Are you an Australian registered charity operating in the Pacific? Part 1

Make sure you’re complying with the ACNC External Conduct Standards


Sarah Johnson


Many Australian not-for-profit organisations operate in the Pacific region. If you are a charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), you are required to ensure you carry out your activities in accordance with the ACNC External Conduct Standards (ECS).


In the first in a series on the ECS, we examine what the ECS are and when they will apply to an Australian registered charity.


What are the ECS?

The ECS set out minimum standards for conduct, governance and behaviour with which ACNC registered charities must comply. The standards can be found in Division 50 of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Regulation 2013 (Cth).


When do the ECS apply?

The ECS require all charities registered with the ACNC that:

  • operate outside Australia; and/or

  • work with a third party operating outside Australia,

to take reasonable steps to comply with standards of behaviour, governance and oversight when undertaking activities or sending funds overseas. Basic religious charities[1] must also comply with the ECS, notwithstanding that they are not required to comply with the ACNC’s Governance Standards.


A charity will be taken to “operate outside Australia” even if its overseas activities are a minor part of its work or if it only sends a small amount of money overseas. For example, if a church raises $200 and sends it to a missionary in a Pacific nation, it must comply with the ECS.


Activities that may be considered as “operating outside Australia” include:

  • sending money or resources overseas;

  • sending staff, volunteers, members or beneficiaries overseas;

  • conducting activities or working overseas;

  • buying goods and services from overseas suppliers (including online purchases); and

  • working with individuals or organisations located overseas.

The ECS also apply to activities conducted in Australia if those activities are closely related to matters that are outside of Australia, for example, managing an overseas project from Australia.


What are the ECS?

There are four ECS with which an Australian registered charity must comply:

  1. Standard 1: Activities and control of resources;

  2. Standard 2: Annual review of overseas activities and record-keeping;

  3. Standard 3: Anti-fraud and anti-corruption; and

  4. Standard 4: Protection of vulnerable individuals.

We examine each of these standards and the ACNC’s guidance on complying with these standards in Parts 2 to 5 of this series.

[1] For more information regarding this category of charity, click here.




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