ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
November 12, 1997
NATIVE TITLE LEGISLATION IS RACIST, SAYS RELIGIOUS
Report by KIERAN FINNANE
"If the government attempts to extinguish or diminish by legislation
the common law rights of one racial group for the benefit of another,
then I believe one has little alternative but to say that, by
definition, that is racist legislation."
The Rev Murray Lund of the John Flynn Uniting Church in Alice Springs
doesn't mince words in his response to the Federal Government's
proposed amendments to the Native Title Act.
He says his thinking is guided by the scriptures: "The Old Testament
prophets spoke very clearly to the governments and leaders of their
times about dispossession of the poor and injustice in the land."
While Rev Lund has not sought to direct people's thinking on the issue,
he says the congregation has been praying over the last year "for our
government to come to just solutions" on native title.
"The Christian faith has concern with issues of social justice, in
particular where people are marginalised and dispossessed," says Rev
The Assembly of the Uniting Church, its national body, has formally
called on the Federal Government to reject any proposal that will have
the effect, directly or indirectly, of extinguishing or diminishing
native title rights, and instead to develop a regime of coexistence in
the land, and require negotiation among the parties who have interests
in the land.
The Northern Synod of the Uniting Church, covering the Northern
Territory, the Kimberley and the Pitjantjatjara lands, has written to
all members of the Senate, similarly urging them to reject the
amendments and to require negotiation.
The Uniting Church has a small Aboriginal congregation in Alice
Springs, conducting services in Pitjantjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra.
Historically, the church had a mission presence in the Pitjantjatjara
lands and still has active congregations in Ernabella, Fregon and
Finke. Father Gerald Beaumont, priest to the Anglican Parish of the
Ascension in Alice Springs, at the time of this interview with the
Alice Springs News had not yet preached on the issues of native title.
Following our discussion, he decided that it was time to become more
proactive and made native title and Wik the focus of his sermon last
He has certainly had conversations with parishioners on the subject and
realises that they hold a variety of views and that some oppose his
own. On Sunday, he urged people to discuss the issues with him
following the service.
Two parishioners approached him to express their appreciation of the
sermon with its focus on a real issue instead of general principles.
He says parishioners would accept him preaching on the subject: they
would know that he was expressing his own views, and not trying to "ram
them down their throats".
Fr Beaumont has read the Native Title Act and the proposed amendments
drawn from Prime Minister John Howard's 10 point plan.
"Adequate provision for all parties to be consulted has been made in
the original legislation," he says.
"I find it remarkable, given the existing safeguards, that the larger
community is now asking for more.
"In a dispute, the Native Title Act, as it now stands and is understood
especially in the wake of the Wik decision, gives priority to the
preservation of pastoral leaseholders' interests.
"Given that advantage, I cannot see why there should be any further
erosion of the rights of native title claimants."
Is there anything essentially Christian to be taken into account when
considering these issues?
Fr Beaumont thinks there is: "The overriding theme throughout the Old
and New Testaments is that of justice, in particular in relation to the
poor and dispossessed.
"They are a matter of concern to the God we worship.
"The evidence is there in the life of Jesus. He spent most of his time
with the powerless.
"It is thus our responsibility within a Christian context to take care
of the poor, the hungry, those in despair, those rendered powerless, to
engage with them compassionately and creatively."
Fr Beaumont says, however, it is not possible for the Ministers
Fraternal - who for instance, recently entered the debate on alcohol
use policies - to make a joint submission on native title issues.
He says that views within the fraternal diverge on how churches should
or should not respond to native title issues.
The fraternal has nonetheless been involved with the reconciliation
process, in particular during the recent Week of Prayer for
Reconciliation, and during NAIDOC week.
Fr Beaumont is Chaplain at St Mary's Family Services where he conducts
a weekly service for Aboriginal children from remote areas in their
He also visits a small Christian community in the Utopia region each
He says that while there are many Anglicans amongst Aboriginal people
in Alice Springs, he mostly only sees them for funerals.
