ABORIGINAL NATIVE TITLE CLAIMANTS IN HUGE LAND DEAL. Exclusive report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Arrernte native title claimants and a development group including prominent land developer, Jim Watson, are negotiating a major real estate deal in Alice Springs.Bob Liddle, a spokesman for the claimants, says they are taking part in a joint venture for the development of 10 hectares of Crown Land in the Mt Johns Valley.The project would yield about 100 residential blocks, in which Mr Watson says the Pine Gap space base has shown keen interest.The deal, expected to be concluded by the town's 13 registered native title claimants late this week, is designed to open up Crown Land in the valley, south of Stephens Road, north of the MacDonnell range, and east of the recent "Vista development" in which Mr Watson also played a key role.An area further east may well become stage two, if demand for land holds up, says Mr Watson. To date Crown Land in the area has been unavailable for development because of native title claims.Mr Liddle says local Aboriginal people have now taken the initiative to end the impasse, setting an example that may well be copied elsewhere in The Centre."It goes to show we're not anti development," says Mr Liddle. "We're keen to get it done."Mr Watson says the joint venture will mean the partners are sharing the risks as well as the potential benefits. The agreement - the first in The Centre - is proposed to be made under Section 21 of the Native Title Act.Mr Liddle says the NT Government, which must be a party to the agreement, has shown some support for the deal, although the Stone Government appears reluctant to set a precedent under Section 21.Mr Watson says the Lands Department is carrying out a study of necessary drainage infrastructure.Mr Liddle says the Central Land Council (CLC) has shown little interest in the project so far, but would have no cause to stand in its way.He says the CLC's brief is to act under instructions from native title claimants, and not on its own behalf.Andy Kenyon, from the CLC's native title unit, says normal procedure is for the NT Government to issue a notice of intended compulsory acquisition of native title rights under Section 29 of the Act.This requires any native title claimants to register their interest within two months.Mr Kenyon says this process ensures "certainty" as claimants not advising their interests before the deadline cannot lodge claims after its expiry. He says only with respect to land for the proposed Alice to Darwin railway has the NT Government issued a Section 29 notice in the CLC's area to date. Mr Liddle says the government is free to issue a Section 29 notice when the joint venture partners have finalised their agreement. He says it is unlikely that apart from the 13 claimants now participating in the agreement, any others with legitimate rights would surface.Mr Watson says the project will help to "introduce the real world of commercialism to the Aboriginal community".Release of the land for residential purposes would ease the pressure on land in the town where over the past four years, land values have tripled.The Real Estate Institute's Andrew Doyle said last week Pine Gap is tipped to require dwellings for "anything from 200 to 450 families".
WHY THE LEAD-UP TO TERRITORY STATEHOOD NEEDS TO BE MORE DEMOCRATIC
Comment by Colin McDonald, Queen's Counsel
Last Thursday, 53 delegates took their appointed seats in the Government's constitutional convention.It was not the Northern Territory people's constitutional convention. The people have been denied any choice in the whole undemocratic process. In truth, delegates are attending only a conference, not a convention. The people's convention is yet to come.The Darwin convention has been going for four of its appointed eight days. How much of the proceedings has filtered through to Alice Springs? Not having been so much as consulted, how involved do the people of Alice Springs feel? Even by the process of appointment by Government, Alice Springs is underepresented in the number of delegates it has at the convention. Of the 53 delegates, none will have faced the people of the Territory and 71 per cent are male. The delegates have but eight days to consider and draft a constitution for the people of the Northern Territory. This is inadequate time to undertake such a heavy responsibility. Without any endorsement of the people it is an even heavier burden.Whatever the delegates manage to decide in the short time given will be reported to the Legislative Assembly. The Chief Minister has announced that Parliament will then debate and dictate the terms of the constitution for the people of the Northern Territory.The entire Government-driven process ignores the fact that constitutions belong to the people. Any constitution that does not belong to the people and come from the people lacks credibility and legitimacy.In the last election the Northern Territory Government was not given a mandate to select appointees to a constitutional convention or to stipulate the terms of a constitution in the name of the people. A constitution for future statehood was not even an issue in the last election. In any event, the Legislative Assembly has no right to set the terms of any Northern Territory constitution; only the people have that right.The undemocratic nature of the Government's Darwin convention has ensured that it is off to a bad start. This leaves the appointed delegates in a most uncomfortable position. Not even the names of all the delegates were known until Tuesday, March 25. So the people of the Territory were denied the ability to talk to or lobby delegates in relation to matters of concern to them.To add to this unsatisfactory