The within story of the Aboriginal Neighborhood Profit Fund collapse and the lacking tens of millions

Within the fading autumn gentle, the 32-metre yacht is difficult to overlook. 

From any vantage level throughout the Gulf Harbour Marina, simply north of Auckland, the Dream Catcher is definitely the biggest vessel on the finish of its pier.

“When it first turned up I believed, ‘Wow that is too large for right here,'” stated a fisherman who has been working within the space for 29 years.

The Dream Catcher is registered to a non-public firm within the Prepare dinner Islands and was marketed for $US3.95 million ($5.55 million) in 2018.

Together with a waterfront residence just lately listed for greater than $NZ2 million ($1.82 million), the Dream Catcher is owned by co-founder of the Aboriginal Neighborhood Profit Fund (ACBF), UK-born businessman Ron Pattenden.

The within story of the Aboriginal Neighborhood Profit Fund collapse and the lacking tens of millions
Ron Pattenden’s yacht Dream Catcher is moored on the finish of the pier due to its dimension.(ABC Information: Amy Bainbridge)

At 74, after an extended profession in insurance coverage, hospitality and tourism, he informed the ABC he’d been hoping for a quiet life.

As an alternative, critical questions have been raised about his a long time with ACBF and the remedy of its Indigenous clients.

1000’s of Indigenous Australians have been left reeling by the collapse of the corporate — also called Youpla — in March this yr.

Many had paid 1000’s of {dollars} to ACBF over a long time, after signing as much as funeral insurance coverage insurance policies beneath the mistaken perception that it was a funeral financial savings fund owned and run by Aboriginal individuals.

Ron Pattenden doing a television interview.
Ron Pattenden, whose enterprise pursuits additionally included tourism and hospitality, was a director of the ACBF corporations.(ABC: 7.30)

Upon studying of the yacht and the waterfront property, former buyer and Gomeroi man Donald “Uncle Duck” Craigie stated he may “solely dream” of such a life-style.

“We dare not ponder residing a lifetime of luxurious comparable to Ron Pattenden,” he stated.

“He ought to come again right here to reply questions concerning the demise of the ACBF and Youpla funeral funds.”

The Australian Securities and Funding Fee (ASIC) has confirmed it’s investigating previous and current administrators for breaches of each the firms act and the ASIC act.

Mr Pattenden is known to be one of many essential individuals of curiosity.

“All of these individuals who have been administrators of ACBF have to step up and please clarify themselves,” Mr Craigie stated.

Donald Craigie and Cheryl Fernando stand in a cemetery and look off into the distance.
Donald Craigie and Cheryl Fernando say “nearly everybody” of their group in Moree signed onto ACBF within the early days.(ABC Information: Amy Bainbridge)

Whereas he declined a proper interview, Mr Pattenden informed the ABC he was to not blame for the corporate’s collapse.

Mr Pattenden, who splits his time between Vanuatu and New Zealand, offered ACBF in 2018, after new chief govt Bryn Jones was slammed for the corporate’s exploitative remedy of Indigenous clients by the royal fee into banking.

However whereas Mr Pattenden offered the enterprise and stood down as director, he remained linked to the corporate till 2020.

Cash ‘fed again’ into group

The ACBF’s historical past goes again to the early Nineteen Nineties, when an article in nationwide Indigenous newspaper, the Koori Mail, labelled it an “revolutionary answer”.

A clip of a newspaper article tells readers ACBF will provide assistance to educate workers
An article revealed within the Koori Mail in 1992 informed potential clients of ACBF’s lofty goals. (Equipped: Koori Mail)

Indigenous Australians may chip in a couple of {dollars} a fortnight, and after they died their households would rapidly be paid out 1000’s of {dollars} to cowl their funeral.

The article defined two Aboriginal well being employees in Armidale got here up with the concept — Dudley Duncan and Richard Widders.

An advertisement for full and part time promoters.
ACBF ran ads within the Koori Mail in search of Indigenous Australians to advertise the fund in New South Wales, providing “good fee”.(Equipped: Koori Mail)

There was no point out of co-founder Ron Pattenden though he was a director and firm secretary and held 40 per cent of the shares.

The corporate was recruiting loads of clients, and Richard Widders informed the Koori Mail the “nature and affordability” of the funeral fund meant mother and father may insure youngsters youthful than 10 for $2 per week.

“The ACBF totally expects to have over 2,000 members by Christmas and on this regard any surplus funds accessible shall be immediately fed again to communities to help in well being areas,” Mr Widders informed the paper.

However the New South Wales authorities briefly shut the fund down with an injunction order in December 1992 whereas the courtroom thought of whether or not the fund was registered correctly.

Then-NSW client affairs minister Kerry Chikarovski stated the funds weren’t safe, and it appeared “the corporate has been telling members that income from the scheme can be used for Aboriginal welfare, though detailed preparations haven’t been spelled out”.

‘It was complicated for everybody’

A second fund was launched in 1993: The Aboriginal Neighborhood Profit Fund 2 (ACBF 2).

Court docket paperwork present Fund 1 was again in operation by December 1993.

In simply three years, 9,000 First Nations individuals have been signed up for funeral insurance coverage throughout the 2 funds.

Mr Craigie remembers the day a tall man with a British accent knocked on his door.

“This non-Aboriginal particular person walked up the driveway, launched himself as Ron Pattenden and stated he labored for the Aboriginal Neighborhood Profit Fund that was wholly owned and operated by Aboriginal individuals,” he stated.

A membership card with 'Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund' written in red, yellow and black.
Donald “Uncle Duck” Craigie joined ACBF within the Nineteen Nineties, when it was first starting.(ABC Information: Amy Bainbridge)

“He was a great talker. He was very persuasive.”

Mr Craigie and his associate, Gomeroi girl Cheryl Fernando, have been residing in Moree on the time, and stated the price of funerals had turn into an enormous burden in the neighborhood.

“We have been form of pondering, ‘Oh that is good, it is a nice concept,’ as a result of each time there is a demise within the household or group, we have been going round doorknocking, doing raffles, making 100 golf equipment,” he stated.

“Folks have been donating each little greenback of assist in the direction of these funerals as a result of the households have been struggling on the market.”

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