ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
October 18, 2000

CONGRESS HAS SLUSH FUND, INSIDER ALLEGES. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

A slush fund which at one time contained $1m has been built up by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress which gets the bulk of its $4m annual budget from Federal Department of Health and Aged Care.This is alleged by a long-time staff member, who asked not to be named, of the Alice Springs based Aboriginal health care organisation.The source says the fund, known as "cabinet appropriations", has been built up by manipulating government grants and is used for the benefit of senior staff and members of the "cabinet", the organisation's board.The Alice News understands that Federal Health Minister Michael Wooldridge has been urged by Aboriginal leaders to enquire into the allegations.NT Senator Grant Tambling, who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to Dr Wooldridge, says he has asked the department to "investigate any irregularities".Congress is at the centre of a storm over a publicly funded trip by cabinet members and "directorate staff" to the Sydney Olympics, claimed by Congress to have been principally a study trip visiting interstate health services.The department has said it has been "assured" that its money had paid only for "bona fide liaison visits to other Aboriginal health services in Victoria and NSW, a legitimate function of community controlled health services" (Alice News, October 11).However, the News has now been told that $10,000 had come from the "cabinet appropriations" fund to pay for Olympic tickets, and further amounts for other expenses during the trip.The source alleges that the slush fund is fed from improper uses of Federal government contributions and grants.For example, grants paid up front are put, until actually needed, into interest bearing investments, and the interest is diverted into the slush fund. The source also says publications funded by grants were then sold and the revenue found its way into the slush account. The source alleges that a recent "health summit" at a remote outstation attracted a grant of some $100,000. A large number of T-shirts were bought from the grant and later sold, and the money went into the "cabinet appropriations" account. A one tonne truck bought for the summit has allegedly " disappeared" but it was "back in the yard for the audit".The source says the slush fund requires two signatures: at least one needs to be either Congress director John Liddle or deputy director Stephanie Bell. The other signature can come from any of the heads of the organisation's five branches, in charge of the Alukura birthing centre, child care, general services, social emotional health and human resources.The source asks if the Sydney trip was a study tour, how come most "cabinet" and senior staff members were accompanied by their spouses or partners. The source alleges that the fund is frequently used by some of the 13 "cabinet" members to go on all expenses paid trips.A spokesperson for Senator Tambling said a carryover surplus identified at the end of the 1999-2000 financial year had been reallocated to specific approved purposes.She could not say whether or not these funds had been in the " cabinet appropriations" account.The spokesperson says: "We are looking into it and have asked the department to investigate any irregularities."The department has written formally to Congress director John Liddle to ask him to examine his accounting processes so he can assure the department that all is legitimate."Mr Liddle did not respond to a request for comment.

'CRASH' IRONS OUT EMERGENCY BUGS.

A simulated air crash pointed up a communication problem between the police and the ambulance service, but the problem is being fixed.Police Superintendent Gary Moseley a new system was being trialled and it was found to be flawed."That's what we do exercises for," says Supt. Moseley.He said the new procedure was for the ambulance to be notified by the police, instead of by the air traffic controllers.Police normally call out the ambulance after an evaluation of the emergency.However, he says when an accident is clearly of a major nature, the ambulance will in the future be called out immediately. David Lewis, the Terminal Operations Supervisor at the Alice airport, says it took some 45 minutes for the first ambulance to arrive at the "crash" site last Saturday where 18 people had (for the purpose of the exercise) received injuries of varying degrees, and three had died.The site was on the South Stuart Highway, some two kilometres from the airport fire station and about 12 km from the ambulance base.The simulated accident involved a light aircraft with several passengers crashing on take-off into a small coach.Mr Lewis says the "alarm" was raised at 2.45pm by the airport control tower which notified simultaneously the police and the airport fire service. Its unit arrived at the scene some three minutes later, extinguishing fires and giving the injured basic first aid without moving them.It was up to police to call out the ambulance, says Mr Lewis says, but a "breakdown of communications" caused a delay. The first ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive, and a second one, some 15 minutes more. He says it took about an hour for the first "casualty" to be moved from the site.Police arrived on the scene about 20 minutes after the alarm was raised.The Emergency Services also took part in the exercise.It is an annual test of coordination and response times for local services involved in dealing with air accidents.All participating services had advance knowledge of the exercise.

BURN OFF TO HELP WATER TABLE.

