ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
December 3, 1997
AYERS ROCK WORKERS REJECT ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT
Report by ERWIN CHLANDA
A union organiser says he was being harassed by senior staff of the
Ayers Rock Resort Company (ARRC) as an enterprise agreement – in the
making for nearly three years – was tossed out by the workers.
The company says it is reserving its comment on all issues relating to
the failed agreement.
Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union organiser in Alice
Springs, Mark Wheeler, says he was denied access to an office where
ARRC staff counted the workers' votes on the proposed agreement.
He says he was threatened with eviction by company security.
Mr Wheeler says he was told by ARRC human resources manager Glen
Cameron that he was "not welcome on this site".
Mr Wheeler says his estimate is that the agreement was defeated by 120
votes to 40, but the company is keeping secret the results of the
Mr Wheeler says his information comes from a source inside the company.
He says negotiations will now have to continue until an agreement is
The company – in which the NT Government sold its 60 per cent share
when General Property Trust became the new owner early last month –
attempted to drastically diminish the conditions for ordinary workers
while improving those of salaried staff and management.
Mr Wheeler says union members would have: lost the 10 per cent loading
for part-time employees;
the loading for casual employees would have been reduced from 25 to 16
a change of roster – now subject to a week's notice – would have come
at the sole discretion of management;
casuals would have become entitled to overtime benefits after 12 hours
instead of the present eight;
rest breaks would have been cut from 15 minutes to 10;
and accrued sick leave entitlements would have started after six months
instead of the present one month.
Mr Wheeler says the company tried to exclude the union from all dispute
procedures and would have raised maximum twin share rents from $78.10
A removal of week-end benefits would have cost workers up to $4827 a
Mr Wheeler says the mood at Yulara towards the company and the NT
Government is "hostile" over the sacking of local government.
The union's victory was likely to have repercussions wherever around
the nation hospitality workers were being pressured "into acceptance of
sub-standard conditions of employment".
The resort has more than 1000 employees. Mr Wheeler says union
membership has risen "sharply" in the last 12 to 18 months.
The union has offered to meet with ARRC later this week.
AUSTRALIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION SAYS THE
TERRITORY'S MANDATORY SENTENCING LAWS SHOULD BE OVERTURNED BY CANBERRA
Report by KIERAN FINNANE
A joint report by the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has formally recommended that
the Commonwealth Attorney-General introduce federal legislation to
override Northern Territory and Western Australian mandatory detention
provisions for juvenile offenders, unless that legislation is repealed.
The report, Seen and heard: priority for children in the legal process,
was released last month. A response from the Commonwealth
Attorney-General is expected early in the New Year.
The report describes mandatory sentencing as offending against "the
principle of proportionality which requires that the penalty imposed be
proportional to the offence in question."
This common law principle also requires that the facts of the offence
and the circumstances of the offender to be taken into account, a
principle reiterated by the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CROC), article 40.
The NT and WA laws also breach the requirement that, in the case of
children, detention should be a last resort and for the shortest
appropriate period (CROC article 37).
Mandatory detention violates a number of provisions in the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the
prohibition on arbitrary detention in article nine.
The report says: "Both CROC and ICCPR [binding treaties to which
Australia has committed itself] require that sentences should be
reviewable by a higher or appellate court. By definition, a mandatory
sentence cannot be reviewed."
Human Rights Commissioner Chris Sidoti, in a letter to the national
convenor of Defence for Children International Australia, considered
the principles enshrined in the ICCPR and CROC in relation to the NT's
Juvenile Justice Amendment Act (No. 2) 1996. He wrote:
"I am particularly concerned about the provisions for mandatory
detention of no less than 28 days for juveniles aged 15 and above,
found guilty on more than one occasion of committing property offences.
"This move towards a harsher sentencing regime is out of step with the
principle that rehabilitation should be the goal of juvenile justice,
and that the detention of juveniles should be used only as last resort."
