For an organisation to be recognised as a charity in Australia, it must be registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), under one or more charity subtypes.

Charity subtypes are categories which reflect the 12 charitable purposes under the Charities Act 2013 (Cth) (Charities Act). In this article we explore the charitable purpose of ‘Advancing health’.

What is the charitable purpose of ‘Advancing health’?

A charity’s purpose is the reason for its existence, in other words its objective or ‘why’. Without limiting what constitutes this purpose, the Charities Act defines ‘Advancing health’ as including the purpose of preventing and relieving sickness, disease or human suffering.

The ACNC provides the following examples of charities registered under this subtype:

  • associations, foundations and support groups for people with particular illnesses or diseases;
  • hospitals, ambulance services, and nursing services;
  • family planning and support services; and
  • medical research bodies.

According to the 8th edition of the Australian Charities Report, just over 1.4% of charities were registered solely with the subtype of ‘Advancing health’. However, it is important to remember, charities may choose to register under more than one subtype if their purpose intersects with another subtype – for example a charity advancing health may also have a secondary purpose of advancing social or public welfare.

What kinds of activities does a charity pursuing this subtype undertake?

Activities undertaken by a charity must support its charitable purpose. If a charity’s purpose is its ‘why’, then its activities are its ‘what’. That is what does the charity do to further its purpose. For charities with the purpose of ‘Advancing health’ activities undertaken to support the charitable purpose may include:

  • providing care, treatment and rehabilitation by hospitals, medical centres, sexual health clinics, alcohol and drug treatment centres, mental health institutions and community health services such as home nursing, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, referral pathways, health checks, early identification and mobile screening, and patient transport services;
  • providing training for medical professionals regarding the diagnosis, treatment and management of illness or disease;
  • providing public health services aimed at advancing the health of the general public or sections of the general public, such as health promotion, nutrition services, immunisation and screening for diseases;
  • providing training for medical professionals regarding the most recent developments in best practice for diagnosing, treating and/or managing illness;
  • providing education seminars to people regarding health, and the risks of, protection from, and treatment for diseases; and
  • undertaking research related to the nature, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and incidence of disease and other health problems, research into health services, nutritional problems, pharmacology and similar services.

These and other examples are provided by the ACNC and also set out in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Charities Act.

Are there additional considerations for charities registering under this subtype?

Regardless of their subtype, not-for-profit organisations wishing to register as a charity with the ACNC must satisfy certain requirements associated with the definition of charity. The Charities Act codifies the definition of charity, which requires (amongst other things) an entity:

  • is not-for-profit;
  • has all of its purposes as charitable purposes for the public benefit (or any non-charitable purposes are incidental or ancillary to, and in aid of its charitable purpose(s));
  • does not have a disqualifying purpose (i.e. engaging in or promoting activities which are unlawful or against public policy, or promoting or opposing a political party or a candidate for political office); and
  • is not an individual, political party or a government entity.

Health promotion charity subtype differences

Health promotion charity (HPC) is another charity subtype. Although HPCs will commonly have advancing health as their charitable purpose, the definition of a HPC is narrower than the subtype and charitable purpose of ‘Advancing health’. HPCs are charitable institutions whose principal activity is to promote the prevention or the control of diseases in human beings'. That is, their focus is narrower than health generally and requires a promotion type activity. 

HPCs are eligible for range of tax concessions, including DGR endorsement. You can learn more about what an HPC is in our article ‘Health Promotion Charities: What are they?

Charities registered under the subtype advancing health will not, without an additional subtype, generally be eligible for whole of organisation endorsement as a DGR (but will be eligible for other charity tax concessions). For more information on DGR endorsement, read our article ‘Could your organisation be endorsed as a deductible gift recipient?’.

How can we help?

If you would like to establish a charity with a purpose of advancing health, if you would like to amend the subtype for your existing charity or otherwise review your current compliance, please get in touch with our specialist Charities + Social Sector Lawyers.


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