ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
November 4, 1998

A SCHOOL NURSE SPEAKS OUT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

High school nurses have a bond of trust with students and give advice on issues ranging from having had unprotected sex to suicidal depression and drug problems.That's why the nurses should not be moved from the schools, says Barbara Glover, a mother of four, job delegate of the NT branch of the Nurses Federation, and the school nurse at Alice High for the past seven years. Mrs Glover says her public comments are made as a concerned parent, not as a departmental employee.The nurses' positions have been thrown into doubt by transferring them from the education department to the health department.A review is currently under way about possible changes to their duties.There are fears that the nurses may be burdened with additional work, or that their duties at the three local high schools may be carried out by nurses assigned under some form of roster. This, says Mrs Glover, would destroy the close personal relationships built up between students and nurses, in some cases over many years."The nurse does much more than just putting on band aids," she says."We're a confidante, a friend."She says the nurses' work in Alice Springs is especially important because there are many single parents, and extended families are rare.There's also a big racial mix of students, a high proportion of Aborigines and Asians."We're a drop-in centre at recess or lunchtime."Up to 40 kids a day come to see me," says Mrs Glover.Often the young people are afraid or ashamed to raise problems with their parents or step parents because "parents have expectations".In such cases, the school nurse often becomes a mediator between the young person and their home.They are a vital link in the schools' teams including also the home liaison officer, police constable, school counsellor and the assistant principal for student welfare.But students are reluctant to speak to a new nurse: this becomes clear when the usual nurse goes on leave.Mrs Glover says the NT has Australia's highest youth suicide rate: there have been 36 youth suicides in the NT this year, mainly boys.Suicide messages are sometimes left on the school's computer system, and the resident nurse is likely to be alerted first.The Territory also has the highest venereal disease rate amongst adolescents, aged 12 to 24, and drugs "play a big role. Drug use comes in spates."Mrs Glover says two or three girls a month come to see her after a week-end of marijuana use and unprotected sex, "panic stricken" that they might be pregnant."We refer them to Family Planning or a doctor, who sometimes give them the ‘morning after' pill to stop pregnancies," says Mrs Glover.Meanwhile the Nurses Federation said last week Alice High was stopping its students from signing a petition related to the issue.Principal Peter Swan declined to comment, and refused to reveal to the Alice News the name of the Student Representative Council (SRC) president.However Ralph Wiese, the education department's acting assistant secretary in Alice Springs, says students are permitted to sign petitions but are encouraged to discuss them with their parents prior to signing.Mr Wiese put the Alice News in touch with the SRC president, Lani Hewett, who says the SRC will consider a request for comment at their next meeting.Wendy Pelizzo, president of the Council of Government Schools Organisations, says: "Moving the nurses from one system to another is not the main issue."It is the level of service provided."Parents need a guarantee that this service will in no way be jeopardised."If anything, the service needs to be increased to cover school nurses in primary schools."Treasurer Mike Reed says: "The rumours that the nursing and allied health services are to be withdrawn from schools are wrong, and I emphasise that the government is not reducing the level of services, but looking at ways to improve them."However, Mrs Glover says there is no commitment from the government at this stage that the nurses will stay at the schools on full time basis.A report is scheduled for completion mid this month, after which the issue is likely to be raised in Parliament.

POLICE KEEPING LID ON CRIME FIGURES, SAYS MLA.

