As they grieve the loss of family members, Mparntwe custodians accuse the Northern Territory Government of showing them “utter disrespect” with their latest move to advance the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery.
This undoubtedly references the formal notice that the government will move to compulsorily acquire Anzac Oval for its gallery project.
In a letter signed by apmereke artweye for Mparntwe Benedict Stevens (left, ABC photo) and Doris Stuart (below right), the custodians say they would support the gallery only if it is located south of the Gap.
This unanimous view was communicated to Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss in June 2019 by a meeting of the custodians as a family group, with more than 30 attending, the first such meeting.
They say further that Lhere Artepe, the Native Title corporate body which has lent its support to the government, has no jurisdiction over the Anzac Oval precinct, where Native Title has been extinguished.
This is the full text of the letter released today:-
This is a sad time for us as we grieve the loss of our family members.
In an extremely sensitive time of hurt and sorrow, the Northern Territory Government have chosen to advance the conversation around the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery. The timing of the recent developments demonstrates the utter disrespect the NTG and Lhere Artepe have chosen to show Mparntwe custodians.
The Mparntwe custodian family group invited Minister Lauren Moss in good faith to a meeting in June 2019, in an attempt to start a more respectful discussion around the NAAG. This meeting was facilitated by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority in accordance with AAPA policies around custodian consultation. Over 30 family members attended.
At the conclusion of the meeting, a clear and unanimous decision was delivered to Minister Moss that we would support the National Aboriginal Art Gallery, on the very important condition that it is located South of the Gap.
Minister Moss acknowledged in the meeting that this decision was received loud and clear. This was the FIRST meeting that gave Mparntwe custodians as a family group an opportunity to speak directly with Government to discuss the gallery. No Minister or NTG representative has chosen to meet with Mparntwe custodians since the June 2019 meeting.
Lhere Artepe does not speak on behalf of Mparntwe custodians. Decision-making authority over Mparntwe rests with our apmereke artweye through birth rights written in their skin, not a body corporate operating under majority rules.
Lhere Artepe has no jurisdiction over the ANZAC Oval precinct, as Native Title has been extinguished.
Further, Lhere Artepe has chosen not to consult all of the affected Native Title Holders in relation to ILUA [Indigenous Land Use Agreement] negotiations in the Mparntwe estate. Extinguishment of Native Title rights cannot be made without all affected Mparntwe Native Title Holders’ consent.
We have been forced by the NTG and Lhere Artepe in our sensitive time of sorrow to address these issues, as well as reiterate that the Mparntwe custodians DO NOT consent to the NAAG being built on the ANZAC Oval precinct.
Our position has not wavered since our letter to the Alice Springs Town Council in January 2019, or our meeting with Minister Moss in June 2019.
Mparntwe custodians made multiple requests after the June meeting to work with the NTG in good faith on designing a more direct and respectful consultation process, and the NTG chose to circumvent those requests.
We now respectfully ask that we are left to grieve the loss of our family members.
On behalf of Mparntwe custodians,
Benedict Stevens [and] Doris Stuart
UPDATE 25May 2010, 4.05pm:
The Alice Springs News asked Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture, Lauren Moss, to comment on the following points raised in the Mparntwe custodians letter:-
• that the government’s latest move on the national Aboriginal art gallery shows the custodians “utter disrespect” at a time when they are grieving deaths in their family.
• that no Minister or NTG representative has chosen to meet with Mparntwe custodians since the June 2019 meeting conveyed the unanimous view that they would support the gallery only if it were located south of the Gap .
• that custodians have made multiple requests since the June meeting to work with the NTG in good faith on designing a more direct and respectful consultation process, and the NTG chose to circumvent those requests.
• that Lhere Artepe does not speak on behalf of Mparntwe custodians.
• that Lhere Artepe has no jurisdiction over the ANZAC Oval precinct, as Native Title has been extinguished.
Minister Moss replied via a spokesperson as follows:-
We acknowledge that some Traditional Custodians have expressed opposition to the building of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery at the Anzac Precinct.
We respect their views.
The Northern Territory Government has been in ongoing conversations with Traditional Custodians.
We have consistently said that there is not a consensus opinion amongst Aboriginal people just as there is not amongst other sectors of the population.
We are not going to be drawn into commenting about individual custodians. [ED– We did not ask for comment on individual custodians.]
We know that enormous pressure can be and has been put on people who have made public statements over the past couple of years.
We have always been aware that there are custodians who, for very deep reasons, oppose any development north of the Gap.
We have also heard concern from some about building at the Desert Park or south of the Gap.
Clearly no site will get consensus.
However, we have also received many expressions of support for the use of the Anzac Oval site from those who are looking for something that not only gives their children and grandchildren skills and jobs, but can give this and future generations something right in the centre of Alice Springs that they can be proud of.
We have received Sacred Sites Clearance for the Anzac site.
This informs us all of the sacred sites that must be cared for – and can be better cared for than in the current situation.
But there are more conversations to be had.
Having one owner for the whole precinct means that we will be able to conduct conversations and negotiations quietly, respectfully and privately.