The rural area south of The Gap got a taste of what a wild fire might do when a controlled buffel grass burn off along the Ross Highway shot flames metres into the air, and had fire fighters on their toes keeping the blaze within the designated limits.The burn-off, covering about two hectares, was intended to save river red gums from an uncontrolled fire.Says Robbie Henderson, of Waterwatch: "Some of the trees got a fright but none was killed."The fire was a lot hotter than we had expected."Mr Henderson says the dry grass had been cleared from around the trunks by community volunteers before the burn by the town fire brigade and volunteers from the Emily Hills unit.Mr Henderson says the trees play a crucial role in the protection of the water catchment: they suck water up from the ground, help to lower the water table which in turn reduces salination. Some of the trees are 400 years old and replace themselves very slowly.The trees are also a vital habitat for native fauna, including red tailed black cockatoos.More burning off will take place this week. Meanwhile Rod Cramer, the chairman of the Rural Area Association, says his group has made little progress so far with the town council providing an access across the Todd River to the Rangeview Estate area.Residents have pointed out that fast access by the Emily Hills fire unit could save lives.The council closed the Heffernan Road crossing some years ago despite overwhelming opposition by locals.Mr Cramer says his group has written to the council but it is "sidestepping" the issue."Their response has been less than satisfactory," says Mr Cramer.Mr Henderson says more volunteers for water catchment conservation work are needed and interested people can ring him on 89 518534.

TANGENTYERE: ENTERPRISE IS REPLACING HANDOUTS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Indigenous Landscapes is the latest small business to grow out of the many arms of Tangentyere Council.The oldest is the architectural firm, Tangentyere Design, and the others are Tangentyere Constructions and Tangentyere Job Shop. While they have social goals as well as entrepreneurial ones, once established in the marketplace they are completely independent; they're not directly answerable to Tangentyere Council.Like the others, Indigenous Landscapes grew out of an opportunity virtually waiting to be taken up. For nearly 20 years Tangentyere Landcare has been lobbying for better environmental management of Aboriginal community living areas, in town and in the bush. It has also been providing trees, reticulation materials and assistance to communities with planning and planting to create shade, windbreaks and gardens. Often the work has been done retrospectively, only after a certain amount of degradation has taken place, with housing having been handed over for occupation on unfenced, graded bare land.Now, the health benefits, among others, of better environmental management have been recognised, and contracts are being let by ATSIC, under programs like the National Aboriginal Health Strategy, for landscaping work to be done at the outset of new developments.Indigenous Landscapes' first opportunity arose at Nyirripi, in a project managed by Gutteridge Haskins & Davey, who had already sub-contracted Tangen-tyere Design as its architects. The project involved a total of 17 houses, some to be renovated, some to be built new. Tangentyere Land-care had already overseen the training of a number of young Aboriginal men in horticulture at Centralian College, and had recruited them for their retrospective land management work. It didn't take much to turn the operation into a fledgling enterprise and work began on their first contract worth about $50,000.Since they started in June 1998 Indigenous Landscapes has employed a total of six Aboriginal men, five of them young. Three of the five have gone on to other jobs and training, while the remaining two, Leon Ahearn and Justin Presley, continue with the company.They've just returned from a stint at Ali Curung. There, under the supervision of Rob Fleming, they've begun work on removing 300 Athel Pines, landscaping a dozen areas around the community, and building 26 large bough shelters to make up for the lost shade. They will also landscape around 11 houses.That contract is worth $170,000, with work to be carried out over seven months.Part of the work involves teaching the community members to maintain the plantings. The company guarantees their work for 12 months. This