ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
July 29, 1998

FRINGE CAMPERS OUT IN THE COLD AND RAIN AS ORGANISATIONS SQUABBLE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

A family group of more than 20, mostly elderly adults and their grandchildren, spent last week with a leaking tent and a few old tarpaulins their only shelter from winter temperatures and rain.They had been evicted from land owned by the Aborigines Inland Mission, the so-called Woodyard Lot in the Basso's Road area, where some of them have lived for many years.The drama has brought to light wrangling over funding by organisations one would have expected would help.Despite pleas from the families, by Monday of this week the only assistance they had received was two small bags of firewood, apart from aid given daily by long-term friend, 78-year-old Gerry Baddock.Ron Hunter, Regional Manager of the Department of Housing, said an "out of turn" process can be initiated by his Department if the committee handling such matters assesses that the applicants' needs are "immediate and of priority".However, he said that action by the Department would depend on availability of housing, all of it in an urban setting, and was unlikely to yield an overnight solution.He said that the Department had no housing that could accommodate together such a large group of people. Mr Hunter said his Department relies to a great extent on the Aboriginal Housing and Information Referral Service to respond to the needs of Aboriginal families in crisis.This service is headed by Michael Griffin who on Friday morning told the Alice News that he had only become aware of the plight of the "Woodyard Lot" families late on Thursday.He said the service had sent up some firewood to make them "more comfortable" and they would be trying to find some temporary accommodation for them that day.However, he said the hostels providing such accommodation "work at saturation point, especially when it's raining".Mr Griffin said he would "hope" that Tangentyere Council would work with his service on resolving the problem. "They are a large housing provider," he said.By Monday the families still had not been contacted by anyone, except for the person delivering the wood.Mr Griffin told the News that, because the families were now on a town camp and his service would need written permission from Tangentyere to enter the camp, all the service had been able to do was refer the problem to Tangentyere."I understood that immediate efforts would be made to find them temporary accommodation," said Mr Griffin.He expressed surprise that the families were still living in exactly the same conditions, describing the situation as "pretty poor".Mr Hunter also included Tangentyere on the list of organisations who could provide emergency assistance: "We are aware of the issues," said Mr Hunter, "we are talking to the service providers all the time about them."But what public housing agency in Australia would build housing to accommodate such large numbers? Where is the land available and appropriate to do that? "It's a difficult topic for us and for Tangentyere."Tangentyere, however, were adamant that this was not "their problem".The organisation initially refused to respond to specific media enquiries and requested that the media "refrain" from entering Warlpiri Camp (where the families have put up their makeshift shelters) "for reasons of a cultural and traditional nature".However, Executive Director William Tilmouth in a media release said that Tangentyere Council "does not have the housing space, monetary support nor resources to deal with this situation."He said: "This is not the responsibility of Tangentyere Council, but the responsibility must fall back onto the Government and the Australian [sic] Inland Mission, both of whom were instrumental in creating the situation in the first place."Mr Tilmouth did not explain in what way he saw the Government as "instrumental" in the situation.Aboriginal housing funds from both Federal and Territory sources are, by bilateral agreement, in one bucket, administered by the Indigenous Housing Authority of the NT (IHANT). The IHANT board is made up of nine Aboriginal representatives, including Mr Tilmouth, and five non-Aboriginal representatives, who determine policy and funding priorities, making annual allocations to the NT's seven ATSIC regional councils on the basis of their perceived needs.In the Alice Springs region, funding is transferred to specific housing services.Mr Griffin told the News that Tangentyere-associated personnel were able to dominate IHANT decisions and that funding for his service, formerly at $200,000 per annum, had been severely reduced. He said it will be very difficult for them to continue to operate after November, unless they are able to find alternative sources of revenue.Tangentyere gets the greater slice of the cake. The News is reliably informed that in 1997-98 this amounted to $1,098,000 out of the region's allocation of $2m, and that it is proposed to be increased this year to $1,137,000.Tangentyere says that they, as well as Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, receive limited funding per year to provide "emergency relief". They do not specify how this is applied, but say it is distinct from "emergency housing", funded by the Commonwealth under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program, of which the Women's Shelter and the Salvation Army are local recipients, according to Tangentyere.Tangentyere says their IHANT funding is for "planned capital works on 18 town camps where 183 houses and 70 tin sheds provide accommodation for over 1200 people."None of these houses can be set aside for emergencies. There is a considerable demand from members of the Housing Associations for permanent housing."While the history of the "Woodyard Lot" families is peculiar to them, the situation of sudden homelessness one would think is predictable enough. Yet last week there were no practical solutions in sight (such as the provision of tents and transportable toilets and sheds), with everyone basically "passing the buck".Mr Tilmouth said: "Tangentyere Council will offer support with transport back to ‘Country', if required ..."Wherever necessary, these people will be assisted in a traditional, humane and dignified manner to overcome their present plight."What I will emphasise though is that this situation and others like it will only get worse before it gets better, unless some organisation finally takes responsibility for what is happening to Aboriginal people, rather than ‘passing the buck' onto Tangentyere Council."The adults involved have lived in Alice Springs for a long time and do not wish to return to "Country".Most of the children in their care were born in Alice Springs and the school age children attend Yipirinya School.In suggesting a return to "Country", the implication appears to be that these families are not Tangentyere's problem because they are Warlpiri. Indeed, this was the explanation offered by one of their number: "Arrernte people don't like Warlpiri," Kenny Wayne said on ABC radio.Tangentyere has since told the News: "It is not that Arrernte people don't like the Warlpiri. "Ilperle Tyathe is commonly known as the ‘Warlpiri Camp' because the Warlpiri people living on this ‘town camp' are accepted as members of the Ilperle Tyathe Housing Association and therefore as members of Tangentyere Council."They participate in the executive decisions made by the council which concern such things as the provision of housing and management of their ‘town camp'."The people evicted from the Woodyard are asking Housing Associations to make space for them when we already suffer from a lack of accommodation to made available for people who have been connected with Tangentyere Council for the past 25 years."MLA for the area, Peter Toyne, attempted to negotiate a loan for the families to buy the "Woodyard Lot" through the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC). Mr Toyne's office said that ILC guidelines require permission of the traditional owners of the land in question and such permission was not forthcoming for the "Woodyard Lot" families.The ILC did not respond to a request for information.The failure of another solution attempted by Mr Toyne casts an odd light on the activities of the Aborigines Inland Mission.The mission, whose head office is in Sydney and whose principals have been unavailable for comment, refused a six month moratorium on the sale of their property to give the families time to find alternative housing. They also refused to enter into a lease agreement whereby the families would purchase the land, paying it off over a period of time.The caretaker of the property, employed by the mission, is reported by the families to have taken advantage of their absence on sorry business to shift their belongings off the land.Officers of the Alice town council, while they had responded to a complaint about rubbish on the property with a request that it be cleaned up, were not involved in any way with moving the families off the land, according to Environmental Health Officer, Ingo Steppart.Meanwhile, the families have attempted to dry out their blankets and clothes over the weekend, assisted only by Mrs Baddock who bought, out of her own pocket, plastic sheets to help shelter them from the rain. They are reiterating their request for housing at the Warlpiri Camp."All the kids grow up at Woodyard from little baby," Mavis Wayne, grandmother of seven, all in her charge, told the News. "They go to school. But they don't like to go to school dirty. We need a shower, washing machine."We are diabetic women. Topsy's got a problem with lungs. "Maddy's in hospital, she's diabetic, she has to have an operation on her fingers. That's why we are trying to get a house."We've got a doctor's letter from Congress, saying that we need a house."Mavis has had public housing in the recent past, but acknowledges that the behaviour - drinking, making noise and fighting - of visitors to the house caused problems.She sees housing at the Warlpiri Camp as the best solution. She says she no longer has "parents" at Yuendumu and she and her family want to stay in Alice Springs.

