COUNCIL MONEY MYSTERY. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
The Alice Town Council is trying to find out how a projected budget surplus of about $200,000 has turned into a deficit of about $350,000. A sub committee formed to look into the discrepancy will also consider whether plans for a new $12m new civic centre should be scrapped. Council finance committee chairman Tony Alicastro says it is the first time that a projected surplus has tuned into a deficit, but budget estimates have been "incorrect" in the past. Ald Alicastro, who sits on the subcommittee together with Aldermen David Koch and Geoff Harris, as well as CEO Nick Scarvelis, says: "WeÂre trying to find out what happened, when, how we can fix the problem and prevent it from happening again." Ald Alicastro says this year the problem has been exacerbated by a new computer system. However, the councilÂs system of formulating the budget "needs improvement". Meanwhile Ald Alicastro says there is now little chance for the proposed $12m civic centre to go ahead although some $100,000 has already been spent on planning and consultancies. REFURBISHING He says this is the third time in seven years that the matter is up for review, and he is "confident" that a cheaper option - refurbishing the existing council complex - will be adopted. Ald Alicastro says this has been his preferred option from the beginning. It is not yet clear whether an expected $6m grant for the project from the NT Government will come to fruition.
KNOWLEDGE TREE IS TAKING ROOTS. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The "Tree of Desert Knowledge" is slowly taking root. Local distribution of a single page prospectus outlining the concept and possibilities of developing a desert knowledge economy in Central Australia has to date received 40 responses. Meanwhile, copies of a more detailed, four page prospectus have been sent to every Federal member of parliament, and another 300 have been distributed through the Chamber of Commerce network. A mailing list focussing on the Australian corporate sector is being developed. Phone calls and emails have been received in response to media coverage, one from as far afield as Dublin. But it is early days yet to judge the level of support for the concept, says one of its key proponents, Bruce Walker, Director of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT). He took the opportunity, while in Canberra last week for the signing of an agreement between CAT and mining giant Rio Tinto, to deliver a prospectus to Senator Nick MitchumÂs Science Advisor and to the Chief Scientist: "The type of response weÂre asking for is different from what people are used to," says Dr Walker. "Normally if you get a prospectus, you respond if you think youÂve got money to put into shares. "But we are simply trying to gauge community interest in this as a proposal before we put a lot of effort into it. "It's important for people to respond even if they just think it sounds like a good idea or it gives them a sense of a positive future in the desert." The Desert Knowledge Consortium, formed by a group of 40 Central Australians representing local businesses, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, research organisations, Aboriginal organisations, the Alice Town Council and the Territory Government, will assess the responses in the new year. A newsletter will inform all those with a registered interest where the proposal will go from there. Meanwhile, the sort of thinking behind the desert knowledge concept seems to be in the air. Wollongong, Australia's largest industrial city, south of Sydney, recently launched itself as a "City of Innovation", drawing on achievements of the past, such as Sir Laurence Hargraves's first heavier-than-air flying machine, and on the latest innovations by the University of Wollongong, including an electronic nose. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie in March launched his state as the biotechnology hub of Australia. Comments Dr Walker: "A number of the state governments, and the Territory Government with its Foundations for the Future, are trying to frame key themes, so that people know where they fit in the scheme of things, and what they are striving for, in order to improve the lot of everybody. "The message I've been getting from talking to people informally is that a desert knowledge economy has a logic to it, it's taking what we've already got, that others will have great difficulty taking away from us, making it better, adding value to it, rather than throwing everything out and starting from scratch. "At a time when people may be thinking the Top End and South Australia are getting a railway that's perhaps useful , and asking what we are doing, this is a way of focussing that discussion and it has identified a very real market - the billion people of the world's arid zones."
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: TOURIST ROBBED.
