ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
August 18, 1999

HOSPITAL IN CRISIS? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Insiders say that this is just one result of a raft of administrative changes introduced by the new Director of Medical Services, Dr Ragu Murthy.The ED treats about 32,000 people a year claimed to be four times the number which would be expected in a town the size of Alice Springs anywhere else in Australia.The number treated in the ED in Darwin three times the size of Alice Springs is believed to be 38,000.The Royal Darwin Hospital has had up to three fully qualified Specialist Emergency Physicians at one time.Dr Tuts medical skills were well suited to the special requirements of emergency medicine in Alice Springs, where people with acute medical illnesses ranging from life threatening pneumonia and meningitis are treated as frequently as those injured in road accidents and suffering the all too common results of alcohol related trauma. According to the sources, 42 per cent of attendances are by Aboriginal people, although only 27 per cent of the population is Aboriginal. Overseas tourists, involved in high speed motor vehicle accidents, make up a significant number of the 58 per cent non-Aboriginal attendances. The problem of replacing Dr Tut, who gave a week's notice apparently because he faced a downgrading of his salary, is occurring in parallel with difficulties finding suitably qualified and experienced doctors throughout the hospital.In recent months several doctors from overseas have been employed, but none have specific training which equips them to practice as emergency physicians, whose work is graphically depicted in the TV series "ER".Another problem is that the overseas doctors many of them from India have not passed the Australian Medical Council exams which allow doctors to be fully licenced in Australia, and able to practice medicine unsupervised.It is also believed that some of them may be on a two-year visa and this could lead to a lack of continuity in the development of medical services to the Alice Springs community.It is understood that Territory Health has engaged Dr David Green, a Specialist Emergency Physician, from the Gold Coast Hospital, to prepare a strategic plan for the development of the ED.It is thought likely that Dr Green will recommend the appointment of a Fellow of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (FACEM) to head up the ED. There will also need to be in increase in the overall number of doctors in the department so that there is time for teaching junior staff emergency medicine skills.Insiders say that the absence of training opportunities in face of the overwhelming workload has discouraged quality medical staff from working in the ED.Adelaide's Flinders University Medical School this year opened a training facility in Alice Springs and sends students to the Alice Springs Hospital as part of their degree studies.A source says that venture may be threatened by the current lack of specialists in Emergency Medicine: "While there may be excellent doctors appointed to the ED, their training and skills may not be broad enough for the demands of emergency medical practice."You may have an excellent physician but that does not mean they have any experience in dealing with six people seriously injured in a car crash such as that which happened on the road to Pine Gap."You need to be able to deal with a heart attack or snakebite one minute and stabilise a fractured neck the next."A spokesman for Health Minister Stephen Dunham told the Alice News that Mr Dunham will comment in next week's issue.

DESERT POWER: ABORIGINAL ARTIST LAUNCHES NEW STYLE.

Celebrated Papunya painter Michael Nelson Jagamara has developed a bold new style set to relaunch the artist into national and international prominence.Some 20 to 30 works in the new style, painted over the last three years, have all been snapped up by collectors. Now an exhibition of a recent series of 18 paintings will open at the Desart Gallery in Rose Bay, Sydney on September 1.It will be the inaugural exhibition of the gallery which for the first time will offer the art centres of Central Australia the opportunity to market their work directly on the east coast, rather than go through a dealer. Jagamara's new style has been developed in dialogue with formerly Brisbane-based artist Simon Turner, who is now the arts administrator with Urapuntja Artists at Utopia.The two met at the last Asia Pacific Triennial, held in Brisbane three years ago. Turner says Jagamara was looking for a new challenge and that he has simply supported him in experimentation which drew on the existing strengths of his works but sought to refigure them."He has always had such a strong mark and great sense of colour, and these things are still the foundations of his work," says Turner. "He knows what he is doing he knows no fear when he is painting. His symbols make a bold statement I know who I am'."The central work of the exhibition is a five metre long canvas which reinvents his famous Five Dreamings of 1984.The work pictured, The Hairy Man's Cave, makes an exciting combination of representational elements with cultural iconography: clouds have passed and dropped their rain on the bush, now dotted with yellow wildflowers; the symbols indicate the dreamings, Lightning and Possum, painted inside a cave, where men get ochre. See

FIGHTING, SWEARING SENDS NEIGHBOURS 'ROUND THE TWIST.

