'Forensic audit' into native title group welcomed in Port Augusta

EXCITED: Cheryl Coulthard-Waye and Charlie Jackson, both of the Adnyamathanha clan, are excited about a decision to investigate the finances of their local native title body.
EXCITED: Cheryl Coulthard-Waye and Charlie Jackson, both of the Adnyamathanha clan, are excited about a decision to investigate the finances of their local native title body.

As calls mount for a judicial inquiry into Australia's Native Title industry, a corporation representing an indigenous clan in South Australia's Port Augusta is set to undergo a "forensic audit".

In their most far-reaching statement to date on the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association, the group's federally-appointed special administrators have outlined major changes to directorships, organisational structures and transparency.

As part of the reforms, the special administrators, lawyers Bevan Mailman and Brian Bero, have called for tenders for a forensic audit of the association.

This comes on top of a police investigation into payments made in connection with the association and its related entities.

At the centre of the controversy are millions of dollars in royalty payments to the association from the Beverley uranium mine in outback South Australia.

Adnyamathanha people Charlie Jackson, an elder, and Cheryl Coulthard-Waye welcomed this week's developments and thanked ACM's Port Augusta newspaper The Transcontinental for its coverage of their campaign for action through the Aboriginal Reform Group of South Australia.

"I want nothing less than the truth," Mr Jackson said. "I believe in transparency, accountability and truth. Some of the third and fourth-generation members of our community may not know what is going on."

Ms Coulthard-Waye said the special administrators' decisions brought "a sigh of relief".

"I am on top of the world," she said. "The Adnyamathanha have seen how everything will be set up for a new association and will reckon that is the best set-up ever.

"I am proud of The Transcontintental newspaper for their stories about our situation. You did 20 years' work within 12 months. You all need a good bloody pat on the back. You never once gave up on us."

The special administrators, whose three-month term was extended to September 25 by the Canberra-based Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, formed an advisory group to help with their work. Members include former Swans' AFL Brownlow Medallist and Adnyamathanha man Adam Goodes.

In a communique to members this week, they outlined the new company group structure and appointed a new book-keeper and accountant.

They said the register of members did not seem to be current and needed updating. There are about 2000 people in the community.

Yurlu Pty Ltd, set up to manage interests in Leigh Creek, and Cramond Pty Ltd, a trustee for the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Trust, were said to have lacked a resolution at board level to set up either company. Both companies will be de-registered.

Cramond's operations were reviewed last year by the confidential William Buck Report which called for a "forensic audit" of the trustee.

The special administrators have hired PCI Partners to now review the key findings of the William Buck Report.

The aim was to produce a report that introduced best practices for the association, its subsidiaries and any trusts that have been created to benefit the Adnyamathanha.

"We are looking to change the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Trust Deed to increase transparency and clarity about how trust funds are used," the special administrators said.

"Cramond has been removed as trustee."

Rule book changes for the association are proposed to improve governance and member transparency including more detailed record-keeping.

Members will have the right to look at the association's financial books.

The changes were being made while "respecting culture, traditions, values and beliefs".

Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association could not be contacted for comment.

  • Greg Mayfield is ACM's SA group editor.