Some groups are casual collections of people interested in seed saving, some are incorporated bodies or cooperatives with elected office bearers. How formal or informal your group is, is up to you to decide.
There is no legal requirement to register community groups, such as seed saving groups. Registering with your State or Territory government can provide some legal advantages but also comes with obligations.
Some ways to start a seed saving group without taking on a formal structure include:
- Adding seed sharing and swapping to an existing event, such as a food swap;
- Persuading your local library to include a seed saving and sharing program;
- Offer seeds locally on a one-to-one swap basis through local bulletin boards and social media;
- Find a larger group to be part of and work under their umbrella. Appropriate groups to auspice a seed saving group include garden clubs, farming associations, permaculture groups and community gardens.
If you start a new group but do not register it, then it would be considered as an unincorporated association. For small groups this might be the most practical way to operate as it is suitable for simple groups with minimal assets who do work that has minimal risk. It is simply a group of people who have agreed to come together to pursue a common purpose, such as run a seed saving group.
An unincorporated association cannot enter into contracts in its own name, or own land, or employ people, or sue or be sued. The members of the unincorporated association do these things on behalf of the association. The members may each have individual legal liability for the association’s debts and defaults, something which can lead to legal risk for those members. However if a small group does not have debts or carry out dangerous activities then the risk is very minimal. The group sets it's own rules and does not have any reporting or legal requirements.
If you decide your group needs a formal structure then there are a range of options to look at. You should also be aware that each state and territory has their own laws and processes so you should make sure you find information appropriate for your location. Along with the benefits of a formal structure for your group there are obligations that the group must meet.
An overview of all the types of legal structures in Australia is available here - https://www.nfplaw.org.au/free-resource ... -structure