On the question of deterrence, Mr Sidoti said:
"Surveys undertaken both within Australia and overseas have made it
clear that the imposition of tougher sentencing for young offenders
does not lead to a decrease in juvenile crime.
"On the contrary, the overwhelming conclusion from available statistics
is that young offenders subject to custodial sentences, as distinct
from non-custodial programs, are more likely to experience long term
contact with the criminal justice system.
"The NT Government's stated objectives of eliminating crime and
protecting the community would be far better served by a greater
emphasis on non-custodial and rehabilitative options, with detention as
a measure of last resort."
The Alice Springs News faxed Chief Minister and Territory
Attorney-General Shane Stone detailed questions relating to the issues
raised in the Seen and heard report.
At the time of going to press, Mr Stone had not replied.
CHIEF MINISTER SHANE STONE TALKS TO YOUNG PROPLE -
BUT ABOUT WHAT?
Interview by KIERAN FINNANE
Chief Minister Shane Stone claims to listen to youth, through his Round
Table of Young Territorians.
So, just what does the Round Table think about the Territory's most
dramatic law affecting youth, the mandatory sentencing of juveniles for
a second or subsequent property offence?
KIERAN FINNANE spoke to the Round Table's president Mathew Smith, from
New Crown Station, south of Alice Springs, on the edge of the Simpson
Mr Smith is withdrawing from the Round Table at the end of this year as
he turns 26 in February.
In the past two weeks he has been busy interviewing applicants for next
year's Round Table.
Alice News: Has mandatory sentencing of juveniles been on the Round
Table's agenda this year?
Mathew Smith: It has been. We've never formed any conclusive opinions
on it but we've discussed it.
We decided that not everyone could come to a consensus, so we left it
as having no official opinion in the end.
News: What sort of information did you have before you?
Smith: When it was first broached, we got everybody's general idea of
whether they were for or against it, but we decided that we really
didn't have enough information.
In a second meeting we brought a police officer in and he gave us the
rundown on the basics of mandatory sentencing – you have to be between
15 and 17, it has to be a second offence to get the 28 days' minimum.
We decided that we couldn't really see any need to change any of it, or
certainly we didn't have the degree of knowledge to change any of it
News: Did you ask, for instance, to look at the type of cases that were
coming before the courts and were being sentenced?
Smith: No, we didn't. We certainly had heard of cases, the bike helmet
one was one of them, but in that instance I believe it was not a case
of mandatory sentencing anyway.
News: No, it was under the Territory Infringement Notice Enforcement
Scheme, but it still meant that a juvenile was locked up. Has that ever
been discussed by the Round Table?
Smith: No. We were certainly told that mandatory sentencing was only
for property offences committed by 15 and 16 year olds. And for adults
of course, but we're really only concerned with juveniles. We are
certainly concerned with the age group 17 to 25 as well but it didn't
seem to be as politically hot an issue as the juveniles are.
News: What was the range of viewpoints? Were there any people clearly
opposed to it?
Smith: Not really. We didn't have any really strong opinions one way or
the other. We really didn't know enough. There are a couple of law
students on the Round Table and they knew more about it than most of us
Then there are the 12 year olds up to 16 year olds who didn't have
any idea at all as to what it was about. I've heard of schools saying
if you muck up on muck up day, under mandatory sentencing you'll be
going to gaol, which is completely false of course, because it has to
be a second or subsequent offence. Plus the judge has discretion on the
first offence not to record a conviction, so it could in fact be a
third offence before you get to the sentencing stage.
As far as we
could see it would really only catch the repeat offenders.
I have heard that it breaks at least three articles of the Convention
on the Rights of the Child.
I read them, articles three, 37 and 40, I think. I'm not a law student,
I see them from a simplistic point of view, but I definitely saw them
as motherhood statements that you could read anything into and I had
difficulty understanding how mandatory sentencing broke them. I really
couldn't offer an opinion one way or another.
News: Do you separate your views from those of the Round Table?
