Board v management — Ampilatwatja health centre well again

The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Selwyn Button, has today announced the end of the special administration of the Ampilatwatja Health Centre Aboriginal Corporation (Ampilatwatja).

Ampilatwatja is located approximately 320 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs. It began operating in 1995 providing primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Alyawarr nation. 

In late March Ampilatwatja’s board sought assistance from the Registrar to deal with an intractable dispute between themselves and the CEO, and when the matter was tested by the Registrar they reaffirmed their need for a special administrator. On 12 April the Registrar placed the corporation under special administration until 25 June and later extended it for one month.

‘The disputes between the board and senior management compromised the operations of Ampilatwatja and the health of people it’s funded to serve. Funding from the Commonwealth to deliver critical primary health care services was withheld because of the dysfunction,’ said Mr Button.

The relationship between a board and CEO is critical to a corporation successfully achieving its purpose. Disagreement in any relationship can be healthy but when it escalates to dispute with no resolve it can lead to operational inefficiency, erode governance and damage the corporation’s reputation—ultimately driving down client and funding body confidence. Once in that cycle it can be a perilous downward spin.

Significant change came early during the special administration with the appointment of a new interim CEO. Mr Button commented, ‘The change is going well for the corporation, with broad support from the community demonstrated by a continuing increase in patients returning. In the month preceding the appointment there were 222 episodes of care—a 12 month low for Ampilatwatja—but rates climbed to 391 and 399 in the two months after.’

‘The incoming board has endorsed this change by recently confirming the CEO’s appointment for two years.’

The special administration also provided opportunity to improve clinic services. For example, the clinic now provides onsite GPs improving ready access to patient services for community members. 

The Registrar will monitor the corporation for the next 12 months.