2 Dec 2010

Aid/Watch wins court case over charitable status

6:47 pm on 2 December 2010

An Australian aid watchdog is calling a High Court decision allowing it to retain its charitable status a significant win for Australian charities which engage in advocacy and lobbying activity.

Aid/Watch, which has monitored aid spending in the Pacific for the past 13 years, was stripped of its charity status four years ago by the federal court because its activities were viewed as in breach of what defines a charity.

The organisation's director, Gary Lee, says the court's decision is a win for freedom of political communication in Australia, resolving almost a decade of uncertainty for many charities and strengthening their ability to advocate for the public good.

A senior associate at Maurice Blackburn, the law firm acting for Aid/Watch, says the case overturns 90 years of Australian law defining the role of charities and brings the law up to date with how they work in the 21st century.

Giri Sivaraman adds that this puts Australia ahead of other western nations in the way charities will be able to engage in public debate on matters of public benefit.