ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
November 24, 1999

T.V. PRICE FIGHT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Television advertising rates have plummeted in Alice Springs as Imparja is battling newcomer Seven Central for business.Business managers are saying that daytime TV spots are now down to as low as $10 for 15 seconds – similar to radio advertising costs – and some prime time ads have been slashed from $110 to $50.While Imparja refuses to comment, Seven's local manager John Lord says: “We're very thrilled with what we've achieved."Local viewers are benefiting, and local business houses are getting competitive rates."The low "local" rates are sold on a "best time available" basis and clients get "bumped" if a more lucrative booking comes to hand.No rating survey details are available, but in other rural markets, the services – sourcing their programs from the Seven and Nine networks, respectively – are usually line ball in their audience share.Seven, which introduced the local rates to the town, has a minimal investment in Alice Springs, operating from a small office, with a staff of just three and the signal coming on relay from Townsville.Seven has no production unit here but its commercials for Alice Springs businesses are produced by local freelancer Dave Nixon.By contrast, the Aboriginal owned Imparja is understood to have a staff of around 40. It produces a small segment of its weeknight news service, the children's show Yamba's Playtime and local commercial spots.Imparja is 52 per cent owned by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA). Much of its initial investment came from a Federal Bicentennial grant.Although Imparja obtains nearly its entire programming from the Nine and Ten networks, the station receives $2m a year from ATSIC for its satellite costs. (The rural networks in the east and in the west of the nation are subsidised by state governments.)Mr Lord says Seven Central is still ahead of Imparja in terms of potential audience reach – 415,000 people in central Australia, rural South Australia and the western areas of NSW and Queensland, claimed to be one of the world's largest television broadcast areas.However, Imparja will match that figure when its current "roll out" is completed.Both stations now offer a "local" rate for Alice Springs buyers although there are no special slots for the town: the commercials go to air right across the viewing areas.In effect the TV stations deliver the same service to a "local" client – paying a fraction of the fees – as they do for "national" ones, paying full rates.According to a source in the local media market, the new charging regime requires some fancy footwork: for example, a local company expecting to get business from further afield by advertising a 1800 phone number, pays the "national" rate applied to such clients as car manufacturers.However, there are exceptions to that as well, dictated by the frantic competition, says the source: if the local client has a lot of clout he can get away with touting for region-wide business yet pay only local rates.Although Imparja did not respond to requests for comment, the Alice News has obtained documents outlining the station's policy: "If the client operates under a national, state or franchise trading name, additional conditions apply," says one contract form.It excludes clients from the "local" rate if they are aiming at "obtaining phone or written responses from the entire service area".Rate concessions cannot be transferred from one client to another. The source says the arrival of Seven has made a big difference and the low rates are here to stay."If anything, the rates are going to get even cheaper," he says. "There's a lot of leverage in the market. Everybody has to be competitive."However, Mr Lord says rates are likely to increase.Meanwhile Radio 8HA and Sun FM manager Roger Harris says he's not going to lower his station's rates."If they want to cheapen their product, it's up to them but we won't cheapen ours."He says it's "ridiculous" to sell a 15 second TV spot for $10.He expects the TV price war to continue until February, but "it hasn't affected our monthly sales, and I don't expect it will," says Mr Harris. "Advertisers buy what works."

ALICE SPRINGS SOLDIERS IN EAST TIMOR. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.

