Crossed Ts, dotted Is: Closing The Gap needs more



Aboriginal people have done well surviving in arduous conditions for 50,000 years but it is questionable that they will survive the onslaught of modern bureaucracy, as two recent examples show.

On the one hand governments pretend that Aboriginal customs must be encouraged and protected and that Aboriginal people must have the power to run their own affairs.

On the other they are excluded from doing just that by regimes politicians and their bureaucrats are imposing.

This hypocrisy is like the hand-on-heart acknowledging the traditional ownership “of the country we are standing on” without having any intention of ever getting out of it.

“Blackfeller way” is a reality cast aside by the system cemented in place, taking no account of people with high standing in their society, based usually on their traditional cultural knowledge, the kinds of people also likely to serve on boards.

They are expected to understand the immense complexity of legal concepts and jargon underpinning the management of their taxpayer funded corporations, or else they must leave their running to outsiders.

Where is acknowledgement of the customs of sharing, borrowing money in this system, family obligations? Whites may find aspects of Aboriginal decision making unpalatable yet they are a reality.

Where do we accept that funerals – too many of them, sadly – are more important than attending meetings?

Why do we demand that people who have English as their second or third language and are battling poverty, must have administrative skills that are well beyond the grasp of most white people?

Bureaucracy can continue to insist on financial reconciliation to a cent how much was spent on paperclips. This continues to make lawyers and accountants rich.

Yet governments could introduce true self rule with the following as the condition for public funding, and as the guarantee against its misuse: It will go projects which have precisely defined key performance indicators. If they are met there will be more cash, if not there won’t.

Under this policy money would not be diverted to peripheral service providers but all go the people it is meant for. And achievement will be the actual KPI, not bookkeeping.

Here are two examples put to the Alice Springs News.

The Federal Government’s Office of the Registrar of the Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) is widely seen as an umpire in entrenched Aboriginal vs Aboriginal disputes, principally because there is no-one else. (Google our site for references to this issue.)

William Craig is a member and former director the Alice Springs native title corporation Lhere Artepe.

It was formed following a decision by the Federal Court 20 years ago, consists of three moieties – Antulye, Irlpme and Mparntwe – and it depends on their harmonious collaboration.

It is far from getting that, something Their Honours had clearly not foreseen.

Mr Craig made a written complaint to ORIC that the position of Lhere Artepe’s CEO was never advertised, that he was appointed and later given a pay rise without the membership being consulted, there are no minutes recording any of that, and “all current directors are from Mbantua moiety – they are all Campbells”.

ORIC told Mr Craig: “We have completed our review of your complaint and at this stage we will be taking no further action.”

ORIC refused to discuss Mr Craig’s complaint with the News despite his explicit permission to do so.

A Lhere Artepe spokesman says it has had no contact from ORIC.

He says decisions have been made properly and in accordance with the Rule Book “and it would be wrong and misleading to suggest otherwise.

“The financial statements … are audited each year and reported to ORIC which publishes those statements on its website.”

Example Two: ORIC conducted an investigation of another Alice Springs Aboriginal corporation, concluding “that the corporation has not complied with provisions of the CATSI Act and/or the corporation’s constitution”.

The Alice Springs News is not naming the corporation because we have no reason to doubt a written statement from the acting CEO in response to our request for comment.

The acting CEO says: “A significant proportion of the matters set out in the Notice were addressed prior to the end of May 2020 [and] all remaining matters, excluding the ongoing reporting requirements, were addressed prior to the end of July 2020.”

You will find here the entire report, compiled by two accountants from Tasmania, dated May 19, 2020, minus details that would identify the corporation.

We invite you to imagine how that document would be received by an elder keeping alive traditions thousands of years old, in three languages, none of them English; a grandmother looking after several children whose parents are alcoholics or in prison; a young man with a gang in the streets at night, barely literate.

And especially we would be grateful if you could point to any accomplished KPIs you may discover. Good luck!

Image at top: ORIC design.


  1. ORIC, along with virtually all government instrumentalities – both Commonwealth and NTG – operate in effect to keep Aboriginal people in their place which is at the bottom rung of society.
    Thus has it been for decades under “self-determination” and the way it will remain for the foreseeable future.
    This creeping authoritarianism has (or is) extending its reach into the lives of many others who are disadvantaged in our “fair go” society.
    We’re told we live in a democracy but I prefer to describe our situation as a “shamocracy” while we contend with the realities of a dictatorship of the bureaucracy.