Police are denying the public information which could assist in the evaluation of mandatory sentencing, according to MLA for Stuart Peter Toyne.He says his staff have been asking for statistics on crime rates from well before the introduction of mandatory sentencing - under which convicted offenders are imprisoned for at least 14 days - until the present.Mandatory sentencing was introduced in March last year.Mr Toyne says the government claimed at the time the measure was a response to rising house break-ins and car thefts."We need to know the number of reported crimes, the clear-up rates, the number of people sentenced, if any of them re-offend, and whether they themselves think mandatory sentencing is a deterrent," says Mr Toyne."It's not just the facts and figures, but whether they have been properly evaluated by people with training in statistics."Mr Toyne says approaches to Neighbourhood Watch, police and the courts have shown that the figures either are not available, or are withheld deliberately."In any other key area of government policy there are comprehensive evaluative reports made at regular intervals," he says."In a normal sitting of parliament we're dealing with up to half a dozen of these reports."Why are they not available on mandatory sentencing?"Mr Toyne says his office has sought to collate crime statistics, but has not been able to obtain recent ones, nor earlier data that would show a trend."If mandatory sentencing is as successful as Chief Minister Shane Stone claims, why can't we get at least the raw data to draw our own conclusions."A lot of people in The Centre have put their faith into the measures."However, Mr Toyne says the Araluen co-ordinator of Neighbourhood Watch is concerned about the high crime rate, and is "starting to express doubt about whether mandatory sentencing works".Mr Toyne's call comes as the NT is approaching the time of the year when property crime rates generally soar as many homes are empty during theholidays.

THE CENTRE CAN LOOK AFTER ITSELF. COMMENT by JUNE TUZEWSKI.

Like many other locals I can be very parochial about Central Australia, particularly when it comes to community services. It seems many years ago now that a small group of residents lobbied federal government representatives for funds to establish a Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) in the Alice. As with all new services it took some time, but eventually a person was employed on a part-time basis. Funds for our service were channelled through the MRC in Darwin, even though the locals wanted an autonomous service. The crunch came, however, when the Darwin service experienced internal difficulties and was closed Because of the funding arrangements, the operation here in Alice also came to an end. Again the lobbying commenced and eventually the current MRC was put in place. This was assisted by departmental recognition that the Alice Springs service had always been well managed. The MRC in Darwin remained closed, and its functions were picked up by various government departments and community organisations representing the various ethnic groups in the Top End. Since those days, our Migrant Resource Centre has gone from strength to strength. Its good management and quality service has an excellent reputation and the MRC staff and committee are well-respected. The early days of the MRC were brought back to me last week, when during a visit to Darwin I became aware of internal difficulties within the head office of the Cancer Council of the Northern Territory. It is not unusual for any organisation to experience problems from time to time, and while I am sure that the problems in Darwin will eventually be resolved, I am concerned that their troubles could spill over and affect Alice Springs. Funding for our Cancer Council service is channelled through the Darwin office. Matters regarding Central Australia, although based on local recommendations, are ultimately decided in Darwin. This also applies to funds raised in the Centre. I was privileged to be involved when the NT Anti-Cancer Foundation, as it was then called, formed a branch here in the late ‘eighties. There had been a small fund-raising operation here previously but it closed due to a number of difficulties. Quite some time elapsed between the closure of the one service and the start of the other, for part of the negotiations related to the management and expenditure of funds raised in the Centre. Local supporters were adamant that funds raised in The Alice should remain here and contribute to local needs. It was only when a commitment was given supporting this concept that residents here were happy to support the re-establishment of the Alice Springs Branch. Indeed the initial funds for setting up the Palliative Care Room at the Alice Springs Hospital were raised separately from the Anti-Cancer Foundation for this very reason. Not many people would be aware that until recently we were the only urban centre to have such a facility. Since that time, beginning with one person employed for a few hours each week, the service has grown and provides much needed support to those affected by cancer. Additionally many thousands of dollars have been raised here due to the dedicated efforts of staff members, Karen Gerrard and Barbara Neck, ably assisted by committee members and a team of volunteers that would be the envy of any similar organisation. Barbara appears to come up with a seemingly endless list of creative fundraising projects. The events attract community participation and give a lot of enjoyment, while enabling us to support a worthy cause. Dollars raised here have contributed further to the work of palliative care in Central Australia and have provided support to a number of projects for those with cancer. Perhaps it is timely to look at Central Australia as an autonomous region. Alice Springs naturally services Tenant Creek, Yulara and the surrounding area. The track record of the Alice Springs service would surely support their establishment as an independent board directly responsible to the national body of the Cancer Council. Further, it would make little difference to Territory Health Services to make an adjustment to the Cancer Council's overall budget and fund Alice Springs direct. The networking, access to trainers and guest speakers could still continue, but local energies would be entirely focussed on the meeting the needs of the Centre. Finally, if you have heard the good reports circulating about the excellent presentations at last Saturday's seminar on Leadership Styles but were unable to attend, don't despair. Catherine Wauchope, Convenor of The NT Women's Advisory Council (WAC), which is responsible for the seminar series, has announced plans by the Council to reproduce the talks in booklet form. The publication will also include the seminars given in Darwin which usually feature a different group of speakers.
Contacts: Migrant Resource Centre, 8952 8776 ; Alice Springs Cancer Council, 8951 5887; NT Women's Advisory Council, 8999 6107.

