By ERWIN CHLANDA
The government spin around the so-called “flagship National Aboriginal Art Gallery” in Alice Springs, now with Minister Chansey Paech at the helm, is continuing.
After years of controversy and conflict, richly documented by the Alice Springs News, the Darwin based and overseas owned and controlled NT News published a concept design with drawings, a video and statement from Mr Paech at 7:02 this morning.
It claims as an “exclusive” the story reporting, in the past tense, that the minister “revealed the plans for the four-level gallery on Friday”.
Today is Friday. So when did they do the story?
Mr Paech (pictured) and his government’s handling of the gallery project all along may have been a dog’s breakfast, but time travel is clearly a new string to their bow: The photo of Mr Paech in the NT News, unveiling a picture of the planned gallery, was taken in bright daylight, yet apparently made its way into the Darwin tabloid after being snapped, laid out in the paper and printed all before the sun rose. Wow.
Asked about the gallery’s location Mr Paech “emphasised”, according to the NT News, that “the government had heavily consulted with local community groups and organisations including Lhere Artepe”.
The CEO of the native title organisation, Graeme Smith, may well wonder if discussing location with him is the next stop in the Minister’s time travel.
The News saw today’s significant event as a reason for asking major organisations: “What consultation by the NT Government has taken place with you or your organisation about the proposed design for the so-called National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs announced today?”
Mr Smith said the concept design process of the Aboriginal project released today is “none of my concern.
“That’s a concern for the NT Government. It’s their project. I have not seen a concept design after consultation.”
He says he has not seen the concept design released today.
Lhere Artepe’s advice to local architect Sue Dugdale had been to consult with the traditional owners, and he does not know whether she has or has not, nor what the results have been.
The News will ask Ms Dugdale, a prominent local professional, about her survey.
The results of her consultation did not get a mention in the NT News story nor in Mr Paech’s handout that the rest of us journos finally got at 1:22 pm.
It is likely we would have asked questions about results of Ms Dugdale’s general consultation had Mr Paech held a media conference rather than giving the Murdoch paper a free kick.
Mr Smith says the native title body’s board had expressed the view that the building should fit within the landscape: “That was our consultation, but Lhere Artepe is not putting any resources into this consultation process. We did not.
“I was not going to use one staff member, or one vehicle, or one second of my resources, to [conduct] consultation about concept design for the art gallery. That was nothing I was prepared to get into.”
The Central Land Council said: “Sera Bray gave our executive committee a presentation of the gallery design and concept this week.”
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress said it did not wish to comment.
The Town Council said: “Council was not involved in the design of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery that was released today.”
We’re still waiting for a reply from Tangentyere whose media person was away.
So here we’re stuck with Mr Paech’s blather and numbers: Territory Government $69m. Australian Government $80m.
“The gallery will showcase the stories and artwork of one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures, brought together under one roof in the spiritual heart of the nation and the birthplace of contemporary Aboriginal art.
“Features of the gallery include a cultural welcoming circle, top floor event space with spectacular views, healing gardens, ground floor cafe, Kwatye (water) Play and an impressive four-level atrium.”
And so on.
IMAGE: Present plans put the gallery next to Anzac Hill (Untyeyetwelye, arrow), an important Arrernte sacred site which caused significant controversy.