Traditional owners unite to dump Anzac as gallery site

2602 signatures OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA and KIERAN FINNANE

 

“Our families have concluded that while there is strong support for the NT Government to build a National Aboriginal Art Gallery at a suitable location in Alice Springs, we do not support the use of Anzac Oval site for that purpose.”

 

The first signature of this unequivocal rejection of the government’s preferred site is Benedict Stevens, formerly  the government’s sole named custodian supporting its choice of site.

 

It was co-signed by nine other senior Central Arrernte traditional owners, of the Stevens, Stuart, Rice, Sterling and Furber families.

 

The letter was tabled by Councillor Eli Melky at a meeting of the elected members of the town council yesterday, called to discuss an offer from NT Treasurer Nicole Manison to buy Anzac Oval.

 

Subsequently, Peter Renehan – son of Doris Stuart, both signatories of the letter – responded to a call from Mr Stevens to come to his house, where he was being put under pressure by government officials.  Says Mr Renehan: “He said that they were saying that if he [Benedict Stevens] changes his mind does he realise that this gallery won’t go ahead, to that effect.”

 

The council has invited the signatories to its end of month meeting.

 

When the Alice Springs News Online this morning asked Mr Renehan whether the signatories were likely to change their minds, he said: “I can’t see how that can happen now.

 

“You’ll see when they are put under enormous pressure … it’s difficult.

 

“We need the space as a family group to sit down and talk through all of these things because this is the future of our town. We are not given the opportunity to have that space and the time to have our meetings and go through these processes as a group, together,” said Mr Renehan.

 

“Benedict kept saying to me all this pressure is on me, I can’t make that decision by myself, I need my family with me, that’s why he approached us.

 

“The family groups could see the amount of pressure Benedict was under and he asked the families to come and meet. That’s what we’ve done… We need to continue to do that, make these decisions for the development of our town together.”

 

The signatories are Benedict Stevens, Doris Stuart, Andrew Stevens, Phyllis Stevens, Clifford Stevens, Gerard Rice, Peter Renehan, Brian Sterling and Harold Furber.

 

They wrote in part: “We the undersigned write to you as Mparntwerinya, the traditional owner people of this place and are recognised by all Arrernte people as the true Apmereke-artweye for the central part of Alice Springs, going back many generations.

 

“Following many discussions, the priority for our families are now united and want to make decisions properly and together.”

 

The letter says the signatories had “spoken to many of our Kwertengerle from here and other Arrernte Family estates, and they fully support us to make our decisions about what happens to our country”.

 

The letter urges the council and the government to consult with “all relevant family members”.

 

The letter is the result of several meetings triggered by a media event staged on the banks of the Todd featuring only Benedict Stevens expressing support for the Anzac site.

 

This event followed a meeting with council earlier that week of many more Arrernte people, reported to be supporting Anzac precinct as a site for the gallery.  The letter refers to families “who had previously held different views”.

 

It was Benedict Stevens’ urging for discussions that has since brought the families together, says Mr Renehan.

 

 

 

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8 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted January 25, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    A fact of human social behavior that we are all actively discouraged from realising is that: if people are able to access the full extent of relevant information about an issue, they will tend to achieve full consensus.

    So, when the families finally got together and presented the full story to each other, they achieved consensus. This is People Power at work… genuine democracy in action.

    Well done folks.

    Keep this thing going and before you know it you will be realising self-determination.

    But be warned, the ALP and CLP will fight you all the way.

    View Comment
  2. Alex Hope
    Posted January 15, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    Finally!
    What I don’t understand is how an ALP NT government, supposedly (avowedly?) respectful of Aboriginal traditional ownership of land, could have chosen a site for a national ABORIGINAL art gallery without consultation with, let alone agreement from the ABORIGINAL traditional owners.
    And that is leaving aside the question of how one might gain a national indigenous consensus on where a NATIONAL Aboriginal art gallery should be sited.
    This whole debacle serves as a reminder that without proper foundations the most elaborate structures are likely to fall over.
    As I have said before, the government needs to learn the difference between consulting (to inform a decision) and marketing (to try to persuade people of the rightness of a decision AFTER it has been made).

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  3. Posted January 12, 2019 at 10:47 am

    It’s worth keeping in mind that the council-owned lease for Anzac Oval extends over the car park area in front of the school.
    The NT Governent-owned lease starts from the front of the main school building and extends through the rear of the campus, so it’s not as big an area as many probably assume.

    View Comment
  4. Local 1
    Posted January 12, 2019 at 9:39 am

    @ Janet: yes, we have heard you over and over again, however this is the issue. In siting the gallery in the Anzac oval “precinct” the Oval will need to be redesigned, and as such we will lose the ability to use it as it has been used for many, many years.
    The gallery will not be on the fields as they are now, we get that, but those fields will be respurposed as a green space with trees, making it unsuitable for football, or events such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the biggest sporting event this town has.
    So, in answer to your question, the government provided plans, as well as the offer to spend even more money it does not have on new playing fields, is irrefutable evidence the oval will no longer be able to be used as it is currently, and the only reason for that is the proposed gallery.
    This is the argument the people are putting forward. You are splitting hairs with semantics.
    It is not difficult to understand. It seems that the point is now moot anyway, as the TOs have now refused permission.

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  5. Phantom
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Just out of interest. Who are the acknowledged traditional owners / custodians of the Anzac oval precinct? Is there a list? Does the sacred sites mob or council or NT Government have one?

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  6. Janet Brown
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:30 am

    Why do I keep reading Anzac oval? The gallery is not being built on Anzac Oval. It is being built on the site of Anzac Highschool.

    View Comment
  7. Yvonne Driscoll
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Fantastic news. The Indigenous people are uniting to give a decision. Now they need to convince the NT Government.

    View Comment
  8. James T Smerk
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:09 am

    No offence but I highly doubt you could get all of these mob to agree on any location.
    If they disagree with it then offer an alternative they all agree with please?
    The Government has no money anyway so this is all just a waste of time, can we all just move on.

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