ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
May 20, 1998

INSTITUTE FOR ABORIGINAL DEVELOPMENT SAYS "WE WON'T MOVE". Report by KIERAN FINNANE

There has been no consultation with Centralian College by Education Minister Peter Adamson about his demands to relocate the Institute of Aboriginal Development (IAD) on college grounds."All of the activity has been between the Minister and IAD," says Centralian College Council chairman, Fred Hockley: "Council has had no involvement whatsoever in any of the negotiations."The matter has never been on the agenda of the council. I have no idea why the government is taking the view that it is, apart from what the Minister has said in his public statements," says Mr Hockley.IAD's memory of the last co-location tried at Centralian College is not a happy one.In the mid-eighties 13 IAD students, enrolled in the then South Australian College of Advanced Education, SACAE's Associate Diploma in Aboriginal Studies, were moved to Centralian College, because of lack of space and resources at IAD. Their part-time instructor was Ann Davis, currently Regional Coordinator of Batchelor College in Alice Springs and who has 20 years' experience in Aboriginal education. Mrs Davis describes the experience at Centralian College as "turgid" and "completely frustrating".She says she and the students were not given active support and there was no willingness to respond to Aboriginal requests for other courses.After three years on the campus, SACAE hierarchy concluded that the college was a "dead end location" for their IAD students and recommended a relocation back to IAD, offering to make more resources available out of their own budget."SACAE wanted their programs to work and grow but they realised that Centralian College, as it was being managed at the time, was not an environment where Aboriginal people would be supported and successful," says Mrs Davis.Out of the original 13, eight students ultimately graduated from SACAE.Mrs Davis describes them as a "fiercely motivated" group who were very quickly drawn into the working community.With such a memory behind them, IAD, operating in several buildings ranging from reasonable to ramshackle on South Terrace, today would want to be convinced that a co-location had something positive on offer.However, according to IAD director Donna Ah Chee and chairman of the IAD board Merv Franey, the Minister has been completely non-specific about the supposed advantages of co-location.He has talked about economies of scale and sharing of resources, but has refused to give any details.At the same time, they say Mr Adamson has contradicted himself with the promise of a completely autonomous facility for IAD on the proposed site, adjacent to the college.The Alice News asked the Minister: "Has your department costed and detailed the economies and efficiencies that you say would result from such a co-location? If so, what are they? If not, how can you be sure that it would be a good move?"The Minister had not replied at the time of going to press.However, as there has not been any consultation with the college, it would seem that such a preliminary step has not been undertaken.It is not surprising then, that IAD remains determined to stay on their existing site, which they own freehold - handed over by the Uniting Church some 30 years ago - rather than move to a leased site which they don't even like; nor that they fear what Mr Franey says are the Government's "hidden assimilation policies".So, why, apart from its title, is the current site on South Terrace valued by IAD and its clients?At last Friday's rally in support of IAD, attended by some 250 people, Mrs Ah Chee read out a pertinent comment from the NT Council for Adult Literacy: "We are especially mindful that the site on which Aboriginal people come together to learn must be appropriate at many levels in terms of, for example, accessibility, cultural safety, and a non-institutional environment."Above all, those of us involved in indigenous education have come to know that a right relationship to place is essential before any real learning can take place."IAD student Angela Hampton, enrolled in a tertiary preparation program, told the rally that the present site is "a neutral ground for all the language groups".Christobel Swan, a Pertame woman with a long association with IAD, said: "We want to be there, we don't want to be shifted around. We're getting sick and tired of being shifted around, we want to stand here now, that's our place."Well known Arrernte woman and former IAD student Margaret-Mary Turner said: "The grass roots people have learnt a lot [at IAD]."Why do we have to have obstacles everywhere? We have to jump all the time, Aboriginal people have to jump, jump. We shouldn't be jumping. The Government should be looking at deeply how to train us to work side by side, shoulder to shoulder to teach our kids and your kids to stay in a place like Alice Springs."The proposed new site is adjacent to the Coolibah Swamp, a site of significance for Arrernte people.The IAD board has received a letter from the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority following a meeting between custodians and Mrs Ah Chee in December last year, expressing the custodians' concern about any development in close proximity to the swamp, bringing more traffic to the area.However, this is only one step in a process that has been going on for the last three years.Mrs Ah Chee says the board has taken a serious look at the options put before them:"The Board looked at the proposed block in detail, everyone hopped on a bus and had a look and it was deemed inappropriate."They also, on the request of the previous Minister Fred Finch, commissioned an independent land use assessment report on their current site.Says Mrs Ah Chee: "In February last year, Mr Finch met with the board and agreed that we redevelop on our existing site."He may not have wholeheartedly agreed with the board but he respected its decision. We have since received a letter from the Northern Territory Employment and Training Authority asking us how we intend to spend the [Commonwealth grant of] $2.6m on the existing site."Three Federal Ministers have agreed that IAD is in dire need of upgrading its facilities."It was never a condition that IAD had to move to access that money. Mr Adamson's not disputing IAD's work. He said that in his meeting with the board, it's about economics, sharing of resources. But it's no good having a flash building situated in an inappropriate place because the students won't go there and you won't have the sharing of resources, you won't have the outcomes. And given the client group we've got, [our work] is an achievement the NT Minister should be proud of and investing in. The positive flow-on effect to the wider community if indigenous people are in control [of their destiny] and are educated can't be overstated."So what is the Minister's agenda? Flooding, car parking along South terrace? "Petty excuses", according to Angela Hampton.The News asked the Minister: "If your Government is concerned about susceptibility to flooding along South Terrace, why are effective flood mitigation measures, as recommended by the Flood Plain Management Committee in 1994, not undertaken?"No reply.Stuart MLA Peter Toyne, the only MLA present at the IAD rally, asked: "Why is Rambo Adamson in there doing this?"He's doing this because at the CLP school of Ministerial action one of the first things you learn is basic black-bashing. "His course work is not good for the indigenous people of this town and not good for this town. "We should be watching those buildings going up right now. They would bring employment for the town's construction industry, indigenous and non-indigenous."Mrs Ah Chee says IAD will not be deterred from is goal: "We're now looking at alternative ways."This will include asking the Federal government to release the capital works funding directly to IAD, legal options, the Ombudsman and approaches to private enterprise for support.

