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Kooey swimwear creator Joanne Pellew pursues legal action against Indigenous business giant

David Prestipino -

A Federal Court case management hearing on Thursday will determine whether a partner of civil construction and defence contractor IPSA Holdings can launch legal action against the Indigenous enterprise.

IPSA trustees Joanne Pellew and her daughter are seeking to pursue legal action on behalf of IPSA against managing director Robin Frankle, alleging $32 million had been diverted to companies associated with him.

In October 2022 Ms Pellew successfully sought a Federal Court order under the Corporations Act to allow her accountant to examine the financial records of IPSA, and use any information obtained to pursue legal action on behalf of IPSA.

Ms Pellew's lawyer told the National Indigenous Times a further application was also made for IPSA to provide shareholders access to financial records and documentation.

"These were subsequently granted and provided, and what's come back is that approximately $32 million was allegedly misappropriated.

Ms Pellew and her daughter are pursuing the legal action in their capacity as trustees of IPSA, which has won a string of contracts across the defence and construction sectors, including from the Department of Defence as well as government departments and civil projects, according to its website.

Ms Pellew alleges Mr Frankle, IPSA's sole director, diverted profits from the business and its holdings to himself and other entities associated with him, "reducing the value available to IPSA Holdings shareholders, of which Ms Pellew and her daughter are 50 per cent shareholders in, in their capacity as trustees", her lawyer said.

He said if the Federal Court on Thursday granted leave for legal action to proceed, it would be alleged "approximately $32m that can be ascertained to date had been diverted to companies associated with Mr Frankle", based on documents obtained and reviewed by Ms Pellew's accountant.

A Noongar businesswoman, Ms Pellew was the founder of the iconic and globally-recognised Aboriginal-inspired swimwear label Kooey, which went into liquidation some time after she sold the business several years ago.

She is contesting charges laid three years ago by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission in relation to the 2019 collapse of Indigenous labour hire companies she led, including Ochre Training, Ochre Workforce Solutions and Ochre People.

National Indigenous Times has contacted Mr Frankle for comment.

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