The board of the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council has been officially advised to remove Roy "Dootch" Kennedy as its chairman after he was charged with child sex offences.
Kennedy, 56, a prominent activist and founder of the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy, appeared in Wollongong Local Court late last week on nine charges, including having sexual intercourse with a child aged between 10 and 16 on six separate occasions between 1992 and 1996.
Police allege he also raped a child at different times between 1997 and 1999.
The registrar of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act, Stephen Wright, has advised the land council that Kennedy can remain as a board member, but should step down as chairman while the matter is before the courts.
Mr Wright told Fairfax Media there was no prohibition under the act on someone holding office while facing criminal charges, but the code of conduct required that anything that could bring the land council into disrepute should be avoided.
"What we're dealing with is horrendous allegations, not crimes," he said.
The NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Victor Dominello, had discussed the matter with Mr Wright, his spokesman said.
Kennedy did not enter pleas to any of the charges last Friday and was released on bail on condition he continue to live at the tent embassy.
He is due to appear in court again next month.
Fairfax Media attempted to contact Kennedy for comment. The Illawarra land council was also contacted for comment.
A number of local Aboriginal community members have said Kennedy must step down as chairman while he faces the charges.
Fairfax Media has been told members of the local land council are seeking to organise an emergency meeting calling for Kennedy to step down.
"Everybody's thinking along the same lines," one traditional custodian of the area, who asked not to be named, said.
"He shouldn't be holding that position until it's all cleared up."
Another community member said: "Personally - I'm a voting member of the land council - I think it's entirely inappropriate."
A spokesman for the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, which oversees local groups, said he could not comment as the matter was before the court. with Bree Fuller