ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
November 25, 1998

CANE OR CARE TO STOP YOUTH SUICIDES? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Care for young people should replace the present law and order approach as a "vote catching issue", according to a psychologist working with young people who is also spokeswoman for an Alice Springs coalition of youth support services.Jane Vadiveloo was speaking after what she described as a traumatic week in which three young people committed suicide in Alice Springs - two Aboriginal and one white.She says that current government laws, rhetoric and policies, rather than reducing violence, are likely to escalate it."At the moment, locking up young people is seen as a vote winner."Most adults have their own children, or are significantly related to children, to nieces, nephews," says Ms Vadiveloo, a member of the Youth at Risk Committee."At the moment it’s politically advantageous for the behaviour of young people to be seen as a law enforcement issue."It's not. It's about our responsibility to look after them."This issue should not be used politically at all, but if young people are going to be used in politics, then it should be our love and our responsibility for their care that should be directing politicians."Ms Vadiveloo says present strategies "alienate young people, make them feel worthless, distrusted, believing they don't belong."Many people who don't have a positive regard for themselves are not going to have a positive regard for other people."If these are the messages young people are receiving then you're going to have a lot of anger and frustration that some people express in destructive behaviour towards themselves and others."According to Sid Stirling, Labor spokesman on Correctional Services, the rate of imprisonment in the Territory is by far the nation's highest: it is 7.5 times greater than in the ACT, which has the nation's lowest figure.Mr Stirling says under mandatory sentencing the daily average number of Territorians in prison has grown to 610 during 1997-98 compared to 541 in the preceding year.Despite WA's "get tough" law and order policies, the Territory imprisonment rate is three times greater.The number of prisoners per 100,000 population, according to Mr Stirling, is: ACT 60.0, Vic 70.6, Tas 75.6, SA 128.5, NSW 132.2, Old 137.6, WA 165, Northern Territory 459.3.Mr Stirling says: "Under mandatory sentencing this figure will continue to increase because every young person imprisoned is four times more likely to appear before the courts again compared to those not detained."Ms Vadiveloo says many young people have "a confused identity and sense of belonging, for their whole youth culture is being attacked on a political level, and on a personal level. "Young people are represented in a negative light, they're facing this every day."Nobody is born better than another person. Every young person deserves to be heard, to be loved, respected," says Ms Vadiveloo."It's not just about hearing what they say in words."It's hearing what their face says, their eyes, what their body says - what they are saying without using words."Ms Vadiveloo says the committee, including the organisations listed at the end of this report, is gravely concerned about the mandatory sentencing laws.She says these have moved the Territory into the national and world-wide spotlight of organisations including Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission.Ms Vadiveloo says the committee, set up in response to a wave of youth suicides in Alice Springs earlier this year, is "trying to change a whole culture, and I really believe we're starting to make some shifts," through coordinating the work of support organisations."Everybody's responsible, particularly the government."How can you have mandatory sentencing, how can there be a situation in this town where accommodation for under 15-year-olds is limited but gaol is seen as an appropriate protective custody?"We need safe places for people of that age."However, says Ms Vadiveloo, "the government isn't talking to the people who are the experts in this town, nor the young people themselves. "That's a fundamental problem."We invite the government and interested parties working with young people to talk to us."Ms Vadiveloo says recently introduced joint initiatives across services make it "less likely to have young people falling through gaps," and are reducing confusion among people at risk.The diverse organisations have set up a system of cross-checking and monitoring: "When a person has been identified as being at risk, we can check with each other, where is this young person we were worried about yesterday," she says."We can ring these places and ask, have you seen this person? We can check if they're safe. "There is now much better monitoring of young people at risk. It's a fantastic collaborative approach."Our response system is very effective now. That wasn't there 12 months ago."Ms Vadiveloo says hundreds of young people in Alice Springs are "at risk" - either from their own damaging behaviour, including petrol sniffing and alcohol abuse, from violence directed at them by others, or from living in an environment where violence is an everyday fact of life."The community is vital in the care for young people, by listening, by giving them time, by showing them that they are valued, by not judging them."By community I mean family, friends, uncles, aunties, colleagues, to be aware of what the pressures are for young people - not to be afraid to ring someone to ask for help."Look, this young person's a bit down, I don't know what to do with them, what do you