For at least two Alice Springs families that "Dili business" means something very personal: Private Corde Wilkes, son of Alan and Kerrie Wilkes, and Corporal Matthew Douglas, son of Don and Sharon Douglas, are both serving with the Australian Armed Forces in East Timor.Corde grew up in Alice Springs and attended Ross Park, Bradshaw, Alice Springs High School and St Philip's College, while Matthew's family moved to Central Australia about three and a half years ago.Matthew attended schools in Darwin and Tennant Creek and finished in Rockhampton.Both young men are 25 years old and have been in the armed forces for several years.Corde serves with the Royal Australian Regiment.Says Kerrie: "When he left Alice Springs he went to Brisbane and worked in a restaurant there until it closed."At age 20 years, he was told he was ‘too old' and had no skills so he decided to join the army."He was posted to Townsville, and as a member of the infantry, he spends a lot of time out bush."His training is all about surviving in rough conditions."Matthew joined the Australian Air Force when he was 16 years old, trained as a radio technician and is now based in Richmond, NSW.Says Sharon: "In Dili, Matthew is involved in setting up communications at the airport."He does a nine-day rotation with one day off."Both young men continue a family tradition in the military.Corde's father served in Vietnam, and his grandfather in World War I.Matthew is a third generation soldier in the Air Force.Corde left for East Timor at the end of September, while Matthew left on October 19.According to their mothers, both young men find satisfaction in doing what they have been trained to do."Corde loves it, especially the bush work," Kerrie says."He is near one of the borders and lives in an old Portuguese fort."He says the sunsets are beautiful."He also spent 11 days in Dili securing quarters for the media."In his time off, he goes to the gym and lifts weights."Says Sharon: "Matthew lives in tents near the Dili airport."There is a lot of bulldust from the aircraft taking off."When he has to go to Dili city to pick up supplies, they need to have a security guard with them at all times."He works out of a six-wheel land rover and looks after computers, PBXs, and satellite lines."On his recreation days, he goes swimming in the ocean right off the airport, but always in groups of five."Both families have been impressed with the support they have received from armed forces personnel."During the first month we did not hear anything," Kerrie says."We kept wondering where he was and what was he doing."But since then we've had a phone call from Corde and several letters both ways."Brigadier Mark Evans called and just chatted away. "He said it was a courtesy call and he had never rung Alice Springs before."Sharon says Matthew has called twice."We also receive a newspaper entitled 'Dili Daily' which provides information to families about what is happening in East Timor."Both families have numbers to call in case they need anything.Both families expect their sons to return to Australia early in the new year.

CAN'T GET STAFF: BUSINESS PEOPLE LEAVE TOWN. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.

Local business people John and Sally-Anne Herlaar are selling up their successful Desert Dwellers company and preparing to leave town, but if they had been able to find reliable staff, they might have stayed."We need a break," Sally-Anne says."We want to spend time with our family."John lost his father and my mother has been ill. Our children are growing up and they don't know their family members who live in Queensland."When John and Sally-Anne arrived in Alice Springs 13 years ago, they didn't expect to stay, let alone start a business.In the end they started several, as Desert Dwellers incorporates Red Centre Swags and Outback Kanopy and Shade.The couple also own and operate Alice Springs Upholstery which they are selling separately.As newcomers,John and Sally-Anne found work repairing furniture and car interiors, and replacing garden shadecloth."Our business grew out of servicing the needs of the town," Sally-Anne says. "When you are a small business you have to be everything."We have spent a lot of time in product research to try to find out what works well in the Northern Territory environment as well as what is environmentally friendly."We built our name on providing quality, by doing the best job we could do."We do not compromise our standards."If you can't do a job properly, you shouldn't do it at all."John and Sally-Anne say they might not have been wanting to sell up and leave town if they had been able to find reliable staff to work with them."Staffing has been the biggest problem," John says."At one point we had 13 staff working two shifts but we just can't find staff now."When I was a young person starting out, I was just glad to have a job."But today's young people don't want to come to work. "They don't want to go to trade school."They don't want a labour intensive job."The world is easier now and young people want to look for an easier job."The couple became members of the Australian Canvas and Synthetic Products Association (ACASPA) and developed a training program with Onkarpringa, which is a TAFE-like college in Adelaide, to provide their staff with additional training and education."The trainees would go to the city and decide they were having too much fun to attend classes so that attempt to get qualified staff didn't work out either," John says."We've also tried to get staff from interstate but because of the Centre's high cost of living and relocation being so expensive, there wasn't much interest."So after years of building the business by attending expos and establishing a reputation for excellence, the Herlaars are now scaling back work commitments and hoping to leave town by early next year."We used to be open from 7am to 6pm daily but now we are only open four hours a day, four days a week," John says."We have to spend more time on site to see that the work is done."We turn away 20 to 30 jobs a week."We brought in a qualified person who used to be with us from New Zealand to help with the upholstery side."It was the only way to do it rather than cancel work. It was the honourable thing to do."The couple say that if the businesses are not sold before they leave town they will establish agents for Red Centre Swags and Outback Kanopy and Shade.They would also be willing to stay on to assist new owners in getting settled."We would be glad to share our ideas for the businesses," Sally-Anne says."Red Centre Swags is too good a name to let fail."We had a Frenchman call us from Sydney saying he had heard about our swags and wanted to take one back to France with him."We sent one to him in Sydney. "We've also had backpackers from England and the USA wanting to take swags back with them."We believe there is export potential."When we leave, we want to leave with a clear conscience. We want to leave knowing we did the job right. And we will be back."

