ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
July 5, 2000

COUNCIL SEEKS NEW DEAL FROM SPORTS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," says John Boyle, President of the Alice Springs Basketball Association.The association is concerned about a move by the Alice Springs Town Council to put all council-owned sports facilities on what it says is an equal footing.Roger Bottrall, director of the council's Planning and Infrastructure Services, says that at present there is "a mix and match of agreements and non-agreements" between council and the town's sporting bodies. Council is proposing formalised and standardised agreements which Mr Bottrall says will introduce equity into the system and make everyone's position more secure.He also says that where more than one sport uses a facility, the agreements will sort out who has responsibility for what, making disputes less likely. Feedback from the various sports on council's initial proposals has been taken into account, says Mr Bottrall, and council will now enter into negotiation with each and every sporting body to reach mutually satisfactory agreements.Negotiations with the Central Australian Football League (CAFL) and the Alice Springs Cricket Association (ASCA), "as the two biggest sports", are the closest to conclusion.Other sports, such as netball and basketball, are still waiting to see the detail of council's latest proposals, and this is perhaps making them feel more concerned than they need to be.Bruce Walker, President of the ASCA, says the only thing left for that association to negotiate is what level of fee they will be paying in return for their access to facilities.Mr Walker, who is also chair of the council's Sports Facilities Advisory Committee, says all sports stand to gain a formalised maintenance program of facilities under the new agreements."At the end of the day all the sports facilities in town are council's responsibility. "If informal arrangements for looking after them fall over, then the consequences fall back onto council."Council has a responsibility to look after its assets and legal liabilities."Putting on his ASCA hat, Mr Walker says the agreements will give cricket greater security about accessing grounds and having its turf wickets looked after.The Alice News put to Mr Walker that there is a perception that cricket is well looked after, even privileged by council. Mr Walker says the perception rests on the fact that council is involved with looking after cricket's facilities (the grass) every week, but that expense, spread over 10 years, would not amount to more than the capital grants that other sports have obtained for the construction of their facilities.He says cricket benefits from the pavilion and wicket at Albrecht Oval, but those facilities were built primarily for community use, rather than especially for cricket. Steve Menzies, President of the CAFL, says he supports in principle council's efforts to rationalise access to sports facilities and to put all sports on an equal footing.However, he says the CAFL are certainly worried about the prospect of any additional costs, and have other concerns.These include having to share the change rooms, where the various football clubs at present store their gear, and possibly losing control of Mona's Bar at Traeger Park .At present the CAFL does not pay any rent for the grounds, nor the bar. Indeed, they are being paid $4000 every month by council to assist them in the upkeep of the facilities. Beyond this, each year they put $10,000 to $12,000 out of their own resources towards maintenance. If maintenance responsibilities were taken over by council, then Mr Menzies says the CAFL would be happy to pay that $10,000 to $12,000 as their "rent" contribution.He says the CAFL rely partly on the revenue generated by Mona's Bar to finance their sport, whose annual income and expenditure are each in the order of $500.000."We want to retain control of Mona's Bar," says Mr Menzies.But the view of council and the SFAC is that the CAFL should pay for this "commercial opportunity" and also be prepared to make way for one off use of the bar by other sports and community groups for major events.Making way for other groups appears to be the most sensitive issue for the Basketball Association. It runs almost year round competitions across age and skill levels five nights out of seven in its Traeger Avenue stadium, which Mr Boyle says is "one of the top facilities of its kind in the country".At other times the stadium is heavily booked for training by the competitions' 70 odd teams; it is used by schools during the day; and is occasionally used by other groups and events, such as the forthcoming Masters Games.The stadium was built on council land with a special purpose NT Government grant, and leased to the association for a peppercorn rent.In return the association has looked after operational costs and maintenance, carried out most of the improvements, and has seen a third court added to the facility, again funded by the NT Government."We feel very strongly that it is our facility," says Mr Boyle."There is $150,000 worth of flooring in there and at the moment we are the people with the expertise to look after it."The mere thought of roller-bladers, for example, using the highly polished sprung floor sends shivers of horror down the association's collective spine.At present, a model aeroplane club uses the facility, some people access its gymnasium, and it is occasionally used by the Australian Institute of Sport to run its fitness programs.Mr Boyle says there is provision for the courts to be used by the Netball Association for major fixtures, but Mr Walker, in his SFAC hat, says that in practice this has proved difficult; that netball has not been able to attract national fixtures because of the lack of availability of an appropriate venue.Like the other bodies, the Netball Association is concerned about finances. Long-time committee member David Yeaman says there is no room for the association to raise more money from its players. At present they pay about $50 a head per season. Any more would put the sport out of the price range of most families, says Mr Yeaman.President Heather Parkinson says there is disgruntlement in the association about the sports facility levy they are paying."We are being charged at the highest rate on the basis of the number of players we have, but we don't feel that the money comes back to us."Mr Boyle also protests on this point."We are all rate payers and in return council provides facilities for the community, but the sports are being asked to pay again."We are looking forward to speaking to the new council, we feel that it is a more balanced council and that sanity will prevail."New alderman Michael Jones is now the elected members' representative on the SFAC, replacing Russell Naismith.Mr Bottrall says the SFAC has driven the process behind the proposed new agreements, and that the committee has a good cross-section of sporting bodies represented on it."This is not about raising more money for council," says Mr Bottrall."It's about getting greater clarity into our arrangements."We are looking for a contribution towards costs, but it is nothing near a ‘user pays' fee."There will be no increase in any charges this year, and there will be plenty of notice given of any changes."Indeed, says Mr Bottrall, nothing will be signed without the " full agreement" of each sporting body, and charges will only be made on the basis of each sport being able to afford them.If a sport, such as Little Athletics, does not have residence at a particular facility, Mr Bottrall says there will be no change: "They will have the right to continue as they have always done, it will just be tied into a specific agreement."

