The Registrar produces a variety of publications and resources to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations and groups.
The Registrar’s website, www.oric.gov.au, supports the regulatory framework of the CATSI Act. It includes the public Register of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations, the Register of Disqualified Officers and a link to a secure companion site that allows corporations to lodge reports electronically.
Efforts to improve the Registrar’s website have continued over the year to ensure it is easy to use and meets Commonwealth standards for accessibility. Bearing in mind the remote locations of many corporations and their reliance on the website as a source of relevant and up-to-date information, this is particularly important. Over the year the Registrar added to the range of ‘free services’ offered online.
Skill meets need—new online service
More and more corporations are looking to appoint independent directors to their boards. This is especially true for those corporations that run a range of activities, generate a high income and have a strong asset base. Independent directors can bring specialist experience, knowledge and skills to a board.
The Registrar entered into a partnership with the Business Council of Australia to address the challenge of finding suitably qualified cadidates. The new online matching service, the Independentdirectory was developed to encourage direct engagement between corporations and potential candidates.
After several months in the planning and design stage, the service went into its final phase of production and testing in June 2015. It officially went live on 6 July 2015.
The Independentdirectory is a free online service that gives:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations the chance to register their requirements for an independent director—for example, the particular skills they are seeking
- individuals the chance to register their interest in becoming an independent director, and to upload their qualifications, experience and skills.
Both corporations and candidates can choose how much information about themselves they wish to make public and at any time can edit what they post. When a potential match is found both the corporation and the candidate is automatically alerted and invited to initiate contact.
‘Spotlight on’ is a regular feature on the homepage of the ORIC website that promotes the activities and many achievements of corporations registered under the CATSI Act. On the first day of each month a new ‘spotlight on’ article is published. While the Registrar actively encourages corporations to send in their own stories ORIC staff also research and write stories.
- July 2014: Returning to the homelands, Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation
- August 2014: Joining the dots, Mudth-Niyleta Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation
- September 2014: Keeping language alive, Bundiyarra Aboriginal Community Aboriginal Corporation
- October 2014: Serving the community,Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health
- November 2014: It’s happening at Hodgson Downs, Alawa Aboriginal Corporation
- December 2014: Townsville health service grows bigger and better, Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health Services
- January 2015: 30 years of growth, Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation
- February 2015: Traditional Knowledge Builds Viable Future, Olkola Aboriginal Corporation
- March 2015: Flourishing future for remote tourism, Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation
- April 2015: Paradise regained, Butchulla Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC
- May 2015: Better services, better future, Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation
- June 2015: Healthy food healthy families, Mai Wiru Regional Stores Council Aboriginal Corporation
Information and resources helping with compliance
The Registrar produces a range of guides, booklets and brochures to help corporations interpret the CATSI Act, comply with their reporting requirements and to understand their corporate governance obligations. Some examples:
- Get in on the Act is a small booklet that provides a quick overview of the CATSI Act
- the Corporation reporting guide is designed to help auditors and accountants prepare reports for corporations—updated during the year to include guidance on the recognition of unexpended grants in financial statements and to advise on who may audit a corporation’s financial statements in line with changes to the CATSI Regulations
- the Healthy corporation checklist is an online checklist (also available as a booklet) that allows corporations to check their compliance standards with their rule book and the law. It also contains useful templates and forms.
The Registrar also produces a range of fact sheets which are updated as required. They are designed to offer an introductory explanation to particular aspects of the CATSI Act and how to run a corporation. The range of titles includes:
- Amalgamation—information for existing corporations
- Complaints involving corporations
- Contact persons and secretaries
- Corporation size and reporting
- Dispute resolution
- Disqualification from managing corporations under the CATSI Act
- Duties of directors and other officers
- Information sheet for PBCs
- Lodge online
- Members’ rights
- Related party financial benefits
- Special administrations: what funding agencies, creditors and employees should know
- Special administrations: what members and directors should know
- The CATSI Act and the Corporations Act—some differences
- What the CATSI Act means for funding bodies
- What’s in the corporation’s rule book?