SELF EMPLOYMENT BLACK STUDENTS' BIG GOAL. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The Irrkerlantye Learning Centre on South Terrace, formerly known as Detour, has taken a whole family approach to the problem of Aboriginal teenagers dropping out of school.This has seen enrolments triple since this beginning of the year.The centre's curriculum and activities are oriented to the aspirations of 10 Arrernte families, and while younger students are working in upper primary and secondary classes (see last week's issue), students 15 years and over can join in the centre's VET (Vocational Education and Training) classes.Art students enjoyed a triumphant opening of their exhibition at Watch This Space a fortnight ago. Within minutes many works were snapped up by enthusiastic buyers. There was standing room only in the gallery and the crowd spilled out on to the balcony and stairs.The students, as part of their Certificate 1 in Aboriginal Arts and Culture Practices, had worked on all aspects of the show from producing the art, designing and sending out invitations, to learning about pricing, sales procedures, and copyright.The exhibition included painting, weaving, etching, screen printing, sculpture and decorative arts.There was some work by established artists like Therese Ryder, who opened the show, and Kathleen Wallace, but the majority of pieces were by the students, some of whom could be fairly termed accomplished emerging artists.Other VET courses on offer are music, construction and film-making. The latter is extremely popular and has attracted new students into the program: 19 are enrolled in the current five week course."It's also important that the students are learning for a reason, that they have real things to do," says academic leader, Nicole Traves.A series of planning meetings have been held on a family by family basis, to build a vision of the future for themselves.Families want a comfortable and safe existence on their homelands. They want to have work, and are especially attracted to self-employment ventures in tourism, and art and craft.One family wants to raise chickens and produce eggs; another family wants to run a youth camp, with horse-riding as well as a cross-cultural program for kids.For all of them, school and church play an important role.The families also want an Arrernte culture and language program to be at the core of the learning centre, but as yet there is no funding for a staff position to run it.Funding for the centre is stitched together from a variety of sources and much of it is short-term. Six out 10 positions – including that of the community development officer, Peter Browne, who has a key organisational role – have no firm commitment of funding for next year. The program has never had capital funding."We need some now," says Nicole.STRUGGLE"We've shown that it's working and people have struggled enough."The office and classrooms are tiny, the art space is outdoors and impossible to keep free of dust, the kitchen is tiny, the buses and vehicles are rundown."We are forced to have adolescent boys and girls in the same room, but culturally it would be better to separate them."Funding bodies are talking now about multi-agency programs – this is one in action."But we want to work to an agreed set of outcomes and to have one reporting system. "At present we are running three or four at a time and we don't even have a secretary!"In the wake of the Bob Collins review, which cited Irrkerlantye as an example of good practice, support should be forthcoming and more communities may look to Irrkerlantye as a useful model for their own initiatives.

DARWIN RAILWAY - WHAT USE FOR ALICE SPRINGS? Comment by Editor ERWIN CHLANDA.

It's time the Darwin railway is removed from the realm of starry-eyed fervor to realistic economic assessment: The CLP pollies are telling us the new line will be good for Central Australia. OK. Exactly how?The Alice News has been able to get some information from the private railway consortium, which will build the line and own it for 50 years, and from the railway corporation, representing the three governments, when the announcement was first made, and we published all we could ascertain (see our web site archive). Now, however, mum's the word from those two sources. More distressingly, even less is forthcoming from the politicians.We published a lengthy statement from Minister for Central Australia Loraine Braham (also now on our web site). Mrs Braham was long on general praise of the project but short on detail and facts.Last week she told a television interviewer: "The Territory Government has basically put in one point six million and out of it they've got a one point three billion dollar project. This is huge. It's very significant."The good minister's figure is out quite a bit – by a factor of 100, to be precise. The NT Government isn't putting in $1.6m but $160m. But what exactly are we Central Australians getting out of it?The same interviewer, noting that local businesses are concerned about the effects of the project, was told by Mrs Braham: "I think what we need to do is keep this all in balance and wait until we hear from the consortium just which way they're going to manage this project."What? Mrs Braham consented to her Government committing $160m of taxpayers' money without knowing what impact the project would have on the region she represents? It sure seems that way.
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Now that we've witnessed, night after night on our television screens, the exposure of the disgusting and greedy practices by radio talk show "hosts" John Laws and Alan Jones, and their bastardisation of journalism, the Alice News feels compelled to spell out the principles we operate under.The word "editorial" is sacred to us. It means the work produced under strict adherence to the journalistic code of ethics. The code commands that journalists "shall not allow personal interests to influence them in their professional duties."They shall not allow their professional duties to be influenced by any consideration, gift or advantage offered and, where appropriate, shall disclose any such offer. They shall not allow advertising or commercial considerations to influence them in their professional duties."We don't give undeclared freebies to advertisers, we don't offer "editorial support", we don't do undeclared "advertorials".Our journalists don't deal with advertising and our sales people don't write stories. The exception is my position as managing editor, which I endeavour to exercise with ethical rigour. The Alice News does not bestow editorial favours in exchange for advertising. We tell our advertising clients that we are doing our utmost to produce a credible news medium, and as such, the Alice News becomes a serious and credible platform to promote goods and services.It's worked for us and it's worked for our clients: in nearly six years of publication, our earnings have grown by double digits year after year. Advertising works better in a paper that readers trust. We're on a good thing and we're sticking to it.