TOWN PLANNING CONFUSION STILL RIFE – MAYOR. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Alice Town Council is still in the dark about its rights under Territory planning laws, and about whether aldermen are under threat of litigation.New Mayor Fran Erlich says the council has asked for "clarification about the role of its members on the Development Consent Authority".She says the issue will be raised at this week's meeting of the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT).The new council has appointed aldermen Jenny Mostran and Sue Jefford to the authority, with David Koch – a former permanent member – as the "alternate" member.However, despite a recent review of the NT Planning Act, the impact the council can have on the planning process remains unclear, says Mrs Erlich."We were told if council discusses and takes a position on a particular issue, then those aldermen must declare an interest in that particular topic, and would not be able to participate in the authority's discussions."The members [would] have to absent themselves."I think if they declare an interest and participate they would be leaving themselves open for future litigation."As we understand it, aldermen on the authority can comment but it must be [on the basis of] their own opinions, not the council's."Mrs Erlich says it has "not yet [been] clarified" whether the council's planning officer, Roger Bottrall, who usually attends authority meetings, can put forward the council's case."He probably can," says Mrs Erlich, "but it's going to be an issue discussed at the LGANT meeting."She says the council did not object to a recent application by a Heffernan Road resident for blocks smaller than two hectares, prescribed by the town plan as the minimum size in that area.The authority has declined the application.Mrs Erlich says the matter had "slipped through the net" as the new council was still organising its business following the recent elections. She says the council has in the past objected to subdivision applications in the rural area in conflict with minimum size lot requirements."All local governments would prefer that they have the opportunity to influence the planning process, but at the moment that's not happening," she says.Mrs Erlich says the new council hasn't yet formulated a position on the full transfer of planning powers to local government – as repeatedly called for by LGANT."Local government is moving towards taking over more planning functions," Mrs Erlich says.However, chances that the NT Government will readily hand over some or all of those functions are "fairly minimal at this stage".

TOWN COUNCIL RATING POLICY IS AMBIGUOUS: OMBUDSMAN.

