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HomeVolume 27Anglican Diocese: Silent night on St Mary's sale

Anglican Diocese: Silent night on St Mary’s sale

By ERWIN CHLANDA

One thing former St Mary’s residents will not find in Santa’s stocking tomorrow: News of what’s happening to the place many call home.

Five days after the close of bids for the site the Anglican Church has still not made it clear what its intentions are with the property in Alice Springs, south of The Gap, except they want to sell it to relieve financial problems.

The most recent statement the Alice Springs News received from Bishop Greg Anderson (pictured) came on Wednesday: “The Diocese is continuing to work through the process, aware of the social and commercial sensitivities.

“We will release a statement when there is information to share.”

Also still waiting for a response is Mark Smith, grandson of Father Percy McD Smith, founding rector of the Anglican Church in Alice Springs, and a supporter of the St Mary’s Stolen Generation Group.

He wrote to the Bishop on December 18 about the views of his father, John P McD Smith, who died earlier this month, until his death the chair of the St Francis House Project in Adelaide.

Several Aboriginal children from Alice Springs received education there and were launched on significant national careers, including Charlie Perkins (google this site).

Mark Smith quotes from an email his father, upon hearing about the sale plans, sent to a fellow prominent Anglican: “From my point of view it goes without saying that the chapel at St Mary’s needs to be preserved and maintained as a heritage site.

“Services should still be held there and the chapel should be open to the public. The Anglican Church in Alice Springs has a powerful history and the St Mary’s Chapel is very much part of that.”

Mark Smith, quoting his father, said in his letter to the Bishop: “I understand that members of the [group] have sought a portion of the land for remembrance, healing and for future generations … an area of the land for remembrance and healing that consists of the chapel, the yellow house immediately north of the chapel (the closest building to it), and an area around them both to keep their character as sacred, an access road and 10% of the purchase price for activities associated with the site, and a monument in front of the chapel.”

Mark Smith wrote: “I also understand that in your response on December 9 you did not guarantee that members of [the group] would have any ongoing connection to the site. It is the ongoing connection that is culturally vital.”

The News received no response from Bishop Anderson to a further enquiry this morning.

Related reading:

Aboriginal organisations must cough up: St Mary’s supporters

St Mary’s sale: Time for the church to comment, says former Anglicare NT manager

St Mary’s sale: Anglican Church asked to give guarantees

3 COMMENTS

  1. Clearly we are not singing from the same hymn sheet yet … only blank pages. Can it not be understood that ongoing access is needed … hopefully a buyer can accomodate this and still develop the rest of the site in a positive way.

  2. As a former chair of the St Mary’s board in the 80s I have communicated with the Diocese pointing out how short sighted their planning has been.
    We had the chance at that time to construct a mutually beneficial solution to both the Diocese and the former inhabitants but the chance was ignored.
    Paul Everingham, Milton Blanch, the then manager, and myself met to discuss the precarious financial position and a proposition was put to the Diocese to make it a nation wide educational camp in cultural and environmental eduction for senior students Australia wide and illustrate how useful St Mary’s has been, and still could be.
    A preliminary survey of the market indicated some 10,000 to 12,000 bed nights were potentially available.
    This was never followed up despite of a preliminary report on the possibilities being sent to the Diocese but never heard of subsequently.
    They had their chance to serve both masters which makes the current situation extremely disappointing.
    St Mary’s could have made a significant contribution to both the social fabric of the towns well as to the economy.
    By involving the wide Australian Anglican community and the well funded Indigenous bodies this may still be possible.

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