ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
November 10, 1999

GOVERNMENT'S SLOW TREK ON WORLD CLASS NATURE WALK. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Territory Government seems in no hurry to resolve a crucial impasse in the development of the Larapinta Trail, potentially one of Central Australia’s prime tourism draw cards and a world class nature attraction.The walking trail from Alice Springs to Redbank Gorge and Mt Sonder traverses the Western MacDonnell national park.However, in the middle it crosses a section of the Owen Springs pastoral lease, enters the tiny Ellery Bighole national park, which is surrounded by the cattle station land, reenters Owen Springs and finally returns to the national park.Despite fruitless negotiations over several years to formalise public access to the trail through the station land, all the Parks and Wildlife Commission would say this week is that it had "discussions with the late owner [of the Owen Springs pastoral lease] and would aim to have discussions with any future owner of the land in relation to the aim of extending the Larapinta Trail along its intended route".Owen Springs protrudes into the national park, and includes one of the Centre's most scenic spots, the palm-studded Giles Springs.According to MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, negotiations to purchase the land from station lessee Lizzy Milnes, nee Hayes, who passed away in April this year, were unsuccessful.A cattle industry source says the talks had gone on for at least three years, during which Mrs Milnes steadfastly declined to part with the land. Mr Elferink says the option of compulsory acquisition was canvassed but not pursued, in view of Mrs Milnes' advanced age and frailty.The principal executor of her will, Lindsay Oliffe, says he is aware that there have been negotiations about the land, but he is not in possession of any "written submissions".Despite several phone calls the Alice News was unable to obtain a comment from Owen Springs' manager, John Brumby.Problems posed by the cattle station go beyond the immediate vicinity of Ellery Creek.For part of the eastern section of the trail, Owen Springs land is between the Hermannsburg – Glen Helen Road, and the walking trail.Most walkers require support vehicles with food, water and swags to meet them from time to time along the trail.There is public road access to the trail at locations including Simpsons Gap, Fish Hole, Standley Chasm, Serpentine, Ormiston and Redbank Gorges.However, to make the trail viable for the general public, and to people other than highly fit trekkers, rendezvous points are required in between.At present some of these can be reached only by crossing the cattle station land. One tour operator has told the Alice News that an informal arrangement exists between his company and Owen Springs.However, this option is clearly not available to the general public: to develop the trail to its full potential as a tourist attraction, official access needs to be created at further points.Pictured at right is part of the Museum of Central Australia display showing how the natural history of the Amadeus Basin – from 850 million years ago, when the Centre was inundated by a vast shallow sea, to 310 million years ago – is exposed along the banks of the Ellery Creek.The creek feeds a favourite Central Australian water hole, the Ellery Bighole.This section and accompanying diagrams set out the geological and marine community evolution of the area.The block diagrams correspond to life-size reconstructions in the museum depicting marine life at intervals of approximately 100 million years, from the earliest stromatolites to primitive fish. It's the sort of information that will entice even more visitors to the fascinating surrounds of Ellery Bighole.

SHOOTING THE MESSENGER OVER EDUCATION? Comment by KIERAN FINNANE.

