Author Archives: Joanne O'Brien

About Joanne O'Brien

An expert with years of experience in, and passion for, advising the not for profit sector in all aspects of their operations from creation, management, mergers and governance through to risk and compliance and beyond, particularly in the aged care sector.

Consortiums in the Not For Profit Sector



There is a growing trend in the not for profit sector to have collaborations by using consortiums. This has even been encouraged by a number of government funders in relation to recent tender rounds. It enables a government funder to be able to provide funding to one group as opposed to a myriad of small, individual organizations.

The most challenging issues in relation to consortiums is that there has to be what is called a lead agency, so that one not for profit organization who actually enters into the contract with the government funder. How do you choose who is going to be the lead agency given the competing interests of the people in the group? That’s an issue that requires a lot of discussion and agreement and necessarily some documentary evidence about it.

The second issue is the governance framework that supports the consortium. How are you going to make decisions between each other about who delivers what aspects of the government contract that’s ultimately awarded to the lead agency? What sort of sharing of responsibilities are undertaken? How do you make sure that you can have consensus between consortium members? What do you do if there is a need to have some sort of dispute resolution process followed if consensus can’t be reached?

There’s a lot of issues to work through. The mistake that consortiums sometimes make is that they try to rush those agreements too quickly, trying to get it together at the last minute before a tender has to be submitted. It really is best to allow enough time to fully explore the options and to reach agreement about those issues.

Australian Company Numbers (ACNs) to be scrapped

Draft legislation has been released by Treasury which will enable the Australian Business Number (ABN) to be the single numerical identifier for companies registered under the Corporations Act 2001. This change is part of a number of measures included in the Treasury Legislation (Spring Repeal Day) Bill 2015. If passed by parliament, the change will take effect from 1 July 2016. Those companies that currently require a tax file number (TFN) will also be able to use an ABN  instead of a TFN.

This will be good news for charities and not-for-profits that are companies limited by guarantee. Particularly those that transitioned from an incorporated association and have an ABN that does not incorporate their Australian Company Number (ACN). It will also remove any confusion of when to use the ABN and when to use the ACN.

To minimise transition costs and uncertainty, there will be no change to existing ACNs and TFNs. Existing companies will retain all of their current numerical identifiers. Companies that do not currently have an ABN will not be required to obtain an ABN. Those companies that do have an ABN will be able to use it as their only numerical identifier and will no longer be required to quote their ACN.

New companies registered after 1 July 2016 will be issued with an ABN as part of the company registration process and will be registered for ABN purposes at the same time they are registered under the Corporations Act. ASIC will no longer issue ACNs.

RV’s Giving Up On Service Fees

A recent piece in “The Weekly Source” published by Chris Baynes has given another example of more reinvention of the Retirement Village model or what Chris describes as a “game changer”.

The article recounts one new structure adopted at a 40 year old village known as ‘The Village Glen’ in Victoria.

One option they now offer to a prospective resident is to throw out the traditional DMF model and replace it with one where the resident:

  • Pays no general services charge at any time
  • Pays for their own consumables eg electricity
  • Pays an ingoing contribution when they  move in
  • Pays the DMF (Exit Fee) when they move out (on the high side eg 33% after 12 months)

Just another example of the importance of being on the front foot when it comes to being consumer responsive and differentiating yourselves.

It will be interesting to see the take up of the model by new residents.

CRH Law and the Better Boards Conference

Both our esteemed partners, Joanne O’Brien and Brian Herd (as well as Brian’s brother, Patrick Herd from Community Business Australia) presented at the Better Boards Conference held last weekend at the Brisbane Convention Centre.

In an annual conference attracting over 500 delegates and targeting not for profit organisations from all over Australia, Joanne presented on the subject of “How to Kick Start a Social Enterprise”, which was a probing insight into the developing area of ‘For Purpose’ organisations. Brian’s presentation was entitled “The Great, the Average and the Sooooooo Bad Board” and examined the key distinguishing features of how good boards work and how bad ones don’t. Patrick’s presentation was slightly more esoteric entitled “Does Mother Know Best” which was a thought provoking exploration of the future of the sector.

A Charter of Relationship for Volunteers and Employees in Not For Profit Organisations


This is Joanne O’Brien from CRH Law. I’m going to be talking to you today about a charter of relationship for volunteers and employees in not-for-profit organizations.

One of the tools that not-for-profit organizations can use to help in managing the tensions that can arise between volunteers and employees is to adopt a charter of relationship. A charter of relationship is essentially a set of principles that guide the engagement of employees and volunteers, and underpins the relationship between the two groups of people.

