Anzac Oval grab Minister rejects Coles Mural listing


2595 Coles wall 1 OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Lauren Moss, the Minister controversially seeking ownership for the NT Government of Anzac Oval for the proposed Aboriginal art gallery, has rejected an application for heritage listing of the much-loved Coles Mural (at left).
Ms Moss is the Minister responsible for tourism and culture as well as heritage.
She has not responded to a question from the Alice Springs News Online about whether the listing was recommended by the Heritage Council, and whether any recommendation was unanimous.
p2201-Lauren-MossA spokesperson for Ms Moss (pictured) provided the following statement to the News this afternoon: “It is rare for murals to be heritage-listed except in the case where murals are painted on historic buildings.
“In the case of the Coles Mural, the building on which the mural is painted is a modern building with no heritage significance.
“There was an opportunity to provide comment during a 28 day consultation period. Only one submission was received, which came from the building owner.
“On July 19 the Minister confirmed her decision not to declare the Coles Mural as a heritage place on the basis that it would be an unreasonable imposition on the owner of the building on which the mural is painted to have it permanently protected by the Heritage Act; and the mural has been carefully documented as part of the process of assessing its heritage significance.”
We are seeking comment from the chairman of the Heritage Council, Wayne Craft.
The mural has a history going back to the early days of self-government, and is much photographed by tourists. It is one of the key works produced by the prominent local artist Kaye Kessing.
It is an early and relatively rare expression of an aspirational bicultural – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – identity for the town.


  1. I wish her well for the rest of her short political life. What I am hearing, on my grapevine is that the people (Springers), would all love Alice Springs to be the home of the national Indigenous art gallery, just not on Anzac Oval.
    The Coles Mural, everyone loves it, with Bob Barford playing guitar, we all went bush and sang around campfires in those days.
    It’s as much a part of town as the council chambers, it’s been there longer, and before the Alice Plaza and Yipirinya.
    History dictates that heritage is only valid if business don’t want to demolish and rebuild.
    Here in good ole Costa del Alice, history has shown with Merton House and Marrons news agency; if they want to knock it down they will.
    If they want your oval, they will simply take it.
    When the government and its ministers play for commerce and not community, they don’t last long.

  2. Thank you Erwin for your communications relating to the Coles Mural.
    I am currently travelling interstate and have limited (or often no) connectivity.
    Whilst I do not currently have access to the specific minutes of the Heritage Council’s deliberations relating to the Nomination for Heritage Listing of the Coles Mural, I can however, confirm that due process was conducted in an appropriate, professional and orderly manner, as prescribed by the Northern Territory Heritage Act.
    The Act stipulates that the Heritage Council ultimately provides its recommendations to the Minister for Heritage, who is then empowered to make a final decision based upon not just our recommendations, but other factors that require balanced consideration relating to any proposed listing.
    On this occasion, the Heritage Council, acting within the parameters of the Heritage Act, recommended that the Coles Mural is worthy of Heritage Listing status.
    As mentioned previously, it is my understanding that the Minister is obliged to seek broader advices from other NT Government Departments, and this may also extend to any person or corporation who may be impacted by such a decision.
    The decision by the Minister to not approve Heritage Listing of the Coles Mural is not an uncommon outcome.
    There are many historic precedents whereby the Minister for Heritage has ultimately made a decision that does not reflect the recommendations of the Heritage Council.
    (Wayne Kraft)
    Chairman, Heritage Council of the NT.

  3. Chair of the Heritage Council, Wayne Kraft, is correct in his explanation of the heritage-listing process under our current NT Heritage Act: The Minister for Heritage does indeed have the final decision and can over-ride the most positive of recommendations for listing.
    I know of several other historic buildings in our town centre, namely the Old Riverside Hotel (Todd Tavern) and the Wallis Fogarty store (TravelWorld) that, together with the Pioneer Walk-in Theatre (YHA) and OLSH house in the Catholic Church precinct, were not listed by previous Heritage Ministers despite the most thorough of assessments and the strongest of recommendations.
    I believe that, in those cases too, the objections by owners were the deciding factor.
    The sad truth is that the Territory’s heritage is not served well by the present legislation.
    Far too many of our town’s heritage places have been lost over the thirty odd years I’ve been here, along with that early outback character that led me to stay.
    And then we wonder why fewer and fewer tourists bother to come here.

  4. Travelers around the world go to specific places for their attractions / landmarks.
    What would be Paris without the Eiffel Tower? Sydney without the bridge, the opera house? London without Big Ben?
    What will be left of Alice in years to come? Nothing – it will be just a town in Australia.

