Starting in 2011, the PBC Support Project aims to facilitate networking and coordinate the flow of information to Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs), or Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs). It builds on 7 years of work that AIATSIS has done with PBCs through research projects, such as PBC Research Action Partnerships, aiming to provide a better understanding of the challenges facing native title holder communities after their native title determination, and to suggest practical approaches that assist these communities to hold, manage and enjoy the potential benefits of traditional lands and waters.
In 2013, AIATSIS conducted the AIATSIS 2013 PBC Survey to compile a detailed picture of where PBCs are today, and what kind of support they need into the future. The information collected in this research survey is being used by AIATSIS to argue for the importance of adequate resourcing and support for PBCs, both in the initial stages of organisations being set up and in the longer term. This is particularly important in light of the Australian Government's Native Title Organisations Review conducted in 2013.
Alongside PBC research projects, the PBC Support Project operates a broad range of functions to support the needs and interests of PBCs. To date the PBC Support Project has focused on promoting awareness of PBCs among Commonwealth and State governments and building the capacity of PBCs to promote their interests. To this end, AIATSIS has convened national and regional PBC workshops, and the importance of regional meetings and workshops will only increase as the number of PBCs continues to grow. AIATSIS acts as an informal secretariat to PBCs to disseminate resources, assist PBCs to advocate for PBC interests and establish a network of stakeholders working with PBCs (including state and commonwealth departments) to create constructive dialogue between native title holders and their stakeholders. This has included exploring the proposal for regional or national advocacy bodies and AIATSIS currently providing secretariat support to a PBC Working Group comprised of PBC representatives from around Australia. AIATSIS currently looks after a national PBC email network which is used to send through policy updates, news, information resources, events and training that is of relevance to PBCs. All this work is done in partnership with PBCs, and the direction of the project is informed by the recommendations of regional and national PBC workshops and requests from individual PBCs.
AIATSIS works closely with, though not exclusively through NTRBs and NTSPs in providing this support and has established a PBC Support Officer Network, which is a network of NTRB/NTSP staff who work primarily in the area of PBC support, to promote information sharing and to build a community of practice around PBC support and capacity building.
The current map of PBCs is available on the National Native Title Tribunal website.
Although native title corporations are commonly referred to as PBCs, this is not strictly accurate. Under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), ss 55-57, as part of the determination of native title, native title groups are required to nominate a ‘prescribed body corporate’ or PBC to hold (as trustee) or manage (as agent) their native title.
Following a determination, prescribed bodies corporate are entered onto the National Native Title Register. At this point, the corporation becomes a registered native title body corporate or RNTBC. While the terms PBC and RNTBC are often used interchangeably, the Native Title Act 1993 deals with them separately. While RNTBC is technically the accurate name for these organisations, PBCs is the most commonly used term.
Statutory differences between PBCs & other corporations
- RNTBCs and PBCs are special types of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations because they are created especially for common law native title holders to hold or manage native title.
- PBCs must have the words ‘registered native title body corporate’ or ‘RNTBC’ in their name, to signify this and must be registered with ORIC as required by the NTA whilst other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations can choose to register under other state or territory associations law or under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).
- PBCs have obligations under the NTA such as the requirement to consult with and obtain consent from native title holders in relation to any decisions which surrender or affect native title rights and interests.
- If an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation becomes or ceases to be a PBC (RNTBC) , it must notify the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations [external sites] (ORIC) within 28 days.
- PBC directors and officers are protected from a range of criminal and civil penalties for breach of duties as long as they have acted in good faith in complying with obligations under native title legislation (not including the duty not to trade while insolvent).
- PBCs are not required to value their native title rights and interests as part of their assets, for the purpose of determining their size classification under CATSI.
- PBCs must ensure that their constitution is consistent with native title legislation.
- The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) must not change the PBC’s constitution on the basis of an act done in good faith and with the belief that the corporation or its officers are complying with native title legislation.
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) is not able to de-register an PBC as long as it remains an PBC and manages or holds native title interests.
PBC Legislation and Policy
For a timeline of policy review and legislative reform that has impacted PBCs visit Native Title Corporations
With the increasing number of successful determinations across Australia, PBCs have emerged as a key element within the native title system. Under the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA) PBCs are established for each native title determination in order to hold in trust or manage the native title rights and interests on behalf of the native title holders.
