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HomeIssue 23Standoff over Anzac Oval for gallery crescendoes

Standoff over Anzac Oval for gallery crescendoes

UPDATE, 1.50pm: The Town Council will challenge any attempt by the NT Government to compulsorily acquire Anzac Oval. Their resolution to this effect followed  more than an hour’s debate at today’s special meeting. The vote in support of  the resolution was unanimous. Mayor Damien Ryan and Councillor Glen Auricht were apologies. More later. 


Minister Dale Wakefield may be “ready to pull the trigger” on compulsory acquisition of Anzac Oval to allow the government’s plans for the national Aboriginal art gallery (NAAG) to proceed, but Alice Springs Town Councillors are pushing back.

In a media statement today Cr Marli Banks challenges the Minister’s warlike approach, saying that it has sent “shock waves through the community at a time that people are already experiencing high levels of stress as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Together with Crs Catherine Satour and Eli Melky she has called for a Special General meeting of council (it will be the second this week) to address the issue.

The meeting will be held today, Thursday, May 7, at 12.30.

“The community wants our leaders to take charge, but not take over. To go to war with the Northern Territory Government is not in the best interest of our town. We need to be measured and mature, and we need to take the time to get this right. We are in unchartered territory and we need to work together to ensure we can sustain our economy and afford our future.”

The Alice Springs News understands that there has never been compulsory acquisition of land owned by a local government authority in the NT.

Council has received a legal opinion on the issues. No doubt its content will become clear in today’s debate.

The meeting will be chaired by Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson, appropriate given Mayor Damien Ryan’s CLP candidacy and the politicisation of the gallery project.

Says Cr Banks: “Until resolved differently, the position of council is clear, build the NAAG, but leave the oval intact.

“Decisions pertaining to stimulus projects aimed at recovering the Northern Territory economy should not be rushed.

“A collective view should be measured and be representative of the community. Hasty decisions should be replaced with sound judgment and ideally be backed by the community who are ultimately the drivers of the economy.”

Cr Melky takes up the Minister’s warlike metaphor, declaring “battle lines drawn”.

“The council has to date been unanimous in supporting a National Aboriginal Art Gallery to be built in Alice Springs.

“Anzac Oval is a special community space used regularly for playing sport and holding large community events such as Carols by Candlelight and Masters Games opening and closing ceremonies.

“There is a rich history with the oval hence the name Anzac. This is a special place placed under threat by a Minister and her Government who are unwilling or unable to accept the overwhelming community love for this open space.  

“We look forward to meeting with fellow elected members today to discuss this unexpected and unwanted rise in hostilities at a time when our community is dealing with a pandemic and should be focused on the recovery and safety of our community.”

A letter from Minister Wakefield (Territory Families) and Minister Lauren Moss (Tourism and Culture), dated 8 April, while expressed in more conciliatory terms, links the project to pandemic recovery.  The Ministers say they have “made clear” to the Australian Government that the gallery project is “absolutely critical” to the recovery of the town and the region.

They again ask the council “to endorse” the Anzac Precinct as the site for the gallery, including Anzac Oval. The letter does not address the sticking point for council: that they need to see evidence of traditional owner support for the Anzac Precinct site. It does, however, refer to a previous letter from Minister Wakefield, dated 9 March, which addressed the issue in general terms, providing no evidence as such. 

The News will report this afternoon from council’s special meeting.

– Kieran Finnane

Last updated 1.50 pm


  1. A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. Following is a comprehensive, up-to-date list of the current world dictators and authoritarian regimes.
    As of today, there are 50 known dictatorships in the world: 19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 in the Middle East and North Africa, 8 in Asia-Pacific, 7 in Eurasia, 3 in Americas, 1 in Europe.
    Soon one will be added to the list making it 51 with the dictator of the NT. Minister Wakefield and Minister Lauren Moss showing arrogance and total disdain for the people.
    If they manage to acquire the oval will the project be finished before the next Northern Territory general election, which is scheduled for 22 August 2020?

  2. Please just build the art gallery south of the gap where the Aboriginal people want it. There can be a bus taking people into town and restaurants can offer specials deals to encourage tourists into the CBD . Don’t destroy our beautiful town by taking away our special oval. Listen to the Aboriginal people and show some respect, NT Govt. Thanks for being strong AS councillors.

  3. Why is this saga still ongoing?
    I’ve signed petitions and written comments and twice been phoned by Dale Wakefield’s office.
    Each time I have suggested they build it out by the Desert Park as was mooted by the “paid for” advisors.
    I like to go to the movies and if the Anzac Oval car park is hijacked I will have nowhere to park without having to pay. Leave the oval alone.

  4. So instead of spending this massive rates surplus on helping Alice Springs families get through the Coronavirus, they are gonna enter a piss it up the wall in legal fees over a court battle they will ultimately lose with the NTG for a bit of land most of the town don’t really care that much about, except for the same half a dozen rusted-on commentators here and on the Forum harp on about.
    And if by some chance they actually manage to pull it off, Gunna will just say its too politically difficult to deal with the Alice Springs Town Council and will just up sticks on the project and take it to Darwin where their construction industry desperately want it and won’t squabble over the location.
    Real smart thinkin right there, fellas … give ya’selves a big ole pat on the back.

  5. @ Margaret Coutts, @ Yvonne: Polling sees Labor in Braitling at its lowest prior to Mr Giles time. That means Labor has no chance in Braitling and I expect on this issue much self harm has been done to Labor.
    I also expect Mr Gunner has communicated to Ms Wakefield to just go all out as did Napoleon at Waterloo. This means Alice Springs may well have a legal fight costing tax payers millions and or an unwanted legacy from Ms Wakefield.
    My advice Ms Wakefield is to retreat as every good general knows when overwhelmed and let this decision be made after August 22, 2020.
    Better to retreat unlike Napoleon and not be known as “the Little corporal” from contemporary times?