A local landlord says the Alice Town Council is spreading the rate burden unfairly because it charges for some dwellings and not for others.Dave Tuzewski says he's raised the issue with the council and the Ombudsman over the past three years.The Ombudsman, Peter Boyce, says he has expressed the view to the council that its policy is "ambiguous" – which the council has rejected – but he hasn't taken the issue further because at the moment, the only complainant is Mr Tuzewski.The council rates most properties on the basis of Unimproved Capital Value, that means on the value of the land only, disregarding the improvements on it.However, in some instances, where there is more than one dwelling on a block, a "Table Three" applies.In those cases the base rate – $535.47 for the 1999-2000 fiscal year – is multiplied by the number of dwellings on the block.That amount is charged if it is higher than the rate based on UCV (which, in turn, varies with the zoning).The definition of "dwelling" for the purpose of this multiple rating is "a dwelling, house, flat or other substantial self contained residential unit".This current rating policy came into effect in 1997. It has remained the same each year in substance, although the amounts have changed from budget to budget.The rate for 2000/2001 is about to be struck by the new council.Mr Tuzewski claims that there are a large number of dwellings fitting the Table Three definition in caravan parks and elsewhere, but they escape the additional rates.Caravan parks, for example, are rated on the UCV.If these dwellings were rated in accordance with the apparent policy, says Mr Tuzewski, then other rate payers could pay less.Council rates officer Andy Anderson says hotels, motels and caravan parks have always been excluded from the Table Three provisions: it's "never been discussed" to include them, he says.Mr Anderson was not able point to a minuted council resolution or any other document defining how the policy should be applied.He says his instructions had come from the "higher ups" in the council hierarchy, and he suggested the orders would ultimately have come from the elected members.However, Mr Tuzewski says officers don't have the right to apply council policy in "a discriminatory or arbitrary manner."If the directions came from the elected members, it would be in the form of a motion recorded in writing in the minutes."The fact is that every other rate payer has to pay extra."Mr Boyce says he may reopen the matter if more complainants come forward.Mr Boyce says he told the council it should have given more notice when the policy was first brought in, and in his view, it remains ambiguous.The council had responded that the declaration of rates was legal and that it can "properly administer" the policy.Mr Boyce says he rejected the council's argument that he had no jurisdiction over the matter.He says there are "insufficient grounds" for him to take the view that the council acted "illegally, unreasonably, unjustly or oppressively"."But if it remains significant we will look at it again," says Mr Boyce.Mr Tuzewski had not agreed with his final conclusion, Mr Boyce says, but at the moment there was no basis to push issue further. Says Mr Tuzewski: "I wasn't told that more complaints would be needed."I certainly know of other people who want to complain."If an injustice is done to one person it's also being done to others." Mr Boyce says while it seems clear that the council can't discriminate this remains "open to dispute and debate" in absence of a court ruling."The council is the agency to determine the application of its policy."If the matter became a wider public issue the Ombudsman's options would include drawing it to the Minister's attention, getting senior legal advice and issuing a public report.However, the Ombudsman does not have the powers of a court, says Mr Boyce.

ALICE RSPCA SNUBBED BY NATIONAL BODY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

A stalemate over government funding for RSPCA of Central Australia continues.The body has not received its normal government entitlements since October last year, due to a breakdown in communications with the Territory's peak body, the RSPCA NT Council (see Alice News, May 17) . An appeal to Minister for Local Government and for Central Australia, Loraine Braham, to appoint an independent arbitrator to solve the impasse has not been successful.Neither has the local body succeeded in its application to be recognised as an autonomous organisation by the national peak body of the RSPCA.Mrs Braham told the News:"I've been notified by the Australian RSPCA that they have not recognised the Central Australian RSPCA. "They recognise only one peak body in each state or territory and in this case it's the Northern Territory RSPCA. "So I've written to the Central Australian branch and suggested that they now, with the Northern Territory RSPCA, look at their constitution and get together to resolve the situation. Obviously I'm concerned that while this impasse is occurring funding won't go to the RSPCA of Central Australia because the NT Government funds the peak body of the Territory, as we do with most organisations."So I'm concerned that that money at the moment is not coming down to Central Australia."It seems to be a situation where the people in Darwin are not getting responses to their requests from the Central Australian branch ."I have now written to the Central Australian branch and said it's time to resolve this, because they did write to me and say,yes,we would like to reach a resolution."So if they are really sincere in that, then I think this is an opportunity to get together. "I would hope I would get a response this week. "I think the main thing we are all concerned about is that we want to make sure that the service continues here, and, [as] the RSPCA has such a very good name within our community, that they are still able to deliver services to the community, particularly [to do with] the welfare of their animals."Anne Buckley, President of the RSPCA of Central Australia, says the committee is "terribly upset" not to be recognised as an independent RSPCA by the national body.But, the committee is making arrangements to become associated with other RSPCA bodies, such as the RSPCA of Western Australia which, Mrs Buckley says, is an independent organisation.Despite their lack of government funding, Mrs Buckley says the local body is still financially viable, but they are having "to live from day to day".They want to replace things like their old computer and old vehicle, but they are "frightened to spend any money".DONATIONSShe says the community continues to give them strong support, with donations of old blankets once the cold weather started and "we live off local people to feed the animals".The most frustrating issue at present is that they still cannot proceed with their new animal shelter, for which they have set aside $300,000."We would like to use mostly local goods and services, and at present this is money not going back into the community," says Mrs Buckley.Building the shelter has stalled because the lease of land for the shelter has not been properly authorised by the RSPCA NT Council.

