Aid/Watch and the Public Benefit of Advocacy for the Extra-territorial Relief of Poverty

Main Article Content

David Barnden
Giri Sivaraman


The disqualification of Aid/Watch as a charity and the High Court of Australia's subsequent decision shines a spotlight on the common law definition of charitable activity. The Aid/Watch decision enables charitable organisations to legitimately advocate for more efficient implementation of government policies on the relief of poverty and for the advancement of education and religion, without fear of reprisal.

Initially we comment on the inherent tension the Australian Taxation Office experiences as a result of its status as a government department, its responsibilities to administer revenue collection and its role interpreting charity law. We then discuss the common law definition of charity and the Constitutional basis for the High Court’s decision in Aid/Watch. To conclude we outline areas of uncertainties but also potential benefits to charitable organisations which are relevant for any proposal to define ‘charitable organisation’.

Article Details

Articles (refereed)
Author Biographies

David Barnden

David Barnden is a lawyer in the major projects department of Maurice Blackburn lawyers, Sydney. He worked on the Aid/Watch case.

Giri Sivaraman

Giri Sivaraman is principal in the industrial law department of Maurice Blackburn lawyers, Sydney.