SRE & Tax Deductible Giving to School Building Funds are Under Threat


The deductible gift recipient (DGR) system in Australia allows certain charitable organisations to offer tax deductible donations to their donors. Recently, the Australian Government Productivity Commission has undertaken a review of the DGR system, with a draft report from the commission recommending that “charities that have DGR status for school building funds or to provide religious education in government schools” have their DGR status withdrawn.
This would mean that up to 5,000 charities across Australia will no longer be able to offer their donors tax deductible giving.


Within their report, the government recognises the invaluable contribution that both the giving of financial donations, and people volunteering their time, make to the fabric of Australian society – and yet, they have not recognised that an enormous proportion of this is undertaken from members of faith communities. The Australian government has a goal of doubling giving by 2030. Through this report, and its recommended reforms, they have missed the key point that the faith communities contribute in an enormous way through both financial giving and volunteering of their time, in ways that contribute to social cohesion and benefitting society as a whole.


Members of faith communities are more likely to have helped the needy, and religious practice is linked to greater generosity in charitable giving and volunteering [1]. Many people in faith communities volunteer their time and skills to benefit others – bringing large scale community-wide benefit. The report states “Religious organisations play an important role in many people’s lives and communities across Australia. However, the Commission does not see a case for additional government support for the practice of religion through the DGR [deductible gift recipient] system, based on the first principle [i.e, expectation of community-wide benefits] above.” [p.18]. The Productivity Commission evidently therefore believes the opposite – that religious charities produce little communitywide benefit – which flies in the face of research [2].


The removal of DGR status for building funds for faith-based schools will have a profound impact on low-fee faith-based schools whose students cost the government far less to educate than if those same students were in a local public school. There is a growing demand for faith-based schools – which is the fastest growing sector of education. Governments provide all the capital funding (e.g., buildings and facilities) for government schools, but only a fraction of the capital needs of faith-based schools. Removal of DGR status will have a massive negative impact on this sector of education.


Special Religious Education (SRE) in Government Schools provides well-researched benefits for social cohesion and key psychological benefits for young people. It promotes thick multiculturalism, social acceptance, and reduces the risk of student radicalisation because the education is based within the school system, instead of an unregulated environment (for example online). SRE teachers represent the largest year-round volunteer labour force in Australia – and with the government wanting to focus on increasing giving and volunteering, we find it extraordinary that the Productivity Commission would seek to penalise this and other religious initiatives, and place severe limitations upon the resources that enable this instruction.


We believe the recommendations from this Commission will have far-reaching negative effects on the faith communities of Australia, their faith-based schools and also Special Religious Education within government schools. We are asking you to take some simple action before 9 Feb 2024 to let your voice be heard on this important issue. Please take the time to write a brief comment using the weblink below, or write a longer submission – or both. You are welcome to use any wording from this letter to help you. You are also encouraged to submit both a brief comment and a submission. Numbers matter - please use your voice and circle of influence, to ensure that thousands of individual comments or submissions are made before 9 Feb, 2024.


The commission is inviting feedback on their draft recommended reforms.
Your voice is essential.
Please make a submission, write a brief comment – or both, by Feb 9th:

1. Send a Short Comment

2. Send a Letter of Submission

Comments and submissions close on February 9th.


  • A broad overview of your own giving habits (finance and time) to religious charities and school building funds, and your value of the DGR system for these financial contributions.
  • Your appreciation for Special Religious Education within Government Schools, and the largest weekly volunteer labour force in Australia that enables this to happen – asking the government to maintain or increase their support for this, not reduce it.
  • That you want DGR status to be maintained for religious charities, school building funds and special religious education in government schools.
  • That you want to see faith communities – both their initiatives and their volunteers – valued and recognised within the DGR system.
  • The community-wide benefits that faith communities bring.
  • Please note: “The Commission reserves the right to not publish material on its website that is offensive, potentially defamatory, or clearly out of scope for the inquiry”.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue which affects us all. We look forward to seeing the many valuable and valid submissions and comments from the people of the faith communities of Australia.

~ Murray Norman
CEO, Better Balanced Futures


The full draft report is available here:

[1] For example, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute found thay religious people were 25 percent more likely than their secular counterparts to donate money and 23 percent more likely to volunteer time. See “Religious Faith and Charitable Giving,” Policy Review 121 (2003): 39. Available at

[2] Graham, Jesse and Jonathan Haidt. 2010. “Beyond Beliefs: Religions Bind Individuals into Moral Communities.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 14(1): 140-150.

Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Christian Media & Arts Australia
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
You've successfully subscribed to Christian Media & Arts Australia
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content
Success! Your billing info has been updated
Your billing was not updated