Dearly beloved,

It seems that there are still some rumours floating around about legal entities and what unity would mean for GOCSA’s status as a legal entity. Unfortunately it seems that these rumours are being fanned by unscrupulous characters in order to deceive the GOCSA faithful and to keep us from uniting. This blog post aims to put an end to these vicious and false rumours.

In summary, the point of this post is this: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese desires spiritual unity with GOCSA – not to merge the two legal entites into a single legal entity.

Introduction

As law-abiding Australian citizens we are generally pretty ignorant about the details of our legal system. This usually isn’t a problem – after all, as long we do the right thing there isn’t much need for most of us to worry about such details. Unfortunately, this ignorance can also leave us vulnerable to being preyed upon by dishonest people.

The current situation within the Greek community in Adelaide is a perfect example of this. There are many innocent faithful in GOCSA who are afraid that if they were to reunite with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the churches that they worked so hard to build may be taken away and sold. There are some who try to fuel these rumours by claiming that the Archdiocese will have the legal right to do so, or even that the Government will force them to.

The following is a recent question that shows the sort of confusion out there:

The legal entity as a community that Is recognized by the government of south Australia is the Greek community of Sa. This could potentially mean that if there is unification all your legal assets will fall under the jurisdiction of the Greek community. This could potentially mean the usurpation of your assets by the Greek Community as the Archidiose may not be recognized as an ethnic community, are you still comfortable with this. God’s word is God’s word, however Crown law is Crown law

Out of respect for the author (whose sincere contribution we are most grateful for) we will refrain from revealing their identity.

This person seemed to be under the impression that the law might allow (or perhaps even require) GOCSA to take all of the Archdiocese’s assets if they united. Presumably their real fear is that the GOCSA assets will be taken, and they wanted to see how we felt if it happened to us.

So what is the truth? Could the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese take GOCSA’s assets if there is unity? To answer this we first need to look at some basics.

What are “legal entities”?

Legal entities are governed by a branch of law called “Corporations Law”. In its full detail, Corporations Law is among the most complicated areas of law once you start digging into the details, but at its most basic level the concept is very simple: have their own independent identity in the eyes of the law. This means that legally-established companies, organisations & associations (“legal entities”) have many of the same legal rights that individuals have. Most important for us to note here are:

  • Organisations have the right to purchase & own property and other assets.
  • ¬†Organisations have the right to enter into contracts with others (including other organisations or individuals).

Australian Federal Law and the laws of the individual States of Australia protect these rights. That means that an organisation’s property or money cannot simply be taken away by an individual or another organisation without that organisation’s consent. That’s what we call “theft”.

There are lots of different types of legal entities, each being suited to a different purpose. Some examples include: companies (those with “Limited” or “Ltd” after their name), organisations and incorporated associations (“Incorporated” or “Inc”).

Checking the register of legal entities

ASIC - The Australian Securities and Investment Commission

ASIC - The Australian Securities and Investment Commission

Because legal entities have to be registered with the relevant authorities when they are created, it is possible for any member of the public to find out basic information about them by contacting the appropriate government office.

Also, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission provides a search engine for looking up basic information about lots of different legal entities across Australia. The information we are providing on this page was found using this search engine.

This page is helpful because if someone makes a claim or starts a rumour about a legal entity’s status, you don’t have to take their word for it – you can verify it directly.

Legal status of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and its parishes

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is a registered legal entity that was created by a special Act of NSW parliament. Its full legal name THE GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AUSTRALIA PROPERTY TRUST. As a legal entity, it has the right to own property and to enter into agreements with other legal entities.

However, many of the parishes that are spiritually under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia are also separate legal entities (these are known as parish-communities). Here is a list of the legal names of the parish-communities under the Archdiocese in Adelaide:

Prophet Elias, Norwood GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY AND PARISH OF NORWOOD AND EASTERN SUBURBS INCORPORATED
St Spyridon, Unley ST. SPYRIDON GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY INCORPORATED
St George, Thebarton GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY AND PARISH OF SAINT GEORGE, THEBARTON AND WESTERN SUBURBS INCORPORATED
The Nativity of Christ, Port Adelaide GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST PORT ADELAIDE AND ENVIRONS INCORPORATED
St Anthony, Prospect GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH AND COMMUNITY OF ST. ANTHONY NORTHERN SUBURBS INCORPORATED

In spite of being in spiritual union with the Archdiocese, these are not united into a single legal entity. Because their legal entities are separate from the Archdiocese, Federal & State laws will treat them as two separate parties even though they are spiritually united. This means that the Archdiocese cannot do anything with the property of one of these parishes without that parish’s consent, because the Archdiocese is not the legal owner of the property (the parish is).

Note that of the 118 parishes in the Archdiocese, 58 (ie, nearly half) of them operate with this legal arrangement.

Legal status of the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales

Note also that with the recent re-unification of GOCNSW with the Archdiocese, GOCNSW followed this parish-community model and retained its legally separate identity. The full legal name of GOCNSW is THE GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES LTD and (as you can see on the registration page) this organisation is still registered. Thus they are spiritually united with the Archdiocese in the same way that the parish-communities of the Archdiocese are (such as those above).

In short, the unity achieved between the Archdiocese and GOCNSW is (like the other parish-communities) a spiritual union – not a union of two separate legal entities into a single legal entity.

Legal status of GOCSA

The full legal name of GOCSA is GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INCORPORATED. As we noted in our post on Template for Unity, if GOCSA were to unite with the Archdiocese, they would most likely follow the same pattern that GOCNSW followed. In other words, the Archdiocese is concerned with achieving spiritual union with GOCSA (as it did with GOCNSW) – not a union of the two legal entities into a single legal entity.

Because GOCSA would retain their separate legal identity if they were to merge with the Archdiocese, this means that the “GREEK ORTHODOX COMMUNITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA INCORPORATED” would retain full ownership of all its property. The Archdiocese would not be able to sell any property owned by GOCSA because the Archdiocese is not the legal owner of that property according to Australian law (and vice-versa).Scales of justice

Conclusion

In summary: members of GOCSA need not fear that the Archdiocese is trying to merge only so that it can take away its assets. The Archdiocese is interested in spiritual union, not a union of the two legal entities into a single legal entity. This means that legally there is no way that the Archdiocese actually could take GOCSA’s assets away from them even if we do unite spiritually.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s unite!

If you hear rumours to the contrary, please squash them. It is time for these damaging and misleading rumours to stop and for those responsible to be held to account for misleading the Greek community in Adelaide. Only then will we finally have a chance at unity.

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