15/03/2022

As part of our series on charitable purposes, this time we ask what is the charitable purpose of ‘promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia’?

To be registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) an organisation must have all of its purposes as charitable purposes for the public benefit.

The Charities Act 2013 (Cth) (Charities Act) sets out 12 charitable purposes, one of which is the purpose of ‘promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia’.

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.

The Charities Act does not specifically define the charitable purpose of ‘promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia’ nor the meaning of reconciliation, mutual respect or tolerance. With no legislative definition, these words take on their ordinary meaning.

In order to register a charity under this subtype, an applicant must be able to demonstrate how their organisation’s activities further this purpose.

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

A charity’s activities must support its charitable purpose. It can be useful to think of activities in terms of the organisation’s ‘what’, i.e. what will the organisation do to help further / advance / fulfil its purpose?

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Charities Act (Explanatory Memorandum) provides some guidance on activities which may be considered promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance. These include:

  • promoting harmony and understanding, and reducing conflict between people from different races, religions or belief systems;
  • eliminating discrimination, for example on grounds of age, gender or sexual orientation, and promoting equality and diversity;
  • promoting restorative justice and other forms of conflict resolution or reconciliation, and
  • mediating, conciliating or reconciling those involved or likely to become involved in dispute or conflict, including individuals, organisations, authorities or groups.

An example of an activity which promotes reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance provided by the ACNC, is holding an annual multicultural festival, to provide people with the opportunity and encouragement  to share their culture with others in the community.

While these activities are not restrictive, they must be directed to groups in Australia, e.g. promoting harmony between people living in Indonesia and people living in Australia would not be considered promoting reconciliation, but promoting harmony between religious groups in Australia would be.

What if my organisation has another purpose?

According to the Australian Charities Report 7th edition (based on data from 2019 Annual Information Statements), the charity subtype of promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance is one of the least common (with charities registered under this subtype comprising less than 1% of all registered charities).

The ACNC notes that while only a small number of charities are registered under the sole subtype of promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance, many charities that promote reconciliation, such as Indigenous charities, are highly likely to be registered under other subtypes as well.

Where an organisation has more than one purpose, and many activities, they must all further its charitable purposes.

What are the other requirements for registration as a charity with the purpose of promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals in Australia?

Registered charities, regardless of their subtype, must satisfy certain requirements associated with the definition of charity. The Charities Act codifies the definition of charity, which requires (amongst other things) that 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; and
  • is not an individual, political party or a government entity.

Disqualifying purposes include engaging in or promoting activities that are unlawful or against public policy, or promoting or opposing a political party or a candidate for political office.

How can we help?

If you believe your organisation is eligible for charity registration under the subtype of promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals in Australia, 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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