COMMUNITY control returned to Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Community and Medical Services last Friday, nine months after the organisation was placed under special administration.
Katungul, based in Narooma, delivers health services to people from Aboriginal communities between Batemans Bay and the Victorian border.
The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations Anthony Beven placed Katungul in special administration in December last year after it was found to be suffering from poor corporate governance, weak financial management and a deterioration in service delivery.
“Since then Katungul has undergone a phenomenal turnaround,” Mr Bevan told Friday’s gathering in Narooma.
“It’s paid all its debts, cleared its overdraft, and discharged the mortgage over its Bega clinic, while at the same time increasing service delivery.
“You can feel the new vibe... It’s a totally different workplace.”
Mr Bevan paid tribute to Special Administrator Alan Eldridge, his team, his steering committee and Katungul staff for turning around the organisation in such a short time.
Katungul Director Bunja Smith described Mr Eldridge as “a champion” who had “put Katungul back on its feet in a very healthy way”.
Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon told the community he was delighted sound governance and structure had now been established which should ensure Katungul’s future.
The Federal Department of Health and Ageing recently signed a funding agreement with Katungul for 2012-2013 to ensure continued health service delivery.
One of Mr Eldridge’s last duties was to appoint a new Board based on skills and experience, community representation, as well as an ability to add value to the future of the organisation.
“I’ve appointed two independent directors - Patrick Callioni (Chair) and Kathryn Stonestreet of Southern NSW Medicare Local plus five community directors - Angela Nye, Bunja Smith, Melissa Ellis, Graham Moore and Anne Greenaway,” Mr Eldridge said.
“The Aboriginal community has to accept we need a mix on the Board of multi million dollar organisations like Katungul. In a perfect world we’d have community members with the necessary expertise; but if we don’t have those people we have to be prepared to let other qualified people in.”
Katungul’s new CEO Jon Rogers has a finance background, was formerly with ORIC, and has a passion for Aboriginal Health. “He has a tight three-year contract with key performance indicators,” Mr Eldridge said.
Among other developments, Katungul has now established a medical outreach centre at Batemans Bay for the first time, in premises shared with other service providers.
Mr Eldridge stressed the importance of close relationships with other service providers, especially Southern NSW Medicare Local, to ensure the Aboriginal community’s medical and health care expectations were met.
“We’ve brought integrity and honesty into Katungul’s system and achieved considerable cost savings by rationalizing operations... If you manage these places well, they’re pretty well funded.
“One thing that made it easier was the support we received from the [Aboriginal] community. Now it’s up to them. The community has to demonstrate its ongoing support for Katungul by patronising the service.”
Meanwhile action by the Registrar against Katungul’s former CEO Damien Matcham continues in the Federal Court.
Mr Beven said ORIC’s statement of claim against Mr Matcham is for $726,000.