The gallery fiasco (continued)


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On August 17 the Department of Tourism and Culture called a tender for a consultancy advising on a “Comprehensive Business Case for the new National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs” with a deadline of August 31 (three days from today).
This morning the department called the same tender again, but with a string of Q&As attached – quite obviously because without the As, prospective tenderers would not have the foggiest idea of what they should be consulting about. The deadline is now September 7 (10 days from today).
After two years of having carriage of the project, the government is in a panic to get a business case.
Not that tender call Mark II is a great deal more coherent.
“Where can we find an approved full outline of the proposal, from which tasks such as market research and costing can draw from? Is this the full extent of the approved concept developed to date?” is the first Q.
It triggered the standard paragraph of verbiage familiar to anyone following the government’s media releases on this or who has subjected themselves to the “cup of coffee” brainwashing in the past three months: “A nation-building project … the first of its kind in Australia … celebration, display and interpretation … key policy initiative … extensive social and economic benefits … significant boost to local jobs, retail, and tourism visitation”.  You get the drift.
Q: Is the site confirmed as Anzac Hill? Is any of the concept generated in the Steering Committee report valid to take forward to the Business Case?
A: The Anzac Hill Precinct is the Government’s preferred site for the Gallery – please see above.
Q: Has there been any feasibility work done to test alternative concepts and sites?
A: Initial scoping work was undertaken in relation to multiple alternative sites.
Since the initial scoping work, we have learned a bit more about site options, including the push from prominent Aboriginal locals to locate the project south of the Gap. Surely this should be considered in the Comprehensive Business Case. But no.
Q: Do we have a detailed scope of the concept including visualisations? A floor plan? Renders?
A: The preliminary design process for the Gallery will commence in the next few months once the final elements around the site are confirmed.
So, is this going to be a business case for a $400m investment or a $200m investment, say?
Q: By reference project, does the client wish to benchmark other Aboriginal art galleries?
A: Reference projects may include national or international art and cultural institutions of similar scope and scale.
Now, what “scope and scale” might that be?
The closest the department comes to defining that is this: “The Northern Territory Government has committed $50m as a down-payment on the Gallery with plans to leverage funding from the Commonwealth Government and the private sector to create a truly iconic building that will draw the world to Alice Springs, the Inland Capital of Australia.”
What in addition to the $50m will be available is not disclosed – obviously because the department has no idea what that amount may be.
Q: We note that the Steering Committee Report requested an engagement plan. Is there any consultation required for this project?
A: Consultation is a critical element of the Project. A three month comprehensive local engagement and consultation program will conclude at the end of August (in three days). Consultation has also taken place nationally as part of an initial national consultation and engagement plan to ensure national support. More about the local consultation can be found online. A National Reference Group is being established and can be considered a significant consulting base.
Q: Can you please provide an indicative budget range from which we can prepare a best value submission? (The translation for the layman would apparently be: How much are you happy to spend on this consultancy?)
A: No indicative budget range is being given as we desire the focus of all tenders to be on the substantive work of the business case.
Q: Would the Department prefer that a community or cultural industry consultation be delivered as part of the project?
A: A report on the outcome of the three month comprehensives community consultation process will be available for reference in September 2018 (that month starts in four days).
Q: Will there be any remote consultation required for this project?
A: No.
Let’s get this right: This is going to be an Aboriginal gallery. Tick.
A lot of Aboriginal people live in remote areas. Tick.
Many of them are artists, including many of the greatest. Tick.
So why do we not consult them? Easy: The department is still fumbling the consultation of Aboriginal people not living remote.
Q: Will the Department require face-to-face debriefs and meetings at its offices?
A: No.
Q: Do you anticipate any key resistance to this project?
A: No.
At this point the consultants (at least the well-informed) are rolling around the floor in paroxysms of laughter.
Blind Freddy has long ago told them that the whole town wants the art gallery. But not necessarily where their government “prefers” it to be.


  1. Oh my goodness.
    What else can be said. Seems like the NT Government can clean its hands of the whole thing if no one takes up the tender. Or are we just going to waste more money?

  2. Hope they listen to the Indigenous people who are the ones the art gallery is promoting.
    Many of us locals are totally against the site. Just imagine the increased traffic at the end of the CBD. This whole project needs to be discussed in full before any decision is made.

  3. This gallery is a really quite a cynical exercise, it is paying no respect to Indigenous people or culture.
    It is just trying to appropriate indigenous culture to boost the tourism industry.
    Two Indigenous experts commissioned by government recommend the desert park. Senior custodians say not at Anzac Hill.
    Arrernte people and community in general upset by the poor attempt at consultation.
    This project as a national INDIGENOUS art gallery should be being run and promoted by Arrernte and other Indigenous peoples but instead it is being pushed by a government intent in using Indigenous peoples’ culture and history to push their own agenda.
    Unless the government steps back and gives some ownership to Indigenous people it is bound to be a failure and an expensive exercise in how not to engage with Indigenous people and the broader community.

  4. This whole schmozzle of a National Indigenous Art Gallery in Alice Springs has been hijacked on every level.
    Those pushing for it to be built here have confused national with local, any sniff of “Indigenous” has become sidelined and twisted into bureaucratic cultural appropriation and commercial concerns have trumped art.
    I guess the gallery remains a gallery.

  5. Sorry guys, the great galleries of the world haven’t emerged from bureaucratic efforts or public consultation.
    Think MONA, Moma, TWMA, Guggenheim, Gulbenkian, Phillips,etc. Find an Indigenous dictator!


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