Sir,- Can you help us? On November 24 we arrived in Alice Springs at about 5.20pm. We got into a taxi at the airport leaving our video camera on a seat outside. When we returned a few minutes later we were told by a gentleman that he had found our camera and was going to hand it into security when a taxi driver from the Alice Springs Taxi Company said he knew which taxi we had gone in and would return it to us. Of course it was never returned. With the camera were about five recorded films of three weeks of our holiday including our visit to Singapore, Sydney and our tour up to Cairns. My parents are in their seventies and are unlikely to make this trip again and are very distressed that we have no record of our trip. My father had also collected some 20 collector's hat pins from the places we had visited and these were also in the camera case together with a new pair of bifocal spectacles and a pair of binoculars. The films cannot be recorded over again and are of no use to anybody and we would be grateful if you could help us to get them returned to us. The Alice Springs police were given a description of the driver who took our camera and we were told that CIB were investigating the theft, but despite us phoning them several times while we were in still in Australia and faxing them since we arrived home in Great Britain we have had no response from them and do not even know if anything has been done to find our camera and the driver who stole it.
Jersey, Channel Islands,
[ED - The Alice Springs police did not provide a comment.]
Sir,- Your entertainment columnist has provided a first-hand account of life inside and outside the Exeloo, the high-tech public toilet which has been the subject of some colourful debates in the Council of late. You're right, Graeme, those New Zealanders (designers and manufacturers of the Exeloo at a cool $75,000 per unit plus on-costs) are bringing everything with them. But the Exeloo won't be coming to the Alice. The Council has closed the lid on that possibility. Your public representatives within the Chamber (the one on Todd Street) have decided to sit on it indefinitely. The Exeloo won't be entering the Central Australian public domain for the foreseeable future. To my mind, it's too expensive, it's an imported product, it uses too much water, power and chemicals, it's a sitting duck for vandals, and it won't last much beyond the first flush sitting out on a slab at the Araluen Park. What's more, the manufacturers point out that the baby change table option is the most susceptible to vandalism, and so Council has been advised not to include it in the unit we may purchase. Given that mothers and children are likely to be a fair proportion of the users, how could we justify such a drain on the public purse when we can't even offer standard services? No, I am prepared to hold on much longer for a more equitable and cheaper way to effect relief in public places. The Council will eventually spend a penny - but the ratepayers won't have to bear such a huge burden. And I hope the profits stay in Australia, maybe even in Alice Springs.
RAILWAY BOOM IN QUESTION. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Alice Springs business people believe the town's service and entertainment industries will profit from the railway construction but expect the major contracts will go interstate. Members attending last week's Chamber of Commerce Christmas luncheon were resolved to make from the project what they could, but were not clear where exactly the opportunities would be. There was apprehension that Territory bidders would face stiff opposition from the larger firms in South Australia, hungry for work because of their state's prolonged slump. One luncheon guest feared that the Territory, with a massive $160m contribution, may be supporting its southern neighbour's biggest taxpayer-funded "make work" program since the Collins Class submarines. The Alice News spoke to several chamber members:- DAVID CLOKE * (accountancy): I am not expecting to get as much as I had hoped when the project was first announced. There's no doubt there will be some indirect spin-offs. The service industries may well benefit. I see not as much scope as I expected for major construction industries in town [now] that the centres [of railway construction] have been moved to Katherine and Tennant Creek. SONJA KERR (Lasseter's Casino, Bizcom): The project will be extremely beneficial to the entertainment side of the hotel industry. All the workers from Tennant Creek down will be coming here for leisure. As a representative of Bizcom, I'm hoping that we can tap in [to the supply of] things like office machinery, computers, networking. TERRY LILLIS (Centrebet, real estate developing): I don't expect my business to increase as such but as a resident of the town I expect that there will be some additional benefits in terms of people coming to live here, and a flow-on of financial benefits. I do believe there will be a long-term financial return for the town. JEFF FARMER (communications, electronics): We don't appear to be in a position to get anything directly out of it. But when the gas pipeline went through there was a need for quite a bit of communications equipment, and we've maintained quite a bit in the past, which came out of the blue. It depends who gets the contract. If someone like MacMahons get it, they may approach us because we've worked for them in the past. We're local. But it's only maintenance. They'll