NEW SHOCK REVELATIONS ABOUT GOVERNMENT HEALTH SERVICES. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA

Racism and serious malpractice are alleged in the latest bombshell report to be revealed about Territory government health care in Central Australia.The 120-page study by remote area physiotherapist Alison Cantlay in October 1995 says "it would seem that non-Aboriginal staff resort to racist stereotyping as a means of explaining and understanding atypical patient behaviour by Aboriginal people".She says poor communications, inadequate case management and the absence of follow-up treatment are causing extensive suffering and anxieties to patients, and massive costs to the government. Nearly 70 per cent of patients in the Alice Springs hospital are Aboriginal.Ms Cantlay details three cases in her study, leaked to the Alice News, including a Maryvale man who spent 11 out 19 months in the local hospital, undergoing 29 operations, including an amputation, and had to wait 11 months for an artificial limb.The secretary of the department at the time, Katherine Henderson, said in a memorandum to Territory Health regional director Ross Brandon: "Our present service to Aboriginal people with amputations are in urgent need of investigation."The case studies provide ample evidence of poor case management and instances of differential practice for Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal people."I consider this report very serious indeed."It also concerns me that the Northern Territory's prosthetic service seems to be offering very poor client service, to the extent that the Territory Insurance Office prefer, on a cost and quality basis, to use the services provided by New South Wales."Ms Henderson said in a memorandum to Ms Cantlay: "I have called for an immediate response to your report and can assure you that the many serious issues you have raised will be examined in detail."A new report earlier this year, by two Queensland consultants, reiterated many of the problems pointed up by Ms Cantlay, including allegations that avoidable amputations are being performed in the Alice Springs Hospital, and that services lack coordination, management resources (Alice News, April 22).Denis Burke, who became Health Minister in mid-1996, has said that reports of the problems had been brought to his attention only recently.He did not respond to a request from the Alice News for comment on the matters raised in the Cantlay study.The following is an extract from Ms Cantlay's study:-In my view, the analysis of the three case histories discussed in this report seriously highlights the urgent need for a formal review of current Departmental practices concerning the case management of remote area Aboriginal people with amputations in Alice Springs Hospital.File records of the three cases discussed show little recognition by Departmental health professionals to the social, emotional and cultural needs of remote area Aboriginal amputees.Recognition of the emotional effects of long-term pain and treatment in an unfamiliar and alien environment appears negligible. Little use appears to be made of Aboriginal hospital staff and minimal, if any, consideration given to the value of interpreters.Records clearly reveal cases of confusion on the part of the patient as to what was happening to them and why, but this behaviour appears to have been generally interpreted by non-Aboriginal staff as being typically non-compliant.In a number of instances, it would seem that non-Aboriginal staff resort to racist stereo-typing as a means of explaining and understanding atypical patient behaviour by Aboriginal people. Length of stay and the total number of operations appear to be irrelevant.In all three cases, the records reveal that major treatment decisions were made with little or no consultation, and on occasions, in opposition to the stated wishes of the patient.In one instance, consent was dispensed with altogether.Patients also appear to have been inappropriately discharged prior to prosthesis fitting and rehabilitation.For example, one patient was discharged when he appeared to be at risk and falling and injuring himself, whilst another was discharged with no plan for follow-up.Management of amputees in terms of the specific surgery performed and the approach to pain control in one case, and the wound management in all cases do not seem to adhere to current standards. Long delays were experienced before a fitting of a prosthesis occurred.This is best exemplified by the intervention by the former President of the Australian Medical Association during a visit to Central Australia which resulted in an Aboriginal patient receiving a prosthesis previously denied him.This raises issues about the process and criteria for decision-making at the local level regarding eligibility and suitability for a prosthesis.Patient records do not provide any documentation of this process in each of the three cases.On a number of occasions, major decisions were made unilaterally by the Orthopaedic Surgeon despite stated opposition from other health professionals involved.One patient who was eventually referred to a prosthetic clinic had to suffer a considerable and unacceptable wait before receiving an adequate limb from the Appliance and Limb