How RSM helped an NSW Aboriginal Land Council to restructure and recover

RSM’s government services team assisted a local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) in NSW to overcome governance, finance, operations, and property challenges. The LALC, once classified as unfunded by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), was transformed into a financially supported and operational entity.

An unfunded LALC unable to service the Aboriginal community

The LALC, located in NSW’s Western Region, aimed to serve its 1,200 members and the broader Aboriginal community. However, issues like breaches of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, audit discrepancies, alleged funds mismanagement, and property disputes hindered its access to NSWALC resources.

Professional assistance with extensive government sector experience

RSM, with its seasoned government-services team, was appointed to help the LALC restructure and recover. Taking the lead, RSM Partner Andrew Bowcher analysed the case and identified four key areas that needed improvement: governance, financial, operational, and property. From there, it was time to get to work.


Andrew knew that it was vital to resolve the LALC's governance issues to restore funding. Under his lead, RSM:

  • Resolved four breaches of ALRA, restoring compliance with NSWALC.
  • Helped complete overdue Annual General Meetings.
  • Updated membership register.aboriginal case study
  • Updated Community Land and Business Plan (CLBP) goals and strategies.
  • Updated Land Council’s Policies and Procedures.
  • Completed a new Housing Policy, addressing gaps in governance and housing management.
  • Entered a new Service Agreement with the external housing provider.
  • Established a Housing Reference Group and a Cultural and Heritage Reference Group.
  • Held members’ meetings as required under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA).
  • Held land dealing meetings for members to approve:
    • A three-year rural property lease.
    • The expansion of the Aboriginal cemetery.
    • The subdivision of LALC Land.
    • The sale of a commercial property.
  • Provided regular newsletters to Land Council members.


Attended to the payment of outstanding pre-appointment creditors.

  • Receipted all income from NSWALC, Housing Operations, the rural property lease and water licences.
  • Recovered site monitoring income that was outstanding.
  • Resolved the pre-appointment outstanding Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) and Australian Taxation Office (ATO) debt.
  • Completed outstanding financial year audits.
  • Submitted financial returns to NSWALC as required.aboriginal land council assistance
  • Sold the temporary water allocations.
  • Discussed with the external housing provider, the non-performance of the housing portfolio and the need to address rental increases.
  • Lodged a funding application with NSWALC for funds to assist with the costs associated with the expansion of the Aboriginal cemetery.
  • Submitted Business Activity Statements (BAS) to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as required.
  • Operational:
  • Improved stakeholder relationships and the relationship between the Land Council and its members.
  • Recruited a CEO.
  • Prepared an asset register of all the Land Council’s assets.
  • Attended to the misappropriation claim and reported the matter to the NSW Police and the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
  • Lodged outstanding annual Charities and Not for Profit returns.
  • Lodged the Public Interest Disclosure returns.
  • Completed outstanding CLBP annual reports.
  • Facilitated the return of ancestral remains to the community.
  • Obtained details from NSWALC of all current Land Claims and geographically located the land claims and provided this information to the LALC.


  • Attended to any outstanding insurance matters.
  • Inspected all properties and completed a reconciliation of the property records with external housing provider, the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) the Shire Council and NSWALC records.nsw aboriginal land council
  • Identified that properties were not in the name of the Land Council and lodged a Possessory Title application with the NSW Land & Property Information Service to have the title transferred into the Land Council’s name.
  • Sought a legal opinion of the requirements to extinguish native title on one certain block of land.
  • Identified several discrepancies in the addresses of properties in the first AHO Head Lease when compared to the Land Council, external housing provider and Local Shire Council records.
  • Negotiated a new Head lease with the AHO and an Agency Agreement with the external housing provider.
  • Negotiated a new three-year rural property lease.
  • Facilitated new scoping of the Land Council houses.
  • Reconciled the Land Council’s water licences to the records of WaterNSW.
  • Negotiated with the Shire Council and WaterNSW changes to the structure of the Supplementary Water licence culminating in the decision by WaterNSW to issue individual licences to all licence holders.
  • Obtained property valuations and attended to WH&S matters related to the Land Council’s properties.
  • Replaced the fencing at the sacred heritage site.
  • Facilitated the approval of the expansion of the Aboriginal cemetery including obtaining $20,000 (ex GST) in funding from the Office of Environment and Heritage.
  • Lodged with NSWALC and had approved a land dealing application for the expansion of the Aboriginal cemetery.
  • Lodged and had approved with NSWALC an initial first stage a land dealing application for the subdivision.
  • Completed a feasibility assessment on the subdivision and lodged this with a second stage land dealing application with NSWALC for the subdivision.
  • Negotiated with Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), the non-repayment of the grant provided to the Land Council to purchase property.
  • Lodged with NSWALC a land dealing application for the sale of the commercial property.

Managing the transition after an organisation turnaround

As the Administration of the Land Council was nearing its end, we completed the following tasks in the last month:

  • Elected a new Board to lead the Land Council.
  • Trained the new Board members on Governance principles and practices.
  • Handed over all the Governance, financial, operational and property information to the Land Council, both in electronic and hard copy formats.
  • Created a Transition Plan that outlined the remaining issues and actions for a successful handover. We discussed the Transition Plan with the CEO and the new Board in a workshop.

We did all this to make sure the CEO and the new Board members knew what they had to do and how to do it, as they took over the operations of the Land Council.

Results - A funded and operational LALCaboriginal community assistance

The results of RSM's intervention were remarkable and positive for the LALC. Our government services team helped the LALC to restructure and recover from its unfunded and problematic situation, and to achieve better performance and outcomes. Some of the key results were:

  • RSM’s intervention led to the LALC moving from the unfunded category to the funded category, meaning it could access NSWALC funds and resources.
  • The LALC improved its governance, financial, operational, and property aspects, and complied with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA).
  • The LALC respected and supported the Aboriginal land rights and interests of its members, and facilitated the land dealings, the return of ancestral remains, and the expansion of the Aboriginal cemetery.
  • The LALC improved its stakeholder relationships and the relationship between the LALC and its members.
  • The LALC recruited a competent and qualified CEO to lead the LALC.
  • RSM provided all the information and a transition plan to the LALC, and ensured the CEO and the new board were fully aware of their obligations and requirements.

Since the operations have been returned to the Board, it is noted that in the NSWALC financial year Annual report, “the Land Council is listed as performing well.”

Key takeaways for government-funded organisations

The key takeaways from this case study are:

  • RSM demonstrated our expertise and experience in restructuring and recovery engagements, as well as in working with Aboriginal organisations and communities.
  • RSM provided a comprehensive and holistic solution to the LALC, covering all the aspects that needed improvement and resolution.
  • RSM helped the LALC to restructure and recover from its situation, and to improve its performance and outcomes.
  • RSM respected and supported the Aboriginal land rights and interests of the LALC and its members.


To find out more about how RSM's government services team can help your organisation, please visit our government services page or speak to your local RSM adviser.