PBC functions and obligations are regulated by the:
- Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)
- Native Title (Prescribed Bodies Corporate) Regulations 1999 (Cth)
- Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth)
However, state and territory legislation also interacts with the rights and interests of native title holders that have been determined. Therefore, while there are prescribed activities that are listed in the legislation, PBCs have constitutions that reflect broader community aspirations and needs. See further PBC profiles.
Under the regulatory framework, the recognised primary functions of PBCs are to:
- protect and manage determined native title in accordance with the objectives of the native title holding group; and
- ensure certainty for governments and other parties interested in accessing or regulating native title land and waters by providing a legal entity to manage and conduct the affairs of the native title holders.
PBCs need to operate effectively so that native title holders are able to utilise and maximise their native title rights and engage meaningfully in land management. Concerns have been raised that very few PBCs are able to fulfil the functions intended under the legislation or the aspirations of the native title holders. Over the last ten years there have been increasing demands from diverse sectors for greater investment in PBCs. During 2006 there were 42 PBCs and in 2013 there are now over 100 PBCs across Australia
The kind of bodies that can be determined as PBCs (and therefore registered as RNTBCs) and their functions are set out in the NTA and Native Title (Prescribed Bodies Corporate) Regulations 1999.
- Native Title (Prescribed Bodies Corporate) Regulations 1999, Statutory Rules 1999 No. 151, made under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).
National and Regional Meetings
National Meeting of RNTBCs, 2 June 2009
The second national meeting of PBCs was held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday 2 June 2009. Approximately 65 representatives from the 71 PBCs around Australia attended the gathering which was held prior to the National Native Title Conference. The purpose of the meeting was for PBCs to share experiences and exchange ideas about the representative and advocacy needs of the emerging PBC sector in the post determination landscape. The meeting resolved to establish a national peak body for PBCs to provide advocacy and support and to represent their collective interests.
Documents arising from this meeting:
- Bauman, T, and Ganesharajah, C, Second National Prescribed Bodies Corporate Meeting: Issues and Outcomes (500 Kb), Melbourne 2 June 2009, Native Title Research Report, No. 2 AIATSIS, Canberra, 2009.
- Robin, S, ‘Report from the National Meeting of RNTBCs 2009, (647 Kb)’ Native Title Newsletter, May/June 2009, No. 3, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2009.
- Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, ‘Native title holders call for national peak body,’ Media Release (351 Kb) 2 June 2009.
First National Meeting of RNTBCs, 11-13 April 2007
Between 11 and 13 April 2007, the first national meeting of Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs) was facilitated in Canberra by the Native Title Research Unit (NTRU) of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) as part of a broader project designed to draw attention to PBCs and provide support to them. Twenty-three PBC representatives attended the meeting - ten participants from Western Australia, four from mainland northern Queensland, four from the Torres Straits, two from New South Wales, four from the Northern Territory and one from Victoria, reflecting the general distribution of PBCs, most of which were located in Western Australia and Queensland.
The 2007 PBC national meeting took place in the context of significant legal and policy change affecting PBCs. Reforms to the native title system included changes to the NTA and the claims resolution process and measures to encourage the effective functioning of PBCs. The purpose of the first national meeting of PBCs was to develop a greater understanding of the PBC environment and native title holder aspirations and to bring together resources and develop networks that may benefit them.
Documents arising from this meeting:
- Bauman, T & Tran, T, First National Prescribed Bodies Corporate Meeting: Issues and Outcomes Canberra 11-13 April 2007 (1.43 MB), Native Title research Report No. 3, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2007.
Port Augusta SA, February 2012
The most recent meeting took place in Port Augusta, SA on 11-13 February 2012. This meeting was co-convened with South Australian Native Title Services (SANTS). The workshop brought together 4 PBC’s and 4 native title groups that are soon to establish PBCs through determinations scheduled for 2012. The majority of native title determinations in South Australia have occurred in very recent times, so this was the first time PBCs in SA had come together to discuss shared achievements and challenges. Discussions were focused upon: the resourcing and capacity challenges that PBCs face; the need for higher level business training for PBC directors, particularly to support business and economic development; the need for greater information sharing and networking between PBCs in SA, and between states; and support for establishing a state and national body to act as an advocate for PBC interests at a State and Federal level. Presentations were made by Intract Indigenous Contractors; the Indigenous Land Corporation; the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Indigenous Business Australia; Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; Department of Further Education, Employment, Science & Technology; and the Aboriginal Foundation of South Australia.
