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Lionel Quartermaine receives mixed support for his role as ATSIC Acting Chairperson.

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Tuesday 19 August 2003

Lionel Quartermaine receives mixed support for his role as ATSIC Acting Chairperson


LINDA MOTTRAM: Well, he and Geoff Clark are known allies, and fo r some in ATSIC that signals that there'll be no change - a failure those critics say to seize the chance to move on from recent controversy. 


Others dispute that, and so there'll be close scrutiny of how Mr Quartermaine deals with the challenge. 


Kirrin McKechnie reports. 


KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: He's a relative unknown in the world of Indigenous politics, yet Lionel Quartermaine now takes on the job as Acting ATSIC Chairman, in the toughest of times for the peak Indigenous body. 


Born in Western Australia, he lectured in Indigenous health at Curtin University. 


The 44-year-old now lives in Kuranda in Far North Queensland, where he's been an ATSIC Regional Commissioner. 


ATSIC Chairman for Cairns, Terry O'Shane, is confident his colleague is up to the job. 


TERRY O'SHANE: Yeah, I have an enormous amount of faith in Lionel. He's a person who's prepared to work hard. He's a bloke of principle. He's not a mug, by any stretch of the imagination.  


Lionel will be able to communicate with the Federal Government, and Lionel will be able to communicate with the administration. He'll be able to communicate with Geoff Clark, the chairperson in exile, he'll be able to communicate with him. But more importantly, he'll be able to communicate with the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about their aspirations and how those aspirations will be facilitated at a national level. 


KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Lionel Quartermaine is a known-Geoff Clark supporter, but Terry O'Shane says his association with the controversial suspended chairman won't jeopardise his relationship with the Federal Government. 


TERRY O'SHANE: Geoff Clark, rightly or wrongly, poor bugger, was embroiled in a lot of controversy. Number one, you won't have that controversy with Lionel Quartermaine. 


KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: But Lionel Quartermaine has his critics. 


ATSIC Ward Councillor in Townsville, Jenny Pryor, fears the appointment won't bring positive change. 


JENNY PRYOR: He can't think for himself. He's a puppet for Terry O'Shane and he'll be controlled by Terry O'Shane and Geoff Clark. I mean, this is the saddest day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and now we get another person at the top with the same calibre. I thought that the men around the table would have saw that it's crunch time. 


KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: And crunch time it is, according to Indigenous Democrats Senator, Aden Ridgeway, who says the bickering must end, and hopes ATSIC can now move forward under Lionel Quartermaine. 


ADEN RIDGEWAY: I think in many respects, the man makes the position, but the position makes the man. So I'm sure that Lionel's well up to the task and I certainly wish him well and hope that he can take on the role and show the leadership that's now required. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway. That report from Kirrin McKechnie.