ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
April 23, 1997
Sack Lands Minister Reed, says Alderman Miers
Lands Minister Mike Reed has failed to appoint
Authority members, one to fill a vacancy almost 12 months old.
Alice Springs Deputy Mayor Geoff Miers has called on Chief Minister
Shane Stone to "either step in or remove" Mr Reed.
Ald Miers, nominated for the positions together with Aldermen Sue
Jefford and Geoff Harris, says: "It could be said the Minister, having
had the same three aldermen nominated on two consecutive occasions,
finds them all unacceptable.
"It may be he's reticent to appoint nominees who have campaigned
strongly on environmental issues.
"Minister Reed has been totally irresponsible to the Alice Springs
community, to its elected aldermen, and to his own Act in failing to
appoint two required members to fill vacancies on the Planning
"The present council is almost 12 months old, and at no stage during
this time has there been a full complement of members for the Planning
"The position of "alternate" member - stepping in when a regular member
is unavailable - has been vacant for the entire period, while the
recent resignation of Ald Carole Frost created the second vacancy.
The present PA members for the Alice Springs region are Aldermen Tony
Alicastro and David Koch, both seen as conservatives, according to Ald
Herman Weber is a government appointed member, and the chairman -
serving all regions - is John Maley. The Planning Act requires Mr Reed
to select members from nominees put forward by the council. Ald Miers
says the council received a letter from Minister Reed on January 8,
asking for the position of the third vacancy on the PA to be
advertised, and for three nominees to be put forward so that he could
select a person to fill the vacancy.
That was done, and the applications - two from the community and three
aldermen - were discussed by the council on February 10. They then
selected Aldermen Miers, Harris, and Jefford.
Ald Miers says: "It was felt that one of the three aldermen would be
the best candidate because of their greater experience in town planning
matters, the fact they'd already been chosen to represent the community
on the council, and their awareness of community sentiments.
"The Minister is deliberately delaying making this appointment, and the
whisper is that he's reluctant to appoint any of three people
nominated, deferring a decision until after an election when the
Minister might well choose to change the Planning Act to open the way
for a change in the composition of the PA."
On January 13 the council resolved to write to the Minister again
objecting strongly to the excessive delay in appointing an alternate
member to the PA.
Ald Miers says: "Minister Reed has made it clear some time ago that he
was dissatisfied with the council's position in not considering members
from outside council.
"The Act clearly states that once council has forwarded the required
number of names, the Minister shall make an appointment.
"Now the Minister hasn't made that appointment, and if he is
deliberately choosing not to, then he's inconsistent with the Act, and
I believe there's a need for the Chief Minister to step in and instruct
him to make an appointment, or to remove him from office," says Ald
Roadhouse allowed to "discriminate" against
The Curtin Springs roadhouse, dogged by controversy over takeaway
liquor sales, now has a licence allowing it to restrict sales of
alcohol to Aborigines.
The licence was issued last Saturday by the Liquor Commission.
The move follows representations from the NPY Women's Council and
discussions with the licensee of Curtin Springs Roadhouse, and the
Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HEROC).
The new regulations are in two stages, with stage one disallowing any
sale of takeaway liquor to Aboriginal people, and restricting sales of
liquor for consumption on the premises at the roadhouse to between the
hours of 1pm and 4pm until June 30, 1997.
A similar voluntary restriction had already been in place since January
Stage two, from July 1 until December 31, disallows any sale of liquor
to Aboriginal people for consumption on the premises, and limits
takeaway sales to one six pack of beer per Aboriginal person per day.
Wine and spirits are not sold over the counter at the roadhouse for
Licensee, Peter Severin, believes the new regulations "will only shift
the problem from A to B."
Mr Severin says: "Within the first ten weeks of us stopping take away
sales, there's been six Aboriginal deaths, three rollovers, and one
severe stabbing that I can establish. Domestic violence I don't get
Prior to the present trial period, according to Mr Severin, "they had
five deaths in 15 months."
Mr Severin says: "The restrictions on consumption at the premises to
between 1pm and 4pm, as well as the unavailability of takeaways, is why
the drinkers are shifting into Alice Springs, Coober Pedy, Leonora in
WA, and elsewhere, and coming back with grog in the car, and that's why
the rollovers are happening."
The new regulations also require the licensee to retain a register
signed by every Aboriginal person who purchases a takeaway six pack -
which has been a practice for some five years.
The NT Liquor Commission will review the regulations, having regard for
any human rights considerations, at the end of the trial.
Mr Severin says he will have a further meeting with HEROC at the end of
the 12 months trial.
Palliative care: Late action after row
Admission to the palliative care room will be reviewed by the Alice
Springs Hospital following disclosures in the Alice News last week of
red tape and dissatisfaction by potential users.
The room was modified and furnished with $15,000 raised by the public,
but staff shortages and bureaucratic delays have prevented or delayed
admissions, according to several sources.
The News has obtained a copy of a letter written to the chairperson of
the hospital by Bruce Clifford on February 25.
