4th insider blows whistle on FMG
Exclusive article by By National Indigenous Times reporter Gerry Georgatos
“Hit the road Twiggy”In a suite of staggering revelations, Bruce Woodley, Chairman of the Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC)—the Yindjibarndi faction created and funded by FMG—has confirmed earlier statements by solicitor Kerry Savas (to the National Indigenous Times on October 31, and on ABC’s 7.30 program on November 20) that the Wirlu-murra were formed to enable Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) to circumvent the native title rep body appointed by the Federal Court, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC); and to rig a deal for cheap mining access to Yindjibarndi lands for its Solomon Project—an allegation repeatedly denied by FMG, most recently by FMG director Peter Meurs on ABC’s 7.30 program.
After two years of misinformation and trouble from FMG, Mr Woodley, the most high-ranking office-holder at WMYAC, is so incensed at the way he and the Wirlu-murra board directors have been stage-managed by FMG operatives, that he has decided he must take a public stand against FMG to unite his people; and he will ask his (Wirlu-murra) Board to end what he said is FMG’s hand in guiding litigation against their fellow Yindjibarndi.
“It is nearly two years since (FMG) promised us many things but we have no programs yet, we have no funds from Fortescue but only the money they pay the lawyers with,” said Mr Bruce Woodley.
Mr Kerry Savas, the solicitor who formerly represented Wirlu-murra, said that FMG has paid legal bills for the Wirlu-murra in excess of $1.5 million however the majority of Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi continue to live in poverty and many in dilapidated homes.
This follows revelations by three previous whistleblowers and Freedom of Information documents exposing FMG’s manipulation of heritage reporting, destruction of Yindjibarndi sites, and actions to mislead and divide the Yindjibarndi people.
PRECIS NATIONAL INDIGENOUS TIMES ARTICLE
On Friday 23 and Saturday 24 November 2012 Mr Bruce Woodley agreed to go on the public record with Gerry Georgatos, reporter for the National Indigenous Times.
- Bruce Woodley laid bare as false FMG claims that it was not directly and actively involved in the formation of the Wirlu-murra breakaway group; said FMG personnel organised one-on-one meetings with certain Yindjibarndi to discuss ‘options’; and paid sitting fees of a few hundred dollars for Wirlu-murra who attend various public meetings. “The meeting at the beach (Palm Beach, Dampier, on Saturday 28 August 2010) did happen. I was there, it was organised by FMG for us to form Wirlu-murra corporation.”—Kerry Savas previously told 7.30 that “Wirlu-murra was set up by FMG in order for FMG to have a party to deal with. So, what they did is created their own. And they created the Wirlu-murra.”
- Bruce Woodley said FMG controls the Wirlu-murra through consultant Michael Gallagher (a former long-serving FMG Aboriginal Affairs manager): “I am frustrated by Michael (Gallagher) because he manipulates our Board. The Board has one agenda and Michael has another agenda, and Michael gets his way.“—Mr Savas previously told the National Indigenous Times, “Michael Gallagher is their [FMG’s] ‘inside man’.”
- Bruce Woodley said most of the Wirlu-murra were keen to bridge the divide between themselves and the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation, however he said Mr Gallagher opposes this: “Michael (Gallagher) manipulates some of our members and has a couple of them doing his miserable work arguing us down even if we are the majority of the Board in favour of a resolution or proposition.”
- Regarding a conciliation meeting held in early 2012, Bruce Woodley said, “Earlier this year when we tried to make peace between Yindjibarndi people (YAC and Wirlu-murra) … we met at the basketball courts without white fellas there but Bruce (Thomas) kept on driving by and calling out to us if we were alright and for the women to leave and come back.” (Bruce Thomas is the Wirlu-murra’s Business Manager, a non-Aboriginal person.)
- Despite statements by Wirlu-murra Deputy Chairman, Paul Aubrey, that a proposed Rio Tinto agreement being negotiated by YAC was a very good one, Michael Gallagher told the Wirlu-murra to stop discussions to find a settlement with the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC); and not to accept an invitation from the YAC to join in discussions with Rio Tinto for a Land Use Agreement because “it would upset FMG.” “Michael (Gallagher) would not let us go, he said we shouldn’t and that FMG would not be happy and no longer deal with us,” said Mr Woodley.
- Bruce Woodley claimed many of the promises by FMG to the Wirlu-murra for initiatives such as employment and funds to improve housing conditions for the Wirlu-murra people have not happened: “FMG promised this but has given us nothing yet, very little, no education, training, jobs, no upgrades and no fixing of services […] I wrote to Andrew Forrest, as chairman of Wirlu-murra and Alexa Morecombe (FMG Group Manager, Land Access) got angry and told me I upset Andrew Forrest, and that he is a very important man, and I should not write to him again.”
- Regarding questions from the National Indigenous Times put to the Wirlu-murra Board and its chairman, Bruce Woodley said, “I have never seen these, they haven’t come to our Board.” A non-Aboriginal representative of the Wirlu-murra wrote to the National Indigenous Times that the questions were forwarded to the Board. The same representative returned a statement ‘from the Wirlu-murra Board’ and this was published in the National Indigenous Times on 7 November 2012. Bruce Woodley said, “I never saw this, I never wrote this and I never signed it,” said Mr Bruce Woodley.
Mr Woodley said he asked Mr Gallagher why he was not informed about the questions put by the National Indigenous Times, and why the statement issued from the Wirlu-murra Board was never shown to the board: “He told me there wasn’t a Board meeting and that they had to write it.”
- Regarding control of Wirlu-murra by FMG-paid minders—Mr Woodley stated: “It is time for our Board to take control of Wirlu-murra… No-one from Wirlu-murra, not me, no-one, goes to any negotiations with any company, just Mr Thomas (Business Manager)… I think Wirlu-murra should go to meetings, to negotiations about us… When I go back to Roebourne I will talk to the Board and I will stand up to Michael (Gallagher). I think it is time for him to move on – to hit the road Jack, FMG too. This is what I think.”
- Regarding the split in the Yindjibarndi group—Mr Woodley said: “It is time for us to make peace, to not fight in court, to not listen to the white fellas who divide us and who do not keep their promises. It is time for our heart to be one, our people together, and for our Board to stand up against FMG.”