suggest?"Asked why young people aren't accepting work, clearly plentiful in Alice Springs, Ms Vadiveloo says: "I'm not convinced that jobs are plentiful, and besides, it's about what is meaningful."I'm not talking about excuses. They are not bludgers."If you are struggling to survive every day, and you're coming out of an environment of threat and fear, and sadness and grief, how could working at fast food outlet feel meaningful to you?"How can sitting in a classroom, where nobody has any idea about what you've just come out of, be meaningful to you?"It's not that young people are disinterested or stupid - they're struggling."There are barriers. The first task is making people safe and then healing their emotional well being."We need to tell them that what they are feeling is normal, it's common to have these feelings. "They may be scared, they may have nightmares."If they're feeling down and lonely, we need to tell them there are places they can go to, where they are safe, and people they can talk to."They need to know they are valued, are appreciated, they are important, they're the future of our country."Ms Vadiveloo says the family plays a role in the solution but "it's not an issue of blame"."Some young people need to be with their family, but others need time out from their family."Both positions are legitimate."There is not a drive to remove them from their families, there is always a drive to have healthy family structures."But across the board, blackfellers and whitefellers you talk to, a lot of them are saying, look, these families aren't healthy, these communities aren't healthy."We have to protect the young people."But you can't just blame the families because there's also a social history involved, of oppression and neglect."And it's not just with Aboriginal people. Many white people, too, are less advantaged than others."At many levels people are oppressed and this anger and frustration gets expressed with drinking and violence and other sorts of abuse."Ms Vadiveloo says the committee - presently made up of care professionals - may soon include teenagers who are at risk.She says: "Bringing the voice of young people up to the forefront - that's part of what this committee is all about."Above all, governments need to rethink their responses to the youth mayhem in Central Australia: "Funding is provided per capita rather than in recognition of a disproportionate amount of social difficulties. "Funding here might be equivalent, per capita, to the rest of the nation, but we know we've got higher levels of representation alcohol abuse, and Aboriginal people in hospital, in prison, with mental health problems."These things can change and we need to work together."Help for young people is available from: Congress Tel 89 514444, Arrernte House 89 534895, ASYASS 89 534200, Holyoake 89 52589, Teen Challenge - Hopeline 1800 771777, Mental Health Services 89 517710, police 89 518888.

PLANNING OR PRUNING FOR GROWTH, asks Columnist JUNE TUZEWSKI.

The phrase "Planning for Growth" has been around the Northern Territory Public Service for quite some time now, and has more recently surfaced in the Territory"s media with announcements by Treasurer and Deputy Chief Minister Mike Reed regarding the establishment of a new Ministry of Corporate and Information Services. We are likely to hear much more over the next couple of weeks as more announcements are made regarding phase two during the November sittings of the Territory's Legislative Assembly. Speaking to many employed in the public service on this topic at any time over the past year, I have found the phrase has often been followed with the comment "which means cutting jobs in the public service" or some similar explanation. However, Government comment has been that Planning for Growth is not about reducing jobs, rather it is about doing business better in the NT public sector. Additionally, it has been emphasised that there would be no forced redundancies. On the health front, Denis Burke, Minister for Health, Family and Children"s Services, has announced that he has received Cabinet approval to seek expressions of interest for the private management of our public hospitals. Maybe I have missed some announcements, but it is to be hoped that more information will be given about this proposal during the Assembly sittings. For example, is the Government thinking about running a duel system of private/public hospitals with the public section managed by a private company, but the staff still part of the public service? Or a private company taking over the whole of the public hospitals' operations? I assume there are alternative options in place to contain hospital running costs should there be no interest from the private sector, or if tenders do not meet some sort of criteria to ensure adequate and appropriate services. Again, there has been no mention of this. Having worked in what was then called the Department of Health and Community Services, I am only too aware of the ever increasing costs of providing quality health services in the Territory. I found the dedication of the majority of employees in Territory Health Services (THS) to be beyond reproach. At management level, within the Department, those responsible for the running of our hospitals work hard at ensuring that while patients receive good care, no one stays in hospital longer than necessary, for the cost per patient, per bed night is very high. Like other parts of Australia, over recent years there has been a move to focus on care in the community, outside of the hospital system. Here, this has led to closer co-operation between the various sections of