GETTING OUT OF PRISON - BUT WHAT FOR?

It's a model community: its residents are well fed, healthy, sober, and occupied. They're amongst friends and have training and education opportunities unheard of elsewhere.This community is the Alice Springs prison. When its inmates are released, what can they look forward to? KIERAN FINNANE previews an exhibition of prisoner art.
Ending Offending, opening this weekend at Araluen, is the outcome of a NT Correctional Services education and training project with the worthy goal of reducing recidivism.Young Aboriginal males are by far in the majority among reoffenders.The project recognises that lack of employment is one of the major factors in their reoffending along with limited education and the harmful use of alcohol and other drugs.It tackles these issues by offering prisoners a range of programs.These include education and training in areas responding to their interests: art and craft, and music, as well as communication skills, office skills, metal work, engineering, construction, horticulture, hospitality, automotive, and general education.The project also offers therapeutic alcohol programs, and encourages a process of restitution and reparation to the community.All of this is done for less money than it costs to keep one person in gaol for a year.Who could argue with that?However, the project literature leaves some important questions hanging in the air.Why do so many young Aboriginal men from bush communities have to go to gaol before their need for education and training is addressed?And when they leave, with a couple of completed modules under their belt, what real further training and employment prospects are there for them on their home communities?Indeed, have they ever been and will they ever be as well off as they are in prison?Alan Murray, Senior Education Officer at the Alice Springs Gaol, described the literacy and numeracy levels of new inmates, the majority of them from the bush, as "quite low, in accordance with the Collins Review".This review described the state of Indigenous education as "deteriorating ... from an already unacceptably low base".It reported "a repeatedly stated observation from Indigenous elders that their children and grandchildren have lesser literacy and numeracy skills than they do".While the review was focussed primarily on educational outcomes for Indigenous children, it did look at some issues in adult education, acknowledging "that educational levels across the whole community need to be addressed if communities are going to be able to grow and develop".Of particular concern in bush communities, the review heard, was the way VET (vocational education and training) was being delivered.It described situations where several registered training providers would be "in the same community soliciting enrolments from the same student base for the same courses". "The point was made to us again and again that this was not only confusing for the community but inherently inefficient. It raised expectations for employment opportunities that were simply not there, damaged the confidence of adults who wanted to succeed, and lost students to VET," reported the review.By contrast in prison, inmates' choices are simple and access to well-resourced delivery is straightforward.Says Mr Murray: "They turn up every day, they have no concerns regarding family and food, no other distractions. They have access to materials, study areas, they can focus."But what of their prospects when they leave gaol?If they want to continue their education and training, Mr Murray writes a letter referring them to the appropriate institution, such as Batchelor Institute or, if they live in Alice, Centralian College.Delivery is in modules of nationally accredited courses so in theory it is possible for the inmates to pick up on the outside where they left off.The project literature says participants will be tracked "to provide a longitudinal perspective on the impact of this program". A database has been established but results will not be available for another 12 months, when the participants have started to leave prison in significant numbers. The project has identified the art and music industries, in particular, as areas of employment opportunity for Aboriginal people.Says the literature: "The Aboriginal presence in [these] industries far exceeds the Aboriginal proportion of Australia's population. "In 1998, 68 per cent of Australian art sold overseas was of Aboriginal origin. "Despite being only one per cent of Australia's population, 23 per cent of contemporary music sales in the same period were of Aboriginal origin."These figures on the face of it look very encouraging, but at least in the art field, there is a gender issue that needs to be looked at.While the oldest and biggest names in Aboriginal art are those of men, the industry is increasingly dominated by women.Art Lecturer at the gaol and long time worker in the Aboriginal art industry, Neville Field, says he is acutely aware of the lack of support on the outside for many of the male artists he sees developing in the gaol.He says many of the art centres, with the notable exceptions of those serviced by Papunya Tula as well as those at Yuendumu and Papunya, have grown out of women's centres. "Men's centres have been largely overlooked, and men have become marginalised in the art industry," says Mr Field.He says part of his style is to talk to his students about life issues."I ask them how they are going to keep out of trouble when they are released."They say they want to stop drinking and continue with their art. But I ask them ‘what is the reality of that?'"I know of one former inmate who has managed to form a relationship with a gallery which supplies him with materials and buys paintings. He had to do that on his own."Most of them will be on their own and they'll have to be very strong."Ending Offending: Our Message opens at 2pm this Saturday; shows until December 19.