have equipment of their own. Whoever gets the contract will bring up their own radio communications equipment. NEIL ROSS (engineering): There'll be opportunities for us, for sure, but it's really hard to tell until the contracts come out. I'd be disappointed if we didn't get anything. The area where they're really going to be short is manpower. There are not many big contracts we're going to get. The sad fact is that bridges, for instance, are going to lend themselves to specialist big fabricators. The best we can hope for is some of the side work, support works on the earth moving equipment. The big contracts are going to go to the big players. I can't see how it can be any different, to be honest. COLIN GIFFORD (building supplies): Prior to the [Chief Minister's briefing last week] there was a lot negativity about what we were going to get out of it, and much of that came from the transport industry, particularly on the long haul side of things. Following the meeting there has been a lot more positive attitude. I don't think it's going to be a boom for the industry I'm in, but I do think as people are employed on the railway there will be more income generated into the households. As a result of that they will be more inclined to upgrade their homes, their garages, garden sheds, and the patios and pergolas. That's probably going to be the major spin-off for us. *) Mr Cloke is the chairman of the Alice Town Council's Economic Development Advisory Committee. He's one of the co-founders of the Central Australian Regional Development Committee which he says will comprise probably most of the existing members of the present committee plus more business people and some representation from regional areas such as Ti Tree and Yulara. "We will have much better contact with government. "We intend to use the committee as a lobbying group to get people's views in business across to government," says Mr Cloke. "We'll hopefully get a lot of cooperation from government people, more so than we've had to date."
IT'LL TAKE A LOT OF TRAINS TO BEAT OUR TRUCKS! BY DOROTHY GRIMM.
The National Drive for Safety was observed in the Northern Territory on Saturday when MHR Warren Snowdon boarded a prime mover outside his office in Alice Springs and headed for the Tropic of Capricorn Monument up the Stuart Highway. With driver Joe White behind the wheel and Alice Springs News journalist Dorothy Grimm "bouncing" on the soft spring mattress in the truck's bunk, the journey was a hour-long look into life inside a road train, in this instance one operated by NT Fuels. The National Drive for Safety is an Australia-wide event just before Christmas, designed to promote road safety and the role of the trucking industry . It also aims to bring Members of Parliament into contact with people in the industry, from drivers to managers. The prime mover selected for Mr Snowdon's journey was a Mack Titan 600 hp three-trailer combination - the latest in Territory road transport. Joe, 26 years of age and based in Darwin, explained that the prime mover has 18 gears arranged in H-patterns of four plus two reverses. He said the prime mover would have cost more than a million dollars and is turned over every couple of years in order to ensure everything is fully operational. Joe also pointed out the various pieces of communication equipment including a normal phone, a satellite phone, a VHF transmitter and a CB system which, he said, isn't used that often any more. The truck is airconditioned and equipped with a small refrigerator, bunk and CD player, and its dash board looks like a sophisticated computer terminal. It has a diagnostic code so that if something goes wrong, Joe does not have to guess, the truck "tells" him and comes fully stocked with instruction manuals which explain what to do about it. INDUSTRY Although he has only been with NT Fuels for "a couple of months", Joe has been in the trucking industry for more than eight years, first as an apprentice mechanic with Mack trucks, then as a combination mechanic and driver. He has driven in many parts of Australia, on sealed roads and on dirt. "To be ╬a truckie' today one needs to be multi-skilled,' Joe said. "Everything is computerised. "People often say to me ╬you're just a truckie,' but little do they know all the skills required to operate one of these prime movers." The journey was so smooth and enjoyable, that when Joe commented that perhaps we had missed the turnaround at the Tropic of Capricorn Marker, Mr Snowdon said, "That's okay, let's keep going.' Joe finds that motorists in the Territory are very respectful of road trains and that the NT Police are "the best in Australia". Mr Snowdon asked Joe how he thought the Alice Springs to Darwin railway would affect his work. Joe thought the demand for fuel in Central Australia was such that the railway would have little impact on his work load. "The train would not have much effect because of the scheduling," Joe said. "You would need a lot of trains to beat the road trains." NT Fuels make almost daily trips from Darwin to Alice Springs, and the train would not be able to service the outlying areas where much of the trucking and road train work takes place. Later, over lunch at the Truck Stop where Mr Snowdon met others from the industry, it was suggested that if the train led to the growth of Tennant Creek and Katherine, the road train business might actually increase as there would be more people requiring more goods to be freighted.
