Governance in action at Wellington Health Service

The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Selwyn Button has today placed the Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS) under special administration.

WACHS provides a culturally appropriate health care service for Aboriginal people in Wellington, Dubbo, Moree, Western Sydney, Penrith and Nepean Blue Mountains. Their service offering is extensive, covering primary health care, child and maternal health, drug and alcohol, social emotional wellbeing and a range of other specialist programs. 

They serve around 2000 clients across Wellington and surrounding regions, and over 3000 clients across Greater Western Sydney locations. In 2019–20 WACHS provided over 35,000 episodes of care across Wellington and surrounding regions, and over 20,000 episodes of care across Greater Western Sydney. According the audited financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2020, WACHS’ revenue was $21.1 million, of this around $17.3 million from grants.

On 3 September 2021, the majority of the board requested the appointment of a special administrator for the corporation.

Leading up to this action, the board had been alerted to serious financial discrepancies internally and commissioned an independent investigation to verify the allegations and extent of the irregularities. Just one day after receiving the independent report the board reached out to ORIC to ask for specialist support.

‘The board are to be praised for their decisive and swift action,’ Mr Button said. ‘Furthering their objectives as a not-for-profit organisation under a model of community control is at the heart of WACHS’ approach. I expect their deliberations were intense and not easy, especially to consider potential perceptions of giving up community control.

‘You can’t always prevent problems occurring, but the WACHS board had channels in place to ensure they got vital information they needed to do their job effectively.

‘These are hallmarks of good decision-making and governance—identifying risks and gathering information to help you chart a course of corrective action.’

Although the board positions will be temporarily vacated and filled by the special administrators, those administrators are obligated under law to act in the best interests of the corporation and its members—a feature unique to special administrations under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006

ORIC expects all special administrators to communicate with and consult members of the corporation, the local community and other interested parties. There will be opportunities for people to be engaged and participate while the special administration is in place. 

Mr Jack James and Mrs Paula Smith have been appointed as the joint special administrators until 25 March 2022.

Media contact

Lisa Hugg 0477 762 290