Naming your incorporated association

How do we choose our association’s name?

In most cases, a proposed association will choose a name that reflects the purpose of the association. The association must have the word ‘Incorporated’ or the abbreviation ‘Inc’ as the last word of its name.

The proposed name must not be identical or similar to one that is already registered.

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

You can also check if a name is already registered by an incorporated association by doing a free online search on the NSW incorporated associations online register.

You should also check whether a name is restricted in a way that may prevent its use. You can search the Register of Trade Marks on the IP Australia website, or IP Australia will do the search for you for a fee.

In addition, the use of certain words or phrases in a name may require consent from various authorities. NSW Fair Trading will contact applicants if further information is required to process an application.

Use of the words 'foundation', 'trust', 'charity' or ‘charitable’

Certain words, such as ‘foundation’, ‘trust’ and ‘charity’, may initially be considered unacceptable since these words may create a public perception of substance, stability and integrity. Associations wishing to incorporate under a name using any of these words are required to provide further information in support of their applications.


‘Foundation’ is a term used to describe an organisation which derives all or part of its income from an endowment, being a donation or legacy for the support of an institution. Typically, a foundation is a not-for-profit organisation involved in some form of charitable work.

Organisation’s wishing to incorporate under the Associations Incorporation Act 2009 (the Act) using the word ‘foundation’ in the name are required to provide evidence of endowment to determine if use of the word is acceptable. Associations wishing to use the word ‘foundation’ must have a guaranteed income base.

Evidence of endowment may be in the form of a letter detailing:

  • source eg. bequests, donations, pledges, subscriptions, grants and amount of the endowment etc. Written confirmation from the provider must be submitted
  • future fundraising activities
  • proposed objects of the association once incorporated
  • how the funds will be expended eg. sponsorship, scholarships, grants
  • the proposed charitable work to be undertaken


Use of ‘trust’ in the proposed name typically implies a not-for-profit organisation formed for the purpose of administering or maintaining a trust of a public or charitable nature. Often, there is an asset held in ‘trust’, such as land or a building, on behalf of members, beneficiaries or the wider community.

Where the name of an incorporated association is to include the word ‘trust’, a copy of the deed creating or embodying the trust is required to be provided with the application for registration of association (or application for reservation of name, if applicable).


Use of the word ‘charity’ in a proposed name implies engagement in charitable activities and undertaking public fundraising. Fair Trading will require evidence of registration with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) or written confirmation of intention to register as a charity with that agency before approving the word ‘charity’ in a name.

Can Fair Trading reject a name?

Reservation or registration of a particular name may be refused if the name is considered to be unacceptable, including where the proposed name:

  • is identical to, or closely resembles, a name that is registered or reserved, and the public is likely to be misled
  • contains foreign language characters
  • suggests a connection with the Crown or the State
  • is considered offensive or undesirable
  • is declared by regulation to be unacceptable
  • is the former name of an incorporated association and the name is likely to mislead the public in relation to the nature, objects or functions of an association or in any other respect
  • is likely to mislead the public in relation to the nature, objects or functions of an association or in any other respect.

Can we appeal the rejection of a name?

If Fair Trading rejects the proposed name, the association may apply for an internal review of the decision.

If the internal review is unsuccessful, the applicant may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an administrative review under the Administrative Decisions Review Act 1997.

Go to the Law Link website or call 1300 006 228 for more information on the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Does the association own the name under which it is incorporated?

Incorporation under a particular name:

  • does not give the association the exclusive right to use the name or part of the name
  • does not prevent another person from registering a name that includes similar words.

Does incorporation prevent another organisation from undertaking similar activities?

Incorporation does not prevent another organisation from undertaking similar activities to those undertaken by the incorporated association. Incorporation does not grant an association immunity from an action where it is alleged to be passing off its operations as those of another organisation.

How can an association change its name?

To change its name, an association must:

Where the association’s name appears in its constitution, the association should also pass a special resolution amending the relevant rules in its constitution. The changes to the constitution will need to be registered with Fair Trading.

An association should be up-to-date with its reporting obligations as this will be checked before the new name is registered.

Can an association be directed to change its name?

An association may be directed to change its name if the name is subsequently deemed to be unacceptable. An association can appeal the decision by applying for an internal review.

If the internal review is unsuccessful, the applicant may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an administrative review under the Administrative Decisions Review Act 1997.

For more information, visit the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal site or call: 1300 006 228.

Where does our name have to appear?

The full name of the association including the word ‘Incorporated’ or the initials ‘Inc.’ must appear in legible characters on official documents, including all business letters, statements, invoices, receipts, notices and publications (including the association’s website) in connection with its activities.

The association’s registration number should be quoted in all documentation, correspondence or contact with Fair Trading. The registration number appears on the association’s certificate of incorporation and commences with INC or Y.

Need more information?


Registry and Accreditation

Make an enquiry online

Tel: 02 6333 1400
FreeCall: 1800 502 042

PO Box 22
Bathurst NSW 2795

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