includes replacing all dead trees and repairing the irrigation system, but after that maintenance is up to the community.In town, Indigenous Landscapes project-managed the Yipirinya School Oval. This involved levelling the site (with the generous help of the Old Ghan Preservation Society), organising the irrigation (installed by Rainbow Reticulation), fencing and grassing.It is the only major sub-surface irrigation project in town. A significant advantage is that there are no pop-up sprinklers to be vandalised, but the system is also more water efficient and allows for fertilisation through the same pipes. It costs as much to install as a conventional system, but in the long term will prove significantly cheaper.The team also does small jobs on an on-going basis, in nearby communities and around the Aboriginal town leases, working closely with the residents to see how they want things done.Tangentyere Land-care Manager, Bill Pechey, says Indigenous Landscapes provides "real employment"."The onus is on the employees to perform, otherwise the company won't make a profit, and if it doesn't it won't survive."We are targeting young people. We want to offer them not only a job, but a career opportunity."As well as their horticultural training, they are trained in entrepreneurial skills, they need to understand how the business works."Tangentyere provides a culturally comfortable environment for Aboriginal people to work in, but they still need to perform, they have to produce the billable hours to maintain the business."Indigenous Landscapes doesn't get any grants or assistance that isn't available to any other business."We use CDEP to subsidise wages, but this is an option that other businesses might like to consider."Out of returns thus far, the business has bought itself a flatbed truck and a Dingo Digger (a mini Bobcat), adding to their tip-truck and tractor inherited from Tangentyere Landcare.Paul Acfield, Human Services Manager at Tangentyere Council, says a clear policy decision has been taken by all four businesses that profits will be returned to the companies for at least the first five years, in order to establish a strong asset base."Past experience with business ventures has taught Tangentyere that business principles are different to those that suit a grant-funded organisation."We want to provide employment opportunities and skills development for Aboriginal people, but equally we need to know what the equity needs for each business are."Tangentyere has accessed a range of ATSIC and Commonwealth Government programs to assist in the creation of the four businesses, to draw up their business plans and to provide start-up capital (for things like office equipment and vehicles).As with Indigenous Landscapes, setting up Tangentyere Constructions was a matter of shifting the approach to work already being done.Tangentyere Council used to run its own works department to build houses on town leases. Now Tangentyere Constructions manages the work, employing a team of four, three of them Aboriginal.At Tangentyere Job Shop, which successfully competed for a Federal Government Job Network provider contract, four out of six employees are Aboriginal.The Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business have just completed their first review of Job Shop, and Mr Acfield says they are "very happy" with the service: "We've filled a niche, and placed more than 50 people in jobs since we opened our doors at the end of last February."About quarter of those people were long term unemployed, requiring intensive assistance to get a job. Most of those have been in work for three months, and are well on their way to the six month milestone. (Job Shop receives a fee from the Federal Government for the placement of these clients, at the end of the first three months' employment, and then again after six months.)Employers include some from the private sector, such as mining companies, some government agencies with an Aboriginal customer service focus, as well as – in the majority – Aboriginal organisations and Aboriginal-owned businesses. Mr Acfield says Tangentyere and a number of other Aboriginal organisations are working collaboratively to ensure that Aboriginal business and employees get a slice of the action in the Alice to Darwin railway project.They are also looking at a fifth small business, Tangentyere Enterprises, which will provide management services to the others and look at the development of new business opportunities.

