Record keeping

This chapter describes the kinds of records that should be kept, members’ rights to access these records and how they can be stored.

Key points

  • There are a wide variety of records an association needs to keep.
  • Members have a legal right to access the register of members, record of office holders and the rules of association.  
  • Record keeping systems will vary from one association to another depending on the type of association, its activities and size. 

Types of records to be kept

The Act requires every incorporated club or association to keep the following records:

  • an up-to-date register of all members;
  • an up-to-date copy of the rules (often called the constitution);
  • an up-to-date list of the names and addresses of people who are office holders under the rules of the association;
  • accounting records that record and explain the financial transactions and position of the association; and
  • every disclosure of interest made by a committee member to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting at which the disclosure was made.

Members have the right under the Act to access the register of members, rules and record of office holders and receive financial statements or reports at each Annual General Meeting (see also Members' access to the records).

Minutes

Minutes should be taken for all meetings, especially the annual general meeting (AGM) and management committee, as they serve as record of what happened during a meeting (see also Meetings). Approved minutes provide an official record of:

  • attendance;
  • business discussed;
  • correspondence received;
  • reports tabled;
  • decisions made; and
  • resolutions adopted.

The level of detail recorded in the minutes may vary between associations but any decisions recorded should clearly state:

  • what decision has been made;
  • who will be responsible for its implementation;
  • when the decision is to be implemented by;
  • if the decision is to be reviewed, and if so, when and by whom; and
  • who should be notified of the decision and how.

The minutes must also record when a committee member has disclosed a material personal interest in a matter being considered by the committee (see also Individual committee members’ responsibilities).

Notice of meetings

Notice of association meetings and special resolutions must be given to all members within the notice periods specified in the rules of association. Copies of notices showing the date issued should be kept in case of a later dispute. Notices are often filed with the related minutes.

Certificate of Incorporation

The certificate of incorporation is issued when the association is first incorporated or if a change of name occurs. It is important the certificate is stored safely as it is evidence of the association's corporate status. The certificate can be required for example, when applying for funding grants or opening a bank account.

If the original certificate cannot be located the committee may apply through AssociationsOnline for a duplicate certificate to be issued.

Financial records

The Act requires records to be kept of the association's finances. Taxation and industrial legislation also require financial records to be kept. Access to accurate and up-to-date financial information also ensures that the association and its services remain viable.

The requirements of the Act are:

  • associations must keep sufficient accounting (or financial) records so that the financial transactions , financial position and performance of the association are correctly recorded;
  • these records need to be kept in a way that will allow true and fair accounts (or financial statements) to be prepared, and so that these accounts can be conveniently audited if required; and
  • the financial records are required to be kept for at least seven years.

Depending on the association's annual revenue there may be additional accounting requirements to be met. These requirements are discussed in detail in Accounts and Auditing.

Annual report

Many associations compile an annual report that summarises the main achievements and highlights of the past 12 months. There is no set format for an annual report, but it is usually submitted to members at the AGM and includes:

  • Chairperson's report.
  • Staff report.
  • Activity report.
  • Annual statistics.
  • Annual financial report.
  • Interest stories, highlights and low points.
  • List of staff, management and volunteers.

Where an annual report is produced, it is usual to include the annual financial report. As an annual financial report is required under the Act, it is a convenient way of ensuring that the association meets its obligation to submit its annual accounts to its members at the AGM.

Many associations also distribute an annual report as a public relations exercise. Some funding agreements require annual reports.

Employment records

In addition to the records required by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and State and Commonwealth industrial laws (see Employment), associations may wish to set up employment‑related record systems. These could include:

  • Recruitment records such as job descriptions, selection criteria, related industrial agreements, advertisements, selection processes and outcomes;
  • formal records of any meeting or discussion related to issues of employee performance and position review;
  • formal documentation of all proceedings related to any grievance;
  • records on staff training and professional development; and
  • copies of all correspondence and memoranda relating to individual conditions of employment, changes or requests.

