The Northern Territory Government has received another setback in its attempt to build a National Aboriginal Art Gallery, with senior custodians reiterating their opposition to its proposed location.
- The Government says it will compulsorily acquire the land, but senior custodians restate their opposition to the proposed site
- Local Member Dale Wakefield says while not everyone agrees on the location, the majority of the community want the project
- Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor abstain from any gallery-related decisions due to conflict of interest concerns
The Anzac Oval precinct in Alice Springs is the Government’s preferred site for the gallery, but the Town Council owns the land and negotiations have come to a standstill after more than 12 months.
The Government last week confirmed it would compulsorily acquire the land after the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation gave its support.
But now the Mparntwe custodian family group has spoken out again, reiterating it only supported the gallery being built south of the Gap.
In a statement signed by Benedict Stevens and Doris Stuart, the group said Lhere Artepe did not speak for custodians and said the timing of recent developments showed “utter disrespect” because the group was in mourning.
“We have been forced by the Government and Lhere Artepe in our sensitive time of sorrow to address these issues, as well as reiterate that the Mparntwe custodians do not consent to the NAAG being built on the Anzac Oval precinct.
“Decision-making authority over Mparntwe [Alice Springs] rests with our apmereke artweye [traditional owners] through birth rights written in their skin, not a body corporate operating under majority rules.
“Lhere Artepe has no jurisdiction over the Anzac Oval precinct, as native title has been extinguished.
“Our position has not waivered since our letter to the Alice Springs Town Council in January 2019, or our meeting with Minister [Lauren] Moss in June 2019.”
‘Majority want to see project’
Local Member Dale Wakefield acknowledged that not everyone agreed on the location of the gallery but insisted the majority of the community wanted the project.
“I think we’ve been very clear that not everyone supports this project, but we are confident that the majority of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people want to see this project in Alice Springs,” she said.
“The reality is we’ve got sacred sites clearance for that site; we will continue to have those negotiations.”
Meanwhile, both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have declared conflict of interests for discussions on the gallery.
Both have confirmed they will not take part in any council decisions or debates regarding the gallery, a move welcomed by Ms Wakefield.