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HomeIssue 10Custodians decline meeting with council on gallery

Custodians decline meeting with council on gallery

2604 Benedict Stevens OKBy KIERAN FINNANE
Updated 24 January 2019, 8.29pm
The Mparntwe traditional owner family group, who rejected the Anzac precinct as a culturally appropriate site the National Aboriginal Art gallery, are declining to attend a meeting with the Town Council on Tuesday.
They say their position was made clear in their letter to council dated 9 January 2019.
The first signature on that letter was that of Benedict Stevens (left, ABC photo), who had previously been the only named custodian to support the Anzac Precinct as the government’s preferred site for the gallery. His is also the first signature on a further letter today, a copy of which was made available to Alice Springs News Online.
The letter reiterates that the family group “fully support” the National Aboriginal Art gallery being built in Alice Springs “at a culturally appropriate site that does not include Anzac Oval as part of the overall site”.
p2499p Doris & Peter 2 450They thank council for the invitation to attend their end-of-month meeting, but “the family group believes our position has been made clear and do not see the need to attend the formal meeting of Council on 29th of January to provide further clarification”.
Right: Custodians Doris Stuart and Peter Renehan at Watch This Space gallery. Photo from our archive. 
They provide an email contact and close by saying they “look forward to working with Council in the future for the betterment of our Town and community”.
The other signatories “on behalf of the custodial family group  signatories” are Doris Stuart and Peter Renehan.


  1. Good job! Thats what they get for trying to play (Aboriginal) people against each other.
    All their underhanded and dishonest tactics backfired on them. Whilst trying to divide (Aboriginal) people, they have succeeded (unwittingly) to unite people and TOs.

  2. Our Mayor and the Town Council stand at a crossroad.
    Will it adhere to its stated aim of “Working For The Community”, which I assume means the whole of the community, or will it continue placing our town’s business interests above all else?

  3. This much talked about NAAG is slipping away, like water that the NT Gov tried in vain to keep in their cupped hands… and Alice will lose out.

  4. Here’s an opportunity to drop the words “National” and “Art” and instead hopefully make some progress on an Aboriginal Central Australian Culture Centre. (I use the word Aboriginal rather than Indigenous because I was told by a highly regarded local Aboriginal man it is his preference.)
    There is so much fascinating and impressive, but little known, information concerning how people survived for millenia in the harsh environment of this vast central region. Both locals and visitors would hopefully benefit in various different ways.

  5. I agree with Domenico Pecorari’s statement, especially in relation to Mayor Ryan.
    Since he first became Mayor of Alice Springs, Damien Ryan has been seen to establish and maintain a good and respectful relationship with the town’s Indigenous residents.
    The question now is, will he jeopardise that relationship, and jeopardise his legacy, by going against the clearly stated wishes of what can only be seen as an unfortunately uncommon unanimity of opinion and desire clearly expressed by this group of local elders and traditional owners?
    And for what? Chief Minister Gunner does not live here and is clearly working to his own agenda.
    Mayor Ryan does live here and will have no excuse if he chooses to follow CM Gunner down a road of disregard and disrespect.
    Everyone wants a National Indigenous Art Gallery to be built in Alice Springs. The Anzac Precinct is not the only option. If CM Gunner cannot see that then the whole project looks like foundering on the rock of his intransigent hubris.

  6. I for one do not see this town and its progress as being at the whim of aboriginal people over the residents of Alice Springs. This type of division has its claws strongly embedded in segregation and apartheid mentality. The future of our town should be decided by all residents. I am so fed up with people using the race card to gain control. This should not be about who has the biggest stick, it should be about the majority seeking growth and prosperity for Alice Springs. Not personal agendas and petty jealousy.

  7. @ Janet Brown. I’m sorry, but I’m finding it difficult to follow the logic of your argument. You begin by dismissing the culturally-based objections of traditional owners as a “whim”, but then go on to say that the “future of our town should be decided by all residents”.
    Need you be reminded that Aboriginals are “residents” of this town too, and that we are talking about an Indigenous art centre? Our town will never see the growth and prosperity that you say you want for it, without us first showing respect to the wishes of the traditional owners of this land.
    You may need to look up the results of the Town Council’s own survey on the preferred location, in which the NT Government’s nominated site at the base of Anzac Oval did not have majority support.

  8. When you … learn to sit down in the dirt with all the genuine Senior local custodians…as I did successfully since 1965, one day you just may all surprise yourselves and conveniently solve the only problem our once vibrant, safe, secure and beautiful home town suffers daily from.

    The entire world looks on at both you, Mr Michael Gunner, and you, Mr Damien Ryan, with utter disbelief at your arrogant racist incompetence, together with your equally ignorant and racist snowflake financiers in Canberra.
    And dont ever shoot this old keyboard “messenger”in the foot, over 25 years of my recorded written and personnel efforts to help our hometown are filed at the Alice Springs Police Station, N.T. Liquor Commission and Alice Springs Town Council.

  9. If they want a culturally appropriate site what do they suggest as the site?
    Do they own this site themselves or are they pushing others out?
    Also, the economics of the proposal need to be considered – is it in the best position to be easily accessed by the customers (tourists)? If it is that will make money for them.
    Tourists can see Aboriginal things all over Australia so you need to consider, is this is going to draw the crowds from other places?
    Things like what ammenities are around the proposed site and is the site going to have a historic angle written so everyone can know why the site was proposed.
    However the big draw card will be ease of access and parking for the travelling tourists.

  10. If Alice Springs is ever going to get ahead they need to widen the focus, sure have the Aboriginal things but also other cultural things too. It does not have to be sports orientated but amusement oriented
    We need a far better transport system, cheaper food outlets around town, better quality housing, better companies to improve job prospects, companies with well trained people running them and with the right mental attitude.
    We need entertainment that are less costly so that the local people can afford to use it frequently when the tourist season is gone.

  11. Peter: The so called “racist” mob are trying to build an National Aboriginal Art Gallery to celebrate our awesome Indigenous cultures. Doesn’t sound like something racist people would do, just because they have made some questionable and silly mistakes in the initial process hardly makes them all “racist”.
    People need to stop using the word racist just because they can’t think of anything else or when they are losing an argument.
    Anyway, the NT Government has no money and the Alice Springs Council can’t do it alone so, moving on.

  12. After 150+ years of colonisation in Mparntwe the Arrernte custodians are still here and still working to protect their country an culture. This shows enormous resilience.
    Now they’ve come together as a group an made a public statement regarding a certain Indigenous cultural development on their land.
    Wow. If the council can recognise and give them the respect they deserve as senior custodians, Apmereke-artweye and Kwetungurle, and support them in their wish that the development not happen at the Anzac precinct, it would be a great act of reconciliation and perhaps show the way towards how we should and what we could all celebrate on Australia Day.

  13. @ “Everyone wants a National Indigenous Art Gallery to be built in Alice Springs”: Hmmm … not quite everyone. A lot of people don’t even believe we need one at all. Maybe those who want it should put up the funds?

  14. @ NW: I do not want a National Indigenous Art Gallery, but a national Aboriginal cultural centre.
    Culture includes art but art does not include culture.


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