Regulator guidance for charities on Voice referendum

Tuesday, 07 March 2023

Simon Mitchell  photo
Simon Mitchell
Senior Policy Adviser, Education & Policy Leadership, AICD

    The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has released limited guidance for charities considering participating in the Voice referendum debate. The guidance provides guardrails for charities and their directors in assessing whether to participate in discussions on the Voice referendum.

    On 6 March 2023 the ACNC published guidance for charities on advocacy activities associated with the Voice to Parliament referendum that the Government plans to hold later in 2023. 

    The ACNC stresses that where a charity plans to undertake advocacy activities in connection with the Voice referendum it must be able to demonstrate why it considers the advocacy is consistent or furthers its charitable purpose(s).

    The guidance goes on to note that responsible persons of the charity, such as directors, should be clear about why the charity will advocate and how the charity will set boundaries on what can be said or done in the name of the charity. 

    The ACNC is clear that any campaigning must be lawful, respectful and fair to ensure that the charity, and its responsible persons, is meeting its obligations under ACNC Governance Standards. 

    While the guidance is brief, we note that the ACNC does have more extensive publications on advocacy and campaigning activities by charities. This additional guidance does provide some assistance to directors of charities in making decisions around participating in the Voice conversations and how this may align with the charity’s purpose(s). 

    Uluru Statement from the Heart, Voice referendum: AICD resources

    While the AICD has not formed a view on the specific referendum question, we do support the Uluru Statement from the Heart and consider we can make a constructive contribution to advancing the Statement from the Heart as a National governance issue. Further detail on how the AICD reached its decision to support the Uluru Statement is available here.  

    Separately, on the 16 February 2023 the AICD hosted an online event that brought together a panel of experts to clarify the issues around the Voice to Parliament and discuss the board’s role in the run-up to the referendum. A recording of the event is available here

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