our health services, whether it be the hospitals and community health services, or other areas such as mental health and looking after those in the remoter parts of the Territory. Any move to separate out hospitals will require an extra effort to ensure that patients requiring continuity of care do in fact get the follow-up health care they require, and that they do not slip through the net. While on health matters, a short comment on the issue of nurses in schools. Allied health and school nurses provide a most valuable service in our schools and I am pleased to see that the Government has made it clear that nurses will in fact remain in schools. I see no difficulty with their positions being transferred for administrative reasons to Territory Health Services. This is no different from the long standing practice of School Policemen being responsible to the Police Department. There are other benefits which I also see arising from the transfer. One is, that some of the Primary Schools who do not have a nurse located on their premises, will receive a prompter service when they require a nurse, as there is potentially a larger pool of qualified nursing staff within THS on which they can draw. The second is that school nurses can more easily take advantage of upgrading and widening their skills base during school holiday periods. Finally, governments must govern. That is what they are elected to do. I expect them to do the best they can to use tax-payers dollars to deliver services as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, this must be done in a way which protects the quality and consistency of the services to be delivered. Ultimately the services are delivered by people. I think it was businessman Lee Iacocca who said, "The key to success is not information, it's people". I hope that Government, while keeping an eye on the dollars and the bottom line, do not forget at the end of the day that our public service is delivered by Territorians, and Territorians are the key to success.

OUR CONSTITUTION COULD BE WORLD LEADER, says letter writer.

Sir,- Regional government rather than statehood is an interesting idea that we should have more discussion about, but Charlie Carter would do well not to treat the issue of a good process for statehood so lightly (letter to the editor, Alice News, Nov. 18).This is a crucial issue about the quality of democracy in the Territory, and about creating a healthy and inclusive political culture. The statehood debacle this year has presented us with a chance to go back and do things properly. This could be a powerful way to reintroduce integrity to our political processes.I attended the public meeting last week in Alice Springs regarding statehood, and was surprised to come home afterwards feeling a little more optimistic. Like many Territorians, I am sad to say I had almost entirely given up on democracy here. I had grown cynical and disinterested. The reasons for this are many, but some of them are political arrogance in government, tokenism, muzzling of dissent, lack of freedom of information, mandatory sentencing, institutionalised racism and so on.But maybe it is possible that the NT could develop a healthy political culture after all. A good process for statehood could set us on this path. I think there are three elements in such a process: cultural events and community education about statehood that people can participate in, high quality information resources, and a democratically elected and accountable convention.I think we need and deserve popular education about statehood that does not consist of incomprehensible written documents, forums that most people won't go to, or simplistic TV ads. I agree with Dr Carter when he says we shouldn't spend millions shoving statehood down people's throats, but education doesn't have to be like that.I'd like to see opportunities for us to explore the values of the society in which we live, to imagine how the future could be, and to share our visions with each other. I want lively cultural and artistic events where the ideas behind statehood and a new constitution are thrown wide open for people to get involved with.Off the top of my head, some of these ideas are justice, place and belonging, power and equality, the legacy of the past, hope for the future, inclusion and exclusion, order and chaos, representation and participation, law, virtue, morality, loyalty, rights and responsibilities, change and stability, accountability, citizenship and so on.These ideas get expressed through what a constitution says and also through its silences.When you think of it in this way, the constitution is relevant to people's lives. Unfortunately it has so often been presented in a dry and intimidating way. The concept of "statehood" is too complex to be the focus of education and debate. It needs to be broken down and defined in terms of our lives and aspirations.There are lots of creative and educational ways to explore the ideas behind statehood. For example:
• local conventions and debates where you don't have to be elected to have a say;
• reconciliation in the public arena - after all, most people would agree this is still going to be a significant ongoing issue for our society in the next century;
• projects in schools, such as a web site where young people can have a say;
• community cultural development projects, such as film / music video making by young people, art that explores our sense of place and belonging, celebrations of cultural survival, festivals, concerts, plays, street parties, murals, street theatre, comedy and workshops where anyone can create a statement about the future.
I think it is really important that when these things take place, representatives of government are there to discuss the ideas that people have. Not only do politicians have to listen to us more, but they must also reflect on what we say and respond to it on a human level. This will provide the basis of a real conversation about our collective future.We also need good quality information to complement the cultural exploration of how we want to live as a society. There should be resources developed that cover the difficult technical issues in constitutions, governance and statehood. This should include what it might mean to formally recognise Aboriginal law and government in the constitution, the arguments for and against a Bill of Rights and other controversial issues that have been raised.This information should be given in plain language, indeed in a number of languages, and in multi-media formats that allow it to be used by schools, clubs and associations, community groups, workplace and so on. This could also be presented in some entertaining ways, and would obviously have to be appropriate for the diversity of the Territory's population.Both the information materials and the cultural program would raise the level of enthusiasm about statehood in particular and political processes more generally. They would revitalise our political culture and make it relevant and interesting again! The cultural program could coincide with the fuss leading up to the centenary of federation, and there might be Commonwealth money available for some of this.After a year or two of this level of public participation and education, we could hold another constitutional convention. At a second convention, politicians should play a clearly defined and limited role, and there should be a mix of elected and appointed delegates along the lines that Territorians for Democratic Statehood have suggested. The convention must have credibility with all sections of our communities.I support the idea of holding the convention "in instalments", so that delegates can report back to their communities, and receive some direction on the issue at hand. We should celebrate this "democracy in action" during the breaks between convention sittings.Creating a new legal framework for our society as we go into a new millennium must be recognised as very important work that should not be rushed. Delegates to the constitution will need access to independent advice to assist them to perform their role well, and they should also have a plan for consulting with and reporting back to the people who elected them.After this three stage process (cultural program, informed discussion and people's convention), I think we should be able to consider having another referendum on statehood. And yes, all this would be a considerable investment of time and resources. But come on, think about it! This is going to shape our lives and the lives of our descendants well into the future. It is worth investing in.However, a warning: these things will only work if our leaders maintain the attitude of respect that Mr Hatton's committee demonstrated the other night in Alice Sprigs. If the process toward statehood becomes tokenistic, bungled, rushed or manipulated for self-serving purposes once again, then the politicians will have stuffed up this golden opportunity. All Territorians will be the losers.On the other hand, if we do meet the challenge to reinvigorate democracy through this process (as I for one believe we need to), then we will have well and truly proven to any remaining doubters that as a society we are mature enough to take on statehood. The strength and integrity of a process like this would be unmistakable.Why do we continue to sell ourselves short by aiming for mere formal equality with the other Australian states? With a little effort we could actually leave them way behind in terms of the quality of our public life and the visionary content of our constitution.
Penny Worland
Alice Springs

WHAT BOOZE RESTRICTIONS COULD DO. Report by CHRIS HALLETT.