picture, delegates were not given the voluminous materials to consider in preparation for the convention until the Friday or Saturday before the convention started.The day before the convention started, Denis Burke introduced a totally new and minimalist draft constitution. Not surprisingly, Mr Burke's draft turns out to be the Government's preferred outcome of the convention. At best the Burke draft is unimaginative and divisive, at worst it sows the seeds for continued disharmony and division within our society. This is an unfortunate legacy for the Government to leave future generations of Territorians.Meanwhile, not only will the people of the Territory have their future discussed and decided by people in Darwin they did not elect or have a chance to speak to, they will also have their future discussed by a large number of delegates who are ill-prepared for the awesome responsibilities which they are expected to discharge.Even if delegates wished to consult the people of the Territory, they will not now have enough time to do so. The last minute appointees from Alice Springs are in a hopeless position. Any views they express cannot reflect the considered views and wishes of the people of Alice Springs.To add to the indignities imposed upon delegates at the Darwin convention, the rules and the agenda of their conference have been prepared for them in advance. The rules set the organisational parameters for their discussions. The agenda will have the effect of focussing delegates' attention on predetermined issues. The agenda does not mention matters such as a bill of rights or Aborigines. These issues have been relegated to the heading of ‘other matters' on the second last day of the convention.The delegates appointed to this constitutional convention must realise that across the Northern Territory widespread opposition is mounting to their undemocratic meeting.Two weeks ago the people of Darwin met and rejected this undemocratic conference. Only last week the people of the rural Litchfield Shire out of Darwin, at an open meeting, resolved that the Government convention was undemocratic and did not represent their views. This was followed by successful meetings in Tennant Creek on Sunday, March 29.Further popular meetings, commencing this week are scheduled for Alice tomorrow, Thursday, April 2, Katherine, Jabiru and Nhulunbuy on April 4.A constitutional convention that does not deal with the important interests of Aboriginal people and which does nothing to entrench some basic rights, like the right of due process or administrative justice for the people of the Territory will have missed a crucial opportunity. The sad fact is the people of Alice Springs and all regional areas of the Northern Territory have been relegated to the status of second class Territorians in the undemocratic processes adopted. It is apparent that the views of the people of Alice Springs have not been sought nor are they, in truth, really wanted.The Government's convention is a tragic start to Statehood. The prospects for Statehood can only be restored by holding a democratic, popularity elected people's constitutional convention and followed by a referendum.Statehood will never happen until the Government listens to the people.
JUNE'S GEMS. Column by June Tuzewski
An honour, a responsibility and a surprise: being appointed to the Territory Constitutional Convention is all of that - and more. It is a unique event in both the history of the Territory and Australia, for there has never been a constitutional convention held to form a State.While most delegates would have preferred to have been popularly elected, getting on with the job is the most important task. It is not easy to bring about a constitution which encompasses all aspects of how we wish to be governed.When discussing the issue of representation with Steve Hatton - a man who is well-known for his deep commitment to Territory Statehood - he mentioned to me that he felt it fortuitous that delegates do generally represent a good cross-section of the Territory's population. I am certainly aware that while there are some supporters of the CLP as delegates, some of the Chief Minister's most strident critics are also represented. The positions vacated by the Northern and Central Land Councils have been taken up, at the Chief Minister's invitation, by representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, a decision which has been welcomed by the delegates to whom I have spoken. Aboriginal participation is vital.Convention delegates have been requested to look at four aspects of Statehood. These are: should the Territory become a State? If the Territory is to become a State, what should it be called? What is the preferred constitutional model for the new State? And, when should the Northern Territory become a State? Delegates are hopeful that decisions will be achieved by consensus.Where are we after two days? My observations are drawn from the introductory speeches and personal talks with those attending. That the Territory should become a State is predominantly agreed, but the question of "when" ranges from as soon as possible to 2005.Certainly, delegates believe Statehood should not be taken on just any old condition - we do not want to be a second class state - and Territorians and the Territory must be ready for Statehood. As noted by Laurence Ah Toy (elected by the Combined Primary Producers), there are also outside factors such as Federal and Northern Territory elections, which may affect the timing. Laurence himself is an example of the diversity of those represented. Of Chinese background, his family have lived the Territory for several generations and he was raised in Jaywon country.On Friday afternoon the Federal Territories