By KIERAN FINNANE
As the government enters round two of community consultations pushing the Anzac Hill precinct as the site for its proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery, the Town Council has invited the Chief Minister to meet with them in person to discuss the project.
Council owns Anzac Oval (above), a significant portion of the precinct, and at present it is not playing ball.
Following substantial public opposition to the government’s preferred site, the council declined to enter into negotiations with the Chief Minister to take the proposal further at that location.
This was at the end of April. At the same meeting council declared its support for Alice Springs to be the home for the gallery, but wanted the government to “engage appropriately” with relevant Traditional Owners and Aboriginal stakeholders on both the gallery project and the National Indigenous Cultural Centre.
It also wanted the government to engage with council to develop an MOU to work towards a long term integrated master plan for the town’s sustainable development, which would include both the gallery and the cultural centre.
Motions were passed to this effect and the correspondence sent to the Chief Minister. To date only an emailed acknowledgement has been received, while the government has gone full steam ahead consulting over land it doesn’t own.
There was no discussion of the detail of all this at last night’s meeting, except in relation to the new invitation to the Chief Minister. The football codes – Rugby League and Union, whose home is Anzac Oval – will also be invited to meet with council. The government is proposing to relocate them to another site.
Outside the meeting, Alice Springs News Online asked some members for their views.
Councillor Jimmy Cocking, absent on personal leave, had already told us what he thought about the difference between consultation and community engagement.
With consultation you ask “what do you think about this” – a specific proposal – while community engagement means “you are open to other options”, he said.
He believes the community hasn’t had the opportunity to properly discuss location and that the work hasn’t been done yet “to generate excitement around town for the actual proposal”.
Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni said he would “go have a coffee” with the government team doing the consultation. To date a vocal proponent for Anzac Oval remaining a sporting field, he reiterated that he’d like to see “concepts for other venues” for the gallery.
Cr Jacinta Price also said she’d like to look at “what else is available”, not just have “the entire focus on Anzac Oval”.
Cr Eli Melky, who helped give a public voice to opponents of Anzac Oval as the site, said he has continued working “privately” on the issue, with two separate groups, one being “an Indigenous group”.
He said there are other elected members also involved “behind the scenes”.
The oval is council-owned land, why not shape the agenda within council?
He said the council position is currently set “in stone”: Anzac Oval is off the table. For this to change council would have to rescind the motion (19621) and introduce a new motion.
PHOTOS from top: Rugby on Anzac Oval in August 2003, July 2003, again August 2003 and May 2011. From our archive.
By KIERAN FINNANE