Loud music, barking dogs, raised voices are to be expected from time to time in any neighbourhood, but one young couple in Alice Springs decided that threatening someone with an axe, fighting in the street, yelling foul language and theft of mail was going too far.In late May, early June they kept a log of disturbances which they presented to the Department of Housing in an effort to have their next door neighbours evicted. Their complaints refer in fact to three households, all of them Aboriginal. Do they have a basic intolerance of Aboriginal neighbours? They say no, and they made specific mention to the department of a fourth Aboriginal household in the same street, whom they described as "excellent tenants".One of the couple also has a continuing involvement with parts of the local Aboriginal community.They began their private tenancy in the Larapinta neighbourhood in January.On the first night in their new house they were wakened by noise from the street: when they looked out they saw a man chasing a woman with an axe. This was probably the most frightening, but not necessarily the most disruptive of a long list of incidents they allege occurred over the next six months, including mail being taken from their letterbox, opened and strewn all over the street, and, disturbingly, many approaches from children asking for food.The log of complaints for just one week alleges the following: Woman chasing man up and down the street, yelling foul language.
Man kicking and punching dog. When one of the couple told him to stop, he said he would get his family and kill them. He yelled constant abuse for about 10 minutes, went away, then came back and continued his verbal abuse for about half an hour.
On the same day three children tried to get into another neighbour's backyard but were stopped; and children threw rocks onto the road and the neighbour's porch.
Dog fights, early in the morning, involving up to five dogs; dogs chasing cars and a friend on a bike.
Dirty nappies thrown over the couple's fence; rubbish left on their lawn; stones thrown on their porch.
More yelling and swearing down the street.
An argument with swearing and slamming doors lasting for about 45 minutes.
Another argument with swearing, lasting about 30 minutes.
Another incident with children screaming and crying, adults yelling and swearing.v Children scraping sticks along fences for about 20 minutes.
A noisy party involving about 15 people still going at 1am. Police were called, came half an hour later, drove past training a spotlight on the house, everyone was quiet for a few minutes, then when they left the party started up again.
The next evening a big argument started, glass was broken; verbal abuse started in the house, moved out into the yard and continued on the street, for about half an hour.
The couple were away from their house for a period, during which time their landlord erected a high fence "with barbs on top" to keep intruders out. This eliminated some of their problems, but not the noise from more dog fights, more children scraping sticks and rocks along fences, more abusive arguments, loud music and partying late into the night.On one occasion one of the couple, after a sleepless night, called in sick for work. The day provided no relief, however, as many of the children, whom they thought to be of school age, had also stayed at home, and "played, fought and yelled obscene words out all day".Other complaints recorded on a pro forma issued by the Dept of Housing, included overcrowding in the neighbours' houses, with an estimated 15 to 20 people staying there regularly.A second pro forma filled out by another resident in the neighbourhood generally corroborates the above account.The Alice News asked Dept of Housing's Regional Director, Bill Flaherty, if the existence of the pro forma indicates that such complaints are common?He said complaints are not common, but occur from time to time."Each time something is brought to our notice, we take appropriate action," says Mr Flaherty."It is not possible to say what the bottom line' is. Each situation is different. There is no mandatory remedy."A whole range of actions are available to us."The Tenancy Manager can call and discuss the problem."If it is prolonged, warnings are issued."If it continues, legal action is taken."The News understands that the couple's next door neighbours have been served an eviction notice.If it is complied with (which the News understands it has not been to date), this provides relief for the complainants, but it also means a family with young children is out on the streets. What happens then?Mr Flaherty says there is a "whole raft of support mechanisms" available to families in such a situation. Aboriginal families are serviced in particular by the Aboriginal Urban Housing Association.The chair and vice-chair of this association declined a request for an interview by the News.Mr Flaherty says a home-makers course is available for Aboriginal families to equip them with the skills for living in town. It meets with varying degrees of success.He says: "Problems arise and the causes are never simple. Overcrowding is an issue, but anyone in public housing has the right to have visitors to come and stay."We are not in a position to say to any of our tenants that their relatives may not stay with them."

