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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 956

Senator Rae asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the following question, upon notice:

(   1 ) Has the Minister's attention been drawn to recent reports that an Aboriginal elder at Roper River endeavoured to cash a cheque for $460,000 at the local store, having confused the payment, in respect of community sewerage works, with his pension cheque.

(2)   Did this, or something similar, in fact happen; if so, does the Minister propose to take steps to ensure that a proper system of making payments in respect of Aboriginal community funds be instituted.

Senator Cavanagh - The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes. (2)I have no information regarding the alleged attempt by an Aboriginal to cash the abovementioned cheque. After authorising a complete investigation, I have been advised of the following details:

(a)   On 5 July 1973 the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Honourable G. Bryant, approved a grant of $465,000 to the Ngukurr Council for the construction of a water and sewage treatment works.

(b)   Payment of this grant would normally be made through the Northern Territory Division of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, who would issue progress payments as necessary to the contractors undertaking the project on behalf of the Council.

(c)   By clerical error, a cheque for the full amount of the grant was sent direct to the community on 24 July 1973.

(d)   On 15 August this cheque was passed to the firm of accountants who had been retained as consultants to the council for the project. The accountants banked the cheque on behalf of the Council. Subsequently, the Northern Territory Division of the Department was notified that the accountants were holding the funds on behalf of the Council.

(e)   The N.T. Division commenced discussions with the Community with a view to recovering the money and on 31 October 1973 the full amount was returned to the Department for redeposit in the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account.

(f)   Pay ment of the grant is now progressing according to normal procedures.

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