The leading aboriginal organisation in Australia, which has handed out billions of pounds in public money over 14 years, is to be abolished.
Despite its annual budget of £600 million, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has failed to improve the lives of ordinary aborigines, the government said yesterday.
It was set up in 1990 as a virtual parallel government to dispense welfare payments, create jobs and improve health, housing and education.
But it has been mired in allegations of nepotism, corruption and mismanagement.
Most of Australia’s 400,000 aboriginal communities suffer from grinding poverty, poor health and high rates of unemployment, imprisonment and domestic violence.
Similar issues affect Torres Strait Islanders, who inhabit the tropical islands scattered between the tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea.
John Howard, the prime minister, said the commission’s responsibilities would be handed back to the federal government.
Some aboriginal leaders said the move was racist and would set back their cause by 50 years.
Ray Robinson, a commissioner from Queensland, said: “It takes away the democratic right of aboriginal people to elect their own representatives.”