Sharon Lee Westerman charged over ‘stolen’ Njamal People’s Trust funds
A prominent indigenous woman from the Pilbara has become the first person charged over major discrepancies in the Njamal People’s Trust, which reaps $4.5 million annually in mining royalties.
Sharon Lee Westerman, the former managing director of Njamal Mining, a wholly owned subsidiary of the trust, faces four counts of stealing as a servant and appeared in Perth Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
She also appeared in Joondalup Courthouse on Monday to answer a separate, unrelated charge of common assault in circumstances of racial aggravation. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
It’s understood the charges are not part of Deputy State Counsel Alan Sefton’s inquiry into allegations that trust funds have been misappropriated. That probe, ordered by Attorney-General John Quigley in May, is still under way.
Ms Westerman rose to prominence after her son Lee Buzzard, a diesel fitter with Rio Tinto, was killed in a work accident last year.
Now living in the Perth suburb of Landsdale, Ms Westerman became an advocate for workplace safety after her son’s death at the Channar iron ore operations near Paraburdoo in June last year.
She has since set up the Lee Buzzard Foundation to help other families affected by workplace accidents. Ms Waterman was managing director of Njamal between 2013 and 2015. Detectives claim she stole four amounts of money totalling $14,106 between March and September 2015, allegations her lawyer Mark Andrews said she would “vigorously oppose”.
The trust, set up in 2003 to bring opportunity and jobs to the remote Njamal language group in the east Pilbara, attracts royalties from lithium, gold and iron ore mines run by Atlas Iron, Altura Mining, Consolidated Minerals and Millennium Minerals.
Chief Magistrate Steven Heath set down a two-day trial for June 28 next year.
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