The former head of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples says he and his co-chair had no choice but to take voluntary redundancies last week.
On Wednesday, administrators told NITV News that Congress co-chairs Rod Little and Dr Jackie Huggins had been “stood down” to reduce costs after the peak representative body went into voluntary administration at the beginning of June.
However, Mr Little released a statement on Saturday evening saying the pair had in fact accepted redundancies after unsuccessfully offering to finish their terms without pay.
“While we consistently communicated to the administrators and the government that we were willing to hold office in a voluntary capacity for the term of our tenure to 2020 and that we were prepared to assist wherever possible to save Congress as a people’s organisation, we, the elected co-chairs, had no choice but to accept a voluntary redundancy on the 25th of July,” Mr Little tweeted.
Speaking to NITV on Monday, Mr Little said he and Dr Huggins were unaware they were being made redundant until someone outside the organisation asked them about it last week.
"It won’t be, in my view, a people’s organisation as it was set up. It will be an organisation that is under control of the Government, and that’s really not what it was set up for."
Mr Little said the pair then decided to accept the redundancies after it became clear they were not being heard by the administrators or the Government.
“The co-chairs made the decision to accept an offer of voluntary redundancy because we weren’t being included in the negotiations on how to save Congress,” he said.
“It won’t be, in my view, a people’s organisation as it was set up. It will be an organisation that is under control of the Government, and that’s really not what it was set up for – it was a people’s organisation created by the people for the people, and I think there’s still a need for that.”
The Congress, which began in 2011, had been operating on what Mr Little described as “piecemeal fee-for-service funding” since 2014, and eventually ran out of money at the start of last month.
Mr Little said he believed this had been a long time coming, adding that a series of funding cuts had never given the Congress an opportunity to thrive.
“There was some forward commitments that the Labor Government had promised, but the Coalition Government didn’t want to play ball with that, so we decided we had to make some drastic changes,” he said.
“I think that the long-term proposition for it to be still exists, but it needs the investment or the support of a government or the Parliament so it can be of more benefit to them as well as the First Peoples.”