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YMAC defends temporary office closures, won't provide details on Perth refurbishment

David Prestipino -

One of Western Australia's most prominent Native Title bodies has defended closing its offices across the state while its entire staff attended a conference in Perth.

Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation also did not answer questions from National Indigenous Times on why a refurbishment of its Perth office - allegedly costing $500,000 - was necessary when YMAC represents First Nations people in the Pilbara and Mid-West, hundreds of kilometres from the state capital.

CEO Simon Hawkins said YMAC's financial statements were independently audited, made available on its website and directly emailed to members annually. 

YMAC's 2022-2023 annual report does not detail expenditure associated with the Perth office refurbishment, with the lone reference being: "In 2023, YMAC also finished a refurbishment of its existing Perth office, with the refit including new collaboration and meeting areas for staff and clients."

Mr Hawkins defended the all-staff, two-day conference in Perth in late February, which essentially meant its five offices across the state would be closed for five days - including the weekend - potentially leaving members who required assistance in the lurch.

"For the two days YMAC's office was closed to visitors, callers could leave a message and staff monitored calls to mobiles and emails requiring urgent attention," he said.

Mr Hawkins did not answer questions on particular costs associated with the conference, which encompassed catering, travel, accommodation, guest speakers and a dinner at Fraser's in Kings Park.

"YMAC has been holding staff conferences for over 20 years," he said. 

"These all-staff conferences focus on vital strategic planning, important training, team building and award recognition."

YMAC, which represents Traditional Owner groups across the Pilbara, Midwest, Murchison and Gascoyne regions of WA, provides a range of services, including Native Title claims and future act representation, heritage services, community and economic development assistance, and natural resource management support.

After the 2021 Federal inquiry into the Juukan Gorge destruction, YMAC came under fire for taking no responsibilty for their actions in relation to the tragedy, despite being the the federally-funded Native Title Representative Body for the Pilbara and lead negotiator for Traditional Owners the PKKP with miner Rio Tinto.


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