Dunghutti Elders Council loses appeal

The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Mr Anthony Beven, has today noted the
decision of the Full Federal Court to dismiss an appeal by the Dunghutti Elders Council
(Aboriginal Corporation) RNTBC in proceedings against the Registrar.

On 11 February 2011 the Registrar issued a notice to the corporation asking it to show
cause as to why it should not be placed under special administration.

‘Dunghutti people have expressed concerns about the governance of the corporation and
its use of native title monies held by it in trust for all Dunghutti people. I put those
concerns to the corporation in February,’ Mr Beven said.

The corporation applied to the Federal Court on 24 February 2011 for an injunction to
prevent the Registrar from placing the corporation under special administration.
On 14 April 2011 Justice Flick dismissed the application and ordered the corporation to
pay the Registrar’s costs. The corporation appealed the decision of Justice Flick to the Full
Federal Court.

In dismissing the appeal by the corporation today, Chief Justice Keane and Justices
Lander and Foster said at paragraph 67 of their decision, ‘What is relevant here is that
there are ongoing unresolved disputes which are draining funds held for the Dunghutti
people. ’

And at paragraph 92, ‘There can be no doubt that the concern as to the [corporation’s]
stewardship of moneys held by it on trust was of such a nature as to make a demand for a
prompt response reasonable.’

Mr Beven said, ‘Unfortunately the corporation has now incurred further legal costs that
could have otherwise been used to benefit the Dunghutti people.

Before the appeal I placed the corporation and its directors on notice that if the appeal was
dismissed I may seek an order for costs against the directors personally. This would be
instead of payment of the costs from the trust monies. I am currently seeking legal advice
on this issue.

The Full Federal Court ordered that any application for orders for costs against the
directors be filed and served by the Registrar within 14 days.

A copy of the decision of Chief Justice Keane and Justices Foster and Lander can be
viewed on the media release web page.


Background

The Dunghutti Elders Council (Aboriginal Corporation) RNTBC was incorporated on
11 November 1996 and is registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander) Act 2006
. It is a registered native title body corporate that manages native title
claims and deals with compensation funds from native title claims on behalf of the
Dunghutti people in the Kempsey region of New South Wales.

In 1997 and 2010 the corporation was paid $738 000 and $6.1 million respectively by the
New South Wales Government as compensation for the extinguishment of Dunghutti
native title at Crescent Head in New South Wales.

21 July 2011

Media contact
Christa De Jager
(02) 6219 7611
Ref: ORIC MR1112-02