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.