Melbourne VIC, December 2011
A meeting took place in Melbourne on 13-14 December 2011. Representatives from all four Victorian PBCs attended the meeting. The Victorian meeting was facilitated by Austin Sweeney of NTSV and Lisa Strelein of AIATSIS. Victorian government representatives from Aboriginal Affairs Victoria discussed potential opportunities for cultural heritage business development and the review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic). A representative from the Parliament of Victoria Environment & Natural Resources Committee gave a presentation on the parliamentary inquiry into Registered Aboriginal Parties. Representatives from the Department of Sustainability & Environment presented on state government planning for Victoria’s Forests and Parks. The Native Title Unit from the Department of Justice and FaHCSIA both spoke about RNTBC funding.
Cairns QLD, October 2011
The second meeting took place in Cairns on 25-27 October 2011. Representatives from 26 Queensland PBCs attended the workshop. This included representatives from five PBCs of the Torres Strait Islands. The Queensland meeting involved native title representative bodies throughout the state and was facilitated by Lisa Strelein, Vincent Mundraby and Valerie Cooms.
Queensland government representatives from various departments attended the meeting. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Acts Branch of the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) discussed the transfer of land under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Acts 1991, they gave examples for transfer of inalienable freehold in Cape York and land trusts under specific protected areas. The Department of Local Government and Planning discussed planning processes and relationships with local councils. The Remote Indigenous Land and Infrastructure Program Office in the Department of Communities provided information on facilitating home ownership, surveys, community engagement and planning and 40 year leases. The Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) discussed the development of economic and business expertise for Indigenous organisations. Commonwealth government agency representatives from FaHCSIA presented information on existing funding and support for PBCs and the Indigenous Leadership Program. Indigenous Business Australia spoke to the group on potential collaborations with PBCs.
Balgo WA, August 2011
The NTRU convened the first regional PBC meeting on 31 August-2 September 2011 in Balgo WA. The meeting comprised representatives from Tjamu Tjamu (Aboriginal Corporation) and Parna Ngururrpa (Aboriginal Corporation) and took place at the Balgo Community Centre. The meeting was co-facilitated with the Central Desert Native Title Services and with the support of consultant anthropologist, David Martin.
Western Australia government representatives from various departments attended the meeting. The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities discussed the Caring for Our Country Program, Indigenous Protected Areas and carbon farming. The Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) provided examples and outlined opportunities for leasing Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) land and the Department of Regional Development and Lands (Royalties for Regions) provided an overview of potential funding opportunities. Commonwealth government representatives from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy also attended and discussed PBC internet access, remote business, recording culture and the My Story database.
Kimberley WA, May 2011
AIATSIS facilitated a workshop with the Bardi Jawi PBC and community council 17-18 May 2011 at One Arm Point in the Kimberley.
AIATSIS assisted with the planning and facilitation of four meetings and workshops for PBCs in the Torres Strait between December 2007 and June 2009:
- First Meeting of Torres Strait prescribed Bodies Corporate, 4-6 December 2007, Thursday Island.
- Regional Meeting Torres Strait Prescribed Bodies Corporate, 28-30 April 2008, Masig Island.
- Third Meeting of Torrres Strait Prescribed Bodies Corporate, 30 March-2 April 2009, Badu Island.
The meetings have focused on the role of native title in the region and the relationship with the community and other governance bodies, including the TSRA and the newly established Torres Strait Regional Council. A number of discussions have also focused on new government funding and partnership opportunities and governance and business planning.
PBCs hold and manage native title on behalf of traditional owners throughout Australia. They are located in a diversity of areas and have unique experiences. The NTRU has created profiles for all PBCs in Australia.
The profiles contain information about the organisation recognised as a PBC, including the (where available) the:
- History of the organisation
- Profile information: name, geographic details, contact details, and website
- Administrative information: Corporation number, corporation date, and links to relevant corporation documents
- Native Title Determination Information: links to NNTT determination details, and links to relevant case law
- Agreements Information: links to Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) details
- Additional information: media releases.
PBC profiles are available on the PBC website.
Readings and resources
The Native Title Statistics and Summaries page provides regularly updated summaries of RNTBCs including hyperlinks to: determination summaries from the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT); relevant case law from the Australasian Legal Information Institute (Austlii); corporate information from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC); and determination & corporation information on the Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements (ATNS) website.