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Gumurr’manydji Manapanmirr Djäma

In 1972, the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) was developed as a co-operative to manage seven community stores in Arnhem Land. The largest independent Aboriginal corporation in the country has come a long way since then – from selling goods in hot tin sheds to full self-service, air-conditioned stores operating in 27 communities across Australia.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, ALPA presents an exciting photographic exhibition, unearthing a unique glimpse through never-before-seen images at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT).

By Tierney Seccull

Gumurr’manydji Manapanmirr Djäma translates to ‘making successful business together’. It’s an ethos ALPA has championed over its five decades, built on “Yolŋu and Balanda working together”.

Led by a Yolŋu Board of Directors, and with the support of the Executive Team, ALPA has a focus on training, developing skills, creating jobs, and developing sustainable businesses for Yolŋu. ALPA CEO Alistair King says they’re proud of this significant milestone.

“ALPA is one of few Aboriginal organisations to have survived 50 years since the transition from the mission era through to today,” he says.

“Since the beginning, ALPA focused on being financially independent and sustainable so that we could continue to build our services to support our communities, develop our commercial operations, and contribute to regional economic development. Our all-Yolŋu Board of Directors pride ourselves on being independent, and key to this is our commitment to Indigenous training and employment.”

This core mission is demonstrated in present day operations undertaken by ALPA, evolving over the decades to offer more than sustainable community stores and food security, branching out into areas including construction and furniture.

ALPA’s Media & Communications Specialist Charmaine Ingram discovered some old shoeboxes full of old photographs during a major clean-up of the Darwin ALPA office and was coincidentally thinking of ways to celebrate the 50th anniversary. It wasn’t long before she realised the photos could be a celebratory point – not just for ALPA and their community members, but for the public, too. In staying true to ALPA’s core, it’s all been led by ALPA's Yolŋu Community Advisory Committees and members.

“The most important part … is that it’s been community led. We have travelled to Ramingining, Gapuwiyak, Galiwin’ku, Milingimbi and Minjilang to work with hundreds of Yolŋu community members and families, and to listen to and record the stories of the images chosen to exhibit,” she says.

“We have listened to the people who are in the images, and listened to the families of those that are in the images that are no longer here with us. The stories you will read about and images you will see are a gift from our communities to the public to learn about the pride and culture of Yolŋu people, and to hopefully learn to listen, too.”

ALPA Chairman Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra got behind the exhibition when the idea first sprouted.

“For us to showcase our journey of 50 years of operating – to recognise our forerunners, our founders – [the exhibition] is an opportunity to pay our respects to those that have worked tirelessly and dedicated their working lives to ALPA and our communities.”

Made possible through the Australian Government’s RISE initiative, it was the dream of Charmaine and her team to have these precious images and stories exhibited at MAGNT.

“I am so grateful that our Board of Directors supported this vision, and am equally thankful for MAGNT's Assistant Director Content and Innovation Louise Partos for undertaking this ambitious project, helping steer us toward what is a significant exhibition for the Yolŋu people and the wider public.”

Likewise, the gravity and importance of this unique and special exhibition isn’t lost on the MAGNT team.

“MAGNT is very excited to be able to work in partnership with ALPA … to deliver our first remote Indigenous community curated exhibition. It has been a project full of humour, incredible goodwill, creativity and determination,” says MAGNT Director Marcus Schutenko.

“Remote curation via Zoom in a time of COVID – not easy! The strong Indigenous voices come through from the moment you enter the exhibition. It has been a real privilege and highly rewarding to work with Charmaine and the curatorial team on this exhibition.”

Immerse yourself in this important slice of history and experience the images and the stories from the people and communities featured in the exhibition. The time has come to celebrate 50 years of ‘making successful business together’.

Gumurr’manydji Manapanmirr Djäma (Making successful business together)

Header: Yolŋu wäŋa roŋiyirra marrtji guyaŋura bunhaŋur (Returning home from hunting). People featured: Muwarra Ganambarr 1
Thumbnail & inset: Buŋgulwun marrtji ŋamaŋamayunmirr (Preparing for ceremony). Dick Binyinyiwuy is a Djambarrpuyŋu man and senior clan leader who is about to lead this Buŋgul (ceremony). Milingimbi, c. late '60s - early '70s

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