Members and decision-making in PBCs

Members are the most important people in a PBC, without them the PBC could not exist. Members are essential to the success of a PBC through decision-making. A common law native title holder does not automatically become a member of a PBC, see rules about members, but must commonly apply for membership. As the PBC represents all native title holder’s rights and interest in their lands it is of advantage to become a PBC member because it allows the person to actively take part in the PBCs business and in the decisions making processes about the native title lands. Nevertheless, a PBC must consider.

Why become a member?

People who wish to have an active role in PBC business should become a member. Members have a say in what happens, how their PBC does business and the decisions it makes – particularly at its annual general meetings (AGMs).

Members have important rights including the right to:

  • participate in any and all PBCs activities
  • receive notice of meetings such as AGMs
  • speak and vote in AGMs
  • put forward ideas about what the PBC can or should do
  • inspect the records of the PBC
  • stand for director positions on the PBC board
  • and are eligible for PBC run programs.

Who can become a member?

A PBC’s constitution or rule book explains who can become a member. The rules of membership are decided by a PBC and often say that a member must:

  • be at least 15 years old
  • live on country
  • be descended from and/or identify with a particular apical ancestors
  • be accepted as such by other decedents of that PBC’s Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island owners.

How to become a member is written in a PBC’s rule book. Often, this process will involve filling in an application, being reviewed and accepted by the PBC’s board and then being entered onto the members register.

The roles and responsibilities of members

Members play a crucial role in a PBC and ensure that they function properly and effectively. The key responsibility of members is to ensure that their PBC is the best corporation it can be.

A PBC’s rule book lists what members are required to do for their corporation. For a PBC to function well, members should:

  • participate actively in the business of the PBC
  • be ethical, straight and have strong morals
  • be kind, straightforward, respectful of others involved
  • be willing to listen to others, especially those who may have a different opinion to yours
  • not use the PBC for personal or any other person’s profit
  • not speak badly about the PBC in public or to others outside the corporation
  • tell the PBC of changes of details (such as address or phone number)
  • declare any personal or business interests which could be a real conflict of interest, or other people might see it as a conflict of interest at meetings.

The Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation experience

The Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation manages native title rights for the Eastern Maar Peoples, which includes people who identify as Maar, Eastern Gunditjmara, Tjap Wurrung, Peek Whurrong, Kirrae Whurrung, Kuurn Kopan Noot and/or Yarro waetch (Tooram Tribe). Jamie Lowe of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation speaks about engagement with membership and the importance of engaging with youth.

Further resources