Centre Sydney service.He had previously been examined by the Adelaide and Darwin services who failed to supply an adequate limb.Patients records reveal that all three patients had undergone a range of treatments and management regimes designed by a large number of professionals which were uncoordinated with little attention given to previous approaches.Additionally, the involvement of Physiotherapy students seems to have occurred with limited supervision ...A large proportion of Aboriginal diabetics sustain diabetic ulcers which can lead to the need for amputation.Podiatrists have an important part to play in the management of diabetic ulcers. Central Australia is without a podiatrist and depends upon a visiting service once a month. This leads to an inability for the majority of patient's to access this service at all ...[There is a] lack of access by Aboriginal amputees to timely and efficient treatment options.The lengthy delays experienced by all three cases in obtaining a prosthesis is not only highly unacceptable, but also unnecessary. It is unlikely that non-Aboriginal amputees would tolerate the extensive time frames experienced by the people described in the case examples.Language difficulties and a mystification towards mainstream health services [among other problems] are suggested as possible reasons why Aboriginal people "appear" to accept having their needs marginalised and have not taken issue with hospital management.It is argued this situation is not merely a reflection of the rural health reality in terms of resource scarcity, but is more a broader issue concerning the rights of Aboriginal people to access services that are available to the general population ...In what circumstances does [or] should the Orthopaedic Surgeon have the right to unilaterally judge the patient to be unsuitable for an artificial limb?There are reports from both the Darwin and Sydney services recommending further surgery to allow for a limb to be fitted to this patient.There is no written explanation on file by the Orthopaedic Surgeon outlining the reasons why he decided that the patient was unsuitable for a prosthesis.[A letter from] the Physiotherapist ... refers to verbal advice provided by the Orthopaedic Surgeon but no documentation exists that articulates the reasoning of this decision.Further, there is no documentation to suggest that the patient was consulted about the decisions that will effect the quality of his life ...[A] physiotherapy student discharged the patient from physiotherapy when multiple entries were highlighting the need for amputation as soon as possible.This is inappropriate. If he had been seen by a qualified physiotherapist it is to be hoped that the patient would have been made a priority, not discharged from treatment.File notes clearly indicated that the patient was at great risk of injuring himself and was not ready for discharge.The patient in fact did injure himself shortly after release and was readmitted within a couple of weeks.Case management decisions by students in this instance do not seem to be subject to any monitoring or scrutiny by the supervising physiotherapist. [The patient] was finally fitted with his first correctly fitting limb by the Appliance and Limb Centre, in Sydney in December 1994, 19 months after his amputation, 17 months longer than the time the client had agreed to.There is evidence to suggest preferential treatment. A European lady underwent amputation at about the same time as the client in question.She was sent to Darwin in September 1993 for limb fitting ...The roles, responsibilities and interrelationships between medical specialists, allied health professionals and other relevant health staff appear to be blurred and poorly defined.On several occasions records indicate that even the views of the Aboriginal amputee patients themselves are excluded altogether.[In one case] why was a Guillotine Amputation planned and undertaken? The patient [in case study one] consented to a "below knee amputation" not a Guillotine amputation.Amputation sites are generally selected ... a point where there is no infection present.In this case, the operation notes indicate that infection was present at the site of amputation.There is no documented evidence to suggest that the patient was "given a clear explanation of proposed treatment, including material risks, and alternative medical treatment".The patient [in case study two] was finally sent to Adelaide following the intervention of Dr Brendon Nelson [the former head of the Australian Medical Association] ..."Very distressed, thinks we are trying to kill him." [This] entry warrants serious attention. The patient was extremely ill and firmly believed his life was in danger from treatment ... by hospital staff.He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit not long after this entry.Yet, the information that is recorded focuses on apparent non-compliant behaviour. No mention is made of the need for support or any other similar intervention that would address his misconceptions of what was occurring.The patient was not given the chance to express his fears, wishes, and opinion. It is well recognised that people go through a grieving process following the loss of a limb and are in need of support.

