Minister for Environment and Heritage Gabrielle Upton A Hunter man has been removed as the chair of a committee that advises the state government on Aboriginal heritage issues, amid revelations he was mistakenly appointed to the role without the right credentials.
Victor Perry was made chair of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee in late 2016, a positionthat involves guiding reformand providing”high level” advice to Environment and Heritage Minister Gabrielle Upton.
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) appointed Mr Perry under legislation requiring him to be a registered native title claimant. An online biography, now removed, said Mr Perry identified asa Wonnarua man andwas a registered claimant in the Hunter Valley.
But when a member of the public, Scott Franks, searched official registers he did not find Mr Perry listed.
Mr Franks alerted Greens MP David Shoebridge, who raised the matter with Ms Upton.
In a letter to Mr Shoebridge, seen by theNewcastle Herald, she responded that an investigation had found the department made an“error” in itsinterpretation of the relevant legislation.
“As a result, OEH has established that the appointment of one of the members is invalid,” Ms Uptonwrote. “OEH will begin an advertising process to fill the vacancies on the committee.”
Mr Franks also applied to be on the committee –supplying documentation to show he was a registered native title claimant on behalf of the Wonnarua people –but was rejected.
He did not feel the department’s recruitment process had been fair or included properchecks and balances.
“How are people getting on these committees that advise government bodies and ministers when they haven’t got the credentials?It would have taken five minutes for the department to log on and check who was a registered claimant,” Mr Frankssaid.
An OEH spokesperson did not directly answer when asked if it had searched the registers but said all applicants were required to provide supporting documentation to show how they met the criteria.
Mr Franks lodged a freedom of information request for all internal departmental records relating to Mr Perry’s appointment, but was refused on the grounds they were “cabinet information”.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the committee had an important role in overseeing reformand it was crucial its representatives met the relevant criteria.
“This questions the due diligence in the department,” he said.“It’s almost as though matters concerning Aboriginal don’t get the same scrutiny as the rest of the government.”
Mr Perry did not respond to theHerald’srequest for comment.