Introduction to the INC Guide

People often come together to form groups to pursue a range of common interests of a recreational, social, political, economic, cultural, spiritual or professional nature.  In Western Australia alone, there are over 17,000 of these groups that have registered as incorporated associations.

Many groups decide to register as a ‘not-for-profit’ incorporated association because it enables them to create a separate legal entity through which to conduct their activities.  There are several significant advantages:

  • the individual members limit their exposure to personal legal liability;
  • bank accounts can be opened in the name of the association; and
  • the association can apply for government grants and hold property.

INC: A Guide for Incorporated Associations in Western Australia has been developed as a comprehensive operational document to assist associations in performing their role effectively.

The purpose of this guide is to provide information on some of the key legal obligations and rights that apply to associations once they are incorporated under the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 (the Act).  

It also provides a basic introduction to various aspects of managing an association, for example:

  • conducting meetings;
  • record-keeping;
  • employing staff; and
  • engaging volunteers.

In effect, the guide may be used by members of associations as a reference source on good governance practices.

There are many government departments and non-government organisations that provide assistance to incorporated associations.  The guide also attempts to draw together these resources by providing examples, references and direct links wherever possible.

The Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety is responsible for regulating associations in Western Australia. 

Contact details for the Associations Branch of Consumer Protection are as follows: 

Locked Bag 14
Cloisters Square WA 6850

Telephone: 1300 30 40 74
Email: associations@dmirs.wa.gov.au
Web: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/associations 

Genesis

The guide was initially developed by the Gosnells Community Legal Centre Inc. (GCLC) and was first published in May 2005.  Consumer Protection has supported the guide from its inception and has actively promoted its use at association information sessions throughout the State.  In 2007, Consumer Protection agreed to take over responsibility for the further development and publication of future editions of this guide.  Consumer Protection acknowledges the extensive research and consultation undertaken by GCLC in developing the original version. 

Review of the Act

On 1 July 2016 the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 came into effect replacing the previous Associations Incorporation Act 1987.  The guide has been updated to reflect the new requirements. 

Associations Incorporation Act 2015

You can download a copy of the Act from the State Law Publisher’s website or you can contact (08) 6552 6000 to purchase a copy.

Download a copy of the Act

AssociationsOnline

AssociationsOnline is a secure online portal provided by Consumer Protection for incorporated associations, industry stakeholders and members of the public to check the status of an incorporated association, purchase copies of documents, submit a range of applications and update association contact information.

AssociationsOnline has been updated to meet the requirements introduced by the new associations’ law. The enhanced service with more automatic functions reduces the administrative burden on committee members and association officers by enabling them to manage their affairs online.

Throughout the guide you will be advised what applications may be lodged using AssociationsOnline.

Getting started

AssociationsOnline is the preferred method for submitting applications relating to incorporated associations to Consumer Protection and all users must be enrolled to access the system.

To enrol as a user visit AssociationsOnline and follow the prompts to 'Create an AssociationsOnline account'.

Once enrolled a user will be able to:

  • lodge an application to incorporate a new association;
  • link up to an existing association (by becoming a primary or authorised user);
  • lodge applications for linked associations including alterations to rules, extensions of time for Annual General Meetings and annual information statements; and
  • update and manage the contact details for their account and that of any linked associations.

Linked associations and user types

Two new user types have been introduced to manage an association – a primary and an authorised user. In order to lodge applications on behalf of an incorporated association a user must first link to their association and become either the primary or an authorised user.

It is recommended associations develop appropriate internal processes for nominating, approving, retiring and replacing their primary and authorised users in AssociationsOnline. It is important that appropriate records of the approved users are maintained.

Primary users

There can only be two primary users at a time per association and the person must either be a member of the association’s management committee, or authorised by the committee to act as a primary user on its behalf. Associations must ensure they retain records relating to this.

The primary user will be able to:

  • lodge documents on behalf of the association;
  • add and remove authorised users for the association;
  • manage their own personal details online, for example resetting their password and updating contact details, linking to and retiring from associations;
  • manage other user accounts attached to the association, for example inviting authorised users and managing requests to become authorised users; and
  • approve requests from people seeking to become authorised users for an association.

Authorised users

The system also allows for additional users to be linked to an association as authorised users. A person who is an authorised user must be nominated and approved by the committee but does not necessarily need to be a committee member.

Examples of authorised users include:

  • the association’s Chief Executive Officer or manager;
  • a legal or accounting professional acting on behalf of an association; or
  • a member of an affiliate or parent organisation.

An authorised user is able to:

  • lodge documents on behalf of the association; and
  • manage their own personal details online, for example resetting their password, updating their contact details and retiring as an authorised user.

The primary user is responsible for approving requests from people seeking to become authorised users for an association.

Linking to your association

Once you’ve enrolled as an AssociationsOnline user, the next step is to search for and link to your association.

To complete this process:

  1. Click the ‘Add an existing association’ button.
  2. Type in the name of your association and click search.
  3. Find your association in the search results list and click on the name.
  4. Tick the relevant box to nominate whether you want to become the primary user or an authorised user.
  5. Read and accept the user declaration and click ‘Go’.

If you’ve nominated to be the primary user (and there is no one currently in that role) you will be automatically linked to the association. If you have nominated to become an authorised user it will be up to the primary user to respond to and approve your request.

Once you’re linked to your association you will be ready to lodge applications on behalf of your organisation.

You can find more information about using AssociationsOnline in the help guide. There are also step by step videos available.

Sources and referencing

This guide is written primarily for people without a legal background.  Although a number of legal and non-legal sources have been used to write this guide, references have been kept to a minimum to ensure the content is easy to read.

A note on copyright

Throughout this guide, various websites have been referred to for additional information, forms and policies.  In most cases this information will be protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without permission of the copyright owner. The website will usually state if more copies can be made and distributed.  If in doubt contact the organisation concerned and ask for permission to use the material.

This guide has been provided free of charge and Consumer Protection permits its reproduction.

Copyright is covered in more detail in Copyright if you would like to read more now.

A final word

This guide deals with a large number of areas, involving in some cases quite complex laws and regulations.  The guide therefore simplifies a number of matters.  As a result, topics are explained in a general manner and do not include full details on all aspects of the relevant legislation.  Therefore, it cannot replace specific expert advice on your particular circumstances, which you should seek where required.

Disclaimer

The information contained in this guide is not intended to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as giving substantial legal advice, but as a legal awareness guide.

The guide does not provide a definitive statement of the effect or application of the various legislative schemes to which reference is made. While it provides a general overview, the law can change often and rapidly and you should always refer particular questions that relate to your association to a legal adviser.

The general overview of the law in this guide is based on material current at 26 August 2016.