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Future proofing the role of Australian charity advocacy

Jun 26, 2024 | Media Releases

Today, the Stronger Charities Alliance, a coalition of nearly 140 charities, is launching critical legislation to protect the sector’s right to engage in advocacy. The Alliance, in collaboration with leading charity experts, has developed a Bill that would resolve urgent issues facing the sector.

The Bill will be launched at a Press Conference at Australian Parliament House Mural Hall this morning at 9:30am. Representatives from a dozen charities will be joined by Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh MP, and Independent Member for Curtin Kate Chaney.

The proposed amendment to the legislation governing Australian charities would enable them to undertake advocacy on laws and policy without fear of political reprisal or risk to their charitable status. This suite of reforms would resolve the most urgent issues facing the charity sector regarding its rights to advocate. These are: legal clarity around the benefit to our democracy and society from charitable advocacy, the right to publicly engage in government policy discussions without fear of losing funding or favour with the government of the day, and a merit-based appointment process for choosing the Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

The reforms launched today are common-sense, uncontentious legislative updates with a budget neutral impact, and the Stronger Charities Alliance calls on the Parliament to pass them as soon as possible.

Quotes to be attributed as below:
Saffron Zomer, Chief Executive Officer at Australian Democracy Network
“The sector is clear about the solutions that are important to us. We have engaged with the government’s review processes, but it’s time to address long-standing issues. We urgently want action that respects and protects our crucial role as advocates.”

“In a fair democracy, a multitude of voices is able to contribute to public debate. The ability of the charity sector to advocate on the issues we are experts on, to speak up for our communities and to play an appropriate role in policy debates should be guaranteed regardless of the politics of the day.”

Mark Gaetani, National President, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia Inc
”St Vincent de Paul Society’s advocacy role is as important to our work as providing a meal and shelter to those in need. Our focus on addressing the causes of poverty and injustice is central to our mission and this important right of charities should be protected.”

Robyn Sampson, Chief Executive Officer at Baptist Care Australia:
“Organisations like Baptist Care Australia are committed to working to make Australia a better place. Everything we do is for the benefit of the public. Through our work, we learn a lot about the problems people face and how things could change for the better. Charities should not be afraid of losing funding or favour for advocating for changes to laws or policies that will make people’s lives better.”

Rod Goodbun, Interim Director of Programs at Oxfam Australia:
“Charity goes beyond just providing material assistance to those in need – organisations like Oxfam also champion policy changes to tackle the root causes of inequality. We strive for lasting solutions and that means advocating strong public policy positions. This is vital to a healthy democracy and we all benefit from having charitable advocacy protected in law.”

Marc Purcell, Chief Executive Officer at ACFID (Australian Council for International Development):
“When we look around the world we increasingly see attacks on human rights organisations, civil society, and a slow closing of spaces for citizens to speak truth to power. These amendments are sensible, modest, but also vitally important to ensure a diversity of voices are heard in our parliamentary democracy.”

Cassandra Goldie, Chief Executive Officer at ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service):
“This Bill protects charities from attempts to silence their voices, when speaking up for systemic change. When NFPs undertake advocacy in pursuit of their charitable purpose they contribute to the good governance of the country.The Bill strengthens legal protections for not-for-profit organisations, which will only
encourage and empower our sector to continue their calls to make Australia a better place for
everyone.”

Media Contact: Isabella Morand, Engagement Coordinator, Australian Democracy Network, on 0407 356 084 or
[email protected]

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