ALICE TOWN COUNCIL TO STRIKE BLOW FOR HERITAGE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

An Alice Springs Town Council sub-committee will look at options on providing rate relief for privately owned heritage properties. The sub-committee, comprising Aldermen Geoff Harris, Fran Erlich, Tony Alicastro and Corporate Services Manager Bob Turner, was set up on recommendation of the council's Finance and Administration Committee, following a recent presentation to council by heritage architect Domenico Pecorari.Rate relief measures are a good example of the kind of action envisaged by the council's new Culture and Environment Strategy and Plan, passed unopposed at the meeting of the full council last week.The document is the outcome of several years' consultation and work by the council's Culture and Environment Advisory Committee, formerly the Arts and Cultural Development Advisory Committee.Ald Harris, representing elected members of council on the committee, welcomes the plan as "a document that has a lot of potential.""Our task now is to get things done," says Ald Harris.Immediate past chairman Mike Gillam, highly regarded photographer and long-time campaigner for appropriate regional development, says the plan's greatest strength is the fact that "committee members used their community networks to filter and expand ideas.""We did not import a bunch of consultants to solve our problems for us," says Mr Gillam. "The plan is largely the work of community volunteers who believe that a more positive recognition of environmental, cultural and heritage values is vital if Alice Springs is to live up to its potential," he says."In joining the committee, members also took the town council on faith that they really wanted to receive and implement specialist advice."Unfortunately aspects of the document have been modified in ways which I believe reduce the clarity of the actions. This may well affect the accountability of the document as a whole."To their credit, the Mayor and elected members have unanimously endorsed the plan, but it is too early to say if this will translate into genuine action by the town council."In many instances highlighted by the plan, dollars will not be a barrier to action."A lot of things won't cost additional money," says Ald Harris.\ "They're more about changing thinking, incorporating design, local materials, local expertise in council's ongoing infrastructure works, so that our urban environment responds better to our natural environment."High on the list of Ald Harris's personal priorities is to look at what council can do to help preserve the town's heritage, with the rate relief proposal being first cab off the rank.Mr Pecorari says that at present the dozen or so privately owned heritage properties are rated on the same basis - of area and zoning - as any others.A number have the commercial zoning B3 which normally allows intensive development. However, heritage buildings have varying restrictions on how they can be developed, with some restrictions being quite severe.Mr Pecorari's heritage-listed office in Railway Terrace, for example, can only have a single-storey extension at the rear. He says he is aware of one heritage building whose owners pay $5,000 per annum in rates, nearly $100 a week, yet can only collect $350 to $400 a week in rent."It's an inequitable system," says Mr Pecorari. "Rate relief would be a way of providing an incentive to the increasing number of private owners to look after their heritage properties."The present system acts as a disincentive."He says non-profit organisations who own heritage properties, such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and churches, are exempt from rates. Rate relief would not represent a significant revenue loss for council, while it would act as a significant heritage protection measure.Suzanne Lollback, the council's economic and community development officer, and facilitator of the Culture and Environment Advisory Committee, says the new committee will draw up an implementation plan for the strategy by the end of March next year.One feature of the strategy - a commitment to developing an art-in-public-places program - is close to yielding a concrete example: the footpath design by Sonja Peter which will be piloted in front of the new CATIA building in Gregory Terrace.Delays to the project, caused by testing of methods, as well as by timing factors (the tourist season and the Masters Games), are at an end, with work due to start within the fortnight.The management of the Alice Springs Art Collection also receives attention in the strategy document. The council has already allocated $20,000 for documentation and conservation of the collection.Other initiatives will be discussed and prioritised in consultation with the arts community in a soon to be held community forum, says Ms Lollback.