Education Minister Peter Adamson has described last week's Alice News report on Apungalindum school as "very misleading – by its omissions as much as anything". He also complained that a request for comment by the News was made at "very short notice".The Minister can not have his cake and eat it too.The News put to him all the facts at hand about conditions at Apungalindum on the Friday morning before publication, four days before deadline.In response, a spokesperson supplied a two sentence comment which the News printed in full.Meanwhile, Peter Toyne, MLA for the area and Labor Shadow Minister for Education, responded with a lengthy comment and provided additional detail. The News then faxed this further material to the Minister. Deadline for copy had passed but we extended it by two hours to allow time for a response. A phone call was placed to his office to alert them to the further faxed invitation to comment. However, the comment was not forthcoming.The story was published on Wednesday and that afternoon members of the local media questioned Commonwealth Education Minister David Kemp about the situation.Mr Adamson was now feeling the heat, and perhaps realised the inadequacy of his brief comment of the week before.His response: to try to discredit the News' reporter.If the story was so "misleading by its omissions", the Minister and his office had ample time to supply information to correct those omissions. They chose not to and it is still not clear what they are.At last Friday's National Online Council Conference in Alice Springs, Mr Adamson told the News:"The situation is that we had 20 students at the end of Semester One, and at about this time last year, about 12 students. Now, it's to the credit of the community that it's growing to the extent that it is."To imply that a promise was made for a facility for 40 is wrong. To imply that nothing had been done about it is also wrong."We at the moment are trying to find out about how many of those students are likely to be full time students. There's a possibility that some of them have transited through from other homeland centres. "We did have another homeland centre in the early ‘nineties that is now in fact vacant."So, there hasn't been a situation of 40 students for any great deal of time. Having said that, it's a credit to the couple there who are really driving this community which to only about a couple of years ago effectively didn't exist."Mr Adamson's account does not accord with the facts as the News understands them.The News has sighted NT Department of Education documents which confirm that "at about this time last year" there were 19 students enrolled with an 80 to 90 per cent attendance rate, and that "at the end of Semester One" of this year there were 29 students enrolled, with average attendance over the semester of 25 students. In Semester Two the documents show enrolments at over 30, climbing to over 35 in September with attendance on many days close to or over 40. The News appreciates the difficulty of planning for the mobility factor in Aboriginal communities, but surely this is a point that the Minister could have made when we first requested a comment.The Minister does not make it clear where the now vacant homeland learning centre is. Is it anywhere near Apungalindum?The News did not "imply" that a promise had been made for a facility for 40.The News reported that the community chairman, Ken Kunoth said they were "previously told that we would have a classroom that would accommodate all our students that come to the Home Learning Centre".The News equally reported Mr Adamson's spokesperson's comment that this was a matter of "mis-communication".The News did not "imply that nothing had been done about it".The News reported that the school was told to reapply, this time for "a more modest proposal". Once again, the News has sighted internal NTDE documents to this effect, and has received a written statement to the same effect from the Apungalindum community chairman.The Minister and his staff should learn to tell the story like it is, rather than trying to patch up damage by smearing the credibility of journalists doing their job.The Minister did not respond to a further invitation to comment.

DEAD CENTRE IS THE PLACE TO BE. By DOROTHY GRIMM.

Cemeteries can be great tourist attractions."Tourism is about history and heritage," Chairman of the Fortland Group Sir Frank Moore told those attending the Ly Underdown Memorial Fund Raising Dinner on Saturday night.Although the dinner was held primarily to raise funds for a marker for Ly's unmarked grave, Sir Moore said the project had much more significance."When honouring Ly with this project, we are honouring the spirit of Australia which gave us our characters," Sir Moore said."Thirty percent of tourism around the world is about history and heritage."The spirit of those people (like Ly) is a huge tourism project for this area."Sir Moore said it was important to look at the domestic tourist market as the"the guts of Australian tourism is the domestic market.""If we do not reinvent what we do in regional Australia, we are not going to hold the domestic market.," he said."Tourism is the biggest job creator in Australia today and it will double in the next decade. History and heritage is not a collection of fading pictures on a wall and cheap t-shirts."The business of history and heritage is about interpretation, about delivering a product which is fascinating and interesting, about taking the stars of our history and interpreting that so people understand what sort of people Australians are."And the more we cultivate and share our heritage, the more we will preserve it and enhance it for ourselves and generations to come."Sir Moore said the action of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs and Rotarian Dave Mortimer who have taken on the project to mark Ly Underdown's grave should be something the business and tourism communities support."2002 wil be the Australian Year of the Outback and the United Nations Year of Ecotourism," Sir Moore said."It seems appropriate that the tourism industry and business in Central Australia respond to the leadership which the Rotary Club has shown and say ‘Let's get together and see how we can enhance and build this fantastic product in a place like Alice'."Support for the project was soon forthcoming,Identifying herself as "Minister for Cemeteries", Minister for Central Australia Loraine Braham announced the NT Government was donating a grant of up to $2000 for the project.Sir Moore followed with a donation of $1000 from the Fortland Group.Rotarian Dave Mortimer estimated that with the funds raised so far, at least 12 unmarked graves of Alice Springs' pioneers could be marked, perhaps even more.