"I regret that the worshipping tradition that we follow in town does
not easily translate into something Aboriginal people feel comfortable
The Alice News also contacted local representatives of the Catholic,
Baptist and Lutheran churches, the Salvation Army and the Assemblies of
However, they did not wish to comment.
GAOL IS HERITAGE LISTED: NATIONAL TRUST BOSS
Sir,- For the information of the community in general and Minister
Palmer in particular:
´ Most of the remaining structures at the old Alice Springs Gaol
are heritage listed.
To quote Daryl Manzie, the Minister at the time the precinct was
declared a heritage place: "The precinct includes the old Alice Springs
If Minister Palmer has read the Alice Springs Heritage Precinct Plan of
Management then he should have been left in no doubt that there are
listed gaol buildings.
´ Age is not a criteria for heritage listing. Age may or may not
add to the significance of a place.
The old Alice Springs Gaol does have architectural merit (which, per
se, is not a criteria for listing).
Again to quote the previous Minister: "The gaol and hospital were both
designed by C.E. Davies and are fine examples of arid zone design of
´ The only similarity between the Stuart Town Gaol and the old
Alice Springs Gaol is the reason for which they were built - for
The Northern Territory Government did not call for expressions of
interest for the future use of the gaol in a proper and meaningful way
and has not been able to prove otherwise.
´ We all know that it is impossible to prove what the "silent
majority" think, but a large "silent minority" will not speak up
because they fear for their jobs. For example, many people have told us
they would like to sign the petition but ...
If the Minister's decision is not reversed, no heritage place in the
Northern Territory can be considered to be protected for future
generations to be able to understand their past.
The Advocate headline of Feb. 1993 - "Alice heritage protected by Act"
- has come back to haunt us.
National Trust of Australia, Alice Springs
Sir,- Firstly, I have actually been inside the old gaol several times
in the late 'seventies, to install an evaporative air cooler through
the roof of one cell block, then to help dismantle a faulty laundry
Most people would be unable to know what, if any, items inside the old
gaol wall may be worth retaining - unlike the old courthouse, the
residency, the postmaster's house, Hartley Street school, etc, which
were/are open to public view.
Secondly - my family's involvement in building construction in Central
Australia began before World War Two, at Jay Creek (Iwupataka), then
Hermannsburg, and in town from 1950.
So I attended the rally on Friday, October 30 to learn firsthand, but
found no members of the governing party stepping forward to speak - not
just representative of a silent majority but being an absent majority.
Does the government presume on a majority having NO opinion?
How can the majority discover, what is, or could be made of, this gaol
Those I know who have shown an interest and put in work towards
redevelopment proposals which retain the history - have they been
ignored? deceived? used as decoys? deliberately?
If so, this is not representative government, is not particularly
democracy: it is a sham, an outrage, a contempt of the community by
those whose salaries are paid by our taxes.
Dare they claim a mandate based on present obfuscation and past
I support the resolutions put at the rally by Fran Erlich, that PROPER
- not sham - consultation take place with the local community BEFORE
any action proceeds: and that action to be agreed by, NOT in spite of,
local input!!! And OPENLY.
RAIFALL IN CENTRAL AUSTRALIA: WHAT WILL EL NINO
KIERAN FINNANE reports
"Strange weather" is a commonplace in Central Australian conversation
lately, but is it really so strange?
Is it part of the climate change that we hear so much about?
CSIRO researcher Dr Mark Stafford Smith, based in Alice Springs, says
that climate variability, which goes on from year to year, decade to
decade and has always done so, is a "very much larger" factor in the
weather we experience than climate change.
Climate change looks at trends that may be developing over a longer
term, like 50 to 100 years.
The latest set of forecast scenarios, released by climatologists in
Australia in 1996, confirm earlier scenarios of climate change,
suggesting that we will get warmer by a degree or so over the next 40
to 50 years.
In Alice, that means that we will tend to have winters with fewer
frosts, which may mean that some of summer growing plants like grasses
may be able to keep growing in winter time.
It may also mean that some of our wild flowers retreat a bit to the
south, but, says Dr Stafford Smith, "as there's plenty of space, I
don't think they're endangered".