Safety records

The following health and safety records should be kept in a separate file for easy access and reference:

  • complaints;
  • incidents;
  • risk management analysis;
  • training details;
  • safety committee minutes; and
  • copies of specific management committee resolutions.

Insurance records

Copies of all insurance policies should be kept in a secure place. Changes to policies should be updated on the files immediately when they are received.

Insurance policies may require an association to keep specific records for the purposes of validating a policy. For example health declarations or assets registers. Associations must notify their insurer as soon as possible after events such as an accident, theft or fire. It is important associations keep copies of all notifications and correspondence to prevent the possibility of any dispute regarding an association's obligations.

Service delivery records

Some associations need to keep service delivery records in order to:

  • acknowledge achievements;
  • minimise risk of professional negligence;
  • facilitate communications and change overs;
  • ensure industry or professionally‑based requirements are met; and
  • assist in evaluation and planning.

This may take the form of statistic sheets, case files or employee reports. Funding arrangements may also require certain records to be kept and reported on.

Members' access to the records

The rules of an association will set out the rights of members to access records such as meeting minutes, financial records and correspondence. Specific arrangements should be made for confidential materials such as staff or client files and the procedures for any access to this information by members should be clearly documented.

Members also have specific rights under the Act to access the register of members, record of office holders and rules of association.

Register of members

The Act requires associations to maintain an up-to-date register of members, which must include each member’s name and:

  • residential address; or
  • postal address; or
  • email address.

An association’s rules may specify other information to be included in the register such as categories of membership or the date the member joined the association. Where any change in the association’s membership occurs the register must be updated within 28 days of the change.

The Act gives members the right to inspect the register of members and make a copy of any part of its contents. A member does not have the right to remove the register from the association’s possession. Alternatively a member may make a written request for the association to provide them with a copy of register.

The rules of the association may require a member who requests a copy of the register to complete a statutory declaration before the copy is provided. This can also be requested where a member inspecting the register wants to make a copy of the document. The statutory declaration must state the purpose for which the information is required and confirm that the purpose is related to the affairs of the association. A sample statutory declaration is included at the end of this chapter. Provided these requirements are met (if applicable) the association must grant the member’s request for a copy or extract of the register.

A person must not use or disclose any information obtained from the register for any purpose that is not directly related to the affairs of the association. For example the information cannot be used to send material for political, religious, charitable or commercial advertising purposes.

In some cases it may be necessary for a request to access the register of members to be referred to a committee meeting so that the committee can consider whether a statutory declaration should be requested (if allowed by the rules) or a fee imposed for the provision of a copy of the document. The committee may also need to agree who will be in attendance if a member has requested a time to inspect the register. If access to the register is required within a particular timeframe, such as prior to a particular meeting or event, the requesting member should ensure that the committee is made aware of the relevant dates.

It is easy to comply with the requirements of the Act, while at the same time minimising the concerns that people may have over their name and address being made available to other members, such as:

  • ensuring the register contains only each member’s name, address and any information required to be included under the rules. Any other information the association wants or needs to keep about its members (telephone numbers, spouse’s details, etc) should be kept separately. This information should be kept secure and confidential as it could be subject to privacy considerations (see Privacy and confidentiality of records).
  • safe guarding the privacy of under-age members by creating a ‘non-member’ category for them such as ‘players’ for juniors in a sporting club. By making them ‘something other than members’ means their details are not available to other members through the association; however an association should confirm whether these ‘non-members’ will be covered by insurance cover before implementing any changes. Creating a ‘non-member’ category may involve an amendment to the association‘s rules. This topic is dealt with in Altering the Rules.

Privacy laws and the member register

Some people have held a belief that the Commonwealth’s privacy legislation overrides the rights of members to access the register of members.

In the case of the register of members, the privacy legislation does not protect this information from other members and members do not need to give consent for another member to view the register.  The Australian Privacy Principles allow for an organisation to disclose personal information when required or authorised under law. The Associations Incorporation Act 2015 is the law that enables a member to access the members’ register as discussed above. 

