Elections to be appointed as a Recognised Aboriginal Representative Body (RARB) must be made to the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee.
Under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (SA) (Act), Registered Native Title Body Corporates (RNTBCs) are “taken to be” the RARB in respect of their native title determination areas, including areas where native title has been extinguished or suppressed. However, their appointments must still be approved by the Committee.
Before it will appoint intending RARBs, the Committee asks them to develop RARB policies that must ultimately be endorsed by their directors and members. RARB policies must demonstrate a capacity and commitment to consulting with all Traditional Owners (TOs) of the heritage within proposed RARB boundaries.
TOs are defined in the Act as Aboriginal people with social, economic or spiritual associations with, and responsibilities for, Aboriginal heritage. RNTBC RARBs may therefore be required to consult with, and represent the views of, people who are not members of their corporation or common law holders. RARBs must share all TO views about a proposal with land use proponents, whether for, against and indifferent.
To assist RNTBCs to achieve RARB appointment, the Committee has developed Model Principles for RNTBC RARBs (Model Principles). These provide best-practice examples of provisions for inclusion in RNTBC RARB policies, particularly in respect of consultation, dispute resolution and heritage management, the key roles of all RARBs.
While the Model Principles are intended to assist RNTBCs to achieve RARB appointment, the Committee asks intending RARBs to formulate their own bespoke RARB policies committing them to undertaking certain procedures. RARBs have significant legislative responsibilities, and if they are not performing their functions under the Act, their RARB status can be revoked.
RARB policies should be tailored to the individual circumstances of those seeking appointment, and commit to achievable procedures that will be used on an ongoing basis to consult with and represent the views of relevant TOs wherever there is a proposal that may affect heritage within RARB boundaries.
The development of RARB policies is an iterative process. RARB aspirants should be prepared for the Committee to review and seek changes to different versions of proposed RARB policies over several months.
RNTBCs may opt out of RARB status for their native title determination area, or parts of it, but must formally advise the Committee of this decision. RNTBCs opting out of RARB status for parts of their lands can allow particular TOs to seek RARB appointment for particular heritage within a native title area. Only native title holders can be considered for RARB appointment over native title lands unless the RNTBC opts out of consideration, either fully or partly.
For areas where there is no RNTBC:
- native title claimants (or specified members) for an area, or
- an Aboriginal party (or specified members) for an area subject to an indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) may seek appointment as a RARB.
Where there is no native title, no native title claim or no indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) in place, any body corporate with the ability to ascertain and represent the views of TOs may seek appointment as a RARB for the area, or a specified Aboriginal site, object or remains.
Those seeking RARB appointment are strongly encouraged to call the Committee’s Executive Officer on (08) 8226 8900 to discuss the process prior to submitting any paperwork.