It's more difficult to model change in rainfall patterns.
In 1994 climatologists suggested that Central Australia would become
slightly wetter, but higher temperatures causing greater evaporation
would balance the end effect.
However, the latest scenarios, using some new models, suggest that, if
anything, Central Australia will get a slight decrease in rainfall,
which combined with the increase in temperature will make for a dryer
"But we'll still be driven more than anything by the variability from
year to year," says Dr Stafford Smith, "because that's much larger than
the amount of climate change we're talking about."
The 1993-95 drought was felt throughout the eastern half of Australia
and was the severest on record for Queensland.
"They were real El Nino years and people were starting to ask if El
Nino was locking in for a long time, under the impact of climate
change," says Dr Stafford Smith.
"But we've got evidence from coral reef rings off Townsville [which
suggests that] there were periods in the weather sequence before
Europeans arrived, when we had several years in a row with really below
average conditions, and some longer wet times too."
The coral rings grow more in wet years, in response to the nutrients in
the water flushed out from the Burdekin River, and less in dry years.
The rings allow scientists to go back to the 1700s and make estimates
of the rainfall for each year.
The most talked about factor in our climate variability is the Southern
Oscillation, more colourfully known as El Nino.
El Nino is an effect which arises from changes of temperature in the
In broad terms, under certain conditions there is a change in
temperature in the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean, along the coast
of South America, which is coupled with a change in the western
Pacific, just off the east coast of Australia.
The effect of that change is usually to create above normal amounts of
rain in the western parts of South America.
A corresponding change in the currents that run down the coast causes a
big kill of fish, an event that has been recorded for 300 or 400 years.
It happens around Christmas time, which was why the people living off
fishing there, for whom it was a boon, called it El Nino, the Christ
On our side of the Pacific, El Nino causes the climate systems to move
out into the Pacific.
Rain which would normally come and go down the east of Australia tends
to occur a couple of hundred kilometres out to sea, bringing about a
drought on land.
A contrary condition, recently named La Nina by climatologists, brings
about dryer than normal conditions on the western side of South America
and very wet conditions in eastern Australia.
As you move west across the continent, the effects of El Nino and La
Nina diminish, but nonetheless, looking at Central Australia, 1973 and
'74, when the Todd flowed almost continuously, were La Nina years.
The 'sixties had several El Nino years, corresponding with the most
severe drought that we've had in Central Australia.
This see-saw pattern of El Nino, La Nina and the years in between which
are neither, has been measured for a long time in the Southern
Oscillation Index (SOI), which is the difference in atmospheric
pressure between Darwin and Tahiti.
That is useful because there is not a very long record of good
temperature measurements, at most 100 years, but ships have been taking
pressure measurements for centuries.
There is a correlation between pressure and temperature: pressures tend
to be a bit lower when temperatures are high, so the SOI acts as a
surrogate measure of the difference in temperature between the east and
west sides of the Pacific.
To date the SOI is the best predictor of when El Nino or La Nina
effects are going to happen, suggesting their probability three to six
months before they actually have an impact on rainfall.
"The further ahead you look the less reliable it is," says Dr Stafford
Smith, "but at the moment the SOI is starting to pick up the pattern
which will cause us to have a relatively dry summer season."
The correlation is not perfect: only about 70 per cent but, says Dr
Stafford Smith, "that's enough to mean that if you're sitting in
October thinking, 'Am I going to get a good summer?' then the
probabilities have shifted a lot if you've got a high SOI or a low
Better data on the temperature patterns in the oceans, measured from
satellite, should improve the forecast period: "We might actually be
able to get six to nine months in advance of the actual rainfall time
which really does give people a lot of time for planning," says Dr
"It's possible that some of the complicated global climate models,
which have been developed partly for weather forecasting and partly to
study global change, will allow us to predict the next 12 months or
Being able to predict more or less rain affects all sorts of things:
agriculture obviously - stocking levels, the likelihood of a good
harvest - but also civilian preparedness for events like flood and
outbreaks of Ross River fever, associated with heavy rainfall.
Trying to improve reliability in forecasting is a big effort in
research at the moment.
