AIATSIS Council Charter

1. AIATSIS vision and functions

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is the world’s premier institution for information and research about the CULTURE, TRADITIONS, LANGUAGES AND STORIES, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, past and present.

AIATSIS is a Commonwealth statutory authority which operates under the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989, Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (PGPA) Act 2013, the PGPA Rule 2014 and the Public Service Act 1999.

The Institute has the following functions:

  1. to undertake and promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies
  2. to publish the results of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies and to assist in the publication of the results of such studies
  3. to conduct research in fields relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies and to encourage other persons or bodies to conduct such research
  4. to assist in training persons, particularly Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders, as research workers in fields relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies
  5. to establish and maintain a cultural resource collection consisting of materials relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies
  6. to encourage understanding, in the general community, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies
  7. such other functions as are conferred on the Institute by this Act
  8. to do anything else that is incidental or conducive to the performance of any of the preceding functions. 1

2. Purpose

The purpose of this Charter is to outline the Council’s responsibilities, reporting and review arrangements.

This Charter also sets out the Guiding Principles and Shared Behaviours that underpin the working relationships among Council members and between the Council, AIATSIS staff and the AIATSIS Membership.

3. Council’s Responsibilities to Stakeholders

Council is responsible to the following stakeholders who have a significant interest
in the Institute.

3.1 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

The Council will:

  1. Take the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities into account in their decision making
  2. Align the focus and values of AIATSIS with Indigenous values in a considered way
  3. Maximise access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to AIATSIS research and services in line with local, national and international developments.
  4. Support the on-going archiving of information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  5. Support AIATSIS to maximise the training and employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by continually strengthening cultural competency across the Institute

3.2    Members of the Institute

The Council will:

  1. Value and show respect to its Members
  2. Ensure AIATSIS provides efficient, clear and quick access to information for all members
  3. Maintain a focus on its membership with an aim of increasing Indigenous membership
  4. Report to the membership at least annually

3.3    Depositors

The Council will:

  1. Ensure good care is taken of the Collections entrusted to AIATSIS
  2. Maximise community access to AIATSIS’ Collections

3.4    The Minister

The Council will:

  1. Provide the Minister with high quality and timely support including in relation to Ministerial briefs and in responding to Ministerial correspondence
  2. Provide the Minister with timely, frank and impartial advice
  3. Ensure the Minister is kept informed of any actions that will impact on them
  4. Respond to and on agreement comply with the Minister’s Statement of Expectations in a prompt and efficient manner

3.5    The Parliament

  1. Ensure AIATSIS spends public money wisely
  2. Ensure that AIATSIS complies with all Acts and regulations of Parliament that govern its conduct

3.6    Research Community

The Council will:

  1. Take account of the recommendations of the Research Advisory Committee which is constituted and convened according to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989 2
  2. Encourage AIATSIS to show leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research excellence through the development, review and dissemination of the Research Strategic Plan
  3. Ensure that the Institute takes a leadership role in the ethical conduct of research with and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  4. Promote careers in research and provide a career path for researchers, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers.

3.7    Public Service Commission

The Council will:

  1. Take a leadership role in supporting AIATSIS to demonstrate and promote best practice in cultural competency in a public sector organisation
  2. Ensure that AIATSIS reports to the Public Service Commission as required
  3. Ensure that AIATSIS is meets its obligations under the Public Service Act 1999 and conforms to public service requirements

3.8    International Stakeholders

The Council will:

  1. Encourage AIATSIS to maximise access to the Collections, Research and other Resources to improve the general understanding and knowledge of Indigenous cultures
  2. Promote the work of AIATSIS internationally.

4. Roles of the Council

The roles of the Council give effect to how Council fulfills its responsibilities as follows:

4.1 Strategic Direction and Leadership

The Council:

  1. Takes positive and ethical leadership to build on the past while shaping the Institute’s future. The Council leads and sets direction in a way that remains connected to and is informed by the changing circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and peoples.
  2. Sets the long term vision and strategic direction for the Institute through strategic planning. In doing this the Council draws on the Institute’s rich history while taking leadership to set a vision and strategy which positions the Institute well into the future.
  3. Will promote and communicate the Institute’s vision, strategy, purpose and contribution to the national estate to the Institute’s key stakeholders and staff.
  4. Sets the medium term strategic priorities for the Institute through the development of a 4 year Corporate Plan as required by the PGPA Act 2013, driven by the Vision and Strategy, which: sets the Institute’s strategic priorities for the period of the plan; strengthens those services and activities unique to AIATSIS; and integrates and links the functions as much as possible.

4.2 Planning and Performance

The Council:

  1. Monitors the Institute’s performance by reviewing progress against the Corporate Plan;
  2. Approves and monitors annual Business Plans which integrate planning, budgeting and reporting on performance, and strengthens cross program and business improvement initiatives; 
  3. Approves and monitors the effectiveness of a set of coherent governance arrangements including key elements such as Executive Management; Risk and Audit; Financial Management; Human Resource Management, Business Planning and Performance Monitoring.

