@ Mark Wilson (Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:27 am): …

Comment on Fossil museum set to return to the CBD by Alex Nelson.

@ Mark Wilson (Posted April 30, 2017 at 12:27 am): There are several points to pick up on from your comment, Mark:
• The history of the Museum of Central Australia runs thus: the original display of natural history objects (for example, specimens of wildlife) was at the Arid Zone Research Institute in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as I recall just inside and to the right of the main entrance to the then brand new office complex – where the main administration offices are now. This was a temporary arrangement pending the construction of a dedicated natural history museum. In December 1973 the Whitlam Government transferred control of The Residency to the Museums and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) where a range of natural history items were on display, together with research facilities in very cramped conditions. The Residency also was used for art displays and continued to function for official receptions (which led to the unfortunate occasion in 1977 when Prince Charles and other dignitaries suffered poisoning as a consequence of food preparation undertaken in the same room where animal specimens underwent taxidermy preparations).
In late 1987 the museum was transferred to a new and expansive space on the upper floor of the new Ford Plaza (now Alice Plaza), it was rebadged “The Spencer and Gillen Museum”. This didn’t come without controversy, as the Department of Social Security had originally applied for this space but was rejected as the developers didn’t want Aboriginal clientele in the building (they were quite frank about this). Consequently there were protests at the official opening of the new museum in March 1988.
Unfortunately the Spencer and Gillen Museum suffered from poor visitation. During a national museums conference held there in April 1991, the NT Government announced the pending closure of the Spencer and Gillen Museum (this was the same month that the government’s Expenditure Review Committee announced sweeping cutbacks right across the board for the NT Public Service). I suggested at the time to the minister responsible for museums, Mike Reed, that the government should consider relocating the museum to the Araluen Art Centre precinct, perhaps with the new Strehlow Research Centre (SRC). However, the museum remained in Alice Plaza until its lease ran out in 1998 whereupon it was indeed transferred across to the SRC, officially opened there in August 1999 and where it remains to this day. Unfortunately this is a very unsatisfactory arrangement for both the SRC and the museum.
The proposal now to relocate the fossil display to a vacant premise in Todd Mall is a very short-sighted stop-gap measure that shows a marked lack of understanding and appreciation by the Department of Tourism and Culture of the museum’s true potential – it’s a very poor decision.
• I agree with your observations in relation to the Mayor’s comments on radio recently attributing the difficulty of filling empty retail space due to competition from online purchases. The fact is that there has been difficulty in filling empty shop spaces since Todd Mall opened in late 1987 (and even earlier, as the construction of the mall also disrupted trade). This was long before online purchases became a reality. The new mall immediately suffered from crime and vandalism (this problem was front page news two months after the mall’s official opening) and high rents from landlords also became a public issue in 1988. These problems came to the fore almost exactly 30 years ago and nothing has changed since that time.
• Your final point about the cost of air travel to the Centre is correct. It’s interesting to note that amongst the recommendations of the HKF Report into Central Australia’s tourism industry released in late 1969, two points of relevance stand out: first, the report made the first suggestion to convert Todd Street into a pedestrian mall; second, it was recommended to relocate the international airport from Darwin to Alice Springs. This was a time when Central Australia was by far the greatest tourist destination in the whole of the Northern Territory.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

‘Voter apathy greatest threat to Territory democracy’
@ Domenico Pecorari (Posted August 23, 2019 at 8:44 pm): Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this but occasionally it’s been my practice to spoil my ballots by adding an extra box labelled Informal or None of the above, and voting for it.
These days I think “Informal” would end up being the most popular candidate in every election campaign, which is possibly a reason why politicians would be reluctant to include it on the ballot slips!
An update to my previous reply to Ted Egan, I noticed a reference that enrolment and voting was made compulsory for all Aboriginal people in the NT (at least for Territory elections) in the early years of self-government so this situation has existed much longer than I realised.


‘Voter apathy greatest threat to Territory democracy’
@ Ted Egan (Posted August 23, 2019 at 10:54 am): My understanding is that Aboriginal people (ie. “full bloods” as opposed to people of mixed race descent who could vote from 1953) gained the right to vote in the NT in 1962, however it was non-compulsory. This remained the case until comparatively recent times, as I recall.
The first elections that all Aboriginal people could vote in was for the NT Legislative Council in December 1962. The Labor candidate for Stuart, DD Smith, was the first person in Australia to advertise his campaign over radio in an Aboriginal language (Arrernte) – he got Milton Liddle to speak in language for him.
Smith won the seat from long-serving member Bill Petrick, who unsuccessfully objected to the result on the basis that only English could be used in an election campaign.


Opposition leader will not be questioned on looming NT poll
I have made the point a number of times for well over a decade, principally through Alice Springs News, in making two key observations about patterns in Territory politics.
One is that governments that win massive majorities in elections suffer serious electoral backlashes in subsequent polls.
This trend is strengthening over time; for example, in August 1997 the CLP won 18 seats and its greatest ever total vote across the Territory but it lost office for the first time in August 2001.
Similarly, Labor won 19 seats in June 2005 but was reduced to a minority government in August 2008.
There’s no reason to believe the Gunner Government, with its initial 18 seats (now 16) will not suffer a similar fate in a year’s time.
The second pattern is that political parties whose leaders represent electorates outside of Darwin always lose elections.
This pattern began as long ago as 1965 when the Member for Alice Springs, Colonel Lionel Rose, became the leader of the North Australia Party – he lost his seat by a narrow margin to Labor candidate Charlie “Chas” Orr, and the NAP was obliterated to a single winning member (Tony Greatorex, Member for Stuart).
History went full circle when Chief Minister Adam Giles, the Member for Braitling, narrowly lost his seat in 2016 to Labor’s Dale Wakefield, and the CLP was reduced to its worst ever result of just two seats.
The current leader, Gary Higgins, represents a rural seat and – consistent with the existing pattern – it’s highly unlikely in my view that he will succeed in leading the CLP to victory next year.
As noted in another report, there’s a high level of disengagement of electors in the political process, and with democracy itself, in the Northern Territory.
We live in interesting times.


Another great river tree goes up in flames
@ Karen (Posted August 21, 2019 at 2:04 pm): Hi Karen, I presume you mean the wildfire on the Ross Highway side of Todd River in 2002, as I recall?
That was a very damaging conflagration fuelled by buffel grass that had grown rampant during the wet years of 2000-01.
It came very close to rural properties next to the river.
As it happened, I took photos of that area several times prior to the wildfire so was able to get contrasting before and after shots that demonstrated the severity of that particular blaze.
There were a number of other deliberately lit fires at the time such as along Colonel Rose Drive, and the damage remains clearly visible to this day.


Gunner goofs: No council ‘decisions’ on gallery site
@ Some Guy (Posted August 19, 2019 at 10:43 am): No, I don’t “feel like this golden opportunity of a project to secure the future of Central Australia both in an economic and cultural sense on the world stage is slowly slipping through the fingers” because it was an illusion in the first place.
This isn’t the first occasion that a big project has been held out for us in The Centre offering some kind of economic Nirvana; we were told exactly the same kind of thing with the casino 40 years ago, and again with the development of the Alice Springs Desert Park in the mid 1990s.
Both of these facilities may be attractions but have never come close to fulfilling the visions originally held out to us as major game changers for the Centre’s economy.
With all due respect, I cannot see how a “National Aboriginal Art Gallery” will prove to be any different in the long run.


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