By KIERAN FINNANE
Council’s solution for a CBD location of the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery seems to have diffused some of the tension in its relationship with the NT Government, but it looks like the pressure on them to relinquish Anzac Oval will remain.
Minister Dale Wakefield has welcomed “this next step” – council’s unanimous support for the Anzac precinct as the location provided the NT Government has received consent from custodians – but she reiterates the government’s vision for the gallery at Anzac precinct “takes in both the old school site and Anzac Oval and factors in substantial green space out the front available to the community for all kinds of events and activities”.
“An institution of this significance requires an appropriate amount of land to accommodate the building, parking, landscaping and open green space.”
The tone has shifted but the basic demand for access to the oval for the project’s “green space” has not.
So despite the best efforts of Town Council CEO Robert Jennings, the vexed question of the gallery location has not been squared away.
He tried to move the issues forward using visualisation to open up the imaginative possibilities for the hemmed-in site.
Designs options showed how the Wills Terrace carpark, owned by council, could be integrated into the development of a gallery on the site of the old high school, leaving Anzac Oval and other community infrastructure intact, and moving car parking for the site underground.
Mr Jennings, who has an architectural background, said the key element that would allow this site to function successfully as being “the raised, fully immersive and sensorial passage [artist impressions below] that utilises transformational light screens for visitors to experience a “journey back through time” and culture.
“The removal of sensory distractions will enable visitors to use their senses to focus on the history and origins of Aboriginal culture, so as to be able to experience it as intended. The local Aboriginal people’s story could then be captured in the most dynamic method whilst also addressing the narrow access to the northern portion of the site.”
The design options do not address the provision of green space.
In any case, a site solution is just one component of “The Bigger Question”, as Mr Jennings acknowledged in his report. He defined that question this way:
“The ‘why’ and ‘how’ must be determined by the NT Government, and Council’s respectful suggestion is that this must be determined by a multilateral group, driven by relevant Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parties working together, role modelling the reconciliation process between all peoples at an international level.”
Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson captured a fundamental precondition of such a process by amending the CEO’s recommendation on the Anzac precinct option: it would be supported by council once the government provides “evidence of custodian support of the location”.
Minister Wakefield says only that “discussions with Traditional Owners” are ongoing.
There was next to no discussion of the issues in last Monday’s council meeting. They had obviously been dealt with in the meeting a few days earlier between the CEO and elected members.