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Commissioner backs charities

If charities did not exist, we would need to invent them. That is how important they are to Australia, writes ACNC Commissionar Garry Johns.

Who else could organise resources around particular needs year in, year out, when the world is not looking, not momentarily taken with a particular crisis, and relieved to turn the page when something else turns up. Something else always turns up. Just ask Red Cross. Who will be there when the next emergency hits? Australian charities will.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission does not run charities, it does not tell them what to do. But, if they stray from spending their money on the cause for which they were established, we can step in and put them on the right path or deregister them.

At the height of a crisis, such as with the bushfires, tempers fray, and people make statements and observations that are wild and wrong. The three most pungent criticisms of charities are that they are too slow to distribute, they spend too much on administration and they hold on to some funds for another day.

Some individuals have raised more than $1m for bushfire relief. The money is not held in a charitable trust. There are no rules for distribution, no records for accounting for money spent and no guarantee that any money will be spent on bushfire victims. The donor has no way of knowing what happened to the money.

One of the worst things that can happen in a post-emergency phase is that money, goods and services get to the wrong people. And, unfortunately, frauds prey on these circumstances. Charities do not waste time in distribution but they do have to know who needs help and what sort of help.

They are built of the same sturdy stuff as the firefighters who, by the way, have enormous administrative backup systems.

Australia has a strong charitable sector and a powerful regulator, but good charity takes experience and time.

FULL ARTICLE

Bushfires generosity will not be betrayed by charities (The Australian)

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Garry Johns