40 BLOKES AND ME: LADY PLUMBER IN MEN'S TRADE. Report by MKIERAN FINNANE.

Plumbing doesn't seem like the kind of career a woman could fall into, but Amanda Dean did.Amanda and her partner Peter "Macka" Mackintosh now run Logan Plumbing in Alice Springs, a long way from Amanda's home town of Melbourne and from her original intention of becoming a cabinet-maker.She had started Year 12 but she hated school and dropped out half way through."I sat around doing nothing for a while, then I heard about this course for girls in limbo who didn't know what they wanted to do."It was a basic trade course, linked with the then CES, but Amanda was desperate for a job, and when a plumbing apprenticeship came up she went off for an interview and got the job, becoming the first girl to get through plumbing at Frankston TAFE. "There were 40 blokes plus me. When they first saw me I really felt like an alien, they just couldn't believe it."I was absolutely petrified, I thought I can't do this, I can't go in but I did. They all came around after a while, they realised I was there for the same reason as them, I wasn't there to prove anything." However, there was nothing reassuring about her first job: Amanda remembers it as "hell on earth".She was employed by two brothers: "One was okay, the other was just a real mongrel to everybody. Every day I would be in the rain and wind, digging trenches, blisters on my hands. I would never get upset in front of them but I would drive home bawling to my mother. "I lasted there about six months, and after leaving I thought I'm never going to plumb again, it really put me off."She went to work in a plumbing suppliers."It was kind of interesting being on the other side of the counter, but I still copped a bit of abuse off the blokes, a lot of them thought I shouldn't even be working there."After a year or so, Amanda had enough saved to make a dreamt of trip to Europe for three months.On her way back home for Christmas, she met an Irish girl who was travelling to Alice Springs to join her boyfriend. "She was asking me all about it but I'd never been there and I felt quite guilty, this was my own country and I'd never even been to the Northern Territory."To get there became her goal, and when she saw a plumbing job in Alice Springs advertised in The Age, she got on the phone. Two days later Paul Glynn from Centre Plumbing rang to say the job was hers. She arrived on a Saturday in the middle of January: "I nearly died, I had leggings and runners on with no socks and within five minutes I had red rings around my ankles from sunburn. The boss was really good, he gave me somewhere to stay and stocked the fridge with food and a six pack of beer. I started work on the Monday. "There were about six or seven plumbers, they were all great, a bit fascinated by me at the start, but they were wonderful and boosted my confidence."Getting used to the hot weather was hard. We used to start work at six in the morning, replacing solars, up at the crack of dawn, do or die, up on rooves all day, from house to house, probably finish work at 6.00 or 6.30 at night. You'd crawl back to the yard to fill in your time book, they'd all be having beers, I acquired a taste for beer, I never drank it before I came up here."After 18 months, Amanda had the choice of taking on a lot of bush work, but being "a bit of a woos" she opted for staying in town, before heading north to Darwin for which she developed an "instant dislike".Returning to Alice, she started work for Logan Plumbing, doing a bit of everything, but a lot of maintenance hot water services, dripping taps, running toilets, blocked drains which is the work she prefers."I think it's a girl thing, a lot of blokes don't like doing it, it's fiddly, they haven't got the patience for it. Macka prefers new stuff, that's why we go well together."About 18 months ago Amanda and Macka bought Logan Plumbing and, not long after, their house from where they now run the business."Then a month later we're pregnant too! What a year we had! I think in my subconscious I was starting to think about having children. I turned 30 last year, it's not really old, but I was starting to think I'd like to have a baby soon."I knew it would be hard but we were rapt, I got fatter and fatter, kept working, it was through the winter and I could hide it under big jumpers, no one knew. If any customer ever noticed, they were too flabbergasted to say anything: female plumber and she's pregnant! Once she was born, it was hard but you just take it day by day and it works out. "It's hard on us, on our relationship, I'm more stressed than I've ever been but I know it's not forever."Amanda, who is actually the more experienced and qualified plumber of the two (she can "self certify" their plumbing works), took a back seat in the business for a few months, but now that daughter Airlia is old enough to go to a carer for a few hours each day, or to stay with her Dad, Amanda's back on the job."I needed to get back to plumbing to have me back, I needed to get out by myself."

