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ATSIC moves to give away all assets

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 19 February 2005

By Francis Tapim

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) is giving away everything it owns in an attempt to stop the Federal Government from acquiring its extensive assets and lucrative art collection.

The ATSIC board of Commissioners has moved to transfer the control of its assets to hundreds of Indigenous corporations around the country and has passed a series of resolutions.

The board yesterday voted to remove all caveats over Indigenous organisations, giving them full legal rights to use and dispose of millions of dollars worth of real estate and assets, which until now, they have only been allowed to manage for ATSIC.

The peak Indigenous body is to be abolished and its programs and services will be transferred to mainstream government agencies from July 1.

But ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark says it will not happen without a fight.

"This is, I think an historic situation in that it will we have lifted the caveats across all the properties in this country and we now place the responsibility back on those organisations those properties should now be used for the benefit of Aboriginal people," he said.

Mr Clark says the board also agreed to give away its extensive and valuable art collection.

"These paintings belong to Aboriginal people - they should not be on white senior bureaucrats walls and decorating the offices of departments who have an absolute disregard for Aboriginal peoples' rights in this country," he said.

A spokesman for Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone says her office was not aware of the ATSIC Board meeting yesterday, and has not been formally advised of the resolutions.

Senator Vanstone's spokesman says ATSIC's massive art collection has already been seized by a private security firm and stored in an undisclosed location.

Ms Vanstone's office also rejected claims it amounted to the theft of Aboriginal owned art, because ATSIC would be allowed to sell the works providing the Government was given 30 days notice.

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