4.3 Resource and Risk Management

The Council will:

  1. Set the Institute’s longer term financial strategy, including diverse income streams, to ensure that the Institute remains viable into the future.
  2. Approve the Institute’s annual budget as part of the business plan and monitor performance against the budget and the business plan.
  3. Satisfy themselves that the Institute’s resources are well managed, in alignment with approved budgets and policy procedures and in conformance with all regulatory and governance obligations.
  4. Approve and lodge a report and declaration as to the Institute’s compliance with relevant legislation and its financial sustainability with the Minister and the Minister of Finance and Deregulation by the fifteenth of the fourth month, following the end of the financial year.3
  5. Approve and lodge an annual report on the Institute’s operations with the Minister in accordance with the requirements of the PGPA Act 2013
  6. Satisfy themselves that the Institute is managing risks effectively, including by reviewing Audit and Risk and Finance Committee recommendations.4

5. Responsibilities

5.1 Council Responsibilities

  1. It is the responsibility of the Council to ensure the proper and efficient performance of the functions of the Institute and to determine the policy of the Institute with respect to any matter.5
  2. The Council has a primary duty to act in the best interests of the wellbeing of the Institute, consistent with the values and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a whole.
  3. The Council is responsible to maintain the good governance of AIATSIS with a focus on two main requirements:
    1. Performance: the Council will monitor the performance of AIATSIS to ensure the effective and efficient use of resource.
    2. Conformance: the Council will ensure the processes of AIATSIS meet the requirements of the AIATSIS Act 1989, the PGPA Act 2013 as set out in the Principal’s Instructions,6 the Public Service Act 1999, the law, regulations, published standards and community expectations of probity, accountability and openness.
  4. The Principal manages the day to day administration of the Institute and acts in accordance with any policies determined and any directions given by the Council.
  5. It is the Principal’s responsibility to coordinate the Council and Councillors’ communication and contact with the staff of the Institute. Direct communication between Council Members and staff is managed through the establishment of protocols agreed with the Principal. Examples of these include the Portfolio Meetings convened by Councillors at each Council meeting. Council communication and engagement activities with the Institute are outlined in the AIATSIS Internal Communication Strategy 2012.

5.2 Council Chair responsibilities

The responsibilities of the Council Chair are principally to:

  1. Contribute to formulating strategic direction and leadership for AIATSIS
  2. Liaise with the Principal to ensure that Council members are appropriately briefed and have access to information on all aspects of the Institute’s operations
  3. Set the agenda for Council meetings, in consultation with the Principal
  4. Be the main point of contact between the Council and the Principal, ensuring that Council’s views are communicated clearly and accurately
  5. Act as primary counsellor to the Principal
  6. Lead the review of Council’s performance and the review of the Principal’s performance, ensuring that the delegated authority of the Principal and expected key performance criteria for the Principal are clear
  7. Chair the Council meetings including:  making sure the Council is well informed and effective; that the members individually and as a group, have the opportunity to air different views, explore ideas and generate the collective views and wisdom necessary for the proper operation of the Council and AIATSIS
  8. Set a standard for Council members in terms of attendance at meetings and priori familiarity with Council Papers distributed and issues to be raised
  9. Ensure that the meetings are conducted competently, ethically and transparently.

5.3 Roles and Responsibilities of Council Members

Council members will:

  1. Undertake their responsibilities in the best interests of the Institute and in accordance with the highest standard of professionalism, ethics, culture and integrity
  2. Work individually and together as a team and demonstrate leadership that models the AIATSIS Shared Behaviours8 of Respect; Co-operation; Effective Leadership; Good Communication; Responsibility and Fairness.
  3. Make decisions that are informed by the AIATSIS Guiding Principles9 of Cultural Competency; Collaboration; Efficiency; Being Strategic and Professionalism.
  4. Fully participate in Council discussions frankly and robustly, maintaining confidentiality and public support for Council decisions once made
  5. Apply due diligence, raise concerns, participate in discussions frankly and seek independent assistance to ensure that their decision making is as informed as possible
  6. Develop an understanding of the operations, successes and challenges faced by AIATSIS to enable informed decision making
  7. Provide strategic leadership for staff in relation to AIATSIS’ vision and strategy by leading portfolio meetings and attending other relevant events

6. Council Membership

  1. The number of elected Councillors shall be in accordance with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989.
  2. The Council of the Institute shall consist of the following members:
    1. Four persons elected by the members of the Institute in accordance with the Institute rules, being persons who are themselves members of the Institute
    2. One person appointed by the Minister, be a person who is a Torres Strait Islander
    3. Four other persons appointed by the Minister, being persons who are Aboriginal persons or Torres Strait Islanders.
  3. At a meeting of the Council, a quorum is constituted by 5 Councillors.10
  4. All the Councillors hold office on a part-time basis
  5. The Minister shall appoint a Chairperson and a Deputy Chairperson of the Council from among the Councillors.
  6. The Councillor who is the Chairperson or the Deputy Chairperson of the Council ceases to be the Chairperson or the Deputy Chairperson of the Council, as the case may be, if he or she ceases to be a Councillor.11

7. Decision making

  1. The Council makes decisions by striving for informed consensus. This involves careful consideration of relevant issues and the full and frank discussion of the range of perspectives and views that may exist between the Council members.
  2. Where informed consensus is not possible the Council will consider the merits of the specific issue requiring a decision and then put the matter to a formal vote. Formal meeting business rules will apply and such motions will be proposed and seconded.
  3. When decisions are determined by voting the Minutes will reflect the, for and against arguments supporting the positions and individual Council members may request that dissenting views be recorded in the Minutes.