Smith: Everyone on the Round Table has a view and it is certainly
heard. When we come to an agreement it is always by consensus. We won't
go one way or the other and try to persuade some to come on board. If
we can't come to a consensus we're better off not coming to a decision
at all, better off finding out more information, speaking about the
issue more and then coming to a consensus.
With this Round Table, because it's never been done before, we spent 90
per cent of our time working out what we could do, couldn't do, how to
run a meeting – because with the ages running from 12 to 25 you
certainly have to run your meetings differently from an adult meeting –
so we really put in solid groundwork for next year's Round Table.
Hopefully they'll take issues like this on. They were too big for us to
be trying to deal with as well as working out how to run the Round
We were also busy with the Upstart program, the small business program
for youth which goes to Cabinet this week, and the Youth Festival which
Issues like mandatory sentencing were extremely difficult and we would
have loved to have had a crack at but it was too difficult in the space
of time we had. We certainly didn't get enough time and enough
information to come to a consensus.
News: What resources do you have?
Smith: Huge amounts. The Office of Youth Affairs has everything to do
with youth in there, at a touch of a finger it is on your computer
screen, or emailed into you from another department.
News: Do you think the Round Table adequately addressed mandatory
sentencing of juveniles? Incarceration, after all, is a permanent mark
on somebody's record, and did you think at all about the sort of
psychological and emotional experience it might be?
Smith: That's a difficult one. I think it will be more appropriate for
next year's group to tackle. They'll have five meetings, five members
who've already started to deal with it, and they can work from there,
they'll have a good 12 month period to tackle it.
I certainly do think it's an important issue but I think it's blown out
of proportion. The biggest problem, I find, is if you commit a second
or subsequent offence and you face mandatory sentencing, you'll be
taken away from where you live. If you actually live in Darwin and go
to Don Dale then I don't see it as a big issue, but certainly for rural
areas I do.
News: Are you are aware that juveniles have been in the
adult gaol, 18 of them, two for up to 10 days. What do you think about
Smith: I don't know anything about their cases, but I've been informed
that they were in solitary confinement, so they haven't been mixing
with adult inmates, but I honestly couldn't comment on it because I
don't know what their offences were.
News: Young Territorians in Round Table terms are from 12 to 25 years
old, yet under the justice laws once you're 17 you're considered an
adult, once you go to gaol you are mixing with adult prisoners. Did you
discuss that at all?
Smith: No, we didn't discuss that. I mean, from 17 it's an issue, but
from 18 you're an adult anyway. If you commit an offence and you go to
gaol as an adult I don't see any problem with that.
News: Do you think
there might be a problem of disproportionate punishment for some
offences? For example, a 15 year old Central Australian faces a
mandatory sentence for stealing a mattress. He was found asleep on it,
it's a second offence, and for that he could face 28 days in the Don
Dale Detention Centre in Darwin. Do you think there's a problem there?
Smith: I can give my personal opinion. I have to separate myself from
the Round Table here and say yes, I do think that's a problem. But on
the other hand, I'm not 100 per cent against mandatory sentencing. In
some cases it works quite well, in other cases it doesn't work so well.
News: Magistrates always had the discretion to sentence and detain.
Smith: As far as I understand there are 200 repeat offenders in the
Territory. The way it was described to us, from a police point of view,
is that mandatory sentencing was really not designed to catch those
that steal mattresses or break in to try and feed themselves. It was
designed to try and curtail those 200 that were constantly breaking in,
stealing or committing property offences three, four, five times and
either getting community service or not getting anything at all.
you look at that side of it, you can see why there is a need, but on
the other side, from a personal point of view, when it is someone
trying to get some food or a mattress, and they don't take anything out
of the house, then you can argue that it might be fairly harsh.
News: Are your discussions unfettered?
Smith: We decided that we really preferred it to be just the Round
Table, and the Director of the Office of Youth Affairs is in there, no
one else. It is really a think tank and members want to be able to say
anything they like, which helps creativity and lateral thinking.
NEXT WEEK: The too hard basket is on next year's agenda.
