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Former Aboriginal commission head to stand trial on fraud, deception charges

Geoff Clark, once Australia’s most senior Aboriginal leader, will stand trial on hundreds of charges that he defrauded $2 million in funds and assets from community bodies that managed money for Indigenous communities.

Mr Clark, the former head of the now-disbanded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 380 charges of fraud and deception offences over allegations he misappropriated money from government-funded organisations that managed programs for Indigenous communities in western Victoria.

Geoff Clark outside court in 2019.

Geoff Clark outside court in 2019.Credit:Warrnambool Standard

He had a further 170 charges either discharged by magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg or withdrawn by prosecutors in a long-running pre-trial hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court, which heard there was sufficient evidence for him to stand trial on most of the charges.

Mr Clark, 69, pleaded not guilty to all remaining charges at the end of the committal hearing on Tuesday.

Police allege Mr Clark misappropriated money from the Framlingham Aboriginal Trust and other Indigenous community groups he was connected with between 2000 and 2010.

Investigators allege he defrauded the organisations of $2 million, part of which he used to pay private legal bills and to fund a “lavish” deck at his home in Framlingham, near Warrnambool.

Geoff Clark and sons Jeremy (middle) and Aaron outside court in 2019.

Geoff Clark and sons Jeremy (middle) and Aaron outside court in 2019.Credit:Warrnambool Standard

Mr Clark’s wife, Trudy, and one of their sons, Jeremy, will also stand trial on similar charges, and prosecutors allege they operated a joint criminal enterprise.

Ms Clark, 66, was committed to trial on 20 charges and pleaded not guilty. The majority of charges against her – about 460 in total – were discharged by the magistrate on the grounds there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

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