Charity registration – necessitous circumstances


To be registered as a charity, an organisation must have a charitable purpose or purposes. Charitable purpose has a legal definition, which is found in the Charities Act 2013 (Cth), and there are twelve different charitable purposes. In January 2024, the ACNC published the key factors it will consider in determining an organisation’s eligibility to be registered as a charity, with the subtype of ‘advancing social or public welfare’. A charity with a purpose of relieving “necessitous circumstances” will be entitled to be registered in this charity subclass.

For an organisation to have a charitable purpose of relieving necessitous circumstances, it must only provide, via funds or goods, assistance to people who would otherwise lack what they need to have a modest standard of living in the Australian community. The purpose will still be charitable if it is directed towards relief of one or only a few people, and not to the general public. Further, the people to benefit can be named specifically but do not need to be named.

This information was released by ACNC as part of its Secrecy Reforms Project, as part of its aim to release more information to the public around its decisions.

The decision which led to the release of this information was with regard to a charity that sought to be registered in the “advancing health” subcategory. The registration was sought on the basis it intends to assist an individual who could not afford everything needed to have a modest standard of living due to health conditions. The ACNC determined the charity did not meet the requirements of this category because it was not looking to ‘the prevention or relief of sickness, disease, or human suffering’. However, the organization, after discussions with ACNC, reapplied in the category of “advancing social or public welfare” category on the basis that providing relief to people experiencing poverty, distress or disadvantage included people in necessitous circumstances.  

Griffin Legal can assist your organisation with charitable purposes and ensuring your organisation meets the eligibility requirements for the relevant category.

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