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Crackdown needed on fraudsters claiming Aboriginality to steal from taxpayer-funded First Nations programs

Guest Author -

The head of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Bill Shorten, wants to launch a task force immediately to investigate potential fraud that could be upwards of a billion dollars.

So the question has to be asked: If they're launching a task force to target fraud in the NDIS, why aren't they launching a task force to target Indigenous identity fraud?

It's just like the NDIS, but not just stealing moneyâ€"they're stealing cultural and leadership opportunities from Australia's most disadvantaged people.

Fraudsters are like mosquitoesâ€"they are opportunistic and will find the easiest targets. They take opportunities from Indigenous people, including the chance to attend university, get business and housing loans, obtain employment, and take care of their families.

They also seek to represent Indigenous culture and take up leadership positions in First Nations.

The NDIS lost upwards of a billion dollars to fraud in its first decade of operation.

The question is whether that same amount of money was lost in the Indigenous space because of identity fraud during the same period.

The idea of classifying people as Indigenous is a sensitive topic because of the invasion and colonisation of First Nations, including the White Australian Policy, which led to adverse outcomes like the Stolen Generation.

However, we can all agree that, especially in the Eastern states of Australia, where most Indigenous people live today, identifying as Indigenous has become a selfish pursuit that is taking opportunities away from real First People.

I know of a man who claimed to be Aboriginal; conveniently, around the same time he was looking to get into university and found out there were pathways for Indigenous people.

The same man was also a convicted drug dealer.

It seems only logical that if criminals exploit the NDIS, they will also try to take advantage of funding in the Indigenous space.

Do you think criminals will miraculously grow a consciousness or morals just because it's an Indigenous issue?

Noâ€"they will look for opportunities to exploit for their own interests, not the best interest of Indigenous people.

Now there's a three-part criterion of who exactly is Indigenous in Australiaâ€"and this definition takes into account that the person obviously must have Indigenous heritage, they must identify as being Indigenous, and they must be accepted by the Indigenous community in which they live.

I spoke with a CEO of an Aboriginal land council in New South Wales, and he said that if the criteria for defining Indigenous status were appropriately implemented and adhered to, up to 20 per cent of people in NSW would not have Aboriginal status because they cannot prove that they have Indigenous heritage or are Johnny-come-lately's who have never identified as Indigenous.

I've witnessed this phenomenon firsthand in my own community, where non-Indigenous people suddenly claim to be Aboriginal when they think it will give them some sort of advantageâ€"whether financial or social benefits.

The government's failure to address this issue promptly has allowed it to grow into a severe problem.

This problem is plaguing Indigenous affairs, and it probably harms closing the disparity gaps besides the obvious financial rorts, e.g. skewing data and undermining the status of Indigenous people, damaging the public's understanding of Indigenous disadvantage.

It didn't take Bill Shorten long to say that the NDIS needs a task force to target criminals who are rorting the system.

As the Minister for Indigenous Australians, will Linda Burney take steps to stamp out Indigenous fraud?

Or will she allow criminals to continue to profit from Indigenous communities that are suffering?

Dean Foley is a Kamilaroi entrepreneur and Founder at Barayamal (Black Swan)

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