PAPUNYA TULA: ART FROM AGONY. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

Great works of contemporary art, indeed some of Australia's very best, and expressions of determined cultural survival in the face of oppression: the paintings of the original Western Desert art company are considered in both lights by the collection of essays in "Papunya Tula, Genesis and Genius", catalogue to the exhibition of the same name showing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until November 12.The opening interview with Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, conducted by Paul Sweeney, present Assistant Manager for Papunya Tula, powerfully sketches in the impulse behind the movement. Tjupurrula talks about going into "business camp" when he was a young man in the bush, for four weeks, six weeks, six months. The last time was for "one year straight". That was for "big ceremonies"."We were trying to open our mind you know," he says.When everyone was made to camp at Papunya (established in 1957 and to where Tjupurrula was moved in 1959), they "made this place [his homeland] like a memory ... we were all cut off and we lost the whole lot".Detail about the oppressive regime at the Papunya of this era follows in subsequent essays, especially that of Geoffrey Bardon, but Tjupurrula's comments make clear that the single greatest source of anguish was separation from homeland, and memory is not enough to know the place and the tjukurrpa.Sweeney asks him if the young men of today can "learn stories from canvas". Tjupurrula's reply is unequivocal:"They can see it, they can see the design ... but they don't know the place. Tjukurrpa. They don't know."But if painting is not means enough to know the tjukurrpa, it can put you in touch with it. Sweeney asks, "Why do you think people like painting?" and Tjupurrula answers: "We can't sit down at home when we're not singing in the bush camp, or we'd sit down lonely. We need company, tjukurrpa ... Work, work and sit down happy ... When you sit down with no painting you get lonely."What loneliness they must have faced then, rounded up in Papunya, before they began to paint, which the combined essays make clear was a radical and potent political act.Bardon, the inspired teacher who supported the painting of the Honey Ant Dreaming school mural at Papunya in late July 1971 and offered on-going support as the men in increasing numbers continued to paint on boards, canvas and found materials, describes the settlement as "a secret slum", "a murderous ruin", a "death-asylum".These strong words seem justified when you read that between 1962 and 1966, 129 residents of Papunya die, out of a total population of 800. Bardon writes: "Most of the staff and visitors to Papunya thought there was nothing of any value at Papunya, including the Aboriginal people ..."He reveals that Aboriginal people were not allowed to speak in their own languages and that the use of translators was forbidden, something he discreetly ignored, availing himself of the services of Obed Raggatt, his teaching assistant.Paul Carter, whose essay draws heavily on Bardon's unpublished writings, writes that Aboriginal people were prevented coming near European residences at Papunya until they were "trained in a white lifestyle".Bardon says the images produced by the men in the painting room at the school "eluded the fiercest of conventional censorships because of the ignorance of the white controllers ... The blindest eyes of censorship did not see the magical apotheosis of this art and its unique achievement in the history of art ..."Carter, writing a critical account of the movement's beginnings, questions the way the subtitle of the catalogue and exhibition, "Genesis and Genius", may suggest that the movement and its exceptional quality appeared as if out of nothing. He writes: "The senior men who took advantage of the materials the young art teacher provided, and who sold him work they were already making, belonged to societies where everyone had an active creative life; and when Bardon left Papunya in July 1972, the movement continued to evolve." Indeed, the principal artist of the Honey Ant Dreaming mural, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, had won the Caltex Art Award in Alice Springs in 1971, sharing it with Jan Wesley Smith. (Vivien Johnson also points out that many of the founding artists knew Albert Namatjira. He had served his infamous prison sentence at Papunya in 1959; some of the artists had worked with him; some were related to him.)The judge of the Caltex Art Award, Jo Caddy, explained she chose works by Aboriginal artists because "they might not be around in such numbers in years to come". Fortunately, how wrong she was!The early artists of Papunya Tula, many of them now deceased, were men. Johnson writes: "The ceremonially knowledgeable older men who comprised the pioneer group of painters at Papunya had originally kept a firm grip on the limited resources of the painting company on the basis that the paintings were ‘men's business'."However, the exclusion of women was beginning to relax by the end of the 1970s, with wives and daughters being enlisted to help infill large canvasses.None of the essayists make this point, but I wonder if the relaxation was related to the resolution of conflict over the disclosure of men's sacred designs. R.G. Kimber writes of his "serious concerns [in 1972] about problems that had been expressed to me by senior men from other communities about certain aspects of the art". However, the airing of the problems resulted in the artists making modifications to their work from then onwards.Kimber writes: "All major problems were dealt with in entirely traditional ways, but the resolution also marked the end of several of the earlier styles of painting, eliminated the use of long and narrow canvas boards (because of very approximate similarities to sacred objects), and caused the abandonment of certain stylised-naturalistic depictions of some decorated artefacts and ceremonial regalia".Marcia Langton quotes the ethnographer Fred Myers' interesting report about trouble arising when Pintupi paintings were seen in 1974 by a group of Pitjantjatjara men from Warburton Range: "These men had similar sorts of ceremonies and actually shared some dreaming tracks with the Pintupi. They charged the Pintupi painters with exposing secret designs that were owned by all of them. The Pintupi accepted the complaint and made restitution for their ‘trouble' with an offering of sacred objects." Whatever the case, Daphne Williams, who had begun work as a field officer for Papunya Tula in August 1981 and is the current General Manager, began distributing canvas boards to some women in Papunya and Mount Liebig in 1982.Daisy Leura Nakamarra, wife of founding artist Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri (who emerges from the essays, in particular Bardon's, as a very charismatic yet sad figure) was the first woman to officially paint for Papunya Tula. Pansy Napangati was the first woman painting for the company to achieve widespread acclaim, winning the National Aboriginal Art Award in 1989, but apart from her and Narpula Scobie Napurrula, there were no women painting in the Pintupi homelands until the mid-1990s, reports Johnson. Since then, women artists at Kintore and Kiwirrkurra have become famous in their own right, and as Johnson writes, have provided a " welcome injection of energy" for the companyThis collection of essays, edited by the exhibition's curator, Hetti Perkins, and Hannah Fink, is a wonderful introduction to one of the most important and inspiring art movements of our time, but its worth and relevance go well beyond art history and appreciation. It shows, as Johnson movingly puts it, "that disintegration is not the inevitable consequence of cultural contact".My only misgiving is that we do not hear more from the artists themselves. I think at least an interview with a senior woman artist would have been warranted. Nonetheless, contributions which I have not mentioned but which are invaluable in enhancing an understanding of the artists' world view are Marcia Langton's "Sacred geography" and R.G. Kimber's "Tjukurrpa trails".And, of course, the artists "speak" more than eloquently through their works which are beautifully reproduced in colour, with descriptions and explanations. The essays are also liberally illustrated with photographs, again mostly in colour, of the artists and some their marvellous dreaming places. The catalogue is available from the Papunya Tula gallery on Todd Street.

