Lost trust: inquiry recommends raft of reforms to legislation governing WA charitable trusts

WA Attorney General John Quigley.

Further allegations surrounding an Aboriginal charitable trust in Western Australia’s Pilbara, the Njamal People’s Trust, have been referred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, WA Attorney General John Quigley said.

Mr Quigley said he had referred the matters to ASIC for “appropriate action as a matter of priority”.

He would consider what further action he needed to take once he had further information, he said.

Mr Quigley’s comments came as a 680-page report by deputy state counsel Alan Sefton into the Njamal People’s Trust was tabled in the WA Parliament last week.

“Since receiving the Inquiry’s final report, further allegations concerning behaviour by people apparently acting in relation to the Trust have been brought to my attention …” Mr Quigley said.

“These allegations are of very serious concern to me and I have referred these allegations to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.”

Mr Quigley appointed Mr Sefton to inquire into the trust last year, under Section 20 of the Charitable Trusts Act 1962 (WA).

He said native title had brought many positives for Aboriginal people, but he was concerned some of the communities which the charitable trusts were designed to help, were still blighted by poverty and disadvantage.

Mr Sefton’s inquiry was wide-ranging from transactions involving motor vehicles, to related companies and projects, and the remuneration of directors.

The report said the inquiry had also spent “considerable time” on the role of key personalities involved in the trust.

It recommended a raft of reforms to the current legislation governing charitable trusts in WA.

Mr Quigley said he was considering how best to amend the Charitable Trusts Act 1962 to expand the powers of the Attorney General or others who are conducting an inquiry into a trust.

The Njamal People’s Trust was set up in 2003.

Its revenue, as at May 24, 2018, was about $4.4 million for the 2017-18 financial year against expenditure of $2.9 million, the inquiry report said.

The trust receives royalties for lithium, gold and iron ore mines.

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