One of the most successful arts centres in the Northern Territory has been placed under special administration by the federal government’s Indigenous corporations watchdog.
Injalak Arts and Crafts – based in the Western Arnhem Land community of Gunbalanya – has been running for 30 years and employed about 20 Aboriginal staff.
The arts centre was operated as an Aboriginal-owned not-for-profit social enterprise and has about 200 members.
It became famous for promoting the Kunwinjku people’s distinctive x-ray style art – and, in addition to selling paintings and hand-printed designs on canvas and linen, traded woven baskets and sculptures.
But according to the ABC, it has about $1 million in debt which it cannot repay.
It entered financial crisis after cost overruns on a new art gallery in Darwin called Provenance Arts.
"Once building work started we faced fresh challenges,” the centre’s website said.
"Unfortunately the original costings prepared for us by professionals dramatically underestimated refurbishment expenses and we have not yet determined how to deal with the shortfall.
The former manager of Injalak Arts, Felicity Wright, has resigned and blamed a lack of financial support from the NT government.
"Injalak had a very good year last year, traded extremely well, and had some reserves," Ms Wright told the ABC.
“Unfortunately, when Provenance wasn't able to attract any kind of funding from government, all those reserves ended up going to support Provenance.”
Injalak Arts has asked for assistance from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC).
“The members and directors of Injalak have made a move to do what’s best for their organisation and their broader community,” said Selwyn Button, the head of ORIC.
“Trouble can strike even the most experienced and successful organisations. I applaud the directors for recognising their predicament and showing courage to ask for help to recover from it.”