The Registrar strives to ensure that corporations have the right skills and knowledge to help them operate effectively and efficiently. During the year the Registrar identified a need to provide further practical information about managing corporation memberships. In response the following new titles were added to the fact sheet series:
- Becoming a corporation member (May 2015)
- Registers of members and former members (May 2015).
ORIC Oracle newsletter
The ORIC Oracle newsletter is published and sent to all corporations, stakeholders and subscribers four times a year (in August, November, February and May). It’s distributed electronically or by post, as preferred.
Each edition adopts a different theme. Over 2014−15 the ORIC Oracle looked at ‘independent directors’ (August 2014), ‘separation of roles’ (November 2014), ‘general meetings’ (February 2015) and ‘choosing your directors’ (May 2015).
The main purpose of the newsletter is to communicate practical information to corporations (its target audience) in an easy to read and visually attractive manner. It also includes important reminders for key dates to hold meetings and lodge reports each year.
Over 2014−15 the number of subscribers increased slightly and more corporations chose to receive the newsletter by electronic means.
Case study: Exploring Alice Springs
In the first week of June 2015 two members from ORIC’s Communications Section in Canberra went to Alice Springs. Their main purpose was to meet as many people as possible who either ran or were employed by corporations to learn first-hand about their activities.
The Registrar supports projects that help staff gain a better understanding of the reality of running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations, particularly the challenges that many face. Improving staff awareness of these issues directly contributes to the development of better services. The visit was also a valuable opportunity to gather information, to take photographs and to celebrate corporation achievements. The Registrar is strongly committed to uncovering good news stories and making sure that they get the attention they deserve.
As at 30 June 2015, over 280 corporations have registered offices in the Alice Springs area, although the vast majority of their members live in communities outside the town.
With the assistance of the ORIC regional office staff (Dayna Lister and George Donaldson) a full five-day schedule was devised. Among the corporations and groups that generously gave their time to talk about their core business activities were:
- Ingkerreke Outstations Resource Services Aboriginal Corporation
- Ngurratjuta/Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation
- Ngurratjuta Iltja Ntjarra—Many Hands art centre
- Amoonguna Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
- Aboriginal Associations Management Centre (AAMC)—‘Associations House’
- Ngaanyatjarra Health Service (Aboriginal Corporation)
- Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC).
Statistics and analysis
The Registrar compiles and distributes statistical information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations:
- complaints involving corporations—issued six-monthly
- corporations entering external administration—issued annually
- top 500 corporations—issued annually.
All reports are available on www.oric.gov.au.
The top 500 report
The sixth report in the top 500 series, The top 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations 2012−13, was released in September 2014.
‘Indigenous corporations have employed almost a thousand more people in the last year and the income of the top 500 corporations has grown by an impressive average of 10.5 per cent every year for the past nine years,’ said the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion, in a media statement about the report.
Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation (ICN 1866) based in Broome, Western Australia, featured as the case study. It is one of 16 corporations in the top 500 that has improved its ranking (based on income) almost every financial year since 2007–08. It was once ranked at 96 but by the end of the 2012–13 financial year it had moved up to number 25.
The Registrar and his staff also presented at various forums and events throughout the year.
Presentations at two key events in 2014–15 were:
- ‘The top 500 report’ at the 2014 Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference in Perth, Western Australia
- ‘Independence in the boardroom’ at the National Native Title Conference 2014–15 in Port Douglas, Queensland.
Native title conference
The Registrar attended the National Native Title Conference which this year was held in Port Douglas, Queensland, from 16 to 18 June 2015. The conference was co-convened by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the Cape York Land Council (CYLC). The Kuku Yalanji people, who are the traditional owners of the Port Douglas region, were the hosts.
To fit with this year’s overall theme ‘leadership, legacy and opportunity’, the Registrar spoke about ‘independence in the boardroom’, including:
- the increased focus on board performance and accountability
- the challenges for corporations to find directors with appropriate corporate or business skills
- how corporations can leverage independence to strengthen governance, build capacity and improve board performance
- the impending release of ORIC’s online Independentdirectory service which matches qualified candidates (independent directors) with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations.