PBC Director’s Reflection – PBC Forum 2024

May 8, 2024

How would you feel if you have been involved in the space of Native Title and PBC’s for 17 years and realise that you are still unable to understand some key things? Well, that is what I’ve experienced at our recent GBK PBC Regional Forum. I thought to myself “Wow! What will it take for me to get up to the speed of things?’.

I have very recently been employed as one of GBK’s staff in the Native Title space. 16 years ago, I became a director on my PBC’s board, the Saibai Mura Buway (Torres Strait Islanders) Corporation RNTBC. This is a huge chunk of time in the Native title world. It often feels like fighting a fierce battle uphill. I am sure I am not the only PBC director who feels like this. We often face difficulties on the ground level in terms of Traditional Owner Land disputes within our PBCs and we are struggling to stay compliant with the CATSI Act (the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act under which we are set up, in terms of practicing good governance that pertains to healthy a PBC. This includes holding Annual General Meetings for our members and submitting reports to ORIC (the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations which looks after the CATSI Act and is the regulator for PBCs) on time.

The forum had lots of goodies! A lot of information was shared by staff from Commonwealth agencies who provide services to PBCs or could offer assistance and funding to PBCs. And lots of acronyms to get across: Such as NNTC (National Native Title Council), NIAA (National Indigenous Australians Agency), ILSC (Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation), AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), IBA (Indigenous Business Australia). Last but not least we heard from ORIC and TSRA (Torres Strait Regional Authority) and GBK.

I realised at this forum that in all my years in Native Title,I have never had the opportunity to attend a forum with PBC chairs and three to four Individuals from community representing the 21 PBCs in the Torres Strait and Endeavour Strait and 2 land trusts – in total more than 70 people. It was an important gathering with truckloads of information being delivered. I also realised that this was very much a first of its kind even though there have been two decades of native title determinations, native title representative body and PBCs in our region.

Now, through GBK, we are in a unique situation where we have our own! Mabaigal (Nalpan Mabaigal); our own grass roots people leading engaging and conferencing stuff that pertains to our own homeland reality with all due respect to our two mainland indigenous communities Migi and Koey Daudai.

Because of the many questions from the floor during the forum, I strongly believe we need to hold another conference like this. Perhaps even a couple of times per year. Each individual PBS must now endeavour to ensure that not only just the Board of Directors understand Native Title, but pretty much all its members. There needs to be a drive towards overcoming this place of lack of knowledge within our PBCs.
This is the right time for breakthrough thinking. People should ask themselves:: are you the type of PBC chair/director and member that really cares about your Native Title – past present and future?

If so, you really should regularly jump onto ORIC’s website and read about your legal obgliations and responsibilities. You should familiarise yourself with PBC rulebooks and attend meeting. After all, Koiki fought for our native title rights all the way to the High Court.

Let’s not neglect what has been recognised in our name.