'IF YOU CAN'T READ, OTHERS WILL RUN YOUR LIFE FOR YOU.' KIERAN FINNANE reports.
"Aboriginal people make up 25 per cent of the Territory's population but they own half of the land, 80 per cent of the coastline, and all of the off-shore islands. "Every few weeks they are involved in signing multi-million dollar agreements, but most of them haven't got the slightest idea of what's going on, they need someone else to explain it to them. "That's a reason for having a good education." With characteristic passion and bluntness, Bob Collins, former Labor Senator, Cabinet Minister, and author of the recent independent review of Indigenous education in the NT, spoke to a well-attended Indigenous Education Forum at Yipirinya School last week. He told the gathering that jobs, while obviously important, were not the only reason to get an education. "I grew up on the land and left school at 15. I've got no qualifications but eventually I served as a Cabinet Minister for the Federal Government. "The only reason I got to where I did, was that I read everything I could lay my hands on, and I could speak English. "When I needed to I could speak English angrily, so that when I needed to give someone a hard time, I could. "Most Aboriginal kids can't do that. Today, if you don't have at least Year Seven literacy you have no hope of ever being able to run your own life. "Someone else will run it for you." Aboriginal children make up 39 per cent of the Territory's school-age population. Western Australia follows with just five per cent. Said Mr Collins: "With nearly 40 per cent of kids in schools being Indigenous, when we are talking about mainstream education in the Territory, we had better be talking about Indigenous education. "If we're not, it's about bloody time we did! Because when we are talking about the results of 40 per cent of kids being so far behind the rest, we are talking about a big social problem as well as an educational one. "Everybody can do more to make the situation better. That includes Aboriginal parents, but it's not fair or reasonable to say that they are the only ones." In response to questions from the floor, Mr Collins said that Aboriginal organisations could do a lot more, in partnership with the rest of the community. He expressed disappointment in the response he has had from the land councils in relation to the proposed new Indigenous Education Council of the NT. The review suggests that this body be formed as a partnership between the Department of Education, the Territory tertiary sector, ATSIC and the land councils. Mr Collins told the forum: "In my own 33 years of working in the Territory, particularly in the Top End, I have observed that the most important organisations in Aboriginal communities are the land councils. It's about time they came to the table on education matters." However, the responses to date from the land councils have been "very negative". The Territory Government's formal response to the review's 151 recommendations is expected by next March. Mr Collins said it is too early to make any judgement about how strongly the Government will respond. "A lot of the recommendations have a lot of money attached to them - and a lot don't. "But an important one on teacher housing, for example, will be very expensive. "That's about trying to slow down the number of teachers coming through bush schools, and it has to be done properly." Mr Collins cited the example of Maningrida, his home community, which has the biggest Aboriginal school in the Territory. He said this year there have been 42 different non-Aboriginal relief teachers through the school. Most of them had never taught in an Aboriginal community before, and had little to no understanding of Aboriginal culture and language. "There was not much education happening in those classrooms," said Mr Collins. "In fact, it would be fair to say, the teachers learnt more than they taught." He said attendance collapsed half way through the year. "The situation is terrible and getting worse. It's got to be turned around." He said people who think that everything has been tried and nothing works, should leave. "We have to put a sense of hope back into Indigenous education. "It has to become core business for everybody."
COURSE LEADS TO JOBS.
