Senator Lidia Thorpe questions NLC over alleged COVID funding misappropriation

Senator Lidia Thorpe questions NLC over alleged COVID funding misappropriation
  • PublishedJune 8, 2024

A federal MP has been accused of taking advantage of more than $400,000 of COVID stimulus funding when she was the chief executive of the Northern Land Council (NLC).

The allegations were made under parliamentary privilege in a Senate estimates hearing by Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe against the sitting member for Lingiari, Marion Scrymgour.

Ms Scrymgour has vehemently denied the accusations, describing them as “distressing”.

On Friday, Senator Thorpe questioned current land council executives if a $400,000 grant had been paid by the NLC to a remote Aboriginal corporation “to build a holiday house for Ms Scrymgour’s family at Twin Hill Station”.

She also accused Ms Scrymgour of trying to use COVID stimulus money for political campaigning purposes.

“I’ve got community giving me information to ask the NLC and they want answers,” Senator Thorpe said.

Lidia Thorpe, wearing earrings in the colours of the Aboriginal flag, sits in the senate, she looks up to the left
Lidia Thorpe made the comments in the Victorian Senate.(ABC News: Luke Stephenson)

Ms Scrymgour told the ABC she “has nothing to hide”.

“For these allegations to be made under the guise of parliamentary privilege, I wonder why?” Ms Scrymgour said.

“In the two years that I was at the NLC, my job was to fix the organisation and get it back on track, and that’s what I did.

“For any accusation to be levelled that I used stimulus money to buy a holiday home or to purchase other things, to me that’s quite distressing because that’s not what has occurred.”

Ms Scrymgour said while some of her children have an association with Twin Hill Station she does not.

NLC confirms it will investigate stimulus spends

Senator Thorpe also questioned if two boats were bought for members of the NLC executive using the same tranche of federal COVID stimulus funding.

NLC chief financial officer Irfan Baht confirmed the boats were purchased but did not have evidence on hand as to whether they were for private or community purposes.

Under questioning, NLC’s current acting chief executive Jessie Schaecken confirmed she was investigating the spending of stimulus grants but wouldn’t elaborate further.

“There are matters that are relevant prior to my employment in regards to the governance and application of matters relevant to stimulus and a wealth of other things that I have been looking into, and would prefer not to discuss at this level,” Ms Schaecken said.

When asked by the senator to clarify if the NLC was going to “properly investigate the administration of the COVID grant funding”, Ms Schaecken said “yes”.

In a statement Ms Shaecken told the ABC: “Under new leadership and management the Northern Land Council is committed to reviewing various previous activities as a way of strengthening the governance and accountability of operations into the future”.


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