By ERWIN CHLANDA
The chairman of the Alice Springs native title organisation Lhere Artepe (LA), Shane Lindner, is playing a role in events referred to in two sets of documents: One relates to the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery (NAAG) and the other to the allocation of funds for housing in East MacDonnells homelands.
LA says there is no connection between the two but this is questioned by a prominent political figure speaking with the News on the condition of not being named.
Mr Lindner signed a document on May 14 last year as the chairman of LA which he describes as “the representative of the Arrernte people”, the organisation speaking for the town’s three estate groups, holding native title over parts of Alice Springs.
They are notorious for feuding and internal strife although after a tumultuous meeting in March, an AGM has now taken place and a new board appointed, according to its former acting CEO, Graeme Smith, who has been given a three year contract.
The LA document was a letter to Chief Minister Michael Gunner and the then Minister for Families, Dale Wakefield: It confirmed LA’s support for NAAG “being located at the ANZAC Hill precinct, incorporating the ANZAC school and ANZAC oval sites”.
Mr Gunner, whilst claiming to have widely consulted on the issue, has not named any other Aboriginal sources in that process.
He wants the gallery built in the ANZAC precinct.
There is much anecdotal evidence that Arrernte people, possibly the majority, want the gallery south of The Gap instead.
This, it is said, is because they do not want their own culture to be impacted by outside ones.
Even the Queen felt compelled to seek permission from Aboriginal custodians to enter the town through The Gap.
The Lindner letter is likely to be key evidence in the government’s imminent court action to compulsorily acquire ANZAC Oval from the Alice Springs Town Council.
Mr Lindner also features in a document of the Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities, headed Scope of Works and dated March 11, 2021.
He is named, together with Bonnie King, as the tenants of an “improvised structure” in the Bottom Camp for which “an allowance of up to $390k has been set aside for a full demolition and replacement.
“Awaiting the outcome of further discussions,” says the document.
That amount is far more than what is planned to be spent on other dwellings in a scheme announced by Minister Chansey Paech to “improve safety of housing … through the Electrical and Fire Safety Maintenance Program across 131 homelands and 498 houses [to] improve the safety and conditions … by reducing the risk of electrocution, electrical fire [and] electrical hazards”.
Mr Paech trumpets on his Facebook site (pictured) his government’s construction of houses on communities, where occupiers are tenants of Territory Housing: “Each new home built in a remote community in the Northern Territory helps to reduce overcrowding and improve health and living conditions.” But there is no provision of housing on outstations and homelands, according to our source.
Building houses is not mentioned in Minister Paech’s media release on April 19.
According to the departmental document, expenditures per dwelling range from $8000 to $87,000. The highest, other than Mr Lindner’s, is $124,000.
No tenants other than Mr Lindner and Ms King are named in the document.
We asked LA: “Is there any connection between the letter of support, dated 14/05/2020, for the gallery location and the government funding for a house for Shane Lindner on his homeland east of Alice Springs?”
Mr Smith replied there is “no connection between the letter of support and house for Shane.
“First I’ve heard of it, actually. Whoever suggested this?”
An aide to Mr Paech provided a link to information online but when we tried to access it the answer we got was: “This grant could not be found, or you do not have permission to view it.”
The aide said: “Chansey is the relevant Minister in this instance however he is not involved in the specific allocation of housing works.”
She did not answer the following questions we put to Mr Paech on May 31:
Re: Remote and homelands housing program:
• Adam Giles did a deal in 2015 with the Federal Government for a one-off payment of $155m agreeing to take responsibility for of service delivery in homelands.
• Does that include housing maintenance, and if beyond repair, a new house will be built?
• How many houses were built since 2016 under that program? [Our source says none.]
• Is Lindner’s house the first to be built under that scheme?
• How many occupants are named on these contracts?
• When were contracts released which carried the names of the occupants?
We received no answer from Mr Gunner when we asked him on April 19: “Given that the NT Government rarely if ever pays for the building of houses on Aboriginal communities, for local residents’ use, how come your government is proposing to spend nearly $400,000 on a house for Shane Lindner who as the Lhere Artepe president presumably is signing off on the native title organisation’s consent for the art gallery to be built in the Anzac precinct – your preferred location?”