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Govt urged to assist ATSIC asset transfer

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

The chairman of Australia's peak Indigenous body has called on the Federal Government not to stand in the way of a transfer of ATSIC's assets to Aboriginal organisations.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) 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.

Chairman Geoff Clark says the transfer is legal but Aboriginal groups must follow proper procedures.

"Aboriginal people should have regard for the law, there are restrictions, and they need to be aware, we cannot assist with the smooth transfer of these assets," he said.

"I would hope that the Federal Government will step in and assist Aboriginal communities with the smooth transfer."

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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