WMYAC documents confirm Michael Gallagher is FMG’s inside-man
WMYAC documents confirm Michael Gallagher is FMG’s “inside-man”
Internal documents, including minutes, invoices and correspondence from Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC), covering a period from 14 June to 12 November 2012, which were provided to the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC)  by WMYAC Chairman Bruce Woodley, confirm Michael Gallagher’s effective role as FMG’s paid agent and “puppet-master” inside the Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC).
The documents show that:
- FMG continues to allocate funding specifically for Mr Gallagher’s position within WMYAC, and pays him directly.
- Mr Gallagher’s role primarily concerns “taking on the fight with YAC,” in order to secure the execution of the Yindjibarndi Land Access Agreement FMG negotiated with the breakaway Wirl-Murra group in late 2010.
- Mr Gallagher left FMG to act “as defacto CEO” for WMYAC, and take responsibility for legal strategies, payments for “sitting fees”, and heritage and native title matters concerning FMG.
- WMYAC Business Manager, Bruce Thomas was advised by FMG that “Michael’s [Gallagher] position has not been replicated within any other TO groups in terms of a mining company paying for an external consultant to work with a board”.
- Mr Thomas, repeatedly raised the issue of Mr Gallagher’s conflicts of interest—perceived and real—with the WMYAC board.
- Mr Gallagher recruited a business (RCD Consulting) controlled by himself and his wife, Lillian Maher, (through MGA Consulting ) to undertake a strategic planning, governance and communications consultancy for WMYAC valued at $78,902 without securing competitive quotes.
- Mr Gallagher did not declare his interest in RCD and misled the WMYAC Board by stating that “neither he nor his wife were associated with RCD“, and “that his wife has no involvement in RCD consulting“.
- Mr Gallagher “Requested that the information relating to his wife be removed from the minute’s record and undertook to have a letter drawn up confirming that Lillian had no involvement in RCD consulting.”
- The engagement of external consultants by Michael Gallagher has caused Wirlu-murra to overspend budgets.
- Mr Thomas censured Mr Gallagher for “deliberately going behind the boards back” in procuring the signature of WMYAC Chairman, Bruce Woodley, for a tenancy agreement over Mr Gallagher’s private residence, “without the authority or resolution of the board”.
Bruce Woodley’s reason for releasing these records are explained in a letter to Stanley Warrie, chairman of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC):
“I am writing to you because I am very worried that the Wirlu-Murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (WMYAC) board, of which I am chairman, is being mislead and obstructed in properly carrying out our responsibilities and obligations regarding the native title and heritage interests of the Yindjibarndi People.
“I have evidence that suggests that Michael Gallagher, who has been our heritage and native title manager, has mislead me and the WMYAC board, and has not only put me and the WMYAC directors at risk, but jeopardised Yindjibarndi native title and heritage interests.”
In his letter of 31 January 2013, Chairman Woodley makes it clear that Mr Gallagher keeps important information concerning heritage and native title matters from him and other WMYAC directors: “The problem is that Michael Gallagher does not tell us everything we need to know.”
Using the company controlled by himself and his wife Lillian Maher, MGA Consulting, Mr Gallagher produced a heritage report that misrepresents and depreciates Yindjibarndi connection to Ganyjingarringunha (the site of the Firetail mining area within FMG’s Solomon Hub), and then provided FMG with a copy of his report, without the knowledge and informed consent of the WMYAC Board.
The WMYAC chairman accuses Mr Gallagher of acting contrary to the interests of the WMYAC members by failing:
- to provide the WMYAC board with copies of heritage reports produced for FMG;
- to keep minutes of the meetings of the WMYAC heritage sub-committee Mr Gallagher governs, despite requests to do so;
- to obtain the informed consent of the WMYAC board before providing FMG with heritage reports that are detrimental to the interests of the WMYAC members and the interests of all Yindjibarndi people;
- to explain the adverse implications of his actions on Yindjibarndi native title rights and heritageóin particular, that the Heritage Report produced by MGA is likely to be relied on by FMG to attempt to defeat the Yindjibarndi #1 native title claim (which precedes and underlies FMG’s mining project), following FMG’s joinder as a respondent to the Yindjibarndi claim;
- to instruct Integra Legal and other lawyers acting for WMYAC (in accordance with his responsibility for legal strategy) to attempt to renegotiate FMG’s Land Access Agreement, despite receiving independent expert advice on three separate occasions (from Greg McIntyre SC, Professor Marcia Langton and Peter Seidal of Arnold, Bloch Leibler) that the agreement is deficient and needs to be renegotiated;
- to declare his and his wife’s interest in RCD Consulting while procuring contracts in favour of this company, to formulate organisational strategic plans for WMYAC that propose to regulate his role and that of other key WMYAC staff, without informing WMYAC directors of his and his wife’s interest in RCD.
Bruce Woodley told Stanley Warrie, “I am determined to take proper action in regard to my legal responsibilities, as a chairman, corporation director and fellow Yindjibarndi native title holder“, and confirmed that he had written to both ORIC and ASIC with his concerns.
Bruce Woodley said that he has full confidence in WMYAC’s Business Manager, Bruce Thomas, and nominated Mr Thomas as primary contact to ORIC and ASIC.
Mr Thomas voiced his own concerns regarding the improper conduct of Mr Gallagher in two meetings between Mr Thomas and YAC representatives, which took place on 16 and 17 January 2013, both of which were closely minuted. In these meetings Mr Thomas corroborated and expanded on Bruce Woodley’s concerns regarding the conduct of Mr Gallagher and key FMG executives.
Mr Thomas demonstrated his commitment to exposing activities damaging to the broader Yindjibarndi People, by providing WMYAC Chairman, Bruce Woodley, with documents for release to ORIC, ASIC, the NNTT investigator Chris Doogan and YAC.
Chairman Bruce Woodley’s appeal for assistance to curtail Mr Gallagher’s role in engineering outcomes that sabotage Yindjibarndi heritage and native title rights, and undermine governance within WMYAC, must now motivate the intervention of regulators, ORIC and ASIC; and relevant government authorities, the federal Attorney General and state Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
 WMYAC is a splinter group of the Yindjibarndi People formed in 2010 with the secretariat and financial sponsorship of Fortescue Metals Group after the Prescribed Body Corporate and elected representative of the Yindjibarndi People, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) refused to sign FMG’s defective and inequitable land use agreement.
 YAC is the chosen representative institution of the estimated 1500 persons who currently comprise the Yindjibarndi People, who live principally in and around the township of Roebourne. In meeting its responsibilities to both the present and future generations of Yindjibarndi people, as both a Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC) and a Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC) under the NTA and the PBC Regulations, YAC holds on trust and is obliged to manage the native title rights and interests that were declared to exist by the Federal Court for the benefit of all Yindjibarndi People.