MUZZLING CLIENTS, BULLYING MEDIA. Comment by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Tangentyere Council's first response to media enquiries about the drama reported opposite was to try to muzzle their own clients and to bully the media into running only Tangentyere's line. Their media office fired off an admonishment to Alice News reporter Kieran Finnane for entering the Warlpiri Camp "without permission of Tangentyere Council". In fact, said the organisation, media representatives should not enter the camp "for reasons of a cultural and traditional nature".The News was told if we used the pictures and information gathered "without first allowing the Executive Director, William Tilmouth, to view the material and speak with you on this matter, then we will have no other alternative but to refer the matter to the Press Council". This threat came after we had specifically requested information from him, information not forthcoming until three days later, and only because we had made it clear we were going to proceed with the report.Tangentyere's approach to news gathering is completely unacceptable. Our photos in this edition were taken not only with permission of the people concerned, but with their express encouragement. We got their side of the story from them. The public needs to know why people in our affluent town are living in fourth-world conditions.

FOLK CLUB FUN. Comment by JUNE TUZEWSKI.

The question from a friend's teenage daughter recently, "so what did you do before television?", lead me to recall my arrival here in the mid- sixties. Travelling around Australia in an old, brightly painted, ex-London ambulance with my husband, Dave, and close friends Dave and Chris Spafford, we came for a visit and, like many others, found ourselves putting down roots. While some locals were a little suspicious of "those hippie Poms"‚ with beards and long hair, our introduction to outback Australia by the likes of Johnnie Ronberg at Heavitree Gap Caravan Park where we stayed and Kelly Hargraves (who ran a local Riding School), made us feel truly welcome. There was another guy who made us feel especially welcome. He introduced us to his friends and could always find extra space on his verandah for visitors. Bob South, better known as Southy, ran The Ranch - coffee shop and restaurant - in the block of shops opposite where Melanka Lodge stands today. In ‘66 after being approached by a group of folk enthusiasts, Sunday nights became Ranch Folk Club night. All were welcome to sing, play, tell a story, read a poem, with the audience singing along, enjoying a coffee Royal‚ and getting the most generous steak sandwiches in town. No-one was paid for their services. The fun was payment enough. The Ranch became even busier when the film at the drive-in cinema finished and patrons on their way home would call in and join what was often already a very crowded venue. Even when donations were asked for on entry, The Ranch became so full that the front doors were thrown open to allow people to stand on the footpath and listen. During the late ‘sixties, early ‘seventies, the club's reputation grew both locally and nationally. Locally, because of the members' track record of fund raising. The first of such charity concerts, I believe, was in 1969 when $200 was raised for Save the Children Fund. Free performances for service organisations and others also promoted the club. Entertainers from interstate would often drop into The Ranch when passing through town. One well-known singer, on a visit to entertain at the old Stuart Arms, was Margaret Roadnight. She called into The Ranch unannounced but became a regular visitor to Alice, performing for the club at a number of events. This helped to raise the profile of the club on a national level. Others who came in those early days were Alex Hood (Here Comes Brumby Jack), the Ray Price Quintet, and Marian Henderson to name just a few. By the time The Ranch closed its doors on Sunday, 24 January 1971, the members had formed the Central Australian Folk Society (CAFS) and were in the process of becoming incorporated. While the members went through a most frustrating period searching for premises, folk nights were moved to the Elkira Motel. By now the society was a well established identity in town. Members entered what was to become a prize-winning float in the 1971 Bangtail Muster. The float was a send-up of the local paper and club members handed out their own Centralian Addlepate along the route. Mindful of their own stereotypical folkie image, they had also poked fun at themselves in a column entitled Around Alice, which carried the following anecdote.A Volkswagen covered in flowers pulled into a local service station. While the driver in beard and beads counted his coins, the attendant asked, "Do you want petrol, or shall I just water the flowers?" While the Elkira proved to be a popular venue, CAFS members were still anxious to have a place of their own. On behalf of the members, Roger Connellan approached his father, Eddie, to sound out the possibility of using Connellan Airway's old caretaker's cottage (currently occupied by the Steiner School). Mr Connellan generously agreed to let the society have the house rent-free until such time as the land was sub-divided. Working bees were arranged. Moving a caravan alongside, one member took over as caretaker. The clubhouse took on a life of its own with impromptu singouts, barbecues, and as a place for visiting folkies to spend a night. In 1971 Alice Springs, with a population numbering 10,000, celebrated its centenary in true outback style. One hundred years before William Whitfield Mills had stumbled across a waterhole in the desert. As locals would be aware, he named the waterhole Alice‚ after the wife of his superior who was Charles Todd, Postmaster General and Superintendent of Telegraphs in South Australia. More about the celebrations and the Folk Club, next week.