It was a grog filled week for Roger Occo-more whose company is charged with facilitating Alice Springs' alcohol forum.Last Thursday, the Liquor Commissioner Peter Allen officially endorsed the effectiveness and the popularity in Tennant Creek of its community alcohol controls. The day before Mr Occomore had chaired the Alice Springs Alcohol Issues Forum where it received the report of its most controversial group, working on alcohol availability. Mr Occomore had also attended the availability group's meeting two days before. At that meeting Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA) President Iain Morrison gave what he stressed was a personal view of comments reported two weeks ago in an Alice Springs News article on the push for alcohol restrictions. Morrison's statement reads in part, "Despite John Boffa's emotive, if inaccurate, portrayal of myself as a champion of the "anti-restriction" cause, my interest in this issue has been strictly the survival of the forum as I am convinced of its value. It is my personal view that one of the major problems with fanatics - and I do regard some members of PAAC (Peoples Alcohol Action Committee, a pro restrictions group) as single issue fanatics - is that they see those who are not with them as being against them."Mr Morrison says he wanted the forums " to find some common ground and work together on initiatives rather than wasting their efforts in futile argument. The contentious issue of restrictions was therefore kept off the agenda until the fourth meeting of the forum where it was raised by some participants."Now restrictions are on the forum's agenda, Mr Occomore's recent contract to keep the forum going lands him in the hot seat. His role will not be easy.Says Mr Occomore: "We were appointed as facilitators. The contract that we have talks about administering, facilitating, organising, managing. We are specifically not technical advisors. A secretariat would be the best description. "As far as possible, politically, we try to be seen as neutral so that we can chair the meeting and people can feel comfortable that we are not going to push the meeting one way or another."The funds come via the town council via DASA (Drug and Alcohol Services Association). Our instructions were to work closely with DASA for our first forum, (last week) because clearly DASA knows what's going on and we don't, but from forum six (next February) onwards to run it much more independently, to remove any suggestion of pressure, in other words to emphasise our neutrality but also primarily because DASA haven't got the time to run the thing. "They have got their own job to do which isn't running something as big as the forum has become."Mr Occomore says whom he reports to now is an open question:"The forum which we have just had, agreed that they need to set up some sort of management, or steering committee and, to that end, they set up a working group to establish a method of governance. So therefore in the future I will regard ourselves as reporting to them. So no, it isn't DASA's forum anymore, if it ever was."The first decision last Wednesday was to open the forum membership up, it is no longer a closed organisation. We then conducted a review of what the forum had done to date and highlighted a few issues which need revisiting and tightening up."It is agreed that the purpose of the forum, the goal of the forum, is to reduce the harms resulting from the use of alcohol. But nobody had really stopped and defined what those harms are and until you have a closer definition of them you don't really know where you are going, what you are trying to measure, what you are trying to achieve."An interesting illustration that was given to me was, if you talk to a non-Aboriginal person and you ask about a drinking problem they will probably cite drunks in the Mall or in the riverbed. If you talk to an Aboriginal person they'll probably talk about domestic violence. If you talk to a nurse, she will talk about injuries and road deaths. "If you talk to a policeman, he'll talk about locking up Aboriginals. You ask ten different people, you'll get ten different definitions of what it is we are all trying to fix."An Availability Working Group report to the forum defined harms broadly as those which "to some degree," are alcohol related such as, "deaths, accidents, crimes, addiction, wastage, vandalism, domestic violence, absenteeism, diversion of scarce government revenues, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of children, detrimental impacts on schooling, including attendance, diseases, poverty...."Mr Occomore says, "Another key question is whether the ‘problem' is getting better or worse in Alice Springs and there is a strong debate on that."Alice Springs's current pure alcohol consumption per person is historically higher than the NT's average which again has been over 50 per cent higher than the national average.Current statistics on Alice Springs are yet not publicly available, so consumption trends here are not yet known. Mr Occomore says the Alcohol Availability Working Group's report showed, "as has been confirmed in Tennant Creek, that the majority of research evidence indicates that by restricting the availability of alcohol you reduce the harms stemming from the use of alcohol. OK. The question is where do we go next?"What is to be done sounds incredibly complicated and bureaucratic but I guess we are acting on the advice of the people involved. If there were ever to be any restrictions on the availability of alcohol in the future that were imposed by the Liquor Commissioner, he would need to be convinced that those restrictions were in accordance with community wishes. "So the discussion [in the forum] was how to set up a group which could determine the wishes of the community in a completely unbiased and neutral fashion. People are now going to try to construct such a group. The problem is that, if you take people from the forum, the fact that they are at the forum, you could almost say right from the word go that they have formed a view about what to do about alcohol. "So we need to form a new group with a wider representation who appear to be neutral on the issue, and then get that group to conduct a survey, in a really rigorous fashion, of the general population of Alice Springs. "The way we go about it is really important." The forum also discussed its continuing work with youth, restarting the employ Alice Springs program and putting up two km law warning signs around Alice. Now that the forum has been opened up to the public, rather than just representative groups, more people will be able to contribute. It does however run the risk of being stacked by various interest groups as some allege happened at DASA's annual general meeting last month.More people will also be aware of the forum's work now that the media is to be allowed to attend.

