IN a case of David and Goliath, Bathurst’s Aboriginal community say they have been “sold out and ripped off” by Indigenous Business Australia [IBA].
Aboriginal leader Laurie Crawford has publicly voiced his anger and dismay at the sale of the All Hallows building and surrounds at the foot of Mount Panorama.
A development application to redevelop the site for university accommodation on the site is now before Bath-urst Regional Council.
Mr Crawford claims All Hallows was not the IBA’s to sell.
He says the organisation used a legal loophole to take ownership of the property, which was bequeathed to the local Aboriginal community by the Dominican Sisters in 1984.
Unbeknown to the local Aboriginal community, in 1984 a deed of trust was drawn up and placed in the hands of the Aboriginal Develop-ment Commission.
Mr Crawford said the deed contained a number of terms and conditions that had to be met before they were handed over to the Bathurst Aboriginal community.
“The terms and conditions were met but never signed off and so began a long drawn out un-winnable battle over the ownership of All Hallows, which lasted all through the life of ATSIC and passed to Indigenous Business Australia,” he said.
Mr Crawford said it was ironic that the IBA, whose vision is a nation in which the first Australians are economically independent and an integral part of the economy, completely worked against the Bathurst Aboriginal community.
“Instead of putting all their resources into establishing the ownership of All Hallows and following the Dominican Sisters’ wishes, they did everything in their power to invalidate Bathurst Aboriginal community ownership, leading them to sell All Hallows, without any compensation to the Aboriginal community,” Mr Crawford said.
Mr Crawford said plans were in place to develop All Hallows into an Aboriginal organisation’s one stop shop comprising an Aboriginal medical and education centre, but Mr Crawford said IBA wanted no part of this.
“They wanted an income generating business established, they were not interested in social development,” he said.
“IBA have got their way, to the detriment of Bathurst’s Aboriginal community.”
Mr Crawford said he was also at a loss to explain how university accommodation could be proposed for the site.
“For many years Towri Aboriginal Corporation tried in vain to establish the All Hallows building into a business enterprise by establishing an accommodation precinct and caravan park, but this was knocked back by council because of the Mount Panorama Act and the special exclusion zone around Mount Panorama as the land was not zoned for this type of development,” he said.
“Out of curiosity it will be interesting to know how the new developers plan to get around this.”
Acknowledging there was little that could be done now, he said the local Aboriginal community never stood a chance against fighting IBA.
“The local Aboriginal community is poor with few resources,” Mr Crawford said.
“We never stood a chance to fight them. We don’t even know who the property was sold to or for how much, and where the money from the sale went, or what it’s planned use will be.
“We [the local Aboriginal community] feel we have been ripped off.”