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See Part 2 for more information about AIATSIS’ Organisational structure.

Entities directing, advising and supporting AIATSIS

Three entities support the AIATSIS Council and eight support the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). There are many other entities that support the day-to-day business of AIATSIS - for example, the Consultative Committee, the COVID Taskforce and the Indigenous Caucus. Appendix B contains members’ names, remuneration (for the AIATSIS Council and Audit and Risk Committee) and other support information. It should be noted that AIATSIS members also assist in advising on and supporting our work.

Advising the AIATSIS Council

  • Audit and Risk Committee
  • Membership Standing Committee
  • Foundation Board

Advising the CEO

  • Senior Executive Board
  • Indigenous Research Exchange Advisory Board
  • Research Advisory Committee
  • Research Ethics Committee
  • Native Title Research Advisory Committee
  • Collections Advisory Committee
  • Education Advisory Committee
  • Publishing Advisory Committee

Table 6: Entities advising the AIATSIS Council



Eligibility and appointed by

Meeting frequency

Number of members and meetings in 2020-21

Audit and Risk Committee

Provides independent advice and assurance to the AIATSIS Council in line with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth) (PGPA Act) and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 in the areas of financial reporting, performance reporting, risk oversight and management and internal controls.

(Functions are set out in the committee’s charter: https://aiatsis.gov.au/about/who-we-are/governance-and-structure/committees. Its 2020–2021 work plan is referred to in Appendix C.)

The DCEO and at least 3 persons, appointed by the AIATSIS Council.

Members must be persons who are not employees of the entity.

Two-year term initially, extension of 2 terms subject to performance review.


Special meetings may be held to review AIATSIS’ annual financial and performance statements or to meet other specific committee responsibilities.

Number of members: 5.

Number of meetings: 4

Membership Standing Committee

Provides advice on membership applications and engagement.

Three AIATSIS Council members.

A chair and deputy chair are nominated by the committee members.

Members’ terms depend on each individual’s term as a member of the AIATSIS Council.

Four times per year.

Number of members: 4

Number of meetings: 4.

Foundation Board

Guides AIATSIS’ fundraising activity; connects AIATSIS with strategic partners, including communities, philanthropists, industry, social enterprises and individual donors; and provides advice to the AIATSIS Council and Executive on Foundation Board matters. (Functions are set out in the board’s charter.)

Minimum of 5 members and a maximum of 9 members appointed by the AIATSIS Council, as well as the CEO of AIATSIS is also a member.

A majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and a gender balance.

Three-year terms. No more than 2 consecutive terms.

At least four times per year.

Number of members: 5-9 plus the CEO.

Number of meetings: 4

Table 7: Entities supporting the CEO



Eligibility and appointed by

Meeting frequency

Senior Executive Board

Ensures the transition of AIATSIS Council directives through to the business plans programs. Also provides leadership and strategic management of AIATSIS’ operations. (No formal charter.)

The CEO, Deputy CEO and 3 Executive Directors, from:

o Collections Services Group

o Research and Education Group

o Promotions and Engagement Group.

The DCEO is also the Executive Director of the fourth group; Strategic Operations Group.

At least twice a year.

Collections Advisory Committee

Provides advice on matters to do with collection development, management and access, including advice on proposals for major donations or deposits, policy development, risks to the collections, major projects and strategic issues. (Functions set out in the committee’s charter.)

In recess.


Native Title Research Advisory Committee

Provides advice to the CEO on the AIATSIS native title research priorities program of the Native Title Research Unit and activities. (Functions set out in the committee’s charter ratified in September 2018.)

At least 5 and no more than 12 members, appointed by the CEO. Must include:

o The AIATSIS CEO (also the committee chairperson) or their nominated delegate

o A representative of the primary funding body of the AIATSIS native title activities, nominated by the Commonwealth department responsible for Indigenous affairs and approved by the CEO (normally the First Assistant Secretary with responsibility for native title organisations)

o The AIATSIS Executive Director of Research and Education

o At least 2 native title experts who are in current practice, connected with native title processes and reflect the disciplinary diversity involved in native title practice.

At least twice a year.

Research Advisory Committee

Provides strategic advice to the CEO on AIATSIS research matters. (Functions set out in the committee’s charter ratified on January 2019.)

Up to 10 experts, appointed by the CEO, as well as

o The AIATSIS CEO (chairperson and ex officio)

o The AIATSIS Executive Director of Research and Education (ex officio).

At least twice a year.

Indigenous Research Exchange Advisory Board

Provides advice on the strategic direction of the Indigenous Research Exchange. (Terms of reference were ratified in May 2019.)


o The members of the AIATSIS Research Advisory Committee

o A member of the Senior Executive Service of the National Indigenous Australians Agency (ex officio)

o Other experts appointed by the CEO from time to time.

At least twice a year.

Research Ethics Committee

Provides independent review of the ethical aspects of research projects against the National Statement on Human Research Ethics and the AIATSIS Code of Ethics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research.

A registered Human Research Ethics Committee.

The committee receives internal and external applications.

Must include a majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members. As far as practicable, should reflect a gender and age balance.

o Members are appointed by the CEO.

o Membership is in line with categories established by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

o Members normally serve for 3-year terms.

At least six times a year.

Education Advisory Committee

Provides expert advice to the CEO on the implementation of the AIATSIS Education Strategy. (Functions are set out in the committee’s charter ratified in July 2020.)

Up to 8 members, as well as:

o The AIATSIS CEO (ex officio)

o The AIATSIS Executive Director of Research and Education (Chairperson and ex officio)

o The AIATSIS Director of Education.

At least twice a year.

Publishing Advisory Committee

Evaluates all manuscripts submitted and assessed and makes publishing recommendations to the chairperson.

