Membership is powerful

Corporations have a legal identity and if they have assets, those belong to the corporation. But members own the corporation. They make important decisions, usually at meetings, about how the corporation is run, including who its directors are, how it spends its money, and how it manages the services it provides.

Each member has a personal responsibility to be involved in the life of their corporation. Everyone should try to make positive contributions and be open to learning new skills. That’s how you make your corporation strong.

Former Registrar, Anthony Beven

Who is eligible for membership?

A corporation's rule book determines who is eligible for membership. In all cases, a person must be at elast 15 years old. In many cases, a corporation will add other requirements for eligibility. For example, in some corporations members must:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • live on country, or
  • be descended from particular apical ancestors.

Some corporations also accept non-Indigenous people as members. However, to remain registered as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation, the membership must always comprise a majority of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.

Issues about membership applications are often brought up with ORIC but the CATSI Act is clear (Division 144) that directors make the final decision on membership applications. ORIC cannot intervene or overturn these decisions.

How do you know who the members are?

Corporations are required to maintain registers of current and former members. These are two of the most important documents a corporation must maintain. They are evidence of who is and isn’t a member, and therefore who is entitled to receive notices and information, and participate in members’ meetings.

To join a corporation, you must apply in writing. If the directors accept your application, within two weeks they must add your details to the corporation's register of members. Memberships begin on the date they are recorded in the register.

As part of annual reporting to ORIC, corporations provide a list of members. That list is a subset of information from the register. It includes names and addresses (unless addresses are suppressed through an exemption) and it is a public document available through the public register. The corporation may submit an updated list of members to ORIC at any time. But the primary record of membership is the register, which the corporation keeps at its registered office (large corporations) or document access address (small and medium-size corporations).

When a member's contact details change, they should notify the corporation. The corporation needs to keep its register of members up to date, so it can share important news and information with all the members as needed.

Resources and further information

Download templates for:

See also the following fact sheets:

These issues of the ORIC Oracle are also relevant: