It’s ironic enough that a women’s museum finds itself in …

Comment on The gaolers and the gaoled: new exhibition by Alex Nelson.

It’s ironic enough that a women’s museum finds itself in an old gaol but it’s all the more so given its appearance previously in an old courthouse.
The NPWHF’s occupancy of the Old Gaol highlights the long term chronic incoherence of the NT Government’s approach to heritage issues in Alice Springs, regardless of political persuasion.
When the NT Government (then CLP) announced in 1991 that a new gaol would be constructed south of Alice Springs, the initial intention was to preserve the Old Gaol. I suggested that the Spencer and Gillen Museum might be relocated there (subsequent to my earlier suggestion it be moved to the Araluen Centre complex), given that the NT Government had announced its imminent closure at the (then) Ford Plaza in April that year. My idea was enthusiastically supported by Roger Vale, the Minister for Tourism.
During the NT election campaign of 1994, the ALP promised to build a new home for the NPWHF at the Araluen Centre (reported in the Alice Springs News).
The CLP had a change of heart about the Old Gaol, deciding to demolish it to make way for hospital extensions and real estate infill development that had become all the rage in Alice Springs during the 1990s. While controversy raged over the fate of the Old Gaol, the NT Government also made plans to relocate the Spencer and Gillen Museum to the Strehlow Research Centre at the Araluen complex. The new Central Australian Museum was officially opened in August 1999, in conditions that have compromised the integrity of both the museum and the SRC.
Amongst those prominent in the clash to save the Old Gaol were Labor MLA, Peter Toyne, and then Alderman Fran Kilgariff (she was elected as mayor in 2000).
Yet when another heritage controversy erupted a few years later over the fate of the heritage-listed Rieff Building they were conspicuous by their absence.
Notwithstanding that the NT Heritage Council not once but twice affirmed the heritage significance of the Rieff Building, the Labor Government overturned its listing which was enabled by legislation passed by the previous CLP administration in the wake of its failure to destroy the Old Gaol.
The Rieff Building was destroyed in 2006, the same year the NPWHF was relocated to the Old Gaol (much to the dismay of its founder Molly Clark, I’m told). The opening of the NPWHF in its new home was supported with great fanfare from the NT Government, which announced that “The hall of fame will be the centrepiece of a first-of-its-kind tourism marketing plan for Central Australia” – a plan which subsequently fell into obscurity.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Alice to get first Aboriginal owned earth ground station
If I recall correctly, the Geoscience Australia Antenna commenced operation as a Landsat receiving station in 1979, so this year marks its 40th anniversary.
Our family was living at the CSIRO residence by Heath Road at the time, now the Centre for Appropriate Technology.
There was one funny occasion when my brother was wandering around in the paddock nearby the new facility, and wherever he went the antenna would swing around and point towards him.
I think he got a bit spooked by it but it was the technical officers in the adjoining demountable lab that were just having a bit of fun.


Architect of Katherine’s masterplan to be Alice council CEO
This is tremendous good news for Alice Springs. I shall put on hold my plans to move to Katherine 🙂


Car crashed into supermarket, alcohol stolen
Certainly not the first time that kind of offence has occurred at those premises!


Nationals in Canberra run Country Liberals media
Perhaps it’s splitting hairs but there were two previous Trades and Labour Councils established in Alice Springs before Warren Snowdon “founded” the Central Australian Regional TLC.
The first was in December 1976 when Miscellaneous Workers Union officials Bill Thomson, from Sydney, and Ray Rushbury (Melbourne) arrived here to establish the Alice Springs Trades and Labour Council, as an adjunct to the TLC in Darwin. This was achieved by the end of the year, and Rushbury was appointed the permanent organiser in late 1977.
In early 1977 the Alice Springs TLC shared office space with the NT ALP in Reg Harris Lane. The new NT Labor leader, Jon Isaacs, was the secretary of the MWU in Darwin – he rose to prominence during 1976 when the North Australian Railway was closed.
The first Alice Springs TLC appeared to have become defunct by the end of the decade. In January 1981 a new organiser, Ray Ciantar from Perth, was appointed to re-activate the Alice Springs TLC but with responsibility extending to Tennant Creek and other regional communities; however, this effort seems to have been even less successful than the first.
The third “founding” of the TLC in Alice Springs was by Warren Snowdon in 1985, this time called the Central Australian TLC.


Wards for Alice council, including one for town camps?
Wards for the Alice Springs Town Council are not a new idea but have never been supported by the NT Government.
There was discussion about wards in the mid-1990s, which was firmly rejected by the government.
It was also raised by candidate Steve Strike during the town council election campaign in May 1988. Like Eli Melky’s current proposal, Strike also suggested five wards, each with two aldermen; however, he didn’t overlook the rural area on that occasion over 30 years ago (the other wards suggested were for Eastside, Gillen, Braitling and the Gap Area).
The town’s municipal boundaries were expanded significantly in early 1988, incorporating the whole rural area for the first time despite widespread opposition from affected residents. The idea of a ward system was the final suggestion to differentiate the rural area from the town, after calls for a separate community government and a shire were rejected by the NT Government.
It’s interesting to note that during the operation of the original Alice Springs Progress Association from 1947 to 1960, the town was divided into wards a couple of times for choosing delegates onto the association. The wards were the (now old) Eastside, town centre (now the CBD), the south side of the town, and the Farm Area along what is now Ragonesi Road. The town’s population grew from about 2000 to over 3000 residents during this period, which was long before there was a town council.
One person who represented the south ward from 1958 onwards was Bernie Kilgariff, kickstarting what was to become an illustrious career in NT politics.
Personally I support the concept of wards; for one thing, it would substantially reduce the cost and inconvenience of town council by-elections.
With regard to increasing the number of councillors from eight to 10; well, it’s just over a decade ago the reverse occurred.
Moreover, the ASTC first started off with eight aldermen (plus the mayor) in 1971 until 1977, when the number was increased to 10.
Here we go again?


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