By KIERAN FINNANE
Ken Vowles as the Territory’s Indigenous Affairs Minister should be involved in a fresh approach on the national Aboriginal art gallery, says Councillor Eli Melky (pictured alongside Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson, photo from our archive.)
Cr Melky made his suggestion at last night’s council meeting, responding to the NT Government’s “dissatisfaction and frustration” with councillors, especially after they unanimously rejected the government’s demand to transition ownership of Anzac Oval to them.
The idea was supported by Crs Jimmy Cocking, Catherine Satour and Marli Banks.
“It is unfortunate that the Chief Minister is confused and his Ministers angry with council,” said Cr Melky in a prepared statement. “It would be my preference that NTG work with council to deliver on their election promise and build a national Aboriginal art gallery, and a National Aboriginal Cultural Centre, on another site that our community can support.
“However,” he continued, “I believe we have arrived at a point where the NTG and Council require a new fresh approach to help strengthen our relationship in moving forward. The very fact that this is a National Aboriginal Art Gallery, and including the National Aboriginal Cultural Centre, must involve the Territory Indigenous affairs Minister, the Honourable Ken Vowles.
“It would be completely appropriate to involve the Indigenous Affairs Minister who can bring a fresh and appropriate outlook in resolving any confusion, and build the art gallery somewhere else.
“I no longer feel comfortable in dealing with a confused Chief Minister and angry Ministers whose portfolios do not include the Indigenous affairs Portfolio, and are capable of doing more damage to our relationship and our town through negative comments in media. I much prefer to be dealing with the Minister who is in fact responsible for Indigenous affairs.”
Cr Cocking saw it as an opportunity to “move sideways”, break the current “deadlock” that has “nobody moving anything forward” and everyone “backing into their corners”.
Left: Crs Satour and Cocking. Photo from our archive.
He said it was “not a great look” to have the government “railing against council, calling us divided”, when in fact, he asserted, “we come together on the big things”.
Cr Satour said it had been “a very difficult week”, having the Chief Minister labelling the council’s “democratic process” in the way that he did.
“Leadership that stoops to name calling is … interesting,” she said.
She would like to see “some strong leadership” and maybe Ken Vowles “can provide that”.
She defended council’s position on ownership of the oval, pointing to the “strong connection” that townspeople have with it: “This is why we are having the clash, people are really concerned about it.”
Cr Banks rejected the criticism of council by Minister Lauren Moss, Braitling MLA Dale Wakefield and the Chief Minister, questioning “our transparency, forward thinking, constructive capacity”.
On the contrary, council has been “very constructive around this group of people”, she said, requesting “master planning” and creating “visions forward”.
She described Alice Springs Town Council as a “very healthy council”, referring to its financial position (operating in surplus), suggesting that it is looked on by other local authorities “in high regard”.
She said involvement of the Indigenous Affairs Minister would put Indigenous people “front and centre” of the gallery process.
Mayor Damien Ryan wanted to know what Cr Melky was proposing that council do.
Cr Melky said that his intention was simply to “send a message to government” that their words about council’s position have been “inappropriate”: “Name calling at our level is inappropriate.”
He didn’t feel that it was “appropriate to tell the government what to do”, but he was “confused” as to why the Indigenous Affairs Minister hadn’t been involved to date.
Indigenous Affairs Minister for fresh approach on gallery
By KIERAN FINNANE