Two points to note in Rob de Castella’s comments in …

Comment on Pay dispute with Robert de Castella: Alice runner John Bell raises new issues. by John Bell.

Two points to note in Rob de Castella’s comments in the Alice News.
The first is that his claim that I was a “volunteer” is incorrect. In late March 2009 I received a phone call from Deek offering me a job as Project Coach. He actively recruited me. Before that phone call I had no knowledge of the Project. He asked me to set up his Project in Central Australia for a documentary that was proposed to him by film maker Matt Long of Good Oil Films. The Project was Matt Long’s idea. But neither of the two white men had had anything to do with the Aboriginal community, and they were in desperate need of someone with the skills and experience to set it up for them.
Secondly, Deek is incorrect in claiming that “government funds became available afterwards” i.e. after I was sacked on 10 November 2010.
On 7 March 2010 Deek claimed in The Sun Herald that unless he received $500,000 “within the next few months, the Project would have to be abandoned.”
In the article he detailed what he wanted the $500,000 for; it included “salary to pay a full time Project Coach to train the athletes to run fast and far.” That was my job. It was the main reason why I was employed.
Information I have obtained under FOI from DoHA shows that Deek received $187,000 from DoHA on 28 April 2010 and a further $313,000 for the project on 18 October 2010. A total of $500,000.
I worked for the period 1 April 2009 to 10 November 2010. So he got the $500,000 before my employment finished.
I discovered the existence of the $500,000 DoHA grant after I was sacked, a few days after my return from New York on 9 November 2010.
A few weeks later, Deek was to return to the NT to thank the athletes and their communities in December 2010. I emailed him asking him to fund my airfares to accompany him … I dropped it in the email that I now knew about the $500,000. He emailed back to me on 26 November 2010 “JB you are welcome to accompany us at your own expense … by the way, there is no $500,000. More misinformmation? What games are you playing now?”
He cc’d the email to a dozen people in the Project in the NT and at Good Oil Films. Including NT Police.
I am presenting this email evidence at the Tribunal and I will point out his public claim in the Alice News on 18 June 2012 that the money did not become available until after my employment was terminated.
Deek knew I had no money, being on a Comcare fortnightly disability payment, and he knew I could not afford the airfare and accommodation.
I am waiting on an FOI request now with DoHA to obtain details of the Project budget for 2009,2010 and 2011. DoHA has been stalling me for many months. I will know tomorrow. Deek has stated in evidence to the Tribunal that no money was earmarked in the budget for a salary for me. It will be interesting to see if he did or not. If he didn’t I will ask how did he justify the Project to DoHA because grant guidelines state that applicants must have Aboriginal community agreement through consultation. I performed that role.
If he did provide a salary, then the obvious question to be asked is – what did he do with it?
I also have information from a reliable source that DoHA originally rejected his application but it was overridden by direct intervention by Mark Arbib, who went to New York with Deek in 2011 and ran the NY Marathon.
An interesting fact about the departmental funding guidelines for 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 is that they did not allow funding for overseas travel or accommodation under a specific guideline heading “What is NOT Funded” … overseas airfares and accommodation were a one line item under this heading.
Then in 2011/2012 this one line item was conspicuously missing … the year that Mark Arbib went to NY.
I will also give evidence to the Tribunal on Monday that Deek has publicly accused me of being “destructive” and “bringing the Project into disrepute” … all because I lodged a claim with Tribunal that he reneged on a handshake agreement. I am waiting to see now if he will try to get anyone in Alice to give evidence against me.
I have not asked any Aboriginal person in Alice Springs to give evidence on my behalf. I did not want to embroil Alice Springs people, who are dear to my heart, in these issues. Because of racial sensitivities and longtime friendships in a dispute that is essentially between two white men who live in Canberra.
However, four Alice Springs people from the wider community are giving written statements on my behalf. One Aboriginal person from FNQ, the uncle of Catherine Freeman, has also provided written statement of evidence on my behalf. Other Aboriginal people around Australia have offered.
Thank you for publishing this letter. It is very stressful and I have not been feeling well for a long time.
I will keep you informed of the Tribunal outcome.
Kind regards, John Bell
[ED – Mr Bell sent his letter before the tribunal hearing on Monday this week. He asked not to publish it before the tribunal hearing had taken place. We have offered Mr de Castella the right of reply.]

Recent Comments by John Bell

Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: the nays have it 
@ Evelyne Roullet. Yes. Could not agree more.
Used to meet Mrs Higgins at the gate, every year, at the sports on Bangtail Muster Day and at the gate at Traeger Park, for 31 years.
Wonderful memories of a great lady who put her heart and soul into all the kids of Alice. The Youth Centre and the Gap Centre. Great places.


Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: the nays have it 
@ Evelyne Roullet. I bet that the late Mrs Joan Higgins, a WW2 nurse who nursed the wounded in Alice, and whose Youth Centre sits under the shade of ANZAC Hill where so many town kids came together for sport, would be looking down and smiling on your beaut idea.


Will we say sorry to the Abandoned Generation in 10 years?
@ An Alice extended-family member. Thank you for perhaps one of the most thoughtful and compassionate comments that I have ever had the good fortune to read on the saddest of all social issues – the dysfunction and tragic breakdown of family – whether in the Aboriginal or wider community. Your comment is now pinned to my cerebral noticeboard for future reference and citing.


Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: the nays have it 
@James T Smerk. Conjecture on the appropriate hill to fly the Aboriginal flag is intriguing. Anzac Hill is the highest hill in the heart of the town of Alice which has a majority non-Aboriginal permanent population on my understanding of the urban stats. Spencer Hill and Billygoat Hill are in town too.

The two high points on the MacDonnell Range either side of the Stuart Highway as you come through The Gap or even Mt Gillen would seem to me to be a better place more representative of the bigger traditional Aboriginal population of Central Australia outside the immediate built-up town precincts. Harold’s view on this would be interesting. Certainly, these latter places would help to defuse the highly contentious debate around the commemoration of the fallen on Anzac Day.


Aboriginal flag on Anzac Hill: the nays have it 
Harold Thomas’ opinion would be interesting. I’m sure he would see his creation as a symbol of unity and welcome.

All fair dinkum Australians want unity and harmony. The views of the originators of the ‘Welcome to Country’ idea, Ernie Dingo and Richard Wally, would also be illuminating


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