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Strengthening the state: A snapshot of Victoria’s community sector charities

Victoria’s community sector organisations make a significant contribution to the strengthening the state’s economy and society. They generate high levels of economic activity, employment and volunteer support. They deliver positive service and advocacy programs that help people overcome disadvantage and build brighter futures. Through doing this, they help build strong, cohesive self-reliant communities.

In preparing Strengthening the state, VCOSS aims to provide the first overall snapshot of Victoria’s registered community sector charities. The report is made possible through the release of data from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Annual Information Statements (AIS) for the 2012-13 financial year.

Strengthening the state finds that at the close of the 2012-13 financial year, there were more than 2,600 community sector charities operating in Victoria, generating approximately $13 billion in income and employing almost 97,000 Victorians. This equates to more than 3 per cent of the Victorian workforce, employing more people than some other key industries, including utilities and IT.

These figures show that with Victoria’s unemployment and youth unemployment rates are at their highest levels in decades, it is important to recognise the community sector as a key employer and crucial to tackling unemployment in this state.

The value of the sector is further leveraged by almost 135,000 volunteers, helping a wide range of people. The majority of community sector charities support multiple beneficiary groups, reflecting the diversity of multiple and complex needs within the community.

The report also provides a first chance to systematically examine the burden of reporting obligations on community sector organisations. Available data indicates that medium-sized charities spend on average more than 150 hours a year on reporting obligations to government agencies. Large organisations on average spend on average 388 paid worker hours. This equates to one person working 10 weeks a year purely on government reporting obligations. This figure does not include hours spent on other reporting requirements, such as fundraising or grant acquittals, other reporting activities and Australian Taxation Office or other state and territory regulatory requirements. Overall, more than a quarter of community sector charities spent more than 100 hours a year on government reporting obligations. Volunteers are also working to fulfil government reporting obligations, particularly in small organisations.

VCOSS believes the full reporting burden on Victorian community sector charities warrants further research.

Strengthening the state does not set out to provide a full picture of Victoria’s community sector and its contribution to the state’s economy and society, as there are many community organisations operating in Victoria that are not registered charities. However this snapshot of charities provides a useful, if under representative indication, of the work of the community sector as a whole.

Overall, the findings of Strengthening the state reinforce VCOSS’ knowledge that the community sector is a unique, valuable and diverse component of the Victorian economy and society. Through its significant employment and volunteer levels, its diversity, the range of service and advocacy programs it delivers to help people overcome disadvantage and poverty, and the wide range of people it supports, it delivers a value to Victoria and strengthens the state in a manner unlike that of any other sector.

Read the full report here.