IT'S A BIG COUNTRY FOR AGED PEOPLE'S FRIEND.

For the whole of Central Australia and the Barkly, the Aged Care Advocacy Service employs just one officer, three days a week.Elliott gets one visit a year; Tennant Creek, one every two months; bush communities have phone contact, but will be visited if they request it.Alice Springs, where the service is based, is the best off, as the residential aged care services here are visited every month.Stephanie Johnson, a social worker, has been employed by the advocacy service since July.The service is operated by Centacare NT, and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged care. It is part of Commonwealth Government policy that all regions where the Commonwealth is funding nursing-homes and hostels for the aged, have an aged care advocate. The advocate's role is primarily to provide information and education to the aged person and their family, when that person is in, or needs to go into, residential care. "I'm here to help people who may not think they have rights, to know what their rights are and to stand up for them," says Stephanie.Working at the "coalface", Stephanie is also expected to feed back to government on matters of policy.She says she has told the Department that they need to make funding available to operate a full time service in the southern NT:"For quality assurance, this position needs to be full time."However, she could not indicate whether more funding will be forthcoming.Facilities in the main centres of the region are of a high standard, says Stephanie.Frontier Services runs Pulka Pulka Kari in Tennant Creek and Old Timers in Alice. Both homes have been given national accreditation for the next three years, as has the Hetti Perkins home in Alice, run by Aboriginal Hostels.Frontier Services' Flynn Lodge, a hostel in the grounds of Old Timers for residents requiring low levels of care, has received accreditation for one year."This is quite an achievement for the region," says Stephanie."The requirements are stringent and some facilities interstate haven't been able to meet them and have had to close their doors."Are there any complaints in the region? If there are, Stephanie isn't saying, but she does have a role to investigate complaints, and to refer them, if necessary, to the Department's Complaints Resolution Board.Stephanie says that apart from financial questions, the biggest issues for the aged person entering a nursing home are around being able to maintain individual choices, about religion, culture, food, mobility, interests and activities.She says entering a home is a confusing and very emotional time for the aged person and their family.A contract is drawn up between the Director of Nursing and the prospective resident, which specifies the rights and obligations of the parties. Within the constraints of the institutional environment, she says tQhe sees do try to cater for individual needs and desires.She cites the example of highly favoured kangaroo tails being served as often as possible at Hetti Perkins, along with bush damper.She stresses her service's commitment to "access and equity". There is a free call number (1800 354 550). Their brochures are in five local Indigenous languages, as well as in English; their ads on CAAMA radio are in four Indigenous languages.On her visits to Hetti Perkins she is accompanied by two interpreters, who between them can speak Arrernte, Pitjantjatjara and Luritja. She hopes to also have a Warlpiri interpreter in the near future.The Alice News asked whether privacy was an issue for some residents: for instance, do they all have their own room?Stephanie says some people share rooms; some are happy to do so "for cultural reasons"."I'm not sure if some others like it or not, but I haven't had any complaints."She says some people do complain about feeling lonely and isolated, but says that is common to many among the aged, whether they are in care or in the community.The News asked about whether residents were satisfied with the activities proposed to them?Again, Stephanie says she has had no complaints."Whenever I visit the facilities, I see lots of activities and programs underway."Is there a community-based management committee for the service? Stephanie says she is working on that. Meanwhile, there is accountability through Centacare NT.

LIZ MARTIN: TRUCKS TRUE TO LIFE (Part Two). By KIERAN FINNANE.

