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HomeVolume 28The Gap: More than a pretty picture

The Gap: More than a pretty picture


“The Queen got pulled up in The Gap. The Olympic torch got pulled up. I was there.”

No exemption for Her Majesty visiting in March 2000. According to tradition, everyone needs permission to go through The Gap, although it was unlikely to be denied to Elizabeth II.

The late Harold Furber, a senior Arrernte custodian, made the comment as part of an impassioned plea to the Alice Springs Town Council in May 2019, to support the location of the planned cultural centre south of The Gap.

It will need to be on neutral land because it will display art from other people’s country, he argued.

For eons people wishing to enter Arrernte land north of the ranges, through the magnificent landmark, had to have consent from the locals.

It’s a requirement the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Board clearly failed to observe, much to the disapproval of Graeme Smith, CEO of Lhere Artepe, the native title organisation in Alice Springs.

The group from the “Pitlands” in northern SA are in town, coincidentally at a time when Lhere Artepe is formulating a type of permit system for non-Arrernte people. Mr Smith is blaming some of them for the crime wave in Alice Springs: “It’s not Arrernte kids who break in, jump on the roof of taxis, trash the town, run amok.”

Lhere Artepe’s planned requirements may well affect meetings of the Central Land Council.

The APY board is holding a meeting today and tomorrow at the Alice Springs Desert Park’s meeting room – north of the ranges.

We asked the APY Manager Stakeholder Engagement yesterday whether permission to enter town had been obtained. She said she would pass our question to senior operatives of APY. They didn’t get back to us.

Mr Smith said there has been no contact with Lhere Artepe. It is conceivable that a senior Arrernte has given permission but in that case “I’d like to know who”. Protocol would have required disclosure.

Mr Smith (pictured) says what makes the disrespectfulness of the APY group more serious is that quarrels in their home are what caused the relocation of the meeting: “We don’t want people bringing their troubles here,” he says.

The News has obtained documents including a letter from board chairperson Bernard Singer saying: “I have called this meeting away from the APY lands in order to provide the Board with the opportunity to attend to its business without interruption.”

And in a letter to chairperson Bernard Singer, to the director of administration Rex Tjami and the APY Executive Board chairperson, a lawyer says he is acting for Trevor Adamson who “we are instructed” is spokesperson for a two-thirds majority of the board: “We are instructed that the majority see Alice Springs as an inappropriate venue … and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars in the nature of a junket aimed at luring members behind closed doors for the apparent purpose of coercing them over days about Mr [Richard] King’s employment [as the General Manager for the APY Lands].”

Mr Smith says: “This is a meeting about APY land governance. Moving it stinks, taking board meetings away from its members. It looks like they have something to hide.”

However, if the meeting is conducted in orderly fashion and there are no disturbances he will not intervene, says Mr Smith (pictured).

Lhere Artepe has no problem with most meetings and conventions in Alice Springs which respect Arrernte traditions and bring money into town, said Mr Smith, speaking to the News on the phone.

He said he was speaking in the presence of Benedict Stevens, a senior custodian (Apmereke Artweye) for Alice Springs.

“Respect for the country must be first and foremost,” says Mr Smith.

It is clear that traditional laws and rules are alive and well.

Mr Furber reminded the Town Council that the Yeperenye Festival (pictured above), marking the centenary of Federation, a spectacular get-together of tribal groups from all over Australia, was held at Blatherskite Park, south of The Gap.


  1. It’s not only the cultural centre that should be south of The Gap but in conjunction with Yirara College also a training and display area for all Indigenous groups.
    The visitors centre should be at the Transport Hall of Fame, not crammed into a corner [in Todd Mall] as it is now.
    Based on very successful models elsewhere, such as Winton, McLaren Vale, Megacentral, there should be at the geology section at ASRI, with a mining centre of excellence as in Townsville and the desert food garden display.
    The list of tourism attractions in keeping with the district goes on and on, but is ignored as a distinct tourism precinct, leaving the town to do its commerce and administration thing.
    And we need to recognise the fact that we are no longer a pedestrian based economy but driven by vehicles.
    The commercial enterprises got that message years ago but we are slow learners.


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