A MINISTER OR $2500? Comment by ERWIN CHLANDA.

What price the presence of an august Minister of the Crown at a function?Arts Minister Daryl Manzie has chopped the NT Government's annual grant to the Alice Springs Arts Foundation by one-third - from $7500 to $5000. Yet he insisted on handing over the cheque in person at the Alice Prize opening on Saturday.Now, assuming that Mr Manzie travelled from Darwin with at least one staff, what they spent on air fares, accommodation, meals and local transport is likely to have left little change out of $2500.I'm sure the Arts Foundation would have been deeply moved by a few well chosen words from Mr Manzie from Darwin on the telephone, particularly if he'd left the grant intact.The artistic merit of the prize, developed by local volunteers into an event with a national profile, is unlikely to have suffered from the absence of the Minister. And the group could have put the extra money to excellent use.Further on the subject of travel by Parliamentarians from the Holy City to the far flung outposts of the Shane Stone Empire: Friday night's AGM of the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA) was addressed by Steve Balch (Steve Who?)It's a puzzle why the honour went to the Member for Jingili instead of to, for instance, MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, who lives in Alice Springs and whose electorate includes Ayers Rock.The increasingly assertive Mr Elferink, pushing hard for the development for an east-west highway from Queensland through The Centre to WA, had a lively exchange with NT Tourist Commission (NTTC) head Tony Mayell at the AGM.Mr Elferink, whilst being in two minds about the merits of closing the commission's Tokyo bureau, left no doubt about his anger over the NTTC's failure to consult CATIA prior to the move.It seems the commission, which currently doesn't even have a board, is run purely on whim of Tourism Minister Stone.Sources within the NTTC say it is in turmoil and Mr Mayell has put in for a job in Perth. This would make him the second high-level defector from Mr Stone in recent times: Peter Conran, the former head of the Chief Minister's Department, went west not so long ago.We left a message for Mr Mayell last week - no response so far. We also wanted to check with him on the "conversion rate" achieved by the commission - apparently the lowest in the nation: we believe just two per cent of people responding to commission advertising actually spend a holiday the NT.All this raises questions about the NTTC's huge $26.5m budget, around 10 times the per-capita figure when compared to other states.Is the commission already a target for Mr Stone's Planning for Pruning - sorry, Planning for Growth initiative?

GOING BUSH? BE NICE! By JOL FLEMING.

I was out at Boggy Hole recently and was parked on the bank near the waterhole watching the children swim, when a lady came up and asked if the road south was OK. I suggested that it should be in similar condition to the way in, adding that we had come in on a private road with the consent of the respective land owners.The lady informed us that she had been travelling around the Centre for years and hadn't needed and did not intend to get permission to do so.You could have knocked me over with a feather - not that you would need a big feather anyway - but I couldn't believe my ears.Just watch a person with that sort of attitude stuff it up for everyone else! I'll bet if someone was driving around her backyard, put up a tent and lit a fire, she'd get upset. So what's the difference? Just because these people have big backyards, it doesn't mean you don't get permission to travel on or through them. Get yourself a pastoral map and check things out. If you don't get permission, then respect the owners' wishes. And don't forget, ignorance is no excuse, and a 4WD can easily be spotted from a distance. Join a 4WD club: they go bush and "do the right thing".Another thing that worries me is the Burke and Wills mentality of some of the gung-ho four wheelers, mainly from the big smoke, who have to leave their mark behind them. I found a plaque on a post suggesting these people have been through that particular part of the desert. For crying out loud, there is a track there! That means someone has been there before, so there was no need to a plaque up, they were not the first, and, personally speaking, who wants to know? I thought outback travel etiquette was take photos, leave wheel tracks, and bring all the rest out with you.A friend of mine was travelling over the Simpson Desert recently and came across a group of 4WD vehicles travelling the other way. They were big noting themselves on not letting their tyres down for the sand hills and having got that far in 2WD. Big deal! They had actually dug up the sand hills on the way and made it rough for the following groups.So what, you may think? Well, my idea is don't spin a wheel in sand. If you do, either your tyres are too hard or your approach speed is too slow. Fast approach is great, but if someone has cut the track up, it means you gotta go slow, let your tyres down more than you want to, and hope you don't roll the tyres off the rim or puncture a side wall.Moving on, here is a handy tip for trailer buyers. There are more and more trailers getting around these days, from off road 6x4 to the fancy camper trailers and off road caravans. (Don't use your tip trailer as an off-road trailer.)There is a simple rule with all of them when you're in sand, let the trailer tyres down first. Trailer tyres don't steer, don't drive and most times don't brake. Let them down to about 12 psi and the car tyres to about five psi less than you would normally (from say 25 psi to 20 psi) and try that . I've seen plenty of trailers being pulled out of sand, even had to be pulled out myself, so remember, you gotta let them down!Another thing to be careful about is the extra fuel a trailer can make you use. Allow for about two thirds more. In real heavy sand allow about 4.5km per litre (for a six cylinder petrol engine).Remember a few rules about travelling off road. Be prepared, know where you're going, tell someone else where you're going and when you'll be back. When you get to a tricky place: rule one, get out and look; rule two, think, asses and decide.If you're in a hurry, leave early. Want to know more? Do a 4WD awareness course, and enjoy the bush. It's God's own country.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: HELP'S A LITTLE CLOSER. By CHRIS HALLETT.