In Alice Springs, CSIRO is involved in doing some research on trying to
understand the extent to which it is actually worth the pastoral
industry responding to these forecasts.
Dr Stafford Smith is running simulations to look at whether, if
pastoralists had adopted this strategy over 100 years of climate, it
would have been worthwhile economically or not?
As yet, it is too early to say, but in the next year or two the
forecasts will probably improve to the point where it is actually
really worth using them, according to Dr Stafford Smith.
In the last few years scientists have also started looking at the
patterns of temperatures in the Indian Ocean, and forecasts using this
data, particularly useful for Western and Central Australia, will start
to emerge over the next few years.
Dr Stafford Smith will hear about the latest findings of this research
at a conference in Brisbane this week.
Will climate change affect El Nino?
"Scientists are pretty unsure about that," says Dr Stafford Smith.
"We seem to have seen more El Ninos than usual for the last few years,
and a few people working on it have suggested that this may be one of
the effects of a warming atmosphere. It's a possibility, but that's all
it is at the moment.
"Oceanographers still don't understand why ocean temperatures shift in
the first place. Until they do, [which should happen within the next
couple of years] it's impossible to say if a particular change in
climate is going to cause a particular change in El Ninos."
The latest three month forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology in
Melbourne predicts a below average rainfall for the coming summer.
Does that mean, for example, that the cattle industry in Central
Australia should shed stock?
To answer, Dr Stafford Smith uses a horse-racing analogy:
"If you've got a wet track or a dry track, then all the probabilities
of racing animals change.
"It's not like any of them is guaranteed to win but the balance of
probabilities changes for different animals.
"Here when there's a strong El Nino signal, then the probability of
getting a reasonable year, instead of being half, is only about a third
"There's no way of saying next summer will be poor, it's just saying if
you had to bet on it ... "It's probably all we'll ever be able to do
with forecasting - talk about a shift of probabilities.
There's always the possibility that a storm will come through and make
things better on an individual property or town."
So, if he had to take a bet?
"Based on the forecasts you would have to expect a higher than normal
probability that we'll get below average rainfall this summer."
PRAISE FOR LOCAL ARTISTS BUT ALICE PRIZE GOES TO
KIERAN FINNANE speaks with the judge
Although this year's Alice Prize went to Queensland artist Stewart
MacFarlane, at least two Central Australian artists were in contention,
and several others fell into judge Betty Churcher's personal category
of strong works.
During her short speech, Ms Churcher, former director of the National
Gallery of Australia, singled out for special mention well-known Alice
Springs painter Rod Moss.
His Fight "could easily have won," she said, describing it as a "deeply
felt" work, of "great punch and power" and "very professionally
[Fight was reproduced in the Alice Springs News on August 8.]
In an interview with the News Ms Churcher also identified Jennifer
Taylor's Working with your Body as a work in contention for the prize.
"I find this a very compelling work," she said.
"It was teetering on the edge of an award for quite a while. "Each
little image is almost like a pictograph in some sort of strange
language. You feel that if you could only know the cypher, you could
read it [and know] what she's trying to do.
"I brought a chair around here and sat looking at it for a long while,
it teased me into trying to read it .
"Any one of [the separate, small images] could stand alone, but
together they make a very interesting statement."
Ms Churcher found Utopia artist Angelina Pwerle's Awelye striking:
"It's got a great energy to it, a great vivacity of line, it really
zings across the surface and I very much liked it from that point of
"However, it just didn't to my mind quite come together, there are
little bits where I feel the artist has let herself down with a clumsy
gesture or a clumsy line."
Another Utopia artist, Abbie Loy, also caught Ms Churcher's eye with
Bush Hen Dreaming: "It's got a wonderful sense of a textured surface.
"All Aboriginal artists have got a marvellous ability to manipulate the
surface, it's innate, part of their heritage.
"If only a white Australian artist would work so hard to get a picture
cohering in the way that this picture is cohering."
Of Dan Murphy's untitled sculpture she said: "I like the work of this
artist very much, I've seen lots of his sculptures, but I don't like
this one as well as some of the others I've seen.
