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Sacked principal questions NT college managem -

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Sacked principal questions NT college management

Broadcast: 23/08/2006

Reporter: John Stewart and Brett Evans

When an Aboriginal woman called Tracey Harbour became one of the Northern Territory's first
indigenous high school principals, it seemed like she'd found the perfect job. But then Ms Harbour
started asking questions about the school's finances and how millions of dollars in Commonwealth
funds were being spent. After just three months in the job, she was sacked.

Transcript

JOHN STEWART: Tracey Harbour is an Aboriginal woman who knows the value of education.

TRACEY HARBOUR: When we were kids growing up, both my mum and dad always said to us that education
was very important and we make the most of our opportunities.

JOHN STEWART: She went on to gain a university education, became a teacher and a senior manager in
the public service. Then she decided it was time to give something back to Aboriginal people.

TRACEY HARBOUR: When you go away to get educated, in the back of your mind there is always a
thought that, yes, this will benefit me personally, but what benefit can I give to my people out
there?

JOHN STEWART: In 2004, Tracey Harbour applied for a job as principal at the Nyangatjatjara College,
a privately run birding school located at Yulara near Uluru in Central Australia. The school was
opened in 1997 to provide an education for children of three remote communities - Mutitjulu, Imanpa
and Docker River.

TRACEY HARBOUR: If I went back to the college then I would be able to inspire some of the young
people out there to go away and get educated so they could do exactly what the old people wanted
them to do - that is to get educated, to learn to read and write, understand how the mainstream,
white world works and take their opportunities.

TRACEY HARBOUR: At first, things went well for Tracey Harbour. More Aboriginal children began
turning up to class and Tracey Harbour won the trust of local parents. Jorge Gonzales was the
school's transition-to-work coordinator for five years.

JORGE GONZALES, TRANSITION TO WORK COORDINATOR: The fact that she was Aboriginal was a bonus
because she was a wonderful role model for those young children. They used to ask me the question:
is she really in charge? Because they could not believe it. This is a wonderful role model and you
could see their confidence growing and feeling that they belonged.

JOHN STEWART: But then the new principal made a fateful decision. Tracey Harbour began asking
questions about the school's finances.

TRACEY HARBOUR: I immediately rang and organised a meeting with the accountant and when I was in
the accountancy office I asked him those very questions: how much funding does the college receive,
how much is it and what's the purpose of the funding?

JOHN STEWART: She requested a financial statement from the Nyangatjatjara College Aboriginal
Corporation but the new principal never received one.

TRACEY HARBOUR: One thing that alarmed me when I was in there, I asked the accountant did the
college have a separate bank account and one thing he said to me was no it didn't.

JOHN STEWART: It was unclear to her how government funding for the school was being spent. After
just three months at the school, Tracey Harbour was told by a corporation manager that Aboriginal
women couldn't manage and she was sacked.

TRACEY HARBOUR: I wasn't expecting to be told that Aboriginal women - there's a perception that
Aboriginal women can't manage.

JOHN STEWART: Tracey Harbour was told she was sacked for failing to raise school funds from the
private sector, but Ms Harbour believes she was sacked for asking questions about the school's
finances.

TRACEY HARBOUR: When I finally left the college I was devastated, the student body was devastated.
The staff, the majority of staff who supported me were absolutely devastated and couldn't believe
it had happened. As we were driving away from the college, the managers of the organisation were
looking at us in the windows and they were laughing.

JOHN STEWART: After Tracey Harbour's sacking, many staff went on strike and some children never
returned to the school.

JORGE GONZALES: We had everything in place to provide a future for those young people and that was
taken away from us. That was taken away from them. Now, they have nothing. Back to the community,
petrol sniffing, kicking the ball around. That's what they do.

JOHN STEWART: One of the school's founders, senior Aboriginal elder Sandra Armstrong, made the
following statement after Tracey Harbour was sacked.

SANDRA ARMSTRONG: White men should work together. and terach Aboriginal people how to work and do
them things for us but nothing happening - they work for self, for the college. I'm not happy, I'm
really sad inside my heart.

JOHN STEWART: During the past nine years, the college has had eight principals. Lateline has spoken
with four. All had serious concerns that some school funds were independent being used for
educational purposes. The school's first principal, Claire Howard, also had a falling out with the
corporation after asking the same questions about the college finances.

CLAIRE HOWARD, COLLEGE PRINCIPAL, 1997: In my opinion, I feel that they were wanting to utilise
resources that were gained through education to benefit other aspects of their organisation.

JOHN STEWART: Soon after Claire Howard left, John Amadio became the college's new principal. He
tells a similar story.

JOHN AMADIO, SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, 1998-2000: The college had been funned for over 100 students, but
only had 25 or 30 students so I contacted the Commonwealth Government and negotiated to pay the
money back over three or four years. I don't know - in the order of $150,000 or more.

JOHN STEWART: Mr Amadio gained the imfretion that the college was a cash cow for the corporation.

JOHN AMADIO: From recollection, we had a Toyota Land Cruiser that I never even saw. I think that
was about $40,000 worth that had been used by Nyangatjatjara College Aboriginal Corporation. When I
think the employment services or couple of other parts of the organisation were having problems,
they just took money out of the college account. I didn't have any say over it so we lent the money
interest free to help them out of a situation.

JOHN STEWART: Mr Amadio also noticed the college was being charged big fees by the Nyangatjatjara
Aboriginal Corporation's accounting business. He also questioned where other funds were being
spent.

JOHN AMADIO: For example, we were paying, as I recall it, $18,000 a year out of college funds
towards the executive office of Nyangatjatjara College Aboriginal Corporation and I didn't
understand that and paying Anungu Accounting about $45,000 a year to run our books $700 a week.