OUR ARID LAND IS A GREAT RESOURCE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Is Alice Springs and more broadly Australia's vast and sparsely populated arid interior well served by the dominant north-south direction of trade and transport, included the proposed Alice to Darwin rail link?And should the bulk of government power in every state be concentrated in just one big coastal city?It is a debate we have to have, says Bruce Walker, Director of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), if we want a bright new future in which "the sky is the limit".This is the title of the most far-reaching of three future development scenarios under consideration in Alice Springs at a day long seminar sponsored by the Northern Territory Research and Development Advisory Council (NTRDAC) later this week.The seminar will report back and build on ideas discussed at a two day gathering at Ross River Homestead in late October, again sponsored by the NTRDAC, with participants representing a range of interests and areas of expertise. KIERAN FINNANE continues her report:"How appropriate to the needs of a small population dispersed over a vast land mass is a government structure that is based around one large urban area?" asks Dr Walker. It may be more useful to focus on a regional response that includes Tennant Creek, Mt Isa and Kalgoorlie, rather than policy development and decision-making taking place within the normal hierarchy of Federal, state and local governments, . "The axis of the arid zone parabola runs east-west," says Dr Walker, "from Alice Springs to somewhere north of Perth. "But all our infrastructure linkages - air, road, and the proposed railway - run north-south, and our thinking seems to follow."Why not have our trade routes running arid to arid. People might travel from Kalgoorlie through Alice Springs to Mt Isa talking about mining, how to work jointly with indigenous people, fuel and transport opportunities, communication opportunities."Dr Walker says Japanese interest, unfettered by our north-south preconceptions, has honed in on the arid zone."They've come to Alice Springs and Kalgoorlie, without even stopping on the coastal fringes."They are looking at future opportunities for carbon sequestering and trading as part of an international response to "greenhouse". Some of their projects have been running for the last 10 years. Carbon trading looks at doing deals with developing countries to retain their forests (paying them to do so) in order to balance globally the carbon dioxide output of the developed countries such as Japan and the USA. A carbon sequestering project underway north of Kalgoorlie, involving arid zone afforestation, with an annual budget of $1.5m over five years, is another response to the same problem. Funds for this project, initially made available by a Japanese corporation, The Society of Chemical Engineers, are now being sought from the Japanese Government, as part of an international trade initiative program. Funding for an associated joint research and development project is also being sought from the Australian Federal Government. The long term aim is to build a "carbon sink" through afforestation that could be progressively added to over the years, with the interior of Australia having the potential to attract funding from all over the world, as countries vie for "carbon credits" to mitigate their carbon dioxide production from industry and vehicles.Yet another project, on which Japanese interests have been working with CAT, proposes a global recycling system for carbon dioxide, a carbon fixation process.This would liquefy carbon dioxide, ship it to Central Australia, treat it here using renewable energy - "if you use fossil fuel, you throw your equations out" - convert it to methanol, a fuel source, which would then be shipped back to Japan."The Japanese are future thinkers," says Dr Walker."They're saying that as the greenhouse problem gets worse, there will be a point where the world decides this is the only option we have and we'll pay for it."The economics don't work now but when they do, the Japanese will have all the technology in place to do it, and we could be part of that."If we go that way it will value add for the six per cent of Australians currently living in the arid zone without negatively impacting on the 94 per cent that don't. "It could develop a whole range of new markets, opportunities and networks that only strengthen Australia's position and the Northern Territory's."We need to start a debate and gradually grow it out into a larger forum."Then NTRDAC wants to explore the potential that's there, and the level of interest of a range of stakeholders. "If we got together and marketed these things, if we had an icon that acted as a pointer to the sorts of things we do, we could attract a lot more people to town and everybody would be a winner."