"It's probably a more highly fashioned work but to my mind it hasn't
quite got the energy of his Frilled Neck Lizard [in the Araluen foyer]
or of some of his animals. There's something a little bit awkward about
this. In the other ones he hasn't tried for this realism of, for
example, the lips and the hair. He's been much more abstract in the way
he uses his materials."
The winning work was chosen for its "deep resonance".
For Ms Churcher, a work of art has to engage "in a very real way,
straight to the heart". "It can be a photograph, a sculpture, a video,
it doesn't matter, but it's got to have that power, a multi-layering of
meaning, [be more than] just a momentary sensation.
"I like something that keeps feeding me when I come back to it.
"It's hard over two days to test that out but when I come back on the
second day that's what I'm looking for, not for the immediate
sensation, not for skill, which I see just as a tool towards an end,
but for the expressive power of the work.
"Of course, expressive power differs with the individual, it's a very
"With another judge in here, you would get quite a different judgment."
The suggestive narrative of MacFarlane's Doorway aroused Ms Churcher's
curiosity: "It pays on a primordial unease, fear of the night, fear of
the unknown," she said.
"All of his pictures have this very theatrical feeling for the frailty
of the human condition. Here there's a feeling of impending doom,
something's about to happen and we are witnessing the moment before it
Ms Churcher highly commended Julie Rrap's Push & Pull : "I'm very
interested in the human condition. "This is a large cibachrome
photograph of a part of the body where the little folds of skin have
been blown up, so that they become almost like a landscape. It's
probably the wrist but it defies reading,while also inviting it.
"Beneath the photograph is a cylinder of human hair. "The work is about
the tactile presence of the human body, how it would look say to a tiny
mite, if you were not able to get back and look at it in its entirety.
"The glossy surface of the cibachrome is another surface ripple on top
of the ripple of the flesh itself. I think the highly shiny cibachrome
is part of the structure, [as is the tube] in shiny glass.
"Certainly, every time you look at it, it falls into folds not
dissimilar to the folds of the skin in the photograph. A very elegant
Ms Churcher commented on the ability of the Alice Prize to attract
leading mid-generation artists from all over Australia.
She commended the permanent collection, the property of the people of
Alice Springs, which the prize has created.
"Because it is a big prize [$5000] and it offers that four week
residency which artists would kill for, you've got the opportunity to
get the very best into the Araluen collection."
WEB SURFING SAVES ALICE FROM LONELINESS
MATTHEW FOWLER looks at how the Tyranny of Distance was defeated
When Nick Mure and Ben Gunner of Sammy's Pizza Express in The Alice
decided to enter the world of the Internet by hosting a web page,
no-one knew what to expect.
It just seemed like a fun idea.
In consultation with Jane Mure (a web author - and also Nick's wife)
they came up with a concept - to promote Alice Springs and Pizza
internationally by providing an entertaining stop over for web surfers.
The site includes links to pizza delivery drivers' sites in America
with information on tipping and also stories about deliveries gone
Regular changes are made to the links page, whenever a particularly
interesting site is found. It also has Sammy's menu and an Email
button. By clicking on the button, people can send messages to Sammy's
Over the last 18 months, checking the Email coming in has been a
constant source of entertainment.
By far the most common Email has been requests for information on Alice
Another frequently asked question has been: "What is capsicum?".
Karsten from Denmark wrote: "Hey ... Calling from Denmark in
Scandinavia. My brother is working in Alice Springs at the time. I
would like to give him your Address to Sam the Pizzaman."
Nick sent back the address and, a few days later, in walked her
He stayed for a chat and a pizza - all thanks to the Internet and his
sister, thousands of kilometres away.
Mike from California had recently left Alice Springs and wanted to
surprise his friend on her birthday.
He Emailed his request - could Sammy's Pizza deliver a pizza and
birthday card to her if he supplied his VISA card information.
No problem, Sammy's was on to it.
The look on Mike's friend's face when she received the pizza and read
the birthday card was memorable.
Other people have sent recipes for pizza. Squid ink instead of tomato
paste is apparently the rage in Japan.
