ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
June 25, 1997
ALICE MAGISTRATE: NO RISE IN ALCOHOL RELATED CRIME
Alice magistrate Warren Donald, who has presided over the local court
for two years, said he has not noticed any increase in alcohol-related
offences during that time.
In Tennant Creek, because of the alcohol restrictions imposed, there
has certainly been a drop in crime statistics.
"However, I havenÍt noticed any change, up or down, in Alice
"The reason for this is, I think, because the majority of alcohol
abusers do not finish up in court and therefore I do not know about it,
[unless they're] arrested for other offences."
"He had noticed a marked increase in petrol sniffing, but he could not
elaborate due to a current inquiry."
Inhalant abuse is certainly increasing.
"From my perspective, sitting on the bench, I think there has also been
an increase in drug-related offences, mainly cannabis.
There seem to have been more prosecutions lately for the growing and
use of cannabis."
"The offenders are mainly Caucasian people, not Aborigines.
Mr Donald said he had not noticed any increase in the combined use of
alcohol and drug abuse: "I'm not saying it doesnt happen. It's not one
of the things that springs to mind."
"I think many of the people I see use cannabis instead of alcohol. Most
of the substance abuse around the Alice seems to be confined to
cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and petrol."
"There are the odd cases of paint and glue sniffing, and sometimes
harder types of drugs, such as heroin, but these are very much in the
Mr Donald says he thought the Quit program had been worthwhile and so
had some of the anti-alcohol strategies, having the suitable effect on
He says: "There need to be increased facilities for Aborigines who
"In Tennant there's an organisation known as BRADAAG, which I have
visited, and I have high regard for the results with those who have a
very bad addiction that has often been associated with criminal
"I think they are a marvellous organisation. As far as I know, we do
not have anything like it in Alice Springs."
"I have seen certain people who have come before me in court, sadly
ravaged by alcohol, and then I have seen them six months later and I've
noticed a visible difference in them."
"The facilities we have in Alice Springs are accepting people for five
days to sober up and detox. But as far as an on-going rehabilitation
in-house program, we don't have anything."
"Magistrates live in the community, too. Our kids go to school here. We
are part of community organisations. At the same time it should be
realised we are as hamstrung as everyone else by the lack of
PLANS TO TURN OLD PRISON INTO BUS TERMINAL AND ARTS
CENTRE, WHILE STAR RATINGS OF LOCAL HOTELS ARE CHANGED UP AND DOWN
Local businessman Samih Habib has offered to buy the old gaol and turn
it into a bus terminal and tourist centre.
Mr Habib, who has previously sought to establish a similar facility on
the vacant land adjacent to the town council offices, says he's aware
of the now defunct prison's heritage value.
He says in his application to the Department of Lands: "We will be
happy to preserve [the old prison] as a very important piece of our
Mr Habib says apart from the bus terminal and coach parking he's
planning to create entertainment and rest facilities, including
showers; an information centre with a mini theatre, and a cultural
Present coach terminal facilities, in Gregory Terrace and at the
Melanka low-budget accommodation in Todd Street, have frequently been
criticised as inadequate, giving unfair advantages to certain business
interests, and as dangerous to traffic.
Meanwhile, the Alice Plaza Hotel, built by the NT Government as the
five star Sheraton and later sold to Ludwig Berger, has been downgraded
to three and a half stars.
The Plaza's manager, John Kendall, declined an invitation to comment.
Malcolm Pash, the general manager of the Automobile Association of the
NT (AANT), which carries out the ratings, says the Plaza has refused to
accept the rating, and will not be listed in the association's guide.
Meanwhile, the Diplomat Hotel in the town's centre, now on the market,
and Lasseter's Casino have been upgraded from three and a half to four
and a half stars (out of a possible five).
The Alice Pacific, owned by the Ayers Rock Resort Company, went from
four to four and a half stars, and the All Season's Oasis, from three
to four and a half.
At Ayers Rock, the former five-star Sheraton - now the Sails - is
pegged at four stars, while the Garden and the Outback Pioneer have
All ratings at the resort are unchanged from last year.
Mr Pash says the AANT in 1996 became fully qualified to carry out the
rating assessments, used widely as a guide by tourists.
An AANT inspector visits the motels and hotels once a year and checks
the standards of facilities and service in accordance with nationally
Automobile associations in all states carry out the surveys, using a
checklist identical in all states.
The Plaza in Alice Springs has 235 rooms and is managed by the Rydges
group which runs 27 hotels in Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Berger, who is understood to have bought the hotel from the NT
Government at well below replacement cost, also owns a hotel in Darwin.