  5. Ms Moss, please pull your head out of the sand.
    We have here a beautiful piece of art which has stood for a number of years and is well respected and enjoyed by all.
    Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people love it and it has been a big part of everyone’s lives in Alice and is always spoken of outside of our town.
    These sorts of things need to be protected for the future of our town.

  6. Is there any news on the suggested heritage listing of Anzac Oval and the old high school?
    [ED – It has been lodged by Alex Nelson some time ago, Hal.]

  7. Painting a mural on a wall is the property owner’s choice. As attached as the community may feel, it should also be equally the property owners choice to preserve (or otherwise) the mural.
    If such public work was going to be constantly called to be heritage listed and hence encumber the property, what motivation would a property owner have to allow a mural be painted in the first place?
    Whilst something may be significant for a period of time, it is important to understand the commercial realities of what is ultimately an ever aging building with low to non-existent heritage value, stock standard plane brick building.
    I am sure the owners of Yeperenye would never have allowed the fantastic new artwork at the old pizza hut car park if they considered that it may eventually result in the block wall being protected for all time.
    Regarding Anzac oval – arguably the oval has heritage and/or historical value that should be carefully considered. A similar argument for the relatively modern school buildings however is a stretch.

  8. I would recommend that both InterestedDarwinObserver and the Minister do more research before putting words to print.
    In fact, the Minister needs not look any further than the NT’s own Heritage Register for an example of a heritage-listed mural: the Robert Czako Mural at St Mary’s Chapel, Alice Springs, a building which is not in itself listed.
    If they had bothered to search further afield, just a couple of clicks away on the computer these days, they would also have found recent examples of murals listed in more enlightened jurisdictions, such as the “I Have A Dream” mural (1991) in Newtown, Sydney, heritage-listed by the Marrickville Council in 2014.
    Another fine example of a mural being listed, but not the building, is the “Expansion” Mosaic Mural Wall in Braddon, Canberra, listed by the ACT Heritage Council in 2013. This mural is part of the Canberra Rex Hotel (1960).
    Heritage-listing is not limited to buildings or other solid objects, but can be applied to something as thin as a few coats of paint.
    What’s being kept for future generations to understand and enjoy is the heritage significance of the thing.
    In some cases, such as the heritage-listed Wave Hill Walk-off (also here in the Territory) the significance resides in little more than the location of the place in which significant actions occurred. How more ephemeral can it get?
    In any case, a heritage-listed Coles Mural could be incorporated into any future re-development of the site, by any architect worthy of the title, as has been done in other re-developments around Australia.
    Just look at Melbourne Central Shopping Centre’s incorporation of a whole building, the 50-metre high Coop Shot Tower, for inspiration.
    We just need a lot more imagination.

  9. When this intrusion by Moss on the people of Alice Springs comes to fruition and the building replaces the green and pleasant oval, what will it contain?
    If Aboriginal people object to their relatives’ art work from appearing in the gallery and collectors boycott it, what will there be to see?
    I worked one of the art galleries in the 1980s and knew some of the old Namatjira watercolour school artists. I also have a reasonable collection of their work.
    It was always my intention to leave this interesting collection to the Araluen Art centre.
    But as this is to be replaced by the new art gallery which is so offensive to both towns people are the artists’ relatives, I suppose the next best thing is to bequeath the entire collection to the new Adelaide Indigenous Art Gallery.
    I’m sure the new Alice gallery will contain many, many great dot paintings, but visitors come to Alice Springs because of the Namatjira legend and the art. But much of this art might just have packed up and headed south.

  10. @ Domenico Pecorari: I certainly made no comment about the capacity or precedence of murals being heritage listed.
    I did however question the commercial viability of heritage protecting a modern era brick wall for all eternity for a 1980s mural.
    I further made comment that heritage preserving a structure (for the 2mm of paint upon its surface) is likely to be a serious, costly and avoidable risk for current property owners who would otherwise be willing to have their walls painted (such as Yeperenye), on a finite basis, for the purpose of community enjoyment and amenity.

  11. One of the greatest heritage ironies was surely the decision by then minister Marion Scrymgour not to list the Rieff building, about where the credit union is now, a fine example of a tin shed dressed up as a shop in the best tradition of Alice in the 50s, with its attractive pressed metal verandah ceiling on the corner of Gregory Terrace and Hartley St.
    The irony?
    An Abooriginal minister allowing the destruction of a bit of whitefella heritage to allow the expansion of an Aboriginal-owned shopping centre.


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