Colonial funeral home ‘sold’ for $11 million, $1.4m in bribes

The Colonial Internal Medicine Hospital in Sydney, one of the oldest residential facilities for Indigenous people in Australia, was sold for $1 million and $1,4 million in bribes, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has heard.

The tribunal heard on Thursday that the $1 billion sale of the complex was authorised by the Victorian Government in May 2014.

The sale, in which the Government paid $824,000 to the Aboriginal Land Council (ALC) and $12,000 in bribes to the firm behind the sale, was authorised as part of a “legitimate business purpose”, the tribunal heard.

In a submission to the tribunal, the ACCC said the sale was “likely to have a beneficial effect” for the Indigenous community.

In addition, the tribunal has heard that the sale of Colonial Memorial Hospital to the Carlton Group was a “significant” business purpose.

“The purchase of Colonial is not an individual transaction; it is a corporate transaction, a transaction that was authorised under the legislation,” ACCC chair Peter Tully said in a statement.

“This transaction was approved by the Minister for Public Works and Government Services, who was aware of the potential value of the sale to the Indigenous people of the Commonwealth.”

“The acquisition of Colonial by the Carlton group was not authorised by anyone other than the Minister and is therefore in line with the terms and conditions of the legislation.”

The sale was a commercial transaction, not an investment, the judge in the case, Justice Daniel Wilson, said.

“It is difficult to believe that this transaction was an investment in the health and well-being of the Aboriginal community, but the facts of the case are quite clear,” he said.

The Victorian Government has been criticised for not adequately monitoring the sale and for not informing the Aboriginal communities of the possibility of a profit.

The ACCC has asked the Victorian State Government to investigate.

The Commonwealth-owned Colonial Hospital and Hospital Victoria is one of four residential facilities owned by the Government to care for Aboriginal people living in the state’s remote north.

It was first established in the 1850s and the majority of its facilities are run by Indigenous people.

It has been run by the Aboriginal Health Commission since 1999.

The Colonial hospital has been a central location for Aboriginal communities for generations.

Aboriginal Health Minister Peter Dunne said in an email to The Australian: “I’m pleased the ACCCs findings have led to this final outcome and that it has been delivered for the Aboriginal people of Western Australia.”

Mr Dunne told the ABC that “the ACCC will work with our partners to make sure this does not happen again”.

“This was not an ordinary sale of an asset; it was a major corporate transaction,” he added.

The Government will “work with the ACCS to ensure that this does, in fact, not happen in future.”

The Victorian Civil Court was told that in a letter to the Victorian Premier, Victorian Attorney-General David Johnston said the Victorian government “is committed to working with Aboriginal communities in the future”.