ROCK ART ALIVE!

The "wow" factor in Australian rock art is that the people who do it are alive and can talk about it.This, combined with the fact that Australia has more and some of the best preserved and most ancient rock pictures of any country in the world, has laid the foundation for Australia becoming "the undisputed world leader" in rock art science.Some 500 specialists in the field will attend a five day international conference in Alice Springs next week.A feature of the conference will be the participation of Indigenous people who are increasingly initiating research work on their rock art sites.Their involvement has changed the focus of research, says Dr Graeme Ward of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Pioneering work led by Robert Edwards in the late 1960s in remote Central Australia (most famously, in the Cleland Hills area) was mainly exploratory – discovering the location of sites and making a record of their physical details.Work on interpreting their symbolic meaning was speculative, says Dr Ward, until researchers, in the field known as cognitive archeology, began to ask the sites' cultural heritage owners.Today primary attention is given to recording the stories associated with the sites.The conference will hear, for example, about a book to be released later this year by a major European art publisher (Koenemann), on the Gwion images, located in the northern Kimberley region.The book is authored by four senior Ngarinyin men working with a researcher."The images are thought to be very old, dating from the Pleistocene era, more than 10,000 years ago," says Dr Ward."But they are still being painted! The old men can talk abut their knowledge of them in detail."This wows people from overseas who are dealing with dead rock art. They marvel at the opportunities we have of working with people today who know about the significance of places and motifs, who are still painting these places, repeating the motifs or drawing them anew, according to their cultural precepts."It's very exciting."That this intimate and secret knowledge has survived the last 200 years shows the longevity and strength of Aboriginal culture ."The conference will also see the launch of an Australian publication, Advances in Dating Australian Rock Markings. Australian work in the physical dating field is at the "cutting edge", says Dr Ward.The radiocarbon technique known as AMS allows very small amounts of material to be analysed and dated to up to 40,000 years ago.Another technique developed here, OSL or Optically stimulated luminescence, can date beyond that limit.The oldest rock art in Australia (and the world) has been dated back to 60,000 years."The French have nothing to compare with it!" says Dr Ward, not without a note of glee.Next week's conference is the third to be conducted by the Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA).The first was held in Darwin in 1988; the second in Cairns in 1992.Alice Springs was chosen for the third, by popular demand, says Dr Ward, as Central Australia is one of the major rock art regions of the world.While there are a number of well-known sites open to the general public, most famously at Uluru but also at places like Ewaninga, south of Alice Springs, most are well off the beaten track and known only to their Indigenous owners and researchers.Outsiders have had varying perceptions of rock art in the Centre, says Alice Springs based historian, R.G. (Dick) Kimber: these have included the perception that the markings were fossils, rather than human-made; and, more outlandishly, the suggestion that that they were made by people from outer space or at least from elsewhere in the world.Mr Kimber will give a paper to the conference about outsiders and insiders."Outsiders translate everything they perceive from their own point of view," says Mr Kimber.For example, most uninformed visitors will see the markings representing bird tracks as arrows."Insiders are able to discuss in broad terms what Aboriginal people have been prepared to tell them, so that outsiders can have some comprehension of the Aboriginal world."GETTING ALONGMr Kimber says he has been entrusted by old men with whom he has had a long association to give outside people a positive appreciation of their culture."They have wanted people to know that they [Aborigines] want to get along with others, and that there is no need to fear them," says Mr Kimber.He says in certain cases it has been exceedingly clear what he can and cannot talk about in the public domain, but in other cases, he has had to judge for himself."They have trusted me to make the right judgment, but what I do is open to critical review."In Australia public understanding of Aboriginal culture is broadening. Mr Kimber gives the example of the word "tjukurrpa", translated popularly as dreamings or dreamtime."Twenty years ago this term was known only to specialists, but now it is widely known and central to the most basic discussion of Aboriginal art and culture," says Mr Kimber.Central Australian Aborigines will stage a "welcome to country" ceremony to open the conference, next Monday morning at the Araluen Centre, and will also create a sand painting during the conference.The program of academic papers continues through to Friday, with other highlights being the participation of several South African Bushmen, a delegation of tribal Maoris, and a chief of the Hopi tribe from the United states.

