South Australian Premier Steven Marshall is pushing for a broad-ranging inquiry into the governance of South Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs).

In a letter to the South Australian Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Premier noted there were “mounting concerns within the South Australian Aboriginal community about poor governance and alleged corruption within Aboriginal organisations”.

Addressing the letter to Committee Chair Terry Stephens, the Premier noted that any allegations should be referred to the South Australian Police and that the State Government remains committed to self-determination within Aboriginal community governance.

“I seek the advice of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee on ways to support Aboriginal community aspirations for self-determination and would be especially interested in its recommendations about a comprehensive governance and capacity building framework to support South Australian Aboriginal organisations and corporations,” wrote the Premier.

Currently, Aboriginal community organisations in South Australia operate under legislation including the Associations Incorporations Act 1985 (SA), the Landscape South Australian ACT 2019 and the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth).

The Premier outlined the need for the Committee to be future focused and prioritise the role of self-determination — a key element in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

A spokesperson for the Premier told NIT that in inviting the Committee to review governance standards, the Premier has highlighted his strong commitment to the empowerment of South Australian Aboriginal communities in managing their own affairs.

“His preference is for a proactive, solutions-based approach to support improvements to Aboriginal community governance.”

“At the same time, the Premier believes that in considering governance arrangements for the future, the Committee needs to have regard to existing arrangements and in particular, where those arrangements are not serving the interest of people or organisations they are intended to support,” the spokesperson said.

“However, this is intended to be a review of governance standards generally, not a review or inquiry into any one particular organisation.”

The Premier has since provided terms of reference for the Committee’s consideration.

NIT contacted the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee but was told Stephens is not making comment until the Committee has deliberated on the inquiry referral and terms of reference.

By Rachael Knowles