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Indigenous corporations set for shake-up

Thousands of Indigenous organisations overseen by the federal government will soon have their rule books redrawn.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt has released a draft report into laws governing corporations that deliver services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

More than 3000 organisations are covered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act, which was introduced by the Howard government in 2006.

An initial review into the Act received 68 responses, which carried the underlying theme that any legislative changes must advance the needs and interests of Indigenous people.

Another recurring view was that the review must take into account the traditions and circumstances of individual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups.

People have until September to comment on the draft report as the government considers a range of amendments to the Act.

A final report will be presented to parliament later this year.

Respondents to the initial inquiry raised the need to increase support for corporations, especially those in remote communities.

They also spoke of streamlining and simplifying processes, and ensuring consistency between the Act and other rules and regulations.

The Act is overseen by a registrar, whose powers respondents want strengthened to settle more disputes and undertake more prosecutions.

Respondents want better handling of the appointment, training, management and removal of corporation directors.

They also want restrictions on the number of immediate family members who can be directors at one time.

Transparency emerged as another key issue in the review, with people arguing it should be mandated in corporation rule books, rather than an optional inclusion.

Some – but not all – respondents suggested the remuneration of senior executives and board members should be reported.

They also spoke of the need to clearly define and disclose third party expenses.

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