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HomeIssue 6National Aboriginal gallery: Town Council's action clear as mud

National Aboriginal gallery: Town Council's action clear as mud

2578 gallery Cole, Furber 1 OK

Above: Owen Cole and Mr Furber, key figures behind the National Indigenous Cultural Centre, in the public gallery at the Town Council meeting  tonight.

UPDATED 8.11PM, 10 SEPTEMBER 2018. See below.
The Town Council has passed a motion that is as clear as mud on its position vis a vis the National Aboriginal Art Gallery.
This followed the release of its community poll showing that 58% of respondents do not support Anzac Oval being used as a site for the project.
Mayor Damien Ryan took the initiative, moving that council supports building the gallery in Alice Springs and that it calls on the NT Government to form an implementation committee for the gallery project in partnership with the Town Council.
No mention of Anzac Oval.
The motion was passed unanimously, with no discussion.
The dismayed public – some 30 to 40 visitors – were told there would be no further debate on  the matter tonight.
There were mutterings as people began to drift outside, the loudest coming from Arrernte man Harold Furber, who is chair of the parallel project, the National Indigenous Cultural Centre: “We are being excluded once again.”
2578 Eli council OKYvonne Driscoll, who has been active in campaigning against the oval as the site of the gallery, sought to re-asssure people that the lack of mention of Anzac Oval could be taken to mean that it is excluded as a site for the gallery.
To his credit, Cr Eli Melky left the chamber to speak to constituents outside (photo), while inside the meeting moved on to other matters. He too sought to re-assure people that it is clear that Anzac Oval will not be available for the gallery.
Despite the CEO’s statement that there would be no further debate on the gallery tonight, Cr Melky said he will raise the issues later in the meeting, so that council makes clearer its intentions.
True to his word Cr Melky raised the matter at the end of the open part of the meeting, offering “a personal explanation”.
He said the point of council’s motion is to have all options on the table. His “personal position” is that he would not support giving the oval away, following the 58% rejection of such a move.
His statement would probably not pass the pub test for clarity. Most tellingly his attempt at clarification, on the matter of Anzac Oval and its future, was not echoed around the chamber.
Only Crs Jimmy Cocking and Catherine Satour spoke. Cr Cocking said he wanted to clarify what he understood would be the makeup of the implementation committee: it needed to comprise not only representatives of the Territory Government and the Town Council, but also relevant stakeholders.
Cr Satour acknowledged the confusion felt by some members of the public who had left the chamber. She said council supports keeping going discussions with the government and including stakeholders moving forward to look at other options.
Mayor Ryan, participating in the meeting by phone, when asked, had nothing further to add; he thought his motion was “pretty clear”.
Tonight council joined the NT Government in looking tricky and manipulative. In the process they managed to only further alienate critical Aboriginal constituents, and confuse, if not deceive, everybody.


  1. Tonight I am proud to have supported a motion that shows leadership on behalf of the Alice Springs Town Council unanimously voting to invite the NT Government to keep the discussion going on building the National Aboriginal Art Gallery (NAAG) in Alice Springs.
    While it is unusual that a motion is supported unanimously at a meeting of the Council Standing Committees, to remove any confusion due to the process that was adopted tonight, I offer this brief explanation.
    My support was based on the council’s own survey results and respects the majority who support the NAAG being built in Alice Springs.
    At the same time it was also very clear to me that 58% wanted ANZAC oval to be preserved.
    In my view it is now over to the NT Government to respond to the motion by either accepting or declining council’s motion.
    The Michael Gunner led government has the opportunity to work with council and other stakeholders including Indigenous members of our community to find a way through and ensure they uphold their own election promise.
    Please note for the purpose of protocol, I wish to inform readers that the comments above are my own and not on behalf of council.

  2. I left the meeting with the impression that the council supports the AS poll where 58% voted to leave Anzac oval alone. It’s now so important that the Indigenous people are part of the action committee.

  3. I took the Victoria Hotel tour in Goondiwindi recently, led by an eighty year old local who said that much of the old town had been knocked down by “multinationals” who didn’t care about its heritage.
    “They just threw the old tin on the back of a truck and took it to the tip,” he said.
    I stayed at the Victoria around 1990 as a break from the swag. It was a grand old building with a main street verandah in the Australian tradition, but fell into disrepair until a few years ago when the Council colluded with a local to bring it back.
    Because of the memories, I took the tour, but the town hardly resembled the way it was 30 years ago. Kinda lost its soul. Grows cotton now for export to China mostly, where they make the clothes and ship ém back.
    It’s easy to understand how multinationals and mall makers can knock heritage down, but not so easy when your own government does it.
    There’s a plaque on a rock near Anzac Oval dedicated to George Wilkinson who managed Wallis Fogarty’s store in Alice in the early days.
    If you look carefully, you can see lots of heritage around there.
    Beats me why the NAAG can’t be build somewhere else.
    The CBD is chockers as it is, whether functioning or not. This is a country town like Goondiwindi, not Las Vegas, yet.
    It’s easy to lose a town’s soul, if you’re not careful.

  4. This entire talk fest is due to lack of understanding. The oval is not going to be built on. It is going to be enhanced as a public space for events and activities.
    The gallery will go on the school site [which is] NT Government land.
    The community needs to step up against this protest that continues to promote lies and misinformation to support their negativity, an attack by a few against the best interest of the town.
    If this project was to encroach on the oval I would find it necessary to get more info and I may be a no voter.
    The community’s voice should be heard by council elected members. Why are they being lead away from facts by negative protests based on deliberate misinformation to support their abuse of community interest?

  5. The crystal ball tells me there will be squabbling over this for the foreseeable future and meanwhile, South Australia will smoothly construct their own iconic site leaving the Territory with nothing.

  6. I’m in that 58% proudly so. This is all cart before the horse stuff. It would appear that the NT Government made up their minds long ago. We are being railroaded it’s not right.
    NO to Anzac Oval!

  7. Why is no one listening to the people of Alice Springs? Selective hearing or cannot read the writing on the wall?
    We have two terrific sites that already accommodate Aboriginal Art, why have a third?
    Plus the NT Government cannot pay for the opening and full use of Darwin’s new hospital. Put the money to this better use and let all Territorians share this money that the government seem to allocate for the art gallery.

  8. I say it again: What credibility will a national Aboriginal art gallery have without a consensus from Aboriginal people about the site?


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