Minister Alex Somlyay addressed the convention, and spoke of Prime Minister Howard's commitment towards Territory Statehood. He gave a brief overview of inter-governmental meetings during the last few years and advised that from a Federal perspective there were seven areas which needed to be considered and resolved in the transfer of powers from Federal to State government. He is still awaiting one final report, after which negotiations can proceed. He remarked that the convention's deliberations had already canvassed a range of important issues which would need to be resolved before the Commonwealth could consider our Statehood proposal. He also stated that the Commonwealth would not act as ombudsman to adjudicate on local positions.Suggestions for the name of the new state have not, as yet, brought forth any original ideas. While recognising that the word "Territory" has a particularly special meaning in government around the world, the majority of delegates still favoured "State of the Northern Territory". Reasons put forward ranged from the predominant view of pride in being a Territorian to the economic considerations of trade, tourism and industry, and marketing costs associated with a new identity.Identity and pride in being Territorians was repeated many times. As I said in my opening remarks, I believe "this event could not take place if we did not feel a sense of belonging and commitment. State of the Northern Territory reinforces for me the image of resilience - both of the Aboriginal people who first inhabited this land and of those who have followed".However, if there are readers who have suggestions for a new name, please let me know and I will be happy to put it forward.The main question that occupies everyone's mind is "what is the preferred constitutional model for the new state". During the first day all delegates received, in the pigeon holes provided for mail, a document containing a Model for a Constitution together with a covering letter from Denis Burke, MLA for the CLP. Mr Burke is one of four Territory politicians (two CLP and two ALP) who are official convention delegates. The document is what would be described in official jargon as a "minimalist constitutional model". While it does have a short preamble, it contains only the bare bones of the requirements necessary to run a state and is based very much on the current system. It contains no reference to Aboriginal Land Rights and Customary Law, Local Government or those from other countries who have become Australians.Darwin Lord Mayor, George Brown (elected representative of the NT Local Government Association), moved not to allow the alternative model to be discussed when delegates began to refer to it during their introductory remarks. The issue was resolved when George Brown withdrew his motion and Denis Burke officially tabled his document. Under the Convention Guidelines delegates are able to consider "other documents and information as the Convention ... so decides". The principal document that the convention shall have regard to is the Final Draft Constitution for the Northern Territory which was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on November 27, 1996.This is the draft constitution which was drawn up by the bipartisan Sessional Committee following the many discussion papers and Territory-wide meetings which I mentioned in last week's column. The South African Constitutional model while not being tabled, has been often referred to by delegates. It is the most recent Constitution to be put in place world-wide and it is seen as a document of reconciliation.My perspective is that delegates are not there to debate various models but to draw up a constitution which best reflects the needs and wishes of Territorians. For that reason, the base document from which to work is the Final Draft Constitution of the Sessional Committee to which I have already referred. I believe it is the work of that bipartisan committee which has in effect brought about the current Convention.Some media coverage of the event may have lead people to believe there has been much controversy. I do not feel this to be the case. It is most unfortunate that this convention takes place at a time when Territory Aborigines must be feeling most uncertain and nervous as to what is happening in respect of land with the Territory Land Rights Act, which is currently under review.Aboriginal people here have been in a special position and more secure than their counterparts elsewhere in Australia. At the same time, the uncertainties of the Wik decision at a Federal level do not inspire confidence for Aborigines. Like everyone else they want certainty and clarity. Against this background, a call to have their rights entrenched in the Territory's Constitution can well be understood.Among the guest speakers so far has been Frank Alcorta, well known in the Territory as an academic historian, and until recently a journalist for the NT News. Mr Alcorta's right-wing views are well known and while he spoke of the Aboriginal people's first occupation of the land and vividly of the bloodshed that followed European occupation, he also spoke most strongly of his reasons why Land Rights, Customary Law and other matters should not be included in the Territory's new Constitution. By contrast, Steve Hatton's address in supporting the Sessional Committee's final draft document, while passionate was much less flamboyant, and was aimed more to persuade delegates that the exclusion of Customary Law would place Aboriginal people in a position of what he describes as "double jeopardy".It is important, however to separate the guest speakers from the delegates. It is also most important to remember that it is the delegates who have