Indigenous leader sparks call for Native Title 'evidence'

PLEA: Ngarrindjeri man Mark Koolmatrie wants an inquiry into the operation of Native Title corporations around Australia including at Port Augusta.
PLEA: Ngarrindjeri man Mark Koolmatrie wants an inquiry into the operation of Native Title corporations around Australia including at Port Augusta.

The South Australian government has left the door ajar for a Native Title corporations inquiry.

This comes after Ngarrindjeri man Mark Koolmatrie wrote in a national newspaper about the need for an investigation into how indigenous corporations run their affairs including distribution of royalties.

Mr Koolmatrie is among critics who have demanded a royal commission into Native Title corporations such as the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association which has links to Port Augusta. Based at Noarlunga, Mr Koolmatrie criticised indigenous corporations around the nation for lacking transparency.

Premier Steven Marshall, who is Aboriginal Affairs Minister, responded to Mr Koolmatrie's article in which the indigenous leader called for a "full judicial inquiry into governance of Aboriginal corporations".

Mr Marshall said that if people thought this step was needed, then the government would "consider any evidence they may have that would justify further action to ensure Aboriginal people are not denied access to benefits to which they are entitled through Native Title agreements or other agreements intended to support their aspirations".

"The government recognises that Aboriginal communities want to be empowered to manage their own affairs as has been recognised in the new National Closing the Gap agreement," he said.

"The commentary in The Australian newspaper refers to indigenous corporations in South Australia receiving 'tens of millions of dollars yearly through mining company payments under Native Title agreements'. The government is not a party to these agreements so it has no role in enforcing their terms."

Mr Koolmatrie, who is a friend of Mr Marshall, said he thought the government already knew there were "problems", but was hamstrung in taking action because of the risk of being labelled "racist".

"It is easy to say we should deliver evidence, but forensic audits are needed and it all costs money," he said.

Despite this, he predicted that evidence will come "in due time".

Mr Koolmatrie spoke to indigenous leaders in the African nation of Ghana about benefits to communities from a gold-mining operation there. He said thousands of scholarships had been provided to Ghanaians and the mining company had jobs for all kinds of workers.

"People who lack formal qualifications have work available to them," he said. "They use their own people and they create employment and education is valued." He called for similar systems to be introduced in Australia.

An Adnyamathanha association spokesman could not be contacted.

This story Step taken towards Native Title inquiry first appeared on The Transcontinental.


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