Gallery: Anzac Oval still the sticking point



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.



  1. Oh boy, I thought the Aboriginal people have said NO to the ANZAC site.
    I can’t believe this government. Town Council: Listen to the Aboriginal people and build the gallery SOUTH of the Gap. Unbelievable.

  2. Now the NT Government in Darwin wants space, as well as heritage destruction, to build this Art Gallery. The answer is obvious: Listen to the Aboriginal people and build the gallery SOUTH of The Gap.
    In the case of a gallery which should, and would, be of such national significance for Aboriginal people, and for the whole of Alice Springs as well, the present CBD is totally irrelevant.
    Build it where appropriate to Aboriginal people, where there is space to grow, and the people will come from all over the world to see and experience it.

  3. Council have approved the siting of the gallery at the ANZAC Oval Precinct?
    Did they ask the ratepayers whom they represent and who pay their wages?
    Where was the community consultation behind this decision making process?
    Or don’t they think they need to consult with those they represent?
    I can’t remember this being discussed or being a candidate election platform / consideration at all prior to the previous past council election!

  4. The original Task Force, formed to advise the Government for a suitable site for the proposed Gallery, rejected the oval site for several reasons.
    From memory they were, the site was prone to flooding, there were sacred sites to consider, there was severe lack of parking and possible objections by the community to the loss of the oval.
    All these reasons remain the same, but most importantly, now include rejection of the site by the combined traditional owners, and rejection by the community via council survey to hand over the oval.
    The site was also stated as unsuitable by a group of museum and gallery experts.
    It does not make sense to revisit this site that caused so much division in the town.
    A site that the government has wasted so much money promoting and refusing to negotiate any other, and the public by canvassed opinion, adamant that they do not want to give away the oval.
    Please listen to the traditional owners and avoid another money wasting, community dividing exercise.
    Build it where there is plenty of space for expansion and acceptable to all the locals.

  5. What they said….
    1.The TO’s, when last I heard, had said they want it south of The Gap; and also
    2. Given this potential olive branch offered by the council by shoe-horning a gallery onto the now-desecrated whitefella heritage site of the school, why would the NT government want to spend even more of the taxpayer money we don’t have to relocate the rugby ground?
    3. I still don’t get where the “national” in the name comes from. Will local Aboriginal people want to take responsibility for deciding to call such a gallery “national” without a national Aboriginal consensus? Has any effort been made to gain such approval, and if so from which national Aboriginal body with the authority to give it?

  6. Considering how much division the Anzac site for a gallery has caused in this town, and the clear and repeated message from the Aboriginal Custodians that it must be south of The Gap to be culturally appropriate and meaningful, the motion passed by Councillors is not only extraordinary but shocking and cowardly.
    What is really going on here behind closed doors?
    This unanimous decision is abrogating council responsibility so that the Aboriginal custodians can become the scapegoats needing to resist government pressure to go against their cultural beliefs.
    Perhaps the best strategy now is that our Arrernte custodians and the majority of nonAboriginal people in this town who voted against the Anzac oval site, seek support Australia wide, and internationally, to give a clear message to the council and government that any gallery not south of The Gap will be boycotted regarding gallery content as well as visiting?

  7. I have just rewritten my will to donate my watercolour collection to the new Aboriginal Art gallery in Adelaide, when much of my collection now resides.
    Will there be a boycott of this unwanted gallery? Probably.
    I know of one other watercolour collector who has decided to leave his collection to an interstate gallery as well.

  8. Would have thought $3m would have been better spent on something more substantial in Alice Springs than just another art gallery.
    What the hell is going on in the corridors of power in Darwin? Or doesn’t anything exist below the Berrimah line for the Expendables?


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