Creating a legal structure for your group
If your group is not a legally recognised entity then the law just sees you as a collection of individuals. It’s a precondition of most funding bodies that organisations receiving funds must have legal status, and this may also be necessary or desirable if you want to have a bank account, take out insurance or enter into any other legal contract. The most common way for voluntary organisations to gain legal status is to become an incorporated association. This is quick, easy and cheap to arrange, and it does not affect the way you function in any significant way. You can adopt the ‘model rules’ for incorporated associations or create your own. The former is quicker and cheaper and suitable for almost all purposes. Members and officers of incorporated associations are protected from personal responsibility for any of the association’s debts or other liabilities. Each state or territory has its own processes for incorporating organisations, but a group incorporated in one of them can still operate in others, though technically you are supposed to become a Registered Australian Body to do so.
A point to note is that the model rules for incorporation stipulate certain minimum requirements, such as a minimum number of general meetings or committee meetings, but the group can have more of these if they choose. For further information and links to incorporation processes in each Australian state and territory go to this page on the Our Community website.