7.2 Contentious issues

  1. Where ongoing contentious issues exist which impact on the quality of relationships between Council members, every effort will be made by all parties involved to resolve the issues.
  2. Where resolution is not possible the Chair will intervene and facilitate dispute resolution processes between the members concerned. The Chair will seek a resolution between the parties which will minimise ongoing disruption to Council and be acceptable to all parties.
  3. Where the Chair is unable to facilitate such resolution a formal mediation with an appropriately skilled and qualified mediator will be offered as a last resort.

8. Complaints

  1. The Council will establish as a Committee to investigate complaints related to the behaviour of Council members and/or the Chair. All complaints must be made in writing and directed in the first instance to the Chair. Where the Chair is the subject of a complaint, the complaint must be made in writing and directed in the first instance to the Deputy Chair.
  2. The Committee will comprise the Principal, three Council Members and one suitably qualified independent member. None of the Committee members will have a direct interest in, or be the subject in any way of a complaint being considered by the Committee.
  3. The Committee will make recommendations to the Council in relation to each complaint it considers.
  4. Individual Council members will not be required to respond to complaints by the Institute’s Members or other interested parties in relation to operational decisions that the Council makes. Any complaints directed to Council members will be directed to the Chair in writing.

9. Administration and Support

  1. The Council may convene short-term and on-going sub-committees as required and may appoint ex-officio members to Sub-Committees as required.
  2. All Minutes and papers related to Council Sub-Committees are confidential and should be returned to AIATSIS staff to discard following Sub-Committee meetings.

9.2 Meetings

  1. The Council will meet in person at least once every three months.
  2. The Council may convene special meetings including by teleconference/video conference and workshops as required.
  3. The Council will agree an annual meeting plan which will include forward planning key agenda items that relate to this Charter, for example planning and review meetings.
  4. It is expected that the Principal will attend every Council meeting.
  5. It is expected that the Deputy Principal will attend every Council meeting, subject to the Chair’s approval.
  6. Any visitors or delegations meeting with Council will only attend Council meetings with the express approval of the Council Chairperson prior to the meeting.
  7. AIATSIS Directors will be invited to brief Council on important matters and report on performance against their Business Plans from time to time.

9.3 Minutes

  1. The Council will be provided with meeting papers at least seven days before each meeting so that members can adequately prepare for Council meetings.
  2. The Principal is responsible for ensuring that appropriate secretariat support is provided to the Council and that minutes are recorded appropriately.
  3. The Council Meeting deliberations are audio recorded as an aide memoire for the preparation of minutes. Once the minutes are approved the recordings are destroyed.
  4. The Council minutes will be formally certified by the Chairperson, following approval by the Council members.
  5. Council papers and minutes are confidential to the Council and will be stored in a secure place by Council members prior to meetings. Hard copies of the minutes and Council papers will be returned to the CouncilExecutive Officer at the completion of Council meetings for disposal.. Electronic copies will not be forwarded or shared without permission from the Chair and will be deleted from all devices and storage at the completion of any Council member’s term of service.
  6. Council papers may only be provided to other people with the express approval of the Council Chairperson.
  7. Should Council members wish to access papers discussed at meetings copies will be made available upon request by the Executive Officer. 12

9.4 Communication

  1. The Chairperson will issue a Communique to staff, prepared by the AIATSIS Executive, within seven days after each Council Meeting advising them of Council’s key deliberations and decisions.
  2. The Principal is responsible for disseminating Council’s decisions to key stakeholders as appropriate.

10. Review of Performance

The Council will conduct, at least every two years, a comprehensive review of its performance as a Council. The method of conducting each review, and the extent of that review is for Council to determine from time to time, with every second review being conducted externally.13 The review of the Chair’s performance is conducted in accordance with the terms set out in the formal letter of appointment signed by the Chair.

11. Review of Charter

The Council will regularly review this Charter to ensure it remains consistent with the Council’s objectives and responsibilities, and relevant standards of corporate governance.

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989. Part 3 (5)

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989. Part 8.

AIATSIS Principal’s Instructions - Section 5.4

AIATSIS Principal’s Instructions Section - 5.4

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989. Part 5 (13)

Principal’s Instructions Section 5.4 – Compliance Reporting Policy

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989. Part 6 (24)

Approved by the AIATSIS Council in December 2011

Approved by the AIATSIS Council in December 2011

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989. Part 23(4).

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989. Part 5 (14)

AIATSIS Council Meeting Minutes – September 2008.

Minister’s Statement of Expectations 23 February 2010

Last reviewed: 23 Apr 2015