  2. Erwin and Alex, I’m with you.
    I’ve tilted at the bureaucratic windmills for decades. As well as shamocracy I would add cleptocracy (albeit this is global and not confined to those under ORIC’s cloud of control).
    Not much of the money allocated to Remote Aboriginal Australia trickles down to those it is meant for.
    In my (work in progress) attempt at a book I refer to: “A form of bureaucratic torture is applied…”
    I’ve just revisited the ORIC website.
    There is nothing in that bureaucratic labyrinth which I perceive to be encouraging to local people to join the mainstream economy.

  3. In a former life in a developing Pacific country, relatives of my wive and the “Elders” of a group of remote villages decided themselves that they needed a secondary school to complement the two separate ethnically based primary schools.
    The nearest junior secondary school was over 100 km away. Government money was scarce and not forthcoming so they decided to build it themselves, including a dormitory as some of the kids were walking eight km through the forest just for the privilege of attending a school.
    They cut and milled their own timber and mixed their own concrete by hand.
    They did all that was necessary, and took ownership of it collectively.
    My wife and I helped them for four years in a semi voluntary capacity.
    That school has since produced several high profile leaders. Self ownership, their own input and responsibility is the key, not bureaucracy. There must be a lesson somewhere in that for us.

  4. In the hundreds of years all our family stories were handed down from generation to generation to the old Law and Cultural Men and Women.
    In my possession I have stories on video in 1976/77 told to my brother and myself by two old Traditional Men of who belongs to Central Alice Springs and Northern Arunta Lands.
    In 1980/81 we handed documentation and the video to David Ross whom we first met when we walked into Central Land Councils Office on Hartley Street.
    David introduced himself as being the CEO. We were there to claim our land back. Yes, he said, leave it with me. Before leaving he introduced us to Angus Green as their Anthropologist. 15 years later nothing done, got our video back and had it Translated 30/05/1996.
    The old men named two families who do not belong all, Alyawarre, up North to Alkwepitye.
    Central Land Council knew but did not terminate them from being members of Lhere Artepe Native Title Mparntwe Group. All illegal.
    Mparntwe is a sacred site at the Mission Block on Gap Road and belonged to the people of Hermannsburg, their meeting place when in town.
    I would like anyone of Aunty Nancy Campbells out of respect to tell all the Arunta people where their great grand mother’s proper dreaming is.
    Friday, December 7, 2018: Alan Campbell [Oopie] and I did stories in the NT News about CLCand Lhere Artepe.
    Alan told me he wanted to get rid of his cousin Robert Campbell. What I would like to know is how the hell did you become a director without all directors to vote you in.
    These Primary school boys do not understand Sacred Sites its all about money.
    Lot 8212/ Lot 7583 /7741/7727 and where the casino stands are the most sacred in the old days before journeying onto Emily Gap and further.
    Five years ago I gave Shane Lindner a copy of the old traditional men’s stories when he saw it he told me that we the Bray Family are true owners with other families, Perkins, Bray, Wallace, Whites and Tarragon of the Yeperinya Caterpillar Dreaming. Old Eagle story. Wednesday, September 23, 2015: Chairman Shane Lindner Untulye Corporation a letter signed by him in the company of the Central Land Council Chairman, Francis Kelly, signed and sealed Lesley Tickner and myself.
    This gives them the rights as TOs of the country.
    When Shane was on our side he wanted to get rid of Robert Campbell. Sorry there should not be sides but that’s how Central Land Council puts the wrong people in the wrong places. DIVIDE AND RULE.

  5. Russel Bray, you have no right naming our grandmother in your conversation (Campbell is her married name).
    When are you going to listen to people?
    We know where we come from and belong, you don’t.
    Still more homework for you to do.

  6. Lauren, my niece, we as young boys and girls sat with your grandmother and other mothers and grandmothers, all aunties, out of respect around the fire buckets, listening to their stories in the Gap Cottages before you were born.
    According to your other relations your aunty Kathy Martin who says your nana’s name before marriage was Fountain, on one of their family trees.
    Aunty Nancy before marriage was Simmons as we were taught from their stories.
    What old people are alive today you listen too? Your nana was a proud eagle woman related to Essie Stuart from Undoolya, ask Shane Lindner to have a look at the two old men’s stories which I gave to him and that will tell you we are more Eastern Mparntwe than you people.
    40 years ago we listened to the true cultural law men and women, R Rubuntja.


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