Thursday, May 30, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeIssue 3They must be joking!

They must be joking!

p2426 Supreme Court rabbit 2 660
No, it’s not an Easter bunny gone astray from a nearby shopping centre. This mild steel, laser cut yellow rabbit bolted to its massive concrete plinth is ‘public art’  and it’s staying, marking the entrance to the reopened thoroughfare between Parsons Street and the Hartley Street carpark, which provides the main access to the new Supreme Court building.
p2426 Supreme Court rabbit 1 300As the visual marker of the approach to the court, the one-minute wonder rabbit – no plaque yet but surely from the Melbourne studio of Peter Mclisky (see image at bottom) – is dismaying.
“Dignified, stately, and authoritative”: these were the qualities sought by the Territory Government for the building.
They are shallow enough given the scope of what could have been striven for – such as an expression of “a fair and accessible legal system for the community”, in keeping with the Department of the Attorney-General and Justice’s vision statement.
Careful thinking about those terms in the context of our troubled jurisdiction – in which Aboriginal people make up 80% of the court lists despite being only a third (36%) of the region’s population – would have led to a very different result.
The thinking would have meant consultation, but there was none, virtually guaranteeing the massive missed opportunity that we now must live with for decades to come.
The government had its technical requirements as to the function of the court spaces, but otherwise it was open slather, underwritten by a 20 year leasing agreement, for owners of the site, the developer 19 Parsons Street Pty Ltd, an affiliated company of Sitzler Bros.
The building, despite its grandiosity and solemn proclamation of its principle purpose, is a commercial building – built for profit. Sitting above the lower storeys housing two court rooms and related spaces, are the fully glazed oval-shaped upper levels available to commercial tenants. (An early taker for their “abundance of natural light” and “incredible views of the awesome Central Australian landscape” – to quote the real estate blurb – is the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.)
p2426 Supreme Court Prue Crouch 450So we shouldn’t be too dismayed by the rabbit. In many ways the form of this feral invasive species is the perfect representation of what has gone on here – the repudiation of all that is rooted in this place, including all the small steps taken between its peoples to better understand one another and so better live together in this hard, beautiful environment.
Left: Supreme Court building viewed from Hartley Street. Photo by Prue Crouch
But wait, the building may be a privately-owned commercial venture, but the thoroughfare out front is public land, vested in the Alice Springs Town Council, and they have a public art policy and a Public Art Advisory Committee, don’t they?
Well, in a confidential meeting in August last year our civic leaders specifically negotiated away any role in relation to public art for the thoroughfare. Why this should have been a matter discussed behind closed doors and never put to the public is not clear.
Council business papers for March this year show they executed a deed of agreement with 19 Parsons Street Pty Ltd, through its director Michael Sitzler. The term of the deed is 20 years and its main purpose is to formalise arrangements for the cleaning, repair and maintenance of the thoroughfare, which will be council’s responsibility in return for an annual $5000 contribution by 19 Parsons Street.
In the background notes to the recommendation that council sign this deed of agreement, council solicitor Chris Turner notes: “The minutes of the [August 2016 Ordinary] meeting record that the CEO advised that the development of public art would be decided by the Public Art Advisory Committee and come from its budget line and it was resolved that the public art section be removed from the negotiation.” [Emphasis added.]
So that’s that. No joke.

Below: Public art anyone? Some of the variations on a theme from Peter Mclisky and this in a town that is a hub for desert Aboriginal art, acclaimed the world over, and soon to be the starting point of the Territory Government’s $100m Arts Trail initiative. 

p2426 Mclisky rabbits 660


  1. All I can say is how bloody ridiculous. A better choice would have been a Kangaroo, a bloody rabbit? Or maybe that’s Peter Rabbit looking for god knows what, maybe wisdom from within the great ship in the desert.

  2. On the other hand the bunny is a clever riposte to the pompous and over dominant Supreme Court building.
    It says that Alice Springs is not dominated by law and order.
    We can laugh at ourselves.
    We are fun loving, welcoming people
    It’s very smart communication.
    Well done
    I love it.

