By ERWIN CHLANDA
The government will neither confirm nor deny that it added Anzac Oval as a recommended venue for the National Indigenous Art Gallery in Alice Springs.
Reliable sources say that the steering committee charged with the selection of a site recommended only the Desert Park.
Arts Minister Lauren Moss announced in April last year that curator, writer and consultant Hetti Perkins and chief executive of Desart, the peak body for Central Australian Aboriginal art centres, Philip Watkins, “will lead the committee of key experts”.
She says at the end of the committee’s investigation late last year, “two potential sites for the Art Gallery were put out to the community for comment – the old Anzac Hill school site and Desert Park”.
She doesn’t mention here Anzac Oval which has provided contentious, but elsewhere says: “We have also heard loud and clear how important the community green space is at Anzac Hill. Any potential future plans for that site must take that into consideration.”
It is true the Government put out the two sites for public comment – but had the committee put those two sites forward?
Ms Moss did not answer the questions we put to her, which were: “Our information is that Anzac Oval was not on the table as a site at the time the committee undertook their investigations.
“We are informed that the committee did not take the initiative to add it.
“Why was Anzac Oval added? By whom? On what grounds?”
Ms Moss replied: “The project builds on the Territory Labor Government’s commitment to transform and revitalise the Alice CBD, support local business and develop Alice Springs as the inland capital of Australia.”
This appears to be an indirect answer to further questions from us: “If the committee was over-ridden, what does that say about the integrity of the process?
“Should the best interests for such an important cultural project be subservient to another agenda, ie CBD revitalisation (this was clearly to the fore in the government’s ‘Have Your Say’ consultation on the site)?”
Although the government said at the time that the selected site needed to take into consideration cultural considerations as well as proximity, accessibility, size, landscape, there has never been any detailed information in the public domain analysing the two option according to these criteria. In particular, there has been absolutely nothing said about cultural considerations.
Ms Moss did not respond to our request for information about cultural criteria for the two sites.
Ms Moss said further in reply to our questions last Friday: “We will announce the site of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery shortly and the next steps.
“This is just the start of what will be ongoing consultation with the community as this project evolves. We will continue to listen to what residents have to say.”
PHOTO: Anzac Oval at the lunch of the 2016 Masters Games.
National Indigenous gallery process hijacked?