CLP PARLIAMENTARIAN RICHARD LIM ATTACKS FRAN
ERLICH WHO WANTS TO FOUND A NEW PARTY. MRS ERLICH REPLIES
Sir,- First of all, I want to say that your naming of a person and his
associated company in the Alice News is scurrilous to the extreme.
You started the statement by saying "rumour has it that (etc)" and
without any substantiation, named the businessperson, potentially
adversely affecting that person's business and good name. It is a most
irresponsible act for a newspaper which purports to be an honest paper.
As regards your interview with Erlich, it goes to show how poorly
informed both of you are.
The enclosed Special Budget 1997 Issue of Greatorex Voice will give you
a detailed list of planned development for Central Australia.
And don't forget the $20m plus spent on the Desert Park, one of the
best of its kind, and the Fire and Emergency Centre, next to the St
Johns Centre, both recently developed and opened within the boundaries
of the Alice Springs municipality.
As an alderman on the Alice Springs Town Council, what has Erlich done
to promote businesses moving into Alice Springs?
What incentives has she brought forward through the council to
encourage businesses to come here?
What has she done through her position of power in the council to
improve the economy of our community?
The Northern Territory Government promotes businesses through the
Department of Asian Relations, Trade and Industry, Northern Territory
Tourism Commission and the Department of Mines and Energy to mention
but a few.
We have a small oil industry. We have gas, which we supply to the rest
of the Territory.
Our cattle industry in Central Australia forms a large part of the
Northern Territory economy.
Our camel industry is being developed by people with a vision for the
The horticulture industry (grapes, cut flowers, dates, asparagus,
citrus, now tomatoes and olives) is rapidly growing from a base of zero
a few years ago.
With improved business, our life-styles improve.
Even your newspaper benefits from the advertisements paid for by these
very same businesses.
Do you or Erlich recognise that the unemployment rate in the Northern
Territory is at 4.3 per cent as compared to the national average of 8.6
Obviously the Northern Territory Government is doing the right thing,
resulting in an unemployment rate, the envy of all states and
territories in Australia.
And the CDEP argument is spurious to say the
The local CLP members of the Northern Territory Government fight very
loudly and strongly for Alice Springs. The list of capital works and
recurrent expenditure in the above mentioned issue of Greatorex Voice
will show you that the Northern Territory Government is aware of our
"We're being kept in the dark," Erlich said. When did Erlich last take
the initiative to contact one of the local CLP MLAs? Has she asked any
of them recently about anything in particular? When did the Town
Council last invite the local members of Parliament to meet with
"Many civil servants in Alice Springs are frustrated with their lack of
autonomy, with the resources, decision making and manpower being
centralised in Darwin," was another comment Erlich made.
Sadly, it seems to me that Erlich and you do not feel that we are all
part of the Territory team.
Our civil servants are part of a team to help manage the totality of
the Northern Territory.
We should recognise that Darwin is the capital
of the Northern Territory and the seat of government.
It is closest to the Timor Sea where much exploration and discovery is
taking place. Darwin, by its geographical location, is set to benefit
from all that.
Is it realistic for us to expect the same for Alice
Springs which is 1500 km away?
Alice Springs has its own strengths, which the Territory government
recognises and promotes. We are not Darwin nor should we aspire to be.
You say it is unhealthy to have a strong majority government in the
Take a look at Tasmania and its minority government.
The economists describe Tasmania to be in "negative growth", as if
there were such a condition.
What they mean is that Tasmania's economy and population are shrinking.
Do we want that for the Northern Territory?
Look at the difficulties of other minority governments - Queensland and
South Australia comes to mind immediately.
Do we want that here? No
thanks, not for me.
Dr Richard Lim
MLA for Greatorex
[ED - Dr Lim's hysterical and groundless attack on the Alice News
smacks of a hidden agenda. Unlike him, none of our other readers seem
to have had any difficulty understanding that our comment piece was
reflecting on the feelings of powerlessness and frustration which the
processes of his government are generating.