  3. OMG! is all I can come up with. I laughed uncontrollably for about 5 minutes, then the sad truth sank in. This rabbit is for the staying. How utterly frightening!

  4. Given the whole sorry saga of this development, I’d suggest the addition of this peculiar example of public art is entirely appropriate in the circumstances.
    The new edifice of the NT Supreme Court is extraordinarily symbolic of all that is wrong with our experiment in responsible self-government, with all its largely unaccountable intimate interaction with bureaucracy, business and the law.
    However, far more relevant for me is the timing of this commercial development’s completion. I’ve pointed out previously that Alice Springs is a barometer of the economic climate, and this is most evident in the history of high rise development proposals and constructions in our town – it’s quite uncanny. Moreover, the greater the proposals or actual construction of high rise in Alice Springs the more severe is the economic recession associated with those occasions.
    From my perspective this building is on target for heralding the next major economic recession. Irrespective of any assurances to the contrary given by politicians or economists, there appears to be an inexorable alignment of factors indicating that Australia’s national economy has become a house of cards.

  5. Surprised they didn’t transport the Stuart statue there as a companion for the Rabbit. Both feral invasive species.

  6. Thanks for writing this Kieran. It really does seem a fitting ridiculous cherry on top of a bloody sad and awful new development. Still can’t believe this slipped past so many of us who would have willingly fought to restrict such a monstrosity. So worried for the grand narrative this building asserts as it towers and casts shadows across town. A tragic metaphor in steel and glass. As if a sprightly yellow bunny fixes any of it.

  7. Alice’s Yellow Peril (reference to Ron Robertson-Swann’s sculpture for those about to lynch…). How pathetic, and therefore, as previously stated, in perfect harmony with the building and the process of its creation, really.
    Given it is funded by the people, and in a spirit of ‘transparency’ that reflects the design ideology behind the glass Ark, could we know how much this work and its (significant) plinth cost, and how the selection was made?

  8. The more I think about this the more upset I feel. People go to the Supreme Court when they are facing events that are often lifechanging and tragic. It’s a serious time when you need to be at the court house. [The insensitivity of placing] this silly rabbit there. Where is the sense of place, the understanding of needing to provide the correct tone for people at the crossroads of their lives? If a family member has been assaulted, murdered, robbed, you will spend time at this place. Art can provide a spot for reflection and healing.

  9. I went to see the rabbit for myself.
    Two kids walked past, talking in language.
    Then one said to the other in English,
    “That’s the bunny court.”
    So there we have it – out of the mouth of babes and infants – the local name for the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.

  10. The rabbit is quite symbolic. An introduced species that continues to decimate this land costing millions trying to eradicate…….or on a more mocking note the two ears could represent two fingers…..lest we forget.

  11. @Alex Nelson.
    Like the Russian system. The more people starved the bigger the public buildings their government built.
    Re the rabbit, just thumbing their noses at all us bunnies who supply tax monies for them to waste on rubbish.

  12. The Rabbits, written by John Marsden, is partly allegorical fable about colonisation, told from the viewpoint of the colonised. An unseen narrator describes the coming of ‘rabbits’ in the most minimal detail, an encounter that is at first friendly and curious, but later darkens as it becomes apparent that the visitors are actually invaders. The style of the book is deliberately sparse and strange, with both text and image conveying an overall sense of bewilderment and anxiety as native numbat-like creatures witness environmental devastation under the wheels of a strange new culture. (see The Rabbits @

  13. Surely this is a joke!! We have so many amazing artists and metal crafts people in town. Why weren’t they consulted?
    Remove it before we become a laughing stock!! But then with so many visitors in town this weekend we are probably already being laughed at. Where did the money come from for this hideous bunny?

  14. Congratulations to whoever came up with the rabbit. It is a perfect accompaniment, as some correspondents have pointed out, to a building that is totally wrong. I wish that building could fall down. It will forever stand as a testament to the arrogance and distastefulness of Giles and his disgraceful mob. Hi Alice Springs.

