Resolving disputes - incorporated associations

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Disciplinary action against a member

An incorporated association may take disciplinary action against a member for breaches relating to that person’s status as a member of the association.

The association must take action in accordance with the procedures (if any) outlined in its rules.

In applying the disciplinary procedure, the association must ensure the:

  • member who is facing the disciplinary procedure:
    • is informed why the action is being taken, and
    • has been given an opportunity to be heard
  • outcome is determined by an unbiased decision-maker (from within or outside the association)
  • disciplinary procedure is completed in a timely manner.

A member facing a disciplinary procedure must not initiate a grievance procedure related to the same matter until the disciplinary procedure is completed.

Disputes within an association

Disputes may occur over issues such as:

  • a proposed name or rule change
  • the appointment of a new secretary or committee member
  • distribution of funds
  • the association’s purposes.

Your association’s rules must set out a grievance procedure for resolving disputes between:

  • members
  • the association and any of its members.

In applying the grievance procedure:

  • a member may appoint somebody to act on their behalf
  • the association must give each party to the dispute an opportunity to be heard
  • the outcome must be determined by an unbiased decision-maker.

If the dispute is between the association and any of its members, the association must not take disciplinary action related to the same matter until the grievance procedure is completed.

If your association’s rules do not include a grievance procedure, the grievance procedure set out in the model rules automatically applies. Download a copy of the Model rules for an incorporated association (Word, 198KB).

Steps to dealing with issues

  1. If the association uses the model rules, members can ask the committee to call a special general meeting to consider any issues they wish to raise.
  2. Under the model rules, the committee must call a special general meeting if at least 10 per cent of members entitled to vote make a written request. If the committee does not arrange for this meeting to be held within six weeks of the request, the members may hold the meeting themselves.
  3. If the dispute cannot be solved through the internal grievance procedure, the relevant parties may contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV). The DSCV offers free mediation services to help the parties involved reach a solution.
  4. If all efforts to settle a dispute have failed and the dispute relates to the rules or rights of members, an association member may apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an order to enforce those rules and rights.

Our role

We ensure incorporated associations comply with the requirements of the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012 (the Act). This includes:

  • monitoring the lodgement of annual statements to ensure that financial reporting requirements are met
  • enforcing compliance and in some circumstances cancelling associations that do not meet their regulatory obligations
  • ensuring that any winding up and distribution of assets is in accordance with the law. This includes investigating complaints about incorporated associations that involve breaches of the Act (breaches of conflict of interest and lodging documents that contain false or misleading statements).

We do not:

  • intervene in breaches of the rules of the association (an internal matter)
  • investigate alleged improper management practices (an internal matter)
  • investigate alleged theft of association funds or other criminal matters (a Victoria Police matter) 
  • provide legal advice.