COUNTRY MUSIC TRIBUTE. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.

Central Australia celebrated Herbie Laughton's contributions to country music in February 1992 when the Alice Springs-born singer/songwriter turned 65 years of age.Now all of Australia will be able to see his contributions as well as those of Jimmy Little, Bob Randall, Bobby McLeod and others to the distinctly Australian music style, Aboriginal Country Music, when SBS screens Buried Country on Saturday night at 7pm.Herbie was born in an Alice Springs creek bed in 1927.His mother in those days was classified as "three quarter caste""; his grandmother was black.When he was about three, Herbie was taken to the "Old Bungalow", the name for the home for mixed race children at the Telegraph Station.Herbie had to leave the Telegraph Station when he was 13 years old to go to work.Eventually Herbie became a stockman and a drover and first heard American country and western music on his trips."We'd listen to Buddy Williams and Tex Morton sing country music on the wireless," Herbie told me, back on the occasion of his 65th birthday."I bought my first guitar from a fellow who did not know how to play."I didn't know how to play either but I taught myself a che chords; I was that determined."I'd go to every travelling show and memorise how the musicians moved their fingers, the positions of their hands."I'd run my fingers over the strings."It took three or four years but once I got started, I just carried on."Herbie brought his love of country music back to the Centre and has been sharing it ever since, even more so after his retirement from the Department of Transport and Works in 1992.An active member of the Alice Springs Country Music Association, Herbie is still playing for the people of Central Australia.Just last Saturday he performed with Gus Williams and other Aboriginal musicians at Albrecht Oval as part of Territory Day celebrations.Herbie has been talking about the film, Buried Country, and the book and CD of the same name for months.The 75-minute film was premiered at the Sydney Film FestivTal in June, but Herbie was unable to attend.Clinton Walker, author of the book, on which the SBS documentary is based, said from Sydney that the premiere was an "fantastic occasion.""Most of the people in the film were there," Clinton said."It was an incredible experience to see the audience as they rose to their feet to see these legendary people get the recognition they deserve."Clinton has written six books."Five of the books are about Australian music; one is about Aussie Rules and the grass roots Australian Football culture," Clinton said."I was a musician for a while and went to Tamworth and became a fan of Aboriginal Country Music."I wanted to learn more and to get to know the people better."The book took four or five years to research and write."There was a sense of urgency about it, about getting the story down, as many of~ the singers/songwriters are in their seventies now."Buried Country looks at the whole story of Aboriginal Country Music from a historical perspective."And I am rapt SBS is showing the film in a time spot normally reserved for foreign films."Clinton said unfortunately the film, which includes both interviews and archival footage, does not include as much detail as his book does."For example, our trip to the Kimberleys is not included in the film," Clinton said."And Gus Williams was sick while the documentary was being filmed."But people who see the documentary and want to know more can read the book."And those who see the film and read the book and want to the hear the music will soon be able to get a CD."The CD features 46 tracks across two disks and hopefully will be released by the end of the month."There is a lot of material in the book and CD which is not in the film."As for Herbie and Gus, they will miss the television broadcast as they will be in Camooweal, Queensland, for the Drovers' and Poets' Festival, doing what they do best, singing Australian country music.Buried Country (the film) is directed by Andy Nehl (Media Rules) and also features Roger Knox, Auriel Andrew, and Troy Cassar-Daly with narration by Kev Carmody.It screens on SBS on Saturday night at 7pm.The book is available from CAAMA Shops and the two-CD set will hopefully be available by the end of the month.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.