By 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– they are overwhelmingly supportive of it, however we acknowledge that a number of senior Aboriginal people have withdrawn their support for Government’s proposed site.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.
Gallery swap: Aborigines second in pecking order
By ERWIN CHLANDA