Abo­rig­i­nal De­part­ment toxic: re­port

Pilbara News - - Yule River meeting - Tom Zaun­mayr

Al­le­ga­tions of a toxic cul­ture within the De­part­ment of Abo­rig­i­nal Af­fairs have sur­faced as the Pil­bara’s tra­di­tional own­ers join WA La­bor and Greens in call­ing for an in­quiry into the de­part­ment’s man­age­ment of sa­cred sites.

When pressed in Par­lia­ment Abo­rig­i­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Peter Col­lier con­firmed the de­part­ment had con­ducted a re­view of the her­itage direc­torate which had re­sulted in staff leav­ing the agency, but would not com­ment on the find­ings of the re­view.

Mr Col­lier ruled out any pos­si­bil­ity of an in­quiry when ques­tioned by the Pil­bara News.

He said steps taken since the Mara­pikur­rinya Yintha site case last year had set the de­part­ment on the right path.

“The de­part­ment has un­der­gone a sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tion in the past 18 months, and I am con­fi­dent this re­form de­liv­ers in­creased fair­ness and cer­tainty,” he said.

Greens Mem­ber for Min­ing and Pas­toral Robin Chap­ple said he had gained ac­cess to a copy of the re­port, which he de­scribed as damn­ing.

“We had an idea of what that re­view said but the Gov­ern­ment said no we can’t re­lease it to you,” he said.

“It talks about dys­func­tion, a lack of co­he­sion, a lack of con­fi­dence in ad­min­is­tra­tion and it also talks sig­nif­i­cantly about bul­ly­ing.”

Mr Chap­ple said he would be the first to put his hand up to sit on an in­quiry into the de­part­ment.

Shadow Abo­rig­i­nal af­fairs min­is­ter Ben Wy­att said calls for an in­quiry had his back­ing.

“It has been dis­grace­ful how those sites have been man­aged and how the reg­is­ter has been man­aged,” he said.

“I have heard about (this) sur­vey into those work­ing in the de­part­ment that hasn’t re­flected well on the de­part­ment but get­ting in­for­ma­tion from the Gov­ern­ment has been dif­fi­cult.”

Mr Wy­att said cor­re­spon­dence from past and present staff sug­gested the de­part­ment had se­ri­ous in­ter­nal cul­ture prob­lems.

Ya­matji Marlpa Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion her­itage of­fi­cer Ben Fordyce said ef­forts by the na­tive ti­tle rep­re­sen­ta­tive body to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing sa­cred sites had been stonewalled by the de­part­ment.

“They (the DAA) could not give us a clear an­swer as to which sites had or had not been dis­turbed (since be­ing de-reg­is­tered),” he said.

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