Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation BULLETIN
Wednesday 30 January 2013
ENDING THE CONTROL OF WHITE MANAGERS & FMG
30 January 2013
This week Gerry Georgatos of the National Indigenous Times, writes:
The National Indigenous Times reports that the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT) has confirmed that it has engaged an external consultant “to review conflicts of interest affecting a former employee [Lillian Maher], and the NNTT’s procedures and processes for identifying, declaring and managing conflicts of interest.”
The National Indigenous Times has written that these alleged conflicts of interests by the former NNTT State Manager “might mean the granting of exploratory licences to mining companies on Yindjibarndi Country are tainted and may need to be reviewed.” Fortescue CEO, Mr Power said, “Fortescue has had no involvement in the NNTT inquiry. We are unaware of its terms of reference […] Fortescue is confident all of our tenure was granted through proper legal process and we do not accept that there is any basis on which the process can be impugned.”
Last year the NNTT told The Australian newspaper, "The NNTT has no record of any declaration or other advice being received from Ms Maher in respect of her status as a director of MGA Consulting. The NNTT has no record of any declarations being made by Ms Maher in respect of her partner’s and daughter’s employment."
Conflict of interest issues regarding Ms Maher’s conduct arise from a complex of relationships including immediate family and FMG executives:
- While she was State Manager at the NNTT, Ms Maher’s private company, MGA Consulting Pty Ltd, was contracted by Fortescue Metals Group to conduct heritage surveys in the Yindjibarndi #1 Native Title Claim area. This contract was operative after FMG had applied to the NNTT for arbitration to allow the grant of mining tenements in the claim area.
- A co-director of MGA Consulting with Ms Maher, is her spouse, Michael Gallagher.
- The heritage consultancy for FMG was undertaken by Michael Gallagher, who for five years previously was employed variously as Anthropologist, Manager Aboriginal Affairs, and Aboriginal Access and Opportunity Manager in FMG’s Land Access Division, where his job was to ensure “that [FMG’s] grant of project tenure is not delayed on account of approvals under the Native Title Act.”
- MGA was engaged in this work by Ms Maher’s daughter, and Mr Gallagher’s step-daughter, Lisa Maher, who is FMG’s Heritage Manager.
- The MGA report produced by Mr Gallagher for FMG, which effectively dismisses the merits of the Yindjibarndi native title claim over Vacant Crown land (VCL) where FMG is developing its Solomon project, was used to obtain approval for iron ore mining within FMG’s Solomon Hub.
- Tom Weaver, who is the Native Title Manager for FMG, and was previously the NNTT’s Manager for the Geraldton, Kimberley and Pilbara region, and relieved Ms Maher as Acting State Manager for a period, is a close family friend of Ms Maher and Mr Gallagher.
- In December 2010, Mr Gallagher left FMG to work as a consultant (Native Title Manager and de facto CEO) with Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC), which he helped to establish while with FMG. FMG financially sponsors WMYAC, which supports FMG projects against the objections of the properly appointed Yindjibarndi Prescribed Body Corporate and elected representative body, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC).
- At the same time as Mr Gallagher serves as co-director with Lillian Maher of their private company, FMG pays the fees of Mr Gallagher in his employment with WMYAC and his accommodation expenses in the Pilbara.
- Since leaving the NNTT in August 2012, Lillian Maher has worked for RCD Consulting—a partnership of five consultants, four of whom were also previously employed at the NNTT.
- RCD Consulting is a business name owned by MGA Consulting, which in turn is wholly owned by Lillian Maher (and co-directed by Mr Gallagher).
- In March 2012 Michael Gallagher was instrumental in engaging RCD to undertake a consultancy for WMYAC regarding governance and strategic planning.
- In 2012, before Lillian Maher left the NNTT, RCD issued invoices to WMYAC totalling nearly $80,000 for services including professional film services by Michael Gallagher’s son, Daniel Gallagher; and communications, website updates and governance & strategic planning by Davina Boyd—the daughter of a close family friend of Michael Gallagher.
- Mr Gallagher denied to the WMYAC Board that he or his wife were associated with RCD.
EXTRACTS – NATIONAL INDIGENOUS TIMES:
- The National Indigenous Times sent questions to Mr Gallagher which included whether it was legally and morally appropriate for him to have his companies engaged for their services by the Wirlu-murra […] At the time of going to press there had been no response from Mr Gallagher.
- Bruce Woodley [Chairman of WMYAC] said he remained unrepentant about his allegations against Mr Gallagher and the Fortescue Metals Group.
- Bruce Woodley’s staggering suite of allegations against Mr Gallagher included describing him as a puppeteer who controlled decisions made by the organisation.
- “I just want to see my people control our affairs, our business, our Country. We must make the decisions and we represent our people. It should not be Michael Gallagher or anyone else, not Fortescue, not anyone who tells our people what to do […] I also want to see peace with all Yindjibarndi, all of us as one again, our hearts one. We can fix the problems if Yindjibarndi are left alone and then we can all do our business, work together and benefit. We can negotiate with one voice and with trust in our hearts”.
- A Board member who spoke in confidence to the National Indigenous Times said: “We want him [Michael Gallagher] to step back or to step down. We don’t want to be led around like children. We are strong people and we shouldn’t be treated like we don’t know anything.”
DOWNLOAD FACT SHEET … giving full context of, and describing the connection of Lillian Maher, Michael Gallagher & their private companies to FMG land access operations.
Michael Woodley YAC CEO— mwoodley
George Irving YAC In-House Legal Counsel– gmirving
For media materials please contact media