FIRST FEMALE PRIEST. By DOROTHY GRIMM.

ATennant Creek's Anglican parish priest Anne Marie Priestly (pictured) believes she has been preparing for her role for much of her life.She started her career as an Anglican mission teacher at Groote Eylandt in December 1964.When the government took over the school system, Anne Marie changed too, becoming a government school teacher in 1968, working first at Kormilda College in the Top End and then at Yirara College in Alice Springs, starting in 1974.In December 1995, Anne Marie retired from the Department of Education ."I did not have any specific plans for retirement," she says. "I had been a deacon at the Alice Springs Church of the Ascension for many years so I decided to continue in that role and think about what I wanted to do."I became more involved in parish activities. I'm a good organiser so I became more involved in administrative things. "Looking back on the parish work I did at that time, it is almost as if I were an apprentice priestess."Late last year, during the second semester, Anne Marie went to Adelaide to study theology full time at the Adelaide College of Divinity."I came back to Alice Springs not too sure what to do next," Anne Marie said. "One day the Bishop [of the Northern Territory] called and offered me the position of priest at the Church of the Holy Name in Tennant Creek."The church there had been without a priest for some time as the previous one had been quite ill before he left in January this year."From then things happened very quickly."I was ordained a priest in Alice Springs on Sunday, May 30, installed as the priest in Tennant Creek on Monday, and had my first service on Tuesday."In so doing, Anne Marie became the Territory's first female Anglican priest."I never imagined being a parish priest, maybe an assistant one but not one responsible for an entire parish," she says.She really enjoys being in Tennant Creek:"Settling in has been relatively simple."I grew up in a small town and it is good to be in a small town."My family have had connections to Tennant Creek for a long time, so in a sense I almost feel as if I am coming home."

ABORIGINAL HOUSING: LIFESPAN OF A HOME IS JUST SEVEN YEARS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Housing built and owned by the Indigenous Housing Authority of the Northern Territory (IHANT) lasts an average of seven years.IHANT's long-term goal is to extend that lifespan to that of the average for public housing, believed to be 25 to 30 years.In the private sector, by comparison, many houses in Alice Springs's oldest subdivision – Old Eastside, built some 50 years ago – have yet to reach their "use by" date. "Heritage" houses in Railway Terrace are still going strong after 70 years.The key to achieving a longer lifespan is a program of systematic repairs and maintenance.IHANT has introduced new funding guidelines whereby organisations receive grants of $1700 per house per year for repairs and maintenance, and support for housing management, but only after rent collection and management standards are met.A spokesperson says organisations and residents have generally responded well to these guidelines.He says rent collection appears to be higher in many cases than had been expected: from an estimated $2.5m a couple of years ago, to over $6.5m in 1998-99.IHANT's total budget for the same period was $39m – nearly half from ATSIC, $4m from the Territory Government, with the Commonwealth putting in the rest.The authority was established in 1995 with a bilateral agreement between ATSIC and the Commonwealth and Territory governments.Its members are the two ATSIC NT Commissioners, the seven ATSIC Regional Council Chairpersons, five NT Government officers nominated by the Housing Minister (Loraine Braham), and a nominee of the Commonwealth Minister for Family and Community Services.On the agenda for consideration at the authority's next meeting, early next year, are the results of Environmental Health Surveys, carried out in nearly 5000 houses, which will identify what work needs to be done to restore current housing stock to a safe and healthy condition.The meeting will also consider a consultant's report on employment and training opportunities for Indigenous people in housing management, construction, and repairs and maintenance. All IHANT projects are supposed to contain an employment and training component, but, as the Alice News reported in its issue of May 12, compliance varies greatly.

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