Wednesday, 1 September 2021
Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Amendment Bill 2021; Second Reading
I thank the members for their contributions to the debate on the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Amendment Bill 2021.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations play a central role in delivering services and in supporting economic development in Indigenous communities, particularly in regional and remote Australia. The CATSI Act is a specialist regulatory framework designed to make it easier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups to form and manage corporations. While it mirrors many of the requirements of the Corporations Act 2001, it establishes a unique regulatory framework that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations to succeed. In doing so, the CATSI Act demands high standards of governance while, at the same time, recognising the special cultural requirements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The corporate regulatory framework established by the CATSI Act has been very successful. It has improved the efficiency, sustainability and accountability of Indigenous corporations, and this has benefited their members and the communities they serve. However, the CATSI Act is no longer meeting the needs and expectations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and requires modernisation. The CATSI Act has not kept pace with incorporation statutes and it does not reflect the reality of running a corporation in this day and age. Moreover, the CATSI Act, in its current form, does not provide the type of flexibility that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples want when structuring their corporations.
These amendments strengthen and improve the CATSI Act, remove unnecessary regulatory burdens and empower members by increasing transparency. The amendments in this bill were years in the making and some have been subject to numerous rounds of public consultation through the 2016 review of the CATSI Act and the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations; the 2017 technical review; and a public inquiry on the predecessor of this bill, the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Amendment (Strengthening Governance and Transparency) Bill 2018.
Recommendations and feedback through these processes was consolidated in the National Indigenous Australians Agency's comprehensive review of the CATSI Act undertaken in 2020. People said they wanted this review with a broad scope—