Island corporation probed amid claims it paid jailed worker

A federal investigation into the financial management of Stradbroke Island's Aboriginal corporation will investigate claims a staffer continued to be paid while serving jail time.

Independent auditors were appointed on Tuesday to examine the financial performance of North Stradbroke Island's Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation.

The financial performance of QYAC, which manages 54,000 hectares of land, has been questioned since 2019 when an annual audit raised concerns about its future solvency.

Now, auditors from advisory firm Cor Cordis will be granted "full and free access to the books of the corporation and any related body corporate".

"They may also make copies of, or take extracts from, any document related to the examination," registrar Kevin Vu wrote.

View north from South Stradbroke Island - showing location of the new planned nature tourism resort Pandana.
View north from South Stradbroke Island - showing location of the new planned nature tourism resort Pandana.

The decision by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations to examine QYAC's finances is understood to be part of a regular review into the governance of corporations.

"ORIC cannot comment on the detail of the case but a look at the public Register of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporations shows that QYAC last had an examination in 2012 - where the outcome was a management letter - and so it is considered timely to undertake an examination in 2021," a spokeswoman said.

However, the examination is expected to assess allegations QYAC has continued to pay one of its rangers while he served jail time.

A person familiar with the matter said the worker's pay was sent to a family member after he ceased work with the organisation.

QYAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last year the corporation received $8.20m in government grants on its way to posting a $2.09m profit.

Mark Robinson MP speaks outside QLD Parliament House. Photo Steve Pohlner
Mark Robinson MP speaks outside QLD Parliament House. Photo Steve Pohlner

Opposition MP Mark Robinson, whose electorate of Oodgeroo includes the island, said there were "questions about QYAC's alleged financial irregularities that this government will not investigate".

However, a spokeswoman for Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said oversight of QYAC was a responsibility of the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.

Stradbroke residents and conservative politicians have questioned QYAC's use of taxpayer funds granted to the organisation to transition the island from sand mining to tourism.

Island locals have previously told The Courier-Mail they felt little had been achieved to plug the economic hole left by mining and questioned where the government funding has gone.

Since 2016 about $8m of taxpayer money has been spent on projects including six eco camping cabins, a pippi shell sculpture and Australia's first Indigenous-owned whale-watching boat that according to tracking data remains in Sydney Harbour.

 

Originally published as Island corporation probed amid claims it paid jailed worker