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Marshall’s Aboriginal art gallery drops “national” from name

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The State Government has quietly removed the word “national” from the title of its mooted Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery at Lot Fourteen amid competition with the Northern Territory over plans to build what both governments claim will be Australia-first institutions.

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The State and Federal Governments insist the name of the South Australian gallery is yet to be finalised, with a $200,000 State Government-funded scoping study still underway to determine the gallery’s “visions and key recommendations”.

But government documents show a clear change to the gallery’s name after the signing of the Adelaide City Deal – a trilateral funding agreement between the Federal and State Governments, and Adelaide City Council – in March.

In a pre-election media release and building render published in February last year, the SA Liberals referred to the gallery as the “Australian National Aboriginal Art and Culture Gallery”.

At the time, party leader Steven Marshall said the gallery would be “the jewel in the crown” of the Liberals’ plan for the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site – now known as Lot Fourteen.

“Adelaide is the natural home for the first national collection of Aboriginal Australia’s artistic and cultural heritage,” Marshall was quoted.

“The absence of a national gallery for Aboriginal Australia’s cultural and artistic heritage is a significant omission by Australian governments and a fantastic opportunity for South Australia.”

A Liberal Party pre-election media release announcing the “Australian National Aboriginal Art and Culture Gallery”.

State Budget papers for the 2018-19 financial year – released in September – refer to the gallery as the “National Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery”.

A similar name – the “National Gallery for Aboriginal Art and Cultures” – is quoted in a State Government media release in February.

In that release, Marshall, in his current role as Premier and Arts Minister, said the gallery would make Adelaide “the centre for Indigenous art and culture nation-wide”.

“The gallery will be the first of its kind in Australia,” Marshall said.

However, the gallery’s name changes in the Adelaide City Deal, signed in March.

In that paper, the gallery is referred to as the “Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery” – with no mention of the word “national”.

The same name is repeated in an Art Gallery of SA media release sent in March, as well as the 2019-20 State Budget papers.

An excerpt from the Adelaide City Deal document, announcing funding for the “Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery”.

A State Government spokesperson told InDaily the name of the gallery was discussed during negotiations with the Federal Government on the Adelaide City Deal.

InDaily asked the spokesperson to elaborate on the nature of those discussions, but did not receive a response.

The spokesperson did, however, state that the Government was “100 per cent committed to delivering this gallery, which will be internationally significant”.

The question is, is this really going to be a national gallery?

A spokesperson from the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development did not respond to questions from InDaily asking if the Federal Government had instructed the South Australian Government to drop the word “national” from the gallery’s title.

The spokesperson instead said: “the City Deal partners have recognised the importance of the inclusion of the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery planned for Lot Fourteen.

“The establishment of an Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery at Lot Fourteen presents a historic opportunity to showcase to the world the art and cultural assets of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The name of the gallery is still to be determined.”

In a statement to InDaily the Art Gallery of SA – a key stakeholder in the development of the new Aboriginal art gallery – said it was “not involved in the discussions to drop the word ‘national’ from the title of the Lot Fourteen proposed site”.

Underpinning South Australia’s plan to build an Aboriginal art gallery is ongoing negotiations in the Northern Territory to build what its Government calls an “iconic National Aboriginal Art Gallery” in Alice Springs.

That gallery hit a roadblock in January, when the territory’s Chief Minister Michael Gunner revealed the project had lost the support of traditional owners and its future at the proposed Anzac Oval site was under consideration.

The Northern Territory project was further sullied by the Adelaide City Deal, which committed $85 million in Federal Government funding towards the “Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery” in Adelaide.

Marshall made it very clear that between the two locations they would complement each other

In March, the territory’s Tourism and Culture Minister Lauren Moss told ABC News she was “disappointed” the Federal Government had pledged funding to the South Australian project.

“We are disappointed around the timing of that, considering how much work, how many conversations we’ve had,” she said.

