Hey mob, transparency in politics is a big deal, right!?

We all want to know what our elected officials are up to so I recently tried to get some info on Councillor (Cr) Charles Lynch from the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) since the 2024 NSWALC elections are coming up…

The reason why is because I wanted to see if there were any complaints about him since being elected (2015) or if there’s been any professional misconduct…

Fair enough? If our democratically elected councillor does something wrong, then the public should know…

But there’s a plot twist!

Instead of receiving a reply from NSWALC’s Governance Officer (Stevie Hayes) in relation to my request for information that I sent this morning, I got a random out-of-the-blue email straight from Cr Charles Lynch.

This is the same guy in January 2023 who said he would get back to me about how many Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) in the Northern Region were labelled as high-risk because he didn’t know for sure…

Charles Lynch

I mean, I know he’s super busy and all but hasn’t he checked on the other 13 LALCs he’s in charge of? Like, is Red Chief Local Aboriginal Land Council the only one having issues or what?

Who knows…

But anyway, the email I received from Cr Charles Lynch after I submitted an official request for information to NSWALC, is titled “Interest in the operations of NSWALC and my performance as an elected Councillor”.

And I have to say, it’s pretty weird and a little juicy…

But here is the original letter. I will provide the letter verbatim and then annotate it with initial comments in red for your reference.

I’ll also follow up with emails to the Office of the Registrar (Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 NSW) and MP David Harris – Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, to try and clarify some of the allegations from Cr Charles Lynch.

Stay tuned for more updates on this wild political story and the 2024 NSW Aboriginal Land Council election…

NSWALC Dean Foley correspondence August 2023 V7CJL | sent by Charles Lynch

Charles Lynch

As the Councillor for NSWALC Northern Region I welcome your interest in our organisationโ€™s operations and my performance as a Councillor. It is important we are answerable for our actions as we focus on delivering real outcomes for the Aboriginal communities we serve. However, while NSWALC welcomes scrutiny and accountability, I do not welcome continued irresponsible and incorrect information being spread. 

It’s great to see officials from NSWALC open to public interest and scrutiny…. democracy and freedom 101.

That said, I’m a bit puzzled by the claim that “irresponsible and incorrect information” being spread is pretty strong because if there are specific instances or pieces of info that are incorrect, it would be genuinely helpful to point them out. It’s all about clarity, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just a thought. Thanks (again) for nothing Charles!

NSWALC is the largest member based Aboriginal organisation in NSW and we are committed to ensuring a better future for Aboriginal people, including pursuing cultural, social and economic independence for communities. The NSWALC plays a crucial role in a large number of programs benefiting Aboriginal communities, from advocacy, support, facilitation, and service delivery. 

Charles Lynch highlights the significance of NSWALC, and there’s no doubt they play a big role but just to clarify a point: the 30,000 or so members they often mention?

Those are actually members of the 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs), not directly NSWALC’s.

And if we dig a little deeper, it’s the Office of the Registrar that manages these members, not NSWALC…. which makes anyone with half a brain wonder why the LALC members are often cited in the news as NSWALC members.

If were going to have a discussion about misinformation then the NSW Government and NSW Fair Trading might need to look into claims that “NSWALC is the largest member based Aboriginal organisation in NSW”.

And I’ll be touching base with the Office of the Registrar via email to clear this up but as a side note, their (Registrar) website literally mentions that they are “Maintaining a consolidated roll of all members of Local Aboriginal Land Councils.” Always good to have all the facts in hand!๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿ“Š

So where are NSWALCs members and who manages them, Charles?

NSW Aboriginal Land Council_Local Aboriginal Land Councils

Our support for Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) to act as custodians of Country and representatives of Aboriginal communities is central to our goals. Our focus is about working to support the network of 121 LALCs across NSW and working for the return of culturally significant and economically viable land. The LALC network are community-controlled organisations, they are self-governing. As a community they make decisions for their own future. As a Councillor I am not a voting member of every LALC in Northern Region nor can I be a board member of a LALC. I am not involved in the appointment of LALC Boards (other than by casting my single vote as a voting member of my LALC), as they are democratically elected from and by the membership of each LALC.  Importantly as a councillor I have no control over the disruptive and destabilising behaviours of individuals, be they on a LALC Board or in a LALC membership. I wish to make it clear that I do not condone such actions and will always call it out. 

