Changes to the CATSI Act

Current status: Bill referred to the Senate

On 2 September the CATSI Act Amendment Bill passed the House of Representatives and was referred to the Senate's Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for consideration. That committee is due to report on 14 October 2021.

Comprehensive review 

On 11 December 2019 the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, announced a comprehensive review into the CATSI Act. To be coordinated by National Indigenous Australians Agency, the review will consider whether the CATSI Act is serving its purpose, including as a special measure under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

On 31 July 2020 the NIAA issued a draft report and fact sheets—which summarise matters raised in the previous round of consultation—and opened phase two of consultation where they are asking for your comments on matters raised so far, and if there’s anything else you think needs to be considered. Phase two consultation closed on 21 September 2020, though written submissions were accepted until 2 October.

In all, NIAA held:

  • 41 virtual public consultation sessions with 165 participants (479 participants registered)
  • 3 individual virtual consultation sessions with industry stakeholders
  • 11 individual virtual consultation sessions aimed at interested stakeholders

In addition, they received:

  • 141 chapter survey responses
  • 41 written submissions
  • 3 responses through the web-based feedback form
  • 8 email responses

The comprehensive review built on the work of previous reviews including the 2017 KMPG review of ORIC and the CATSI Act, the DLA Piper Technical Review of the CATSI Act, and the consultations conducted on the 2018 Strengthening Governance and Transparency Bill. Consolidating on the extensive consultation of these reviews, the comprehensive review comprised 3 phases of 22 dedicated weeks of consultation and stakeholders were provided with the opportunity to shape the review, comment on proposed changes to the CATSI Act and finally, comment on amendments to the CATSI Act.

Final report of the comprehensive review

Findings of the review are outlined in the CATSI Act Review Final Report, which made 72 recommendations. Most of the recommendations suggest changes to the CATSI Act, and some call for further consideration of an aspect of the legislation.

A bill to amend the Act

The Government is seeking to give effect to most of the report’s recommendations. To that end it has drafted a CATSI Amendment Bill that—assuming it passes Parliament—will amend the CATSI Act.

Consultation on the exposure draft

NIAA sought feedback on the draft legislation until 9 August 2021, through online sessions, email and other channels. Specifically, they asked people to identify:

  • parts of the legislation they support
  • parts they believe may be difficult to implement.

 In addition, NIAA was interested in feedback on the clarity, readability and complexity of the draft legislation.

NIAA also prepared a set of resources to help people read the bill, including a guide that links recommendations in the report to changes in the legislation, and a series of fact sheets.

Ultimately, as well as verbal feedback, the consultation yielded 28 formal submissions. Of those, 21 submissions came with permission to publish.

Parliamentary process

The CATSI Act Amendment Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 25 August 2021. It was debated on 1 and 2 September—see the second reading speeches and in particular the minister's second reading speech. On 2 September the bill passed the House.

The bill was also referred to the Senate's Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for consideration. That committee is due to report on 14 October 2021.

Previous milestones, 2016–19

KPMG review of ORIC

In September 2016 the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet commissioned KPMG to conduct a review of the CATSI Act and ORIC. The product of the review was a report finalised in December 2016, Regulating Indigenous Corporations (PDF 2mb).

The purpose of the review was to inform considerations of how the Registrar can most effectively support the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations to maintain good governance and strong financial management, as well as any amendments to the CATSI Act required to meet this objective.

The overall assessment in the report of the review is that ORIC is doing a good job in the context of a challenging regulatory environment. There are many positive features, but also opportunities to enhance ORIC’s contribution to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation are well governed.

More accountability, less red tape

In 2017 the Australian Government proposed reforms to strengthen and improve the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) 2006 (CATSI Act). The intention was to benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations by reducing red tape, especially for small corporations. Other proposed changes sought to increase transparency for members and to streamline and clarify some parts of the Act.

The proposed changes covered the topics of:

  • size classifications
  • rule books
  • business structures
  • meetings and reporting
  • membership
  • transparency of senior executives
  • payments to related third parties
  • special administrations
  • voluntary deregistration
  • compliance powers.

Technical review of the CATSI Act

On 5 July 2017, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, announced that ORIC would lead a technical review of the CATSI Act.

The technical review was conducted in late 2017. The review was led by law firm DLA Piper and included a series of public consultations conducted by the Indigenous consultancy firms, Inside Policy and Winangali. The CATSI Act commenced on 1 July 2007, and this was the first time a comprehensive review had been undertaken since the legislation came into effect. The purpose of the review was to explore ways to strengthen and improve the CATSI Act and aligning it with recent changes in corporate law and regulation, particularly in the Corporations Act 2001. For details see the following documents:

The review found a range of opportunities to make the law stronger and allow corporations to use it more effectively. 

The Australian Government considered the technical review and decided to pursue amendments to the legislation.  

Further consultations to inform an amendment bill

In 2018, the Registrar and his office conducted further consultations across Australia on the proposed amendments. Feedback and comments from roundtable sessions, interviews and written submissions was used to help identify issues with implementing the proposed amendments to the CATSI Act, and to ensure corporations can comply with them.

For materials provided during consultations, download:

  • a three-page summary (PDF 192kb)
  • the 24-page discussion paper (PDF 358kb)—including information on making a written submission, and questions we asked people to consider
  • a PDF of the presentation we used to frame the consultation (1.3mb)—including illustrations and examples.

After the consultations we updated the summary of the reforms (PDF) and drafted a bill.

Amendment (strengthening governance and transparency) bill

On 5 December 2018 the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Amendment (Strengthening Governance and Transparency) Bill 2018 was introduced into the Parliament.

On 11 April 2019, the Parliament was prorogued and the House of Representatives was dissolved, after the Governor-General agreed to the Prime Minister’s recommendation that an election be held on Saturday, 18 May 2019.

When the House is dissolved, all proceedings come to an end, and all bills before the Parliament lapse. Although the CATSI Act Amendment bill was introduced into the Senate on 5 December 2018, there was no debate and no passage of the bill, and therefore it lapsed. Should the incoming Minister wish to pursue amendments to the CATSI Act, the process will need to recommence.

Thank you

The Registrar would like to acknowledge the efforts of everyone who participated in the consultations, made submissions and worked with ORIC and the NIAA on all the reviews and consultations to develop a bill.