Starting an association

New associations and unincorporated bodies

When an incorporated association is registered a legal entity that is separate from the individual members is created.  Groups that may become registered as incorporated associations are small non-commercial, not for profit groups, including:

  • sporting groups
  • arts and crafts groups
  • social groups
  • ethnic and cultural groups
  • pensioner associations
  • musical societies
  • environmental groups.

You cannot register as an incorporated association if you are planning to operate as a business or to provide monetary gains to members.

An incorporated association must have a minimum of 5 members. There is no upper limit to the number of members

The steps to incorporate vary, depending on whether your group is just starting out or is already operating as an unincorporated body.

If you are an existing company or co-operative proposing to register as an incorporated association see our transferring registration to an incorporated association information.

Applying to register an incorporated association

1. Choose a name

NSW Fair Trading will determine if the proposed name is acceptable.

A name will be unacceptable if it is identical or too similar to one that is already registered.

Applicants can check if a name is similar to one already registered by searching the Organisation and Business Names search facility on the Australian Security and Investments Commission website.

You can also find out if the proposed name is registered by an incorporated association by doing a free online search through the NSW incorporated associations online register. This provides key information about incorporated associations registered in NSW, including an entity's incorporation name and number, date of incorporation and registration status.

If you intend to reserve a name prior to applying for registration, the Form A1 Application for reservation of name is available from the Associations forms page.

2. Establish objects and constitution

An incorporated association should have objects that set out the purpose and range of activities of the proposed association.  Where an association has its own constitution, the objects are usually included in the constitution.

Every incorporated association must have a constitution that addresses each of the matters referred to in Schedule 1 of the Associations Incorporation Act 2009. For information on the constitution visit the About the constitution page.

An unincorporated group may already have a constitution. If so, it will need to ensure the constitution it is to adopt on becoming registered as an incorporated association addresses each of the required matters.

3. Authorise an application for registration of the incorporated association

In the case of 5 or more individuals proposing to register a new association, they are each required to authorise the first public officer to apply for registration of the association

If the group already operates as an unincorporated body, the application for registration must be authorised by a special resolution passed by members of the unincorporated body. A copy of the special resolution must be included with the application for registration

4. Apply for registration of the incorporated association

The association’s first public officer must lodge with Fair Trading an Application for registration of an incorporated association together with the set fee.

An application for registration must include:

  • the proposed name of the association
  • a statement of the association's objects
  • a copy of the association’s proposed constitution, or a statement that the association adopts the model constitution without change
  • details of the association’s first public officer, and
  • if the application is on behalf of an existing unincorporated group – a copy of the special resolution authorising the application for registration


    The application can be lodged:
    • by email
    • by mail to Registry and Accreditation, PO Box 22, Bathurst NSW 2795
    • in person at any Service NSW Centre

After registration the association’s first committee is responsible for managing the association’s affairs and for ensuring it complies with its obligations under the Act.

The committee must ensure the necessary books and records for the association are established and maintained. See Association records for information on the required books and registers.

5. Property of existing unincorporated body that becomes an incorporated association

Where an existing unincorporated body registers as an incorporated association the rights and liabilities of the unincorporated body become the rights and liabilities of the association.  Any property, including land, held on behalf of or in trust for the unincorporated body vests in the association.

Where land is held on trust for the unincorporated body, the association will need to lodge an application with the relevant Land Registry Service for the association to be recorded as the proprietor of land.

That application will need to be accompanied by:

  • Form A5 Certificate of public officer as to vesting of property
  • Certificate of public officer as to vesting of property, completed by the association’s public officer, and
  • Certificate by the Secretary (being the Commissioner for Fair Trading) evidencing that the incorporated association was formerly the unincorporated body.

A request in writing accompanied by the prescribed fee is required for the issue of this Certificate.

The association should check with the relevant Land Registry Service regarding any other requirements that must be met.

Can an association be refused registration?

Fair Trading may refuse to register an association if it is satisfied the association should not be registered by taking into account a number of matters including:

  • the objects of the Act
  • the proposed constitution and objects of the association
  • if its income and/or total assets exceed $5 million or current assets exceed $2 million
  • the likely nature and extent of its activities and its dealings with the public, or
  • for any other reason that appears sufficient to the Commissioner.

Other things to consider

Tax exemptions

If the association intends to seek exemption from income tax and other tax concessions, its constitution may need to include specific clauses to meet Australian Taxation Office requirements. For more information on tax exemptions, visit the Australian Taxation Office website.

Australian business number (ABN)

Th Act does not require an incorporated association to have an ABN. However, the association may need one for taxation purposes. For more information on ABNs visit the Australian Business Register website.

How must does it cost to incorporate an association?

Information on current fees is available on the Associations fees page.

Need more information?

Contact:

Registry and Accreditation

Make an enquiry online

Tel:  02 6333 1400
Free Call:  1800 502 042

PO Box 22
Bathurst NSW 2795

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