.

Proposed Change to Governance Standards

Governance Standard 3 currently requires charities to not act in a way that, under Commonwealth, state or territory law, could be dealt with as:

  • an indictable offence (being a serious crime that is generally tried by a judge and a jury), or
  • a breach of law that has a civil (not criminal) penalty of 60 penalty units (currently $12,600) or more.

The proposed amendments will include that, in addition to the current governance standard, registered charities:

  • must not engage in conduct that may be dealt with as a summary offence relating to real property, personal property or persons under an Australian law; and
  • must take reasonable steps to ensure their resources are not used, nor continued to be used,to promote or support any entity to engage in unlawful activities prohibited under the standard.

Under the changes, registered charities will be prohibited from engaging in summary offences under Commonwealth, State and Territory laws relating to:

  • real property (e.g. trespass or unlawful entry, gathering or remaining on land or in buildings);
  • personal property (e.g. damage, theft or vandalism of personal property); and
  • interference with an individual (e.g. assault, causing injury or harm, threatening violence or otherwise intimidating an individual).

The changes do not extend to all summary offences as the Government has indicated that this would capture minor or inadvertent contraventions that do not affect the governance or proper regulation of charities. For example, the Explanatory Statement makes clear it will not capture a situation where an employee of a registered charity receives a minor traffic infringement while at work.

We have sought clarity from the Government that the changes will not capture some of the ‘low bar’ offences in, or proposed, at a State or Territory level that makes illegal ‘conduct which offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules’ another person.