"This isn’t about Culture or Aboriginality, it’s about effective corporate financial management."
Once Council achieves autonomy from government in management of its staff, structure and budget; the Act as it currently stands will not allow Council to manage those things whilst adhering to the principle of good financial management.
Currently, any money that Council receives must be paid into the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Fund (the Fund). However, Council’s operating budget is not allocated into the Fund, instead the Fund is used exclusively for the Secretary’s provision of RAP funding and Council’s own grant programs. It could be considered that, whilst finally enabling Council to be the independent authority the Act intended it to be, in not supporting it through allowing clear financial management structures, Council is being set up to fail.
That the Act be amended so that Council can, subject to the requirements of the Financial Management Act, establish other bank accounts for the purposes of its day-to-day operations.
Maintaining separate transactional accounts is standard at this level of organisation and ensures adherence to clear principles of financial management.
Whilst the current statutory definitions appear suffciently broad to include monies received by Council for its operations through government appropriation, it does not provide clarity of detail. The existing arrangement would appear to require use of the Fund for purposes not originally envisaged and does not facilitate financial transparency in the operation of the Fund or Council’s operational activities.
UNDRIP and Best Practice Standards
This issue should be considered in relation to Article 34:
"Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards."
Best Practice Standards in Indigenous Cultural Heritage Management and Legislation
This recommendation should be considered in relation to Best Practice Standard 7 – Resourcing, participation:
"There must be acceptance that the Indigenous representative organisation engaging with proponents and assessing their proposals are performing a statutory function under the relevant jurisdiction’s project assessment and approval regime and must be adequately resourced to perform this function."