Wadeye, NT

The Wadeye Community - project sites

Wadeye in relation to Darwin, NT

Project Introduction: In July 2009 AWF were asked by the Thamarrurr Development Corporation (TDC) to provide sketch design and scoping services to the Wadeye Community, in the Northern Territory, for two projects: an Arts and Cultural Centre and a Business Centre.

Project Status: In October 2009, through the financial assistance of the Thomas Foundation and the TDC, four AWF volunteers travelled to Wadeye to carry out consultation with the stakeholders and to inspect the sites for the projects. Lizz Bott and Kerstine Cossens, Economic Development Officers for the TDC, facilitated the visit, giving AWF a tour of the town which included the new concrete batching plant and the concrete slab manufacturing facility, the new nursery, several new homes under construction using locally manufactured slabs and the women’s centre. This was followed by a site inspection.The sites are alongside each other in the centre of the town, opposite the General Store. The site for the Arts and Cultural Centre is currently occupied by the steel-framed shell of the old Club, closed in 1995 due to the adverse effects of alcohol on the community. There are a number of established trees on this site, and it appears to be used as a kind of park area by families, while the building shell has become a (dangerous) playground for young children who vandalise it. The Business Centre will be sited on the old basketball courts (they have been replaced by new ones), and is next to the existing gymnasium/rec area, and Wadeye Community Radio station.Three AWF members stayed overnight in Wadeye. This helped improve our understanding of issues within the community, and the need for ways to generate engagement and employment of young people if the future of Wadeye is going to be an improvement on the past.

Project Background: Wadeye is an Indigenous community located approximately 350 km south west of Darwin, on the Daly River system, near the border with Western Australia. In the past there have been many much-publicised problems within the community of around 3000 people and a great deal of effort has gone into solving this strife. It is hoped that the development of Business and Arts and Cultural Centres will work at a grass roots level not just to solve the immediate breakdown within the community, but to build self sufficiency economically and culturally.The Business Centre aims to provide community income by providing much-needed office space that can potentially be rented out to government departments such as Centrelink, Job Futures, Legal Aid and FaHCSIA. An Arts and Cultural Centre would help to develop the strong culture within the community, providing a healthy focus for young people with very little to do and highly limited employment possibilities. There is economic development potential through the development of tourism and art sales. Since the closure of the Club in 1995 the population has lacked a focal point, and this Centre would provide a positive replacement for the previously dysfunctional centre of the community.

Project Team: The AWF team for these projects is Esther Charlesworth, Garry Ormston, Mick Pearce and Rebecca Adams. Leeanne Marshall is also volunteering but was not present for the initial visit to Wadeye.

Project Name: Thamarrurr Arts and Cultural Centre

Project Location : Wadeye (Port Keats), Northern Territory

The first project is an Arts and Cultural Centre, built to house local artwork for sale, and to provide a place for resident artists to work, as well as being a centre for learning and a focal area for visitors to the community.

Project Information: AWF attended a community meeting to discuss, firstly, the Arts and Cultural Centre. The most significant attendants of this meeting were William Parmbuk, the Chairman of the TDC, Leo Melpi, his nephew Leon Melpi, the community affairs officer for Thamarrurr Inc., Phil Mitchell, Business Manager for Thamarrurr Inc., the Government Business Manager, Jonathan McLeod, and Lizz Bott and Kerstine Cossens, TDC Economic Development Officers. It was decided at this meeting that the community want the old Club site used for the new Arts and Cultural Centre, and are happy for AWF to use the existing shell on the site to develop into the Arts and Cultural Centre. AWF had the opportunity to speak with one of the main Traditional Owners of the site, Ernest Perdjert, who confirmed to us that they were happy for the land to be used for the purpose of an Arts and Cultural Centre. The program for the new Arts and Cultural Centre which was discussed included:

  • Gallery and retail space
  • Art Storage Space
  • Separate Men’s and Women’s areas for art production, separate from the exhibition area (not visible to the public), which would include space for a camp fire, and was not accessible by children to allow artists uninterrupted work time. This space would also include toilets/wet area.
  • Sound studio space
  • Caretakers accommodation
  • An workshop space for men only to manufacture didgeridoos, possibly accessibly to the public.
  • Museum space – this was discussed as a possibility, but a final decision on whether this would move to the Arts and Cultural Centre was not finalised. Mark Crocombe, the curator of the current heritage centre, was away so discussion with him was not possible.
  • Some office space for private transactions
  • A café is not needed in the Arts and Cultural Centre
William Parmbuk and Leon Melpi drew diagrams on a white board to describe how they imagined the space working. These diagrams will be used by AWF in the design process. The possibility of a performancespace was discussed, and the meeting adjourned for a site visit to view the possible positioning of this performance space, and the existing diesel power plant nearby.

Following the meeting at the TDC AWF went to the Women’s Centre and talked to two of the women there, Ellen Tcherna and Teresa Dumoo. We showed them the diagrams which had been discussed and asked specifically about the siting of the women’s art area/wet area within the Arts and Cultural Centre, and they agreed that they would be happy with that general position within the building, and that it didn’t matter culturally where they were sited. It would have been good to have had more women at the TDC meeting, and perhaps to have had a larger group for a more informal discussion about women’s needs within the Business Centre and the Arts and Cultural Centre. It is important to seek detailed feedback from these women when we return to the community to discuss feedback on the design.

Project Name: Wadeye Business Centre

Project Location : Wadeye (Port Keats), Northern Territory

The second project is a Business Centre which will accommodate essential government services such as Centrelink, the Magistrate's Court, Job Futures, Batchelor College and FaHCSIA, as well as some private industry.

Project Information: The second part of the community meeting was regarding the Business Centre. The programmatic requirements listed at the meeting were:

  • Thamarrurr Development Head Office – this would house six permanent staff plus a reception area. There is a need for some privacy in the office space
  • Thamarrurr Inc. – 2 permanent staff
  • A post office – the current post office in Wadeye, run by the TDC, is in the process of expanding due to lack of space, however they are paying rent to the Vic Daly Shire Council for the building
  • A conference room – to be available for hire by government groups etc
  • Internet café/library
  • Centrelink – requires approximately 300 sqm
  • Office space to house, potentially,
  • - Motor Vehicle Registry - Murin Air Office - Traditional Credit Union (bank) - Legal Aid office - Northern Land Council (NLC) - Hairdresser - Federal Government - NT Government - FaHCSIA
The community envisages the building as being 2-storey, and it was discussed that it would be appropriate to have a courtyard in the centre. Again, it was very useful that Leon and William were able to diagram ideas for the business centre.

These projects will help the community to achieve economic self-determination as well as supporting culturally important practices.




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