Land Council power struggle?

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

An apparent power struggle within the Central Land Council saw two prominent figures in Central Australian Aboriginal politics facing off in the Alice Springs Magistrates Court today. Maurie Ryan, chairman of the Land Council, applied for a personal violence order against Michael Liddle, who not so long ago was his deputy and who remains on the executive, representing Lhere Artepe.

 

Mr Ryan, representing himself in court, said Mr Liddle had threatened him in a text message, saying “I’ll meet you out the back.” He said he had shown the message to a senior police officer and had initiated the PVO process to keep Mr Liddle away from his place of employment (the Land Council) and his home address.

 

He said Mr Liddle had “breached” (sic, although a PVO was and is not yet in place)  by coming to a meeting last Friday at the Land Council. Mr Ryan said he had asked senior lawyer James Nugent to have Mr Liddle removed or he would call the police. It was not made clear in court whether Mr Liddle had in fact been removed or if he had left.

 

Mr Ryan said he was 65 years old and he doesn’t “like being bullied, including on the phone”.

 

Mr Liddle was represented by former senior Land Council lawyer David Avery.

 

Magistrate David Bamber asked whether there was any reason why the matter should not “go off for conciliation” as is the usual course of action in such cases.

 

Mr Avery wanted the application dismissed as there appeared to be no grounds for violence having been committed. If Mr Bamber was not with him on that, then he was seeking a hearing, rather than conciliation.

 

Mr Ryan also expressed his doubts about conciliation.

 

It’s the “normal process” said Mr Bamber. What did Mr Ryan want?

 

“I want justice,” he replied.

 

“Everyone wants justice,” said Mr Bamber with a wry smile, “there are ways to get there.” Had he had trouble with Mr Liddle before?

 

Mr Ryan replied at a tangent. He said he had been elected by 90 members of the Land Council to take the organisation “in another direction”. He referred to Mr Avery having been formerly a senior lawyer employed by the organization.  He said he would abide by Mr Bamber’s decision.

 

Mr Bamber sad he was inclined to follow the usual course of action.

 

Mr Avery argued that there was “no underlying issue”, that it was a matter of “political difference” over the Land Council. He said there was nothing about threats or intimidation in Mr Ryan’s affidavit. He quoted, apparently from the text message: “Hey, this is bullshit. I’ll meet you outside.”  He said: “I don’t see where that gets to a personal violence offence.”

 

Mr Avery said Mr Ryan doesn’t want Mr Liddle to stand up to him on Land Council matters.

 

Mr Ryan attempted to interject.

 

Mr Avery continued. He said there were other references in the affidavit to “intimidating remarks” regarding Mr Ryan’s role as chairperson. There were also phone calls made which Mr Ryan did not answer. None of these matters went anywhere near “Part 6 of the Criminal Code”.

 

Mr Bamber said it was a “civil type of jurisdiction”. He ordered the parties to go to mediation and adjourned the matter to January 20 next year.

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