“I truly believe the heart of Australia is the right place for the National Aboriginal Art Gallery… (but) I do think that there is plenty of room for all jurisdictions to be showcasing Aboriginal art and culture, and that is well overdue.”

Moss told InDaily this morning that the Northern Territory Government had “ongoing discussions” with the South Australian Government about the two galleries.

“(We) will continue to work to ensure these projects complement and honour Australia’s Aboriginal culture from the southern through to the northern end of Australia,” she said.

“We welcome our neighbouring jurisdictions investing in their own cultural assets, because it will provide enormous mutual benefits, through tourism, economic stimulus and cultural exchange.”

Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan said he was not aware that the South Australian gallery had changed name, but he said he spoke to Marshall “shortly after” last year’s state election, during which he said Marshall told him that the Adelaide gallery would be “complementary of the National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs”.

“Marshall made it very clear that between the two locations they would complement each other,” he said.

Ryan said there was no indication “at this stage” of where the Alice Springs gallery would be located or when construction would likely start.

“We’re currently arranging another session with the Government and other interested parties to work this through,” he said.

Premier Steven Marshall speaking to artist Pepai Jangala Caroll in Ernabella during his visit to the APY Lands. Photo: Supplied

Kaurna Nation Cultural Heritage chair Jeffrey Newchurch said he also wasn’t aware of any change to the Adelaide gallery’s name.

“I’m left out of those conversations,” he said.

Newchurch, who has previously criticised the State Government for failing to adequately consult the Kaurna community about the gallery, described the name as “crucial” in determining how reflective the institution would be of Australia’s diverse Indigenous culture.

“The question is, is this really going to be a national gallery with the (Torres Strait) Islands and communities from across Australia represented, or just South Australia?,” he said.

“It’s a concern because have they consulted with Aboriginal communities across Australia or just in South Australia?”

Newchurch said representatives from the Kaurna community met with the State Government’s contracted consultancy firm – PricewaterhouseCoopers – about six months ago as part of a scoping study, but he said the Government had not made any contact since.

“From Kaurna’s position I need to make sure the collection in the museum is going to be distributed and displayed on Kaurna land and how Kaurna want it,” he said.

“Given the concept is having a huge Aboriginal presence, it’s not happening.”

Shadow Arts Minister Jayne Stinson said Labor was concerned that the gallery’s name change indicated a reduction in scope.

We’re worried this won’t be a truly national gallery showcasing First Nations culture from across Australia as promised, but something much less. That’s disappointing,” she said. 

Once again, Steven Marshall’s promised one thing before the election, but something different afterwards.”

A State Government spokesperson said the scoping study for the gallery was “close to completion” and included consultation with Aboriginal leaders and organisations.

The spokesperson did not respond to questions asking if the State Government or PricewaterhouseCoopers had spoken to Indigenous communities and organisations outside South Australia as part of the scoping study.

InDaily understands the gallery will display Aboriginal art and cultural artifacts already held in South Australia, including objects currently held in the SA Museum and Art Gallery of SA’s storage.

Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute. Photo: Tandanya

The future of Adelaide’s current “national” Aboriginal arts institution – Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute – remains unclear.

Tandanya, one of the stakeholders consulted in the Government’s scoping study, claims on its website that it is “Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre”.

The institute’s CEO Denis Stokes told InDaily earlier this year that Aboriginal people needed to be in control of how their culture was portrayed at the new national gallery.

“I’m not sure what the actual content of the gallery would be and we would definitely have to have an input into that and ensure that across the board Indigenous people have a say,” he said.

The State Government pledged $150 million towards the new Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery in this year’s budget, with the final design and cost to be determined after receipt of a business case.

The budget also allocated $500,000 towards the next stage of planning the gallery, as well as $2.6 million to upgrade a leaky storage facility at Netley that currently holds South Australia’s collection of Aboriginal cultural material.

Stinson said upgrades to the Netley facility indicated a back-down from the State Government, which had planned to use the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Gallery to display artefacts currently in storage.

In estimates, Marshall said the relocation of artefacts at the Netley facility was “yet to be determined”.

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