TREAD LIGHTLY AND SAVE OUR BUSH. By Four Wheel Drive correspondent JOL FLEMING.

"We have met the enemy and he is us!" - Walt Kelly.
The magnificent public and private lands of this country are a surprisingly fragile resource: a single off road vehicle or hikers in a single file crossing a wet field can leave deep tracks that start erosion and form a long-lasting scar on the landscape.In the past three decades, millions of acres have been closed or restricted because of environmental abuse - much of it probably unintentional. Because of the growing popularity of 4WD vehicles, mountain bikes, trail bikes, and a general desire to escape the everyday humdrum, more and more visitors are reaching out into the backblocks of this country, and the abuse and closures are continuing. Many activities, such as prospecting, bush walking, nature appreciation, camping and trail bike riding involve achieving access to sensitive public and private land."Tread Lightly! and Leave No Trace" is a common-sense measure to protect the environment. It is the first national land use ethics program introduced in Australia and aims at creating broad awareness and responsibility for respecting and caring for our public and private land. Although most people respect the environment, uneducated users can cause significant impact.Legislation addresses the problem of the anti-social user, but only education will reduce the impact of the over-enthusiastic amateur. The time is now right for the establishment of an education program planned for immediate results and long term reinforcement. So the message is simple: Australia's land is too valuable to be degraded by recklessness or ignorance. The Tread Lightly! and Leave No Trace program will sow the educational seeds of a caring environmental awareness ethic in the minds of all Australians. The Tread Lightly! pledge is to travel and recreate with minimum impact, respect the environment and rights of others, educate yourself, plan and prepare before you go, allow for the future use of the outdoors, leave it better than you found it, discover the rewards of responsible recreation.Tread Lightly! is also more than just a concept. It's a non-profit organisation that actively promotes a responsible land use ethic. The organisation co-ordinates the program and spreads the Tread Lightly! and Leave No Trace guiding principles through educational materials, stirring grassroots interests and providing a visible common theme.This links, under one easily identified phrase, without loss of autonomy, individuals, user-groups, their representative associations, and most importantly, the manufacturers and suppliers of equipment and vehicles used in outdoors recreations, as well as all land ethics management organisations. Tread Lightly! Australia Ltd promotes the concept nationally, within states and at regional levels to generate a desire among current and future generations to preserve the fragile beauty of the Australian bush and understand and practise ecologically responsible use of public and private land. Tread Lightly! has established a membership structure and benefits for corporations, the government sector, organisations and individuals. All members receive a membership package. Brochures and other educational material are also available and a promotional goods catalogue has a wide range of items for sale. A Tread Lightly ! public seminar will be held tonight, Wednesday, November 25, in the Garden Room, Council Chambers. Free Admission.Contact: 1800 650 881, toll free Australia wide; 07 3379 9064; fax 07 3379 1679; email: scudamor@eis.net.au; mail to PO Box 409, Corinda 4075.