the vote. So far, it has become clear to me that those attending would like a simple document that can be understood by Territorians. Additionally, I believe that many delegates would seek to have formal acknowledgment of Aboriginal people as being the first inhabitants here and, maybe, to identify their special relationship with the land in some way. The variety of opinions as to what should or should not be included in a broad way has been as diverse as the delegates. Certainly there are a few whose personal opinions and the manner in which they have been expressed, have made me feel most uncomfortable. But they are entitled to put forward their views and are representative of some Territorians. The specifics of these issues will be vigorously debated and negotiated over the next two weeks.There is much goodwill among the delegates and a preparedness to listen to all points of view. I believe that while the convention's deliberations will be open to debate and subject to change at a later date in the Legislative Assembly, the convention may not deliver exactly what the CLP Government desires. Those of us attending this convention are most anxious to develop a Constitution which reflects the values and aspirations of all Territorians.It is to be hoped that sectional and political interests can be set aside to do the job that we are there for - that is, to help the Northern Territory become a full and active partner in the Australian Federation. Contact details for me and other Convention Delegates are: Convention Secretariat, GPO Box 3721, Darwin, NT 0801. Telephone: 8946 1480, Fax: 89461504. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Statehood Convention Webpage: http://notes.nt.gov.au/lant/StateCon.nsf.
YOUNG WOMAN FACES GAOL FOR MINOR OFFENCES. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
A young woman, 18 years old, Territory-born, raised in Alice Springs and now living in Darwin, has accumulated five traffic infringement notices, two for speeding, one for not wearing a seat belt, two for parking in no parking zones.She should be a lot more careful, she says so herself, but should she go to gaol? These offences attract fines, but she has just been retrenched from her job, and can't raise the funds to pay them.Since June 1996, in the Northern Territory, there are no longer opportunities to work fines off, doing socially useful community work. The young woman, not an Aborigine, struggling to make her own way in the world, and not in close touch with her parents, considers her options: can she face a few days in gaol to get rid of her debt?Then she discovers something few of us know: under Section 85 (sub-section four) of the Justices Act, warrants must be served cumulatively.For the offences mentioned above the young woman is facing 16 days in Berrimah Gaol.The discovery prompts her to get in touch with her father in Alice Springs.She writes in part: "I would be really appreciative of even a part payment to help me out and lessen the 16 days. I could have done four or five , but 16 just scares me too much."Her father, no longer in the workforce, can ill afford to pay his daughter's debt of $860.But he has had some experience of the justice system: "There's no way in the world I am going to let my daughter go into Berrimah Gaol for 16 days."Behind the wall, she would make new friends, have something in common with people she would never otherwise meet."They would start to share secrets, then meet on the outside. She would be introduced to people in the drug scene, and go even further down the tubes!"What is the Northern Territory Government trying to achieve, with schemes like this and mandatory sentencing for property offences?" he asks."They didn't go to the people with these measures. Do they want every kid to have a gaol record? What's that going to do to their job prospects?"Or do they want to drive kids out of the Territory, and then claim they've made a dent in the crime rate, or the unemployment rate?"Or will they proudly raise their hands and claim they're giving these kids skills they'd never learn at Skillshare?"All you breed behind the wall is resentment. That's what happens with the black kids and you can't tell me that a white kid isn't going to feel the same."I don't think the population knows what the Government is up to. You just don't realise what is happening until it happens to your kid. But I don't care what sort of kid you're talking about, black, white or brindle, it's not going to do them any good."If you're a parent who is able to pay instead of your child, to save them from going to gaol, who is the government penalising then? The parents. And what do the kids learn from that?"The young woman's father is frustrated with her, but has faith that she is basically "a good kid" and will pull herself through this rather rocky time in her life. A spell in gaol and its resulting long-term stigma could tip the balance: a young life full of hope for the future could become one of hopelessness and despair.More than ten days ago, the Alice News contacted the Attorney-General's Department, headed by Chief Minister Shane Stone.Among several other questions, the News asked: what is the policy rationale behind the Territory Infringement Notice Enforcement Scheme (TINES), and why is community work no longer an option?Apart from a flow chart describing the processes of the scheme, but not containing any information on warrants of commitment, the department has not provided answers.The News asked the Department of Correctional Services, headed by local MLA Eric Poole, about the cost per day of maintaining a person in prison or in the juvenile detention centre. A spokesperson said that this information is not usually released by the department.
