Australians like to give which is why the charity sector is one of the biggest industries in Australia. Charities employ 10 percent of Australia’s workforce and in 2018 generated $155 billion.
The org.au namespace serves Australia’s large not-for-profit and charity sectors so it’s important that the community can have trust and confidence in it.
As we covered in our last post, a new set of rules for .au domain names is coming into effect in April 2021. These new rules streamline and build on our existing rules, and contain some key changes to who can register in the org.au namespace to help build and maintain trust.
Known as eligibility rules, they make it possible to identify who is using a particular domain.
Changes to who can register org.au names
To be eligible for a org.au name you need to be a not-for-profit entity. Under the new rules there are 11 categories of organisations that meet the definition of a not-for-profit.
One of the changes relates to unincorporated associations.
Under the new rules unincorporated associations are not eligible to hold org.au names. The only exception is where an unincorporated association appears on the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission’s (ACNC) Register of Charities.
The reason for this change is that an unincorporated association can’t enter into a licence agreement as they don't have a legal 'identity'. That means under the existing rules, org.au domain name licences registered to unincorporated associations need to be held by individuals instead.
As unincorporated associations are often informal groups, this can lead to less certainty around who is using an org.au domain name.
Unincorporated associations registered with the ACNC are an exception as these are charities and organisations with a charitable purpose that have ongoing reporting obligations to the ACNC, making it easier to verify who is operating the org.au name.
It’s important to note that most unincorporated associations won’t be eligible to register with the ACNC. However, registrants of org.au names using an unincorporated association as the basis for their eligibility may be still eligible for their org.au name if they meet the definition of a not-for-profit a different way.
What should I do if I’m affected by this change?
Firstly, this change only affects org.au registrants using their unincorporated association as the basis for their eligibility for an org.au name.
There are a number of courses of action you can take depending on your circumstances. You will need to assess which is the best option for your situation.
Check if you meet another category of not-for-profit entity
You should first check whether you meet any of the other categories of a not-for-profit entity in the licensing rules.
If your organisation does meet another eligibility category, you can get your registrar to update your registrant details with this information.
Based on the enquiries we’ve received on this topic, this is the most common solution.
If you’re unsure about what kind of entity your organisation is, a good place to start is by searching for your organisation on the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Registers or Australian Business Register (ABR).
Register in the asn.au namespace
Unincorporated associations are eligible to register in the asn.au namespace. You may consider registering a name that is the same or similar to your org.au name in the asn.au namespace, subject to its availability.
Change your organisation’s legal structure
You can consider changing the legal structure for your organisation to meet the definition of a not-for-profit entity, such as by becoming an incorporated association in your state or territory, or becoming a company limited by guarantee.
While we can’t offer advice on what legal structure is best for your situation, organisations like Justice Connect offer free advice and resources on these matters.
When this change takes effect
The change to the org.au eligibility rules take effect on 12 April 2021. All org.au domain name licences created, transferred or renewed on or after this date will be subject to the new licensing rules.
If your domain name licence expires after 12 April 2021, the rules in place at the time you registered, or last renewed your domain name will apply until the end of the current licence period only. If that name is renewed, the new licensing rules will apply to it as the new licence is only created once the current one expires.
For any other questions related to your domain name licence, contact your registrar.