SHOWER WITH A FRIEND, says Columnist JUNE TUZEWSKI

With the increase in power and water charges, now is the time to look at how to keep your costs down. Some things are very simple to do. For example, installing a water efficient shower head can save on both water and electricity costs. It is estimated that an eight minute shower can use up to 250 litres of water. Make sure you have a full load in either the washing machine or dishwasher. Connecting to cold water is also a cost saver. Fixing that leaking tap will not only save you dollars but also has the potential to save on a bigger plumbing job.If you're looking to purchase new electrical appliances, don't forget to look for the energy efficient star rating - the more stars the better. Also make sure that you buy the size and style of appliance appropriate to your needs. I recall, when running an electrical retail store with my husband in the 70s, that some customers would come looking for the latest fridge or washing machine they had seen advertised. State of the art it may be, but there is not much point in having a family-sized fridge if you're single, unless you do a lot of entertaining.The hardest thing to do is to change our habits, but with a little forethought and practice, small changes can be quite significant. First and foremost is turning off lights, plus heating and cooling appliances when not required. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving is another useful habit.Saving water in the garden can also save dollars. The advent of the cooler weather is an ideal time to be outside. Whether starting from scratch or renovating an existing garden, the easiest way to be ‘water-wise' is by limiting the amount of lawn, grouping plants according to their water needs and using drought-tolerant plants. I always find the local nurseries most helpful with my queries, and with their help you will find that you do not have to have a garden that is dull or boring. There are some beautiful flowering arid-zone natives which are not only colourful but will also attract birds to your garden. Combine the above with the use of mulches, which assist with keeping soil temperatures cool in summer and warm in winter, establish an efficient method of irrigation and you will find, with a little ongoing maintenance, that you can have a beautiful garden.On the topic of saving water and arid-zone plants, the news that the Department of Transport and Works have commissioned the landscape planning and design company of Clouston to conduct an independent review of the Alice Springs Landscape Strategy is a positive step forward. This follows the public concern and response to the display of proposed landscaping for the North Stuart Highway. Clouston, in addition to their professional expertise, have an excellent reputation for community consultation. Their design work on the Todd River Master Plan, which has yet to be fully implemented, is held in high regard by Government departments and environmental groups in Alice. The recent visit of Managing Director Leonard Lynch and Associate Tony Cox, taking time out to talk with a considerable number of groups and organisations in addition to speaking on radio, was most welcome. We look forward to the results of their review.Goods news also during the last week as the Minister for Essential Services, Eric Poole, launched new hotel signage which aims to encourage visitors to conserve water. The material, which is an initiative of the Alice Springs Water Action Group (ASWAG), includes signs that offer guests the opportunity to have their linen laundered less frequently and encourages them not to waste water. Twenty-three visitor establishments have taken advantage of the opportunity to use the signs.Minister Eric Poole has urged the remaining hotels and motels to get behind the initiative, stating that while "both ASWAG and the Territory Government have been encouraging local residents to reduce their consumption, it's important to also get the message across to the 227,000 visitors to the town each year". If you need advice or assistance, contact PAWA Customer Services Officer, Alan Whyte, on 8951 5411 or his off-sider, Elena Alcorta on 8951 7211.