Students enrolled in work skills courses at IAD are putting some "runs on the board". Out of 27, five have obtained work, one in the motor trade, and four at the Kings Canyon Resort. Jermaine Woods started his four year apprenticeship at Scorpion Auto Electrics mid year. His employer, Jim Harris, reports that he is "very impressed with the boy". "He's related to another member of staff, so they keep an eye on each other," says Mr Harris. "He's obedient, attentive, he asks sensible questions and he's learning quickly." At Kings Canyon, Jamie and Nathan Walker, and Lewis and Chris Clyne have found casual landscaping work close to their home community, Ulpinyali, just three kilometres away. Says Resort General Manager Michael Murtagh: "They have been very good at their jobs, and their attendance and punctuality haven't been too bad. "We're using the experience to build a rapport with them and them with us, and to develop their work habits. "When the opportunities arise we will offer them full time work," says Mr Murtagh. Meanwhile, the Central Land Council is assisting the young men to find further courses that would allow them to be more fully integrated into the resort workforce, for example, in housekeeping, and food and beverage service. While not the first Aboriginal employees at the resort, they are the first from local communities, to Mr Murtagh's knowledge. Five others of the original group at IAD left the course to undertake different studies, while six have stayed with the course. They are now joined by fresh enrollees to make a group of 15 and teacher Peter Lowson says "something has clicked": attendance has lifted from around 30 per cent to 95 per cent. The current students are Warlpiri residents of Alice Springs. They have all missed a lot of school, some can scarcely read or write, but they are keen to move as quickly as possible to productive work that will earn them an income. As a community project, and part of their course work, they chose to clean and repair the three bedroom house that seven of them live in - together with three adults and three younger children! It's been spick and span ever since," reports Mr Lowson. The boys are now talking about forming a "fix it" enterprise, while the girls, some of whom have demonstrated budding skills as painters, want to set up a young women's art centre on land adjacent to the IAD campus.
RESORT AT AYERS ROCK ADAPTS TO THE DESERT. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
Ayers Rock Resort is hardly skimping on creature comforts, yet its electricity consumption, per head of population, is 25 per cent lower than in Alice Springs. And while in The Alice, 2.5 billion litres of water are wasted through the town's outdated evaporative effluent system each year, every single one of the resort's 300,000 litres of waste water is being recycled. The bulk of it is used to irrigate trees, shrubs and lawns for the enjoyment of locals and visitors. PAWA's Col Krohn urges caution when comparing power consumption in the two population centres: Alice has more industrial activity. The resort accommodates two thirds of its population in hotels, camping grounds and caravan parks and achieves economies of scale through centralised cooking, air conditioning and laundry services. "It is a fact that water pumping in Alice Springs consumes a significant amount of electricity," says Mr Krohn. This raises the question how much The Alice would save in electricity if it stopped wasting its effluent. But on most counts the resort, built by the NT Government in the ╬eighties, is much more cleverly equipped to cope with a desert environment. In summer, about 70 per cent of the hot water need in the main hotels is met by 2000 roof mounted solar panels, supplemented by gas fired boilers. From there, via temperature exchange mechanisms feeding into a secondary reticulation system, cooling as well as heating are piped throughout the resort. This process is governed by a computer, processing data every 60 seconds from sensors throughout the complex. The resort will not disclose how much it is paying the NT Government for its power. Resort technical services manager Barry Lindsay says this is "confidential information". The resort's smart systems for energy management are complemented by a range of measures to minimise energy needs. The five-star Sails in the Desert hotel deserves its name not only because of the unique appearance of its roof and shade structures, but also because they keep out much of the region's savage summer heat and winter cold, while letting light in. They cover the hotel's large lobby, restaurant and bar areas. The sails don't come cheap: an 11 square metre section costs $7000. The sail over the Amphitheatre alone is worth $78,000. With an expected life span of 20 years, and a guarantee for 13, the Swiss-made translucent PVC coated polyester fabric will need to be replaced soon. Other resort roofs look conventional but in fact feature a double metal skin: the outer layer reflects the heat. Air can move between the outer and inner roof and escape through an aperture at the top, where a semi-cylindrical