  15. The colour of this object is distinctly reminiscent of Melbourne’s “Yellow Peril” (1980), and shows a similar degree of taste. At the time, most of Melbourne’s population urged the City Fathers (it was a while ago) to get rid of it or hide it, and so they did for 20 years. This one would be easier to bury.

  16. No Kieran, they are not joking.
    A sense of humor is not something those in authority in our Northern Territory are known for.

  17. I’m surprised the Yellow Bunny has lasted so long in this vulnerable spot … I know the perfect place for relocation…on the roof on top of the Council Chambers…facing Todd Street…just think of it…the Smiling Bunny…greeting Councillors as they come to work…every day…watching over them…listening with Feral wisdom… as they make their weighty decisions…the Council’s New Patron Saint…”Friends, Alicians, Councillors…Lend Me Your Ears!”..”Here …have a couple of Mine!”

  18. @Interested community Member (the first comment). Sometimes I’m a bit slow off the mark. “A better choice would have been a Kangaroo….”
    Indeed!- A Kangaroo Court!

  19. ‘Rabbit With Yellow Mustard’ and a ‘Camp Oven Court’ seem a suited combination. See an excellent recipe from Milner Meats and a comment on earlier article that the courthouse reminded reader of a camp oven. Perhaps when Adam Giles’ government are celebrity chefs they could cook and eat that rabbit on the top floor. All in all, a costly insult to current and future Central Australians and our townscape.

  20. With the Court House looking like a camp oven…a Yellow Bunny bolted down…and suggestion for a Kangaroo…strewth…you would not want to be (ahem) court on the hop if you are a Feral… nicked by the constabulary…”Into The Oven for you, matey!”

  21. @Greg. Huh? “Rabbit: a poor performer at any time?”. Whoever came up with that one at Oxford Dictionary House musta had one too many Easter Eggs. Coz Bugs the Yellow Feral sure gets the chocolates in the Reproduction Derby! Better than Maybe Diva.

  22. “Public Art”? “Public Disgrace” I suggest.
    The Bunny sculpture is an entirely fitting testimony to the number of bunny planners, designers and approvers throughout the construction of the Glasshouse that elsewhere I’ve described as more suited to Berlin. Sad that in a town that once called itself a Solar City, that this building was permitted and the plans weren’t destroyed at concept stage. Sad too that in 1927 the Rev. John Flynn had a better understanding of passive and even active cooling features in his design of Adelaide House than the team of architects on this project. The Residency too, completed 1928, demonstrates with its wide eaves and extended roof line the need for shading.
    By comparison, the ‘Bunny House’ may just be the biggest warren above ground with a massive air conditioning power load in this ‘Solar City’. What an inappropriate building for our town. The huge glasshouse windows on the north-south axis will ensure it becomes the most power hungry building in town. I hope it will be the first to be taken off-line and not the residential areas when there are power shortages caused in large part by the building itself. The only chance for salvation is that those windows may even (yet?) house thin-film PV arrays that seem to be appearing on the market. Then architect Mark Bell may make a bunny of us all. But even then we will be left with what many believe an inappropriate building for our town. I guess history will decide that point.

  23. I think it is a great building for the centre of town and should be very energy efficient. Smart glass would have been used for the exterior with all the thermal mass, concrete and steel on the inside which should keep the inside temperature stable all year round with some aircon in summer and very comfortable in winter. A lot more energy efficient than most of the single block structures in town.
    Like all high rise buildings in cities this one also will never be pulled down. Better start liking it and most people will,it is a great building.

  24. It’s a pity that Alice has no artists of its own. If only there was someone in town who knew how to draw or make stuff. We could have a local artist making art for us.

  25. Just a FYI from the Peter McLisky website:-
    “The laser-cut rabbits that grabbed our attention come in either a rusted finish or can be powder coated and are available in either 600mm [2 feet] or 3 meters [10 feet] tall. They come with either a rectangular base or a solid “shadow” and prices range between AU$180 and AU$3,400.”
    One wonders what the cost was to the NT Government for this sculpture. Surely something with an indigeneous theme or a combination of indigeneous and non-indigenous Alice Springs/Central Australian culture would have been more appropriate IMHO.