Mr Clifford expresses his anger at the unavailability of the room for
his terminally ill mother, Pat Holden, until her final hours, despite
her total hospitalisation period of five weeks.
Although he has been contacted and told he will receive a written
response to his letter, as of April 21 there had been no reply to Mr
Clifford's moving letter.
He says in part: "By now you may be aware of the concern I expressed to
Mrs Holden suffered an incurable multiple myeloma (bone cancer) however
she was not moved to the Palliative Care Ward until about 15 hours
before she died.
"Mrs Holden's wish was for no flowers at her funeral but donations to
the Cancer Foundation. "I'm not quite sure how my mother would feel if
she knew that the facilities that the Cancer Foundation built were not
available to her until the very last.
"I have heard all the excuses: the ward is closed over the weekend;
staff shortages; the room was only available to persons receiving no
treatment (Mrs. Holden's pneumonia condition was being treated.) "To be
honest, I find these excuses invalid and I here again express my anger
at the facilities not being available to a long term resident, a person
who in fact visited the sick in your hospital."
Mr Clifford told the News: "I received sympathy from the hospital
staff, the nurses and doctors.
"I think they were in agreement with me about moving my mother to the
Palliative Care Room but they couldn't say much."
Mr Clifford has nothing but praise for the hospital staff in Ward Six
where his mother spent most of her five weeks
"They were excellent," he says. "We couldn't have wished for better
staff, but that doesn't mean my mother couldn't have had the facilities
available in the Palliative Care Room."
The room, according to Mr Clifford, is very comfortably fitted out for
a patient and family: "There is television, coffee and tea-making
facilities, a table setting for family members' use, and a lounge which
converts to a bed so that the family can be present 24 hours a day."
The room, with quality furnishings, wall paintings, and spectacular
views of the MacDonnell ranges, is luxurious accommodation compared to
a small room in Ward Six.
"The room was so small it was crowded out when we had six or seven
family members visiting," says Mr Clifford.
"My sister who wanted to stay with Mum overnight had to sleep in a
lounge chair," says Mr Clifford.
It was only by accident that Mr Clifford discovered the existence of
the Palliative Care Room when it was mentioned by one of the hospital
doctors; he then asked one of the nurses if he could be shown the
This was about one week into Mrs Holden's final hospitalisation.
From that point on Mr Clifford asked many members of staff why his
mother was not being relocated to the special room, only to receive the
responses he lists in the letter and now refers to as "excuses."
Finally, within one week of his mother's death, in an effort to bring
some political pressure to bear, Mr Clifford approached Member for
Greatorex Richard Lim and asked for his assistance.
Dr Lim, a foundation member of the Hospice and Palliative Care
Association of Alice Springs, says: "On Mr Clifford's behalf I spoke to
the hospital superintendent, but it didn't go very far, so I then
sought an audience with the Minister for Health, Denis Burke.
"And that's when Mrs Holden was transferred, but unfortunately by the
time that occurred it was within 24 hours of her death."
Asked about the exclusion from the room of terminal patients receiving
treatment for other conditions Dr Lim said he could only speculate that
this might be due to the unavailability of staff close by to administer
"As a medical professional," Dr Lim says, "I find the policy as stated
by the department is quite clear, but I am a little bit uncomfortable
that the policy and what actually happens are two different things.
"The hospital needs to demonstrate to the community that it's following
Alice Springs Hospital has announced a review committee consisting of
representatives from the Cancer Council, Old Timers, the Palliative
Care Association, the Community Palliative Care Team, and community
members who originally helped establish the room.
Some of the protocols for access are already in place, and the hospital
says "all procedures will be monitored and fine tuned with each case".
On concerns about staff availability for the room, a hospital
spokesperson says: "The Palliative Care Room is staffed only when
"If the room is needed, additional on-call or off-duty staff are
brought in, and this may involve a short delay."
With the newly announced multi-million dollar upgrade to the Alice
Springs Hospital, it is anticipated that additional Palliative Care
Rooms will be created.
This week, through until April 25, is Palliative Care Week.
The native title dilemma
An international expert on indigenous rights says Australia is facing
agonising choices over Mabo: If the government legislates away some or
all of the Aboriginal native title rights, the country will, at best,
become an international laughing stock.
At worst it will be the target of sanctions by such major nations as
Canada, including a possible boycott of the 2000 Olympics.
On the other hand, to comprehensively negotiate native title rights
could take a very long time, although Australia could learn from
agreements developed elsewhere, avoiding mistakes and speeding up the
In any case, we're decades behind New Zealand, Canada and especially
the United States of America, where native title issues were settled
150 years ago, says Canadian Professor Peter Russell.
He played a key role in his country's recognition of native title
rights, has taught at universities including Harvard and the ANU.
He says Australia is "catching up" to those countries in "recognising
native rights and finding ways of sharing land and citizenship that are
less imperial and more democratic".
He's surprised at the "extreme" reaction to Mabo from some quarters
because the Mabo judgment, by international standards, "is an
extraordinarily fair one: "If there's any unfairness it's the
subordination of the Aboriginal interests to the pastoralists.
