London office plan outrages Aborigines

ABORIGINAL organisations are outraged that their peak body, ATSIC, is to cut regional health and legal budgets so a $3.6 million office can be established in London to lobby international assistance for a ``treaty'' between white and black Australians.
Plans are in place for the London office to be run by Les Malezer, a close personal friend of, and now employed as senior adviser to, ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark.
ATSIC voted three weeks ago to establish the office, with the funds to go to the Brisbane Aboriginal organisation FAIRA, of which Mr Malezer was until last year the general manager.
The decision means every Aboriginal land council in Australia will have to contribute $100,000 a year for the treaty-seeking London FAIRA office, with the actual cost of the treaty lobbying estimated at $900,000.
A hastily convened meeting of Queensland-based ATSIC commissioners and community chairmen in Brisbane today will debate a no-confidence motion in the decision, with a view to having it overturned.
ATSIC deputy chairman Ray Robinson yesterday said the decision was a disgrace and should not be allowed to go ahead -- particularly at the expense of indigenous health and legal needs.
Mr Robinson will chair today's meeting. Two Queensland ATSIC commissioners, Pat Thompson and Lester Rosendale, voted for the London office decision.
Aboriginal leaders from Cape York yesterday blasted the decision, with ATSIC Peninsula councillors Gerhardt Pearson and Alison Woolla revealing that $3.6 million would be needed to fund the London office.
Mr Pearson said: ``This stupid decision will result in the withdrawal or reduction of vital services to our people. This includes youth initiatives, housing and infrastructure services, childcare and programs for women.''
Cape York Land Council chairman Ritchie Ahmat said youth suicide in Cape York was on the increase and was as much a problem as the alcohol and drugs epidemic.
``Any reduction in funding from ATSIC will mean that communities are less able to provide necessities to divert youth from these addictions,'' Mr Ahmat said.
Wik elder Mrs Woolla said the Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Phil Ruddock should look into ``this very serious matter'' and ensure that funds were not siphoned off for a ridiculous globe-trotting exercise when there existed real needs on remote communities.