THE state government has launched a broad-brush investigation into the affairs Awabakal Aboriginal Land Council, and revealed that chairwoman Debbie Dates has been stood down from her position.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Leslie Williams revealed on Wednesday that she had appointed an investigator “into all of the affairs” of the land council.
It comes after an investigation by the Aboriginal Lands Act registrar, Stephen Wright, into “complaints about specific aspects of the Land Council’s governance and financial management revealed matters which clearly warrant a more comprehensive investigation”.
The investigation will go for three months, after which the investigator will provide a report to the Minister.
Ms Williams also revealed the registrar has suspended Ms Dates for two months from November 2 based on “findings of misconduct”.
Contacted by the Herald on Wednesday, both Ms Dates and Mr Green refused to comment on the reasons for the investigation, or address the Minister’s comments about the land council’s financial management.
Ms Dates would only say “I believe I’ve been doing the right thing and I’ve got nothing more to say”.
Deputy chairman Richard Green initially claimed not to know about the investigation, saying he was “on holidays”, and then that he had “been in meetings all day”.
Asked if the investigation put the land council’s plans at risk, Mr Green then said “put it this way, I’ve got no comment for you about anything and I’m not saying anything”.
The investigation raises questions about Awabakal’s ambitious plan to redevelop the Newcastle Post Office.
Mr Wright recommended the investigation after previously looking into allegations relating to "governance" problems at the council.
In July the Herald reported it had cleared former chief executive Steven Slee of any wrongdoing.
Mr Slee was stood down in February after chairwoman Debbie Dates and deputy chairman Richard Green verbally advised him to stop attending work.
He could not be contacted for comment before deadline.