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HomeIssue 26Sparks fly between Festival and Imparja, sacred sites authority

Sparks fly between Festival and Imparja, sacred sites authority

PHOTO: Sacred rocks behind the Mbantua performance area at the centre of the latest festival controversy.
Mbantua Festival chairman Neville Perkins has clarified an issue surrounding a statement he made yesterday about sponsorship negotiations with Imparja TV, but he attacked its CEO Alistair Feehan over a string of other matters.
Meanwhile Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) CEO Ben Scambary has lashed out at Mr Perkins over statements about costs charged for sacred site clearance.
Mr Perkins gave a statement to the Alice Springs News Online following a response from Mr Feehan late yesterday, which appeared on the News Online for several hours this morning, before being withdrawn by Mr Feehan.
Mr Perkins was quoted in the report as saying that Imparja “had committed $100,000 from its alcohol advertising revenue” but that Mr Feehan “had tried to block that payment”.
The story draft was both emailed and read out to Mr Perkins ahead of posting, but he now says there had been a “misunderstanding” and he had not made that assertion “as such”.
However, Mr Perkins says now: “The facts are that we approached Imparja, through its chairperson, and applied for sponsorship of $100,000 for our Mbantua Festival some time ago.
“The Imparja chairperson indicated to us that he was supportive of the festival and that he would take our submission to the Imparja board.
“Mr Feehan’s allegation [in the statement now withdrawn] that he made an offer for Imparja to become a media partner, which he alleges was ‘refused by the organisers’, is news to us.
“Mr Feehan later advised us that he had rejected or refused our request for Imparja sponsorship. We then decided to go over his head to the Imparja board,” Mr Perkins says.
“It is interesting to note that Mr Feehan has exposed himself by now admitting that he had refused, rejected or blocked our sponsorship request to Imparja.
“We have no knowledge whatsoever of Mr Feehan’s latest allegation that the Imparja chair had agreed with his refusal of our sponsorship request.
“This had not been communicated to us and indeed we are still waiting to hear from the chair and the Imparja board about the outcome of our request to the board for sponsorship.
“If Imparja had only $30,000 in its Alcohol Advertising Revenue Community Fund, then Imparja could have offered us sponsorship in kind in the nature of free air time to advertise our festival, but not even this was forthcoming from Imparja.
“Unlike Imparja, CAAMA worked in very well with us and kindly provided discounted technical production facilities and advertising on CAAMA Radio.
“We ran out of time waiting for Imparja and in the meantime we had received a great offer of sponsorship which we accepted from the TEN TV Network, a non-Indigenous owned network, in the nature of free air time valued at about $100,000, in the absence of Imparja TV.
“To their commendable credit, the Ten Network, unlike Imparja, came to the party of our major Aboriginal cultural festival and did a great job with great adverts in the lead up to the festival,” says Mr Perkins.
“Contrary to Mr Feehan’s ludicrous claim, we have been discussing Mr Feehan and Imparja’s lack of support and sponsorship with a number of concerned Imparja board members in recent times.
“All the Aboriginal owners and shareholders should now be asking, as we are, why Mr Feehan and Imparja, Australia’s only Indigenous owned, satellite delivered Remote Commercial TV Service, have failed to support or sponsor in any way [the] cultural festival hosted by our local Arunta traditional owners, leaders, native title holders in Alice Springs for Alice Springs.
“We should also all be asking why Mr Feehan did not see fit to cover the various festival events for Imparja and for the Nine Network, along with all the other media at the festival, including SBS and National Indigenous TV?
“I will make myself available to discuss these issues and the truth further with the Imparja Board at their next meeting.”
Meanwhile Dr Scambary says: “The AAPA rejects Mr Perkins’ account of his dealing with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority as being scurrilous and misleading.
“The AAPA agreed to cap costs for issuing a site clearance for the festival at $5000, despite estimating that it would cost this organization $15,000.
“Shambolic last minute planning on the part of the organisers pushed the total cost of issuing a site clearance to $23,000.
“So the AAPA actually subsidised the Mbantua Festival to the tune of $18,000. This is despite the considerable funding granted to Arrulka Business Aboriginal Corporation by the Aboriginal Benefits Account.
“In addition custodians of important Alice Springs sacred sites showed immense good will to the festival organisers. This is despite their serious misgivings about the impacts of such a large event on sacred sites within the Telegraph Station Reserve,” Dr Scambary says.
“Their concerns about non-Arrente men dancing close to a specific sacred site were raised and through extensive consultation were ultimately accommodated by the resulting AAPA Authority Certificate in a way that was appropriate.
“Mr Perkins comments about the concerns of female custodians and his disregard for their cultural responsibilities are offensive, inflammatory and unnecessary.”


  1. Any chance AAPA could break that down for us? $23,000 sounds like a lot of money for a lot of jam.
    In the photo, women are seen dancing in front of some rocks that some among us hold dear. So what? It’s not like they were doing anything beyond the pale, like playing beach volleyball.

