Congregations affected by new regulations

Any LCA congregation which supports an overseas organisation or conducts activities overseas is now responsible for ensuring its donations and other forms of support get to the right places and in the right way.

Coming into effect in July this year, new government regulations are intended to minimise the risk of children and other vulnerable people being exploited, and of money being misused through fraud, corruption or other illegal activities. Known as the External Conduct Standards, they cover Australian charities and not-for-profits, including churches, which conduct activities overseas or support overseas organisations.

The regulations require reasonable steps to be taken to ensure appropriate standards of behaviour, governance and oversight when undertaking activities, providing services or sending funds and donated items overseas.

LCA Executive Officer of the Church Peter Schirmer said meeting the standards would provide confidence to supporters and the wider community that donations sent and services provided outside of Australia would reach those for whom they are intended. Also, he said, this would ensure that the donations and services were being used for legitimate purposes and with due regard for the safety and wellbeing of the people being assisted.

‘Our church is committed to being a place “where love comes to life” and so it’s only natural that our congregational members seek to serve, support and establish mutually enriching relationships with communities overseas’, Mr Schirmer said.

‘In doing so, we should be willing to uphold these new standards in order to ensure that these gifts bless the people involved and that theft, corruption, fraud and misappropriation do not prevent this.

‘The new regulations also help us to meet appropriate standards of transparency, accountability and behaviour in our giving and service overseas.

‘As ALWS (the church’s official aid and development agency) and LCA International Mission (which shares the gospel alongside and supports overseas partner churches) already meet these standards, we can give through them with complete confidence.’

If a congregation is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and has a direct relationship with a partner congregation, organisation or school overseas (for example through a volunteer program) and sends funds or supplies to support them, it is subject to the standards.

The steps a congregation will need to take to comply with the regulations will vary according to its particular circumstances, such as the size of its engagement, where its funding comes from, and the nature of the activities.

Reprinted with kind permission of The Lutheran. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.

Congregation members can find more information on the External Conduct Standards page and the Frequently Asked Questions or, for more detailed information, visit the ACNC External Conduct Standards page.