Reading through this paragraph is painful, but a couple of things pop out. Firstly, Charles mentions “121 LALCs across NSW” but from what I’ve seen on their own website, it’s stated as 120. Maybe there’s been an update? Or maybe Charles isn’t totally sure. From my past interactions, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the latter but I’ll keep an open mind.

And the whole bit about “As a Councillor I am not a voting member of every LALC in Northern Region nor can I be a board member of a LALC” is a tad confusing. Not sure who implied he was?

The main point I’ve been driving at is that as a Councillor, he should be stepping up to support these organisations…

But reading between the lines, he seems to suggest, “Hey, LALC problems? Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Some leadership there, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐ŸŽช๐Ÿ’

Cheers to our fearless leader of the Northern Region, Charles Lynch!

Truly inspirational… with leadership like that, they’ll close the disparity gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous sooner than later (sarcasm intended)...

Charles Lynch - NSW Aboriginal Land Council_NSWALC election 2024

Like many community organisations, there will always be localised issues. However, NSWALC implements a wide range of systems to assist LALCs, including: compulsory Governance training for all LALC Board Members; support in developing Community Land and Business Plans; and the use of Performance Improvement Orders and Advisors when requested or otherwise needed, to improve the performance of a LALC who may be having difficulties with performance or their Governance. 

Blah, blah, blah… same nonsense as above/before. Typical politician behaviour, deflecting problems onto the community and LALCs… absolutely no leadership.

NSWALC sets a high benchmark for a community-controlled organisation. Our financial statements are independently audited by a delegate of the NSW Auditor-General. For the past decade, NSWALC has received an unqualified audit opinion, which means the NSW Auditor-General Office concludes that NSWALCโ€™s financial matters are dealt with correctly. 

Just a quick note on Charles Lynch’s mention of the NSW Auditor-General’s ‘seal of approval’ on NSWALC’s financial matters.

Which sounds impressive on the surface, but let’s dig a bit deeper. While the NSW Auditor-General has indeed audited NSWALC, it’s important not to misconstrue what these audits imply.

Because according to a direct reply I received from the Audit Office:

“The Auditor-General conducts an annual audit of NSWALCโ€™s financial statements… If we do identify issues during the course of our audits these are usually raised directly with the entity audited… Outside of our reports to Parliament, our audit work is covered by legislative secrecy provisions, and as such we will not be able to report back to you on the outcomes of our audit work.”

So, while the audits provide an opinion on the financial statements, it doesn’t necessarily mean they delve deep into the nitty-gritty or intervene in entity decisions.

Taylor Powell from the Audit Office further clarified that they “do not currently have a performance audit on NSWALC planned in the near future.”

So let’s not get ahead of ourselves with the whole “unqualified audit opinion” narrative because there’s usually more to the story when talking to politicians, and transparency is key! ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ“‘

The NSWALC Statutory Fund continues to outperform market benchmarks when compared to two NSW Treasury Corporation investment portfolios and two Mercer median portfolios held by other institutions. Following the market correction of the previous pandemic years, our strategy continues to be based on investment for perpetuity. 

Alright folks, let’s break down Charles Lynch’s statement on the NSWALC Statutory Fund...

But first, it’s important to know that Charles was/is an accountant and “He is a fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants.” Let that sink in as we continue…

Charles boasts that the NSWALC Statutory Fund is outpacing some NSW Treasury Corporation investment portfolios and two Mercer median portfolios held elsewhere.

However, diving into the numbers, there’s a different story to be told…

So, on 30 June 2018, total assets were pegged at $713.247 million.

