By KIERAN FINNANE
The 13th Town Council has made a parting gift to the community – the purchase of five large artworks by acclaimed artists of the “Hermannsburg school”, all of them now living in town and working at the Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands Art Centre.
It was the last significant resolution of this council, coming out of their last decision-making meeting. (A caretaker meeting on August 24, just four days out from the election, will be essentially a rubber stamping of finance reports.)
There were farewell speeches made by Mayor Damien Ryan and Deputy Mayor Jacinta Price, both of whom are leaving council to contest the next NT election for the CLP, Mr Ryan in a challenging contest for Lingiari, Ms Price an apparent shoo-in for one of the NT’s two Senate seats.
Councillor Eli Melky responded to the Mayor, surprising himself with how emotional he became.
His was the only response, however, to their somewhat strained sweeping under the carpet of the often bitter divisions over the last four years.
Cr Jamie de Brenni, until about a fortnight ago the self-declared successor to Mayor Ryan, was absent from the meeting (he sent an apology).
A small group of skate-boarders attended, anxious to know the fate of the skate-park – when and how it will be repaired, when it will re-open.
They seemed reasonably satisfied that they won’t have to wait until after the election to get some movement. Repairs recommended by consultants Convic come in at less than $100,000, an amount that CEO Robert Jennings is able to authorise during the caretaker period.
Mr Jennings is due to speak again with Convic today, and wants to meet again with the users group before going ahead.
To a question from Cr Banks about a date for re-opening, he said council was treating this as an “urgent item”.
Meanwhile, some improvements such as some landscaping have begun.
Convic costed an upgrade of the park to regional level at about $2m (it as presently at district level).
Cr Matt Paterson suggested that work be done to get the regional park to “shovel ready project” status, to take advantage of federal funding promises that may flow when that election is called.
Despite having been discussed at the council meeting on Monday night, the purchase of the Iltja Ntjarra artworks, as recommended by the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), became the subject of protracted debate.
Passionately holding her ground, Cr Banks fought off Mayor Ryan’s attempted scuttling with challenges to the process (the art centre had approached PAAC, instead of PAAC seeking EOIs for a project it initiated) and identifying a discrepancy in the costing figures.
Cr Catherine Satour, who was Acting Chair for the PAAC meeting that put forward the recommendation, firmly rejected the suggestion that there was a problem with the process: “There are many ways you can bring business to council,” she said.
The proposal had been discussed at PAAC meetings for quite some time, working in with council staff. She was “baffled that now there are issues”.
There was also debate about what bucket of money the purchase should come from, with the Mayor, Crs Paterson, Melky and Jimmy Cocking arguing that at least a signifiant portion should come from PAAC’s budget – $60,000 for this financial year.
The works were offered to council at a 30% discount, coming to a total of $37,947. The suggested contribution from PAAC was two-thirds of that.
Cr Banks argued that taking this amount from PAAC’s budget would severely limit what else they would be able to achieve during the next 12 months, and she finally won support on this point.
The discrepancy in the costing figures was easily resolved by the CEO redoing the calculations, and identifying where the error had been made.
This cleared the way for elected members to carry Cr Banks’s motion, with the money to come from CBD Revitalisation reserve (in excess of $1.9m).
Urrampinyi – (Old Tempe) – Petermann area by Selma Nunay Coulthard
The five works, developed in a project with CDU, have been painted on steel panels intended for outdoor installation, some of them with perforations allowing the viewer to look through to the landscape beyond.
The reputed artists involved are Hubert Pareroultja, Kathleen France, Noreen Hudson, Vanessa and Reinhold Inkamala, Selma Coulthard and Kathy Inkamala.
They are Western Aranda people but, as they wrote to council, they are “connected to Mparntwe – Arrernte people through a blood link. We are all connected as a family, and our stories are connected. We have no doubts that our works of art, depicting our Country are welcome in the centre of Mparntwe. Tnurunga, a little caterpillar connects us all together.”
They also consulted directly with Central Arrernte custodians Darryl Stevens, Phyliss Stevens and Priscilla Furber, and visited with them the prospective locations for the installation.
Although the artists initially favoured the walkway through council’s carpark between Hartley Street and the Mall, another location emerged during the consultation, on the banks south of Tuncks Road, directly opposite the sacred hill, Ntyarlkarle Tyaneme.
The final locations, however, will be along Leichardt Terrace, on the riverbank following the walking/cycling track, from a little north of Parsons Street to Gregory Terrace. (The riverbank opposite Ntyarlkarle Tyaneme was previously reported as the final location, incorrectly.)
Cr Banks welcomed the installation as a “kick start to the public art masterplan along the river corridor”.
Mt Hermannsburg – Old Historical Building and Native Bush Flowers by Kathy Inkamala
On the question of buckets of money, Cr Eli Melky drew attention of mayoral candidates in the chamber (including himself) to the limits on what they can promise to spend.
Cr Melky argued that only unrestricted cash reserves – currently at $790,129 – could come into play.
It’s important for candidates to understand what council “can afford”, said Cr Melky, suggesting that CEO provide such information.
Mr Jennings said he would be happy to speak to candidates who are interested.
A worthy push from Cr Cocking that council move now on forming a Multicultural Advisory Committee was deemed by some of his colleagues as coming too late.
He had raised the matter in 2018, winning support then for a motion to establish such a committee, and three years later “we are still here without any engagement”, he said.
Meanwhile, the numbers have only grown, with 23% of the local population born overseas. It’s important they have a “voice in council”, he said, and be able to “feed into development” of council’s multicultural action plan.
Mayor Ryan said the creation of a committee now would be “an imposition” on the next council.
He was happy though to support the CEO taking it on “as an action” – meaning there will be a future report from officers. This is where the matter stayed – basically where it has been since 2018.
Photo at top: Among PAAC’s achievements for last year is the redesigned “entry statement” at the souther end of Todd Mall. Note also the shuttered businesses and absence of a living soul at 5.30 in the evening – not PAAC’s responsibility of course. It will take more than public art to turn this around.
Below: In the public gallery last night were aspiring mayoral candidates Kim Hopper and Patrick Bedford, Ms Hopper in pink, Mr Bedford, front row, in black).
Last updated 28 July 2021, 4.53pm (including change of image at top).