Mr Pash says some of the hotel's standards have slipped since it was
built 12 or 13 years ago, and some "maintenance items reflect badly" on
Mr Pash says even when the hotel was new it was "only just" five star.
Mr Pash says the former Yulara Sheraton, although promoted by the NT
Government as a five star hotel, was worth only a four and a half star
rating when it was opened.
Meanwhile the Diplomat Hotel, on the site of Ly Underdown's legendary
Alice Springs Hotel, is being offered for sale.
Rob Williamson, speaking for the selling agents, JLW Trans Act, says
the 81 room hotel is expected to fetch between $5m and $6m.
He says the occupancy rate is "excellent" and average room rates have
grown from $82 to $87 last year.
The average room tariff was $71 at the end of last year, up 4.2 per
cent over 1995.
Mr Williamson says hotel room supply in Alice Springs has been "fairly
steady" with 22 hotels and motels offering 1578 rooms in 1996.
SUPPORT SERVICES FOR SUICIDAL PEOPLE ARE NOT
ADEQUATE, CLAIMS FATHER OF VICTIM
The distraught father of a 24 year old woman who twice attempted
suicide over a three-day period, alleges the Alice Spring Hospital
released her without after-care.
The parent, who has requested anonymity, expressed his dismay that his
suicidal daughter could be dismissed from a health institution without
safety precautions being in place.
He says "Mary", after returning to Alice from Darwin, took an overdose
of sleeping tablets given to her by a doctor for insomnia.
"The first time it happened she admitted herself to the hospital and,
after treatment, they let her go home without really offering any sort
of back-up," he says.
"She should have been kept in Ward One for observation.
"Last year, again after my daughter attempted suicide, she went to
hospital and the same thing happened: she was released without any sort
"I asked the police to get involved, but nothing much happened
"No one wants to be involved.
My son notified the police one time when she wandered off and the
police came here to ask questions but no one's doing anything to help."
"Nobody seems to care and I don't think that's good enough. She needs
to be kept in hospital under surveillance," says the woman's father.
He does not intend to contact the police over his daughter's latest
suicide attempt as he feels there would be no interest from that
"The only time the police get involved is if Mary' is admitted after
"The hospital only seem to have social workers on their staff to look
after these sort of cases, but Mary' only saw the social worker once
and after that she was released," says the father.
He understands there are rehabilitation centres at Tennant Creek,
Darwin and Adelaide, but the family have to meet all expenses.
A spokesperson for the police in Alice Springs told the Alice News that
suicide attempts were not considered an offence, and for that reason
there was no need for police involvement.
The director for the Central Australian Region of Territory Health
Services, Sue Korner, says that when members of the public attend the
hospital's accident and emergency area, requiring mental health
services, they are assessed by the medical officer who can summon a
mental health crisis worker.
If necessary, the Senior Psychiatric Medical Officer is also called in
to assess the patient and decide on the appropriate course of action.
To admit such clients against their will requires that the client must
be considered to be in immediate danger to either themselves or others.
They must be - or thought to be - suffering from mental illness, or the
client must be suffering from a treatable condition.
The preference was to admit clients on a voluntary basis.
A Section 8 Mental Health Act restraining order was only used for
seriously mentally ill people who were considered to be a danger to
themselves or others.
With respect to "Mary", the Regional Director says: "The client was not
considered to be a danger to herself or others and was not initially
assessed as having a mental illness."
"When the client re-presented at the hospital, accompanied by her
father, she agreed to be admitted as a voluntary patient."
Routine post-treatment includes a follow up appointment with a
psychiatrist or psychiatric registrar.
Support is provided by the Community Health Team.
The police are notified if a client being held under a restraining
order absconds from the hospital's care.
Program Coordinator of Holyoake Alice Springs Inc, Janet Sherrah, said
those who had over-dosed could go to her organisation for counselling.
"This young person would fit the criteria. We would be quite happy to
"I am also quite sure the hospital would have support systems in place
for the referral of such people."
SERIES by BRYAN CLARK on the NEW PRISON in ALICE
GAOL PROBLEMS MOUNTING
The new Alice gaol is expensive, doesn't offer meaningful
rehabilitation and breaches recommendations of the Royal Commission
into Deaths in Custody, according to Correctional Services Shadow
Minister, Clare Martin.
She says the gaol is to accommodate the bulk of the NT's criminals in
the years ahead: "This wasn't the original intention."
"It's something that has grown from the fact that the old Alice Springs
gaol needed to be replaced. It was grotty."
