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HomeIssue 4At last, public will get a say on Anzac Oval: Town Council

At last, public will get a say on Anzac Oval: Town Council

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Above: The Territory Government’s feedback form. Its determination to incorporate Anzac Oval into its national Aboriginal art gallery plans puts the venue at risk of being compulsorily acquired, says councillors. 

Finally, the Town Council is going to ask the people of Alice Springs what they think about the Territory Government’s plans for Anzac Oval.
A letter from Chief Minister Michael Gunner, which Mayor Damien Ryan received  at 4.30 pm yesterday, apparently made it clear – if it needed to be any clearer – that the government is unwavering in its determination to build a national Aboriginal art gallery on what they are calling the Anzac Hill precinct.
This comprises the government-owned site of the former Anzac Hill High, where St Joseph’s Flexible Learning Centre now operates, and the council-owned Anzac Oval, home to Rugby League and Union as well as the frequent venue for many cultural and community events.  The rugby codes are being offered a new alternative venue.
The government’s so-called consultation underway at present, in the form of “pop-up coffee chats”, is really an exercise in persuasion.
Its feedback form carries an image of Anzac Oval (above), with an event in full swing, but nowhere does it ask a question about the use of the oval for the gallery or about any alternative site.
It invites you to tick boxes alongside general statements in support of the project, including having a “welcoming green space in walking distance of the CBD to relax, play or attend an event”.
In deference to some kind of opinion-gathering, it also has a space for “I’d also like to say”.
2529 Jimmy Cocking 130The process is being “done to us” rather than “with us”, said Councillor Jimmy Cocking, and this regardless of what has happened within council – rejection of an MOU with the government – or out in the community, where the issues are far from settled.
The risk to council is that the community-owned asset may be compulsorily acquired, Cr Cocking said, and so far council has not asked the community what it thinks. This should have been done last year.
Council has said it wants the gallery project for the town but in face of the government’s unwillingness to compromise, it’s time for council to take “a leadership role” – “it is our oval”.
He said the “coffee chats” are about “convincing” the public, they are not consultation.
He outlined a number of core principles that should be followed in the process. These have been distilled by the International Association for Public Participation Australasia (IAP2), “based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.”
They also provide that:
• the public’s contribution will influence the decision.
• sustainable decisions recognise and communicate the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.
• the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision is sought and facilitated.
• the input of participants is sought in designing how they participate.
• participants are provided with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
• the process communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.
The Territory Government ‘s gallery process to date would score a fail on every single point.
Councillors unanimously supported Cr Cocking’s motion which specified that the consultation will be conducted in line with the IAP2 principles.
(Earlier in the meeting Cr Cocking had asked CEO Rex Mooney about reviewing council’s consultation policy generally with a view to incorporating the IAP2 principles. This was in the context of some residents in the Albrecht Oval area being very unhappy with the process to date over installing light towers there. Mr Mooney said he would move the policy to the top of the queue in the policy review that is underway.)
The Chief Minister’s letter had asked council to meet with Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss and Braitling MLA Dale Wakefield, who is leading the “coffee chats”. This was also agreed to.
Dissent came when Cr Cocking put a second motion about specific involvement of Aboriginal stakeholders in the consultation.
Cr Eli Melky was strongly in favour: he doesn’t want to see support for the gallery project lost in the consultation over Anzac Oval. Council needs to get the input of Traditional Owners, the people who hold authority in Indigenous culture, he said.
Cr Cocking argued that there are different ways to engage different people, not everyone responds to online surveys or attends meetings in the Andy McNeill Room. He also reminded council that it had supported a motion that encouraged the NT Government to engage with Aboriginal stakeholders in the gallery process.
A number of prominent senior Aboriginal people had told council they had not been spoken to on the issue during a packed session in the chamber on 30 April. This failure contravened Australia’s international obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Margaret Furber-Ross said at the time.
However, Mayor Ryan, Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni, and Cr Jacinta Price all argued that Aboriginal people, including Traditional Owners,  are part of the community and consulting with them was implicit in the first motion.
“Let’s not start dividing our community further,” said Cr Price.
The vote split down the middle, four to four (Cr Catherine Satour being absent). Mayor Ryan used his casting vote to defeat the motion.


