Report on the 2019 Survey of Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs)

Belinda Burbidge, Marcus Barber, Taryn M Kong and Tahn Donovan

This report outlines the rationale, methods, results, and implications of a 2019 survey of Registered Native Title Body Corporates (RNTBCs) which are Indigenous corporations generally known as Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs). PBCs are body corporates incorporated under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) (CATSI Act) and established after a determination of native title is madeby the Federal Court in accordance with the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA) to represent the common lawholders and manage their native title rights and interests. PBCs are crucial managers of Indigenous rights and interests in country, key foci for Indigenous social and economic development aspirations and important organisations for external parties seeking contact with Traditional Owners.

The number and geographic extent of PBCs has been growing rapidly and new data about this emerging sector is badly needed. The only previous national survey of PBC activities, challenges and successes was conducted in 2013 by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The 2019 survey reported here was developed and conducted through a partnership between AIATSIS, NNTC (the peak advocacy body for Native Title Representative Bodies and Native Title Service Providers (NTRB/NTSPs) and more recently for PBCs) and CSIRO (Australia’s national science agency).

The primary aim of the new survey was to generate a national-scale dataset that could support an understanding of the current state of the PBC sector, inform policy and program development and provide a baseline to identify future change. The survey methodology was informed by three keyprinciples or objectives:

  • national best practice standards of ethical research and data sovereignty
  • high participation rates from PBCs through free, prior and informed consent
  • ensuring representative jurisdictional and corporate distribution.

In 2018 there were a total of 197 PBCs across Australia comprised of 134 small, 55 medium, and 8 large PBCs. The 2019 survey secured the participation of 58 PBCs and met key sample targets for variations in both jurisdictional spread and PBC size. This was the first national survey of PBCs to engage such a wide range and number of PBCs across Australia. It creates a baseline national dataset that provides foundations for both current and future understanding. The major findings and recommendations fromthe survey are summarised below.

Burbidge, B., Barber, M., Kong, T. M., & Donovan, T. (2021). Report on the 2019 Survey of Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs). Canberra: National Native Title Council, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies,Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Report on the 2019 Survey of Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs)