A couple of years ago, I was working in a large company shortly after I left the Royal Australian Air Force. I needed to find some co-organisers for an event, and eventually, I asked a colleague who was working in the same company who claimed to be from Gubbi Gubbi and/or Wakka Wakka at the time, before later changing his heritage (he now claims to be Kamilaroi; I’ll get to that.)

One day we had a gathering at work and my colleague’s University teacher came over for a chat and catch up. I can’t remember why he mentioned it, but he talked about how lucky my colleague was for finding out he had Aboriginal heritage after High School, which helped him to get into University. I didn’t think too much of it at the time… and lots of people usually question my Aboriginality because I don’t look the part so who was I to question his… A few weeks later I caught up with an Indigenous entrepreneur who went to the same High School as my colleague. He thought it was weird that my colleague never claimed to be Aboriginal or hung out with the Indigenous kids at school but started claiming after high school.

It got even weirder when I was working with my colleague and a client asked me how she could get her Aboriginality form since she was supposedly having problems with her Aboriginal side of the family who wasn’t talking with her. I told her she needed to go through the process in NSW – submit an application form to her Local Aboriginal Land Council and supply proof. However, my colleague jumped in and said he could help her…I didn’t understand what he was talking about (how can you claim Aboriginality without going through community approval) but that’s when I figured out how he did it – according to the Government, you only need authorised references from an Indigenous organisation or “Community Elder”, or have a Statutory declaration that is signed by an APS employee or Indigenous Service Provider

My hypothesis is that my former colleague – also a convicted drug dealer who did time in jail and bragged to me about not having many drugs on him when the police raided his house…. probably had some friends in the community who signed off on his Statutory Declaration for Aboriginality. I extremely doubt he went back to his “community” of heritage to claim his Aboriginal Form… he’s a good talker but he wouldn’t be able to prove his heritage to them… because it doesn’t exist!

A couple of months later we ran the event together. I took some time off to reflect on what happened and I knew without a doubt that what he was doing was Aboriginal Identity Fraud. However, I also believed there was nothing I could do about it… how do you report something like this? I became even more disempowered and furious with the current system when my former colleague started claiming (after the event) that he was now “Kamilaroi” – how do you go from Gubbi Gubbi and/or Wakka Wakka to Kamilaroi? They aren’t even in the same state… the nerve of this fraudster!

The worst part of this story is that this person continues to rort the system – winning Indigenous scholarships, Government contracts and receiving support (financial and non-financial) that he doesn’t deserve or qualify for. He’s taking away support that could be helping real Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are struggling. My estimated cost from his fraudulent behaviour is over $500,000, easily… when you take into consideration his university tutoring/support/scholarships, identified job positions (one job was over $80,000 annually) and Government business contracts since he started claiming after high school – he’s now in his 30s.

Some people are claiming that Aboriginal Identity Fraud isn’t a problem – but who are they to speak on behalf of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities?

It is a problem where I’m from… there’s even a grassroots organisation that has been trying to get support from the Government to help solve Aboriginal Identity Fraud for years…

It’s good to see that this problem is attracting more attention despite what the naysayers are claiming…. hopefully we can all work together to address this real issue.

About the author:

Dean Foley

Founder & CEO, Barayamal
Dean served five years in the Royal Australian Air Force before founding Australia’s first Indigenous Accelerator, Barayamal – now known as a world leader in First Nations Entrepreneurship.

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