HOW ARTISTS CAN BENEFIT MORE FAIRLY FROM THEIR BOOMING INDUSTRY. By KIERAN FINNANE

The question from a friend's teenage daughter recently, "so what did you do before television?", lead me to recall my arrival here in the mid- sixties. Travelling around Australia in an old, brightly painted, ex-London ambulance with my husband, Dave, and close friends Dave and Chris Spafford, we came for a visit and, like many others, found ourselves putting down roots. While some locals were a little suspicious of "those hippie Poms"‚ with beards and long hair, our introduction to outback Australia by the likes of Johnnie Ronberg at Heavitree Gap Caravan Park where we stayed and Kelly Hargraves (who ran a local Riding School), made us feel truly welcome. There was another guy who made us feel especially welcome. He introduced us to his friends and could always find extra space on his verandah for visitors. Bob South, better known as Southy, ran The Ranch - coffee shop and restaurant - in the block of shops opposite where Melanka Lodge stands today. In ‘66 after being approached by a group of folk enthusiasts, Sunday nights became Ranch Folk Club night. All were welcome to sing, play, tell a story, read a poem, with the audience singing along, enjoying a coffee Royal‚ and getting the most generous steak sandwiches in town. No-one was paid for their services. The fun was payment enough. The Ranch became even busier when the film at the drive-in cinema finished and patrons on their way home would call in and join what was often already a very crowded venue. Even when donations were asked for on entry, The Ranch became so full that the front doors were thrown open to allow people to stand on the footpath and listen. During the late 'sixties, early 'seventies, the club's reputation grew both locally and nationally. Locally, because of the members' track record of fund raising. The first of such charity concerts, I believe, was in 1969 when $200 was raised for Save the Children Fund. Free performances for service organisations and others also promoted the club. Entertainers from interstate would often drop into The Ranch when passing through town. One well-known singer, on a visit to entertain at the old Stuart Arms, was Margaret Roadnight. She called into The Ranch unannounced but became a regular visitor to Alice, performing for the club at a number of events. This helped to raise the profile of the club on a national level. Others who came in those early days were Alex Hood (Here Comes Brumby Jack), the Ray Price Quintet, and Marian Henderson to name just a few. By the time The Ranch closed its doors on Sunday, 24 January 1971, the members had formed the Central Australian Folk Society (CAFS) and were in the process of becoming incorporated. While the members went through a most frustrating period searching for premises, folk nights were moved to the Elkira Motel. By now the society was a well established identity in town. Members entered what was to become a prize-winning float in the 1971 Bangtail Muster. The float was a send-up of the local paper and club members handed out their own Centralian Addlepate along the route. Mindful of their own stereotypical folkie image, they had also poked fun at themselves in a column entitled Around Alice, which carried the following anecdote.A Volkswagen covered in flowers pulled into a local service station. While the driver in beard and beads counted his coins, the attendant asked, "Do you want petrol, or shall I just water the flowers?" While the Elkira proved to be a popular venue, CAFS members were still anxious to have a place of their own. On behalf of the members, Roger Connellan approached his father, Eddie, to sound out the possibility of using Connellan Airway's old caretaker's cottage (currently occupied by the Steiner School). Mr Connellan generously agreed to let the society have the house rent-free until such time as the land was sub-divided. Working bees were arranged. Moving a caravan alongside, one member took over as caretaker. The clubhouse took on a life of its own with impromptu singouts, barbecues, and as a place for visiting folkies to spend a night. In 1971 Alice Springs, with a population numbering 10,000, celebrated its centenary in true outback style. One hundred years before William Whitfield Mills had stumbled across a waterhole in the desert. As locals would be aware, he named the waterhole Alice‚ after the wife of his superior who was Charles Todd, Postmaster General and Superintendent of Telegraphs in South Australia. More about the celebrations and the Folk Club, next week.

WHEN MEMORIAL DRIVE WAS A GRAVEL AIRSTRIP.

