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Mary Ward International Australia: 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Care:  At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.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 Ward International Australia’ is one such Member.


The name in the ACFID membership list links to the website for ‘Mary Ward International Australia’. 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 Ward International Australia’, with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[1]

 1.  There’s no charity registered in the name ‘Mary Ward International Australia’. You must pick from two, one a company, one a trust (with a couple of others to add to the confusion):

The website linked from the ACFID shows, via an ABN in the footer, that it belongs to the first one in the list, Mary Ward International Australia Ltd [MWIA Ltd].

MWIA comment: “Mary Ward International Australia (MWIA) is one company, with three trusts as listed. These trusts were established to enable MWIA to best serve the work of the Loreto Sisters in Australia and around the world.  The Company is not undertaking activities beyond the scope of its role as trustee and has been granted Deductible Gift Status by the ATO in accordance with the stated activities.   The Trustee for Mary Ward International Australia (DGR 2) and Mary Ward International Australia Overseas Develop Fund (DGR 1) and the Trustee for Mary Ward International Australia Charitable Trust having no tax deductibility.” 

Reviewer’s response: MWIA Ltd is also a charity. The three trusts are also charities. All have to report separately to the ACNC unless and until the ACNC gives permission to report as a group. This permission has not yet been given.


2.  There is nothing to suggest from the MWIA Ltd website that any of the charities raises funds door-to-door or in public places.

MWIA comment: “We do not raise funds door to door. Donations are received through the website or direct mail campaigns. As is required by law, the correct ABN numbers are included to identify the relevant trust fund.”


3.  The web address begins with a closed padlock symbol, so the website is secure [the ACNC article above]. The donate page says that Westpac PayWay is used to process your donation.


4.  Tax deductibility of donations (from the respective ABN records, via the ACNC Register):

MWIA comment: “MWIA Ltd is the Company, with three trusts, listed with the ATO and  the ACNC. MWIA Ltd is also an ACFID member under which three trusts sit. MWIA Ltd’s only financial presence is through the three trusts (donations are not accepted under the Ltd entity). ACFID confirm Mary Ward International Australia Ltd is the member of ACFID, and would consider the three trusts that MWIA Ltd operates through as part of that entity.

Reviewer’s response:

    • While ACFID might consider MWIA Ltd to be the member, MWIA Ltd is the only one of the four charities that (1) doesn’t report that it is a member, and (2) doesn’t present its financials in ACFID format.
    • MWIA Ltd doesn’t present audited financial statements consistent with the belief the group of charities operates as one.


5.  The use of your donations

As context, MWIA is the Australian and international development organisation of the Loreto Sisters’. ‘Loreto Sisters’ is a trading name belonging to The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary[2].

The audited account of how a charity uses donations is the Financial Report 2019.  

Although MWIA Ltd controls the three other charities, its Financial Report does not show the results for the single entity that is presented to the public via the website. There is no Financial Report for the consolidated entity. (The combined revenue is $1.19 million.) Instead, each of the four charities has prepared and lodged with the ACNC a report on their own operations. You are invited to donate to an entity that is composed of four charities run as one but are given no opportunity to assess the audited performance of that entity.

If you are unable to ring the MWIA Ltd office and ask them to prepare a financial report on each of the three charities for which MWIA Ltd is the trustee, and that answers your questions about the charity, then even if you do decide to look at the three individual Financial Reports, you will find that have been produced on the assumption that you don’t exist:

Furthermore, each of the three charities for which MWIA Ltd is trustee say that they are an ACFID member, and present financial statements in satisfaction of ACFID’s requirement to report. But ACFID record only one of the four charities as a member, Mary Ward International Australia. Presumably, because their link goes to the website of MWIA Ltd, it is that company that ACFID thinks is the member. Why are the other three saying that they are a member?

These are the people responsible for all four Financial Reports:

Elizabeth Rogerson

Emma Braun

Wendy Hildebrand

Nicole Gibson

Kelly Morison

Rebecca Walker

Mary Cook

Leoni Degenhardt

Christopher Dureau

MWIA comment: “To support the development works associated with the Loreto Sisters and their colleagues as they empower women in transforming structures and systems that keep them oppressed and marginalised.

Availability of Financial Statements:

MWIA invites interested parties to receive a copy of the audited financial reports by emailing directly from the link Publications and Reports page:  Below you can view a copy of our financial reports for the last four years. For a copy of our full audited reports, please contact mwiaustralia@loreto.org.au or call from the Contacts page – which includes the office contact phone numbers, emails and email address.”

Reviewer’s response:

    • It is not the availability of ‘audited financial reports’ for the four charities that is the issue; they are available on the ACNC Register (see the third paragraph above).
    • The issue is a website that portrays four charities operating together under the umbrella of Mary Ward International Australia (MWIA) yet reporting as if they were independent.
    • MWIA themselves see the need for such a report, including ‘aggregated financial statement information (although incomplete and unaudited) in their Annual Report rather than separate statements.


Nothing else systematic on impact found.

Charity response

MWIA Ltd tells people how to give feedback.

I sent a draft of this review to them on 29 March 2020. They…[XXXX].


  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. The website is in another name, Loreto Australia & South East Asia, with the copyright held by The Institute; it’s counter-intuitive, but the trading name does not allow them to trade in that name. For that they need a business name.