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HomeIssue 24Way forward for nation-building projects – south of the Gap

Way forward for nation-building projects – south of the Gap

There is a way forward from the current legal and political turmoil around the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery and that is to co-locate it with National Indigenous Culture Centre at the Desert Knowledge Precinct.

So say Harold Furber (left, at NAIDOC Week in 2017) and Owen Cole, Chair and Deputy Chair of the Steering Committee of the National Indigenous Culture Centre (NICC), made up of Indigenous cultural representatives from most Australian states and Territories.

They describe as “tragic” the unnecessary division caused by the proposed compulsory acquisition of the Anzac Oval site, “creating antagonism … and thus jeopardising the realisation of both these nation-building projects”.

They call for an urgent meeting between the NT Government and the Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC) to reconsider the proposed compulsory acquisition.

“In moving forward to unite the Alice Springs community, let us remind ourselves that it is Harmony Week,” they say.

The government, council, and the whole Central Australian community could make these projects a reality by supporting the co-location of both projects on the Desert Knowledge Precinct (DKP) site of some 80,000m2 – identified and allocated for this purpose since 2006.

The current significant NT funding commitment of $50 million for the gallery and $20m for NICC would need to be supplemented by funding from other Indigenous funding agencies to properly deliver these nation-building projects and they say NICC is best placed to secure the additional funding.

Located at the DKP, the development of the gallery would not result in leakage of an estimated $20m to replace the rugby oval or the high cost to compulsorily acquire Anzac Oval, which may then be subject to High Court appeal.

Much opposition to these projects will fall away if both are located on the DKP, and a project of this magnitude, even when located outside of the CBD, will benefit the local economy, particularly by increasing tourist traffic to the town.

Above: a concept plan for the National Indigenous Culture Centre (at the top of the image) on the Desert Knowledge Precinct, with entry off Heath Road. Supplied.

Meanwhile, it will be critical that the NT Government also sticks to its CBD revitalisation program to ensure that tourists and locals continue to enjoy the CBD environment, say Mr Furber and Mr Cole.

“It is time for all parties to come together to deliver these long overdue nation-building projects and not let political partisanship and one-upmanship prevent their establishment,” says Mr Furber.

The DKP’s block of land is available and ready to go for both projects under Indigenous leadership, in accordance with the United Nations charter of Indigenous Rights. The Precinct’s operations and development are governed by an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) that was established in 2006, signed by Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, the Northern Territory Government, Desert Knowledge Australia, and the Central Land Council.

From the outset, the ILUA envisaged the creation of a ‘Living Desert Cultural Centre’ within the DKP.

The NICC Steering Committee’s strong view, which they say is universally accepted by Indigenous peoples, is that Indigenous art and culture cannot be artificially separated. The committee thus supports a combined National Indigenous Art & Culture Centre on the Desert Knowledge precinct to accord with the legally binding ILUA and to fully respect Aboriginal people and their customs.

The NICC’s vision is to create a centre which showcases the diversity of Australia’s Indigenous peoples and cultures and depicts how they have contributed to modern-day society. The NICC will include and express Aboriginal cultures from all areas across Australia, bringing them together at the beating heart of the nation: Alice Springs.

A strong social and financial business case, including independent economic analysis, prepared by Deloitte, underpin the viability of the project as the centrepiece for telling the First Australians’ story. Advanced concept plans have been prepared by an Indigenous architect, demonstrating how the NICC could rapidly become an important large-scale infrastructure project, generating vital local employment, social and economic opportunities and contributing to the Australian identity.

Source: Media release, National Indigenous Culture Centre Corporation.


  1. Well said.
    I’m glad someone finally mentioned the ILUA.
    Thank you. The Art gallery belongs at Desert Knowledge precinct.
    The only thing I can say is that the well meaning people that want the art gallery in Anzac oval need to listen before millions of dollars are wasted putting it in the wrong place.

  2. What a fantastic idea. The Cultural Centre and the Art Gallery should be together and south of The Gap is a perfect location.

  3. Such a well-argued position. It really is time that NT Government and Alice Springs Town Council came together to fully support this notion and get the job done!
    Already millions of dollars have been wasted in the tit-for-tat spats over the past three years.
    A valuable infrastructure asset (Anzac Hill High) school demolished for no net gain. Money wasted on the consultative process that was not heeded anyway. Divisive politics and over-inflated egos have ruled this project since its inception and design.
    The Desert Knowledge Precinct is a wonderful location and, it would appear, culturally sensitive and appropriate.
    I wonder what will happen to this project after 22nd August?

  4. At last a bit of common sense. It should be in conjunction with Yirara and used also as a training ground for the students there in managing and displaying their own culture as well as displaying the positive side of Indigenous education.
    It is taking such a long time to realise that the economic future of this town will inevitably move to the area between the Gap and the airport, including Brewer, leaving the current CBD to accomodation and consumer functions as it is now.
    No one has asked for reasons why two major banks and now another retail shop have left that area of the mall, and looking at the numbers going into the museum there tells the same story. The Anzac site will not remedy this.
    I have spent time at the cafe opposite the current tourist office and watched people movements there and I suggest Govt does the same. People divert to the Post office.
    The Cultural Centre should be a large part of a completely new tourism focused precinct incorporating a new and up to date tourist centre at the Transport Hall of fame revolving around tourist motor transport and buses just as has happened everywhere else but here.
    Red Hot Arts is neglected but has so much to offer the mall and visitors. It’s been sad to watch the vested real estate interests dictate who does what and where in the CBD and planners have lost sight of the long term picture.
    And what of the burgeoning bush foods industry or remote area water recycling technology? Where do visitors learn about them? Advances in that should have been on display where the drain is now.
    There are so many other things that could have provided long term industries in that area but ignored. 30 years ago a major German research institution was interested in coming here to do solar research. No one bothered to push it. We reap as we sow.

  5. @ Trevor Shiell. The Desert Knowledge Precinct is very high maintenance.
    $3.3m in government grants in the 2018/19 financial year.
    $1.6m staff costs.
    The DKP says it does the following:
    DKA facilitates collaborations and opportunities that support new technologies, resolve policy issues around open data and Aboriginal data sovereignty, and support the growth of a new digital economic base and workforce.
    It would be interesting to know what the DKP has achieved?
    The research arm Ninti One appears inactive.
    The precinct itself is a ghost town with many empty buildings.
    It seems that the DKP board has failed in the important task of living within its (substantial) means i.e. rent and payments for solar energy.
    Under DKP auspices, would the gallery become a further drain on government requiring endless grants?
    Councillor Jimmy Cocking is a (paid) board member and it would be useful for him to throw light on the concerns raised here.

  6. @ John: Did you read the story above? The art gallery should be put in there and it will bring $$$.


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