Part of $2m project ‘poor value for money’ in view of department panel
By ERWIN CHLANDA
“Select and train a small group of Indigenous distance runners who will compete in a series of distance running events around the world.”
Nice work if you can get it. Someone did – former world champion marathon runner Robert “Deek” de Castella, and the rest is history. Well, not quite.
Warren Snowdon, Lingiari sitting Member and ALP candidate in Saturday’s election, has been a keen supporter of Mr de Castella’s project.
Alice Springs sporting identity John Bell is in a bitter pay dispute with Mr de Castella.
A letter from the Department of Health and Ageing, given to the Alice Springs News Online by Mr Bell, shows the department spent $2,150,879 on the Indigenous Marathon Project, in three grants between April 2010 and June 2011. The amount for the third grant was $1,649,614.
Some of the money – $200,000 – was applied for to send 10 young Indigenous people to the New York Marathon in November 2011. It seems only four went.
The funding application by Smartstart for Kids Limited – Indigenous Marathon Project was made to the Indigenous Sport and Recreation Program (ISRP) under the auspices of then Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib.
The departmental panel assessing the application did not think that the project was a good idea, but Mr Arbib did.
Said the panel: The application meets ISRP objectives to “a low degree” and “the project demonstrated limited and short term broader community engagement … the proposed budget demonstrated poor value for money by catering for an exclusive group in a high cost manner and therefore poses a financial risk. The high cost of travel is a prohibitor. As per the ISRP conditions, international travel and accommodation is not permitted to be funded.”
Mr Arbib clearly would have none of such negative talk: according to the departmental documents leaked to Mr Bell, Mr Arbib “requested the Office for Sport to negotiate with this organisation to include their program in the Annual Funding Round” and the Minister “approved funding of $200,000.”
It is not clear that Warren Snowdon, Minister for Indigenous Health, had a role in intervening but he could not have been more pleased. On November 8, 2010 he trumpeted in a joint media release with Mr Arbib: “Four young men from remote Northern Australia have become the nation’s first Aboriginal marathon team to complete the world-famous New York City Marathon … I am delighted that all four runners completed this gruelling race.”
The pair followed up on February 17, 2011: “Outstanding natural long-distance runners are being sought to join Rob de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project and run in this year’s world-famous New York City Marathon, the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, said today.
“This is a great chance for six male and four female Indigenous runners to fly to New York in November with the squad.”
By mid-year the third grant to the project of over $1.5m was made.
The Alice Springs News Online has asked the Department of Health and Ageing for comment.
Picture by Dan Himbrechts, Adelaide Now. Robert De Castella with (left to right) Charlie Maher, Juan Darwin and Caleb Hart.