The business person Dr Lim refers to was contacted by the Alice News
and his response reported accurately.
Is Dr Lim suggesting that revealing an association with the NT
Government as a contractor is harmful to ones reputation? Our point was
that the secretive way in which Dr Lim's colleagues are conducting
their business promotes rumours and speculation and inhibits informed
Dr Lim has a hide to suggest the Alice News is ill informed when he and
his colleagues are keeping the media and the public in the dark as a
matter of deliberate and ongoing policy.
As we have told him many times, we have dozens of examples where our
enquiries on matters of public interest have not been answered.
One of the longest standing enquiries stonewalled by his government is
about the difference between the cost and the revenue of utilities
supplied by the taxpayer to the monopolistic Ayers Rock Resort Company.
The most recent is whether the government is chopping $7m out of the
Living With Alcohol program, as suggested by DASA.
If Dr Lim wants us to be better informed then he should end the
muzzling - in a manner reminiscent of totalitarian regimes - of
Territory public servants.
If they are, as he claims, "part of the team", why are they prohibited
from speaking freely, through the media, about their areas of expertise
Dr Lim asserts that the "CDEP argument", with respect to the NT's
actual unemployment rate, is "spurious". Says who? Where is Dr Lim's
evidence? The Alice News wrote extensively about the issue (March 12 -
the full text is on our Internet Website).
We quoted a key player as having serious doubts about the scheme, and
report that the NT jobless rate would be around 15 per cent - the
highest in the nation - if CDEP participants were counted as
unemployed. There was not a peep out of Dr Lim at the time.
His attempt at shooting the messenger won't discourage the Alice News
from reporting the news, and commenting on it, in accordance with the
highest standards of journalism, and with the interest of our community
as the bottom line.
We have invited Fran Erlich, a widely respected figure in the
community, and an elected alderman, discourteously referred to by Dr
Lim only as "Erlich", to reply to his attack on her.]
MRS ERLICH'S REPLY: Sir,- Dr Lim is referring to an interview I gave
the Alice News about the possible formation of another political party
in Alice Springs.
One of the major reasons the issue was raised was because of community
disenchantment with the style of the Government.
Dr Lim argues that is good for the Territory to have a strong majority
Government and connects economic problems in other states with minority
I don't agree that that is a valid reference but the point that I was
actually making was that a party which has been in Government as long
as the CLP with no viable opposition is much less responsive to the
will of the people than one which is likely to be tipped out at the
I think that this has been borne out by recent events, such as the
sacking of Yulara Council without any consultation, and the high-handed
approach to the old gaol demolition.
Dr Lim laments the fact that I do not feel "part of the Territory
I am very proudly an Alice Springs resident and Territorian by birth
but I don't know what it means to be part of some Territory team - that
presupposes a homogeneity which does not exist here, and also that we
must all have the same aspirations for the future of the Territory.
However with four Territory born children, now teenagers, I certainly
have a strong interest in the continued growth and prosperity of the
Dr Lim gives an impressive list of developments in Central Australia
over the last decade or so (some Government sponsored and some not) but
does not relate that to spending in the rest of the Territory.
He then goes on to seemingly support the inequitable distribution of
Dr Lim also expresses the view that I should be bringing business
incentives into Central Australia through the [town] council. I would
perhaps ask what Dr Lim did in this direction himself when he was
He knows that the council has limited resources when compared with the
Government but I would point out that the council has had an Economic
Development Committee for several years and will shortly be appointing
an Economic Development Manager.
In all of his comments Dr Lim does not address my main point, that is,
the negative and disillusioned attitude of many people in Alice Springs
about their level of representation and their inability to have a say
in what happens in their town.
Have the benefits of a strong Government which Dr Lim outlines been
achieved at the expense of the alienation of many people?
THE SCHOOL WHERE HOMEWORK IS FINDING A BED FOR THE
By KIERAN FINNANE
Detour is a program run jointly by Tangentyere Council and Centralian
College for Aboriginal secondary age children who for various reasons
have dropped out of school.
