Your constitution questions answered

It’s not exactly a glamorous topic, but understanding your P&C’s constitution will help you govern your association well – and legally!  Here are the answers to your constitution questions.

What is a constitution ?

Your constitution is your P&C’s governing document.  It sets out the aims of the association, its rules and operations. It is your guiding document.

Do we need a copy ?Shipsailing

Yes! This important legal document should be stored carefully and handed on to the next  committee of volunteers.

If you don’t have a copy of your P&C’s constitution you can request one from Access Canberra by completing an Association search request form (there is a $27 fee). If your association is a registered charity, the ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission) will also have a copy which you can access via their online portal.

Should I read it?

Yes! It answers many P&C questions, such as:

  • What are our aims? (listed as ‘objects’)
  • Who are the office bearers/committee?
  • What is our quorum (the smallest number of people who must be present for official decisions to be made)?
  • What types of meetings do we need to hold, and how often?
  • Who is a member of our P&C?
  • How much notice must we give to members before holding meetings and what form should that notice take?
  • Is the school’s principal a member and can they vote?
  • Can our P&C establish sub-committees? How?
  • How should we record and manage potential conflicts of interest?
  • What do we do if there is a dispute?

Committee members should be aware of the requirements of your constitution as they are legally binding.

Must we follow it?

Yes! Your constitution is legally binding.

A P&C is so much more than its current committee and members. It’s an entity moving through time with a definite purpose (as laid out in the constitution) and the current committee are like temporary custodians. As a committee, you’ve been placed at the helm of a ship that is already sailing, and the constitution sets out where the plan was to head!

If, however, your constitution is unworkable, out of date, or does not reflect how your P&C now wishes to function, you can change it.

What about  the details?

The constitution should only contain the P&C’s overarching rules. Details of operational practice and policies are better placed in a set of By-Laws which your association can draft and append to your constitution. These must align with, not contradict, the constitution. They might cover meeting procedure, budgeting and how finances are managed, sub-committee terms of reference and so on. These are easier to change than your constitution.

How do we  change it?

The process for changing your constitution will be specified… in your constitution!

If you need to update yours, start with our template. It is set up to follow the legal requirements and shows what must be included and places where it can be adapted to your P&C. Our free Constitution Workshop will step you through the process – bring your constitution along and we can help your review and amend it.

To change your constitution, you’ll need to:

  • work out what changes are needed
  • make sure it complies with regulations (see the notes in our template)
  • advertise and hold a Special General Meeting to pass the new constitution in a Special Resolution. Notice for the meeting must include the wording of the Special Resolution and details of proposed changes. The notice period required by law is a minimum 21 days (but check your constitution in case it specifies more). At this meeting the proposed changes can be debated and ratified (by vote).
  • lodge your updated constitution with government – use Access Canberra’s Change of objects or rules form. If your P&C is a registered charity, you must also upload the new constitution on the ACNC’s charity portal.

More Questions?

If you need more answers, check out our Information Sheets online, our Template for P&C constitutions, come to our training or contact us