NTG asks AAPA to consult with custodians on gallery & new site


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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. 

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.


  1. There are a lot of empty shop fronts in Alice right now. Perhaps we could have a pop-up Council. That might work.

  2. The town is bleeding out. The blood is good people leaving and tourists not coming due to crime. Instead of putting more things in the town for people to destroy we fix the problem that no one seems to want to address FIRST.
    All levels of Government are to blame for the current situation as it is their duty to provide a safe environment for their people to live in.
    There seem to be a few good ideas there which would be awesome if we fix the crime problems in the town.
    I’m sick of people saying there isn’t a problem and the town doesn’t have a crime problem. These people need to pull their heads out of the sand.
    But hey, let’s just ignore it until all the good has gone from our once beautiful town.

  3. What is wrong with the art gallery being out near the Desert Park. They could work hand in hand, and all the infrastructure is there.
    Tourists could have a full day visiting the park, and the gallery.
    Bringing the tourists into the CBD area is not the problem … it’s getting them into the town itself is the biggest problem.
    Those who can afford the airfares don’t even have to come to Alice anymore because now that the airstrip at Yulara has been extended, planes from anywhere in the world can fly in and out of there.

  4. Well Hal, we might just have found that pop up council. Don’t most of the members of the
    AAPA have some connection past or present with the land councils? Are these councils now doing the bidding of the current Labor government as well?

  5. The so obvious site is still South of the gap in conjunction with the Yirara school, to become a display area for the culture and a training ground for the students there to display their culture as well as a positive experience for visitors in Indigenous education and satisfy the wishes of the Traditional owners.You have a captive market as everyone who enters the town from the South either by road or air has to pass the site. The same logic applies to the visitors centre, and DKA and to my knowledge no one has bothered to monitor the number of people who stop at the welcome rock, or the old locomotive. One has to ask AGAIN, why the Katherine and other interstate visitors centres are not located right in the centre of the economic activity as ours is? Could it be kowtowing to the interests of a small number of bodies with vested interests, as happened in Darwin and was recently pointed out by a former Lord Mayor there? Small minded thinking again.

  6. Bonkers!
    Thanks to Eli Melky we just finished paying for our current council chambers a year or three early, but surely it was built for a life of 30 years plus.
    It was a state-of-the-art energy efficient building at the time. Why on earth would we knock it down and start again?
    The ineptitude of the NT Government surpasseth all understanding – mine anyway.
    AND since when did the AAPA become a representative body, with the authority to speak for the Aboriginal people of the region?
    If AAPA is the appropriate body, why was it not consulted in the first place? Or has the NT Government picked them in the hope they will give the desired answer on this gallery question, when the traditional owners have already voiced their view?

  7. Totally agree Alex. One would expect the pseudo TOs (aka AAPA) to work within the AAS Code of Ethics, watching and waiting with bated breath.
    [ED:- AAS = Australian Anthropological Society; the code can be found here.]


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