I submitted a formal complaint about Councillor Charles Lynch to the Registrar of Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NSW) because I believe they (NSWALC) could be potentially misleading the public based on statements like “NSWALC is the largest member-based Aboriginal organisation in NSW” despite only having 9 members in total.
They’ve also been featured in the media claiming to be Australia’s largest member-based Aboriginal organisation…
But here’s the reply from Nicole Courtman, Interim Registrar Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, who is literally leaving the job this week…
I’ll explain why I think the Registrar has potentially made the wrong decision in this case.
And let’s not even consider the other wrong decisions the Regisrars have made over the years… which is probably one of the reasons why so many Local Aboriginal Land Councils are flat-out failing, with many more struggling.
Registrar decision: NOT investigating Charles Lynch
Dear Mr Foley,
Complaint re Councillor Charles Lynch
I refer to your email dated 19 September 2023 in which you make a formal complaint in relation to New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Councillor Charles Lynch and raise the following concerns:
- That the largest representation of the actual membership structure of NSWALC as set out in section 120 of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA); and
- In making that statement Cr Lynch may have breached clauses 2(1), (2) and (4)-(6) of the Prescribed Code of Conduct for NSWALC in schedule 4 to the Aboriginal Land Rights Regulation 2020 (ALRR).
Pursuant to Division 4 of Part 10 of the ALRA, the Registrar can investigate allegations of misconduct by NSWALC Councillors and NSWALC staff members and may consider taking disciplinary action. Misconduct is defined in the ALRA as including any of the following:
- A breach of a provision of the ALRA or the ALRR;
- A breach of the Prescribed Code of Conduct for the NSWALC (in Schedule 4 to the ALRR) (Code of Conduct);
- A breach of a disciplinary direction given by the Registrar pursuant to section 197 of the ALRA;
- A breach of a compliance direction; and/or
- An act of disorder by a NSWALC Councillor at a meeting of the NSWALC.
Complaint re Cr Lynch
I have considered the statement made by Cr Lynch in relation to the membership of NSWALC. It is my understanding that Cr Lynch’s statement was intended to refer to the fact that NSWALC is the largest Aboriginal representative body in New South Wales whereby the members of all Local Aboriginal Land Councils vote to elect NSWALC Councillors.
I do not consider that Cr Lynch has made a misleading statement or breached the Code of Conduct in relation to the statement he made. On this basis, I have decided not to conduct an investigation into this matter (the Registrar can make this decision under section 192(1)(a) of the ALRA).
Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983
Why the Registrar’s decision could be wrong
Firstly, let’s consider Nicole Courtman’s own words:
“…the Registrar considers each complaint it receives on its own merits (that is, the specific facts and surrounding circumstances of the complaint) .”Nicole Courtman via email received Wednesday 11th October 2023.
Now you need to look at the Registrar’s justification for not investigating Councillor Charles Lynch, which is:
“It is my understanding that Cr Lynch’s statement was intended to refer to the fact that NSWALC is the largest Aboriginal representative body in New South Wales whereby the members of all Local Aboriginal Land Councils vote to elect NSWALC Councillors.”
This is where the Registrar could be completely wrong… because the Registrar is claiming that it’s “fact” that NSWALC is the largest based on votes, which may not be the case at all when you consider that only 4,124 or 16.5% out of the total 25,000 Members of the 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils actually voted in the NSWALC 2019 election…
Now you also have to consider that Aboriginal people in NSW vote for different elections, not just the NSWALC election…
And if you look at how many First People live in NSW, which is 278,000 people according to the ABS (2022).
The total number of members for all 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils is now around 30,000, which is significantly less than the total population in NSW, but more importantly, the number of Aboriginal voters for other elections in NSW is significantly higher.
And you’re probably looking at around half of the First People in NSW being eligible to vote in local, state, and federal elections.
For example, if you look at the Central Coast, with an Indigenous population of 15,371 and a voting base of around 7,500, that’s bigger (around 3,000 more Indigenous voters) than the number of people who voted in the 2019 NSWALC election.
Now, I’m not saying they had a 100% Aboriginal voter turnout at the Central Coast Council election but I’m assuming it was probably more than 4,124 (16.5% of 25,000) at the NSWALC election…
So only 55% or 4,125 out of 7,500 eligible Aboriginal voters in the Central Coast Council would be more than the NSWALC election.
Does that make the Central Coast Council the largest Aboriginal representative body?
Because technically, they might have had more Aboriginal people vote in their election than in the NSWALC election.
Both are government entities… Just because NSWALC has “Aboriginal” in its name doesn’t mean it’s owned by First Nations or less government than the Central Coast Council.
And to end things, the Central Coast Council election was just an example… there may be another place with more Aboriginal voters in a local area, then you have to consider the region and state votes.
Since the claim (or “fact”) is that “NSWALC is the largest Aboriginal representative body in New South Wales”, then we probably need to consider all elections in NSW…
Furthermore, the (current) Registrar says that “members of all Local Aboriginal Land Councils vote to elect NSWALC Councillors”, which is far from the truth.
As mentioned, only 4,124 or 16.5% out of the total 25,000 Members in the NSWALC 2019 voted… in addition, 38.3% of Local Aboriginal Land Council members were ineligible to vote at all.
- “members of all Local Aboriginal Land Councils vote” which is not true because not all members are eligible to vote, and most of the eligible voters choose not to vote.
- “fact that NSWALC is the largest Aboriginal representative body in New South Wales”, this statement may also be false because they are claiming to be the largest Aboriginal representative body based on votes while regarding other elections….. as mentioned, the Central Coast Council could technically be the largest Aboriginal representative body based on the number of actual Aboriginal votes in a (local) election. Let’s not even consider Aboriginal Affairs NSW, which is controlled by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who might have received more votes from Aboriginal voters in the NSW state election than the NSWALC election.
Now, I’m not saying the Registrar is wrong… but in Nicole’s own words, the “Registrar considers each complaint it receives on its own merits (that is, the specific facts and surrounding circumstances of the complaint).
So the Registrar’s decision could just be based on perception rather than actual “facts”…
And the decision not to investigate the complaint about Charles Lynch potentially misleading the public could have been wrong.
So in theory, I could submit the same complaint to the new Registrar in a week or two, and the decision to investigate or not, may be different…