Wednesday, July 24, 2024

NT secures Stolen Generation legacy site for housing

A significant remembrance and truth-telling site in Alice Springs has been purchased for $3.25 million by the Northern Territory Government with a view to developing social and affordable housing on the property.

The Government says the transfer of the historic St Mary’s Hostel comes with a commitment to preserving the history and heritage of the location, which includes the famed St Mary’s Chapel (pictured, below).

St Mary’s Hostel, which operated from 1947 – 1972, was a boarding school for mainly Aboriginal children, many of whom were taken from their families as wards of the State, and later became known as members of the Stolen Generation.

Set on the Stuart Highway alongside the Todd River, the 8.2 hectare property is ideal for housing development, said Minister for Urban Housing, Ngaree Ah Kit.

“While the land will be developed for future housing, the historical and heritage value of the site will be preserved,” she said.

“The purchase of St Mary’s Hostel has been a collaboration between our Government, the Anglican Church, and the St Mary’s Stolen Generation Group which ensures it becomes a place that not only pays respect to the past, but serves as a valuable and practical community asset.”

Inside the St Mary’s Chapel which features a heritage-listed mural.

The Minister said the land has been purchased with a vision to develop social and affordable housing utilising opportunities under the Australian Government Housing Reform agenda such as the Housing Australia Future Fund and the National Infrastructure Facility.

While there are no immediate plans for redevelopment, the Government plans to honour the legacy of the area and will continue to work with members of the St Mary’s Stolen Generation Group who advocated for its protection, said Ms Ah Kit.

The $3.25 million acquisition includes a formalised deal between the Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities and the Anglican Diocese detailing the preservation of the chapel. 

“We are looking forward to working with the Northern Territory Government and the Anglican Church to honour our families and past and present Stolen Generation people by memorialising the legacy of the site and stories of St Mary’s,” Stolen Generation Group Chairperson, Anne Ronberg.

The Minister said the former residents were particularly intent on conserving the chapel because of the historical significance and memories therein, including a splendid heritage-listed 1958 mural by Hungarian artist Robert Czakó – that backdrops the humble altar. The mural – which features biblical scenes, saints, and portraits of several people who lived at the hostel at the time – was restored in 2021.

“St Mary’s Hostel is steeped in Northern Territory history and survivors of the Stolen Generation hold many memories and mixed feelings about their time there,” said Ms Ah Kit.

“We’re committed to the preservation of the chapel and memorialising the legacy of the St Mary’s site in collaboration with the former residents,” said Anglican Bishop, Dr Greg Anderson.

Up to 10% of the sale amount has been allocated to preservation efforts.

Work is currently underway by Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) to identify sacred and significant sites on the lot, while consultation with Traditional Owners will also be undertaken as part of this process.

The Anglican Church and St Mary’s Stolen Generation Group plan to host a memorial event onsite to commemorate the historic milestone.

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