Complaints about incorporated associations
Members have a crucial role in ensuring their association conducts its affairs in an acceptable way. If there is a problem in the association, members and committees should make all reasonable attempts to resolve any complaints themselves, whether informally or through the dispute resolution process.
Go to the INC Guide: Resolving complaints and disputes for detailed information about all the avenues available to resolve your concerns.
Following the dispute resolution process in the rules
All incorporated associations are required to include a procedure in their rules for dealing with any dispute, under or relating to, the rules between members or between members and the incorporated association.
It is highly recommended the association and members attempt to resolve the problems using these processes first.
If you are unsure what the association’s dispute resolution process involves you should refer to the rules. Under the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 members have the right to inspect or request a copy of the association’s rules at any time.
Applying to the State Administrative Tribunal
Where a dispute between individual members, or members and the association, relating to the rules of the association has not been resolved after completing the dispute resolution process as set out in the rules, an application may be made for the dispute to be heard by the State Administrative Tribunal (the SAT).
It is important to note the application will not be considered if the dispute resolution process in the association’s rules has not been completed. Information about the application and hearing processes can be found on the SAT's website .
Lodging complaints with Consumer Protection
Consumer Protection can consider complaints if there appears to have been a breach of the Associations Incorporation Act 2015; however it is highly recommended attempts are made to resolve the complaint using the dispute resolution process in the rules prior to lodging a formal complaint.
Do the concerns relate to internal issues, the rules, or a potential breach of the Act?
The Act specifies some compulsory requirements for incorporated associations such as the need to:
- hold an annual general meeting;
- provide financial information to members at the AGM;
- maintain a register of its members and the Committee.
Consumer Protection can make enquiries if it appears the association is not meeting these requirements.
Consumer Protection cannot consider concerns about the internal decisions of an association, or compliance with the association’s own rules. These matters will need to be resolved internally by the committee and the association’s members.
How to lodge a complaint
If you choose to lodge a complaint you will need to submit a formal written complaint along with copies of any documents to support your claims. A complaint form is available for your convenience.
Supporting information may include specific details of events including dates and names of people involved and/or documents such as copies of correspondence, emails, and/or minutes of meetings.
Once lodged, Consumer Protection will assess whether your complaint falls within the terms of the Act and consider whether there is sufficient information and supporting documents to investigate your complaint further.
An association will have the opportunity to comment on any relevant allegations made in a complaint.
After investigation, if there is sufficient evidence of a breach of the Act, Consumer Protection chooses what action to take based on its enforcement and prosecution policy which takes the public interest into account. Possible actions include education, warning, agreed undertakings, infringement notices and prosecution.
Duties of committee members
Committee members and officers have duties under the Act to make decisions and act in the best interests of their associations. As the provisions are broad and can apply to any aspect of running an association, Consumer Protection has prepared guidelines about the investigation of alleged breaches of the duty provisions under the Act. These guidelines assist the public in understanding when Consumer Protection may intervene in a concern relating to a potential breach of the duty requirements and how these complaints are assessed.
Appointment of a statutory manager
There are circumstances where the Commissioner for Consumer Protection may consider appointing a statutory manager. Guidelines have been developed to outline these circumstances. The appointment of a statutory manager is considered as a last resort.
It is important to note, even though the circumstances may support an argument to take this form of action, the matter would still be subject to assessment before the Commissioner will consider making an application to SAT for the appointment of a statutory manager.