Indigenous Leader Applauds Tough Stand on Corruption
11 February 2014 at 8:40 am
The successful prosecution of a former CEO of an Aboriginal medical service for embezzling funds has been applauded by the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC).
The AILC’s CEO Rachelle Towart said many Indigenous leaders across Australia would welcome the pursuit and prosecution of a corrupt CEO of an Indigenous organisation.
She described the case as “a shocking example of an Indigenous leader putting his own needs before the needs of the people he was appointed to serve”.
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) investigated and successfully prosecuted Damien Matcham in the Federal Court last week for embezzling funds from the Katungal Aboriginal Corporation Community and Medical Services.
The Court found that Matcham had awarded himself unauthorised bonuses while working as CEO at the health service, reducing the business from a multi-million-dollar operation to having just $2,400 to its name. At one point he claimed pay for working more than 24 hours a day.
Matcham was ordered to pay $705,905 in compensation to the organisation, pay the Commonwealth $500,000, and also pay legal costs. He was also disqualified from managing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations for 15 years.
The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Anthony Bevan, said it was the worst case of individual embezzlement from an Aboriginal corporation he has seen.
Rachelle Towart congratulated ORIC on the successful prosecution. “There is no place for selfish leadership in any organisation or community,” she said. “No-one should seek to grow rich on the back of community organisations trying to help people in need.
“While not a common occurrence, this case underscores the importance of high quality leadership and governance education programs, so that organisations have skilled people in management roles and governance boards who can implement checks and balances at every level of every Indigenous organisation," she said.
“The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in health, education, employment and many other areas will not be closed unless leadership and governance capacity is radically expanded across the country. We need to embed not just rules in organisations, but also people with skills and knowledge that enable them to implement those rules.”