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Australian disaster relief funds and tax deductible gifts

Information about the characteristics of an Australian disaster relief fund for endorsement as a deductible gift recipient.

Last updated 28 July 2020

For a fund to receive income tax deductible gifts it must be endorsed by us as a deductible gift recipient (DGR).

Read this to find out what the characteristics of an Australian disaster relief fund is and whether your fund can qualify as one.

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Characteristics of an Australian disaster relief fund (ADRF)

An ADRF is a public fund (including a public fund established and maintained by a registered public benevolent institution) that has the following characteristics:

  • the fund is either:  
    • a registered charity or operated by a registered charity
    • an Australian government agency or operated by an Australian government agency.
  • the fund is established and maintained solely for providing money for the relief (including relief by way of assistance to re-establish a community) of people in Australia in distress as a result of a disaster that is outlined under characteristics of a disaster.

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Registered charity

A registered charity is an entity that is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) as a charity.

A registered public benevolent institution (PBI) is an institution that is both a registered charity and registered with the ACNC as a PBI.

If your fund is an entity in its own right, it must be a registered charity.

If the fund is part of an organisation, the organisation operating the fund must be a registered charity. If the organisation operating the fund is a PBI, it must be registered with the ACNC as both a charity and a PBI.

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Types of relief

Disaster relief can cover a broad range of activities. These will vary with the nature of the disaster, and may include providing:

  • emergency shelter
  • health care and food supplies
  • relief for people through
    • trauma counselling
    • work on buildings
    • amenities
    • locations
    • infrastructure.

Repairing and reconstructing infrastructure could include:

  • rebuilding community buildings damaged by a disaster such as
    • aged care homes
    • halls
    • churches
    • schools
  • replacing equipment used for community and owned by community organisations, that is damaged by a disaster.

Providing resources and facilities for use in relieving the distress could include:

  • coordinating clean-up operations after a disaster
  • transporting and storing emergency supplies for people in outlying areas following a widespread fire or flood.

Relief can also be provided by preventing further danger from the disaster. Such relief could include:

  • building retaining structures to prevent landslides following the loss of vegetation from a cyclone
  • securing structures to limit damage if aftershocks follow an earthquake
  • preventing the spread of disease after a flood.


While there are many types of relief for which an ADRF could provide money, it must not provide money for activities that are:

  • for the relief of distress that is not a result of the disaster
  • for people outside Australia
  • not for the relief of people
  • unrelated to the disaster.

If an ADRF is making grants to various individuals and organisations, an application form can help provide assurance that its money will only be provided for acceptable uses.

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Characteristics of a disaster

The disaster must be one of the following:

  • is declared by a treasury minister as a disaster
  • is declared to be a disaster by, or with the approval of, a minister of a state or territory under the law of the state or territory
  • gives rise to a declaration of a state of emergency by, or with the approval of, a minister of a state or territory under the law of the state or territory.

A treasury minister may declare a disaster if the minister is satisfied that the disaster both:

  • developed rapidly
  • resulted in widespread damage or physical suffering.

The declaration must be announced publicly and must specify the day (or the first day) the disaster is taken to have occurred or started.

Developed rapidly classification

A disaster might be considered to have developed rapidly if it developed over a number of weeks.

Disasters that are likely to be eligible under this category include:

  • fire
  • earthquake
  • flood
  • storm, including hailstorm
  • cyclone, including typhoon and hurricane
  • storm surge
  • tornado
  • landslide
  • tsunami
  • meteorite strike
  • volcanic eruption
  • plague
  • terrorist act
  • large-scale transport accident or chemical accident
  • epidemic or war-like action
  • crop and animal diseases (if they develop very quickly).


A bushfire started in thick forest in a remote area of South Australia. The fire burned for 17 days, growing in intensity before it reached the town of Bertsvale, causing substantial damage. For the purposes of this category, the fire is considered to have developed rapidly.

End of example

When something has not developed rapidly

A disaster will not be considered to have developed rapidly if it developed over a number of years.

Disasters that are not likely to be eligible under this category include:

  • global warming
  • drought
  • land salinity
  • soil erosion.

Classification for resulting in widespread damage or physical suffering

The disaster must have resulted in one or both of the following:

  • the death, serious injury or other physical suffering of a large number of people
  • widespread damage to property or the natural environment.

Disasters will frequently have both these characteristics, but either is sufficient.

It would be uncommon for a declared disaster to have only limited results. Nonetheless, if a large number of people are not harmed or the damage is not widespread in terms of the type of disaster, it will not qualify.

Whether damage is widespread may be affected by the nature of the disaster. For example, while the presence of a crop disease on one 30 hectare farm may not be widespread damage, the damage caused by a fire through the same area in a city may be widespread.

Time funds have to receive tax-deductible gifts

Under the Australian disaster relief fund category, a public fund is entitled to receive tax-deductible gifts for two years from either:

  • the date specified in a treasury minister's declaration of disaster
  • the date of the disaster or emergency specified in a declaration made by the state or territory minister, or the date of that declaration.