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Cumberland Student Guild dodges charity obligations for 18 months

Cumberland Student Guild, a SSAF-funded student organisation at Sydney University’s Lidcombe campus, has dodged its obligations to the charities register for over 18 months, as Alexandros Tsathas reports.

Cumberland Student Guild (CSG), the organisation responsible for overseeing the student experience at USyd’s Lidcombe campus, has failed to meet its transparency obligations to the charities register for over 18 months.

As a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), CSG is required under Division 40.5.1 of the ACNC Act 2012 to make public its current constitution on the Commission’s website. Until 5:05 pm last Friday, it had failed to do so – instead having uploaded a .pdf document consisting of a single blank page.

After having been denied a copy of its constitution by the Guild, Honi asked the ACNC why the document was not publicly available last Thursday. The representative Honi spoke to revealed it had been sought by the ACNC for 18 months, and escalated the matter. By the Friday afternoon, the document had been uploaded it full.

CSG is the only organisation receiving a slice of the SSAF pie ($780,000 this year) that does not make its governing document available for download from its website. CSG refused to provide Honi with a copy of its constitution on request, with CSG’s General Manager Kim Colquhoun saying “Cumberland Student Guild does not have any interest nor are we obliged to providing any information or having anything at all to do with Honi Soit.”

The sudden availability of its constitution does not appear to be CSG’s only ACNC irregularity. On the ACNC’s register, CSG lists Colquhoun as the only ‘responsible entity’ for the organisation. Division 300.5 of the Act, however, states that for an unincorporated association, all directors (of which CSG has four) must be listed.

Embarrassingly, the University does not maintain a current copy of CSG’s constitution in its archives, as an Honi GIPA request discovered.

“Although reasonable searches have been conducted, a copy of the current Cumberland Student Guild constitution was not located”, said the returned request.

Honi sought the constitution for what it might contain on elections notices – it had been claimed the only notice given of recent board elections was a single post on the organisation’s Facebook page.