States slow to act on fundraising reform

Posted on 27 Feb 2024

By Greg Thom and Matthew Schulz, journalists, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Shutterstock 1292473597

State governments across the nation have been accused of dragging the chain on fundraising reform.

Despite having agreed at a meeting in Canberra a year ago to a reform timetable, most states have missed deadlines to share their plans for implementing national fundraising principles.

The principles, developed by a working group with representatives from all states and territories, are designed to streamline and harmonise state and territory requirements on charitable fundraiser conduct.

In February 2023, each jurisdiction agreed to release an implementation plan by July that year explaining how they would bring the principles to life through regulatory changes or legislation.

A recent analysis by the Coalition for Fundraising Reform revealed only Tasmania, Queensland and South Australia have released their implementation plans.

South Australia has made the most progress, going one step further and implementing the fundraising principles without amendment.

Formed in 2016, the coalition for fundraising reform comprises sector organisations and professional bodies including Justice Connect, the Community Council for Australia and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) who have campaigned for a nationally consistent fundraising regime.

The coalition said the fundraising principles would be effective only if they were introduced in a harmonised way, which would mean:

  • implementing the principles as agreed and announced in February 2023 without amendment
  • repealing or ‘switching off’ all local fundraising rules so that a charity, no matter where it raised funds, would only need to comply with the principles
  • ensuring any regulatory guidance was uniform across all states and territories
Geraldine Menere Justice Connect
Justice Connect's head of not-for-profit law, Geraldine Menere.

Justice Connect's head of not-for-profit law, Geraldine Menere lamented the lack of urgency from the states in implementing the reforms.

“The lack of action is concerning and casts a shadow over the prospects of successful harmonisation and genuine red tape reduction for charities anytime in the near future,” she said.

“There is the potential for these reforms to save charities hundreds of hours of unnecessary administration, but to realise this benefit, the reforms must be implemented quickly and consistently to ensure the key aims – simplification and harmonisation – are achieved.”

The issue was raised by Opposition charities spokesman Senator Dean Smith in a recent Senate Estimates hearing, in which he grilled officials from the Treasury and Finance departments on the progress toward a universal fundraising framework.

In response to questions from the Community Advocate, none of the state and territory jurisdictions that have yet to release their implementation plans – Victoria, NSW, WA, and the ACT – explained in detail why they were seven months behind schedule in doing so.

The Victorian government was the only jurisdiction in the country that refused to be quoted on the record.

“The lack of action is concerning and casts a shadow over the prospects of successful harmonisation and genuine red tape reduction for charities anytime in the near future.”
Justice Connect's head of not-for-profit law, Geraldine Menere.

New South Wales

A spokesman for NSW Fair Trading said that the state government had passed legislation on 6 February 2024 to introduce a “deemed recognition and compliance model” for NSW fundraisers that are also registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC).

“This is a major step towards national harmonisation of charitable fundraising laws and will align NSW with almost all other jurisdictions when it commences,” the spokesperson said.

They said under existing NSW regulations, many of the national fundraising principles were effectively already in place.

“Further work is being undertaken this year to complete this process as part of national harmonisation measures, which will involve amending supporting regulations and public consultation.“ 


A Victorian Government spokesperson refused to be quoted on the record, offering only to provide a general comment as background.

Western Australia

A spokesperson said the WA Government had committed to implementing the harmonised conduct principles as soon as reasonably practicable.

“While a number of those principles are already included in WA legislation, the WA Government is in the process of progressing the legislative amendments required to implement the remaining principles.”

Australian Capital Territory

A government spokesman said the ACT is working to introduce legislation to give effect to the fundraising principles, with the ACT implementation plan expected to be publicly released “in coming weeks.”

“The ACT supports the need for charitable fundraising laws to be aligned, to reduce unnecessary red tape for charities and ensure donor funding can be directed to people and communities in need,” the spokesperson said.

South Australia

SA Consumer and Business Affairs Minister Andrea Michaels said South Australia was leading the nation in relation to the fundraising reforms.

“The Malinauskas government recognises the important work that charities undertake in South Australia as well as the need to reduce red tape and ensure consistency between all states and territories,” she said.

“With changes to the regulations taking effect from late January, we have been working with those charities who have registered with Consumer and Business Services to ensure they understand the requirements under the new Code of Practice.

“Charities have been given a month’s grace period to assist with the transition and will be expected to comply with the new requirements from the start of March.”


A spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Attorney-General said the Queensland Implementation Plan for National Fundraising Principles was released in November 2023 and work on the necessary legislative reforms is underway.

"To date, Queensland has made good progress towards national coordination of fundraising regulation and the reduction of red tape for charities that conduct fundraising across borders."

This includes harmonising financial reporting requirements for charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) in July 2022, by generally excluding those charities from reporting requirements under Queensland legislation.

The spokesperson said an estimated 72.5 per cent of the organisations authorised to conduct fundraising in Queensland have benefitted from this reporting exemption.

"We’ve also made it easier for charities registered with the ACNC to obtain a Queensland fundraising authorisation by implementing a nationally agreed cross-border recognition scheme in May 2023.

"For charities that are not registered with the ACNC, we have reduced registration and reporting burdens by removing public notification requirements, increasing financial reporting thresholds, and replacing mandatory audit requirements with risk-based reporting arrangements."


A Tasmanian Consumer Building and Occupational Services (CBOS) spokesperson said the Charities and Associations Law (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2023 was tabled in Parliament late last year.

“The Bill aimed to align Tasmania with national registration and harmonisation reforms, reducing the regulatory burdens on charities (particularly those operating and reporting across jurisdictions).”

They said because the Bill did not pass through both Houses of Parliament before the Tasmanian election was called (scheduled for March 23) they could not comment further because the government was now in caretaker mode.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory does not currently regulate fundraising.

Charities Minister Andrew Leigh said he believed it was important to stick to the legislative timetable for implementing the fundraising principles that all states and territories committed to.

“I think it's an important reform and I know it's warmly welcomed by the charity and not-for-profit sector,” he said.

“I know that they understand the value of charitable fundraising, harmonisation, the benefits that that brings to the charities and not for profits and their states and territories.”

Mr Leigh said he had no plans to apply pressure on the states to ramp up their implementation roadmap.

“You've had a number of changes of government, which always makes things more challenging, but the purpose of the reforms is broadly recognised and we're engaging both at the official's level and at a political level to make sure that happens.

“States and territories are aware of where we [federal government] stand and are aware of the importance of them getting this reform done.”

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!