ARTS MINISTER DARYL MANZIE STILL CAN'T GET HIS FACTS RIGHT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA

Political comedy no doubt falls within the portfolio of Arts Minister Daryl Manzie (pictured) but modelling his dialogue with the public on "Yes, Minister" may be a little over the top.This is the scenario: a misleading statement about what his department has done or not done is misleading only if his department tells him it is misleading.And since the bureaucrat in charge, Sylvia Langford, doesn't return ‘phone calls, that - so Mr Manzie's creative plot goes - puts an end to any contentious matter.Flashback: the Alice News revealed on April 29 that Alice Springs' Centre Stage Theatre, with a string of top quality productions to its credit, received a paltry $8700 from Mr Manzie's department in 1996-97.In the same year, the far less productive Darwin-based Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre (CIYT) got $164,025.The plot thickened when Mr Manzie attempted to refute allegations of Berrimah Line discrimination by claiming on ABC radio that Centre Stage was refused funding because it had failed to acquit a grant; and that an $83,000 allocation from the (Federal) Australia Council had been part of the $164,025.As the Alice News reported on May 6, CIYT artistic director Susan Ditter said that the latter wasn't true (a $55,373 Australia Council grant was additional to the $164,025 grant from Mr Manzie's department); and Centre Stage director Bryn Williams claimed all acquittal processes were on track and in line with explicit arrangements between the group and Mr Manzie's department.This raised the question of whether Mr Manzie had lied to the public.What followed was a class act that would make Jim Hacker pale with envy.The Alice News doorstopped Mr Manzie last week, and these are the answers we got from him: "Both those informations are advice from my department and I have nothing to say that they are wrong."Until someone can show me that's not correct I can't make any other comment."People can say what they like, and make all the claims they like, it's not going to change the facts that have been presented to me."And until such time as someone can give me information of a concrete nature ..."The Alice News at this point put to Mr Manzie that Mr Williams had given concrete information.Mr Manzie replied: "I have advice from my department which is contrary to that, and until such time as someone can show me that's wrong, I have no reason to change my mind."And I'm a pretty fair and reasonable fellow, so if anyone can present something that is fair and reasonable, I'll look at it. I've seen nothing to contradict my advice, to this stage."It appears Ms Langford hasn't shown Mr Manzie a letter (excerpts top right) she wrote to Mr Williams on April 2, 1997, about the acquittal of their 1996 "Romeo and Juliet" production: "As previously discussed, the interim acquittal is considered sufficient to enable your current application to be assessed."Neither does it appear that Ms Langford has informed her Minister that in January this year, her staffer Tiffany Gzik told Centre Stage administrator Margaret Noye that the acquittal process was proceeding satisfactorily and in accordance with arrangements made with the department.In fact, there have been two further grants - albeit paltry - to Centre Stage since the supposedly unacquitted "Romeo and Juliet": $4500 for "Evita" last November (fully acquitted), and $3000 for "Hamlet" in April this year (acquittal due on July 3).It seems we'll never know why Mr Manzie discriminates against Centre Stage, unless he gets a new script from Ms Langford.Mr Manzie has pledged his ongoing devotion to young people's art - so long as it's in Darwin.During the recent Budget session he told the Legislative Assembly that "support to youth arts continues, in particular to the Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre, in the form of annual funding and the provision of rent free administration, rehearsal and workshop accommodation at the Nightcliff Community Centre".Centre Stage, meanwhile, involving 127 young people in high-quality productions (203 in the past five years), continues to pay $4000 a term in rent, almost entirely from members' fees, to the Alice Youth Centre, for an office and a costume room with a leaking roof, and a rehearsal hall whose air conditioners are so old and defective that no repair company is willing to touch them.Shouldn't Jim Hacker be having a serious chat with Sir Humphrey?

