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Archived: Access Ministries: mini-charity review

Care:  At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.  Use the ‘Search charity names’ box to see if there is a later review.  If the latest review has a message like this, you are welcome to make your case for an updated review via email to ted@businessbythebook.com.au.

Mini-charity review of The Council for Christian Education in Schools trading as Access Ministries (Access), an organisation that invites the public to donate to it, and that is connected, through John Peberdy, to Christian Ministry Advancement Ltd’s ‘major new initiative, accrediting Christian organisations against a set of standards of good governance, financial oversight, and fundraising ethics.’ (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.) To see the situation last year, read this review. Is it responsive to feedback?

  • They were sent a draft of the review on 4 April 2017. They did not respond.

Is it registered?

  • Yes, as a charity.
  • Access is a public company, a company limited by guarantee.
    • It is entitled to omit ‘Limited/’Ltd’ from the end of its name.
  • The main name under which it trades Access Ministries, is a (registered) business name.
  • It operates, per the ACNC Register, only in Victoria. It is licensed to fundraise there.
    • It also fundraises via the internet. It does not have a licence outside Victoria[1].

What does Access do?

  • See the description here.

Do they share the Gospel?

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing systematic found.
  • There is a 2009 study on the impact of chaplains in schools, and some anecdotal reports of impact in the Annual Review 2015, and elsewhere.

What do they spend outside the costs directly incurred in delivering the above impact, that is, on administration?

  • The expenses are not classified to allow this calculation.
  • The Annual Review 2015 reports in an infographic that 27% of the expenses were indirect (page 10).

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • Yes

Is their online giving secure?

  • There is no mention of security.

What choices do you have in how your donation is used?

  • Donate to our current appeal’
  • ‘General Donations’
    • ‘Gift for Christian programs in schools’
    • ‘Other’
  • ‘Chaplaincy Donations’
  • ‘SRI Partnerships’

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (five months after their year-end).

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • Annual Information Statement 2015 (AIS 2015): No
    • The description of activities is not particularly about 2015.
    • No outcomes are reported.
    • Three business names are missing.
    • The figure for ‘Interest’ is wrong.
  • Financial Report 2015: No.
    • The directors have again adopted the lower standard special purpose financial statements.
      • It stretches credulity to suggest, as the Access directors do, that an organisation with a $11.00 m turnover, more than 200 staff, 1000 volunteer instructors, and 1900 donors[2], had ‘no users who are dependent on general purpose financial statements’.
    • Note 1 (p) says that
      • Funds held by local Chaplaincy Support Groups are not shown in the company’s assets, nor is the income and expenditure of the Support Groups consolidated into the parent company. The activities of the Support Groups are controlled by local governance committees. There were 54 Support Groups at 31 December 2015 with net assets totally $3,150,638 (2014: $3.399,322).
        • Despite these Chaplaincy and Wellbeing Support Groups being an integral part of Access’s operation, the acknowledgement of the parent-subsidiary relationship, and the collection of donations by Access for the Groups, the directors again give no reason for this decision.
        • Inclusion of these net assets would increase Access’s equity by 213%.

What financial situation was shown in that Report?

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • Although he gave a ‘clean’ opinion, the auditor, M.A. Cunningham of Grant Thornton, agreed with the directors’ decision that
    • there are no users (present or prospective) who are dependent on general purpose financial statements, and
    • the transactions and balances of the 54 Chaplaincy and Wellbeing Groups need not be consolidated.

If a charity, is their page on the ACNC Register complete?

  • Almost – there are three business names missing.

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Not shown on the website.
  • Per the ACNC Register:
    • Elida Brereton
    • Stephen Dickins
      • Is it this Stephen Dickins?
    • James Hall
    • Grant Lawry
    • Lisa McDonald
    • Peter Rawlings
    • Jorg Selhorst
    • John Peberdy
      • John is a director of Christian Ministry Advancement Ltd, the organization that is introducing a ‘major new initiative, accrediting Christian organisations against a set of standards of good governance, financial oversight, and fundraising ethics.’
    • There are 14 directorships recorded for the name ‘John Peberdy’, and 10 for ‘Elida Brereton’. And the register only covers charities, not all not-for-profits, and no for-profit organisations. Therefore, if after eliminating the charities that don’t belong to the Access director, you are left with their total being more than a handful, it would be legitimate for you to question whether their ability to discharge his fiduciary responsibilities is threatened.
    • Access is still non-compliant with its own requirement to have a minimum of ten directors.

To whom is Access accountable?

  • To the ACNC.
  • And, as a company, to ASIC.


  1. The law in this area is not straightforward – is an internet invitation ‘fundraising’ for instance? – and advice varies, so check with the charity before drawing any conclusions.
  2. Sources, in turn: Financial Report, AIS 2015, Annual Review 2015, Annual Review 2015.