First criminal conviction under the CATSI Act for Cloncurry manager

In proceedings today before Magistrate Madsen at Cloncurry Magistrates Court, Mrs Valmai O’Brien, the former manager of Mitakoodi Aboriginal Corporation, pleaded guilty to seven breaches of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI ACT). Six breaches involved knowingly making a false statement and one breach involved authorising information without taking reasonable steps to ensure it was not misleading.

Mitakoodi Aboriginal Corporation which is based in Cloncurry, Queensland, manages 70 rental properties and has a membership of 156 people.

In court today Mrs Valmai O’Brien admitted that, on 23 June 2009, when she prepared and lodged the 2007–08 annual reports of Mitakoodi Aboriginal Corporation with the Registrar, she knew they were false. Mrs O’Brien admitted to photocopying the signature of the corporation’s auditor from a previous statement and placing this signature on the corporation’s audit report. Subsequently Mrs O’Brien submitted the reports as correct to the corporation’s chairman. Mrs O’Brien also admitted that on 21 June 2010 she repeated this process when she prepared and lodged the corporation’s reports for the 2008–09 financial year with the Registrar.

In handing down the sentence Magistrate Madsen took into account the guilty plea of Mrs O’Brien and her contribution over many years to the Cloncurry community. However, he said that Mrs O’Brien was in a position of trust and she had abused that trust. Magistrate Madsen said that the corporation, its members and creditors are entitled to know that the corporation is solvent and well managed. The decision by Mrs O’Brien to copy the auditor’s signature and put it on another document knowing that that signature was like gold, was concerning.

Mrs O’Brien was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment to be released forthwith on her own recognizance to be of good behaviour for 12 months.

The conviction follows an investigation by the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Mr Anthony Beven. This is the first conviction for an indictable offence under the CATSI Act.

‘This has been a very important case for my office,’ said Mr Beven. ‘The outcome sends a very clear warning about the importance of lodging truthful documents, particularly where those documents are relied upon by members, the public and other parties dealing with corporations.’

Mr Beven went on to say it was the duty of directors and senior staff within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations to protect the interests of members by always maintaining the highest standards of corporate governance.

The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Media contact
Patricia Gibson
(02) 6146 4743
2 November 2012
ORIC MR1213-19