WA Aboriginal corporation accused of rort

Nationals MP Vince Catania has used parliamentary privilege to level accusations of misconduct against the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation and its chief executive Matthew Slack.
Nationals MP Vince Catania has used parliamentary privilege to level accusations of misconduct against the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation and its chief executive Matthew Slack.

INDIGENOUS people in Western Australia’s Pilbara region are suffering as a result of an Aboriginal corporation’s “extreme squandering” of money, a state MP has claimed.

Nationals MP Vince Catania has used parliamentary privilege to level accusations of misconduct against the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation and its chief executive Matthew Slack.

The corporation was last month placed under special administration by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.

Preliminary findings had revealed several potential breaches of the law governing Aboriginal corporations, including directors neglecting to act in the best interests of members, Mr Catania told the Legislative Assembly.

Mr Catania read a statement from BTAC members who claimed they were being “oppressed” and that the CEO and board of directors had prevented a fair election.

They also claim Mr Slack and others had engaged in lavish spending on corporate credit cards, which included the CEO staying in the presidential suite of a top Sydney hotel and taking trips to the United States costing tens of thousands of dollars.

Nationals MP Vince Catania.

There were also “serious doubts” as to whether Mr Slack was of Aboriginal heritage as he claimed, Mr Catania added.

“Everyone should be concerned about this individual, who has potentially – allegedly – fleeced an Aboriginal organisation of millions of dollars,” Mr Catania told the chamber.

The Thalanyji people are traditional owners of land near Onslow on WA’s northwest coast.

In 2010, they secured a milestone agreement with Chevron in relation to the oil and gas producer’s major Wheatstone LNG development.

Mr Catania said the administrator had released figures indicating BTAC had spent more than $3 million on legal fees in the 18 months to December last year.

A further $1 million was spent on flights, $1.2 million on accommodation and meals, and more than $500,000 on security guards and systems for the CEO.

“That calculation does not include the credit card use,” Mr Catania said.

“There were a number of personal expenses claimed including iPads, lingerie, boxes at the football, restaurants, valet parking, and charges that I have been told also include strip clubs, based on the description on the statement.”

Mr Catania said the issue should be referred to police and a forensic audit conducted into the corporation’s spending.