LETTER: Could a cultural centre ameliorate Alice's problems?


Sir – Could this be an idea for Alice Springs?
The Ngemba people of Brewarrina, known for their heritage listed fish traps in the Barwon River, endured a massacre at nearby Hospital Creek in 1887, but recent years have seen them “recovering their heritage and developing their cultural life in the face of growing awareness that traditional values and pride in their culture is the key to the future.  It is this renaissance of Aboriginal culture that led to the establishment of the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum,” so says the brochure that promotes the Museum.
There was some talk in the Alice Springs News Online postings last year about an Aboriginal Cultural Centre on the vacant block where the Melanka Lodge once stood.  Brewarrina, a much smaller town than Alice, has streets that are peaceful, clean and friendly, with Indigenous staff attending to litter issues, although, like Wilcannia, it wasn’t always this way as the caged shopfronts attest, and the system needs constant monitoring. Could an Aboriginal Culture Centre on the old Melanka site could be a key to the future prosperity of Alice Springs?
Instead of sinking hundreds of millions into mandatory alcohol rehabilitation centres, perhaps the NTG could invest in an Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
An independent review into local government has released ‘Better, Stronger Local Government – The Case for Sustainable Change’ (www.localgovernmentreview.nsw.gov.au).  It includes many towns with Aboriginal heritage and dares to look at new ways of creating a sustainable future for Australian communities, particularly the section on political governance (7.1), viz., ‘For some years now there have been moves to reduce the number of councilors, based on notions that Australia has too many politicians and that a council should be a board of directors…’, etc.
The bottom line is that an Aboriginal Cultural Centre would be good for morale and business, if businesses could agree to form an Accord with police in the interests of the town and the politics involved could be surmounted.  Perhaps, the NTG, the ASTC and the Chamber of Commerce could see some benefit in driving this in negotiation with Aboriginal Organisations.
Russell Guy


  1. Hi Russell, we’ve all heard from the overseas tourism promotional tours that the tourists to Alice Springs want an aboriginal cultural experience.
    I too have thought of a massive cultural centre on the old Melanka site. It could be designed with indoor and outdoor areas, leaving the important trees intact.
    It could feature “hubs” explaining the history and diversity of aboriginal artworks, highlighting famous painters from places like Papunya, Kintore etc, with maps showing the areas, and feature artists in a studio actually producing their works. Maybe a gallery such as Muk Muk or M’bantua could lease an area in the art section as a way of offsetting costs.
    Other areas could feature weaponry, survival skills, basket weaving, bush food, with a café such as Kungas Can Cook (or similar), law etc.
    The site is massive and could be similar to Brewarrina, with design elements similar to the Outback At Isa centre.
    It could be a springboard to tours at outlying communities such as those areas mentioned previously if visitors want to further explore an area they have sampled in Alice Springs.
    The employment and economical benefits are obvious. Cultural dancing shows could be programmed at various times of the day. One example is Ayers Rock / Olgas, with a feature promoting those areas with the visitors able to book tours to these areas if they want to further explore them.
    Wouldn’t is be great to create an area within this centre similar to the displays we sadly lost when the Panorama Guth was lost.
    Pre and post European settlement could be another section, showing that there were problems in the past, and show the difficulties in the meeting of these cultures with ours, however in doing that we could develop strategies for future harmony, however we would have to be honest in the problems we face.
    Another “hub” could briefly showcase top end aboriginal culture, thereby creating a glimpse of the opportunities for tourists to extend their holiday to Darwin, and further immerse themselves in aboriginal culture within the NT, enhancing the economic benefits Territory wide.
    I remember being dragged into IKEA with my wife, and getting lost as the whole floor plan meandered from one section to the next over a couple of stories, and feeling lost in the whole experience, a design like that would lead people into a complete world of aboriginal culture, in a seemingly endless journey. Great idea Russell, although I am still going to sign off as just “Ray”. Sorry to disappoint.

  2. Some good ideas, Ray. What are the odds on rewarding virtue, rather than punishing vice from the NTG and someone from the ASTC in association with the Chamber of Commerce calling a meeting to see how it goes?


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