Former Aboriginal Arts Center head Brett Evans jailed for defrauding artists

The former CEO of an Indigenous arts center has been jailed for pocketing profits from the work of Indigenous artists.

Brett Evans was sentenced to four years and six months in prison by Mount Isa District Court after pleading guilty to 35 counts of dishonestly using his position with intent to gain an advantage for himself.

The former managing director of the Mirndiyan Gununa Aboriginal Corporation on Mornington Island has sold artwork for $425,378.20, most of which was painted by the late Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda artist, Sally Gabori.

The court heard Evans claim the works were given to him, but issued company invoices for each work, misleading buyers who thought they were dealing directly with the art center.

The court also heard that Evans issued certificates of authenticity to make the sales appear legitimate.

At sentencing, Judge Ian Dearden said Evans had an important and central role in society and that artists relied on his honesty and skill.

Acting Registrar of the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Societies, Gerrit Wanganeen, said Evans used his position to take advantage of artists in Queensland’s remote community.

“This exploitation of artists and community goodwill is abhorrent,” Wanganeen said.

“It’s a reminder for all boards, and especially arts center boards, to be familiar enough with corporate affairs to spot warning signs of wrongdoing within their ranks.”

Evans will serve 20 months without parole and was ordered to pay reparations of $421,378.20 to the company, the estate of Sally Gabori and other artists.

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