  2. I would like to post a question to Arrulka Business Corporation. How many local Aboriginal, particularly Arrente people, helped organise this event from outside the event organisers?
    I believe a substantial amount of money was granted for this festival, in which not many local people were utilised. It is one thing to have asked Aboriginal corporations and orgnisations to help promote the event, or to showcase their business, it is another to utilise the skills and knowledge of local Aboriginal people. Too often you see event organisers going interstate. Where did the money go from the revenue of ticket sales?

  3. The fact that a few indigenous organisations are bickering is nothing new. But the AAPA’s claim the site clearance cost them $23k to issue is.
    Someone in AAPA management ought to be asking some serious questions about their costs, efficiencies and whose interests AAPA is serving.

  4. Don’t know if I’ve been living under a rock in town, but I barely knew any details of the festival, nor when it was on or the high caliber of acts that were in town!

  5. You not the only one Matt Roberts, others have said the same to me, was waiting for a flyer in the letter box detailing what was on.

  6. @3 You must be living under a rock in the Alice Matt. The Mbantua Festival was extensively advertised and very well covered in the months leading up to the Festival with posters in many local Alice shops, on CAAMA Radio, on Radio 8HA, on Sun FM, through a stand at the Alice Show in July this year, major articles in the Centralian Advocate and in many great frequent television advertisements on the Network Ten’s Central Digital Television. Many flyers were also distributed widely around the Alice.

  7. @5 Many Central Australian Arunta people, including many local Arunta elders, leaders, traditional owners, cultural consultants, native title holders and staff, helped to host and to organise our first successful Mbantua Aboriginal Cultural Festival.
    The Festival was significantly funded by ABA Aboriginal mining royalty money, some major sponsors such as Opera Australia, Ten Network Central Digital Television, some local businesses such as Central Car Rentals, Coleman’s Printing, IGA supermarkets, John Cumming of Todd Plaza, some funding from our Territory Government, some sponsorship from CAAMA and some small donations, all to their commendable credit.
    We have discovered that t is very expensive having a major cultural festival of this kind in Alice Springs and indeed this festival has cost us over $2 million.
    We are still waiting on our very own Adam Giles and his Territory Government to come to the party with funding n the order of only $150,000, which is a small investment to make towards an Alice Springs based major Aboriginal cultural festival and which is less than the cost of the Territory Government funding the Darwin Symphony Orchestra to perform in Alice Springs and at Uluru Ayers Rock.
    We are also waiting for some sponsors to deliver on their sponsorships for this festival.
    At the end of the day, we still owe $350,000 on the first Mbantua Festival and we would welcome any more sponsorships or donations.
    Perhaps Sally could help us raise the funds we need to pay off this successful world class Aboriginal Cultural Festival for our town, the Alice.