  6. Made it clear to the Australian Government, we are now that arrogant in the Northern Territory that it dictates to the Federal government.
    Is destroying the most central, social open green area in the town of Alice Springs so critical to save face on a project that duplicates so many art shops and small businesses in the centre of town?
    I would like to see all our anti frackers help with saving this clean green zone for the town – you might even win this one.
    Keeping in mind art doesn’t bring visitors, visitors buy art work while they are on holidays.
    Some are definitely getting the chicken or the egg a bit mixed up here.
    Invest the money into other capital works that would stimulate the economy.
    Sure the town needs a lot of other infrastructure .
    With the argument of a lasting attraction is a little short winded if it is not a cultural centre of world class standards. An art shop just won’t cut it.

  7. @ Vthefence: Our Town Council would not even consider the opportunity cost of pissing the rates surplus against a wall.
    But the cost is that the council does much less to support newly impoverished ratepayers.
    You can see them now, the Greens and Aboriginal representatives taking the moral high ground to fund the most lavish legal picnic in the history of our town, QCs at $8K day, SCs at $5K and a gaggle of lesser legal eagles will spend and spend our surplus until a probable loss to the NT Government is announced six months later.
    Of course we will fund both sides of the court case.
    What is poorly understood here is that the NT is beyond broke and everyone of us is going to have to pay the cost.
    The Desert Park makes a loss, South of the Gap will make a loss and do nothing for town businesses.
    This project must pay its way and it will only do that if it is in town.
    The Government and business people understand this.
    Many who know this are afraid to speak up against the factions.
    To speak up against the Aboriginal argument is an invitation to be called a racist.
    But the South of the Gap argument is not of the times.
    The Gap itself is sacred and no woman should pass through it.
    Is there an outcry?
    Online referendum before squandering the surplus please.
    It is our money.
    Get our permission before spending it.

  8. I find it interesting that the government does not want to listen to the people of Alice Springs.
    An art gallery will not solve our problem in Alice Springs as far as tourism is concerned, and I have asked many guests, did you come up here to see the culture and most said no.
    The Desert Park would be the ideal pace to have a gallery or add to the Araluen art gallery.
    How many do we need in town?
    Will the local tribes want the other tribes’ art in their town?
    They argue and fight when they live in the same town, so how is this going to help their tribal relations.

  9. This gallery is a life line for our collapsed tourism industry and the community’s support of this project would be a ray of hope to those struggling to save their businesses and to the employees already displaced from their jobs.
    It is heart wrenching to hear our council has again rejected the opportunity to move our town forward and unbelievable that people are rejecting the opportunity to have a world class gallery built in our town because they will find it difficult to find a car park.
    And how many times must it be stated that this is not an art shop?
    The tourism sector in our town is broken and we are all looking for hope and leadership.
    Alice Springs Town Council please just let this gallery be built. Ultimately the town will thank you.

  10. Merrilyn Spencer, with due respect for your opinion, the tourists will not come to Alice only for an art gallery and cultural center.
    We must offer more than that, especially when crime is rising.
    The Aboriginal collection at the Vatican Museum is one of the most important outside Australia and it is the most visited at the Vatican Museum.
    The Vatican Museum Indigenous collection has some of the earliest known documentations of Australian Indigenous culture.
    The collection has been tallied for the first time in a recently released catalogue by Prof Mick Dodson, Katherine Aigner (editor), Senator Pat Dodson (contributing author), Craig Richie (CEO AIATSIS), Fr Nicola Mapelli (Director, Anima Mundi).
    In France Quai Branly Museum has ensured Aboriginal art will have a permanent and high-profile presence in Paris by commissioning Lena Nyadby, one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, to produce a 700-square-metre work to be displayed on a section of its roof.
    There are many like those all across the world, so, why come to Alice only for an art gallery?
    The Taking Control of our Heritage – Indigenous Cultural Heritage Conference will provide the first opportunity for Traditional Owners and their allies to meet, discuss, and develop programs, strategies and ideas to take control of their cultural heritage in Australia. Tuesday 24th November – Thursday 26th November 2020, Melbourne, Victoria.
    Please take note of “Traditional Owners to take control of their Cultural Heritage” not once again controlled by arrogant white fellows like Moss and Wakefield.
    So we should wait to see the outcomes before wasting money and destroy more of Alice Springs.

  11. @ Evelyne Roullet Re: The Taking Control of our Heritage – Indigenous Cultural Heritage Conference in Victoria.
    Heard the one about Victorian Aboriginal people demanding that remote NT Aboriginal people take a “cultural awareness” course before returning to meet with them again?
    It’s true.

  12. Any Aboriginal Art gallery should be put in the Desert Knowledge precinct.
    It’s the right place for it.
    The gallery should be put in a culturally appropriate culturally safe place.
    If it means that taxis and busses have to take tourists there, so be it, that’s what happens everywhere else.

  13. @ 4 Merrilyn Spencer: I am astounded that you believe the gallery “is a life line for our collapsed tourism industry”.
    Such shallow thinking entitles you to run for politics!
    There are so many other factors that bring tourists and art in Alice is not one of them.
    Value for money, a safe place, feeling welcome and of course the sights.
    Unfortunately we fail on three of the four items.
    Caravan sites are way too expensive compared to most other states, the government and town council ensure the tourists and locals aren’t safe. Feeling welcome has a lot to do with feeling safe and respected.
    The sights, well there are a multitude of beautiful and interesting sites to be seen, in and around Alice.
    Perhaps people just need to take a break from their phones, TVs and other distractions and enjoy some of the best views and outings and weather in Australia.
    So, is the gallery location really that important in the scheme of things? I say NOT.


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