NEVER LOOK BACK, SAYS CAR DEALER PETER KITTLE

Peter Kittle never wastes time looking over his shoulder at the last month. His view is "let's get on with this month".In this part of our series on Central Australia's most successful motor company, Mr Kittle emphasises the importance of avoiding too many highs and lows, by not putting all your eggs in one basket."We put a lot of time and effort into keeping our year consistent," he says. "We still can't achieve that 100 per cent of the time because of where we live, but we've got it a lot closer than a lot of other businesses. "We do a lot of detailed marketing, working out which cars we want to push the most this month, at what price, where we're going to place those ads, why we're going to do that. "With service we do the same. We're coming into the tourist season where we're going to be booked out six days ahead, so now is not the time to market the service department. Later in the year we will, because we'll need to."Another important factor is that we don't rely heavily on one industry. We deal with all the industries - tourism, Aboriginal and government business, and private sales. "But if we have a bad tourist year, eventually that affects everyone."Something the company didn't count on was the Katherine flood which wiped out the entire dealership there. It's a separate Prime Marketing Area as far as Toyota is concerned but its administration is run from the Alice Springs office. To get it back on the rails has been the major preoccupation of some of the key local managers, and a new facility in Katherine has become the next priority for the company.Their ability to move quickly to redress such losses is another indicator of the company's health. Their debt level is " virtually zero", says Mr Kittle, and throughout the decade they have funded their expansion with their own money. They wouldn't have been in a position to do so without the investment capital put up by their joint venturer CAAMV Pty Ltd. "It wasn't critical but it was an important factor, it helped us do things sooner," says Mr Kittle.CAAMV is a trust company which holds shares on behalf of the Central Australian Investment Corporation, made up of a group of Aboriginal organisations. A portion of CAAMV is owned by the Commercial Development Corporation (CDC) of ATSIC, based in Canberra, a body that helps Aboriginal organisations to make investments.Says Mr Kittle: "It's been a good relationship. The business hasn't changed, contrary to the beliefs of some people when we first went into it [in July 1993]. "The business has grown and is run as professionally or better than any other company in the town. "CAAMV are the same as any of our other investors. They want to be involved in a company that's profitable and gives them a good return on their investment."CAAMV's share is just under 50 per cent. The other owners of the motor company are two private companies, one owned by Mr Kittle and the other by his former partner.How much did the Kittle name count when he founded the Peter Kittle Motor Company?"It was a lot easier for me to start off from scratch in this dealership with the name that I had. Whether I deserved it or not, it was my name, but my father was the one who had built it up," says Mr Kittle."I was the General Manager at his Holden dealership when Toyota were looking for someone to take over here and they spoke to me. We had had some dealings with them, because we used to be the Daihatsu dealers, and Toyota were the NT Daihatsu distributors."Dad gave me his full blessing to come over, so that's how I started."I went from working with them to being their main competitor for a while, and now my company has actually purchased Kittles. "I learnt a lot from my father and brother, which I was able to use and tailor to the way I do things."Unlike many dealerships, Mr Kittle is careful not to put all his resources into sales. He doesn't want staff in the service and parts departments to feel like the "poor cousins". He has one of the very few air-conditioned workshops in Australia. "When we did that people thought we were mad, but I know what it's like to work in a workshop. When it's 45 degrees in summer, you can go into our workshop and it's 23."The people in there are a lot happier and I think that's very worthwhile."We've got 130 staff all up. There are days when we have problems but I think we have less than most, and we're able to talk them through. My door is open, anyone can come in here whenever they like and I'm here every day other than when I'm away on business."All our managers work the same hours or longer hours than the staff. We don't ask the staff to do anything that we wouldn't do and I think that's important."In Mr Kittle's view, the bottom line comes down to planning where you want to go and what the long-term goal is. "Our long term goal is that we want to grow the company a lot more. We'd like to keep the majority of the business in the Territory but we will go interstate."You've got to do that with staff and if you haven't got the good staff to grow with you, you'll fall over."We've achieved 90 per cent of the goals that we've set so far and obviously we're still setting new goals."NEXT WEEK: Expanding interstate?

