Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 06, 2024


APY Art Centre Collective

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:20): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, representing the Minister for Arts, on the topic of the APY Art Centre Collective.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Members, and certainly the minister, would be well aware that The Australian has waged an interesting campaign against the APY Art Centre Collective—indeed, 35 days of articles last year, sometimes numbering three or so articles on each of those days.

It started with an article on 8 April. In that, assertions and allegations were made about 'white hands on black art' at the APY Art Centre Collective. I note, in that first article by Greg Bearup, hidden away in a tiny paragraph was a line that acknowledged 'Yanda studio, outside Alice Springs'. I quote: 'Yanda is owned by Chris Simon, who the APY ACC claims is part of the conspiracy', wrote the journalist who started this all.

On the weekend, the minister would be well aware that the Saturday papers exposed that the video sent to The Australian was paid for by Mr Simon of Yanda Art. I believe $1,000 was given to a Warlpiri man for that video, and never acknowledged in The Australian's coverage and concerted attacks on the APY Art Centre Collective.

Since then, of course, over the past ten months we have seen the National Gallery of Australia undertake a review, which found no wrongdoing. We have seen a tri-government review, including the Northern Territory, the federal government and the South Australian government undertaking a review. We have now seen that review referred to ORIC. In the meantime, the APY Art Centre Collective struggles on. Despite the repeated attacks, they still have their doors open—just.

I note that the South Australian Malinauskas government withheld the $40,000 it had promised to open a centre in Port Augusta, but that there is now a centre in Port Augusta and there is now a centre in Coober Pedy, as well as those on the APY lands and in Adelaide. There are also galleries in Sydney and Melbourne.

My questions to the minister are: what support is the Malinauskas government giving to the APY Art Centre Collective to keep their doors open, and are they concerned that, right at the start of this all, the opposition art dealer did not disclose that it was he behind the video that started this entire scandal? Was this, indeed, simply a hit on a competitor?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:24): I thank the honourable member for her question and her ongoing interest not just in this area in terms of how art supports Aboriginal communities but also for her support and interest in the Aboriginal community generally.

The portfolio responsibility for arts, as the honourable member suggested when she asked a question of me, representing the Minister for Arts in the other place, rests with the Hon. Andrea Michaels, Minister for Arts. Issues to do with the wellbeing and advancement of Aboriginal people and communities is certainly something that I take a very keen interest in as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs but also having very close ties to many people on the APY lands, both who are members and parts of the APY art collective but also other institutions, communities and art centres across the APY lands.

Many of the concerns that the honourable member has raised have been raised directly with me. There are quite a number of Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people who have my mobile number and feel free to access that. Something I have always welcomed is direct communication. I have been, I think it was towards the end of last year, to the APY art collective's newish home down at Thebarton, and certainly I have had meetings, some of them that have been attended by the Deputy Premier and the Premier, with members of the board of the APY art collective, such as Mauna Kuluru and Nyumiti Burton and others over recent months.

Anything that has the potential to provide not just a way of sharing and preserving culture but, in the case of many of the sales of arts from the APY lands, one of the few avenues for economic development and self-empowerment is worthy of support. In relation to the allegations that have been raised, some reported in The Australian—and I don't have access to the report that was done by the tripartite of the SA, NT and Australian governments but I have seen what has publicly been released—I understand concerns have been raised, and some of those have been publicly agitated in the pages of The Australian, as the honourable member has said.

I know that both the ACCC and ORIC (Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations), which is responsible under the CATSI Act for Aboriginal corporations that are registered under that legislation, are further looking into different areas of the operation, as I understand it, of the APY Art Centre Collective.

The honourable member specifically talked about the financial viability ongoing, which is something that has been raised with me on numerous occasions and I have sought further advice. I know governmental departmental officers have worked pretty closely and thoroughly with the financial officer of the APY Art Centre Collective and my advice is on current operations that viability will be maintained up until towards the middle of this year. While these investigations are ongoing, it would be preferable that the APY art collective is still able to maintain its operations, but it is certainly something I will continue to take a very keen interest in.