Borroloola community members protested the sacking of Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Indigenous Corporation chief executive Michael Gravener. (Supplied: Tahnee Mawson)
Associated Story: Residents demand investigation into sacking of Aboriginal corporation chief
Map: Borroloola 0854
The sacked chief executive of a Northern Territory Indigenous corporation is calling for a royal commission into what he calls an “Aboriginal industry”.
- Former Indigenous corporation CEO alleges inappropriate use of resources
- Mabunji Corporation denies and rejects the allegations
- Angry residents fail in try to elect new Mabunji board members
Michael Gravener, the former CEO of the Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Indigenous Corporation in Borroloola, in the NT’s Gulf Country, argued a couple of corporations had been unfairly benefitting from billions in government spending although many remote Indigenous men and women remained disadvantaged.
Mr Gravener has launched Federal Court action against his former employer alleging “inappropriate use of resources” and “spend and overtime irregularities”.
Given that getting sacked by Mabunji in August, he has not left town.
From a caravan in the Gulf of Carpentaria’s mining and tourism hub, he launched Federal Court action claiming unfair dismissal.
I genuinely think that there is adequate evidence about the Territory and Western Australia to recommend there need to be a royal commission into the Aboriginal market.
Michael Gravener, former Mabunji CEO
“Mainly I feel it was because I was unveiling a lot of irregularities,” Mr Gravener said.
He alleges he was sacked simply because he alerted Mabunji management to “inappropriate use of sources” by employees.
In his statement of claim to the Federal Court, he alleged “inappropriate use of obtain orders,” including a employees member employing them “to get private groceries”.
“And her reasoning for that was that she didn’t have any cash at that time and that she needed to eat,” he mentioned.
Mr Gravener also alleged “serious pay, timesheet, and overtime irregularities”.
“There was a claim of $ 100,000 for a single person in one particular year [in overtime], if you calculate that would be a lot of hours,” he stated.
He complained to the Northern Territory Police, who are not investigating, and to the Indigenous Corporations Watchdog, the Workplace of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, which has refused to comment.
He has also asked the Division of Prime Minister and Cabinet to investigate.
The department mentioned it “has decided to undertake a compliance overview in relation to PM&C funded activities”.
Allegations of financial impropriety company ‘too common’
Soon after years functioning for Indigenous corporations across Australia, Mr Gravener says he finds allegations of irregularities too widespread.
“I actually believe that there is enough proof about the Territory and Western Australia to suggest there should be a royal commission into the Aboriginal business,” he stated.
Indigenous residents worried about Mr Gravener’s allegations attended Mabunji’s annual common meeting in Borroloola last Wednesday.
Among them was Garawa elder Jack Green.
“Mabunji was set up to appear right after the interests of Aboriginal folks on outstations but from my understanding, I was on the board when they initial began off, it’s sort-of drifted away from what its supposed to do,” he mentioned.
The concerned clan members had gone to the AGM hoping to elect new board members.
They came out angry after the election did not take place.
“They stated it really is not going to be happening right now, its going to be taking place next year,” Mambaliya clan elder Nancy McDinny said.
“I don’t feel they’re listening to the individuals. The individuals are the ones who are suffering out in the community,” clan member Maria Pyro said.
Systematic maintenance failings regardless of government-funded services
Some residents are accusing Mabunji of not providing sufficient government-funded Indigenous housing upkeep services.
Mara camp resident Linda Owens has accused Mabunji of not replacing louvers in her residence. (ABC News: Jane Bardon)
Resident Linda Owens lives in a dilapidated tin shack with a dirt floor in the Mara Indigenous town camp in Borroloola.
She mentioned Mabunji promised to make some little improvements to her home.
“Mabunji took this window out, they had been supposed to place louvers in, but they did not place any louvers in, they didn’t come back,” she mentioned.
Asked to respond to the allegations, Mabunji’s management refused to be interviewed.
Mabunji supplied a statement to say it stood by its decision to terminate Mr Gravener’s employment.
“Mabunji stands by its decision to terminate Mr Gravener’s solutions and will vigorously defend any legal action brought by Mr Gravener against it.”
Mara neighborhood member Samuel Evans has just returned to the Mabunji board.
He said he was unaware of the economic allegations, but defended the corporation’s service delivery on housing upkeep and outstation crucial solutions.
“There are so a lot of outstations and we do supply services but some of these individuals on the outstations are not doing their, or aren’t helping themselves,” Mr Evans said.
He hoped Mabunji would not be broken by court proceedings.
“If we collapse, we fall down, it will be taken by an NGO, a non-government organisation, and no Aboriginal person in Borroloola will have their say,” Mr Evans said.
Critics of Mabunji say they already do not have a voice.
Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, corporate-governance, borroloola-0854
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