We know more about domestic violence now: it is under reported and victims still have trouble seeking help.Catherine House (named in recognition of a long term worker at the Women's Shelter) is the latest bid to make that help more available and convenient for women. Situated in Hartley Street, Catherine House is staffed by three workers, Linda Rendell, Christine Boocock and Helen van Roekel, providing counselling, support in the community, and education. Alice Springs Women's Shelter Coordinator Esme Tyson says: "The aim of the service is to provide outreach services to women in the community, expanding on the work being done at the shelter. Linda is seeing women from within the town as well as those in outlying communities, while Christine and Helen are providing education on the role of the shelter and domestic violence issues to agencies within and surrounding Alice Springs."Says Linda: "I'm able to meet with women at the Centre, or in their homes if appropriate. Sometimes women feel trapped in their own homes, or they are afraid of being seen to be seeking help. We can then talk about what is happening to them, and what domestic violence is all about."From there, we can see if a woman wants to go to the women's shelter or work out some safety strategies that could keep her safe when the violence starts, such as planning an escape route, and getting support from friends."Women can request ongoing counselling and support for as long as they need to."Esme started with the Alice Shelter on Telegraph Terrace in late 1985 when it consisted of three old demountables which had been nurses' quarters. The current purpose built shelter was finished in 1990 with a few additions since, such as a children's building and landscaping.Last financial year it provided accommodation to over 450 women and over 380 kids.Esme says of the shelter: "We define ourselves as a safe place for women, with or without children, who are escaping from violence, and they are from all cultural backgrounds. "The reason we just say ‘escaping from violence' is because we take women escaping from spousal violence but we also take women who are escaping from what we define as community violence or any other, such as family violence. "There's no point in defining who the perpetrators are, we just know if a woman is terrified of being out there, she basically has a right to be at the shelter."The women using the shelter are generally in their twenties or early thirties. About half of them bring kids, mostly under 10 years old. Says Esme: "Usually women end up coming to us when their general support system has failed. Quite often people go to their family or close friends but if for whatever reason that system either isn't functioning properly, or can't cope, or simply doesn't exist that's when women tend to come to women's shelters."About four out of 10 women seeking crisis accommodation at the shelter have suffered serious injury. The average stay at the shelter is about four weeks.Says Linda: "Of the majority of women I see, alcohol has played a large part in the violence. I wouldn't go so far as to say it causes it, but it plays a large part."Accurate statistics of reported domestic violence incidents have only been kept in the NT for the last few years making comparisons over time impossible. As well, with greater publicity being given to the problem and the services available to victims, more people will report incidents rather than suffering in silence as before.However, the NT's Domestic Violence Data Collection Project gives us an overview of the problem: in 1997, 98 per cent of victims were female and 96 per cent of offenders were male; 55 per cent of victims were indigenous Territorians, as were 50 per cent of offenders.Disturbingly, in 47 per cent of all incidents, children were exposed to the violence, perhaps ensuring that another generation will grow up expecting violence to be a part of their personal relationships.

