Enhancing the quality of life for all Queensland communities


Leigh Cunningham

    Leigh Cunningham is a lawyer with a career as a senior executive for a number of public companies in Australia and global companies headquartered in Singapore where she lived for 12 years. 

Prior to returning to Australia to take up her current position as CEO for IPWEAQ, Leigh was the Executive Director and General Counsel for the Association of Independent Authors and previously, Director Finance & Operations, Asia for Worldtrade Management Services (a business unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers). 

Leigh has 24 years’ experience in membership organisations including as the CEO for the Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators, Australia and concurrently as the Secretary-General for the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, and as the Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Project Management.

Leigh has three master’s degrees in law, commerce and an MBA where she graduated ‘Top Student’. She is also the author of four multi award-winning books.

CEO's Report
September 2018

What happened to 2018? It’s already spring and just a few weeks now until the 2018 IPWEAQ Annual Conference to be held at The Marriott, Surfers Paradise hosted by our colleagues and Commonwealth Games hosts, the City of Gold Coast.

Last year, 40 councils were represented at the annual conference held in Townsville and we’re expecting more than 50 councils at this year’s event. If you require a letter for your employer outlining the benefits of attending the conference, please let us know and we will tailor a letter focussed on your particular professional development needs for your position.

We have a lot of major projects in progress at the moment including the Street Planning & Design Manual (SPDM), the native title and cultural heritage portals and new professional development programs, that we thought we’d really push ourselves and initiate the change to a new corporate structure.

As many of you know, I am a corporate lawyer by profession so corporate structures to me are like bridges and roads to you – they need to address current issues but also consider future needs. And given that it requires a 75% majority vote from members to change a corporate structure and supporting constitution, it’s not a process to undertake often.

IPWEAQ is currently an incorporated association registered with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) under the Associations Incorporation Act (1981). Since we became a registered charity in 2016, it is an appropriate time to consider the type of structure – incorporated association versus Company Limited by Guarantee (CLBG) – that best serves us now and well into the future.

As mentioned, we also need to address current issues. IPWEAQ’s constitution has not been updated since 2006 and owing to various ad hoc amendments over the years, there are a number of conflicting rules and many others that don’t respond to the needs of a progressive organisation eg elections currently must be held by postal ballot which is an administrative expense that could otherwise be saved.


Incorporated associations were originally designed to be low cost and easier to manage however the ultimate authority over the association did not vest with its members but with the Chief Executive of the OFT which reflects the lower standing of the incorporated association versus the CLBG.

When a CLBG is a charity, its main regulator becomes the ACNC and different, less complex laws apply to CLBGs that are charities than to other CLBGs because various provisions in the Corporations Act ‘switch off’.

The ACNC adopts an ‘educative regulatory approach’ which means it will use a range of measures to help organisations comply with their legal obligations rather than taking a strict approach. This also removes the previous concern organisations had about incorporating as CLBGs and meeting ASIC’s strictly-enforced requirements.

Incorporated associations registered as charities, being state based charities, must report to both the OFT and the ACNC. CLBGs that are registered charities only need to report to the ACNC. Therefore this legal structure is increasingly attractive to incorporated associations that are registered charities as CLBGs only need to comply with, and report under, one rather than two regulatory regimes.

The first draft of the proposed new constitution and supporting documentation, including a comparison with the current 2006 constitution and reasons for the changes, will be added to our website following review at the October IPWEAQ Board meeting.  There will also be a form for you to submit queries or concerns so please take the time to provide us with your feedback. 

Following six months of consultation with members, we will propose a change to IPWEAQ’s structure to a Company Limited by Guarantee, at a General Meeting to be held in the first part of 2019. You will be able to vote (not electronically at this stage!) by Proxy as soon as you are happy with the proposal. 

Any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Leigh Cunningham

Chief Executive Officer