In continuation of our Charitable Purpose series, we explore the charitable purpose often referred to as ‘other similar purposes beneficial to the general public’.

What is a charitable purpose?

To be registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) an entity must satisfy certain criteria, including that it 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)).

The Charities Act 2013 (Cth) (Charities Act) sets out 12 charitable purposes. These are:

(a) the purpose of advancing health;

(b) the purpose of advancing education;

(c) the purpose of advancing social or public welfare;

(d) the purpose of advancing religion;

(e) the purpose of advancing culture;

(f) the purpose of promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia;

(g) the purpose of promoting or protecting human rights;

(h) the purpose of advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public;

(i) the purpose of preventing or relieving the suffering of animals;

(j) the purpose of advancing the natural environment;

(k) any other purpose beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (j);

(l) the purpose of promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a State, a Territory or another country, if:

(i) in the case of promoting a change—the change is in furtherance or in aid of one or more of the purposes mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (k); or

(ii) in the case of opposing a change—the change is in opposition to, or in hindrance of, one or more of the purposes mentioned in those paragraphs.

It is the purpose set out at paragraph (k), which is the focus of this article.

The ACNC will determine an organisation’s purpose by considering a range of sources, including its constitution, activities, website, any business or strategic plans and even social media platforms.

What is the charitable purpose of ‘other similar purposes beneficial to the general public’?

This charitable purpose is intentionally difficult to define. It is intended to:

  • encompass other purposes the courts have found to be charitable, which do not come within the categories described in the Charities Act and which were charitable purposes before the commencement of the Charities Act; and
  • allow for the meaning of charitable purpose to develop through future court decisions interpreting the definition within the statutory framework of the Charities Act, in accordance with contemporary Australian society’s needs and expectations.

This acknowledges what is considered charitable is not necessarily a fixed concept and may change over time in accordance with the needs and expectations of Australian society (as determined by the courts).

Importantly, this charitable purpose is not intended to be a general category that gives broad scope to register entities that would otherwise not be charitable. An entity seeking registration as a charity should first give serious consideration to the other charitable purposes referred to in the Charities Act and consider whether one or more of these is an appropriate fit. If so, selecting one of the other subtypes is generally preferable. If not, and the entity’s purposes are similar to, but not fully covered by, the other subtypes, then it may be appropriate to select this charitable purpose as the chosen subtype.

How can we help?

If you believe your organisation is eligible for charity registration under the subtype of ‘other similar purposes beneficial to the community’ or if you would like to amend your charity subtype or otherwise review your current compliance, please get in touch with our specialist Charities + Social Sector Lawyers.

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