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

Harts Range garnet mine in trouble
In the 1970s we used to convoy it from Melanka to the Harts Range race meeting weekend.
Never knew if it was the sun glinting off the mica in them there hills, or the reflection off the bottom of the CB stubs.


Rolfe bail application under exclusion of the public
@ Peter Dixon: “The charges must have been laid on the evidence.”
Not necessarily. Peter, I agree with you that police are not above the law.
But the question here is – why was the charge of murder laid so quickly? There is a whiff of NT government influence here. In the highly volatile immediate community reaction at the time, so hastily laying the most serious charge of murder, rather than say, manslaughter, it is not a quantum leap to think that police were leaned on by the NT government to try to defuse and placate the community anger.
Down here in Victoria, when 26 government MPs were found by Ombudsman Deborah Glass to have rorted (i.e. misappropriated) public funds of $300,000 to pay Red Shirt volunteers to win the 2014 election, Andrews refused to allow the police to interview them.
They were never charged and sit in Parliament scot free today. The same major party is in government in Victoria and the NT.
Who is to say that the NT police were not leaned on in a similar manner by Mr Gunner?


Rolfe bail application under exclusion of the public
@ Evelyne Roullet: I respect your comment Evelyne.
However, the third person is only “central” to the incident in the fact that he is a witness whose account may or may not be given weight to find guilty or acquit.
My point is that the two central young men have been impossibly captured and trapped by the media and stereotyped into opposing racial camps.
The media cannot help itself. Sensationalism that only exacerbates the bitterness and attracts readers and viewers.


Rolfe bail application under exclusion of the public
With all due respect. The Australian’s reporting of this incident, and for that matter the reporting of every other mainstream media outlet, gave full and fair coverage – sensationalistic coverage, in fact – to the community’s outrage.
From the very first moment that the news broke, it was reported with very heavy implication that it was a racial incident. With hatred of police thrown in.
Anyone who dared to suggest otherwise ran a serious risk of accusations of racism.
Two young men were central to this incident. The dead Young man will rightly be respected and honoured in death. As should be by family and friends and community.
However, the one who has been charged with murder (very hastily it would seem for political reasons), is now firmly stereotyped as a white racist.
His pic has been emblazoned on the front pages and we know him as a white twenties lad with tattoos from a white well-off family.
He has been condemned automatically by at least 50% of the population.
I will be very interested to see if his trial will be by jury or judge alone.
I think a jury trial would not guarantee a fair trial.
Media attention to the different treatment he has been accorded will only make a fair trial by jury even more doubtful.


Alice group says ‘no’ to extradition of Assange
@ Jerry Fitzsimons: A former local 4 has a fair point; why worry about Assange when there are far more relevant and important local issues to report in many Alicians’ opinion.
I tend to agree. I have long been impressed with Murray Stewart’s Desert League of Champions initiative.
I personally think it has been a lovely community bonding exercise over the last 20 years. 10 nominees every year for 10 years then a big celebration of the 100 in 2019.
Much prefer to read a report on an event celebrating Alicians and the sporting history of a town that has a magnificent sporting tradition than reading about the Socialist group rally.


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