Gallery swap: Aborigines second in pecking order


2626 gallery arrowsBy ERWIN CHLANDA
It is unclear what discussions – if any – Chief Minister Michael Gunner had with Aboriginal interests before proposing the current civic centre as the new location of the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery.
Harold Furber, who is heading up with Owen Cole a push for an National Aboriginal Culture Centre, says he has not been approached.
Eli Melky, speaking as a private person and not as a Town Council member, says a group to which he is close has not mentioned to him that there have been discussions with the government about the changed site.
The group was instrumental in the Town Council rejecting Mr Gunner’s first preferred location, the Anzac Oval precinct: 10 senior Arrernte custodians signed a letter to the council.
Meanwhile Mr Furber, one of the signatories of that letter, has made it clear that the gallery and the centre – individually or combined – should be south of The Gap for compelling cultural reasons.
“That’s what the people want,” he says.
It seems clear that in Mr Gunner’s dealing with these Aboriginal projects, Aboriginal people remain pretty low in the consultation priorities.
Mr Gunner says in his letter addressed to Mayor Damien Ryan “we have spoken extensively to Aboriginal people about the project – they are overwhelmingly supportive of it, however we acknowledge that a number of senior Aboriginal people have withdrawn their support for Government’s proposed site.
“At this stage we are putting this proposal confidentially to Council to gauge your support before we seek the views of Aboriginal people and other residents.”
The proposal – leaked in mostly accurate detail last week – is to hand over to the council the government-owned site of the old Anzac Hill School, clear the land, fund and build a new Alice Springs Town Library; fund and build a water play park; support the development of a new council administrative centre; and retain Anzac Oval in its current form.
“In exchange you will hand to the NT Government the site on which the current [council] administrative centre and town library stands to allow for the development,” Mr Gunner wrote.
The council considered the offer in “confidential” session – excluding the public – last Monday. Cr Melky had unsuccessfully moved to have the issues dealt in open council.
In today’s Executive Development Meeting he move successfully to lift the item out of “confidential”. He says the council will now proceed with “discussion and mapping out consultation”.
The Alice Springs News Online has asked Mr Gunner for details about his consultation with Aboriginal people so far.


  1. I still can’t get my head around why the “South of The Gap” is so important. There are many galleries in the CBD that have art from all over the joint.

  2. When will the Labor NT government grow up. This latest pronouncement shows that Gunner has “spat-the-dummy” and is now yelling his head off like a recalcitrant child who cannot get his way.
    Apart from yelling I bet his eyeballs are bulging further when he talks and whimpers. A sure sign.

  3. Still the most obvious site is south of The Gap adjacent to Yirara College where the students can proudly be involved in displaying their own cultures and get background experience in commercial operation of a business. They could display the positive side of Indigenous education – an Indigenous school of the air, which I believe would be even more commercially (and culturally) successful than the existing one.
    Where do visitors see bush tucker or Indigenous medicinals? Perhaps between the houses at Kilgarrif. Add to that an up to date visitors centre at the Welcome Rock and you have the nucleus of a brand new tourism hub, leaving the current CBD for he historians.
    Where have all the verandas gone? They were part of our history, and culture.
    As Graham Sawyer recently pointed out in Darwin this does not happen because of the well dug in vested interests North of the Gap.
    Just another example where we have been gazumped, as there are at least two more cultural centres now on the drawing board. Time for a radical change in thinking.

  4. Listen to the Aboriginal people. It’s about time Mr Gunner showed some respect.
    The Aboriginal people already have plans in place to build the gallery that will showcase their culture.

  5. Waste of energy, time, money gone in this project.
    But when are we going to get an idea of what is going to go in this gallery? Where those beautiful paintings, artefacts, creations are stored waiting to see the light of day?
    “At this stage we are putting this proposal confidentially to Council to gauge your support before we seek the views of Aboriginal people and other residents.”
    The town council should never have accepted to discussions behind closed doors. We the residents and ratepayers have the right to know.
    Mr Gunner promised an open and transparent and trustworthy Government.
    So did our Council. Therefore: All government data should be made available upon request, in a timely manner.

  6. Why not leave perfectly good buildings in place build an exciting new appropriate structure south of The Gap, in the style of a broad sweeping bridge over the Todd River.
    It’s an idea that past resident and creative thinker, Miranda Sage, shared with me.
    I’ve just visited a museum built across a river in Maccangna at Lago Maggiore in Italy which prompted me to comment.

  7. This nonsense is a political joke, a silent arm wrestling game between Micheal Gunner and Damien Ryan.
    Now they talk of a swap: if we cannot demolish Anzac High let’s demolish the pleasant and functional civic centre and its public library.
    But some demolition will have to take place; for what? For the revival of the economy and its CBD. National Aboriginal Art gallery has lost its prime focus. Shame.

  8. Karen: It is simply using a noun verses an adjective, either is accpeptable, neither is disrespectful. Are there not more important things to worry about?

  9. For heaven’s sake. Why on earth would you place the gallery anywhere other than the Anzac Oval site?
    South of The Gap, oh right – easy to commute to for tourists and town people then? It would become yet another white elephant and other failed project we can attribute to a lack of imagination.
    For its economic success it needs to be near to the CBD, walking distance to cafes, restaurants, hotels and be easily accessible for potential employees to help run the place!
    The project has potential to give an economic boost to the CBD where it is desperately needed.
    While on one hand these “old minds” complain about the lack of economic activity in the town, shops closing etc, on the other they propose to put the gallery out in the sticks?
    How does this make any sense?
    There are no cultural considerations to the Anzac Oval site either, given that there are no sacred sites in the current planning area and if anything, provisions could be made as part of this project to better protect those that do exist nearby with weed management, rubbish collection etc.
    And don’t give us the Anzac Oval Heritage Story. No-one gives a hoot who used to play footy on or use that oval in the 50s.
    The fact is the future generations will benefit from good decision making now!

  10. The most important thing about the gallery is that more coffees get sold in the Mall. They should bulldoze Flynn Church and Adelaide House and build it there.

  11. The south of The Gap location is not only due to cultural reasons, but more so that it would be built on Aboriginal land.
    Thus the gallery would have to pay rent to the Aboriginal families ongoing.
    It’s a commercial decision!
    A CBD location is required to bring tourists and increase foot traffic around the CBD.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here