"The replacement gaol somehow grew into becoming the major correctional
facility in the NT."
"It isn't only myself who is saying this is absurd. The
Auditor-General, in his yearly report, agreed with me, saying the
government have created a more expensive correction system."
"Two-thirds of the prisoners come from the Top End, so when a
considerable number are moved between the Alice Springs goal and the
Darwin court, that is not at all economical in terms of transport
Despite recommendations by the commission that being close to relatives
is a key requirement for black prisoners, many tribal Aborigines are
moved away from their basic support systems to be housed in a strange
place among unfriendly tribal people from other areas.
"One of the principles of the correction service is that we do have
rehabilitation as well as punishment," says Ms Martin.
"When prisoners are released, we want them to be healthy, law-abiding
citizens, hopefully. If we are going to remove some people from the
support systems through which these objectives are realised, we are not
going to serve our correction system well."
"People from the Top End, whether they be traditional Aboriginal people
or non-Aboriginal, if they are taken a long way from their families and
supporting links, I can't see how this is sensible policy."
"I've had so many complaints from those who say, I am the only relative
this (prisoner) has. He has a two year gaol sentence. I will not be
able to go to Alice Springs to see him.'"
"I think people should be punished for their crimes. That's why they
are in gaol."
"But we've got to make sure while they are in gaol, we are not doing
what all the research seems to indicate is happening in gaol - that is,
they become better criminals, rather than people we can send back into
our community who will not break the law again."
"Having the only major gaol in the Centre is not only going to be more
expensive, but it's also making it harder, I think, to get people out
the other end of the system and safely returned to society."
"With the Top End Aboriginal inmates, the only contact they will get is
through video conferencing, and society is going to have to bear the
"Video conferencing does not come cheaply, I can assure you."
"There are other financial problems with telephone use, there are
problems with court appearances in Darwin, there are appeals to deal
with, transporting of legal representatives - all these things, and it
shouldn't have happened in the first place."
"The concern has often been expressed to me about the potential
conflicts between Aboriginal people from different areas. We haven't
seen any conflicts yet, but it is a worry to some people."
Ms Martin says Correctional Services Minister Steve Hatton has said he
will continue to transfer all Top End prisoners to Alice Springs.
"He says it's not a holiday camp.
Basically, Darwin is being seen more as a remand place for short
Is Darwin getting rid of its social problems by transferring them to
"The philosophy is, those who are to serve longer terms will go to the
Alice to do their time, as this is now the major prison in the NT."
"Also the maximum security internees go to the Alice Springs prison as
Ms Martin says rehabilitation programs are hampered by lack of
resources: "Currently, we are struggling with prison officer numbers.
Unless these are brought up to a reasonable standard, we can't do a
"Until now, prisoners have been locked up for 18 or 19 hours per day."
"You can't do much with people who are kept locked up for such long
periods of time. That's got to be sorted out."
"Essentially, in Darwin, the prison has closed down. Alice Springs gaol
really hasn't got itself started yet."
"In South Australia the prison industry section is really focused. The
inmates are occupied during the day, learning skills, producing things
to be sold, such as demountable cages for sporting activities that can
be put up and taken down wherever there is the space."
"They make lights, card tables, there's a large welding area, they're
"I think low security prisoners should be out doing the grotty jobs in
the community, like picking up rubbish, painting out graffiti. This
should happen regularly.
In the Alice the prisoners did the Larapinta walking trail. They could
always be helping with government department projects or helping
"In SA, they have bush camps where the prisoners make concrete slabs
for the Flying Doctor, clean up litter, and so on.
"So there's plenty of things they could do, but it all depends on
prison officer numbers."
Ms Martin says recruiting good prison officers isn't easy: "It could be
a popular job with certain types of people, but perhaps those certain
types are not the sort of people you want."
"In SA, the official attitude is: You are not just a paramilitary
You are here as professionals.
You are actually involved in the process of rehabilitation, rather than
than just being their warder.
"I really believe if a person is not dangerous, they should be out
there contributing something positive to the community instead of just
sitting in a cell, doing nothing."
At the time of going to press Minister Hatton had not responded to a
request from the Alice News for comment.
LOW STAFFING LEADS TO COST BLOW-OUT
Corrections Shadow Minister Clare Martin is questioning a blow-out of
$8m in Correctional Services spending, blaming overtime payments to
prison officers because of under staffing.
"I will be looking closely at the amount of money spent on overtime,
particularly in Alice Springs and Darwin Correctional Centres."
