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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

‘In or out?’ Charity stands to lose up to $250,000 in ACT Government red tape

National not-for-profit charity Mental Health Australia has been forced into court this week, and stands to lose more than $250,000 after receiving bad advice and mixed messages from the ACT Government Long Service Scheme.

Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan said the confusion around whether the charity is ‘in or out’, of the ACT Government Long Service Scheme could have a devastating impact on the charity, and needs to be resolved urgently.

“As a not-for-profit charity we stand to lose more than a quarter of a million dollars, and it just doesn’t make sense,” said Mr Quinlan.

“We have approached various ministers and departments within the ACT Government numerous times over more than 18 months and they refuse to talk to us. It seems clear they are forcing us to court as a test case to clarify bad legislation.”

“Why should a national mental health charity be picking up the bill to clarify unclear ACT legislation?”

“First, the Long Service Leave Authority Deputy Registrar wrote to us to say we should not be registered as part of the ACT Portable Long Service Leave Scheme, our registration was ceased and back dated to 1 January 2017. We acted on this advice, in good faith.”

“Then, out of the blue, the Authority’s Registrar wrote again to say we were back in the Scheme, and threatened us with penalties if we failed to back pay the ACT Government.”

“Throughout 2018 we wrote to the ACT Government and to the Authority but our pleas fell on deaf ears. We now find ourselves in an expensive court case trying to resolve a dispute that might have been resolved with a simple conversation. All of this while the ACT Government currently has the Portable Long Service Leave Scheme under review.”

“The ACT Government’s refusal to even put an agreed statement of facts to the Court suggests to me we are being used as test case for a Scheme that is being poorly administered.”

Mental Health Australia is one of 22 organisations funded through the Health Peak and Advisory Bodies (HPAB) Programme via Commonwealth Department of Health that could be impacted by this bad legislation.

“I fear the ACT Government has now developed a “hit list” of national charities and organisations who could be drawn into this murky web of uncertain legislation,” said Mr Quinlan.

“With many of these 22 organisations also based in Canberra, potentially having contributed to the Scheme since 2010, the quantum of charitable monies potentially tied up in red tape could be substantial, with no clarity over whether national peak bodies should be ‘in or out’ of the ACT Government Portable Long Service Scheme.”

Mental Health Australia is a registered charity with the ACNC, employs around 19 full time and part time staff and its office is based in Canberra, however Mental Health Australia is a national charity, focussed on national mental health advocacy, does not receive any funding from the ACT Government, nor provides mental health or community services to the ACT community.

“This is a serious issue for Mental Health Australia and a potential problem for more national peak bodies with their national office based here in the ACT and needs to be urgently clarified by the ACT Government without sending us all to court,” said Mr Quinlan.

Media Contact: Lach Searle – 0488 076 088

(ENDS)

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