Ryan's agenda to reform land council: broad support from members?


UPDATE May 24, 9:30am: Major comment from challenger Michael Liddle in comment box below this report.
The letter to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion from Central Land Council (CLC) chairman Maurie Ryan, which led to his suspension by the 11 member executive, has been leaked to the Alice Springs News Online.
The fact that Mr Ryan was yesterday re-elected as the chairman, in an overwhelming vote, appears to indicate that the concerns he is raising in that letter against CLC staff, and his demands for greater transparency of the organisation’s multi-million dollar business deals, has broad support in the council.
A source attending the meeting says a copy of the letter (excerpt pictured) was given to every person at the meeting.
Mr Ryan received 51 votes, Michael Liddle got 14 and two other candidates received six and three, respectively.
Mr Ryan says in his letter to Senator Scullion that there was now a “dominance of the administration over the authority of the elected members”.
He said he had “felt humiliated and shamed in front of my peers, respected Elders, TOs and my family” when senior CLC lawyer James Nugent – “a non Indigenous employee” – had called for “my instant resignation in front of 89 members that voted me in at Tennant Creek to be the CLC [chairman] for [the] next three years”.
Mr Ryan told Sen Scullion he is worried about the CLC administration putting information before members who “cannot read, write or have an understanding of words that are not in their vocabulary. There needs to be interpreters used at every meeting”.
Mr Ryan calls on  Sen Scullion to “investigate [the] Aboriginal Mafia of Alice Springs” and asked him also to look into a string of local businesses and organisations which have Aboriginal connections.
Mr Ryan further suggested some money from the Aboriginal Benefit Account (ABA) is  “missing” and he nominates a very considerable figure.
Mr Ryan wrote about CEO David Ross: “How many organisations is he [a] committed [sic] member in Alice Springs – conflict of interest?
“There has to be separation of powers between the full Land Council Executive, ABA members, Chair & Deputy from the administration.”
The chairperson should be kept in the loop with politicians, mining companies and pastoralists, and companies part-owned by Centrecorp.
[The Alice Springs News Online has requested, via the CLC Media office,  comment from Mr Nugent and Mr Ross.]


  1. CEO David Ross is one of the only reasons why the CLC has run and been as successful as it is. David Ross is a role model to young Aboriginal men who want to achieve things in life. I have watched David over the years and his respect, loyalty and dedication to the benefit of Aboriginal people is outstanding.

  2. It will be interesting to see how many boards and committees some well known people have dominated to line their own pockets. Whether or not they have the best intentions. I’ve known of many Aboriginal men who have sat on many boards, while being paid to do so. A lot of board members are chosen due to their family status / influence or simply elected because they are related to someone. Let the truth come out.

  3. Maurie Ryan makes a very good point about David Ross.
    Ross has his fingers in many pies but feels no obligation to be transparent around potential conflicts of interest.
    He is prominent on the CentreCorp board, surely one the most secretive Aboriginal Corporations in the country.
    Under Ross’s shared leadership CentreCorp has locked up tens of millions of dollars while Aboriginal communities cry out for more funds courtesy of the tax payer.
    On one hand Ross advocates for more services for Aboriginal people but on the other he is custodian of riches designated for them but withheld.
    Surely this is a fundamental conflict of interests.

  4. When this story first broke, I thought Mr Ryan was gone for all money. His support from an overwhelming majority of CLC board members indicates not.
    Could this be yet another argument to have an ICAC in the Territory?