Fast forward to June 30, 2022, and we’re looking at a SIF valuation of $598.7 million.

That’s a sharp decrease of $68.5 million just for the 2021-22 fiscal year alone.

So, let’s get real…

If the portfolios Charles is comparing to are losing more than $100 million like NSWALC since 2018, it might be time for a strategy rethink, perhaps even hiring a new investment manager.

I mean, I’m not an expert or an accountant fellow like Charles, but the numbers and performance don’t match up…

“Outperforming” might be a relative term, but there’s much to dissect here. Food for thought! ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ“‰

NSW Aboriginal Land Council reporting period 2018
NSWALC Annual Report 2017 – 2018

FYI: the SIF is responsible for resourcing the operations of NSWALC and its network of 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs), is under the stewardship of the Council of NSWALC. As of June 30, 2022, the SIF had a valuation of $598.7 million, marking a substantial decrease of $68.5 million for the 2021-22 financial year. From 2018 – 2022, they lost over $100 million…

I strongly encourage that you familiarise yourself with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to ensure you are citing accurate information. It is also important that you disclose your conflict of interests to your audience, and not misrepresent information/footage. 

Well, good old’ Charles is at it again with his vague statements…

Firstly, he nudges me to familiarise myself with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, but it’d be more helpful if he could pinpoint where he thinks I’ve gone astray… I mean, if I’ve quoted something incorrectly, sure, I’m all ears.

But vague advice? Not particularly constructive.

Now, regarding the “conflict of interests” and misrepresentation of info/footage โ€“ Charles, mate, you’ve lost me… or are you lost?

Either way, as far as I know, I’ve been transparent about my affiliations.

I’ve openly declared my membership with the Red Chief Local Aboriginal Land Council, and some are aware of my family’s connection with the Gomeroi Native Title (‘traditional owner’ status if it’s worth anything…).

It’s curious, though, how Charles throws around words like “misinformation” and “conflict of interests” without actually detailing what he believes I’ve gotten wrong.

I’d appreciate specifics over general allegations… and to be honest, is it appropriate for politicians to make these broad-brush claims against their constituents without substantive backup?

A tad unprofessional, if you ask me. ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

If you think you can add value to your community, I encourage you to become an active member of your LALC and participate in building a better future for our next generations.

Charles, let’s cut through the generic talk… these standard encouragements, while sounding noble, often lack the depth that reflects an understanding of what individuals like myself have gone through.

Your call for me to become active? Newsflash: I’ve been in the thick of it.

I applied for the CEO position at the Red Chief LALC, and that chapter took a distressing turn… While I can’t delve into specifics due to a non-disclosure agreement, many are aware of what transpired.

What’s baffling is that NSWALC, possibly even yourself, seemed to be in the loop but provided no assistance.

Where was your “leadership” then?

Additionally, just for the record, I am an active voting member at the Red Chief LALC and I’ve been a Member for over 15 years. I grew up Aboriginal… did you, Charles?

My upbringing rooted in our Aboriginal community taught me the importance of contributing, and I always have, always will.

But instead of general urges, perhaps we could look at real, on-ground issues and address them? Like you/Council spending a lot of money on yourselves…

Just a thought. ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿ“œ๐Ÿ“Œ

NSW Aboriginal Land Council reporting period: 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022
Charles Lynch signature


I enquired about any concerns or inappropriate behaviour linked to Cr Lynch since his 2015 election, but instead of hearing back from the NSWALC’s Governance Officer, I got a direct email from Cr Lynch himself.

This surprise email led to an in-depth analysis and discussion of Lynch’s response.

His email focused on the following:

  1. Defending the NSWALC’s operations and his performance.
  2. Highlighting the NSWALC’s role in supporting “121” LALCs.
  3. Emphasising that as a Councillor, he doesnโ€™t have a say in the workings of each LALC.
  4. Stressing the measures taken by NSWALC to help LALCs, like Governance training.
  5. Boasting about the financial performance of the NSWALC Statutory Fund.

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