Land Deal for Australia’s National Aboriginal Art Gallery

March 21st, 2022

Australia’s Northern Territory inched closer to its target of becoming an Aboriginal cultural tourism center with the March 18 approval of a land deal that will allow the city of Alice Springs to build its planned $150 million National Aboriginal Art Gallery (NAAG), the Canberra Times reports. According to its website, the gallery is to be “dedicated to the display, celebration and interpretation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art” and will “share the stories of the world’s oldest continuous culture, brought together under one roof in the heart of the nation and the birthplace of contemporary Aboriginal art.”

Through the deal, struck with the Alice Springs city council, the territory’s government will obtain land near the Alice Springs central business district and Todd River. Once home to a fuel depot, the so-called Anzac Oval will house a tourist and visitor center, next to which the gallery will be built. Also in the works are an attendant water park and Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner acknowledged that “the gallery will be a national centerpiece, bringing in fifty thousand visitors a year, and creating more than two hundred jobs.” Gunner estimated that the art center would boost the territory’s economy by more than $60 million and establish Alice Springs as Australia’s “inland capital.” ABC Australia reports that the financial details of the deal have not yet been made public.

The National Aboriginal Art Gallery plan was launched five years ago and met with resistance from Anzac Oval’s traditional Mparntwe custodians, who cited concerns that the development threatened sacred sites, specifically the nearby Anzac Hill. Negotiations led to an agreement that the hill will be protected by a buffer zone; additionally, the traditional owners will be involved in the design process of the gallery, which “will highlight cultural considerations and the aesthetics of how that building can be built on the First Peoples’ principles,” said Chansey Paech, minister for Central Australia reconstruction.

Construction of the gallery is expected to begin in late 2023, with completion in 2025.