O’Farrell Government secretly hoards money held in trust for Aboriginal communities

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The O'Farrell Government has been embarrassed by revelations it is hoarding and failing to allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars that it has received from the mining industry for funding of Aboriginal cultural heritage projects in the Hunter.

Under the terms of the Upper Hunter Cultural Heritage Trust established in 2001, the Government collects $50,000 from each mining project approved in the Upper Hunter region.

These funds are to be allocated towards local Aboriginal cultural heritage, including projects that create employment, skills and training.

However, the O'Farrell Government has pocketed the money but left the Trust dormant, the Labor Opposition has revealed today.

The Trust is administered by the Departments of Planning and Infrastructure, Aboriginal Affairs and the Public Trustee.

"The O'Farrell Government should be deeply ashamed of hoarding away money that it is legally and ethically obliged to spend for the benefit of Aboriginal Australians," Shadow Planning Minister Luke Foley said today.

“The Hunter valley mining operators have almost solely funded the Upper Hunter Cultural Heritage Trust.

"Yet the State Government sits on the money and fails to spend it on Aboriginal cultural heritage.

“The Trust money should be used to employ Aboriginal researchers to undertake cultural assessments and provide traineeships for Aboriginal people to undertake heritage studies.

"It should assist with the development of regional conservation areas and Aboriginal place nominations.

"Groups such as the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation have submitted detailed funding applications. It is frankly appalling their applications have gone unanswered."

Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Linda Burney said: "This money is held in trust for Aboriginal Australians in the Upper Hunter - the O'Farrell Government has abused that trust.

"As the supervising Ministers, Brad Hazzard and Victor Dominello need to be held to account for withholding funds meant to benefit Aboriginal communities."