AN EAST-WEST HIGHWAY THROUGH AUSTRALIA?

Boulia, just across the border in Queensland, has a population of 500 - that's the shire, the town's got just 286 - yet its mayor, Ron McGlinchey, is promoting a project of national scale.He wants the road from Cairns via The Alice to Perth, currently a patchwork ranging from bitumen to dirt track, to become a fully sealed Outback Highway."Most big projects start in a small way," says Councillor McGlinchey after a tour to some of the key centres. "It would give a new tourism focus to Australia's interior."Travelling by light plane and car, Cr McGlinchey lobbied civic leaders from Alice Springs to Warburton Community, and a few places in between.He says the missing links are principally 400 km of the Plenty Highway west of the Queensland border, and between Ayers Rock and Warburton, mainly in WA.There's now a sealed road between Perth and Laverton, and a well maintained, smooth formed dirt road from Laverton to Warburton.The stretch from Warburton to Ayers Rock is rough and marginal for two wheel drive vehicles.The segment from The Rock via Alice to near Harts Range on the Plenty Highway is sealed.Former Stuart MLA Roger Vale, who waged a successful campaign to seal the Stuart Highway, was also a keen advocate of upgrading the remainder of the Plenty Highway.He saw as a major obstacle that Queensland was doing little to improve the border to Boulia section.As Mr Vale put it, the road turns into a goat track once you cross the border.This has now changed, says Cr McGlinchey, with an extensive construction program by the Queensland Government in the Boulia Shire."We now have funding for sealing the roads to Mt Isa and Winton, and towards Birdsville," says Cr McGlinchey.There's no approval yet for the 250 km to the NT border, but the road has been upgraded substantially."We haven't been bludging," says Cr McGlinchey.The shire council is trying to get Federal funding for the Boulia to the NT border section."It would definitely help to have the Territory side of the Plenty Highway sealed," he says.NT Treasurer Mike Reed says the Territory Government is "considering" what it can do towards the Outback Highway.Cr McGlinchey says WA is "really cooperative", allocating $25m in the next 10 years for the Warburton to NT border section."It's a start," says the campaigner from across the border.The total cost? Cr McGlinchey estimates it at $288m - a quarter of the Alice to Darwin railway.

BRECHT PLAY BY COLLEGE STUDENTS

Centralian College Year 12 drama students have found in one of their texts, Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle, themes with strong local resonance.A dispute between two parties of farmers over land, leads to the telling of a story within the play about a baby boy abandoned by his bourgeois mother Natella in her flight from a revolution-torn city, and reluctantly adopted by the kitchen maid Grusha.Grusha eventually grows to love the child, but when order is reestablished Natella claims him.A traumatic custody battle ensues: who should have the child, the birth-mother or the woman who raised him as her own?Echoes of land rights and the Stolen Generation, but here the adoptive mother, not the birth-mother, is played by talented young Aboriginal actor Jacinta Price.Says teacher-director Glenda Ward: "It's a poignant and interesting twist, adding another layer of meaning to the play."We've also subtly worked on colours, with one group of actors dressed in yellows, reds and blacks, and the other group in reds, whites and blues. People can see the symbolism if they want to."The play is entirely produced by the 30 students, under the guidance of their teachers, Glenda and Mark Redhead, and will be assessed as part of their studies by a visiting moderator from South Australia.Apart from set design and construction, lighting, sound, costumes and publicity, the group's efforts also include original music for Brecht's lyrics and some filmed sequences.At the College Theatrette at 7.30pm, on May 23 and 27.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.