It tries, against great odds, to draw these children into education and
training opportunities suited to their needs.
Last week the Alice News spoke to Detour staff about the life
circumstances of their students in an effort to understand why they
require a special program. We learnt that many of the students lead
extremely transient lives, some sleeping in a different bed every night
of the week, and never sure where their next meal will come from.
Teacher Zania Liddle said that many of the students are loved by their
families but that the families' resources are too few, stretched
between too many.
Working with the families has been integral to the Detour approach.
Zania continues: "One student was doing Year 10 in a mainstream high
school but has felt much more comfortable here: there are fewer people
to relate to, and he has had one teacher whom he could build a
relationship with, instead of many.
"During the time he's been here, he's developed a better sense of
himself as a person, he's become more independent and self-confident,
he has stronger aspirations about what he wants to do. "We are trying
to encourage him to go back into the system next year."
Says arts coordinator Peter Lowson: "It would be too easy just to wash
your hands of kids like him, but that means another juvenile on the
streets, wanderingly aimlessly through the day."
In the first semester of this year Zania worked with a more
academically advanced group of students, with the intention of
enrolling them at Centralian College in second semester to start their
NT Certificate of Education course:
"We did a lot of work on English and Maths, preparing them for the
NTCE, and developed important life skills, in particular around
establishing a routine.
"The NTCE timetable was very structured, they were expected to attend
from 8am to 3pm, and they were expected to do assignments. "As well,
I'd organised extra tutorial times to help them through their work.
"It was too much for them. They were honest, they told me that they
couldn't promise to be at school every day.
"If you have three lessons per week in a subject and you miss one, it's
critical. Most weeks the students were missing at least one day a week.
"I thought if we kept them engaged they would succeed but the pressure
was too great. The NTCE structure and timetable was unable to
accommodate the lifestyles of these students.
"All of them were having to look after themselves, chase money, and
some of them were in trouble with the justice system.
"Then, about five or six weeks into the semester, one of the students
passed away. That tragedy led to a suspension of the program for three
weeks, out of respect for the wishes of the deceased's family. "It was
an important cultural responsibility for our students, but from that
point the NTCE program was adversely affected.
"One student didn't return, another came only intermittently, then they
all started coming less and less.
Before the tragedy I had hoped to get four to six students through the
What is the future for Detour? Resources for the program over the last
year have been imaginatively stitched together from a variety of
sources. Tangentyere lobbied the federal Youth Bureau for funds, and
stretched their own resources to support the program with the necessary
administrative infrastructure, a full-time coordinator, the arts
coordinator, other staff, access to CDEP services, vehicles for the bus
run and a few basics such as the recently-installed evaporative
coolers. Territory Health has supplied a part-time youth health worker
and has provided most of the food for the meals program.
Centralian College has provided salaries for the three teachers, $5000
worth of stationery and helped find some desks and chairs. There were
no shelves, staff and students had to make their own; there were no
pinboards, now there are some but they are still not on the walls.
That's on the "to do" list. "It's been hard to make the rooms look like
classrooms," says teacher Nicole Traves.
After 12 months they still don't have a set of readers. They make their
own readers, using texts negotiated with the students, but "you also
need others so that you can have a graded reading program."
There appears to be support from the Department of Education and
Centralian College to run an Arrernte inter-generational group (as has
been running this year), another NTCE group, and a drop-in centre with
a program of craft and enterprise activities for those students who
can't respond to a structured timetable.
The teachers are concerned that a drop-in centre would be disruptive if
it's at the same location.
"We also think that the mainstream system should accommodate the group
of students who have English as their first language, but who share
some of the complexities of relationships that the ESL students have,"
"This would mean supporting the students at levels over and above their
usual responsibilities, and involving the families at all costs.
Says Nicole: "It would take five years to give the program a fair run
and assess its effectiveness. "If this program weren't to go ahead next
year, these students would not go to school, they wouldn't touch base
with any kind of program at all."
