Stanley Waistcoat, 8, plays at dusk by his Grandmother's 'humpy' bush house, by the Stuart Highway just north of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. His grandmother left town and built the 'humpy house' a few months ago to get away from troubles exacerbated by overcrowded houses. Tennant Creek is currently in a housing crisis.

Stanley Waistcoat, 8, plays at dusk by his Grandmother's 'humpy' bush house, by the Stuart Highway just north of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. His grandmother left town and built the 'humpy house' a few months ago to get away from troubles exacerbated by overcrowded houses. Tennant Creek is currently in a housing crisis. Photo: Ella Rubeli

The Australian Crime Commission has been investigating financial dealings associated with one of the nation's most important Aboriginal organisations, which delivers services to an area bigger than Britain.

The Global Mail and Fairfax Media have learnt that two men who have worked closely with Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation, which is based in the remote Northern Territory town of Tennant Creek, have recently assisted a commission investigator inquiring into the use of corporation money.

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Destroyed: Children play in the wrecked demountable that was supposed to be the new community centre. Photo: The Global Mail/Ella Rubeli

Although an ACC spokeswoman said that her organisation ''cannot comment on who it is or is not investigating'', the commission's national indigenous intelligence taskforce probes abuses of power and trust as part of its brief, alongside its main job of gathering intelligence on child abuse.

Controversy over the management of Julalikari, which services the massive Barkly region, where four out of five people are indigenous, is central to a rift within the Aboriginal leadership in Tennant Creek, 1000 kilometres south of Darwin.

A series of complaints has led several Canberra agencies to take a closer look at the operations of Julalikari, a housing body which also runs aged care and night patrols, work-for-the-dole and training programs, and delivers municipal services to Tennant Creek's town camps and remote communities. The two most serious complaints that have come to light are that:

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'It’s not safe there now. The fibres are ripped apart. Sharp things stick out. Bricks are hanging down'. Photo: The Global Mail/Ella Rubeli

In a town with a severe housing crisis and chronic overcrowding, demountable buildings purchased by Julalikari three years ago with $2 million of public money for housing and community centres, are lying unused and, in at least one case, trashed. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said it was ''aware that the project has not been delivered properly''.

Monies spent by Julalikari have allegedly been mismanaged. The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations earlier this year commissioned a special audit of Julalikari's accounts, following serious allegations of mismanagement by a former employee. ORIC says it is not now investigating Julalikari. But Julalikari's management declared, in a newspaper advertisement it took out in October this year, that ORIC has carried out an audit which found there had been no wrongdoing under any law or under Julalikari's own rules.

Within Julalikari, there have been moves to oust its charismatic general manager, Pat Brahim, who sits on numerous government committees. She chairs the advisory body for the Aboriginals Benefit Account, which (under federal government scrutiny) grants money from royalties paid by resources companies on the proceeds of mining indigenous lands.

Brahim has strenuously defended Julalikari against allegations that the organisation has suffered significant financial loss through nepotism and corruption. She says opposition to her organisation's management was driven by non-Aboriginal people in the town.

However, in the course of an investigation conducted over several months, we have found that Julalikari's critics were correct in at least one respect: Canberra has failed to ensure public monies were properly spent. At Tingkarli town camp, for instance, we found children playing inside a ruined demountable, which had been intended to serve as a community centre but is now a wreck of smashed windows, pocked fibre walls and gaping flooring.

Barefoot kids jumped from joist to joist, dodging the exposed nail heads in this flimsy building which, unconnected to utilities, has not hosted one community event since it was erected more than three years ago.

The children's only alternative playground is the street, or a dirt field, which people often drive across as a back road to the camp. When we visited, about 12 youngsters, aged from three years to teenaged, were playing house in the tattered demountable. They had made the skeletal remains of one room a kitchen and hung a makeshift curtain. But even as we watched, a little boy cut his foot. A small girl grazed her leg. Their siblings carried them away.

''It's not safe there now. The fibres are ripped apart. Sharp things stick out. Bricks are hanging down; what if they fall on top of them [the children]?'' says Tingkarli resident Kelisha Green, 19.

Four other community centres and three bedsitter flats in kit form, which Julalikari bought using a June 2009 allocation of $2 million from the Aboriginals Benefit Account, also remained uncompleted.

None of these buildings ''meets the needs of Aboriginal people and I doubt they'd meet the needs of anybody, including non-indigenous people'', says Barb Shaw, the Barkly Shire Council president. She adds that people in the blue-ribbon Melbourne suburb of Toorak would never tolerate such small, hot quarters.

''To me they looked like temporary public toilet blocks that would have been put up for a festival or a carnival,'' Shaw says.

The Tingkarli demountable, plonked on a site without services, next door to the worn-out cement-block community centre it was meant to replace, symbolises government failure to track proper use of public funding, says Linda Turner, chairwoman of the local Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation.

Brahim says the demountable debacle was not Julalikari's fault. She says the Northern Territory government had failed to connect the buildings to services because of timing; it cut short a contract with workers who were meant to do the job.

She says Julalikari has asked the Territory government to pay for the power and water to be connected to the bedsits.

''The damage that you saw at Tingkarli, that was family members that allowed their children to do that,'' Brahim says.

''We've gone back to talk to them, to say that what we're going to do is take the demountable away and demolish the old community centre, the frame that's up there, and we're not going to put anything back there because … families are allowing their kids to go in and do the destroying, so there is no pride.''

Shaw says it is unfair to blame the families.

''Government have to take this responsibility. They have to be accountable for it,'' she says.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet responds: ''We have been working closely with Julalikari to ensure the matter is resolved and the buildings are able to be used by the community as intended. The department expects the demountables to be properly completed and fit for use.'' However, Turner and Shaw believe that the federal government needs better checks to ensure funding produces results, including actually going to see how funds are being spent.

Tennant Creek has been divided on questions relating to Julalikari's money management since an unsigned copy of a December 2012 letter, written by Colin Gilson, a former Westpac bank regional manager who had worked as the organisation's director of community wealth, began to circulate early this year.

This letter, a copy of which we have obtained, was sent to former federal Aboriginal Affairs minister Jenny Macklin. In it, Gilson alleges that the dealings of Julalikari have been compromised by mismanagement, nepotism and corruption.

He alleges that such malpractice resulted in a ''state of chaos'' in the organisation's construction arm, and on spending money from the federal government's CDEP ''work for the dole'' scheme on items that were outside the government's regulations. He also alleges that equipment, including 20 generator sets and a $120,000 roller, had been stolen by Julalikari insiders. Gilson stands by his allegations.

Brahim has rebutted all such allegations. She said Gilson was motivated to try to discredit Julalikari by the fact that he was ''an ex-employee, disgruntled, and he'd been terminated''.

Shaw says it is ''critical'' that Tony Abbott, who has declared himself the ''Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs'', visit the Tennant Creek town camps.

''I don't see a federal minister coming to Tennant Creek and going out and visiting these Aboriginal families and seeing what's actually on the ground,'' she says.

Published in partnership with The Global Mail.