BANDS ARE AN EVIL NECESSITY. By GRAEME PETER.

With a population of only 13,000 this place goes off! I've always thought Alice knows how to party, but believe me Broome makes us seem like we're only one stubby away from the retirement home. Everywhere the emphasis is on live music, and tourists and locals love it. If the people of Broome are not fishing or surfing, you'll find them partying, unlike our guitarist Matt, who's always fishing, except not for fish (you know what I mean).Anyway, it seems that the major problem for venue owners is finding enough suitable live bands. We (that is Klunk) arrived at the beginning of November to play at the Roebuck Bay Hotel. It's a little like the Todd Tavern but with lots happening, in fact there is live entertainment seven nights a week. The man in charge of entertainment is one Basil Videlli, an accomplished pianist who apart from playing with a number of bands in the ‘sixties is probably more known for his work with Johnny Young and the Strangers. He originally came to Broome in 1983 and has been the entertainment manager at the "Roey" ever since.It seems to me there are a lot of pubs and clubs around Australia who employ a manager to do everything: hiring and firing, rosters, ordering stock, advertising and promotion, coordinate security, cleaning, you name it. Then on top of that they are expected to do a great job of organising entertainment. A big ask and usually doomed to failure. Unfortunately, the reality usually is that if it doesn't work the first ones blamed (and sacked) are the band.I managed to squeeze an hour out of a very busy Basil to see what he thought.
Me: I've always thought that venues that have a dedicated entertainment manager seem to do better than those that don't. Basil: Yes, they do. Having an insight as a musician and knowing how the property is required to run creates a more balanced arrangement between the needs of the venue and those of the bands.
Me: How business orientated are most bands?
Basil: Not very, they usually have very little idea on how a venue needs to be run financially. For example, if a band costs me $500, I need to generate at least $1500 in revenue just to pay for them. Successful negotiations usually follow the artists that understand this.
Me: Why do you think management are often not liked by artists?
Basil: Often because the owner/managers have no respect for the artists and treat entertainment as an evil necessity. They are often resentful that, to them, the artist is overpaid without having any idea of what is required to put a band on stage. They don't realise it can take 10 to 15 years of apprenticeship with little or no pay as well as the financial expense involved to achieve a reasonable standard of performance. They hear the band perform for three hours and think that's where it starts and finishes.
Me: How do you find the general standard of bands?
Basil: Good, but unfortunately some get confused, not having a day job and playing music does not always mean you're a professional!
Me: Let's face it Basil, there are some bands out there who are not very good. How do you feel with all of your experience booking these?
Basil: It's a bit like being a qualified chef and having to cook battered fish and hating it.
You have to acknowledge that's what some people wish to eat.
Me: Broome like Alice Springs is a long way from anywhere with a mixture of tourists and locals, how do you choose your entertainment?
Basil: I regularly travel to Perth, Cairns and Darwin.
I don't rely on agents after being burned a couple of times, and the reality is, whilst I have my own tastes, the most successful music here is popular rock classics [oh no, Mustang Sally again!].
Me: Do you only book live bands?
Basil: Yes, I respect those that learn to play an instrument, not those who sing along to a CD.
Me: Alice has a pretty definite tourist season and this can influence the entertainment scene, what's it like here?
Basil: Broome's season used to be mainly from Easter to November, but now it's just about all year.
Me: Career highlights?
Basil: Obviously there were a few with Johnny Young, but I would have to say playing the support to BB King in my son's band at the Perth Entertainment Centre last year.
Me: Why Broome?
Basil: The weather, the mudcrabs and the women (not necessarily in that order).Me: As Broome was built on the back of the pearling industry, are there plans for the big Pearl Shell [a la the Big Bull] that you know of?
Basil: No!

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