STUDENT MOVIES: WINDOW ON THE WORLD OF THE YOUNG. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

Funny, provocative, imaginative, informative, the short videos made by young locals shown as part of last week's Youth Festival activities proved entertaining, and, for adult viewers, an interesting entree into local "youth culture".A Week in Death's Shoes, opening the program, set the bar high. It is far-fetched and hilarious, the direction, clever and confidant to match.We follow Death (Rowan Pullen), a masked figure, as he stalks his victim (Philip Clements) in a banal institutional environment (the corridors and canteen of Centralian College, the set on hand for the student filmmakers, were used to great effect).After a couple of close shaves, the clueless victim starts to feel a little unsettled, but Death, attending to his ironing, catches him fatally off guard.Director Josh Amdahl has obviously understood the importance of pace to comedy. The video moves right along with each idea more zany than the next and had the audience in fits of laughter.It was going to be a hard act to follow but, to everyone's delight, there was plenty more on offer.Alice Springs High School students, under the guidance of Media Arts teacher Serge Komadina, turned in two very creditable documentaries, one on roller blading, the other, a behind the scenes look at the Desert Park.The roller blading piece, SK8K2, made by Chris Stower, Brian Murtagh, Tristan Birch, Tom Surr, and Zung Nguyen, offers some spectacular action footage, the bladers actually rolling on tubular handrails among other feats; some clever comedy with footage of "stacks"; a real life confrontation with an aggro security guard; and it also tackles the issue of the lack of facilities for bladers in town, in an interview with a police officer.Unfortunately, the interview material pointed to a common problem for apprentice film-makers that of recording good sound, which is essential if you need the words to make a point.A bonus in this video for the non-blading viewer, is to see the town through bladers' eyes. The Greatorex building appears to offer the best possibilities, but the Centrelink building also has potential, as does the stage under the sails in the Mall, and the Reg Harris lane area.I doubt there would have been a member of the audience after this entertaining and convincing piece who did not thoroughly support the idea of roller-bladers getting a good facility for their sport.The behind the scenes look at the Desert Park has the bright idea of finding out about what it takes to feed all those captive animals. As many of them are carnivores, it is not all that pleasant, but to their great credit the film-makers (Jessica Hosking, Peta Wilox, Nathan Wiles, Renata Jonjic) have the stomach to go through with it.With the unswerving honest eye of the young, they keep their camera trained on the subject way past the time when a more discreet adult would have cut the shot.White mice are bred at the park as feed, and are distributed either dead or alive, depending on the feeding habits of the native carnivores.We actually witness their extinction by carbon monoxide: we see them running around inside a sealed plastic box, starting to skitter and eventually falling over, dead. Just in case we didn't get the point, their stiff little corpses are held up to the camera for examination. We later see them packed in neat rows in plastic sleeves in the freezer.We see a dunnart munching his way through a hairless baby mouse.We see a snake slowly swallowing a dead white mouse. The long moment is lightened by the black comic use of the song "I'm being swallowed by a boa constrictor.The film-makers let all this go by in a matter of fact way, then re-enact the extermination with themselves as victims, trapped inside a locked room that is being filled with gas. No more needs to be said: a very clever piece of film-making indeed.Shifty in Crime , directed by Rowan Pullen, audaciously tackles the subject of break and enter crime by juveniles. It takes us in a kind of dance through the steps of a typical break and enter and until the last moment we think Shifty is going to get away with his haul. The step he hadn't counted on was being busted.Well paced and an excellent bit of acting from Chris Cheung, with clever use of editing to create the impression of a coat with bottomless pockets into which Shifty packs his booty.Kate Morris brought us a delightful take-off of a recent hit by Boys to Men, a very croony love song, enacted by her "Black Toy Boys". Much of the comedy here is down to good direction of the actors who played their scenes for laughs, often just with the use of facial expression and body language.The Dirty Dozen is a collection of 12 exercises on the rich theme of dirt. The students who made these shorts were just two weeks into their Media Production course, coordinated by Mark Redhead at Centralian College, but obviously have years of film and TV viewing behind them: they know their medium.One of the most touching is Dirty Hair, directed by Violet McGinness, which takes on the fraught relations between teenage boys and girls in no more than half a dozen beautifully conceived scenes.In Dirty Deal, by Gareth Bizley, three youths try to get an adult to buy them some grog and get diddled; Dirty Room , by Carly Stagg, sees a rank sock come alive and go on the attack.This little festival was packed full of laughs and interest and I only saw half of it! Let's hope there are more opportunities in the near future to see this and other work by these budding film-makers. Let's hope too that at least some of them continue their work in this medium: they've got a lot to offer.

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