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Charities commission: my job is to keep them transparent, efficient

By Gary Johns - posted Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Before the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, it was difficult to find and verify the credentials of an Australian charity, let alone much detail about its operation. The charity market was opaque.

That changed five years ago under the leadership of the inaugural commissioner, Susan Pascoe. She and her team have done a great job establishing the register of Australian charities, all 55,497 of them, and setting out the ground rules for good practice.

As the new commissioner I ­intend to build on this foundation.


A key role of the commission is to provide information to help the public understand the work of the sector and to support its transparency and accountability.

The not-for-profit sector receives funding, including donations from members of the public, and tax concessions, grants and other support from Australian governments.

I intend to make sure that the information that charities supply to the commission is placed squarely into the public arena in a form that donors and taxpayers can use to judge the state of the market.

Not-for-profits have one thing in common. They are associations of people who come together for a common purpose. I have spent most of my adult life in such ­organisations. A common cause is a source of strength and a source of intensity sometimes unmatched in government and business.

Passion is a given in this sector.

Charities are a particular class of not-for-profit.


These are organisations of people who come together for a common charitable purpose, and for public benefit.

They have a special place in Australian society. They also carry a particular responsibility, a special status conferred by governments, on which they trade.

It is sometimes assumed, especially by charities, that the sector is about them: it is not. At its core, the sector is a market in charitable intentions.

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This article was first published in The Australian.

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About the Author

Gary Johns is a former federal member of Parliament and served as a minister in the Keating Government. Since December 2017 he has been the commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

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