CENTRE STAGE DEADLOCK MAY BE NEAR RESOLUTION.

The deadlock over government funding for the theatre group, Centre Stage, may be heading for a resolution through the intervention by MacDonnell MLA John Elferink.After weeks of silence by Arts Minister Daryl Manzie, Mr Elferink has obtained a briefing from the department on the controversy threatening to close the theatre group, which has nearly 100 members, most aged under 18.Meanwhile Stuart MLA Peter Toyne has offered up to $1000 from his private resources to help the staging of a pantomime planned by local identity Gerry Baddock, 78, to raise money for the group. Mr Toyne, through his brother, Philip, is also approaching a wealthy arts benefactor in Canberra with a request for financial aid.Mrs Baddock, who produced three pantomimes in the ‘seventies to help South Vietnamese orphans, says she's making a come-back to the stage to assist the youth of Alice Springs.Initially planned for next month, the shows are now scheduled for early February next year.Meanwhile, Mr Elferink says information contained in the departmental briefing indicates a serious break-down in communication between Centre Stage and the department, and he will try to bring the two parties face to face this week."I will do my best to keep Centre Stage alive," says Mr Elferink - himself a former actor with the group.Its artistic director, Bryn Williams, says he would welcome any opportunity of resolving the issue.The group, run entirely by volunteers, staged 300 performances of 250 productions over the past five years.Some former members are now building significant professional acting careers interstate, and the show Requiem - written and directed by members of Centre Stage - gained national acclaim after being performed in Canberra.

BLACK PAINTERS DOMINATE ALICE PRIZE. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

Artists from Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) dominated the field for this year's Alice Prize judge Alan Dodge, Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia.He finally awarded the prize to Marlee Napurrula for her Kalinykalinypa and nulla nullas (pictured above). However, three other Ikuntji artists joined Marlee in the select group from whom Mr Dodge made his final decision.They were Narputta Nangala, Mitjili Napurrula and Long Tom Tjapa-nangka.Mr Dodge said of Marlee's work: "She entered the finalists' category for her sense of colour, the surface tension of the work and the way she interlocks shapes into design to tell a story about her country." Mr Dodge was already familiar with some of her work and thought the winning painting represented an exciting achievement within her oeuvre.Only after he had made his choice did he learn that the Alice Springs Collection did not own any work by Marlee (who has only been painting since 1993 and does so with difficulty, having been disabled in an operation), and so his decision helped to fill a significant gap.Of Narputta's Karrkurutinytja he said: "I thought this was a lovely piece, but in the end I felt that I had seen even better works by her."To win the Alice Prize the work has to be an outstanding contribution by the particular artist."He made similar points about Mitjili's Watiya Tjuta Uwalki and Long Tom's Tali:"I love Mitjili's very stylised pattern work, her sensitivity to colour and I felt this was a very beautiful piece, but I've seen other works by her more powerful than this one, so although it was a finalist, it dropped off the perch. "The same can be said for Long Tom's entry. I love his work. This is beautiful colour - the yellow background with the reds and the browny ochres - but I have seen better works." Mr Dodge is not an Aboriginal art specialist but he is "certainly interested in it". "I wouldn't say my interest is extreme but I do love it. Since I've lived in Western Australia I think my senses have tuned into looking at more of it."From Maine, USA, Mr Dodge came to Australia in 1974, from a position at the National Gallery in Washington, DC to one at the National Gallery in Canberra where he ultimately set up four departments "from scratch".Now an Australian citizen, he became Director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1996.His particular art interests are very broad, ranging from 16th century Italian painting, the subject of his Bachelor degree Honours thesis, to the minimal art of 1960s New York, on which he did his Master's thesis. He is now studying Russian art of the revolutionary period.
(NEXT WEEK: Two more contenders from The Centre - and several from interstate.)

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