By KIERAN FINNANE
On the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery for Alice Springs, Chief Minister Michael Gunner has suggested that the blockage lies with the Town Council.
Right: Mr Gunner in Alice Springs last year.
MLA Robyn Lambley, in the Legislative Assembly on February 14, asked Mr Gunner about progress on the gallery, saying: “Since you came to government two-and-a-half years ago, you have not added one single extra cent to the national Indigenous art gallery funding. Your progress to date has been at a snail’s pace.”
Mr Gunner replied by citing his government’s projects that are underway: “Acacia Hill [school], north Stuart Highway duplication, the Alice Springs women’s shelter, the domestic violence courts.
“One thing all those projects have in common—nothing to do with Alice Springs Town Council. We want to do a lot in Alice Springs. As a government, when we get a free run at it, we get a lot done in Alice Springs.”
The government is “proceeding” with the gallery, he went on, before taking aim at the council again: “Late last year there was a fantastic meeting on-site at the Anzac Oval precinct where 29 traditional owners made their intentions really clear and asked Alice Springs Town Council to get out of the way.
“Early this year, we received formal correspondence from nine who have now have a difference of opinion about approach. As a government, we said we will respect that—we respect the 29 and the nine. We are taking a deep breath and allowing some space to occur and those conversations to happen.”
Councillor Eli Melky is indignant about those comments. He was in the public gallery at the sittings and at Monday’s council meeting drew the attention of his fellow elected members to what had been said.
“I don’t recall any such correspondence from any traditional owners,” he said, in relation to the assertion that they had asked council “to get out of the way”.
He went on to suggest that those 29 traditional owners – “correct me if I’m wrong” – come from “one custodian family”, whereas the nine signatories of the letter expressing their opposition to Anzac Oval being used for the gallery project, represent nine custodian families.
Thus the Chief Minister’s comments skew the picture.
Cr Melky suggested that the Chief Minister should be invited to meet with council.
“We do want to work with the government,” he said.
“We should encourage him to understand we are not the obstacle, we are not in the way, and encourage him to work with us … particularly [on] the national Aboriginal gallery.”
There was no dissent from the elected members. Mayor Damien Ryan said he would write the next day to ask the Chief Minister “to meet with us to explain his comments”.
“We need to point out that we are very much in favour of projects in Central Australia.”
We have put the following questions to Mr Gunner and will report his reply when it comes to hand:
On February 14 you said in the Legislative Assembly:
“Late last year there was a fantastic meeting on-site at the Anzac Oval precinct where 29 traditional owners made their intentions really clear and asked Alice Springs Town Council to get out of the way. Early this year, we received formal correspondence from nine who have now have a difference of opinion about approach. As a government, we said we will respect that—we respect the 29 and the nine. We are taking a deep breath and allowing some space to occur and those conversations to happen.”
Could you please provide names for the 29 traditional owners referred to? The names of “the nine” are on the record.
Councillor Eli Melky told his colleagues at last Monday’s council meeting that he understands those 29 traditional owners come from “one custodian family”. Please comment.
Council ‘in the way’ of Alice development: Chief Minister
By KIERAN FINNANE