It can be used as a means for adopting and developing a more detailed set of policies and procedures around the engagement of volunteers, but it’s very important that it recognizes the value of both groups of individuals. Ideally, it should be developed with contribution from both groups within the organization.

The issues that a good charter of relationship should cover is the value that each group brings to the organization, how it will be determined what activities volunteers will be engaged in, the importance of job protection for employees, training and development opportunities that should be available to both groups, and importantly the principles that should guide any dispute resolution process that might need to be implemented.

You can find more information about a charter of relationship on our website or contact us at CRH Law for further advice.

Public Ancillary Funds – Expiration of Transitional Period

Public Ancillary Funds that receive deductible donations as deductible gift recipients (DGRs) will need to ensure they comply with the Public Ancillary Fund Guidelines 2011 (“the Guidelines”) by 1 June 2015.

The rules for establishing and maintaining Public Ancillary Funds as DGRs can be found in Part 2 of the Guidelines, and set out the minimum standards for the governance and conduct of a public ancillary fund and its trustee.

Under the Guidelines (which commenced on 1 January 2012), existing Public Ancillary Funds were given until 1 June 2015 to ensure they comply with the new Guidelines.

The ATO has recently issued a reminder to Public Ancillary Funds that the transitional period will expire soon, and that Public Ancillary Funds endorsed as DGRs will need to ensure they comply with the Guidelines to remain endorsed.

Failure to comply with the Guidelines could result in;

  • The trustees and directors of trustees incurring administrative penalties; and
  • The fund losing entitlement to be endorsed as a DGR.

Public Ancillary Funds established after the introduction of the Guidelines, or Public Ancillary Funds that already comply with the Guidelines should not need to make any changes.

For further information about the issues raised in this Alert, please contact Joanne O’Brien, Partner and her team at CRH Law who will be happy to assist you further.

The Changing Nature of Volunteering in Not For Profit Organisations


This is Joanne O’Brien from CRH Law talking to you today about the changing nature of volunteering and not for profit organisations.

I think it’s fair to say that everybody understands that volunteering is unpaid, non-compulsory work, but the reasons that we volunteer and the motivations behind volunteering has changed dramatically in recent years. What we see now is, instead of people becoming involved in community organisations just because it’s the right thing to do or it feels good, that there is real purpose behind their decision to take a volunteering position.

For many young people, it’s a way to obtain experience. It’s a lot easier to get a job if you’ve got some experience on your CV, even if that experience is in the form of volunteering. There’s a larger, older population of retirees who are looking for a way to continue to feel valued and to have meaning in their life and make a continued contribution to the community.

There’s also been a growth of corporate volunteering programs, where larger corporate organisations have structured programs and require their employees to contribute to the community through volunteering. Of course, this can create a number of difficulties for not for profit organisations in trying to manage their volunteer workforce.

It’s essential that organisations understand three things. Firstly, the obligations, including the legal obligations that they owe to their volunteers, the management risks that can be associated with managing the tensions between volunteers and employees, and also the cost that come with volunteers. Even though you’re not paying them for their time, there’s still cost involved in managing them, obtaining insurances and fulfilling the obligations such as your work, health, and safety obligations.

We can help you understand the extent of these obligations and provide you with advice about risk management strategies.

Laundry Services in Aged Care Facilities

Straightening out the law about who does the ironing.

Is ironing part of the service you provide to residents in your facility?

If not, then you may be interested to know that the Department of Social Services [“DSS”] says that it should be.

So what is the law on the issue?

The Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) and its associated Principles [“Act”] stipulate that it is the approved provider’s responsibility to provide:

  • such care and services as are specified in the Quality of Care Principles 2014 in respect of aged care of the type in question; including


  • Heavy laundry facilities and services, and personal laundry services, including laundering of clothing that can be machine washed.

So does laundering include ironing?

In short, yes it does.

The Act does not provide a definition of laundering and so we need to look to the ordinary meaning of the word.The Oxford Dictionary defines “laundering”, to include “washing, drying and ironing”.

Therefore the “laundering of clothing” as required by the Act obliges providers to wash, dry and iron clothing.

But what about “heavy laundry”?

There is no definition of what heavy laundry is under the Act and the term is not defined in the dictionary.  Research suggests that heavy laundry includes items such as bedding.  Applying the ordinary meaning of laundry explained above, would result in bedding also needing to be ironed.

However, the issue of what should be provided by way of heavy laundry has not been clarified by DSS and unless and until it is clarified, a common sense approach should be adopted before investing significant amounts of time and money ironing these types of items.

For further information about the issues raised in this Alert, please contact Joanne O’Brien, Partner and her team at CRH Law who will be happy to assist you further.