By ERWIN CHLANDA
A national indigenous centre should be established in Alice Springs as “a living space where people come together to learn, collaborate, celebrate and share the knowledge of our Indigenous history and culture”.
That is the passionate mission of a working group seeking support for the centre under the motto “Nganampa – Our Story, Your Story”.
The race is on for hosting for such an indigenous show place with an Australian focus – and the promoters say Alice Springs needs to get cracking not to miss out to interested parties interstate.
The town council was given a briefing by prominent Aboriginal Harold Furber, the interim chair of the working group, and Scott McConnell, CEO for Ngurratjuta / Pmara Ntjarra Aboriginal Corporation and Ingkerreke Outstations Resource Services Aboriginal Corporation. They say the key objectives are:–
• To celebrate the contribution of Indigenous culture and people to the nation. The Centre will rid Australia of its cultural cringe and reinforce the importance of Indigenous culture in the national psyche to form a shared national identity; creating a cohesive link from the world’s oldest continuous cultures to our contemporary lives of today.
• To bring people together and create opportunities for learning, reconciliation and interaction. The centre will be the leading place for cultural collaboration, knowledge sharing and respecting; a centre that looks at our past and heritage to provide us with the tools to interpret the future and prosper as a nation.
• To be a national Indigenous museum for indigenous art and historical collections from more than 200 groups. The Centre will bring to life Indigenous art and historical collections dating back tens of thousands of years from multiple Indigenous groups, in a central, respectful place. Displays will celebrate and promote acceptance of diversity, link the past and the present with the future, and bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together.
Mr Furber and Mr McConnell, in a brochure given to the councillors, say “the case for action” is that to continue to prosper as a nation, we need to understand and respect the contribution of Indigenous culture.
“Australia has many museums, art galleries and education facilities which offer some insight into indigenous history and culture. Despite the numerous regional and metropolitan based facilities, each of them offering their own contribution to the bigger picture of Indigenous Australia, it is a glaringly obvious that Australia lacks a cohesive and comprehensive centre which is all encompassing of the arts, history and culture of Indigenous Australia.”
They say there is an urgent need to rectify this oversight which not only satisfies the requirement for a central museum repository for Indigenous art and historical collections, but also serves as a living, breathing, dynamic centre for Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborations for sharing knowledge and utilising new technologies.
“Currently, overseas visitors to Australia, and Australians themselves, often express a strong need and desire to experience and connect directly with Aboriginal culture. Research demonstrates a gap between the expectations and realisation.
“The Centre aims not only to fill that gap but assist in creating new opportunities for learning, reconciliation and interaction, together with allowing for social and economic development.”
Mr Furber and Mr McConnell say a volunteer working group of six to eight members will oversee the effective establishment of the centre.
The centre will be a not for profit limited by guarantee company. A for profit company will be established to support commercialisation activities.
The working group is seeking in-principle support for the development of the centre in Alice Springs: “Organisations such as Desert Knowledge Australia, Ingkerreke, Yeperenye and CIS have already indicated their support for the next steps and the working group will seek to harness and convert this support into real investment in the Centre.
“Recent delegations to New Zealand and the United States of America also confirmed the potential partnership with internationally known New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and Te Puia in Rotorua, together with support from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” say Mr Furber and Mr McConnell.
By ERWIN CHLANDA