Central Australia’s peak organisation representing local Indigenous people spent more than half a million dollars promoting the Voice.

In the lead-up to the referendum, the Central Land Council spent $602,635 to fund a Voice information team manned by three full-time staff and two casuals.

But chief executive Les Turner told a senate estimates hearing that the CLC did not use Commonwealth funds to bankroll the campaign.

“Our executive committee and council endorsed forming a small team to inform communities about the Voice and the referendum to support informed voting,” he said on Friday.

The team conducted 31 remote community visits, held public meetings in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs and developed Voice information recordings in eight regional languages and in English.

“The information campaign was funded by self-generated income and grants,” Mr Turner said.

“CLC did not use (Aboriginals Benefit Account grants) or other Commonwealth funding.”

The CLC consists of 90 traditional owners across Central Australia, elected by communities to represent them.

Under questioning by senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Mr Turner said the CLC sent out a direction to staff to not work on polling booths.

“If they did so, they’d have to take leave and work in a private capacity,” he said, agreeing to provide the details of how many staff members did take leave on notice.

But Labor senator Louise Pratt said she felt “uncomfortable” about holding the CLC to account on what staff do when they take official leave.

The CLC appeared before the senate estimates alongside the Tiwi Land Council, Anindilyakwa Land Council and Northern Land Council.

Tiwi Land Council said it allocated “a little bit of staff time, maybe” but overall spent “a little bit above nothing and below next to nothing” promoting the referendum.

The Anindilyakwa Land Council backed the Voice but did not put any funds towards the campaign. Meanwhile, the Northern Land Council said it spent about $19,000.

All three bodies said they were not aware of staff working on polling booths.

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