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Australia is more distrusting of charities than ever, ACNC finds

The ACNC annual report finds Australian donors are more and more distrusting of charities, with an almost 50 per cent increase in concerns between 2017 and 2018

Australians are more concerned than ever that charities are not performing ethically and responsibly, with 46 per cent more reports to the charity regulator in 2018.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) received 1,869 concerns about charities in 2017-18, according to the latest annual report. In total, the commission has received 5,438 concerns and complaints since 2012.

Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said: “While the vast majority of registered charities operate in a professional and responsible manner, there are a small number of charities that do the wrong thing and abuse their position and privileges.

“There are also charities that set out with good intensions but, due to poor governance or mismanagement, place charitable funds and assets at risk of misuse.”

The number of Australian charities that had their registrations revoked in 2017-18 was 22, the same as the year before. Johns said that the ACNC takes appropriate compliance action against a charity to ensure public trust and confidence is maintained.

Johns said in the year ahead that the commission will be ramping up its efforts to proactively identify charities at risk of abusing privileges.

“In 2018-19, the ACNC will continue to increase our capabilities to proactively identify charities at greater risk of misuse and non-compliance,” Johns said.

He said that this process will be made easier by the commission having recently become a designated agency under anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws. The shift means the regulator can access data from financial intel body, AUSTRAC.

The commission is also working on making it easier for Australians to compare statistics and information about charities on its website. This information will be an important element of the nation’s charity market, which is made up of 56,000 organisations.

“Charities use images and data to sell their wares, to save a child in Africa, to rescue a stray dog, to save the planet. Donors buy those assurances. To me, that is a market,” Johns said.

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