YOUNG PERFORMERS WANT BETTER MANAGEMENT AND MORE GOVERNMENT MONEY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Attendance by at least a dozen young people at the Department of Arts and Museums Youth Arts forum last Saturday was a big plus.They joined 20 or so "oldies", including facilitators Scott Casley and Virginia Heydon, to have a close look at the current malaise affecting youth arts in Alice Springs.Most of the young people were veterans of the now defunct Araluen Youth Theatre and/or of Centre Stage Theatre (CST), in recess but reopening next year for the production of a fund-raising pantomime.This helped justify the collapsing of the definition of "youth arts" to "youth performing arts". (It is curious that in a town where the visual arts hold such sway that, in the public arena, there is very little visual arts activity for or by young people; writing has an even lower profile.)Before breaking into small discussion groups, formed at random across organisations and art forms, the forum heard from Jenine MacKay, acting Artistic Director of the Darwin-based Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre (CIYT).Luckily - given the discrepancy in funding between CIYT and the Alice organisations - Ms MacKay was able to avoid rubbing too much salt into wounds by drawing on her experience with an Albany (WA) based youth performing arts organisation.Key features of the success of this group seem to have been, in the first place, funds allowing the full-time employment of a well-qualified arts worker such as herself, followed by her commitment to consultation with the membership and the wider community about what they wanted out of the organisation.She also emphasised the importance of good structures such as a management committee and, as is the case with CIYT, a document negotiated with the membership which outlines the organisation's philosophy and the policies on which decisions are based.In the case of the Albany group, now known as Southern Edge Arts, the production of new, original work by young people was a core commitment. (This point threw down the gauntlet to Centre Stage who, for their public performances, in the main have focussed on producing classics and other well-known works, including film adaptations. CST director Bryn Williams said the company had not been able to risk not getting "bums on seats" with unknown works, and he wanted to know whether a commitment to the production of original work would be a consideration in future funding decisions.)Ms MacKay's address may have helped the young people and others to articulate their demands; they were certainly unequivocal in their expression.While not hesitating to ask for and reasonably expect the "big ones" like a youth arts centre with paid administrators, more generous project grants and help to achieve interstate experiences, the young people were equally adamant about the more self-regulating matters: they wanted organisations with "tight budgets" and management committees; they wanted to be consulted about what they were doing and how it would be done; they wanted to be exposed to a variety of artistic disciplines and skills, from a variety of teachers.Above all, they wanted to be shielded from the crushing disappointment of having the rug pulled out from under them because their organisation or project had run out of money, or lost the bright energetic individual who had held it all together.One organisation, however, reported satisfaction with the status quo, the key ingredients apparently being self-sufficiency and good management.Pia Harrison, Musical Director of the Alice Springs Junior Singers, expressed her good fortune in having inherited a constitution and a management structure from the group's founder, Monica Christian. FREE VENUEA free rehearsal venue, at the Alice Springs High Schools' Music Centre, is certainly a boon (in contrast to the $4,000 a term rental that Centre Stage was paying for its rehearsal space at the Youth Centre.)All the discussion groups had identified the high cost of the Araluen performance venue as a barrier to success. However, Mrs Harrison reported that ASJS, despite having just hosted Showcase ‘98 at Araluen last week, still has enough "credit points" with Araluen to stage another show. These credit points are gained by members of the organisation - undoubtedly parents of the young singers - providing ushering services for Araluen's various theatre programs. ASJS applies each year for the Alice Springs Town Council's Araluen community access grant (a guarantee up to $2000 against loss) but did not have to avail themselves of it for their near sell-out Showcase.They do not rely on Department of Arts and Museums grants, in the main drawing their income from members' fees and levies, although Mrs Harrison acknowledged that they do not have big production expenses, such as the sets and costumes of the theatre companies.Summaries of the various group discussions will be circulated in coming weeks, while organisers of the forum have called for volunteers to form a working group to prepare a submission for the Australia Council's Community Cultural Development Fund, due next April.It seems likely that this submission will seek funding to employ a community arts worker for Alice Springs.Interested people should contact Ruth Morley, the Department's Regional Development Officer on 8951 5784.

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