Two Alice Springs teachers have sent in some delicious pizza ideas.
And the list goes on.
Sammy's staff even helped a tourist from Russia who Emailed to say the
paintings he bought in Alice had been left behind. Following the
tourist's vague directions they were able to locate the gallery and get
the situation rectified.
Being constantly available on the Internet via a web page has been a
rewarding experience for the staff at Sammy's Pizza Express.
It has been a great way to get feed back and ideas and to feel a part
of the Internet community.
Alice Springs' magnificent environment, in its second century of
European habitation, is taking on a new dimension.
We've long been one of the world's most famous places to visit in
Now we're becoming a location much called on by travellers in
cyberspace, as a mature crossroads in a vast network of what French
theorist Paul Virilio describes as the "Greater Nature" aspect of our
This "Greater Nature" is the larger cultural space of any community
where people live, work and raise their offspring.
The Alice of today is only possible because of the technological
objects, the tools of our "Greater Nature" culture that can create a
pleasant oasis in a dry, alluringly beautiful but ultimately very
We have all been bombarded with the continued hype of our digital age,
complete with vague buzz words such as the super-highway of the future,
world wide web or surfing the net.
Yet these advances have a significance for The Centre far greater than
elsewhere: for one, the tyranny of distance is no more.
The allure lies in the fact that these new concepts use words from our
own real life experiences, that is, our part in nature, breathing the
air, enjoying the landscape, the earth and water of our physical realm.
It is becoming clear that the incredible technological developments of
our times are creating a new place that promises to make all of that
"Greater Nature" part of our social and private lives so much easier
and more entertaining.
There are many examples, both nationally and internationally, of towns
that have decided to take part in this virtual landscape often referred
to as cyberspace.
Towns like Byron Bay have even gone to the extent of conducting council
elections via the Net.
So what is a cyber square of a virtual village?
In his fictional book Snow Crash, author Neal Stephenson uses the term
"Metaverse" to describe a three dimensional world directly drawn on the
retina of the eye by advanced laser computer goggles.
This world comes complete with "avatars", graphically rendered
representation of the people who choose to "jack in" and inhabit this
Yes, that is fiction.
However, today, one can find a staggering array of social activities
taking place at an unprecedented level over this thing called the
"Internet". Latterly a whole new range of service delivery options have
been made readily available by the adoption of powerful encryption
software and protocols allowing secure transactions to take place.
So how would one take a walk down the Mall in a cyber "Town Like Alice"
- a Toddy, in local parlance?
There are several examples of different approaches to presenting a town
on the Net.
Take a look at the WA town of Albany for a good example of a virtual
town tour using the ubiquitous "http" protocol that is the foundation
of the world wide web and the native language of browsers.
Albany's web site consists of a series of many two dimensional
photographs of landmarks, street scapes and views of the town that a
visitor can look at in any order, either by selecting a part of the
town on a map or by taking a simulated walk through the town, where, at
street corners you choose your next direction.
Other WWW pages analogous to a town square use a newer protocol that
allows three dimensional rendering of buildings and streets.
Implementations of these town modules are still very pixilated and not
at all like the realistic video arcade games found in the big cities.
The superhighway is in reality a super two wheel track when it comes to
sending the Mack truck load of bits that make up this digital
simulation of a real world.
Now I hear you ask: "What could I do in this simulated graphical
representation of a town?"
Well, actually nothing, as it could be argued that it is just the ghost
of you in this fantasy world of bits and bytes.
However, a simulation of any social interactive activity in real life
can be replicated on the net.
Each machine and ultimately each user of the WWW is uniquely
Just as your own mail box sits at your front fence, in its street, in
its town, your "login" identity identifies your account hosted by a
computer with a specific domain name in a specific category of
activities in a specific country or geographical region.
This "addressability" is the basis of sending and receiving
information; and because electrons travel at the speed of light there
is little to no time delay in individual users at different computers
talking to each other.
People talk to each other, in a variety of media formats, ranging from
typing to video images and sound, to arrange deals, collaborate on
projects, exchange goods and other services.
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