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Mary MacKillop Today: 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Care:  At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.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.

This is a review in the series ‘Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Members’. ACFID ‘is the peak body for Australian non government organisations (NGOs) involved in international development and humanitarian action.’ It requires Members to adhere to a Code of Conduct. ‘Mary MacKillop Today’ is one such Member.


The name in the ACFID membership list links to the website for Mary MacKillop Today’. Here they seek donations from the public.

The ACNC, in their article, Donating to Legitimate Charities, gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”:

  1. Check the charity’s name.
  2. Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
  3. Be careful of online requests for donations.
  4. No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one, and
  5. Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.

Here’s the results for ‘Mary MacKillop Today’, with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[1]

 1.  A search on the ACNC Register shows that ‘Mary MacKillop Today’ is a registered charity (MMT).

Although it is a public company, it appears that MMT has met ASIC’s requirement for registration without ‘Ltd’ / ‘Limited’ at the end of its name.


2.  There is nothing to suggest that MMT raises funds door-to-door or in public places.


3.  The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above].

There is nothing about security on the page where you enter your personal information.


4.  MMT’s ABN record (via the ACNC Register record) says that it is entitled to receive tax-deductible gifts, both as a Public Benevolent Institution, and for its fund, Mary MacKillop Today International Fund.

The ‘Donate’ page says that ‘Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible’.


5.  The use of your donations

As context, read here what MMT does.

Cash unspent

Past donations have contributed to MMT being able to hold $7.66 million in ‘Cash and cash equivalents’ and $4.00 million in ‘Investment’. They do not explain why this much is held, including why $2.51 million of it is in relatively risky long-term assets.

The audited account of how donations are used is the Financial Report 2019.  

Issues with the Financial Report

  • The Contents page says that an audit report is included, but the page at which it is meant to start is blank.
  • The Statement 0f Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income contains, without explanation, an extra column headed ‘Ethica’.
  • The formation of MMT on 1 July 2018, from two existing charities, Mary MacKillop International and Mary MacKillop Foundation[2], and its consequences for the accounts, is treated in a piecemeal and confusing way in the statements. For instance, there is no explanation that the figures for 2018 are not comparable to those for 2019.
  • A large item of Other comprehensive income (in the Statement of Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income), $405K, is merely described as ‘Other comprehensive loss’.
  • It is not clear whether the $1.10 million transaction with the related party The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart is a receipt or a payment.

If you are still happy to consider a donation to MMF, here’s how it used the donations it received:

Cash spent

From the Statement of Cash Flows (with last year in the second column):

No further information is given on this figure. So, we don’t have enough information to understand where the cash went.

Resources consumed (i.e. accrual)

This, from the Statement of Profit or Loss and Other Comprehensive Income, is how the activities translated into expenses:

None of these items is defined.

The destination of the money for programs is not given.

So, again we don’t have enough information to understand what happened to the donations received[3].

There is nothing in the Financial Report 2019 on how MMT ensures that (a) the money reaches the overseas organisation, and (b) it is used for the purposes given.

These were the directors who were responsible for the Financial Report 2019:

Honourable John Watkins

Anthony Abraham

Grahame Petersen

John Collins

Kate Barnett

Sr Sheila McCreanor

Since this time, the ACNC Register shows that John Watkins has gone and Joanne Lee and Kieran Gleeson (this one?) have joined.

The board is responsible to the members. However, there are only five members, one less than the number of directors[4].


Nothing systematic found on MMT’s impact.

Charity response

MMT ‘recognises the value of feedback’.

I sent a draft of this review to them on 28 March 2020. By the time of publication, on 21 April 2020, they had not responded.


  1. A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering:

    • Focus on the nature of the charity’s work, its beneficiaries and the impact the charity is having in the community.
    • Is it clear what the charity is trying to achieve and how its activities work towards its objectives?
    • Would you like to spend your money, or time if volunteering, to support these objectives?
    • Is the charity being transparent about its activities?

  2. It appears that this charity was never registered.

  3. The need is supported by paragraphs 85 and 112 of the Accounting Standard Presentation of Financial Statements [www.aasb.gov.au].

  4. The constitution does not require a director to be a member.