Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee: Inquiry into Aboriginal Governance

The Hon. T.T. NGO (12:31): I move:

That the final report of the committee's inquiry into Aboriginal governance be noted.

The inquiry into Aboriginal governance was referred to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee by the former Premier in February 2021. The committee received 48 written submissions and the inquiry had 27 witnesses providing oral evidence. The committee tabled an interim report on 26 October 2021 which summarised the bulk of the evidence received in the inquiry. Throughout this evidence, the committee received consistent submissions detailing concerns about the way in which Aboriginal corporations are currently functioning. Stakeholders submitted that, unless you were a director on the board, it could be difficult to ascertain where money received by those corporations was ending up.

The committee heard evidence from community members across a wide range of Aboriginal communities, who made similar allegations regarding favouritism and closed dealings within board memberships. The committee received sufficient concerns across many communities in the state to warrant it making nine recommendations in its interim report, and a further four recommendations in the final report.

One important recommendation is in relation to updating the state's trustee legislation. The committee considers this as vital to providing increased accountability and transparency about public moneys making its way into separate trusts established by Aboriginal corporations. These trusts may fall outside the scope of the federal regulator. It is also to ensure that Aboriginal communities can receive and have access to the monetary support they are entitled to.

The committee recently heard from the Western Australian Attorney-General in relation to how their jurisdiction is dealing with this issue. The Western Australian parliament has just passed a new Charitable Trusts Act, and the committee has asked that our Attorney-General consider that act as a potential guide for reforms in our jurisdiction.

Similarly, the federal government last week released its response to the commonwealth parliamentary committee's report into the destruction of Indigenous heritage sites at Juukan Gorge. This response noted governance as an issue currently being considered by the co-designed partnership which has been established to reform First Nations cultural heritage protection. It arises from a recommendation made by the commonwealth parliamentary committee that transparency and accountability requirements on native title prescribed body corporates be increased so that adequate consultation occurs between an Aboriginal corporation and the local Aboriginal community.

In relation to incorporated associations at the state level, the committee encourages the Attorney-General to introduce the proposed amendments to the Associations Incorporation Act 1985, which was before the House of Assembly prior to the 2022 state election. These amendments are crucial for increasing oversights and dispute intervention powers for the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs.

The committee has also recommended an increase in resources for the Commissioner for Corporate Affairs to provide regular governance training and education to Aboriginal community-controlled associations around their obligations under the Associations Incorporation Act 1985 (SA). It was made very clear to the committee that self-determination can be maintained by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations with improved governance practices and greater transparency. The committee heard that it is when this transparency to the community is lost that the majority of disputes may arise.

The committee is sincerely grateful to the individuals and organisations who made submissions to the committee in this inquiry. The committee also thanks the federal regulator, ORIC, and the state Commissioner for Corporate Affairs for providing it with detailed submissions in this inquiry. All submissions received in the inquiry added substantial value to the conduct of the inquiry.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the former members of the committee for their contributions to this inquiry, who received the majority of the evidence prior to the 2022 state election, including the Hon. Terry Stephens MLC; the Hon. Kyam Maher MLC; the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC; the member for Giles, Mr Eddie Hughes; the member for Hammond, Mr Adrian Pederick; and the former member for Davenport, Mr Steve Murray MP.

I also thank the current members of the committee, including the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC; the Hon. Stephen Wade MLC; the member for Giles, Mr Eddie Hughes MP; the member for Newland, Ms Olivia Savvas MP; and the member for Heysen, Mr Josh Teague MP. I would like to especially thank the executive research officer of the committee, Mrs Lisa Baxter, for her continued support, professionalism and expertise. Mrs Baxter's input is greatly appreciated. I commend the report to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.