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Susan Pascoe: Top regulator joins forces with Our Community

By Matthew Schulz, Journalist

Posted: August 27, 2019

You may already know outgoing Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission chief Susan Pascoe will soon be joining the Our Community family as the inaugural chair of the Community Directors Council.

But we thought you'd like to know a bit more about the calibre of this woman, who has also been at the helm of the following public organisations:

  • Inaugural Commissioner for the ACNC
  • Commissioner on the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission
  • Chair of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO
  • Chief executive of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
  • Commissioner at the State Services Authority (SSA) in Victoria
  • Chair and CEO of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria

Ms Pascoe's leadership was also recognised in 2016 with the Leadership in Government award for outstanding contribution to public administration in Australia, several years after she had already been made a member of the Order of Australia in 2007 for her contribution to education.

Significantly, the role with the Institute of Community Directors Australia (ICDA) is the first Ms Pascoe has accepted at the end of a seminal five-year term setting up and running the ACNC, which regulates the nation's 55,000 charities and guides its 600,000 not-for-profits.

Ms Pascoe is due to finish on September 30, but chairing the Community Directors Council would continue her mission of strengthening community groups, Ms Pascoe told Our Community.

"I've long been committed to improving the governance of the community sector, and am passionate about the contribution that community organisations make to the social fabric of the nation".

Days after the announcement about her new appointment, Ms Pascoe reflected on the challenging time in forging a regulatory body that hadn't existed, but charities had been clamouring for, for decades. Read her speech to not-for-profit groups and charities here.

Even at its very formation, "It was impossible to ignore the contested political backdrop. As Commissioner, I was responsible for a start-up venture that was threatened with immediate abolition should the government change".

Of course, Ms Pascoe navigated the course to reduce red tape for charities amid "limited leverage with Commonwealth agencies, and none at all with state and territory governments".

In some ways, she sees a tough task for the incoming commissioner, as well as Assistant Commissioners David Locke and Murray Baird, who will share responsibility as acting commissioner until a full-time appointment is confirmed.

She notes - among a string of other challenges - the ACNC now faces a "budget cliff" with its $14.8m annual allocation shrinking by almost $1m, and "storm clouds brewing around ... political advocacy".

Nevertheless, in parting, the highly respected regulator leaves behind a body that is effective, efficient and supported by the sector.

Let's leave it to Ms Pascoe to describe the legacy she's left with the ACNC:

"With the establishment of the ACNC, we now have a supported, supervised and more savvy sector:

  • charities report annually and the information is publicly available on the ACNC Register and in consolidated form at data.gov.au and australiancharities.acnc.gov.au;
  • annual reports on the status of the sector are published and independent research is commissioned;
  • mischief is dealt with - charities must meet the governance standards or face compliance action;
  • there is freely available guidance and advice on the ACNC website, and professional bodies provide support to charities to help them meet their regulatory and reporting obligations; and
  • progress has been made with other Commonwealth and state and territory agencies to reduce red tape.

"As outgoing Commissioner, I can say with confidence, that the overwhelming majority of Australian charities are well-governed, operate with sound financial management, and are worthy of the trust and confidence of the Australian community. Long may they thrive!"

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