The War in Mparntwe

The War in Mparntwe

That "special place" in Alice - Anzac Oval at the lunch of the 2016 Masters Games (courtesy of the Alice Springs News)

Jeremy Eccles | 20.05.20

Author: Jeremy Eccles
News source: Research

Do we have a solution or do we have war in Alice Springs over the long-contended National Aboriginal Art Gallery (NAAG)?

The NT Labor Government has finally stamped its feet, in the fighting words of Tourism and Arts Minister, Lauren Moss and two local Members:

“We intend to build this iconic Art Gallery at the ANZAC Hill precinct, which incorporates ANZAC Oval. The construction of the Art Gallery will open up the area for green space and community use.

“In late 2018, we went through an extensive consultation process with the community and stakeholders, including Traditional Owners. We were confident then and we have been confident since, that we have majority support for the ANZAC Hill precinct site.

“This week, we received a letter from, (Native Title Holders for Alice Springs according to their letterhead), which represents Arrernte people from the Mparntwe, Antulye and Irlpme estates.  The letter states Lhere Artepe’s support for the National Aboriginal Art Gallery to be situated at the ANZAC Hill precinct, including the ANZAC School and the Oval.

The letter “acknowledges significant social and economic opportunities from the NAAG, benefiting the whole community. Both job opportunities through construction and its longer term tourism impact is even more important as we start recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Lhere Artepe will continue to work with the NT Government to ensure that Traditional Owners are involved in all stages of the project and that Aboriginal economic opportunities are realised for TOs”.

Signed by Robert Campbell CEO and Shane Lindner Chairman

“The Territory Labor Government has been committed from day one to invest in Alice Springs and in major game changing projects such as the National Aboriginal Art Gallery”, continued the NT Government members, “which will benefit our town and our people. We have not and will not waiver on this commitment”.

Could it be that the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation was encouraged by a subsequent announcement from the NT Government?:

"The Territory Labor Government is working with the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation (LAAC) to negotiate an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) that will open up five new parcels of land for residential, commercial and industrial development.

The provided land will support existing industry, promote employment, and attract new business investment and development in the Central Australia region. The package will release five new parcels of land for residential, commercial and industrial development including a new industrial estate south of Alice Springs.

In exchange, the package ensures that Aboriginal Native Titleholders will participate in long term economic and social benefits".

Earlier, the Town Council – minus the Mayor who is also an opposition Country Liberal Party candidate – had got wind of this challenge, which will require an unusual act of compulsory purchase of local government land by the Territory. A motion was passed: “The Town Council will challenge any attempt by the NT Government to compulsorily acquire Anzac Oval”. After more than an hour’s debate, the vote in support of the resolution was unanimous.

Cr Melky took up the Minister’s warlike metaphor, declaring 'battle lines drawn'. “The Council has to date been unanimous in supporting a National Aboriginal Art Gallery to be built in Alice Springs. (But) Anzac Oval is a special community space used regularly for playing sport and holding large community events such as Carols by Candlelight and Masters Games opening and closing ceremonies. There is a rich history with the oval hence the name Anzac. This is a special place placed under threat by a Minister and her Government who are unwilling or unable to accept the overwhelming community love for this open space”.

It's possible, though, that the change of heart by Traditional Owners may sway hearts. For it was only last October that I wrote:

'A city centre site rejected by the Alice Springs Town Council has also been argued against by Arrernte Traditional Owners, who initially rejected ANZAC Hill as a site and have promoted a siting south of The Gap – the traditional entry point to Alice Springs/Mparntwe, through the one gap in the MacDonnell Ranges, themselves the Yeperenye/Caterpillar Dreaming. Aboriginal protocols insist that visitors wait south of The Gap to be welcomed on to Arrernte Country by its Custodians, and TO Doris Stuart has long stated her objection to “mixing up everyone’s stories like eggs” on the country north of the Gap, which is dense with Arrernte sites. This was made clear in yet another signed letter by a group that obviously differs from the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation.

See the attached signatures.

We shall see.


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The War in Mparntwe

Signatures of the divided Traditional Owners of Mparntwe - Alice Springs


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