On the same day that the shocking report into s-xual abuse in the Northern Territory was released, the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia granted an appeal to the small community of Mutitjulu.

The case involved a challenge by the (Mutitjulu) Corporation to the appointment — by the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations — of an Administrator to administer the affairs of the Corporation, which provides municipal services to the small Aboriginal community living in the shadow of Uluru.

The Federal Court at first instance found that the 24 hours’ notice given to the Corporation of its sacking and replacement by an Administrator appointed by the Registrar was legally valid and that the administration should continue. The Corporation disagreed, appealed and last Friday the Full Court handed down its judgement, granting an appeal from a single judge of the Federal Court in the case brought by a member of the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation.

George Newhouse, the lawyer acting for the Mutitjulu people, told Crikey today that the Federal Court had restored justice to their people by finding that the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations had acted unreasonably in giving the remote community one day’s notice before appointing an administrator.

“I am very concerned that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been squandered on what’s turned out to be a pointless exercise,” he said.

“Since an Administrator was appointed, things seem to have worsened. The elderly and invalid are unable to have their wood chopped for them while important substance abuse programs and youth diversionary programs remain unfunded.”

“The community has had to spend funds on administration, instead of on practical and essential services. They have not been able to fund a doctor for the community since the Administrator was appointed.”

“The people of Mutitjulu have expressed to me their desire to find a way forward. As a first step, Mutitjulu needs prompt restoration of basic services for elderly, the sick and women and children,” says Newhouse.

The story of the sacking of the Mutitjulu Corporation has been covered previously in Crikey and more thoroughly in the pages of The National Indigenous Times but in short, Minister Brough cast the Mutitjulu council as incompetent, corrupt and complicit in the scourge of serial pedophiliac behaviour he said was rife in the town.

The majority judgement of the Full Court wipes away much of the ordure that was presented as fact and dumped on the Corporation, its members and the community by Brough and his Department and upon which the Administrator’s appointment was based.

“Too much money has been spent on administration and bureaucracy while services go begging. The outcome of this case is a continuation of unnecessary human suffering,” says Newhouse. “I urge the Federal Government to take action and do what the community has been asking for all along, and that is to sit down and draw up a plan to solve the problems in a spirit of cooperation.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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