Mona’s Macquarie Point vision aims to shine a light on the state’s dark past
HOBART’S waterfront would be home to the nation’s first cultural precinct which acknowledges Australia’s dark history of colonial warfare, under a plan to be unveiled by Mona.
Mona’s founder David Walsh and creative director Leigh Carmichael have revealed the centrepiece of its vision for Macquarie Point – a National Truth and Reconciliation Art Park.
The proposal, which has the support of the State Government and Aboriginal leaders, includes a 650m x 75m art park, a major fire and light installation to celebrate 40,000 years of continuous culture in Tasmania, a Tasmanian Aboriginal history centre, living culture centre, library and education facilities.
Mr Walsh said Mona was “going to push for” the project “despite knowing we are whitefellas treading on blackfella graves”. “We aren’t doing this to pacify or mollify,” Mr Walsh said.
“We are doing it because we believe in it, and we are trying to find a way through. We’ve learned a little bit. It isn’t enough, but we’ll keep learning.”
Mr Carmichael said Mona believes Macquarie Point could be the location of Australia’s first major public acknowledgment for a part of our history “that no one wants to talk about, but ultimately made us who we are”.
Australia’s first Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner, and 2009 Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson, has thrown his support behind the project.
“For too long we have ignored the issue of the frontier wars – there has been a whitewashing of this in history,” Professor Dodson said.
“We ought to, as a nation, face up to the fact that there was 130 years of wars fought across this continent.”
Tasmanian Aboriginal writer Greg Lehman said Macquarie Point was the perfect time and place for a national memorial to begin to make amends for an unspeakable past.
Mr Lehman, who has been working closely with Mr Carmichael and Mr Walsh on the vision, said it was time Tasmania recognised Aboriginal warriors such as Mannalargenna and Woreddy as heroes and patriots.
“By providing a public space that honours and respects Aboriginal people and their culture, we can create a catalyst for change,” he said.
“I believe that most Tasmanians are ready for such a step.
“It will be a positive example not just for Australia, but for the world.”
The cultural precinct is the first major element of Mona’s vision for the Macquarie Point site on Hobart’s waterfront.
In December last year the Mercury revealed Mona had secured a $240,000 State Government tender, that was not advertised, to design the public spaces at Macquarie Point.
The contract was for “provision of creative designs for the activation of specified areas of the public realm at Macquarie Point”.
An exemption was granted to not go to open market under the Treasurer’s instructions that say departments or corporations can directly source goods or services for works of art.
But the Mona team has gone a step further, developing an entire vision for the site that will be unveiled in the Sunday Tasmanian.
Premier Will Hodgman told the Mercury there would be further discussions in relation to Mona’s vision.
HAVING THEIR SAY
“It is 20 years since governor-general Sir William Dean called for a memorial to ‘Aborigines slaughtered in the black wars’. Tasmania is where colonial conflict was most intense, where attempts were made to exterminate Aborigines completely. It is therefore the most important place to begin a process of national healing. This will require acknowledgment, mourning and forgiveness.”
Tasmanian Aboriginal writer Greg Lehman
“This, right now, is the best we’ve got. If it isn’t good enough, don’t walk away, work with us to make it better. It will be easy enough to find fault and to criticise. But we’ve done nothing for far too long, and continuing to do nothing will only make things worse for everybody, invaders and indigenes alike.”
Mona founder David Walsh
“Unfortunately, we have a dark history, and as a society we are yet to fully acknowledge it. We believe it’s important for the community to take responsibility for taking land it had no right to, and to understand the atrocities that happened here. Nothing we do now will ever be enough, but we want to do something.”
Mona creative director Leigh Carmichael
“The past has always haunted the present in Tasmania. The facts speak for themselves. They are beyond dispute. Tasmania experienced a war in the 1820s and early 1830s. It was about property and sovereignty — the two abiding causes of war all over the world.”
Historian Henry Reynolds
“For too long we have ignored the issue of the frontier wars — there has been a whitewashing of this in history — we ought to, as a nation, face up to the fact that there was 130 years of wars fought across this continent. This is a matter for our hearts. If we own up to this, it frees our hearts from this dark past. That’s when we will be mature as a nation.”
Inaugural Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner Mick Dodson
“Mona has identified a way to advance reconciliation in developing Mac Point and the Government will seek the views of Aboriginal Tasmanians about this proposal.”
Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman
“Mona has identified a way to advance reconciliation in developing Mac Point and the Government will seek the views of Aboriginal Tasmanians about this proposal,” Mr Hodgman said.
Plans for the project include a permanent art installation by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, who wowed locals and visitors with his installation Spectra during the inaugural Dark Mofo festival in 2013.
The announcement will likely come as a surprise to the Macquarie Point Development Corporation – the team created to manage the remediation of the old Hobart railyards site.
The site, that has been spruiked as one of the best development opportunities in the country, has been beset with issues.
Last month the Mercury revealed the site has been struck a significant blow with the Tasmanian Planning Commission modifying amendments to the planning scheme from the Macquarie Point Development Corporation.
The decision means any meaningful development will struggle to get off the ground until the wastewater treatment plant adjacent to the site is shifted – and investors are set to look elsewhere.
State Growth Minister Matthew Groom gave his Government’s most firm commitment yet that the relocation of the wastewater treatment plant will be underwritten by the State Government.
The wastewater treatment plant, which is estimated to cost about $145 million to relocate, is not the only issue facing anyone wanting to turn the Mona vision into a reality.
The proposed art park will extend out into the River Derwent over land currently owned by TasPorts.
In March the corporation appeared to have given up on gaining ownership of any Hobart waterfront land, despite regarding it as a key priority less than 12 months earlier.
Former Tasports chairman Dan Norton has previously indicated the government business enterprise would be keeping its “quay line” on the Hobart waterfront.
“We think it is critical for the long-term future of that port for the quay line to be maintained,” he said in 2013.