The ILC Response to Howson

3 Oct 2006

Former Indigenous affairs Minister (1971-1972) Peter Howson made comments critical of the ILC’s past and current performance in The Australian (Thursday 28/9/2006). His comments were based on information that was wrong.

The ILC’s Chairperson responded in a letter to the editor, the text of which appears below.

The Australian, Monday 2/10/2006, Page 9.

Indigenous Pastoral Success

In The Australian on 28 September Mr Peter Howson claimed that since 30 June 1995 the Australian Government’s Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) had spent $438 million to buy 170 properties which at 30 June 2004 were now valued at only $160 million. He got it wrong. The ILC spent $160 million to buy 176 properties. His claim that the ILC bought property which has now lost its value is totally fallacious.

Mr Howson spoke about Roebuck Plains cattle station outside of Broome. The ILC acknowledges that, in 1999, there were concerns about the process involved in purchasing Roebuck Plains. However, an enquiry by former NSW Chief Judge Mr Andrew Rogers QC, in 2001 found “absolutely nothing to support claims of criminal conduct or illegal behaviour.”

Seven years later, the strategic decision by the ILC to buy Roebuck Plains has been vindicated. Today, it is an Indigenous pastoral success story this country can be proud of. The 294,000 hectare property supports 18,000 head, Indigenous stockmen are employed, cattle are exported to South East Asia and since 2000 the total profit for Roebuck Plains was over $8 million

The ILC believes Indigenous funding must be used to provide lasting benefits for Indigenous people in areas like employment, education and training. The ILC recently purchased the former Redfern Public School to establish a National Indigenous Development Centre. This will become a national hub for Indigenous education, sporting and leadership development. Up to 5,000 Indigenous youth each year will attend the centre.

Mr Howson’s comment that there is “a wide problem with government-funded, majority Aboriginal-run organisations” is disingenuous. The ILC Board has five highly-respected Indigenous members together with two highly-respected non-Indigenous businessmen who are leaders in their fields. Mr Howson’s comments are an insult to us all.

Shirley McPherson
Indigenous Land Corporation

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