Media Statement: June 26 2024

A NAAJA One Bites the Dust


On Friday last week, it was revealed that the most senior female executive, Deputy Chief Executive of North Australian Aboriginal Justice Association, Ms Leeanne Caton had resigned from her position.

Ms Caton’s resignation comes following revelations that the board of the appointed Mr Hugh Woodbury in March while being aware that he had pled guilty to domestic violence charges against his pregnant partner.

In Senate Estimates on 11 June 2024, Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy stated that “there are always two sides to every story.” Senator McCarthy had previously indicated, in reference to a convicted domestic violence offender on the board of the Tangentyere Council, that every person should be given a second chance to rehabilitate.

Senator Nampijinpa Price disagreed, saying “these comments demonstrate nothing but a blatant unwillingness by this government to call out bad behaviour when it is an Aboriginal person.”

Senator Nampijinpa Price also took aim at the recent involvement of Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ms Linda Burney in the matter. “The issues at NAAJA are serious and long-standing, and yet it has taken until this week for the Minister to take any meaningful action.”

“We must remember that long before the revelations about Mr Woodbury, NAAJA was demonstrating service failures and inadequate management,” Senator Nampijinpa Price said.

“Since October last year, there have been over 90 unrepresented clients of NAAJA, 27 of whom were remanded in custody due to poor service delivery.”

“Further, in the twelve months leading up to these abysmal failures at NAAJA, staff were resigning, and it was apparent that there were serious issues with the management of NAAJA” said Senator Nampijinpa Price.

“While it is appropriate that the Minister met with the Attorney General and the Northern Territory Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Mr Chansey Paech, holding an ‘emergency meeting’ at this point is simply too little too late,” said Senator Nampijinpa Price.

“Ms Burney has stated that it is time for NAAJA to show leadership when it comes to family violence. Well respectfully, the time for NAAJA to step up and show leadership was a lot earlier than this week” said Senator Nampijinpa Price.

“Minister Burney’s claim to be “deeply concerned” about the situation at NAAJA is simply disingenuous in light of her failure to engage in the issue until now when she is directly responsible for the money and programs they run,” said Senator Nampijinpa Price.

It was questioning by Senator Nampijinpa Price in spill-over Senate Estimates yesterday which put Minister Burney squarely in view with respect to NAAJA’s continued failings, as it was revealed that NAAJA has received funding from the National Indigenous Australians Agency that is currently being audited for possible misuse.

“Only because of failure after failure coming out of NAAJA that the Minister is stepping in. It is only because things have come to the point where she absolutely cannot bury her head in the sand anymore, that she has chosen to involve herself in this matter,” Senator Nampijinpa Price said.


Media Contact: Rebekah Hart - 0459 893 181