Charity status of ‘It Gets Better Australia’ revoked

Fullscreen capture 20072016 124934 PM

The Australian Charities and Non-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) have revoked the charity status of It Gets Better Australia.

The founder of the Australian LGBTIQ suicide prevention organisation has told OUTinPerth that the action is simply due to some paperwork being overlooked.

The head of the commission, Susan Pascoe said the government agency was unapologetic about taking a tough stance against charity organisations that were mismanaged or misused.

In recent weeks the commission has revoked the charity status of seven different organisations. Among the organisations failing to meet the commission’s standards was the LGBTIQ suicide prevention organisation.

Speaking broadly, Commissioner Pascoe said the revocations should be a warning to any registered charity that was deliberately not meeting its obligations or misusing its charitable assets.

“While the vast majority of registered charities are run by good people who are trying to contribute to our communities, there are some that mismanage charities, or worse still, use them as a vehicle for personal gain,” Pascoe said.

“When we find serious circumstances of mismanagement or deliberate breaches of the ACNC Act we will revoke charity status. We make no apology about taking a tough stance where appropriate.

“In the interests of public trust and confidence in the sector, it is important that only legitimate registered charities remain on the ACNC Charity Register.

Commissioner Pascoe said that while revocation of charity status was a very serious step, the ACNC’s approach to compliance always starts with education and guidance.

“Our proportionate approach to compliance is centered on working with charities to help them get back on track.

“Unfortunately, there are instances where guidance and education, or even the other regulatory powers at our disposal are not sufficient and we must move to revoke charity status.” Commissioner Pascoe said.

Commissioner Pascoe did not make any specific comment about Angelorum Pty Ltd, the company that operates as ‘It Gets Better Australia’.

In her official statement the commissioner highlighted that secrecy provisions within the charities legislation prevent the organisation from revealing specific details regarding the reasons for the cancellations.

Jamison Parker, the founder of It Gets Better Australia, has told OUTinPerth that the revoking of the organisation’s charity status was simply due to a human resources error.

Parker said the organisation is in the process of appealing the decision and working with the ACNC to reinstate the charitable organisation status.

“The company is entitled to appeal the decision, which it is currently in the process of doing. The company is in consultation with the ACNC and expects a favourable outcome.” Parker said.

“The proposed revocation is a result of outstanding documents that are required to be lodged with ACNC and the company intends to comply fully in the coming month.  The lateness of this documentation was simply a human resources issues which has now been resolved.”

Parker said It Gets Better Australia strongly denies any suggestion that it has acted improperly.

“The company strongly denies any suggestion of improper conduct or personal financial gain, which is completely untrue.  The company reserves it’s rights with regards to any defamatory or improper  reporting of this matter.” Parker said.

The revocation of several charities registration comes as the sector faces growing requirements for compliance management and transparency. The Charities Act 2013 came into effect on January 1st 2014 and required charities to provide greater public information on their revenue and operating costs.

Commissioner Pascoe has indicated that an additional 1,400 organisations will soon be sent notification that their licences will be cancelled.

The government had announced its plans to disband the ACNC and replace it with a National Centre for Excellence. Concern has been raised that transparency and regulation compliance are not high on the agenda of the proposed replacement organisation.

Earlier this year the federal government announced it was abandoning the plan to replace the organisation.

Charity previously dismissed concerns about reporting anomalies 

OUTinPerth previously highlighted discrepancies in the charities annual statements to the commission. In 2013 the charity raised over $8,000 via a Pozible campaign but declared it’s total income for the period as $1,350.

Last year Parker, who also served as the organisation’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, dismissed the concerns describing the Pozible campaign as a personal fundraising activity that did fall under the organisation’s official activities.

In 2015 the organisation pledged to run a major fundraising activity ‘It Gets Better Live’ featuring the band G.R.L. The event was rescheduled several times and eventually scaled down and delivered as a much smaller event that originally promoted.

At that time major sponsor BT announced that they were reviewing their sponsorship of the organisation.

Today a spokesperson for BT said it was disappointing that the planned partnership was unable to proceed.

“We have not been a sponsor of It Gets Better for more than two years having not made any financial contributions since May 2014.” the spokesperson said.

“Young people in the LGBTI community often require a great deal of support and we were attracted It Gets Better because of their focus in this important area. Our support included sponsorship of an event that the organisation had difficulty in delivering on terms initially agreed, and therefore our partnership did not proceed.”

“While this was disappointing, we remain fully supportive of the LGBTI community, and as part of Westpac Group, we were named number one employer for LGBTI employee inclusion at the 2016 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI). 

“During the 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival BT also co-sponsored an outdoor photography exhibition featuring portraits of children of LGBTI parents.” the spokesperson said.

In 2015 just before the ‘It Gets Better Live’ project was delivered Parker told the Star Observer that the proceeds of the event would go towards funding a “laundry list” of projects that the organisation had planned.

Since the live concert the charity appears to not have undertaken any new projects, with no new videos being posted to its site, and just a handful of updates being posted to it’s Facebook page in the last year.

Graeme Watson

Update: 20th July 2016 12:51 image updated to a screen shot of the ACNC webpage. 

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