  26. @Chris, posted 16 April. It would be great to learn further why you think this is a great building, separate of the building’s energy performance. Buildings are clearly much more than just their power bills and the thermal comfort that they provide to the occupants, although these are undoubtedly important. I expect any commentary on the building’s environmental credentials should also take into account the embodied energy in the building materials used for its construction.
    I expect you’re right to suggest that this building will perform better with regard to energy efficiency than the generally older stock in town, however any comparisons really need to be made to comparable contemporary buildings, including those with Green Star certified ratings ( has a project directory showing these).

  27. @ Heather Wells:
    Thanks for your information. You have made my day.
    “….come in either a rusted finish or can be powder coated…”
    Every dark cloud has its silver lining, thank goodness they didn’t pick the rusted finish.
    I’ve printed out the image and am going to take it to our Warlukurlangu Artists centre.
    I can see a mass switch to dot rabbits.

  28. @ Frank Baarda (Posted April 18, 2017 at 9:17 am) – Whoa, hang on a minute there, Frank – what’s wrong with rust? In recent years rust is all the rage, we’ve got rusty light poles lining the revamped Parsons Street and north end of Todd Street, and a rusty Greenwell Building built for bureaucracy in Bath Street. Not to mention a rusty mindset of so many who wisely work out how best to spend taxpayers’ dollars for not much benefit to most of us – no, I won’t mention that…
    We’ve been wrong all along thinking the Territory’s official colours are black, white and ochre – it’s not ochre at all, it’s rust! So a rusty rabbit wouldn’t be out of place at all, indeed it’s got a certain metallic ring to it, I reckon.

  29. Enough comments on this little bunny. This one has hopped into town from the hills around, and on the way no doubt got run over then magically turned into gold and immortalised on a pedestal for us to contemplate perhaps how we all got here in the first place.
    Instead let’s put our heads together, consult widely and think of what might really be a sensitive piece of public art to sit beside this new courthouse, no matter what we think of its size, shape, space and function.

  30. @David, 18 April,the energy used in materials for the building construction is irrelevant as it will stand there for a very long time. Finally a new building in town that will not need to be pulled down for decades.The church on Wills Terrace is another example of a building that will stand for centuries (beautiful use of concrete and local sandstone). Love the curves and colours, an attractive high tech solar passive design (all thermal mass inside building insulated by smart glass) perfect for a desert town.

  31. I haven’t seen this yet, but from the photos it looks like a perfect fit. I only hope it’s washable.

  32. @ Chris (Posted April 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm): A nicely ironic touch in your comment, Chris, as the “church on Wills Terrace” (the Catholic Church) was designed by architect Andy McPhee, which I understand was his favourite of the many projects he was involved in during his time in Alice Springs.
    The irony (for me, at least) lies in the fact that the former Commonwealth Bank building that was demolished to make way for the new NT Supreme Court was also designed by Andy McPhee.
    With regards to the “smart glass” insulation of the new Supreme Court – well, that doesn’t accord with information passed on to me that workers inside the building during construction found conditions extremely hot by 10 o’clock each morning.
    I was also informed a few weeks ago that one of the glass panels was [damaged]. This one pane of glass (so I’m told) cost $28,000 to replace, due to having to be sourced from overseas and requiring a specialist from interstate to install it. Anybody able to verify this story?
    [EdAlice Springs News Online put to Michael Sitzler questions about the building’s design features for temperature control and its energy efficiency, as well as about the cost to replace the allegedly damaged pane of glass. Mr Sitzler has not replied. – Erwin Chlanda, Editor]

  33. @Chris, I would argue that all aspects are relevant, while appreciating that we consider the life of a building (dimishing costs). I was truly hoping for some more feedback regarding why the building is great as per your claim, both in its architectural language and construction, as well as in its mixed tenancy model, etc. I think this is a good forum for some considered, in depth commentary. Thanks.

