The “Governor-General’s” Australian Future Leaders Foundation — which was to receive $18 million from taxpayers despite having no office, website or staff, before the Albanese Government scrapped the plan — has been launched after attracting $2.2m in “donations”.
It can also be revealed the “Gurkhas” charity that businessman Chris Hartley used as a springboard — which claims to have “international” operations in Australia and Nepal and purports to serve “victims of disaster” — has reported deficits every one of the past five years, and has had “negative” assets since at least June 2019.
Documents filed with charities regulator the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) state the “Governor-General’s Australian Future Leaders Program” has raised $2.17m in “donations and bequests” of unstated origin.
Of that, $445,855 has gone to unspecified “pre-establishment costs”.
On the ACNC website, the Australian Future Leaders Foundation, run by Hartley, states its objective is to “help build a nation that leaves no one behind”.
“The charitable objective is to help build a nation that leaves no one behind, through an Australia wide leadership initiative that makes a substantive impact on societal inclusion, economic prosperity and equity of access,” it states.
“Significant financial and support in kind from community focussed organisations and individuals who believe that Australia needs a national leadership program has been both committed and expended.
“No public money has been granted or committed,” it states.
The Australian Future Leaders Foundation still appears to have no website, and its “office” is listed as “Tower 2 Barangaroo, NSW” — an entire skyscraper.
The revelations come as new details emerged last week about Governor General David Hurley’s support for the Australian Future Leaders Foundation before the $18m funding was scrapped, with Guardian Australia revealing Hurley intended to tell the Queen about it.
Hurley was a key advocate of the Australian Future Leaders Foundation and its proposed taxpayer funding.
Australian Governor General David Hurley. Source: Australian Government
The ACNC site states the charity was created 13 April 2021.
The Australian Future Leaders Foundation has filed an annual report – its first – for the year to June 30, 2022.
The ACNC site says the Australian Future Leaders Foundation has two “full-time equivalent staff”, comprised of one full-time employee, one part-time employee and one casual employee.
It states “employee expenses” in the financial year were $571,435.
The site states the charity has 223 “volunteers”.
Its “donations and bequests” in the year were exactly $2.17m, stated as “$2,170,000”.
“The Governor-General’s Australian Future Leaders program will better prepare, better equip and better connect Australia’s future leaders for a more uncertain world by leveraging 65,000 years of collective knowledge and our unique national diversity,” says the charity’s bio on the ACNC site.
The UK charity (left) and Hartley’s Gurkha charity. Source: Supplied
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year approved an $18m grant to the charity — with ongoing grants of $4m every year — but the funding was scrapped last September after Labor won power.
Little is known about Hartley, and he has consistently refused to respond to media questions, including from The Klaxon.
Hartley registered the “Gurkha Welfare Fund Australia Limited” in March 2015.
Its website and branding is strikingly similar to established UK charity the Gurkha Welfare Trust, although the two are not affiliated.
On the ACNC website, Hartley’s Gurkha Welfare Fund Australia states it has “international” operations in Australia and Nepal, and that “visits by Gurkhas to Australia have provided the catalyst for fund-raising”.
Investigations show it has raised just $1,647 in the past four years, has had more liabilities than assets since at least June 2019 — and its “address” is a post office on Sydney’s north shore.
The address of Hartley’s charity is stated on the ACNC site as “32 Alexandra St Hunters Hill, NSW” — which is an Australia Post office.
“Dinner held at House of Lords” – Hartley’s Gurka charity site.
Another, dated January 4, is titled Shree Janapriya students thrilled with their new school”.
Neither article relates to Hurley’s Gurkha Welfare Fund Australia, but rather the UK’s Gurkha Welfare Trust.
In response to questions about Hartley in September last year, the UK-based Gurkha Welfare Trust told us it had no formal affiliation with Hurley’s Gurkha Welfare Fund Australia.
“We are aware of The Gurkha Welfare Fund Australia, though…there is no formal affiliation between it and the Trust outside of our standard ‘Community Fundraising’ agreement which we have with many of our fundraisers who raise money in aid of the Trust,” said Adam Bentham, Gurkha Welfare Trust head of fundraising and communication.
“We were aware that The Gurkha Welfare Fund Australia held a challenge event in Sydney in 2017 after which its Director, Chris Hartley visited our offices in the UK and we received two donations from the Fund that year.
“The sum raised was enough for us to build several of our earthquake-resilient homes for veterans and widows in Nepal. Outside of that, we have had very little interaction with the Fund or it’s Director/s,” Bentham said.
Filings for Hartley’s Gurkha Welfare Fund Australia on the ACNC site show it raised donations of $1640, $48,920 and $7676 respectively in the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years.
The website for Hartley’s Gurkha charity.
The ACNC site shows Hartley’s charity posted a 19-page “constitution” on June 7, 2021, which was prepared by prominent Sydney law firm Marque Lawyers.
Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley said he was limited in what he could say due to client confidentiality, but the charity had been a client of the firm, which had “acted pro bono for the Fund, in relation to its establishment as an entity and a charity”.
“We have no current or ongoing relationship with the Fund,” Bradley said.
The first set of annual accounts for the Australian Future Leaders Foundation, which is also run by Hartley, were filed with the ACNC on January 31 and are for the 2021-22 financial year.
Prepared by Gold Coast-based Peregrine Advisory, they show the charity had net assets of $1.52m at June 30 last year.
(A 33-page constitution, prepared by law firm Gilbert & Tobin, was filed was filed with the ACNC on April 19, 2021.)
Under “Charity Programs” on the ACNC site, the charity states: “The Governor General’s Australian Future Leaders Program”.
Under “Summary of Activities”, it states “community volunteers are in excess of 200”.
“In the latter part of the financial year, the organisational focus, skill base and investment moved from ideation, curriculum design and operational structure to delivery planning,” the charity states.
“Significant intellectual property has been generated. Transport, accommodation and delivery partner contracts are all underway”.
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