Above: Partial view of the Civic Centre block, ahead of a council meeting last year to discuss the controversial proposal to build the gallery on the Anzac Hill precinct. The government wants to know what custodians think about this site.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Last updated 1 May 2019, 3.31pm, see at bottom.
The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority have been “tasked” to consult with Mparntwe custodians about the government’s proposed national Aboriginal art gallery, including the possible new site – presumably the Civic Centre block.
Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss wrote to Mayor Damien Ryan late yesterday afternoon to update him on this “progress and development towards delivering” the gallery.
The letter expressed the government’s commitment to “engaging respectfully” with Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal residents about the project, providing them with full information at every stage and a “mechanism for their voices to be heard.”
The letter also spoke of the gallery’s training and employment prospects for Aboriginal people as “artists and cultural leaders.”
Council was told to refer Mparntwe residents who wish to engage with the process to Ms (Dr) Sophie Creighton, who is AAPA’s director of research and land information.
Mparntwe custodians – a group of nine “recognised by all Arrernte people as the true Apmereke-artweye for the central part of Alice Springs” – opposed the government’s previous plans to build the gallery on the Anzac Hill precinct.
It is clear from comments in council that discussions are proceeding with the government and within council on a possible land swap with the NT Government, which would give them the Civic Centre block for the development of the gallery.
This was proposed by Chief Minister Michael Gunner last month. It would see an exchange of titles, with the council getting the government-owned site of the former Anzac Hill High.
The deal would also include the government clearing the Anzac site, funding and building a new Alice Springs Town Library, funding and building a water play park, and “supporting” the development of new Town Council premises.
The letter from Mr Gunner, released in last night’s council papers, also says the government would ensure the development takes into account registered sacred sites, which are in any case protected by law.
The government would also “support’ council to retain Anzac Oval in its current form, and offer to “work with” council to enhance the site for community events including the Masters Games.
There is no mention in Mr Gunner’s letter of money: a new library would not be cheap. Council has been working with an indicative figure of $30m.
The land swap proposal is not being discussed in open council. It will be next addressed, it seems, in the June forum meeting, after council finalises its budget discussions. Forums are not open to the public.
A critical issue to emerge in so-called consultations over the proposed gallery to date is custodians’ wish to reach decisions together, as a group, clearly stated in their letter that brought to a halt the Anzac Precinct plans. This also has arisen as a contentious issue in past AAPA negotiations.
Another critical issue is the repeatedly and clearly stated cultural preference for a site south of the Gap.
The Alice Springs News has sought confirmation from Minister Moss that the “new site” is indeed the Civic Centre block and has asked whether the consultations will be open to examination of alternative sites.
UPDATE: 1 May 2019, 3.31 pm.
Minister Moss has responded via a spokesperson. She confirms that the Civic Centre block is indeed the “proposed new site”, that the Town Council “supports in principle entering into discussions” about this, but she does not answer our question one way or the other about whether other sites will be part of the discussions.