Legislation & Policy

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:

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.

See the ORIC paper:
Interaction between the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 and the Native Title Act 1993

PBC functions

Under the regulatory framework, the recognised primary functions of PBCs are to:

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 this has almost doubled in the last 5 years.

Statutory differences between PBCs and other corporations

Terminology

Although native title corporations are sometimes referred to as PBCs, this is not strictly accurate. Under the Native Title Act 1993, 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, PBCs are entered onto the National Native Title Register at the National Native Title Tribunal. 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. On the whole, the term RNTBC is more accurate.

Managed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
AIATSIS acknowledges the funding support of the Native Title Branch of
the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).