It is a good idea to advise people of these legal requirements when they apply to become members. If someone raises a concern about their name and address being made available to other members, it can defuse some of the emotion by pointing out that this information can also be obtained through sources such as the electoral roll and the telephone directory. Alternatively members can give an email address or post office box address for the purposes of the.

Record of office holders

Associations are required to maintain an up-to-date record of the names and addresses of all current office bearers, committee members and those members who are authorised to use the common seal or act as trustees for the association. The address recorded in the record office holders may be a residential, business or post office box address or an email address.

As is the case with the members’ register, members are entitled to view the record of office holders upon request and make a copy of all or part of the record. They may not remove the record for this purpose. Furthermore the inspecting member must not disclose or use the information unless the purpose is directly connected to the affairs of the association.

Organisations run best when members can easily contact their committee and many groups make committee contact information freely available for this purpose.

Rules of association

Every association must have a set of rules, often known as a ‘constitution’, that govern the way in which an association operates. Changes to these rules may only be made by passing a special resolution at a general meeting. This process is explained in Altering the Rules.

The Act also requires a copy of the rules to be held by Consumer Protection as the 'official' version of the association’s rules. The rules lodged by an association with Consumer Protection (including any amendments) are the only effective rules of the association.

The association must give each new member a copy of the rules in force when their membership starts. The association can comply with this obligation by:

  • providing a hard copy of the rules
  • emailing an electronic copy of the rules to the member; or
  • providing the details for a website where the member can download a copy.

Please note that if the member specifically requests a hard copy of the rules the association must provide the document in this format.

At any time a member can request to inspect and make a copy of the rules or ask the association to provide them with a copy of the rules or any particular part in force at the time of the request. (free of charge).

Privacy and confidentiality of records

Associations need to ensure they comply with legal requirements regarding any personal information it holds about clients, employees, members and other individuals.  Any personal information collected must be kept private and confidential and individuals have a right to:

  • have their privacy rights respected;
  • be assured their information will not be passed onto a third person unless it is authorised by law or they have given their consent;
  • know what information will be kept and why; and
  • be assured that information will only be used for the purpose it was supplied.

The Commonwealth’s Privacy Act 1988 regulates how personal information is handled by an organisation.  The Privacy Act includes thirteen Australian Privacy Principles setting out the standards, rights and obligations for the handling, holding, use, accessing and correction of personal information.  While these principles may not be legally binding for all incorporated associations they do provide a framework for managing personal information which any group could use. Visit the website for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) or telephone 1300 363 992 for more information about privacy laws.

Custody and handover of records

The Act requires an association’s rules to include details of who will have custody and responsibility for keeping the records.  These responsibilities are typically shared between the members of the management committee, for example the Treasurer may be responsible for custody of the financial records while the Secretary may keep everything else. 

If a person ceases to be a member of the management committee through the ending of their term, resignation or death, it is a requirement that any association records they hold be delivered to a current member of the association’s committee as soon as practicable (see also Leaving the committee). 

Record keeping and Consumer Protection

Associations information statements

The associations information statement is required to be lodged with Consumer Protection within 6 months after the end of the association’s financial year and confirms:

  • the association’s address
  • that the association has at least 6 voting members
  • the date of the most recent Annual General Meeting; and
  • the revenue for the most recent financial year.

The annual information statement can be submitted using AssociationsOnline. There is also a step-by-step video available about lodging the statement.

Updating the association’s address

It is important to ensure the association’s contact address recorded with Consumer Protection remain up to date and correct.  The Act requires associations to provide the Commissioner with an address and an address for service of notice and any changes to these addresses must be lodged within 28 days. The new address can be easily registered through AssociationsOnline.

Record keeping systems

There are various manual (filing cabinets) and electronic (computer-aided and online) ways to record, store and retrieve information. Each association should decide on a record-keeping system that suits its particular needs, circumstances and resources (availability of space or computers). The system should be functional, accurate, reliable and user-friendly.

