Modern image of the Purga Mission with the cream shed in the background.
Modern image of the Purga Mission with the cream shed in the background. Rob Williams

Petition calls for Purga mission directors to step down

AN EMBATTLED indigenous mission is about to go through a period of upheaval for the second time in the past three years.

A petition is circulating calling for the directors of the Purga Elders and Descendants Aboriginal Corporation to be removed on the basis they are "not direct descendants” of the traditional owners.

It comes amid claims the directors appointed in October had not fulfilled the members' expectations regarding improvements, upkeep and investment in the mission.

Independent director Sam Watson, a Brisbane-based activist, said the petition had not come as a surprise.

He said there had been ongoing problems at Purga and now the committee had received the petition, it would set down a date to hold the Extraordinary General Meeting.

The committee has 21 days to respond to the petition.

"It looks to be a bona fide document and the committee will meet in two weeks time to work out a date and venue,” Mr Watson said.

"We will probably organise to have the next AGM and address the petition at the same time.

"There were no objections to the petition.”

An Annual General Meeting is due to be held after the end of this financial year.

Aunty Jeanie Bartley, a member of the stolen generation who now lives in Sydney, spent 10 days over Easter cleaning out the house at Purga and said she found large amounts of rodent faeces, shown in photos taken before the building was cleaned.

Aunty Jeanie, now 58, hopes the new directors will be more active in maintaining the property.

She believes the current leadership has not performed as expected by members.

"Purga means a lot to me,” Aunty Jeanie, a Jagera woman, said.

"My aunties and uncles were born there. My mum was born there. It gives me everything that as a member of the stolen generation I didn't have in the past.

"I feel my mother there - that's my family that I never had - that's my life.”

Aunty Jeanie was taken from Loamside near Yamanto when she was 10 months old. Her documentation features the letters 'HC' indicating that she was "half caste”.

She said carrying out improvement works at the Purga Mission helped her emotionally.

"It's a wound to the soul that no amount of money, no recognition... there's nothing on earth that can heal it,” Aunty Jeanie said.

Purga has been the subject of controversy in recent years with disputes between members, and dissatisfaction with leadership.

On October 14, 2015, a compliance notice was issued to the corporation and its former directors demanding the reinstatement of 128 members who had been wrongfully removed as members. When the members were not reinstated on January 19, 2016 ,Mr Peter Saunders from the accounting firm of Kennedy Saunders was appointed as the corporation's special administrator.

His role was to reinstate the 128 members, rebuild relationships and strengthen the corporation's rule book; not to resolve member disputes.