Former CEO of the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC), Wayne Nannup, is taking legal action against the SWALSC Board for removing him from his role.

The timing of the dismissal has outraged many Noongar people who say they have been blindsided by the Board’s decision and are yet to receive a satisfactory response from the current Directors of SWALSC.

A SWALSC staff member who did not want to be named said staff and members “still don’t know why the Board sacked Wayne, he is a great leader and CEO and has done a brilliant job over a long period of time”.

According to the SWALSC November newsletter, the Board decided “to not renew the contract” of Nannup on October 13, five weeks out from the Annual General Meeting in which a new Board is to be instated.

In the ‘Chairperson’s Message’ authored by Chair Jeanice Krakouer, reasons for Nannup’s termination were not given, only stating the Board “did not make this decision lightly and that we stand by our reasons for making the decision we made”.

Reasons behind the decision to remove Nannup have still not been given.

Nannup told NIT when he went to meet with the Board he was completely unaware his contract was about to be terminated.

“I was actually going in to sign a new contract, the Board made an offer and I had accepted the offer already,” Nannup said.

“I just thought I was going to formally sign the new contract but as it turned out by the end of the meeting, they’d decided to terminate it.”

“This was a complete surprise as I have never had a complaint about my performance, nor has there been a [problem] on any audit of SWALSC.”

In spite of this he was terminated effective immediately.

Nannup, who was formerly a Barrister for the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA, said there was no due process involved.

“There was no indication of, you know, ‘This is what we want you to do’ [or] ‘This is your first warning’. There was no process around it,” he said.

“My staff and I have faithfully conducted ourselves professionally and respectfully to get the best possible outcomes for the Noongar People.

“Up until three weeks ago I had a great working relationship with the SWALSC Board so it’s sad that I have to take legal action to clear my name, but unfortunately I don’t have any choice.”

As Nannup took action, so did SWALSC Members; requesting a Special General Meeting for November 5—just 11 days before the scheduled AGM.

The SGM’s planned agenda was to discuss the Board’s decision to dismiss Nannup as CEO, discuss the Board’s governance and conflicts of interest and to instate a vote of no confidence in the Board.

This meeting never went ahead, as the SWALSC Board denied it and claimed it was “frivolous”.

The decision has been called arrogant and disrespectful by SWALSC members and prominent Noongar Elders who are questioning why the current SWALSC Board did not follow due process.

NIT understands there is particular concern around this move as the current Board is legally compelled to step down on November 16 to make way for a new Board.

By Hannah Cross