National gallery site: Elders may have the answer



Two of the town’s most senior traditional owners, Felicity Hayes and Peter “Coco” Wallace, have joined the heated debate about the location for the proposed national Aboriginal art gallery.

They say it should be on land traditionally owned by the Ellis and Ross families (Penangkes and Pengartes of the caterpillar dreaming), from Amoonguna.

Under Australian law the block is owned freehold by local business identity Ron Sterry who last week invited the two elders to inspect it. He says he would consider a sale but would first need to get a valuation.

It is about a square kilometre between the southern flank of the Heavitree Range east of The Gap, and Ragonesi Road. The block was mooted as the location for the gallery in July 2018 when the Alice Springs News sought wide-ranging comment on its suitability for the gallery project.

The site would appear to answer the demand from many senior Arrernte people that the gallery be built south of the Gap, while it would also satisfy the requirement for the gallery to be in “an iconic location” – offering a much stronger experience of Country that is at the heart of Aboriginal culture than the Anzac site does.

The NT Government continues to insist on the Anzac location without clearing the air on Aboriginal opposition (apart from Lhere Artepe’s letter of support). This situation prompted the Alice Springs News to make a direct approach to Ms Hayes and Mr Wallace (pictured at top).

They say: “The Ellis and Ross families are the people who can speak about this country. That land is important because of the caterpillar dreaming, as well as the green beetle lore.

“The beetles cut off the heads of the Yeperenye caterpillar, creating the gaps in the region, including Emily Gap and Jessie Gap.

“That’s where the caterpillar went under the ground.

“The Anzac precinct is a women’s sacred site and its use for the gallery would be a violation. It would cause harm. People will get sick. You can hear women crying. That’s why you never go on other people’s country.”

Ms Hayes is the apmereke-artweye for the area west of the Todd south of the range, including Pine Gap, and both sides of the Todd north of the range.

Mr Wallace is the kwertengerkle (caretaker) for Ms Hayes.

They now want to show that land to Lhere Artepe, the native title organisation which currently is supporting the government’s plans to build in the Anzac Hill precinct. The government has set aside $50m for the project.

The issue is likely to be a major agenda item for the Lhere Artepe AGM understood to be held on February 27.

Mr Sterry’s land would fulfil the major requirement by many Aboriginal people, namely that the gallery site should be south of The Gap.

In addition the land is much bigger than the one proposed now, potentially providing room also for the National Aboriginal Cultural Centre, for which $20m has been set aside; it would save a further $20m needed to acquire and relocate the rugby oval. It is closer to the tourist accommodation precinct than Anzac Hill. And it has room for a string of tourism facilities such as hotels.

Above all the site, featuring several hills, has superb views to the East and West MacDonnells, and the seemingly endless expanse to the south.

Main photo: Behind Ms Hayes and Mr Wallace is the spectacular view to the  East MacDonnells. Above is the view to the west.

UPDATED at 5.40pm on February 18. Additional information, paragraphs 3 to 5.


  1. Sounds good. Just hope the Government will listen to them. It is meant to reflect Aboriginal culture so the Government should listen the elders.

  2. @ Yvonne: After dragging on and on with endless disputation the Government made a decision.
    They will not be changing it.
    Let’s get on with building this much needed tourist attraction.

  3. This land was knocked back by the government when this bloke tried to build a subdivision, too hilly and rocky for trenches for water and sewage. Now trying to sell it off through Aboriginal people who do not understand.
    All land situated in the Alice boundary belongs to all Arunta People.
    Grahame Smith you as the CEO and Shane Lindner with Robert Campbell as CEO at the time trying to sell off land Block 8102 over the East side which would be very suitable for this project and owned by all Arunta people and not just Lhere Artepe members.
    Maybe Gunna Do will do the right thing for once since in power and not spend our money on rubbish.

  4. Sounds like a move in the right direction, but further south in conjunction with Yirara College so the students there can be involved in the promotion and display of the culture, and the positive side of Indigenous education (look at what the School of the Air adds) and more importantly, learn the management skills necessary to run it.
    Add to that the promotion of the Indigenous the food industry in conjunction with DKA and you have a very distinct and unique feature.

  5. It would be great to have an article explaining the history of Ron Sterry’s subdivision, and why it has not yet eventuated.
    [ED – Hi Alex, the Alice Springs News published detailed coverage of the subdivision plans, including the sale of blocks, later refunded. Please google the reports on this site.]

  6. A cultural centre, funny that.
    The mouth pieces for Indigenous representation in government, print media and electronic media are calling for cancellation of Australia Day, change the Australian Flag, change the Australian National Anthem and continually white anting Australia as we know it.
    Yet they are quite happy with no compunction to take our tax paying dollars, use our technology etc and accept our generosity to build a fifty million dollar, yes, $50,000,000 “cultural centre”. Alice Springs and many towns in outback Australia are currently experiencing behaviour in the streets and surrounding areas of First Australians “culture” and it isn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination.
    Boomerangs, nulla nullas, woomeras, throwing spears, didgeridoos, kadaitcha feather shoes etc won’t do it nowadays.
    The antagonists in the First Nations movement have destroyed everything that we respected about our true Australian Aboriginal mates in the 50s and 60s, now the young are well and truly being radicalised to the detriment of their future assimilation.
    Question: Which culture will they exhibit for the $50,000,000?
    [ED – The NT Government has set aside $20m for an Aboriginal national cultural centre and $50m for a national art gallery.]

  7. Now it’s $20m plus $50m – yes, $70,000,000.
    That money could be spent on more pressing issues like a central detention and educational centre to rid the streets and towns of the unruly and anti social behaviour.
    It would be courageous and advantageous to have an Independent film crew to air the goings on of the problems facing all towns and communities throughout the north of Australia and beyond.
    For sanity’s sake do not bring the word “racism” into the discussion to better the lives and conditions of Aboriginal people and their children.

  8. Hi Alex, give me a phone call and leave your number so we can have a chat over a $5m coffee next week.
    Cheers, Ron Sterry.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here