  8. As the administrative head of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA), ostensibly responsible for a government authority run from Darwin, Dr Scambary should know better than to launch such an offensive and irresponsible diatribe against myself and our first Mbantua Aboriginal Cultural Festival, laced as it was with ludicrous language that is not based upon the facts.
    Dr Scambary’s recent irresponsible outburst in Alice Springs News Online against myself and our successful first Mbantua Aboriginal Cultural Festival again highlights the need for our Territory Government to review and reform AAPA and its Act as a matter of some urgency.
    At the same time, our Territory Government should have a close look at Dr Scambary to see if he is the right person to be running the administration of AAPA in future. Our successful first Mbantua Festival has not been the first to have some serious problems with AAPA and its Act, I can remind him and the readers of Alice Springs News Online.
    We had no problems with the local staff of AAPA in processing our application for an AAPA certificate to have our Festival in our own country at the old Telegraph Station. Dr Sophie Creighton and other AAPA staff at Alice Springs, much to their commendable credit, did a very good job processing our application and liaising with us. Some Alice Springs based AAPA staff who attended our Mbantua Festival have congratulated us, told us that the Festival was great and that they enjoyed many Festival events.
    For the information of Dr Scambary and the readers of Alice Springs News Online, the facts and the truth are as follows:
    1. We had to apply for an AAPA certificate to have much of our Mbantua Festival, including the “Bungalow Song” Show and traditional dancing, at the old Telegraph Station, our very own Arunta country.
    2. We were initially told by AAPA that we would have to pay a fee of $10,000 for the certificate to be issued by AAPA and then we were told by Dr Scambary that he was waiving $5,000 of this fee and we would have to pay $5,000 for the AAPA certificate to be issued. I had advised Dr Scambary that I am an Arunta Traditional Owner and Custodian. We were left wondering why we had to pay so much or anything to AAPA to have our major Aboriginal Cultural Festival in our very own country and why Dr Scambary would not waive the AAPA fees to support or sponsor our inaugural Mbantua Festival, which was hosted and organised by our very own local Arunta elders, leaders, traditional owners, native title holders and custodians.
    3. Dr Scambary never advised me that there were other costs to AAPA in processing its certificate and the first we knew about the other AAPA costs was when we read his recent diatribe in Alice Springs News Online. He should have done the right thing, but he did not, to exercise his own authority under the AAPA Act to waive the AAPA fee to issue the certificate.
    4. Not only had I asked AAPA to waive the cost to issue its certificate on several occasions, I had complained to the Territory Minister responsible for AAPA at the time and to the Chief Minister’s Department in Alice Springs, when I was lead to believe that this AAPA cost would be waived in support or sponsorship of our first Mbantua Festival.
    5. During the course of our deliberations with AAPA at Alice Springs over Mbantua Festival, we became aware that AAPA had some so called registered local Aboriginal custodians, who would not be identified by AAPA staff but who were advising AAPA about whether or not AAPA would issue a certificate for our Mbantua Festival at the old Telegraph Station. We were also told that some of these unidentified custodians had advised AAPA that they were not happy about our Mbantua Aboriginal Cultural Festival being held at the old Telegraph Station and that our Aboriginal men should not dance at the old Telegraph Station site where the Festival was held. There was no distinction made by AAPA at the time whether these men were Arunta men or other tribal men.
    6. Anyway, I advised AAPA staff that I did not think that AAPA was getting the right advice from the right custodians for Atherreyerre, also known as the old Telegraph Station, for our Aboriginal men, including our Arunta men, have been having ceremonies, dancing and singing at Atherreyerre for thousands of years from before there was a Telegraph Station and that this could be proved, including looking at very old film footage from the Spencer and Gillen era of the old Telegraph Station. No offence was ever intended or directed at any Arunta custodian for Atherreyerre, contrary to Dr Scambary’s allegations.
    7. Finally, after we had to follow up at length with AAPA we were issued a certificate by AAPA in time for our Mbantua Festival to commence on 9 October this year. AAPA required us to protect some of the sacred sites near the Festival events, which we did without question at much expense to our Festival budget. However, we were left wondering again why AAPA has not seen fit to date to protect all the sacred sites all the time at Atherreyerre and why a number of our sacred sites at the old Telegraph Station have already been damaged by visitors over many years as they have not been protected. I think we made history, among other things, by providing protection, that AAPA has not yet provided over our sacred sites within the old Telegraph Station National Park, during a major Aboriginal Cultural Festival event.
    8. We have to question why has AAPA hitherto not provided protection for the various sacred Arunta sites with the old Telegraph Station National Park and why is it that the many other major non-Indigenous events that have been held at the old Telegraph Station over many years have not been required to provide protection to our various sacred Arunta sites during these events.
    9. Far from being “shambolic”, as wrongly and offensively alleged by Dr Scambary, our excellent organisers and contractors have delivered a quite successful and well received world class Mbantua Aboriginal Cultural Festival for our great town of Mbantua, Alice Springs, despite the difficulties we experienced with Dr Scambary and AAPA in Darwin.

  9. @ 9 Please don’t murder that pint and join with us in celebrating our town’s first successful world class Mbantua Aboriginal Cultural Festival Nimby!

  10. Way to go Neville – pick a fight with everyone including poor Matt who was just saying that he didn’t know much about it. Then you say: You must have been living under a rock.

  11. I find it interesting that Neville Perkins in Point 7 of his post from October 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm has felt cause to mention that AAPA has failed to do any actual protecting of sacred sights.
    As Alice’s own Don Quixote has mentioned in past posts, posts concerning fires damaging sacred trees on the Todd’s banks, AAPA doesn’t do protection. I don’t know what they do do, but protection, apparently, ain’t part of it.

  12. Neville never “picked a fight”. He responded to issues raised, and very well too. Matt asked rhetorically if he had been living under a rock. Neville answered with a degree of humour. The festival was a first, and firsts are never easy. Congratulations Neville and everyone who helped to put this festival on. I love that the festival was conceived, planned and run by local people.
    I love that these people shared their vision and creativity with us all. Thank you. PS … I was not a part of the festival or the team that built it, just in case anybody is wondering.

  13. @1. A cynic might conclude that the AAPA is a convenient vehicle for some people to access tax-free, non quarantined payments. $23k for elders to tell themselves who could dance where! A nice earner for some.

  14. @2 Surely not the way for you to go Helen. I don’t know what it is like to live under a rock, but I can tell you that I have been between a rock and a hard place some times over the years. I am wondering whether you live under a rock.

  15. To Mr Scambary and AAPA:
    It has taken this long for someone to show this town, country some of its history that some it sounds like, would prefer to remain hidden.
    To those who put this together, every effort and support should be given them. It may have come as a surprise to some, that the remarks and various comment from individuals are out of line.
    When this same area has been used countless times by different races of people – wedding and other events, with motor bikes driven right up to the creek, facing the same rocks and watering place.
    This water hole was the reason for the Telegraph Station to be built here, in the first place. Who lined this water hole with plastic and why? Is another question for you Mr Scambary and why hasn’t anyone spoken before, or is it only money that opens the mouth?
    It seems British colonialism is still with us – divide and conquer certain organisations are good at this.
    Yes the event was so professionally handled that it may have put a few noses out of joint.
    But I do hope people have learnt something from this, in regards to security. Volunteers, rubbish collection and safety. Kids were safe. No mess – fantastic.
    So Mr Scambary what is your agenda and that of the AAPA? It certainly isn’t reconciliation.


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