  5. The Central Land Council Executive and the delegates are not capable of handling Aboriginal affairs!
    What board of directors stand a chairman down from all public duties and ask for a special general meeting to push for a “vote of no confidence” in the Chairman, as he has lost their faith and trust to lead because of his constant bad behaviour!
    A special general meeting is sanctioned… after one full day and a half of arguing a vote of no confidence in the chair is moved, seconded and passed. The disgruntled delegates get up and move away, grab their bat and ball and go screaming at the decision.
    The disgruntled chair screams that he will be leading a breakaway land council.
    But that’s what it was about, to see if the man had confidence within the council!
    But hang on, it gets worse. The same people (executive members, four of them including the deputy chair) or Maurie’s puppets that signed the resolution demanding that a Special General Meeting for a “vote of no confidence in the chair” be held, were involved in the walking away from the meeting!
    That’s what the meeting was about, to present facts of constant bad behaviour and misrepresentation of the Central Land Council without the council’s consent.
    After the passing of the resolution the electoral people were brought in and the chairman’s position was made vacant. Maurie Ryan was still legally able to be nominated and he was.
    A vote was had and the man absolutely slaughtered his closest rival and retained his position as the Chairman of the Central Land Council. He has the support. Now the questions:
    1. What a waste of time and money.
    2. Why did the Executive sanction such a ineffective resolution?
    3. Has the Executive got the capacity to understand the whole governance structure?
    4. Do council members understand that being a delegate means understanding what is happening to Aboriginal people, that by continuing to support bad behaviour for the sake of mileage money and sitting fees the delegates are contributing to the CLCs own demise. Their bread and butter, their whole lifeline!

  6. Suggestions of improper practices and worse in Indigenous corporations have been made around Central Australia for years. Most of it may well be Chinese whispers; there may be spotless governance and accountability in place in all of them. They may well turn out to be the best-run organisations in the country.
    Because so many people have been talking about wasting of money at best and outright corruption at worst, though, Mr Ryan is right in asking the Minister to investigate. Should such an investigation reveal that everything is above board and good governance is in place, that would be a wonderful thing for Central Australia because it would greatly boost business confidence and for the Land Council in particular because it would prove the naysayers wrong. If it is found that there is indeed corruption, it needs to be rooted out for the sake of the constituents of those organisations.
    I agree with Mr Liddle – it is a disgrace that after 40 years, the Land Council still has not been able to explain to its own people what it actually does and how it operates. It is a national shame that many of the elected members, apparently including the Executive, cannot read. It is an embarrassment that after 40 years, there are still more ivory keys than ebony ones on the piano that is the CLC headquarters.
    I must point out that there were some errors of fact in Mr Liddle’s post, however. I was an interested observer during the part of the meeting where many of the members walked away. I did not hear any of them, including the “disgruntled chairman”, screaming about anything. If they were, they were drowned out by a man on the microphone screaming racist remarks at a highly respected elder.
    There is no place in the Land Council, or any organisation for that matter, for a person with such obviously deep-rooted racial hatred. It is interesting that Mr Liddle does not mention it; it was certainly a major talking point between many after the meeting and some who did walk away told me they did so because of those remarks.
    I did observe what I believed was bad behaviour at the meeting but I did not see any of it from Mr Ryan. In saying that, I will admit that Japarta has been a close and good friend for almost two decades. I enjoy his passion and respect his dignity. I was not present for all of the meeting.
    Mr Ryan has been overwhelming elected chairman – twice now – on an agenda of attempting to make the Land Council more open, accountable and transparent. That his two victories have been so resounding indicate the vast majority of members are not happy with the way the CLC is being administered. They have given Mr Ryan a ringing mandate to do something about that.
    It is clear it is the administration that does not understand the workings of the Land Council, not the other way around as Mr Liddle asserts. If the administration is antagonistic or non-compliant with the wishes of the people who pay them, Mr Ryan is within his rights – and has the backing of the membership – to do whatever he believes is right to change that. He doesn’t need to ask permission to do that, he already has it. As Mr Liddle knows, Mr Ryan did not appoint the Executive; they are elected by their own divisions. To suggest otherwise is mischievous on Mr Liddle’s behalf.
    The clear message I heard from the membership at the Tennant Creek meeting is most desperately want the infighting to stop. Mr Ryan has been monk-like in his silence since the meeting; unfortunately, Mr Ross and Mr Liddle have done their best to keep the fires stoked.
    If Mr Liddle so fervently believes he would do a better job than Mr Ryan, there is a process he needs to follow – nominate for the position whenever the chairmanship is declared open and make his pitch to his peers about that. If the members believe he would do the best job, he will be voted in.
    Oh that’s right, he tried that one. Very few believed him.