"The aircraft just sat down on the top of the ridge over there and that was the end of UMX, the Avroavion, and they just walked out of it."They'd put it down amongst all the rocks, and that was that."So I said to him, I think we oughta call this place Jack's Hill."The hill is now surrounded by homes in the northern part of Gillen, just opposite Araluen.In command of the training aircraft during its ill-fated take-off from the "town aerodrome" - now Memorial Drive - was Jack Kellow, the first pilot and instructor for Central Australia's just born airline.His equally lucky flight student was a geologist named Hubert Owen.This was in the hot Christmas week of 1939 - the start of an era in aviation, to be commemorated with a display of the Aviation Museum in the Yeperenye shopping centre on Friday this week.The story of the hilltop mishap is told by Bernie Kilgariff, now the doyen of Territory politics, at the time a teenager with a keen interest in flying.And Jack is today a sprightly 88-year-old who recently came back to The Alice on a nostalgic trip.During World War II they were all part of the fledgling air service being set up by pastoralist E J "Eddie" Connellan: Connair, as it later became known, soon developed a vast network of mail flights, doing more than most initiatives to open up The Centre. Ultimately, however, Connair fell victim to a feud with Chief Minister Paul Everingham who chose to award the lucrative Darwin - Katherine - Tennant - Alice - Yulara "milk run" to East-West Airlines.The political vendetta, resulting in the loss of some 150 jobs and the closure in Alice Springs of one of the world's most advanced aviation workshops, followed extreme personal tragedy.In 1976 a disgruntled former employee crashed - kamikaze style - a stolen twin-engined plane into the company's facilities at the Alice airport, killing himself, Eddie's son Roger, as well as a female employee and two engineers.By comparison, the airline's operations during World War II were almost a harmless adventure, as Bernie recalls fondly."There were absolutely no weather reports, and they'd take off from here, no matter what."They'd have to go right up to the north-west of the Territory and into WA, just flying blind, more or less."Says Jack: "We started at Mount Doreen, which is deserted now, then the Granites, and the horror section of the route, because navigation was dreadful."Three and a half days was usually the scheduled time away, about 950 miles each way."The concept was tremendous. Flying to all these places, and I think in the end it got to 120 landing places."Everyone was so dependent on the people on the ground, to keep the landing strips in reasonable condition, to remember that they've got to knock off ant beds, and do all those things, so the aircraft didn't flounder."It was a tremendous period of teamwork."Very rarely it ran exactly to schedule, because something happened, and we'd start late, or the tyres would puncture, and some damn thing would happen, and we'd be running anywhere but on schedule."There were no weather reports, no radio."We had a plan: we wouldn't go more than five miles off the direct track if we had to avoid weather, or we'd go back to our last stop, rather than go through it."There were other hazards, says Bernie: "On one mail run to Wyndham Jack saw a fleet of aircraft and he wasn't to sure whether they were Japanese or ours."Says Jack: "I'm in this small plane in camouflage paint, no radio, no nothing as usual, and no guns or anything I could defend myself with."I was over that very sticky bit of country near Carlton, where these rough plateaus are, worst place possible for a landing, and I hadn't quite got out of that stuff onto the Western edge of it when I saw a gaggle of nine fighter aircraft heading in a westerly direction."I didn't know whether they were theirs or ours, so I promptly went down over the treetops and tried to look as invisible as possible until they'd disappeared."I landed on Carlton Station and whats-his-name came rushing out, all a-tremble, in his ute to collect the mail."He wanted to get away as quickly as possible, and he said he'd been buzzed by a Zero about two days before."Bernie says the fully loaded takeoffs from Alice Springs had their challenges: "The aircraft used to fly over the town, over the Todd, and look for altitude."With a full load it couldn't cross the range, but anyway, they were going north."When I say looking for altitude, the aircraft used to carry a passenger or two, and all the freight, mail, everyone's crammed in like sardines: "The pilot had to leave enough space for him to swing the prop and then get in and fly."All this contributed to the excitement for the young Kilgariff: "I was a kid of 16. At 18 I went into the Army. I worked for three years, it was a tremendous adventure. I came directly from the Hartley Street Primary