"Last year the department's overtime budget stood at $1.4m. At the time
the Minister [Steve Hatton] pledged to significantly reduce that
Ms Martin says the CLP administration had failed to handle the cost of
the NT Correctional Services efficiently or effectively.
The most contentious area was staffing, she said, where the CLP's
administration had let down prison officers through under-staffing and
forcing excessive overtime, resulting in significant sick leave for
officers, and stress leave.
MANDATORY SENTENCING FILLING PRISON FASTER THAN
The Alice Springs Correctional Centre should have a maximum operational
capacity for holding 500 prisoners, the Auditor-General, Ian Summers,
has stated in his mid-1997 report.
The centre should eventually become the primary adult custodial centre
in the NT.
Mr Summers said: "In November, 1995, the government approved the
expenditure of a further $2.13m to incorporate most of the
recommendations to improve the prison's operations."
"The approved capital construction cost [is] $29.03m."
Additional to that amount was an approval to Correctional Services for
$2.4 m for start-up costs, including new equipment and infrastructure
in the prison.
In August, 1996, when the newly-erected Alice Springs Correctional
Centre was officially opened, the Gunn Point prison, near Darwin, was
At that time the custodial capacity was 200 in Darwin and 400 in Alice
Prisoner numbers during 1995-96 in the NT averaged 467, with a maximum
of 488 internees.
"While the prisoner population trend line prepared in 1995-96 ...
expected that it would be the year 2004 before numbers would reach 600,
prisoner numbers were expected to increase."
"However, in response to the mandatory sentencing legislated enacted in
... 1996, the 600 prisoner population is now expected to be exceeded in
the immediate future."
"The end result ... is that the prison with the largest prisoner
capacity in the NT is not located in the highest population centre."
"In the short term, pending the expected build up of prisoner numbers
generally in the NT, this is expected to contribute higher operational
costs to custodial services activities than may otherwise have arisen
if the prison capacities in the Top End and Central Australian regions
reflected population levels."
"While we have sighted evidence that the final cost of the centre
compares favourably, on a cost per prisoner basis, with the cost of
recently constructed prisons elsewhere in Australia, a more strategic
needs analysis at the outset of the project would have provided a
better basis for the subsequent management of the costing and
construction of the facility."
GAOL TOO FAR OUT OF TOWN: VOLUNTEERS TRY TO HELP
Alice Springs director of the Prison Fellowship of Australia, the Rev.
Lloyd Ollerenshaw, is a man deeply concerned for the welfare of
He has recently launched a subsidised bus service between town and the
gaol to assist families in providing moral support for inmates during
their period of incarceration.
"We have linked up with Prison Fellowship International to help us get
credibility so we can say to the gaol, look, we are a responsible group
who are trying to help wherever possible."
"It has taken a while for the prison to give us a little trust and
respect because they are naturally wary of traditional do-gooders who
want to save the world."
Being a new gaol, with a lot of pressures and problems, the Prison
Fellowship concept has had to peck away' to establish the message that
lay people were genuinely trying to help in a practical manner.
He estimates that eighty to ninety per cent of the gaol's inmates are
Aborigines, with an unknown percentage of this number originating from
the Top End.
"It is very sad to see that it has been decided to bring the Top Enders
"I don't think it is fair to take people away from their families and
tribal affiliations, and I think the gaol officials are beginning to
For visitors to travel to the Alice from Darwin, having paid an air or
bus fare down, they then have to pay out $50 for a taxi fare out to the
new gaol on the Stuart Highway.
"Our bus, which is on loan from the Tangentyere Council for a one month
trial, costs each adult $10 and $2 for school-aged children."
Throughout Australia, the Prison Fellowship movement assist prisoners
with a variety of their problems, but this has so far not been possible
at the Alice Springs gaol.
"The authorities have their own programs they want to put into place."
"There are not many in place at the moment. So, as things are, a fellow
could be locked up in a maximum security section one day and, if his
time is up, he is thrown out on to the street."
"They want to have rehabilitation programs, and the Probation mob are
working on this, but there are a lot of things still on their wish
"We haven't been asked to be involved, mainly because we are unproven,
and I think they are hoping to be able to do it all themselves."
If the Rev.
Ollerenshaw had his way, he'd like to bring experienced staff to the
Alice from interstate who are familiar with the typical problems of
prisoners, here to supervise training sessions with local Prison
"At this stage, all we can offer is getting to know prisoners, their
families and friends, and get them to realise that we're not
Correctional Service staff, not policemen - we are just people you can
trust, just friends who are concerned, and if we can help we'll be
In the past, prisoners released from gaol who needed practical
every-day support, such as finding them reasonable accommodation, or
help with shopping or travel arrangements, banking and so on, have been
happily assisted by the Prison Fellowship.
