Case Studies

Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair: Creating a Non-Profit Business Structure

A photograph of an art exhibition in a bright gallery space
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Established in 2007, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair is an annual cultural event showcasing visual artworks from over 40 Indigenous owned and incorporated art centres. The Fair was initially managed by an interim Steering Committee made up of representatives from ANKAAA, DESART and Indigenous art centre managers. However, following a review of their governance structure in 2010, they decided to follow recommendations to register as a not-for-profit foundation, to help support the ongoing vision and management of the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.

The members of the Steering Committee contacted Artists in the Black (AITB) for assistance with setting up a new foundation.  This was going to be a long involved process involving a number of aspects including drafting a constitution, registering the company and applying for registration as a non-profit tax exempt and deductible gift recipient. This went well beyond the limits of Arts Law’s telephone advice and document review services and needed more substantial pro bono legal support. In March 2011, Pro-Bono and Community Investment Director Anton Hermann of the law firm Minter Ellison, arranged for partner Garry Beath,  Special Counsel Ashley Dayman and lawyer Michael Ward to assist in achieving these objectives on a pro-bono basis.

A clear constitution is vital to good organisational governance.  In drafting the new constitution, Minter Ellison helped the Steering Committee to address a number of issues, including specifying who could be a member of the new foundation and creating a number of director retirement clauses. In the drafting process a unique pre-amble was inserted into the constitution, acknowledging the Larrakia people as the traditional owners and custodians of the land where the Fair is held and recognising the value of the arts and culture of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The constitution also requires that at least one of the Directors of the foundation is a Larrakia person, who will be nominated by an appropriate Larrakia organisation.

In March 2012, Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation was successfully registered as a company. The establishment of the Foundation has created a strong vision for the future of this unique cultural event, providing a solid organisational base from which to continue to build the Fair’s national profile. Steps are now being taken to seek endorsement as a tax exempt and deductible gift recipient entity.

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