EDITORIAL: Questions multiply after Awabakal decision

ON FIRST look, the Baird government’s decision to place the Awabakal Aboriginal Land Council in administration raises far more questions than it answers.

In fact, questions, and the knowledge that those questions are not being adequately answered, is about all that the wider public have at this point. 

For better or worse, in recent times the Land Council has been front and centre in decisions over two of the major contested pieces of land in Newcastle.

It owns the site of the former Newcastle Post Office, and it wants to own the King Edward Park Headland.

The future of those two sites, like the Land Council itself, is now up for even more debate than they ever have been previously.

The government said today that the land claim over King Edward Park would not be affected by the decision to put an administrator in place, but it’s hard to see how it could not be, especially if the administrator’s initial six month tenure is extended.

The Land Council has significant development proposals on the boil, and all of those will surely need to e put on hold, or at least slowed, why the new administrator Terry Lawler gets his head around the Council’s finances.

Those questions aside, there are even more unknowns on the matters raised about the Awabakal themselves.

The Minister, Leslie Williams, says she has moved against the Land Council because of the findings of an investigation first commissioned in November last year.

There are apparently “numerous substantial breaches of compliance with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act”. 

She’s had the results of that investigation, which she won’t release, since at least June, when she issued a show-cause motion against the Land Council, giving them 21 days to show why she shouldn’t place them in the hands of the administrator.

Why she has waited until now is anyone’s guess, and the Minister’s short statement on Monday did nothing to address those issues.

Nor did it spell out what exactly the council was accused of doing wrong.

Also silent on Monday was the Land Council itself.

It’s previously threatened legal action against the Minister if she moved to place it into administration.

Forgotten in all of this is the disappointment surely felt by the land council’s members.  

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