An advisory group to the CEO.

(Functions set out in the committee’s charter.)

Up to 4 experts, appointed by the CEO, as well as:

o The AIATSIS CEO (chair and ex officio)

o The Executive Director of Research and Education Group (ex officio)

o The Director of ASP (ex officio).

In appointing members, the CEO considers academic and writing credentials, diversity in Indigenous knowledge, gender balance and majority Indigenous membership.

At least twice a year.

Risk management

AIATSIS’ risk management framework sets out the key concepts and processes for managing risk within the institute. It guides the way we identify, manage and report risks that may affect the achievement of our outcomes. The framework aligns with the principles of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth) (PGPA Act) and Commonwealth Risk Management Policy.

The CEO and the Senior Executive Board oversee our framework. The Audit and Risk Committee provides independent advice and assurance to AIATSIS Council on the appropriateness of our accountability and control framework of risk oversight and management.

The AIATSIS Council’s Risk Appetite Statement reflects the level of risk taking and tolerances that AIATSIS considers acceptable in achieving our objectives or managing a category of risk. AIATSIS is committed to ensuring that staff at all levels incorporate risk awareness into our culture and everyday business operations.

Business continuity management is integral to our risk management framework. Careful business continuity planning ensures that, if a business interruption event (BIE) occurs, we can continue or quickly resume our critical functions and restore normal operations in a timely way. In the event of a BIE the CEO convenes our Business Continuity Management team, which is the central point of communications and coordination for our response and recovery.

In early 2020 we established a COVID-19 Taskforce to enable staff and management to continue ‘business as usual’ functions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with minimal disruption to operations.

Fraud management

AIATSIS has a zero tolerance approach to fraud and takes all reasonable measures to deal with fraud matters.

AIATSIS’ Fraud Control Framework provides assurance that the institute is managing its identified fraud risks appropriately. The plan is in place to ensure that AIATSIS complies with section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 and the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework.

Overseen by our Senior Executive Board, we promote fraud prevention and awareness to staff by conducting regular mandatory fraud awareness training and executive messaging. In 2020-21 we reviewed and updated the Fraud Control Framework, including the Fraud Risk Assessment.

There were no instances of fraud in 2020–21.

Code of Conduct

AIATSIS maintains its standards of conduct in line with the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct. All employees must adhere to these standards.

Capability development

Our Corporate Plan 2020-2024 sets out five focus areas that we use to strengthen and enhance our capability to achieve our purpose:

  • Relationships – respectful engagement, working closely with government, partnering and collaborating on best practice.
  • Governance - enhanced financial performance and resource management and meeting our legislative obligations and compliance requirements.
  • Infrastructure - realising our infrastructure requirements.
  • Workforce - strengthening leadership, cultural competency and increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander staff.
  • Information and Communication Technology - AIATSIS Digital Services team have optimised our structure, developed a workforce plan, recruited and retained staff and contractors and initiated an IT Capability Improvement Program to improve capability across the institute.

We take these capability focus areas into account in discussing our performance reporting in Part 3.

In the corporate plan we identify two capability areas for continuing refinement and development:

  • increased engagement with stakeholders
  • facilities to support optional delivery of the institute’s purpose.

Policy, business and operational environment

In 2020-21 no government policy orders that were in effect applied to AIATSIS. There were no significant judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals; or any reports by the Auditor-General, any parliamentary committee, the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner that applied to us.

We were not subject to any ministerial directions made under an Act or instrument during 2020–21.

Strategic and corporate planning and evaluation

The AIATSIS corporate plan is updated in line with the PGPA Act and published on our website by 31 August each year.

The AIATSIS Council and the Senior Executive Board conduct a quarterly evaluation and assessment of the targets and measures in the corporate plan.

Financial resource management

In 2020-21 AIATSIS recorded a deficit of $0.5 million. This resulted from a timing difference in the recognition of revenue and expenses for external funded projects.

In response to PGPA Rule Section 17BE (h) – (i) Significant non-compliance with the Finance Law, in 2020-21 the Minister received no reports of significant noncompliance with the finance law involving AIATSIS.

Table 8: Compliance with financial law


Description of non-compliance

Remedial action

None to report

None to report

External scrutiny

Our operations are scrutinised by external entities such as the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), the Commonwealth Ombudsman and committees of the Australian Parliament.

On 13 February 2020 senior executives from AIATSIS appeared before the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs to provide a private briefing.

On 6 March 2020 senior executives from AIATSIS attended the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee Senate estimates hearing on cross-portfolio Indigenous matters. This was a normal estimates hearing, but the questioning touched on the proposed National Resting Place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains.

The ANAO is responsible for auditing AIATSIS’ annual financial statements. The ANAO has provided an unqualified audit opinion on our financial statements.

In 2020–21 we did not make any related entity transactions.

In 2020–21 we did not issue any indemnities to the AIATSIS Council, Council members or any officers of AIATSIS.

Environmental sustainability

We contribute to ecological sustainability through practices and initiatives in our collection and research programs.

Our research activity covers many land and water, culture and heritage and native title projects that continue to contribute an understanding of social, cultural and economic factors.

The Collection Group’s conservation and management practices and products meet world’s best practice and, where possible, are environmentally responsible. For example, our motion picture film cleaning solvents are water based and have the lowest possible impact on the environment in both their use and their eventual disposal.

In 2020-21 we maintained our accreditation under the ACT Government ACTSmart Business Recycling Program.

This report is printed on recycled paper.

Advertising and market research

We made no payments to advertising agencies, market research organisations, media advertising organisations, polling organisations or direct mail organisations that are reportable under section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth).