By ERWIN CHLANDA
A document leaked to the Alice Springs News Online shows that members of the Central Land Council (CLC) are seeking a “forensic audit” into the multi million dollar investments of their own organisation.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion (pictured), who is responsible for the CLC, is dodging questions about it.
When the council, which has 90 members, met at Ross River this month, a significant faction – including Warlpiris from the Tanami region – demanded “that the Central Land Council administration be forensically audited by an independent non-biased interstate accounting firm that will be selected by the Council delegates and have no past or current dealings with the administration or past and present staff,” according to the document.
A source says a majority of the members brought up the issue but it was not included in the meeting agenda nor was a vote taken.
The document names nine locations where the audit should be taking place, plus the CLC’s Aboriginal Associations Management Centre in Kennett Court, Alice Springs, and the office of the “investment arm” of the CLC, Centrecorp.
The CLC has nine regions, each of which is represented by between six and 12 members.
“We are calling for transparency and it is only through this process that we feel we can have this,” says the document.
“We want the auditors to report back to the council directly and not to communicate any findings to the administration staff past and present or their families.
“Money is going towards people and projects that we have no knowledge of and it has to stop now.”
Meanwhile Senator Scullion, who is responsible for the Aboriginal land councils, which are statutory bodies, is declining to be interviewed about the CLC’s alleged blocking of an initiative by the Amoonguna community.
The community says it is being denied a lease over its land enabling its residents – the land’s traditional owners – to engage in a string of commercial and social activities, including reviving a housing construction company.
Senator Scullion was elected to the Senate for the Northern Territory in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013.
Aboriginal housing, especially in remote areas, was a key concern of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the Intervention), introduced by the Federal government under John Howard in 2007 when Senator Scullion was a Senator in Mr Howard’s government.
He was the Federal Minister for Community Services in 2007, and has been the Minister for Indigenous Affairs since 2013.
That means his is now in his second term as the minister, yet yesterday he announced “an independent review into remote Indigenous housing to explore practical and innovative solutions to address the inadequate conditions and supply in remote Indigenous housing.
“Overcrowding, homelessness and poor housing conditions in remote Australia remain unacceptably high.
“This is despite significant investment from successive governments” – including of course his own.
In a media release on Thursday about the Productivity Commission’s damning Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report the Senator is singling out that the “commission has found significant progress has been made across education, health and economic participation”.
He says: “Sometimes I think we focus too much on the negatives.”
Yet key initiatives Senator Scullion refers to in media releases this week remain in the future:–
• In the areas of incarceration, domestic violence, mental health and substance misuse, increased effort [is] required to improve outcomes – and better evidence [is] needed.
• Until recently, there has not been sufficient investment in evidence to drive Indigenous-specific mental health and suicide prevention responses.
• It is also important that individual programmes within the Indigenous Affairs portfolio [are] properly evaluated to determine their effectiveness.
• Of critical importance is the need for all governments to work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to identify local, practical solutions that work. While Senator Scullion is silent on the efforts by the Amoonguna community he claims “the Coalition Government is committed to working in genuine partnership with Indigenous communities to find solutions that work on the ground”.
The Alice Springs News Online made several requests for an interview with Senator Scullion over the last few days, on the subjects of Amoonguna, the CLC and Jacinta Price, prior to or subsequent to the publication of major reports.
When we renewed the request yesterday we were told this by the Minister’s media advisor: “On the majority of occasions, if we do provide comment, it is in the form of a written statement. However, we sometimes choose not to comment at all.”
We have since told the advisor that we don’t practice journalism by obtaining hearsay in email exchanges with a minder.
CLC members want forensic probe into their organisation
By ERWIN CHLANDA