WHEN NOMADS STOP WALKING: ABORIGINAL WOMEN TELL
THEIR STORIES IN A NEW BOOK
Review by KIERAN FINNANE
What was it like, to be a little girl wandering the Great Sandy Desert
some 50 years ago, on the cusp of change from a traditional nomadic
lifestyle to the forcibly more settled post-contact years?
If the question arouses your curiosity, a just-released book will go
some way towards satisfying it. Yarrtji tells the stories of six Great
Sandy Desert women, compiled by Sonja Peter and Pamela Lofts.
The very first story sets the tone. It's told by Martingale Mudgedel
"When Tjama was little I hit her with stick. ïGive me tjirrilpatja
[pencil yam],' I bin say. Tjama wouldn't give me tjirrilpatja. The
three sisters, the three Nampitjins - our mothers - they bin sorry for
us. Sorry for me hitting Tjama. Two father bring big mob pussycat.
Aunty tell me ïDon't hit sisters!' so we can walk round together."
Three mothers, two fathers! Almost unimaginable for a European reader,
certainly fascinating. There's no psychological exploration of the kind
one would expect in a European autobiography. But the women's first
person accounts of their memories, in Aboriginal English and some
language, certainly have an emotional tenor, and as you get used to
reading Aboriginal English, the simplicity of expression combined with
the scope of the experiences being described, has its own poetry.
Often, Peter and Lofts choose to render the accounts in a free verse
form, as above, and in this dramatic account by Kuninyi Rita Nampitjin:
We bin start from Yurngkunpali.
We bin finishing water.
From there travelling to every soakwater,
long way to Ngantjaltjara.
From there to Kumpultjirri.
Summertime, travelling summertime. From there to Yarlu Yarlu.
From there to Kurungupanta.
We bin tired and slack from no water.
Go to Marl, other side of Lamanpanta.
We bin digging hole and sleep inside hole.
Make ourselves cool.
We bin starting walking night time.
We sick one now.
My father bin crying for kids.
Father and mother say,
"What will I do? I might losem all the kids."
We bin cry.
Before sunrise we bin start walking east - kakarra.
We bin findem water now at Tjarkatjarka - rockhole - deep one.
We bin happy."
The stories of the kartiyas [white people] go before them. Payi Payi
Napangarti's is particularly appalling: "They tell me story for kartiya
... The kartiya put mother and father in the fire, cookem like bullock
meat - boilem up in pot ... People living in Lanu Lanu bin taste the
cooked people. Kartiya force-em to eat that meat. The people pretend to
eat - liar way, but really they digging hole and put in meat behind."
Then comes the actual experience. There are many first or early contact
accounts, many of them horror stories: of men, accused of stealing
bullocks, chained around their necks, beaten, tied up to a tree all
night, whipped; of women and children rounded up, bullied, terrorised,
You can't help but be impressed by the detail of the women's memories
of their vast itineraries: where they found what to eat, where there
was water, and other events, small and large, but especially their
ceremonies. Tjukurrpa stories appear in the text alongside the first
person accounts, but distinguished from them by red print. This
together with the many photographs, collages and reproductions of the
women's paintings, with every page individually designed, make for a
multi-layered ïreading' experience, one that you could return to
and take bit by bit, over many sittings.
In view of the limited possibilities of contact between white
Australians and Aboriginal Australians living in remote communities,
this book helps fill an important gap. The reader experiences a certain
sense of getting to know six women who bear witness to a compelling
part of Australian history.
The launch of Yarrtji last Thursday coincided with the opening of an
exhibition of Balgo Hills Painters at Gondwana gallery in Todd Mall.
The show includes work by two of the women whose stories feature in the
book, Martingale Mudgedel Napanangka and Nanyuma Rosie Napurrula.
There are 25 works in all, including some by Balgo's most sought after
artists, Eubena Nampitjin, Susy Bootja Bootja, John Mosquito and Fred
In the same gallery, visitors can see a mini-exhibition of Ikuntji
(Haasts Bluff) artists. Shows until December 11.
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