Women’s Life Centre – A recent decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal regarding Public Benevolent Institutions (PBIs)
March 2021 | | Luke Hall and Jae Yang
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) issued its decision in Women’s Life Centre Inc v Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission  AATA 500 on 12 March 2021.
This is the first decision in which the AAT has considered the assessment of the Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) on the eligibility for the Public Benevolent Institution (PBI) charity subtype under section 25-5 of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth).
A copy of the decision is available at this link.
Organisations seeking registration as a PBI should ensure that their purposes and services are clearly targeted at persons in identifiable need (rather than provision of services to people generally) and that this is so reflected on their website and marketing communications etc.
Motivated by the Roman Catholic faith, the Women’s Life Centre Inc (WLC) operates various different services relating to pregnancies, especially in relation to ‘crisis pregnancies’.
WLC sought registration as a charity with the ACNC for the following three charity subtypes: advancing health, advancing social or public welfare, and PBI. The ACNC rejected WLC’s application for the PBI charity subtype.
Issues considered and AAT decision
The key issue in consideration was whether WLC was ‘benevolent’ in character.
The AAT, in deciding to affirm the Commissioner’s decision to reject WLC’s application for the PBI charity subtype, stated that:
- the services of WLC were not directly targeted at women who were in need, but were directed generally at pregnant women who sought assistance from WLC;
- the definition of ‘crisis pregnancy’ was ambiguous; and
- many of the women that WLC assisted were not considered to be in need requiring relief in the sense that they were not suffering from “poverty, sickness, destitution or helplessness”.
Prolegis Lawyers is vastly experienced in assisting with the registration, taxation and governance issues of public benevolent institutions. Please do not hesitate to contact Jae Yang or Luke Hall if you would like to discuss further