The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello


11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Media Release of 28/08/2001


Release of the Report of the Charities Definition Inquiry

I am releasing today the Report of the Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations.

The Inquiry, announced by the Prime Minister on 18 September 2000, was asked to provide options to the Government for enhancing the clarity and consistency of the existing definitions of charities and related organisations in Commonwealth law and administrative practice that are appropriate for the social and economic environment of Australia. Charities are currently defined by reference to 400 years of case law stemming from a 1601 Act of Queen Elizabeth I.

I would like to thank the Committee for the significant contribution they have made to simplifying what is a complex legal and administrative issue. The members of the Inquiry were Mr I.F. Sheppard AO QC (Chair), Mr Robert Fitzgerald AM and Mr David Gonski.

The Inquiry consulted widely among charities and related organisations. It received more than 370 submissions and held consultations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.

The Inquiry has undertaken a thorough analysis of the current approach to defining a charity and the implications of that definition for the day-to-day operations of modern charities and has recommended a new approach.

To provide clearer guidance to charities, administrators and courts, the Inquiry recommends that the definition of a charity be set down in legislation and that a framework based in a statute four centuries old be replaced by reference to a list of charitable purposes that provides both broad categories of charitable purpose and some specific charitable purposes. The Inquiry also recommends a definitional framework that would distinguish altruistic entities from other non-profit entities.

The Government will carefully examine the recommended changes to the definition of a charity. Adoption of the definitional framework recommended by the Inquiry could have implications for the taxation treatment of charities and related entities. The Government will give careful consideration to the most appropriate way to consider these matters.

Taking forward some of the recommendations may also require consultation with the States and Territories.

The Report can be obtained from the Australian Government Publishing Service and is available on the internet site

24 August 2001

Contact: Niki Savva
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