DON’T be surprised to see Geoff Clark back in leadership contention in Aboriginal affairs after this week’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Framlingham Aboriginal Trust elections.
The ruling leaves the door open for the former long-term trust administrator, who was ousted in 2011 after filing for bankruptcy.
Mr Clark’s wife Trudy, son Aaron and others were removed from the committee of management in 2011 when a new group took on the leadership, promising a bright future and alleging impropriety by the former leadership under Geoff Clark.
That new group was re-elected at the annual general meeting in December, when the Clarks and others were locked out and denied the right to vote.
However, Justice Ross Robson, who presided over a hearing in Melbourne where Aaron Clark and his brother Jeremy challenged the new trust leadership’s actions, has ordered fresh elections be held.
Geoff Clark told The Standard yesterday the judgement vindicated his family and aggrieved community members.
“It’s been a horrendous time for my family enduring unfair allegations,” he said.
“Now I’m out of bankruptcy I’m technically eligible to stand for leadership again, but I’ll take direction from the community. I’m not about to impose myself.”
He said there had been “a coup” against him and his family and harmony in the local Aboriginal community had been shattered.
“Hopefully commonsense will prevail and we can work to restore relationships.”
Mr Clark fired a salvo at the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV) which was also criticised by Justice Robson for giving incorrect advice to the new trust leadership.
“This is Victoria’s intervention similar to Northern Territory intervention,” he said.
“It’s a sad saga when white people continue to interfere in Aboriginal affairs and disallow self-determination. For 40 years we’ve run a committee at Framlingham based on Aboriginal customary decision-making.
“Then there was a coup abetted by OAAV and they implied I was mismanaging the place, but four years down the track there have been no charges laid against me.
“This issue has been Aborigine against Aborigine — unfortunately if we had a mature department all this could have been avoided.”
Mr Clark wants Aboriginal communities empowered to go outside the normal legal system for determining dispute resolutions.
“There’s a lack of suitable arbitrary process among Aboriginal people,” he said.
“Costs under the main legal system are horrendous.”