A non-Aboriginal owned organisation given over $3 million by the Federal Government to address specific disease processes in Indigenous health is running modelling programs and basketball clinics across the Pilbara.

Now, the Foundation wants to buy the Perth Wildcats in a $10 million-plus bid.

First operating in 2004 as Roebourne Girls FX, the organisation now known as the Global Roaming Pilbara Foundation (GRPF) was founded by former Shire of Roebourne (now City of Karratha) President, Fiona White-Hartig.

It’s understood GRPF has been in discussions with the Wildcats’ board about buying the NBL licence from current owner, Jack Bendat, in what’s expected to be a bid of more than $10 million.

In 2019, GRPF was awarded $3.27 million by the Federal Government to deliver their ‘Girls FX Leadership Program’ and a new ‘Pathways to Excellence Basketball Program’, led by former Perth Wildcat Damian Martin.

It’s understood the basketball program takes the form of basketball clinics run throughout the Pilbara during school holidays, after school and on weekends.

The Girls FX Leadership Program entails modelling workshops for young girls that in the past has involved overseas travel to international fashion shows and ‘Cultural Leadership Tours’ across the world.

Awarded under the Indigenous Australians Health Program, the purpose of the grant is to “improve the health of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a variety of comprehensive activities focused on local health needs as well as targeted activities addressing geographic and specific disease processes”.

The grant was awarded in April 2019 before the federal election and is set to last until June 2022.

At the time it was awarded, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health was current Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, and the Federal Health Minister was current Health Minister Greg Hunt.

GRPF has previous ties to Minister Wyatt; NIT understands GRPF Managing Director White-Hartig preferenced her votes to the Minister when she ran for his seat of Hasluck with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in the 2019 federal election.

In a statement to NIT, a Department of Health spokesperson said the Department “does not comment on election matters” and that the GRPF was funded under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program to deliver the modelling and basketball programs.

“Grants awarded under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program, including to the Global Roaming Pilbara Foundation, include requirements for engagement and support from local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not answer questions about how basketball and modelling programs address specific disease processes as stated in the grant’s objective.

“The grant to Global Roaming Pilbara Foundation supported sporting and leadership activities within this local context.”

While GRPF declined to comment on their bid for the Perth Wildcats, Chief Operating Officer Brett Warner told NIT the Foundation’s programs “align with the requirements of the Commonwealth grant”.

“GRPF fulfils all its reporting obligations and we have had nothing but positive feedback from stakeholders and the wider community,” he said.

However, Warner also said the Pathways to Excellence Basketball Program aims to “provide support and opportunities to children who wish to pursue a potential career in professional sport”, despite being funded to focus on local health needs and specific disease processes.

“GRPF works from within the community to deliver programs which give Indigenous youth the chance to participate in basketball while also engaging in leadership and community improvement activities,” Warner said.

He did not expand on what these community improvement activities were and how they related to addressing geographic and specific disease processes.

“We are guided by the needs of our youth and this leads to lifelong positive outcomes,” he said.

Warner did not elaborate on what outcomes had been achieved since the Foundation received the $3.3 million grant, instead referring to the GRPF website.

By Hannah Cross