Legislative Council: Thursday, July 06, 2023


APY Art Centre Collective

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:06): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, representing the Minister for Arts, a question regarding the APY Art Centre Collective.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: In April this year, footage obtained by The Australian newspaper was released, appearing to show a non-Indigenous arts assistant painting on renowned artist Yaritji Young's depiction of Tjukurrpa, the spiritual and sacred law that governs culture. Our own state arts minister, Andrea Michaels, has subsequently said she was 'disturbed' by the claims and 'wanted answers'. Minister Michaels has also said, and I quote:

While the matter remains unresolved, enormous damage is being done to the nation's Indigenous arts industry.

The ongoing media commentary has been divisive and confusing. Questions are continually being raised on the role of arts managers and studio assistants and what they do in remote Indigenous community arts centres and, in this case, metropolitan community arts centres. A National Gallery of Australia investigation is underway and I understand may soon report their findings.

It has also been announced that the NT government, the South Australian government and the federal arts minister will be undertaking an investigation into these allegations, and I note that the Northern Territory minister, Mr Paech, has said:

…any investigation into the APYACC should focus on protecting artists and their culture and livelihoods.

The APYACC management has strongly denied allegations of any interference with the paintings or the Tjukurrpa. Their website currently states hands-on assistance such as underpainting is common practice. A key role in art centres is 'taking the story' and that is where arts centre staff document the artist's painting with the photo and the related Tjukurrpa or country.

More recently, the APY Art Centre Collective has announced in a statement that it has been dumped from the Indigenous Art Code, the body tasked with regulating ethical standards in the First Nations arts sector, despite being denied a chance to respond to the allegations. The National Gallery of Australia has also now formally postponed the exhibition of artworks from South Australia's far north-west to allow for the independent review of these allegations.

Given this has now dragged on for months and the clear impacts that these allegations have on Anangu artists in our state, my questions to the minister are:

1. What is the status and the terms of reference and the nature of the South Australian and Northern Territory federal inquiry?

2. How is the minister ensuring that the APY Art Centre Collective and its artists are supported through this and other inquiries?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:09): I thank the honourable member for her question. It is one that certainly people have spoken to me about in relation to the extensive media coverage on the APY Art Centre Collective. The fallout of this I think has been unfortunate, and it's not the concern for an institution or for administrators but for Anangu. I know that in communities there have been difficulties that have arisen as a result of this issue that have been unfortunate and difficult for some communities and families.

As the honourable member said, I am aware that the National Gallery of Australia was due to have an exhibition—I think Ngura Pulka, big country. I understand that has started, and at some stage, in I presume the not too distant future, we will see the results of that handed down. As the honourable member outlined, it is the case also that the South Australian government, the Northern Territory government and the federal government have announced that they will be looking at some sort of inquiry into these issues. I will seek an update from my colleague the Minister for Arts, the Hon. Andrea Michaels, the member for Enfield, who has portfolio responsibilities in this area.

I am aware that it is well progressed in terms of appointing people to conduct that task and also looking at the terms of reference for that task. I understand that it is very well developed, but I will be very happy to find an answer and bring back a reply. I suspect that, by the time I bring back a reply after the winter break, we will have seen action moving on this but, to the extent that we need to, I will do that.