"We let them know we don't mind putting in a bit of time and effort if
they have made up their minds they are going to try to do the right
"We have found a couple of people who have really appreciated our
One inmate, the parent of a teenage son, asked if Prison Fellowship
could assist his boy to fill in government forms so he could get social
"That gives the parent peace of mind, knowing there is someone outside
helping his son, says the Rev.
"You can lock people away and punish them, but there must also be
restorative justice so they can be returned to the community."
"We want to help individuals and their families to relocate themselves
back into society and back into a family situation."
"We start the friendships inside the gaol, and we keep it going after
they are released so they can feel they belong again."
Alcohol rehabilitation and job-search programs needed to be conducted
in the Alice Springs gaol, he says, but with a membership of 20
volunteers it was already a difficult task to operate the visitor's
centre at the gaol, plus the weekend bus service.
When desert-based Aboriginal prisoners were imprisoned at Darwin, they
experienced the same feelings of disorientation as are now faced by
Arnhem Landers being gaoled at Alice Springs.
"It's not only isolation from their kinship system, but it's also a
different culture, different spirits, a different social life.
"It's chalk and cheese. For our desert people to be sent up to the Top
End, as used to be the case, that was, in itself, worse than going to
gaol, it's banishment. In fact, I think it was used as an added
"The Top End people who come down here not only freeze to death, but
they are brought into contact with a desert Aboriginal who is
completely different, and I am sure they must feel really cut off from
life in general."
"Spiritually, Aboriginal people need to feel they belong to the
"I'm sure the Top Enders don't feel this sense of relationship when
they are brought to the Alice."
Internees literally follow around what rays of sunlight peep into their
cells, the Rev. Ollerenshaw says.
"You can't see the sun, you can't see the stars. It's a miserable
"Being cut off from your origins and networks, it must be very hard for
them to live through."
"I can imagine some prisoners getting very depressed, and that sort of
depression, loneliness and frustration could quite easily lead to
deaths in custody."
Family contact and moral support from beyond the barb wired walls was a
vital factor in successful rehabilitation, and this was the
all-important factor motivating his team of Prison Fellowship
CALLS FOR ARTS MINISTER TO TAKE A BACK SEAT IN
GRANTS ALLOCATIONS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
While the Australia Council and other states' arts bodies have
introduced peer assessment for their arts grants systems, in the
Territory the Minister still has the final say.
Territory Labor's Shadow Minister for the Arts Clare Martin says it's
about time that the process was moved to arm's length from the
"In such a small society as the Territory, we can't afford to have our
arts grants depend on the whim of the Minister," says Ms Martin.
While declining to name names, she says that people she speaks to in
the arts consistently raise this as a problem.
"People are in trepidation of doing anything adventurous, let alone
political, because they are worried about not getting their next
"A peer assessment system would not be easy to put in place, but not
Look at the building industry."
"Their contract accreditation system involves peer assessment. If it's
possible for them why not for the arts?"
"In my view, the present system is not encouraging innovation, in
particular among young and emerging artists with, for example,
multi-media proposals," says Ms Martin.
She says that while admitting that his Department's advice is
professional and sound, Minister Daryl Manzie still keeps to himself
"the regal power to ïsign off' on whether an arts group gets
sponsorship or not."
She says Mr Manzie also admits that he has had his Department reassess
their recommendations, although he did not reveal which ones.
Mr Manzie did not respond to the Alice News' invitation to comment.
Meanwhile Alice Springs artists and community groups can start applying
for the 1997-98 round of Araluen Community Access Development Grants.
This scheme, funded by the Alice Springs Town Council, provided more
than $30,000 in the past year to assist community events at Araluen.
Beneficiaries included artists Paton Forster, Jenny Taylor and Robert
Kleinboonschate, the Alice Springs Steiner Association, the Alice
Springs Music Teachers Association, the Old Timers Retirement Village
and the Alice Springs Scout Group as well as regular events like Carols
by Candlelight, the Advocate Art Award, the Alice Prize and
performances by the Alice Springs Ballet Company.
PICTURED: The Arts for Young Children project is a recent recipient of
an Office of the Arts grant.
The project will present an arts program, including theatre, puppetry,
music, dance and movement, art and crafts as well as cross-cultural and
multi-cultural sessions, for young children on Wednesday mornings from
July 23 to September 24.
For more information contact Jo on 89528116 after 5pm weekdays.
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