The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations is an independent statutory office holder whose chief function is to administer the CATSI Act. The legislation not only allows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups to form corporations but also it sets out how they should be run.
In addition to delivering modern corporate governance standards, the CATSI Act provides special measures to suit the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Some features unique to the CATSI Act include:
- an Indigeneity requirement—a majority of both members and directors must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, providing protection for Indigenous ownership and control of the corporation
- specialised regulatory powers and assistance—such as appointing examiners and special administrators
- research, training and education in good corporate governance
- registration of prescribed bodies corporate determined under the Native Title Act 1993.
Policy statements on the CATSI Act
The Registrar offers guidance on interpreting legislation through policy statements which are available at www.oric.gov.au. These statements inform corporations, their directors and members as well as the general public about:
- how the Registrar interprets the CATSI Act and associated legislation
- the principles that lie at the basis of the Registrar’s approach
- how the Registrar may exercise specific powers under the CATSI Act.
As at 30 June 2016 there were a total of 26 policy statements.
The Registrar also has limited regulatory powers under the Native Title Act 1993 and the Native Title (Prescribed Bodies Corporate) Regulations 1999.
Registered native title bodies corporate (RNTBCs) determined by the Federal Court of Australia under the Native Title Act 1993 and royalty associations under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 are required to be registered under the CATSI Act.
However, the CATSI Act ensures that requirements imposed on a corporation or an individual by native title legislation doesn’t conflict with obligations under the CATSI Act.
The Registrar also provides a range of information on how the different legislation interacts, policy reasons for the legislation, policy statements on how the Registrar manages certain native title issues, and a guide for writing good governance rules. All these resources are available from www.oric.gov.au.
Of the 2781 registered corporations as at 30 June 2016, 156 were RNTBCs.
During 2015–16, the Registrar met with native title groups as well as addressed the New South Wales ‘Prescribed Body Corporate and Traditional Owner’ corporation workshop held on 22 May 2016. The Registrar also presented at the National Native Title Conference in Darwin on 1–3 June 2016 where he also conducted a panel discussion (see page 70).
The organisational structure
In 2015–16 ORIC opened a new regional office in Brisbane to further strengthen its regional operations. ORIC now has seven regional offices. They are located in New South Wales (Coffs Harbour), Queensland (Brisbane and Cairns), Northern Territory (Alice Springs and Darwin), and Western Australia (Broome and Perth).
To align with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), ORIC has adopted the same network structure as PM&C which allows for 12 regions. In some cases this means ORIC’s regional offices have responsibility for more than one PM&C network region.
Figure 1: PM&C regional network and ORIC regional office locations
Table 1: ORIC’s offices supporting PM&C network regions
The 12 PM&C network regions
Coffs Harbour, Brisbane and Cairns offices
1. Eastern New South Wales
|Alice Springs office||
6. Central Australia
|Darwin and Broome offices||
8. Top End and Tiwi Islands
11. Greater Western Australia
|Canberra (national office)||
12. Victoria and Tasmania
The Registrar and senior management as at 30 June 2016.
Section manager, Regulation Section
Section manager, Communications Section
Section manager, Training Section
Section manager, Investigations and Prosecutions Section
Section manager, Registration, Reporting and Project Delivery Section
The Registrar’s budget allocation for 2015–16 was $8.38 million, down from $8.95 million in the previous year.
As at 30 June 2016 the Registrar’s work was supported by 46.6 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff. Of these, 47.9 per cent identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander as compared to 40.8 per cent last year.
The gender split between staff members was 27 female and 21 male. ORIC also had five part-time staff and one staff member on long-term leave.
Staff involvement in events
Each year ORIC staff involve themselves in various activities and events.
- NAIDOC community and family day
- National Sorry Day
- Australian National University launch of the New Action Aboriginal Heritage Trail