structure keeps out the rain. The hotter the air gets in the roof cavity, the faster it flows out the top, dragging in cool air from beneath the eaves. The result is a reduction of temperature in the roof cavity, cooler rooms and less need for artificial cooling. Other energy saving design features are verandahs, facing large windows away from the sun, and window tinting. Surprisingly, the resort has no facilities for catching and using rainwater, although current exploration of ground water reserves, while promising, is still not conclusive. Mr Lindsay says there's not enough rainfall to warrant rainwater tanks: "The rainfall in the region is not enough to provide water with sustained quality over the period of a year." However, everything else to do with getting, using and reusing water is state-of-the art. The water pumped from the nearby Dune Plains Aquifer has a high salt level (up to 2100 ppm). Water for use in the resort is treated in an American made electrodialysis plant, one of only two large EDR plants in the southern hemisphere. It can produce up to 35,000 litres of drinking water an hour. The resort's pleasant parks and gardens, lush lawns and towering trees come courtesy of the waste water treatment plant: because waste water is recycled, an appealing urban landscape can be created without penalty to the environment. Sewerage is pumped to the treatment plant one kilometre west of the resort. There the sewerage progresses through a grit chamber, an aerated holding tank, two activated sludge tanks, clarifier tanks and sludge drying bays, and finally, holding lagoons for chlorinated reclaimed water. The plant can handle up to 2500 cubic metres a day, the quantity generated by 8000 people, but the plant operates equally efficiently at lower loads. Ultimately, it will supply 900,000 litres a year. Meanwhile in Alice Springs, says Mr Krohn, PAWA is "in the final stages of completing a major study into water use and reuse, which includes consideration of options to maximise use of treated waste water".
FRONTIER GONE: CENTRE NEEDS A FRESH IMAGE! KIERAN FINNANE reports.
The worst a traveller can expect in a visit to the Northern Territory are the bushflies of the Centre, according to Lonely Planet's recently released updated travel guide to the region. For local residents, it is interesting to look at how the guide's authors, David Andrew (a former research assistant at Kakadu National Park) and Hugh Findlay, see the Centre and represent it to their many readers, who in turn use it to shape their experience when they come here. It is also interesting to see how the Centre compares to the rest of the Territory, in the guide's view. Other Territory frustrations the guide mentions include not being able to swim in the Top End, the long distances between stops - which can't be helped but, says the guide, is made worse by the "execrable" food at roadhouses - and the expense of commodities and accommodation. On the last point the guide says: "To pay through the nose for ordinary and dilapidated ╬budget' accommodation - as you do at big attractions such as Uluru and Cooinda - smacks of exploitation." The guide also has a go at the NT Government's five per cent "bed tax" - "as if the cost of a motel room isn't high enough already!" The best in a Territory visit is, not surprisingly, "the wealth of natural attractions which rival anything else in Australia". Uluru, as an Australian icon, heads Lonely Planet's list, followed by Kakadu, Litchfield National Park, Katherine Gorge and Kings Canyon. Rainbow Valley to the south of Alice Springs gets a mention as a less visited national park. The Western MacDonnell National Park, however, doesn't rate in this introductory list (although, like the others, it gets its own section later in the guide). The Territory is where visitors will find Aboriginal culture at "its most accessible", says the guide, emphasising Aboriginal owned and run tours. The relics of early European settlement "leave a strong impression", among them the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. Next on the best list is the wildlife, again some of the "most accessible" in Australia. Alice Springs gets 22 pages devoted to its history and attractions, compared to 27 for Darwin. There are also separate sections on the surrounding areas: north - including the stops along the Stuart Highway, the Tanami track, Plenty Highway and Sandover Highway - gets 12 pages; the MacDonnell and James Ranges get 23 pages; the south-east - including Ewanginga, Chamber's Pillar and the stops along the Stuart Highway - gets four pages. Alice is introduced as Australia's biggest and most isolated outback town. But, says the guide, "outwardly it has little of the frontier atmosphere which many people expect to find". "With the tourist boom of the last decade, most of the old buildings have made way for shopping plazas, hotels and offices, and the new sprawling suburbs are as unappealing as those in any Australian city." The plus side is that the outback is only "a stone's throw away", with many of the country's "most spectacular natural wonders". The