School to Connellan Airways. We were a pretty wild mob at Hartley Street in those days. When I was in the Senate, years later, they used to say, what college did you go to?"And I'd say 'Hartley', and they didn't like to ask any more, because they'd show their ignorance. I came from Hartley, and I was very proud of my college."Bernie's tasks ranged from "engineer's assistant, refueler, dispatcher of the aircraft, take spare parts out."I always thought that I was overpaid, the job was such that I should have paid to work there."Eddie's Silver Ghost Rolls Royce played a key role in building bush air strips and transporting spare parts to downed planes."Once in one of the engines in VH-UVA, a con-rod snapped up at Victoria River Downs"So before the Rolls had been converted to a grader, or a flat top or whatever, they put the Gypsy Six engine in the back of the tourer seat, and went hell for leather through the scrub to VRD."One of the people who worked here, Vin Connellan, EJ's younger brother, died in a crash in an Airforce plane on the Eastern coast when he was out on security off the coastline."Then there were the O'Keefe brothers, Jeff and Fred. He was an air gunner off Italy, and he got shot down. Geoff was in New Guinea and a bomb, and an incendiary bomb, I think it was, killed him. "Damian Miller died only a few years ago, he too was in the Air Force. So I guess the only two who are alive now are Sam Calder and myself," says Bernie."Sam came up as a young person out of the bank down south, and he flew up with Damian Miller in UMX, that's the Avroavion that sat down on the hill over there."Those were the days when mechanical problems were fixed without fuss, says Bernie, including one machine that needed five propellers in as many days."You might ask where in hell did they get all the propellers from, because Alice Springs had a population of about 500, I suppose, in 1940."In the Granites Gold Rush was an old fossicker who eventually bought the Tennant Creek Hotel from Joe Kilgariff. He and his mate were out at the Granites, and they bought this old Avroavion, including a lot of parts and several props."Just as well for the young airline, as it tuned out."Old Man Chapman, who couldn't fly it of course, used to take it out for his Sunday afternoon jaunt, and go taxiing hell for leather through the spinifex there, which was evidently a great thing for him."The spares came in handy: "The first propeller backfired on Vin Connellan, a wooden propeller, cracked him on the knuckles, and that splintered the propeller."Next morning, Hubert Owen took off. He had the tail up too high, and he chopped a few inches off the propeller. That was number two."Next day, Vin chocked the wheels and swung the propeller. No self starters in those days, everything was hand-swung to start."He gave it too much throttle, and the thing stood on its nose and shot hell out of that propeller, which was number three."The engine had a nasty habit of backfiring."It did it to Damian Miller, and the prop cracked on his knuckles, too. So that was four."And number five bit the dust when Jack and Hubert pancaked the plane onto the hill.It was a time when people took themselves a lot less seriously than now.Damian, his extensive military and civilian flying experience notwithstanding, cut an unlikely captain's figure when - more often than not dressed in shorts and T-shirt - he began piloting tourists to The Rock.Recalls Bernie: "He was sitting down in the back seat of the Heron, with 30 Yanks on board, it was beastly hot, and he said 'where's the pilot? I'm getting sick of waiting around here.'"Then he said, 'oh, I'm going up to have a look around' and he went up there and sat in the pilot's seat and said, 'oh, here's this book, it says How to Fly. I'm going to have a look at this.'"And then he said, 'oh yeah, you do this, this and this' and he said, 'I'll give it a go'."So he started everything up, and there's all these customers sitting in the back seats, thinking 'hell, this is bloody nice. A joker who can't fly for nuts and he's going to try and fly it.'"And Damian took off. You imagine the turmoil."He got reported, and they grounded him for several months."With encouragement and a little help from National Party head "Black Jack" McEwan, Eddie got more mail routes and the Flying Doctor Service contract, in its heyday flying to more than 120 destinations across The Centre and the Top End, even with a service to Cairns.Yet the airline, which triumphed over isolation and some of the harshest operating conditions in the world, ultimately fell victim to political intrigue, and shut down its engines for the last time in 1981.If you're looking for a fascinating trip back in time, to one of the Territory's most glorious periods, pop into the Aviation Museum, 'round the corner from Araluen.

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