Record-keeping systems need to consider the:

  • nature of information to be stored and retrieved;
  • security and access of files and information (particularly computer records);
  • validity and reliability of the information collected and the system on which it is recorded;
  • resources and training required; and
  • length of time that the records should be kept (general legal requirement is seven years).

Electronic records

Electronic records include document files, databases, spreadsheets, electronic mail and internet documents. Electronic records need to be kept securely and at the same time, be easily accessible for retrieval. Associations will also need to have appropriate processes in place to ensure that the electronic records are backed up and recoverable in the event of a computer or system failure.

Tracking documents

Associations may consider developing a simple policy for identifying documents. It is very easy for there to be suddenly two or more versions of a document and no one is sure which is the most accurate. The policy could require all official documents, minutes, reports, records, forms and orientation documents must:

  • be clearly titled;
  • show authorisation;
  • show date of authorisation;
  • show date of review;
  • title original copies as 'Original Copy'; and
  • title any non-original document as 'Copy'.

Storage management

The way in which records are stored will depend on:

  • the purpose of the records;
  • the type of records;
  • how long records must be kept; and
  • access needs.

Physical records may be stored on-site at the association’s place of business. If there is insufficient and appropriate space, records can be stored off-site by storage companies. It is essential documents are stored in safe, secure and appropriate facilities.

Destroying and archiving records

Some records may be destroyed after their legal retention period has expired (in most cases this period is seven years).

Records should not be destroyed unless the association is absolutely certain that this can be done both safely and legally. An association should have a policy on storing and destroying records and no records should be destroyed without the appropriate authorisation.

If the records of your association have not been destroyed, you may wish to consider passing them to the Battye LibraryThe Library maintains an extensive archive of the social history of Western Australia and its people and has expressed an interest in the records of defunct associations.

Records that must be kept permanently should be archived and not destroyed. Records that have permanent value are historical documents, minutes of meetings and legal documents. Archived records can be stored on-site or at an off-site storage facility.

Record keeping and the rules

The Act requires an association to make provision for the following matters, related to record keeping, in the rules:

  • the register of members of the association.
  • the custody of books and securities of the association.
  • the inspection by members of the association’s records and documents.

From 1 July 2019, if any of these matters are missing from the rules then the relevant clause of the prescribed model rules is deemed to apply to the association until action is taken to correct the rules. Refer to Consumer Protection’s website for more information.

Sample Form - Statutory Declaration

Sample Statutory Declaration for a member to request a copy of the register of members of an association.

STATUTORY DECLARATION

Oaths, Affidavits and Statutory Declarations Act 2005

Request for a copy or extract of Association’s Register of Members (s54(3) or s56(2) of the Act)

I,

 

(name of person making declaration)

of

 

(address of person making declaration)

occupation

 

(occupation of person making declaration)

 

sincerely declare as follows:

  1. I am a current member of                         (insert incorporated association name) (Association).
  2. My request of                                (insert date of request) to obtain a copy or extract of the register of members of the Association is made for the purpose of                          (insert purpose of obtaining information), which is connected with the Association’s affairs.
  3. I declare that this purpose is connected with the affairs of the Association.
  4. I understand that it is a criminal offence to disclose information in the register of members for a purpose that is not directly connected with the affairs of the Association or that is not related to the administration of the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 (Unlawful Purposes).
  5. I will not disclose information obtained from the register for Unlawful Purposes.
  6. I understand that Unlawful Purposes include, but are not limited to, advertising for political, religious, charitable or commercial purposes.

This declaration is true and I know that it is an offence to make a declaration knowing that it is false in a material particular.

This declaration is made under the Oaths, Affidavits and Statutory Declarations Act 2005

At 

 

(place)

On

 

(date)

By

 

(signature of person making the declaration)

       

 

In the presence of:

 

(signature of authorised witness)

 

(name of authorised witness)

 

(qualification as such a witness)

Information about preparing and witnessing statutory declarations is available from www.courts.dotag.wa.gov.au.