town is also credited with a "unique atmosphere", although it is not immediately clear what sort of atmosphere this is. The guide does recommend staying "a few days" in Alice to seek out the reminders of the Centre's pioneering past, such as the Royal Flying Doctor Base. There follow the expected listings without much qualitative assessment. Panorama Guth is a notable exception: according to the guide, it's "an exercise in high kitsch, really, although it has a saccharine charm". The Aviation Museum is described as "interesting"; the Museum of Central Australia as having "a fascinating collection"; while the main interest to visitors of the Araluen Centre is seen to be the Albert Namatjira Collection. The Desert Park is described as "superb", its nocturnal house as "brilliant". Special Events are listed chronologically, from Heritage Week in April, to the Corkwood Festival in November. It is noteworthy that in the arts category only the Alice Craft Acquisition rates a mention; nothing on the Alice Prize, let alone the Desert Mob show; and given this, needless to say there was no mention of Watch This Space. Indeed, non-Indigenous fine art does not get a look in. Aboriginal art is given an appropriate prominence, but it is a little surprising to find under the heading "White Australian Art" in an introductory chapter on the NT, a discussion of the Heidelberg School, and national artists from Sidney Nolan to Brett Whiteley! Discussions of literature and music are similarly limited, lacking up to date information as well as a sufficiently specific Territory focus. If one assumes that the guide authors work harder to inform themselves than most travellers, then it would appear that particularly in the cultural area there is some "reach out" work to do. The guide book also leaves the impression that as a town Alice operates in deficit of its "pioneer" image: people come looking for it and don't find much left. If it has not been important enough for us to hang on to, then there is surely room to put forward something else: what are our lives about here and how are we going to project that, for ourselves and for our visitors?
'ALL DONE' SAYS AUSTRALIA'S FRST FEMALY AUCTIONEER. By DOROTHY GRIMM.
Australia's first female auctioneer Mary Meldrum was "strutting her stuff' at the Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame Christmas party last week. Mary conducted a fundraiser for the organisation by auctioning off wrapped gifts, telling people "if you don't like what you got, we can always auction it off again". "You've got to get the people with you," Mary said. "I enjoy people. They have so much to give." Mary began her career as a Tupperware investment dealer in Mount Gambier, South Australia, where she lived from 1958-1991, before moving to Alice Springs. In 1970 she opened a second hand store and got her auctioneer's licence in 1973. "When the local newspaper wrote the occasion up, they described me as Australia's first female auctioneer." Mary explained that her auctioneer's licence is different from many others as it is hers. "For example if a real estate company holds an auctioneer's licence and the person who has been conducting the auctions leaves, the licence stays with the company, it does not go with the person. "Since I owned my own business and worked for me, I held my own licence. "I've been asked by many people how men have felt about having a woman auctioneer since auctioneering was considered a man's field. "I've never had any problem at all with men. "In fact, my brother thought it was a great idea that I could laugh and talk and get paid for it!" Mary said she divided her store into several areas, a second hand store, a food place, a cake decorating and flower shop and an auction room where her weekly auctions were conducted. She also conducted auctions of household goods and farms but her speciality became charity work. "One year I auctioned off yabbies for a yabby race to raise money for the Riding for the Disabled. It was a blast!" Mary has also been a justice of the peace for 25 years. Mary said the pinnacle of her career was when she was asked to auction off paintings as part of the festivities associated with naming the theatre at Mount Gambier after the internationally known Australian ballet dancer, Sir Robert Helpmann, who was born in Mount Gambier. Mary and her husband came to Alice in 1991 for its "good weather". "We had three auctions of stuff before we left and we still brought a truck load with us. "Some one asked me what I was going to do with all that stuff in Alice Springs and I said, ╬Well, I have to have a bed to sleep on'." Since coming to Alice Springs, Mary has worked in a number of places and still enjoys conducting an auction for a worthwhile cause. "Of all the things I've done in my life, I've enjoyed being an auctioneer most," Mary said. "Life's like a mountain, you may not get to the top, but that is better than not starting at all. "I've always enjoyed second hand stuff, but not second hand fellows. "My husband and children have always been supportive."
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