Prescribed Bodies Corporate (PBCs), also known as a Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate (RNTBCs), are the corporate entities that are established under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) to hold, protect and manage native title rights and interests. PBCs have a significant role to play in the management of land and water in Australia; however the vast majority of PBCs have little to no assets or income. While the struggle of PBCs has been recognised, there has been little acknowledgement of the resilience and hard work of native title holders who are often forced to provide services without being paid. PBCs need to operate effectively in order for nativetitle holders to discharge their land management obligations, participate in the future acts processes and take advantage of opportunities to derive economic and other benefits for their communities from native title.
The Native Title Research Unit at AIATSIS has been working with PBCs since 2006 through a range of research and support projects. This paper will begin with an introduction to the experience of one PBC, the Karajarri Traditional Lands Association (KTLA), who have been involved in ongoing research partnerships with AIATSIS since 2007. The paper will then present the key findings from a national survey of PBCs conducted by AIATSIS. This research aims to provide an overview of the current operational capacity of PBCs, highlighting the impact of the ongoing and chronic under funding of PBCs. The inability of governments to adequately accommodate the needs of PBCs, and the communities that they represent, reflects a system that strains to reconcile seemingly incompatible interests. The challenges that PBCs face calls for innovation and new ideas to ensure that native title communities are able to protect their cultural heritage and realise social, cultural and economic outcomes from Native Title.