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Definition of 'charity' changes in Australia

BOUTIQUE charities in regional centres should hop on the phone in the new year because changes to the definition of a charity came into effect today.

The changes - brought in by the former Labor Government - should be a reduction in bureaucracy and some clearer information for those wanting to operate or launch a charity.

Until now, the rules governing charities in Australia have been based mostly on court judgments.

The Australian Council of Social Service backs the changes, but warns that while most charities will be unaffected, all should know where they stand.

ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said changes will affect what groups remain charities and how they can be created.

"In the past, it has been very confusing for people who want to come together to put an organisation in place to do good work," Ms Goldie said.

"From the new year, it will be more streamlined for grassroots organisations to find out if they qualify for charitable status," she said.

The Australian Charity National Commission has existed since July 1 and will be available to guide charities and to act on complaints.

When accusations are made, Ms Goldie said the ACNC had the "deep expertise" to act.

"We fully support having a national regulator that is able to provide the oversight associated with the privilege of having a charitable status," she said.

Ms Goldie suggested any concerned charity contact ACNC when it reopens tomorrow to find out whether and how they are affected.

To go to the ACNC website click here .