Indigenous affairs funding diverted to lobby groups opposed to native title


The Coalition’s then Minister for Indigenous Affairs diverted funds intended to advantage the Indigenous away to lobby groups opposed to native title land claims. Part of that funding was then to cover legal fees to quash native title claims.

Nigel Scullion used money earmarked for alleviating Indigenous disadvantage to fund a fishing industry lobby group he used to chair. He approved a grant of $150,000 to the Northern Territory Seafood Council so it could argue how it would be negatively affected by land claims – claims he opposed during his time in the role.

He also approved grants of $170,000 to the NT amateur fishermen’s association and $165,000 to the NT Cattlemen’s Association for “legal fees”. The half a million dollars in grants came from the Indigenous advancement strategy (IAS) culture and capability division, which is supposed to fund “Indigenous cultural expression and conservation” and “participation in the social and economic life of Australia”.

The grants to the fishing and cattlemen’s groups in the Northern Territory will go towards legal fees for the groups to argue how they might be negatively impacted by land rights claims, Scullion told a Senate estimates hearing.

Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said the minister treated the Indigenous advancement strategy as “his slush fund”.

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