  7. Interesting read Barkly Magpie. Yes, I did pitch a voice and no one listened and like I mentioned got absolutely slaughtered, but my dear unknown foe / friend, I am a very patient person just chipping away.
    Last time no one listened. But people are listening and hearing now, as shown by the executive’s / council’s decision for the vote. The strength of a man’s character is determined on how he comes back after a defeat.
    But let’s not turn this into a Maurie versus Michael event.
    It is about the credibility of the CLC, nothing else.
    Nothing else to say on this matter, run and won by Mr Ryan. Good on ya Maurie!

  8. What we are seeing is nothing less than a changing of the guard at the CLC. What is surprising about this is not that it is happening now but that it hasn’t already happened.
    It is a measure of the influence of David Ross and a lack of influence by the elected members that he has maintained an extraordinary position.
    It is that the CLC is not going to spend its own money on Aborigines. This has underpinned the growth of CentreCorp into a very wealthy entity, and one that Ross says he is proud of.
    Yes, Ross has been powerful enough to say that withholding funds from Aboriginal people is something to be proud of.
    In effect this is a very conservative statement along the lines of “Don’t waste money on Blackfellas”.
    The issues are clouded at the moment but we will eventually see that Mr Ryan aims to change that philosophy and he will do it by unraveling the secrecy and the power of the administration versus the elected members.
    Whether that ultimately turns out to be a good thing remains to be seen but it is inevitable.

  9. Re: Interested Observer, Posted May 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm
    Commonwealth legislation requires the CLC to act as both agent and adviser for various southern region ALR(NT) Land Trusts.
    All Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Land Trusts have their own management committees. Individuals may be on several management committees, similar to company directors.
    I agree various ALR(NT) Land Trusts appear not to be investing a sufficient percentage of their incomes into maintaining and developing their communities.
    The problem start with excessive secrecy, and Commonwealth exemptions – including legal barriers, reducing responsibilities.
    For communities on ALR(NT) lands, when not issued are valid leases relevant Land Trusts need be held to account for standards and maintenance of all the buildings and services provided.
    Problems increase due excessive secrecy and power of CLC administration, perhaps by some elected members. Certainly when information is not reported in writing to intended beneficiary shareholders aka “Traditional Owners”.
    The ALR(NT) Land Trusts need be publicly held to no less a standard of accountability as ASX listed corporations.

  10. Good on you Maurie, it’s time for a change. Got too many dinosaurs in that organisation. It needs some new blood.

  11. I hope that “toothache” Maurie get’s down to the nitty gritty in [the CLC] and turns it inside and out. Out with the old and in with the new.
    Our people are just sick of how it has been run down by the same people for 10 to 20 years. They are not dedicated to our people, they are there for themselves and that healthy pay check at the end of every fortnight.
    Team Maurie, all the way!

  12. Go team Ryan,yes go Ryan. Go really to where you come from and that is Darwin and take your team with you!

  13. Maurie is running out of options, running out of support. Very soon it’s going to be CHECKMATE!
    GAMEOVER !!!!
    It’s the council that is starting to listen and they are the people that will decide. Not the administration or his tiny band of supporters in suburbia Alice Springs.

  14. Oh no, this is really sad. The reason the CLC has done so well all these many years and overcome many challenges is because of David Ross. He is in demand as a board member for many other organisations because of his experience and work ethic. Hopefully Maurie Ryan loses interest and the CLC can continue quietly on doing its work.

  15. I see the CLC administration with their policy managers, lawyers and everyone involved in the corporate affairs of the CLC who are the gate keepers as to who gets nominated and elected on the executive and ABA position.
    These two positions are the most powerful position to be elected on by members of the full council. When these members are elected, its time for the “gate keepers to do their work and start manipulating the elected members about their position and to speak up for certain topics.
    You can come from one of the most disadvantaged remote communities in the NT and your concern will not be heard, until you speak up as a delegate.
    The CLC has a corrupted administration working for the “people of the land” whose concerns are far more greater than their own earnings as employees.
    Who’s who in the Zoo.


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