Gunner rewrites the record on gallery consultations


p2524 NIAG recommendations 660

Above: Page 60 of the steering committee’s report clearly recommends only one site for the gallery, the Desert Park.  NATSIAM stands for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Museum, the committee’s preferred name for the project. 

Chief Minister Michael Gunner is re-writing the record on the National Aboriginal Art Gallery consultations.
To a question from Araluen MLA Robyn Lambley in the Legislative Assembly yesterday he said: “We have gone through two consultation processes—one through the steering committee which put up two sites that were deemed suitable or appropriate for this development—one was outside the CBD proper, out at the Desert Park, and one was in the CBD and that is at the bottom of Anzac Hill.”
Mr Gunner is wrong. The fact is that the steering committee recommended only one site. The Desert Park. The committee’s report clearly states that the Anzac Hill site was proposed by the government: it’s there in black and white in the Appendix on page 60,  reproduced above.
Further, in the body of the report, under the heading ‘Location and Building’, the committee sets out its arguments for, one, why the gallery should be in the Northern Territory, two, why it should be in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), and three, why it should be at the Desert Park.
There is no argument put forward in favour  of its location at Anzac Hill. And in the committee’s scoring system for site location, Desert Park scored the highest, 3, and Anzac Hill, the lowest, 1. All other sites the committee considered were designated unsuitable.
p2514 NIAG Philp Watkins, Hetti Perkins 660The committee’s arguments for Desert Park included it being “a landmark destination in itself”, and that its “magnificent natural setting will invite a more holistic understanding of the confluence of environmental, cultural and scientific knowledges expressed in contemporary artistic practice by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and distinguish it from any other public museum in Australia.”
Left: Steering committee co-chairs Philip Watkins and Hetti Perkins. 
On its distance from the town centre, the report notes that the Desert Park is only six kilometres from the centre of town, with walking and cycle paths (connecting it to the CBD). The report provides documentation on visitation to MONA, Hobart’s hugely successful Museum of Old and New Art, which is well outside the centre of the city. It gets 430,000 visitors per annum, 70% of whom are tourists. The report also points to the local example of the Telegraph Station, which is four kilometres from the CBD, and received 243,000 visitors in 2016-17.
Also noteworthy in Mr Gunner’s replies to Mrs Lambley’s questions is his denial that the Minister for Territory Families, Dale Wakefield, is now taking the lead role in the gallery process: “I have no idea what the Member for Araluen is talking about, except to say that the Member for Braitling is a brilliant Alice Springs member. She fights hard for Alice Springs and she makes sure Alice Springs gets more than its fair share. I thank her for her advocacy of Alice Springs.”
He seems to be completely ignorant of statements in an article under Ms Wakefield’s byline published in yesterday’s Advocate. She writes:
“I have spoken to the Chief Minister and have asked to take the lead on finding solutions to these issues so that we can progress this important project for our community. He has agreed.”
Ms Wakefield reiterates the government’s commitment to the Anzac Hill site but recognises that “there is a lot of work to do to gain the confidence of the Alice Springs community and the acceptance of Traditional owners and Custodians.”
Her next step will be to assemble “a team of local people on the ground to engage the community alongside me. Any future decisions we make will be guided by the people of Alice Springs.”
Ms Wakefield’s statement, by the way, does not appear on the government’s media release website and was not distributed to other media.  The Advocate has received tens of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue from the government on this project and has been routinely used to communicate its messages – if not propaganda –  to the exclusion of other media.
Meanwhile, on the Town Council’s rejection of his proposed MOU,  Mr Gunner told Mrs Lambley he is happy for council to “take more time to work through how they handle this process … I thought the memorandum of understanding was a very practical way of dealing with that—having a way that we can formally work together. You do not need an MOU; we work with councils across the Territory all the time without MOUs. It is simply a way of formalising that.”
Alice Springs News Online offered Mr Gunner right of reply. None was to hand at the time of publishing.
National Aboriginal Art gallery: Anzac Oval off the table


  1. The reaction of the politicians, especially Gunner and Wakefield, shows that they have no respect for the custodians of Alice Springs. Should we, the residents be surprised than, that we are not being respected by them?

  2. Everyone is missing the perfect site. It has been bypassed each day we drive near Anzac Hill. It is the old Shell Fuel Depot site occupied by delapitated buildings and Hungry Jack.
    1. It is fuel contaminated and will need to be somehat prepared by removal of contaminated soil.
    2. It will then be SEALED by concrete foundations and car parking for visitors and busses.
    3. It will not need a demolition of a school or a development of new playing fields.
    4. The Anzac car park will remain where it is, likewise the football supporters stands.
    5. The heavy costs of 3 and 4 will be avoided.
    6.It is a naturally elevated site with the visibility from the roadway and also CBD and will never flood.
    7. A prestigeous building will be possible due its elevated perspective.
    8. Six or more tourist buses can park on the available space before also climbing ANZAC Hill. There is unlimited space for car parking beside the iconic view from the top of ANZAC Hill.
    9. It has been occupied before so that any Native Title is irrelevant or acceptable.
    10. The facade of such a building in this place will attract attention when it is landscaped with gardening, trees and lawns.
    11. It has been regarded as lost space probably due to partial site contamination but removal of contamination and the sealing of concrete foundations and road sealing of the car park will correct that problem.
    12. It is a valuable resource site that cannot lie as an eyesore for the next 100 years but must be added to the community.

  3. @ Kenneth: I like your idea. It seems rational, logical and the location does have those desired properties needed for a major attraction.
    Added to this, the Stuart Highway is a dual carriageway at this point so with the expected influx of visitors traffic flow won’t be a problem.
    I don’t know how contaminated the surrounding soil is but it could be safely stored / disposed of in the “salt mine” storage facility also being planned.
    Good thinking, 99.

  4. Well well well … what a wonderful idea and solution, Kenneth. How much would a development such as this add to the ambience of the town. Absolute ripper idea, two thumbs up.

  5. Michael Lynch, one of the members of the Steering Committee for the “iconic” National Indigenous Art Gallery, was interviewed on ABC radio this morning (May 16, 2018) and confirmed what has been stated in Kieran Finnane’s article – indeed, he was damning of the Chief Minister’s statement and the NT Government’s handling of this project.
    Is there not another elephant in the room now, namely that Chief Minister Michael Gunner has misled the Parliament? He is the leader of a government that promised a much higher standard than its predecessors in office but, on this count too, it appears the public was misled at the last election campaign.
    Alice in Wonderland is alive and well, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee seem to be the only options we’ve had for “good” government.

  6. The Mayor of Alice Springs is the catalyst behind this decision for Anzac Hill. The project will fail now as it should have followed the steering committee’s recommendation and gone for the Desert Park.
    That and only that place is and will remain the place to build something of this significance. But now it appears to be a “if only” thought as SA are in the driving seat now!

  7. Mabel, catalyst has four definitions:
    1. Chemistry. A substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
    2. Something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
    3. A person or thing that precipitates an event or change.
    4. A person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.
    We can ignore the first one. But do you really believe that our mayor fits any of the three others?
    In this fiasco that is this gallery project, he has shown no leadership, but total inertia.

  8. You are spot on Evelyne. Wrong word usage. He stuffed up negotiations by sneaking around and not being honest to his councillors or his constituents!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here