  1. This is great news. Thank you Councillor Cocking and a big thank you to all Councillors for supporting the motion. This is an opportunity to start again, in a basic, common sense and consultative fashion. Not the process of the “Cart Before The Horse” as we currently have it. Yes it may well be the government’s former Anzac Hill High School, but Anzac Oval is most definitely a community-owned asset. Personally, I’d rather not lose it, but now we’ll all have a REAL chance to say….. Yay Or Nay. SKIP

  2. Congratulations to Jimmy Cocking for getting his motion up, and if the IAP2 principles could be made mandatory for NT government decisions as well as Council ones, that would be even better.
    However if we are looking for a suitable template for governmental decision making we also to need to consider in every decision:
    – what the evidence base is for the need for, and where appropriate the methodology of, the project;
    – the pros, cons and relative costs of the options being canvassed (though perhaps this is implied in “the information they need to participate in a meaningful way” mentioned above;
    and in our context, in addition to this, for decisions with a significant impact on Aboriginal people it is clearly necessary to consider
    – what is the view of the appropriate Aboriginal group with authority to speak on the matter in question.
    I find it quite ironic that there should be a view on Council that the ABORIGINAL traditional owners of Alice Springs should not have been specifically consulted about the siting of a national INDIGENOUS art gallery, let alone not been given a seat on the Government’s advisory committee in the first place.

  3. Thank you Jimmy for starting a long overdue process of proper consultation of the people of this town by those who are elected to represent this town.
    So far there has been no dialogue. The NT Government decided on its own preferred site for reasons of its own, still to be disclosed.
    There are 3 issues at hand to be considered; they are very distinct even though interrelated in the long run:
    1) the best site for a national Indigenous art gallery, good enough to be visited from all over the world whereever it may located. I would certainly like it to be Alice Springs: the beating heart of Central Australia and its Indigenous population.
    2) the revival of the CBD: the downfall of the town centre is mainly due to the excessive rental cost of any business located in the CBD, the unfortunate “misbehavior” of some youth and, I may add, the location of our best hotels and caravan parks being at a fair distance, usually not walking distance, from the CBD.
    3) an overall urban plan for Alice Springs – instead of the ad hoc buildings and sets of flats mushrooming here and there without unity of style or coherent pattern – which will include a National gallery for aboriginal art.
    Time for Council to play, fair and hard, for the benefit of all.

  4. Gunner has made the right call on the location of the proposed gallery and offered substantial funding.
    No other sensible and economically viable location has been proposed.
    The gallery will probably operate at a loss as does the Desert Park.
    To be sustainable the loss must be minimised and it must add value to our tourist businesses.
    South of the Gap / at the Desert Part are not suitable locations.
    The Greens are engaged in misguided economically damaging democracy.
    They are doing the same by using their position on the Water Board to slow down mining development at Mt Pearce.
    This action threatens the offer of generous funding.

  5. @ Jimmy: “The risk to council is that the community-owned asset may be compulsorily acquired.” Compulsory? No, Jimmy acquisition, or “resumption” is when an authority like the Government acquires privately owned land or property.
    Most commonly it is done in order to build infrastructure like roads or public transport, but other reasons property could be acquired include public safety – in cases of contamination for instance.
    That compulsory acquisition is usually done to make what people hope are big improvements to their communities. Certainly not the case of our oval.
    It belongs to the ratepayers, not the council which comes and goes.
    Therefore an objection should be recorded by the ratepayers if after a real fair survey the majority opposes the acquisition.
    An objection is to contain particulars of the effect that the acquisition would have on the interest that the person (ratepayers) objecting has or claims to have in the land.
    The Minister may, at any time before the date of acquisition, modify or abandon a proposal.
    The Minister must cause notice of any modification or abandonment of a proposal to be lodged with each affected person; and consultation is to take place over a period of three months if the proposal relates to less than five hectares of land.
    I believe that the process will take so long that Gunner will be gone. Maybe it is time to start a Ratepayers’s Association.

  6. @ Maya. Posted 26th June. 7:16pm.
    The Property Council of Australia recently commissioned a report which examines the future of Australian cities. It has been reviewed as applying equally to Sydney as to a country shire in the outback.
    It’s basic premise seems to be the creation of “mini-CBD’s” over the usual model of one CBD, but the interesting thing about the second volume of the three volume report is how it charts employment growth in GDP per capita.
    The take-home bit for me is that limiting the planning (?) of Alice Springs to a single CBD concept over the creation of mini-CBD’s, limits employment opportunity, e.g., transport between them is an obvious one.
    Alice Springs is set up for such a vision, with some of the points you make, but with many more outlying.
    It may allow for diversification and reduce the focus of social unrest on the present CBD, which seems resistant to change or reform.
    The challenge might be to link them into a coherent town plan that has a future outside of the narrow confines of the present.

  7. @ Russell Guy, 28 June: YESSS, mini CBDs – I like the concept because it can work and decentralise.
    And put people in the current CBD and they will bring life, perhaps at the old Anzac high school site. A few ideas out of the square may help.

  8. It will be interesting to see if the results of Council’s survey are similar to those published today by our local print newspaper.
    Over a two week period it conducted an online poll asking residents of Alice what they thought of plans to use Anzac Oval for an art gallery. The results are unambiguous: From a total of 988 votes, 32.4% said it was a good idea and 67.6% said it wasn’t.
    As for the old high school, over to you, Alex Nelson.

  9. A very similar result to the government survey, Hal. 60%+ said not at Anzac to the government’s survey, too.


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