National Aboriginal Art Gallery: National Reference Group Appointed

Another important step towards delivering the job creating National Aboriginal Art Gallery was achieved today with Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss announcing members of the National Reference Group.

The Group will provide advice on delivery of the project, advocate nationally and help progress the recommendations outlined in the expert steering committee report on the implementation and operation of the Gallery.

Built in the heart of Australia, the National Aboriginal Art Gallery will become a globally significant institution that celebrates Aboriginal art and culture and create jobs and economic opportunities.

This is a project that will capture the hearts and minds of the nation as an emblem for a shared future between our first peoples and the broader Australian community.

The expressions of interest process returned a significant number of individuals with expertise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Aboriginal tourism development, corporate fund-raising and philanthropy.

The National Reference Group members include local Arrernte traditional owner Mr Benedict Kngwarraye Stevens, (Apmereke artweye for Mparntwe, Alice Springs), co-Chair of the Initial Scoping Steering Committee, Desart CEO, Mr Phillip Watkins, the most recent director of the National Gallery of Australia, Mr Gerard Vaughan, AM, and Chairperson of the Aboriginal Tourism Advisory Council, Ms Helen Martin.

Based on a two-year term, 15 members will be appointed from across Australia including:


  • Dr Gerard Vaughan, AM – past Director, National Gallery of Australia
  • Ms Margo Neale, Senior Indigenous Curator and Indigenous Advisor to the Director, National Museum of Australia
  • Ms Rhoda Roberts, AO – Head of First Nations Programming, Sydney Opera House
  • Ms Helen Martin – Chair of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Tourism Advisory Council, originally from Irlpme, an environ of Alice Springs
  • Mr Frank Howarth – past National President of Museums Galleries Australia and former director of the Australian Museum
  • Mr John Mawurndjul, AM – Kuninjku bark painter and sculptor and a leading Aboriginal artist from Maningrida Arts and Culture Centre
  • Mr Malcolm Jagmarra Maloney – Warlpiri elder and Aboriginal artist from Central Australia
  • Ms Freja Carmichael – Quandamooka woman, descendant of the Ngugi people belonging to Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and Moorgumpin (Moreton Island) and is based in Brisbane, QLD; and currently visiting curator at the Institute of Modern Art, collaborating on The Commute: First Nations Sovereignties and Dialogues Across the Great Ocean
  • A representative from the National Gallery of Australia
  • A representative from the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

Local (Alice Springs):

  • Mr Benedict Kngwarraye Stevens – Apmereke artweye (Traditional owner) for Mparntwe
  • Mr Phillip Watkins – CEO Desart, the co-Chair of Initial Scoping Steering Committee
  • Mr Robert Campbell – CEO, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation
  • Mr Luke Scholes – Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, MAGNT
  • Ms Elliat Rich – Local Alice Springs based designer.

Meanwhile, other critical project planning activity is underway including recruitment for a Project Implementation team (which will work with and take guidance from the National Reference Group) to be located in Alice Springs, and developing an Aboriginal Workforce and Enterprise Development Plan to achieve majority Aboriginal management and workforce by the time the Gallery opens in 2022.

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