AYERS ROCK COMPANY BUYS INTO THE KING'S CANYON RESORT
Ayers Rock Management Pty Ltd (ARM) has bought a 46 per cent share in the King's Canyon Resort for $4.5m.ARM is wholly owned by General Property Trust (GPT) which last year bought the Ayers Rock Resort for $220m, including the 60 per cent share of the NT Government.Three Aboriginal-owned companies hold most of the balance of the shares in the King's Canyon Resort: Centrecorp (27 per cent); the Commercial Development Corporation (20 per cent) and Ngurratjuta (five per cent).ARM managing director Grant Hunt says his company manages the resorts owned by the stock exchange listed GPT at The Rock as well as in Alice Springs (the former Pacific Hotel), but is a part-owner of the King's Canyon resort in its own right.Mr Hunt says GPT is "looking for future investment in the tourism industry, both inside and outside Central Australia".
NEW SERIES: BUILDER PAUL SITZLER LOOKS BACK ON A LIFE OF HARD WORK AND SUCCESS
By KIERAN FINNANE
Paul Sitzler can't work much with his hands anymore, but he has to have something to do, "a dream", he says.The retired builder, born in the Black Forest in Germany, but who made his career in Alice Springs and the bush of Central Australia, has gone full circle. He's growing a little pine forest in the Yankalilla area, near Adelaide. "It was a rotten cheap paddock when I bought it, now it's got 6,000 pine trees, some of them really big. "There are two to three acres of bush with a little creek running through, a bit of open land and a dam, the rest, about 20 acres, is all forest. I love taking people there."When he was working in the building industry, alongside his late brother Peter, the pine forest acted as a safety valve for "when I got too screwed up in estimating," he says."That's a terribly demanding job. When I'd had it up to here, I'd hop on a plane and go down there for five or six days, then come back and I was all right for another six months."These days Paul will stay away for a few weeks, but then he longs to get back. It' the sense of freedom that he misses, and that he finds nowhere else. "I've been back to Europe a number of times, first at ten year intervals, then more frequently as my father grew older. But I found that I just couldn't fit in there, I would miss the freedom here. You haven't even got that in Adelaide."The freedom though is not a great as it used to be. The country, like other parts of Australia, is being locked up, and, Paul finds, there are increasing bureaucratic obstacles in the path of free enterprise. He grew up in the small town of Haiterbach with a population of about 2,000 people. The main industries were working with the wood felled in the forest all around them: furniture factories, barrel-making for wine and cider. Paul became a carpenter's apprentice. Towards the end of the Second World War the town was bombed and partly destroyed. By 1951 it had been rebuilt, and work became scarce. Paul saw an article in a local paper saying that Australia was looking for building tradesmen, offering a two year contract. He applied, and was accepted on his 21st birthday. His father, Wilhelm, didn't want him to go but couldn't stop him. "My father was still getting over being a prisoner of war. He'd only come back in 1948 and was sick for two years before he somehow got on his feet again. My mother, Wilhelmina (nee Kirgis), then died, in 1950. That nearly destroyed our family. "Wages at the time were very low; my father didn't work. At first, my brother and I had to give all our wages to him and got pocket money back. He wanted us to stay and work on the small farm we had, but it was economically hopeless. You can't really treat a 21 year old like that, not then and not now. I just wanted to get out and I went as far away as I could."
TO BE CONTINUED.
Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.