Aboriginal organisations must cough up: St Mary’s supporters



Despite a public outcry about plans to sell St Mary’s in Alice Springs the Anglican Bishop of the Northern Territory, Greg Anderson, is not yet ready to provide information about bids which closed on Monday.

The Diocese has put up for sale the former children’s home in Alice Springs.

“The Diocese is continuing to work through the process, aware of the social and commercial sensitivities,” Bishop Anderson said in an email to the Alice Springs News.

“We will release a statement when there is information to share.”

Former residents, some of them belonging to the Stolen Generation, are regarding the land and buildings as their childhood home and want it preserved. (See readers’ comments in previous reports.)

And people are saying it’s abut time for Aboriginal organisations to put their hands into their deep pockets and do their constituents’ bidding by saving the historic facility.

We asked the Central Land Council (CLC) if it had put in a bid for the land. We didn’t get an answer.

In the year ending June 30 the CLC received $73m including $64.9m from government.

Employees got $27.6m including $368,000 for the CEO.

“The majority of grant funding received under special purposes contracts related to the federally funded Rangers program ($6.4m), Native Title Unit ($4.1m), Real Jobs for Rangers ($2.2m), and Indigenous Protection Areas ($1m),” according to the CLC’s 2021/22 annual report.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress had an operating income of $58.4m in the year ending June 30, 2021, including $48.2m in grants and contributions.

Tangentyere’s operating income in the same financial year was $33.9m including $29.1m in net recurring grants and $7m from external contracts. 

Employee costs were $17.9m.

The basic financial records of CLC, Congress and Tangentyere are on the public record.

Between them they own Centrecorp Pty Ltd, whose records are not – which didn’t worry former CLP Senator Nigel Scullion despite persistent requests from Aboriginal people contacting the News for information. We were unable to provide it because of Centrecorp’s lack of transparency – even to the Senate committee which extensively commented on it.

Without giving financial or percentage details, a Centrecorp brochure lists its “principal investments” to be in the Peter Kittle Motor Company, Yeperenye shopping centre, L J Hooker, Milner Road Food Town (which sells liquor), Mercure hotel, the Memo Club building and 75 & 82 Hartley Street, all in Alice Springs, plus Hertz commercial vehicle franchises in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Centrecorp also owns 1.5 per cent interest in NT Gas Pty Ltd.

A 2010 Senate report disclosed other ventures at the time including Big O Pty Ltd, a hardware retailer in Alice Springs, and Centrefarm Management Pty Ltd which provides corporate and management services to horticulture projects on Aboriginal land.

CLC is the biggest shareholder in Centrecorp and benefits from a very handy legal arrangement: Aboriginal Land Councils and Land Trusts are exempt from disclosing a document in response to an FOI request.

Nothing much has changed since 2010 when the Senate Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee completed a two-year investigation into the CLC and Centrecorp, held partly in response to persistent questioning by the Alice Springs News.

“Due to the fact that the CLC and Centrecorp are treated as separate financial entities … and because Centrecorp is under no obligation to report to the Australian Government, the committee found it difficult to make its own assessment of the propriety of the financial relationship between the CLC and Centrecorp,” the report said more than 10 years ago.

“Centrecorp provided the committee with highly edited versions of its financial reports, with large quantities of data removed on the alleged grounds that the information is ‘commercial-in-confidence’ or that it was beyond the scope of the inquiry,” it said in its report.

“The committee suggests that, should the CLC and Centrecorp wish to avoid continued speculation on the appropriateness of their management and financial relationship, both organisations should be more forthcoming and transparent about those arrangements.”

St Mary’s children are pictured in the PHOTO at top, supplied by the St Mary’s Stolen Generation Group.




  1. The tone of this article sounds negative in my ears. Cough up is rude. CLC, Congress and Tangentyere are respectable organisations providing essential services to Aboriginal people of Central Australia. Jointly they formed Centrecorp as a commercial entity to consolidate their assets.
    It may be up to Centrecorp management to assess wether the acquisition of St Mary’s is to their advantages, besides the sentimental value attached to the place by those of the stolen generation who were brought up there.
    Unfortunately profit and sentimentality rarely go hand in hand.
    If that was the case Anglicare and the diocese would keep the place for the stolen generation children and future generations to enjoy.
    But the diocese decided to sell for mere commercial reasons. Their balance sheet decided it all. Same applies to CLC or Centrecorp.

  2. @ Maya Cifali: “Cough up” captured my sentiment perfectly, not rude but frustrated and justifiably so.
    What a disgrace that CentreCorp can accumulate more than $200m in assets when the needs of Aboriginal people in Central Australia are so great.
    As for owning businesses that sell alcohol or shares in those companies the CLC, Congress and Lhere Artepe should hang their heads in shame.
    Inside, they hide behind a veil of secrecy.
    All the above claim their raison d être to be the benefit of Aboriginal people.
    Anglicare and the Diocese are not nearly as commercial as these hypocritical organisations.

  3. I think there is another deeper discussion here about Native Title as compared to access to land or sites for people who were placed in insitutions by government or removed from their families and homes. This might be a hurdle ….


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