"To reject [Mabo] would be extraordinarily regressive."
The High Court's Wik decision, indicating that pastoralists' and native
rights can co-exist, needs to be followed by a process of consensus.
"If [the government is] just imposing rules on the Aboriginal people,
you're just reverting to an imperial relationship," says Prof Russell .
"The politicians who attacked the court should be more respectful of
the judicial process.
"Courts are there to deal with issues of rights.
"We have them there often to protect minorities, and if they're just
jumped on by politicians who dislike the rulings, they're going to
undermine the rule of law ... crucial to a liberal democracy, crucial
to the Australian tradition,"
Prof Russell told a media conference in Alice Springs recently.
Legislating against native title would provoke a "pretty negative"
international reaction: "The global consciousness, after getting rid of
imperialism in the third world" is resistant to seeing majorities in
the developed world imposing regimes on native peoples "with no respect
for their traditions or their rights.
"There will be resistance certainly in my country toward participating
in the Olympic Games.
We didn't participate in Moscow, and if a country is acting in a very
repressive way towards its indigenous people, by world standards,
articulated in UN declarations, a country has to think seriously, do we
want to respect that by participating in the country's major
"There would be action in the UN. This is the decade of indigenous
people. The biggest single human rights challenge in the world is
fairness towards the indigenous minorities.
"I cant see the UN sitting idly aside and see [indigenous people's]
rights scrubbed out over a major portion of the Australian continent."
Prof Russell is unsure whether there might be trade sanctions: "The
United States, Canada and other countries take a pretty hard nosed view
about who they trade with," he says "They trade with some pretty
What keeps the native title conflict alive? "Politics, that's it for
sure," says Prof Russell.
"In a vibrant democracy like Australia and Canada these issues are
going to be played out in a pretty raw way.
"The democratic process is conducted through the media [which] tend to
look for headlines, for 10 second sound bites.
"That puts a big burden on the real statesmen, if you have them in your
country, and a country can't be anything without statesmen ... to get
beyond those extremes.
"I think you've got statesmen both on the right and the left in
Australia, and I'm optimistic you're going to sort it out."
How long will it all take?
In Canada, says Prof Russell, "comprehensive land claim agreements"
cover everything from the rights of the Aboriginal people, to those of
the resource companies, environmental regimes, and the governance of
"They are really modern treaties. Some of those have taken 10 years.
"The Yukon one [covering an area roughly equal to our NT, but with just
30,000 people, 5000 of them Indian], which has finally been settled in
1995, took 20 years.
"That's a long process, but it's to deal with a very big set of
And instead of dealing with them in piecemeal litigation, they were
dealt with through a broad, comprehensive agreement."
ABOVE: Sacred sites in mundane places.
Instead of an asset they're seen as a burden.
The caterpillar dreaming in Barrett Drive (left) and rocks near Hungry
Drawings courtesy Institute for Aboriginal Development.
Organisations a worry, says author. KIERAN
FINNANE concludes review of Plains of Promise
A personal search for Aboriginality while working for an Aboriginal
organisation is yet another theme tackled by Alice Springs writer
Alexis Wright in her first novel Plains of Promise, recently published
by University of Queensland Press.
Wright paints a pretty grim picture of the experience in terms of its
sensitivity to personal needs.
KIERAN FINNANE, in this final part of her interview with the author,
asks is this something that she consciously wanted to say?
Alexis Wright.: In a lot of organisations there's a cohesion between
people at various levels but at the same time it's very hard work that
It becomes quite ruthless, given the ruthlessness of the governments
they have to deal with, and it really hardens people.
It's on all of our minds that it does harden us and we have to very
consciously not let it overtake our lives in all aspects.
News: Part of the novel also deals with a mental health institution
where a belly-dancing therapy is proposed to the inmates.
I was amused by that section.
A.W.: That's a bit of a send-up really of schemes applied to Aboriginal
They come from great ideas from governments or churches, from
non-Aboriginal people and sometimes from Aboriginal people themselves.
People can be sucked in and some weird and wonderful things might even
work but when they fail, Aboriginal people are blamed for them, they're
left high and dry and there's a big enquiry about it.
It's a send-up of those situations.
News: The men in the novel are incredibly violent towards the women.
Is that also something that you were conscious of wanting to say?
A.W.: The characters as they developed in the book were true to the
characters I was trying to create, they developed in those ways.
There was no attempt on my part to make women good and men bad and
that's not how I see the word in general anyway.
The type of communities created under state laws - missions and
reserves - weren't pleasant places for people to live on, whether they
were Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal.
Any race of people would have suffered badly under those laws and the
way those laws were applied to people.
A lot of it's to do with taking people away from their traditional land
and the hopelessness of knowing you can't get back and that you're
incarcerated in these missions and reserves for the rest of your lives.
I also think that Aboriginal literature should be moving into areas
where other indigenous people have been able to take their literature.
We need to have the freedom to write about characters, men and women,
and events as we see them.
Return to main page