Former Kimberley Land Council CEO Brian Wilkinson was not denied information regarding the operations of charitable trust, the Kimberley Sustainable Development Trust, according to evidence obtained by NIT.

Correspondence obtained by NIT shows the former CEO first requested access to KSDT documents on February 19 regarding the Trust beneficiaries’ agreements.

However, the KLC already holds and has access to many of these documents as the Native Title Representative Body of these Native Title groups.

In a Zoom meeting on February 26 between KSDT Directors Nolan Hunter and Robert Powrie, KSDT Manager Anne Sigley, and Wilkinson, Hunter offered to speak to the KLC Board at the land council’s next board meeting to discuss the Trust’s operations and finances.

“This is more about saying this is what the relationship is about between KSD and KLC and this is what was behind it and this is how it’s supposed to work … between the two separate entities,” Hunter said in the meeting.

“We’re happy to give you the three audits, that’s not a problem.

“We’ll be guided by the what the rules say, and we’ll also be guided by wanting to do the right thing by the KLC, so that’s why I want to talk to the [KLC] Board.”

 

Excerpt from KSDT Zoom meeting, (L-R clockwise) KSDT Manager Anne Sigley, former KLC CEO Brian Wilkinson, KSDT Director Robert Powrie, KSDT Director Nolan Hunter.

 

Wilkinson told the KSDT Directors he was keen to have the Trust come and speak with KLC Directors to dispel any rumours about dysfunction in the Trust.

“At the end of the day, I want to work with the Trust and I want to assure myself of all the financials,” he said at the meeting.

“Some of the people spreading the rumours … are sitting around that board table.”

“I think it’d be great if Nolan and Anne and the trustees came [to the KLC Board meeting] and said, ‘Look this is how we go about our processes.’”

 

Excerpt from KSDT Zoom meeting, (L-R clockwise) KSDT Manager Anne Sigley, former KLC CEO Brian Wilkinson, KSDT Director Robert Powrie, KSDT Director Nolan Hunter.

 

The KSDT presentation was added to the KLC board meeting’s agenda, which took place in Derby on April 7 and 8, but Wilkinson removed the KSDT presentation from the agenda without explanation to the disappointment of KSDT.

Both Hunter and Powrie have confirmed with NIT they offered to speak to the KLC Board but were prevented from doing so.

“[Wilkinson] didn’t give us a reason and we were ready to present,” Hunter said.

“We found out that week that we were removed off the KLC Board Agenda by the CEO Brian [Wilkinson].”

Hunter says he remains more than happy to speak to the KLC Board about any issues or nuances between the Trust and the land council.

It’s understood Wilkinson had raised concerns about the release of Trust funds, and it was reported in The Age the Trust had only released 20 per cent of funds in recent years.

However, in 2020 KSDT distributed almost 90 per cent of the income it received during the 2020 financial year and 76 per cent of its 2019 financial year income.

In 2018, the Trust distributed 102 per cent of its income for the financial year, dipping into the funds brought forward from previous years.

Inconsistencies in reporting via The Age say the Trust has received almost $60 million in mining payments in the last two financial years, however, this figure is the total income the Trust has received since its inception in 2002.

Each year, any monies not used or not disbursed to beneficiaries rolls over into the next financial year and is noted in financial reports as ‘b/fwd’ or ‘brought forward’.

In 2020, KSDT reported an income of:

  • $2.9 million for negotiation and mining agreements
  • $216,038 in admin fees
  • $829,254 in managed fund income and interest
  • $31,500 from a COVID-19 stimulus package
  • $624,817 in community benefits associated with mining agreements
  • $25 million in distributions allocated but not paid to beneficiaries (brought forward).

The total income received by KSDT in 2020 — not including the $25 million brought forward — totalled $4,627,981. Of this sum, $4,104,790 was paid to beneficiaries – 89 per cent.

Much like a bank, the KSDT’s role is to allocate the funds to beneficiaries once authorised representatives from each group sign off on funding allocations. Then, the Trust disburses the money.

“We were set up because the trustee companies charge exorbitant fees,” said KSDT Director Robert Powrie.

“The KLC set up this Trust so it was a low-cost, low-admin organisation.”

While KLC is the single shareholder of KSDT, it does not own it. The only power the KLC has over the KSDT is the ability to dismiss the KSDT Board, which must be done through a resolution by the KLC Board.

KLC has been contacted for comment.

By Hannah Cross