Larrakia leaders look for ways out of $500,000 debt hole

ORIC's Anthony Beven.

The acting CEO of the financially-troubled Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation in Darwin is confident it will be back on its feet when it emerges from special administration at the end of March.

Allan McGill, who was brought in when the Corporation was placed into administration in June, said they were working to solve the Corporation’s $500,000 debt problem.

“I’m confident the organisation can come out of administration and grow into a stronger organisation as long as it changes a few things,” he said.

“The board of management will have to change, be restructured in a different way, and there needs to be tougher financial controls. Those controls exist now because they were introduced while it was under administration.

“They need to maintain all of those strong controls.”

The corporation is also in the process of recruiting a new CEO.

Larrakia Nation’s period of administration was initially due to run until December 7, but the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC), Anthony Beven, announced this week that it had been extended until March 31.

Mr McGill told the National Indigenous Times on Tuesday that the $500,000 debt, incurred before June 30, was largely due to people not paying back the Corporation’s Return to Country program and the Corporation also not being paid $220,000 for contract work it did checking dive sites for crocodiles on a gas project.

“Last week we came up with some options that might overcome that $500,000 problem,” he said. “As a result, the ORIC has extended the period of administration to the end of March to allow us to further discuss and agree on these arrangements and sort out the pre-June problem.”

Mr McGill, a former CEO of the Darwin City Council, said he could not yet reveal what the solutions involved.

He said the Turnbull government’s announcement this week that it would continue to provide funding to Larrakia services and staff would not plug the debt hole.

He said it was ongoing funding the Corporation received for its services.

“It’s not a bail out,” he said. “No one is giving us $500,000 for nothing. But there are various ways of doing things, including the property that the organisation owns.

“Because nothing really got put on the table until recently we need to have some more time to talk about it.”

Mr McGill said both the Northern Territory and Federal governments had been supportive of the organisation which provides frontline community services in the Top End, such as arranging medical care for the homeless.

Its 11 community programs include night patrol, aged care and tenancy support.

The Return to Country program helps people return to their communities when they are stranded by paying upfront for travel, with the costs to be reimbursed to the Corporation later from Centrelink payments.

“We are still negotiating with other organisations, not just the Australian government or the NT government, but there are other organisations involved with Larrakia Nation who have a few options to help us sort out that remaining $500,000 problem,” Mr McGill said.

In announcing the extension of the period of special administration, Mr Beven said it was needed to complete reform work on the Corporation.

Federal Indigenous Affairs minister Nigel Scullion said the government was providing Larrakia with ongoing funding for its key services and funding for short term staff needs.

“The Commonwealth has been working closely with the Northern Territory Government and Larrakia Nation on options to address the long-term sustainability of the organisation and ensure vital services to the local community continue to be provided,” he said.

“Officials from my department have been engaging with Larrakia Nation to develop a plan to transition Larrakia Nation out of administration and improve the long-term sustainability of the organisation.

“I have also been working with my fellow Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy, to ensure options to address the long-term sustainability of Larrakia Nation are addressed and governance matters improved.

“I am committed to supporting the ongoing delivery of night patrol and early childhood support services currently delivered by Larrakia Nation.”

Wendy Caccetta

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