JOHN STEWART: After John Amadio left, Ian White became the new principal.

IAN WHITE, COLLEGE PRINCIPAL, 2002-2004: I know it was always a constant battle when I was a
principal to protect, if you like, college assets, such as vehicles and buildings, that they were
used for school purposes, rather than corporation or private reasons.

JOHN STEWART: Since 1997, the corporation which runs the college has received millions of dollars
in education funds from the Northern Territory and Federal Governments. The question is how has the
school's money been spent? The Nyangatjatjara College Aboriginal Corporation has an estimated $10
million in assets. The business arm of the corporation is called Ungkunytja which has an annual
turnover of $1 million. It has ventures including cafes, tourist operations, job training, car
repairs and an accountancy firm. Little is known about the man in charge of the corporation's
business empire. He is an American expatriot called Glendel Schrader. Mr Schrader has been an
active member of the Labor Party in the Northern Territory and helped establish the corporation in
1993. He's never publicly disclosed his personal assets and refuses to say how much he earns. It
was a question put to him by Wayne Howard, the school's first admin officer. WAYNE HOWARD, ADMIN
OFFICER, 1997: I actually asked Glendle. I said, "Glendle, I work for Mutitjulu Corporation and
members that I work for want to know what you are paid." This is across the table, face to face. I
said , "I want to get on with you but I need to know some things from you so that we can work
together and the people I work for feel happy." He said he didn't have to tell me. It's none of my
business.

JOHN STEWART: When asked by Lateline how much he earned, Mr Schrader replied said:

GLENDLE SCHRADER'S STATEMENT TO LATELINE: What I earn is personal. The salary that I receive, along
with that of other staff, is reviewed on average every three years by an outside, independent
consultant.

JOHN STEWART: Mr Schrader also says he has no knowledge of the college funds being spent on the
corporation's other business ventures. Since 1995, Mr Schrader says he's only managed the
Nyangatjatjara College Aboriginal Corporation for short periods. In 1997 and 2006. The communities
of Mutitjulu, Imanpa and Docker River are shareholders in the corporation and meant to benefit from
these businesses run by Mr Schrader. Over the past eight years Glendle Schrader says the
corporation has returned over $4 million to these three communities. Despite this money, the
communities are among the poorest, most desperate in Australia.

JORGE GONZALES: What I am saying is that there are no outcomes of 20 years being around the
Territories, around the communities, getting millions of dollars and making millions of dollars and
yet where are the outcomes for the people in the communities, for the young people in the
communities? There are no outcomes.

JOHN STEWART: A recent 'Four Corners' revealed that some of the Aboriginal people Glendle Schrader
deals with cannot read or write English.

JORGE GONZALES: Over the years that I was there it became quite apparent that a lot of the
Indigenous people on the boards not only are they illiterate, but there is a complete lack of
understanding of processes and proceeders and sometimes there is no idea about what they are
signing or rather crossing because some of them cannot sign their names.

CLAIRE HOWARD: They cannot read English, so they have a high level of vulnerability because they
can't understand the language in which the whole structure is being implemented.

JOHN STEWART: After years of complaints from school principals, in April this year, the
Nyangatjatjara College Aboriginal Corporation was finally placed under an administrator. The
administrator was appointed after the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporation found a range of
financial problems with the corporation. It included: losses of $348,000 over 15 months; $32,000 of
undocumented travel; failure to keep records of meetings. The corporation launched an appeal,
supported by Glendle Schrader in Federal Court the try to stop the administrator taking control.
The appeal has since been abandoned. The current principal of the college, Ralph Folds, told the
court a familiar story. The accountancy firm owned by the corporation and run by Mr Schrader was
withholding important financial information. Mr Folds told Federal Court: "This lack of financial
information has effectively made it impossible for me to make any meaningful financial decisions
concerning the running of the college." Though Glendle Schrader told Lateline he has no direct
involvement in the college, all the former principals Lateline has spoken with say he was
effectively the man in charge.

TRACEY HARBOUR: In actual fact, Glendle Schrader had no official role to be involved in the
college. He was present at the meeting and actually participated in the meeting when I was sacked.

JORGE GONZALES: On two separate occasions two Aboriginal men, adults of course, told me - and they
referred to Glendle Schrader as the farmer. The first time I heard the term I was a bit surprised
because I was aware that Glendle has a winery in South Australia, but I was not aware that he was a
farmer. So, they corrected me and said, "No, we are the cattle. He's the former who occasionally
comes and checks on his cattle."

JOHN STEWART: All of the former principals and college staff who spoke to Lateline believe that
private companies should not be allowed to run schools in remote Aboriginal communities without
proper government scrutiny.

WAYNE HOWARD: You tell the bureaucrat what is actually going on on the ground and it is too hard.
It's too hard. They don't want to know. So if you can give it to a private enterprise who say they
are doing a great job and want more funding and it gets bigger and bigger, that is fine. It's out
of their hands.

JOHN STEWART: Despite being sacked from the school, Tracey Harbour still thinks of returning to the
Nyangatjatjara.

TRACEY HARBOUR: Yes, we would consider going back, but we'd only go back if the college was made
operate. It needed to be made separate so that myself as the principal could have full
responsibility for running the college and working closely with the board.

JOHN STEWART: The college continues to operate under the administrator and all the former staff who
spoke to Lateline are confident the college will work with independent funding and proper
government oversight the end, Tracey Harbour believes she was sacked because ironically, she was
the right person for the job.

TRACEY HARBOUR: They became threatened because I was so easily able to develop the relationship was
the communities, the three communities. It wasn't - from my point of view, it was quite easy to do
because my grandmother's country is from Central Australia so I actually have family that goes back
to those communities and that makes it a lot easier for us to be able to go in and work with the
communities