The Institute Times

1989 - AIAS Act replaced with AIATSIS Act 1989

On 27 November 1989, the Governor-General assented to a new statute, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989. The Act finally reflected the place of Torres Strait Islanders in the Institute. It defined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies as 'research and study in relation to aspects of the culture, history and society of Aboriginal persons or Torres Strait Islanders' (without reference to 'traditional' and 'contemporary').

The functions mirrored the primary functions in the 1964 Act, with the inclusion of three new functions relating to the establishment and maintenance of a cultural resource collection; training; and the encouragement of understanding in the general community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. The new Act provided for a nine-person Council comprising four members elected by and from the Institute membership and five members appointed by the Minister. One of the appointees would be a Torres Strait Islander recommended by the Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board. The remaining four appointees would be Aboriginal persons or Torres Strait Islanders. The provisions ensured an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander majority on Council.

1989 - ATSIC Established

In November 1989, the Parliament passed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Act, after more than 90 amendments made to the ATSIC Bill.

At the time, the ATSIC Bill was the second-most amended piece of legislation to have passed through the Parliament since Federation.

Section 3 of the ATSIC Act sets out the objects.

3. The objects of this Act are, in recognition of the past dispossession and dispersal of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their present disadvantaged position in Australian society:

a) to ensure maximum participation of Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders in formulation and implementation of government policies that affect them;

b) to promote the development of self-management and self-sufficiency among Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders;

c) to further the economic, social and cultural development of Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders; and

d) to ensure co-ordination in the formulation and implementation of policies affecting Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders by the Commonwealth, Statement, Territory and local governments to provide services to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents.

When ATSIC commenced its operations in March 1990, it was widely hailed as a revolution in Aboriginal affairs in Australia.

Source: Australian Parliament House Library.