  34. @Alex Nelson (Posted April 18, 2017 at 10:29 am)
    I stand corrected. Nothing wrong with rust. From a geological perspective there is not much difference between ochre and rust anyway, both are oxides of iron.
    Mind you, Joan Baez’s song “Diamonds and Rust” would lose much of its poetry if it was called “Tetrahedrally crystalized carbon and ochre”.

  35. I agree with Chris, I like the building. Very impressive, although I didn’t know about the smart glass. Good to see something new and on such a scale in town, although some people would like to see no growth in town so it could be forever just like that town in that book.

  36. From reading these comments over a number of years, there are a lot of disgruntled people who have moved to Alice Springs in recent times, who appear to want the place to conform to their aspirations.
    They talk about “remote” and “communities” in the abstract.
    They have no idea of Mbantua.
    They want what they think life should offer, according to what they read in the glossy inserts or la dolce vita on television.
    When the lights go out and it’s time to cook dinner on an open fire, what then, ye dreaming?

  37. @ Russel Guy. Can’t quite make any sense of this comment, however most of the comments come from people who are not exactly recent arrivals. Alex born here, Frank forty plus years, etc.
    All quite irrelevant to the subject anyway.
    I think I have figured it out.
    It is Michael Sitzler giving us the finger, as he leaves town, and for voting out his mate Adam Giles who gave him the job.
    Which produced a horror of a building which we all dislike intensely.
    We really need to get to the bottom of the Council decision to exempt it from the Public Art process.
    Over to you Damien.

  38. While all of us have been rabbiting on about the iniquitous Yellow Feral, we have overlooked coming up with a birth name for this little fellow.
    I would like to toss my hat into the name ring with a suggestion – MELANKA.
    It would commemorate a hostel of legendary fame, a veritable warren of boltholes where countless numbers of us young Ferals lived and loved and multiplied and are yet to be eradicated from the fabric of a great town!

  39. Thanks Kieran, for those insights. “Dignified, stately, and authoritative”? I’d say more like undignified, overblown and suffering a severe case of disproportionality.
    Dylan once commented that a woman’s leopard skin pillbox Jackie O hat “balances on your head like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine”. This building balances on our architectural landscape like a dead and bloated beached whale.
    Perhaps the Sitzlers could complete their act of contempt for their old home town by naming it the “Beached Az” building?

  40. I like it. Yellow Bunny is a meeting place for us now that the sails are gone. It’s easy to identify and everyone knows about it.
    Yellow Bunny is central to the post office, mall, shopping, bakeries and coffee shops.
    The kids like it too.

  41. @$for Eugene. Mate, what we have to remember here is that Mr Dylan was a feral social agitator who got a Nobel Prize for such immortal lyrics as “Lay,Lady, Lay, Lay Across My Big Brass Bed”..if a bloke can score a Nobel when he can’t even get the word grammatically correct (it should be Lie, Lady, Lie, Lie across my big etc)…then I would like to nominate Melanka Bunny for a Nobel…for agitating us lot over a far more worthy social topic…a court house building…can see Melanka Bunny in future years…on the roof of the Council Chambers…laughing….at us silly mere mortals…rabbiting on …over a feral…sucked in!

  42. Re John Bell and lie lady lie. Sorry mate, you are not up with your music.
    I would suggest it is a take off from Bob Dylan’s classic which begins “Lay, lady, lay”.
    Best wishes to you.

  43. I love the Bunny. Goes to show Michael has a great sense of humour. What a way to give the finger to your detractors. Hilarious.

  44. This is an insult to the arts and cultural community of Alice Springs, and a neglect of the enormous capacity we have here. A bit similar to the Gunner government sending $1m to Sydney for a arts / cultural event (Partyeme) in Alice Springs.

  45. In the view from Anzac Hill looking south over the town and Heavitree Gap, the outsize glass building is the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. The four-storey $18m courthouse opened in 2016 and has divided local opinion especially over the public / private agreement between the government and Sitzler Construction.


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