For Liz Martin, involvement in the National Road Transport Hall of Fame started as a hobby, "something to do on a Sunday afternoon". Almost unwittingly she and her fellows of the Road Transport Historical Society of which Liz is president, created a pilgrimage destination for lovers of Australia's road transport heritage, and a significant tourist attraction, drawing over 50,000 visitors a year.See last week's issue for Part One of this story by KIERAN FINNANE:People and their stories are at the heart of Liz's beloved Hall of Fame. Sure the exhibits are vehicles, but they are presented not as untouched objects of manufacture, but as people used them. Extensive annotation tells their human as well as mechanical histories. Liz says this approach is in contrast to that of most motor museums, and may be the reason for the hall of fame not as yet having been able to attract federal funding."Most motor museums have their trucks in pristine condition, as if they've just come off the production line, whereas we show ours like they were in their working life and there's not much original about them."They've got bodgey axles and bodgey engines, bits cut off and bits tacked on and tyres stuffed with spinifex! "We thought if we were going to represent the Australian industry we should show the trucks as they were operated by Australians in the bush. "The trucks couldn't operate as they came out from England, they had to modify them. "One of the main problems was overheating because trucks were built in England to operate in temperatures 10 to 15 degrees cooler than what our cold weather climates are. "Overheating is a major problem with diffs and engines and gear boxes. "Another problem was power. Some of the older ones didn't have enough power to plough through bulldust or sand or mud and to run on basically virgin bushland."The steering wheels, the sheer strength of the vehicles had to be patched up because once they'd done a trip between Tennant Creek and Darwin, anything that could fall off had fallen off over the corrugations."If federal funding bodies don't necessarily like it, many people from around Australia do. "Whether they're petrol heads or old vehicle enthusiasts, old truck drivers or Mack or Kenworth or Diamond T fanatics, there's all sorts of niche groups that have jumped in and supported us from all over Australia."The NT Government subsidises the salary of the museum's full- time curator with an annual grant of $25,000. Apart from that the hall survives on the dedication of volunteers, and raises money from membership fees of the historical society, as well as from souvenir sales and entry fees.They have only just now been able to afford to get a proper brochure out into the market place.Liz says word of mouth has been the best publicity they could have."Most of our market is self-drive, people go up and down the road and tell other people, ‘Oh, you should call in at the hall of fame and see the old B-model'. "We find most Australians have got some sort of affinity with an old B-model Mack or T-model Ford like grandad used to have on the farm."Liz has taken her affinity a long way. Meanwhile, she and partner Bruce Cotterill have steadily built their Alice Wanderer tour business from a two bus to a seven bus company, and greatly extended the range of their tours.Originally the Wanderer took visitors to Standley Chasm and around town, but now it goes on day trips to Rainbow Valley, Palm Valley, Hermannsburg, Arltunga, and Ross River."I enjoy the industry," says Liz."It's one of the industries that will always survive. We've got so much that can't be duplicated anywhere else – our Aboriginal culture, our geography, our flora and fauna. "The industry's got to do a little bit to lift its game mind you, but the potential's there."We need to get together more and look at the big picture. We need to go as a unified voice, for example to get the Northern Territory Government looking more after the individual local operators who know the place better than anyone. "While we are fragmented the government won't do anything about it."The Aboriginal side of the industry is under-developed. "We actually work with Ken and Glenys Porter at Wallace Rockhole Aboriginal community. They do an absolutely magnificent job out there. And there's potential for other places to do something similar."The really good thing is that Ken or Glenys will sit down and talk one on one with the tourist, about what preconceived ideas they might have about Aboriginal culture or about landrights. "To hear about it from people who are involved in that community is 100 per cent better than our guide saying to the people, ‘This is what the Aboriginal people think'." That's where Liz's day job meets her "hobby" – in creating opportunities for people to tell their stories.

CENTRALIAN COLLEGE: A (DINING) ROOM WITH A VIEW.

A glass wall looking straight to the MacDonnell Ranges and another of rammed earth will create a spectacular restaurant setting for guests and trainees at the new Centralian College Tourism and Hospitality facility, under construction on the Sadadeen campus.Expected to be completed by December 29, the $5m project will include the restaurant, able to seat 80 diners in comfort, 100 for a buffet; a lounge; a double commercial kitchen; a small butchery facility; offices; a classroom; and a learning centre with 24 hour online access, which will hopefully be open to the community.The double kitchen will make catering to a commercial standard possible, with teaching taking place at the same time.The butchery facility has been down-sized. Morag McGrath, Assistant Director of the College and at present charged with supervision of the new building, says butchery is not a growth vocational area."We are seeing only six to eight apprentices in what is now called ‘meat retail' across the whole of the Territory," says Mrs McGrath."Many supermarkets conduct their own training of meat workers."Mrs McGrath also commented on the on-going shortage of qualified and trainee cooks:"We train many more students in food and wine service, than we do in cooking."If there is one career where you would be guaranteed work for the rest of your days, it's being a chef, but we find young people are not attracted to it, or if they are initially, they don't hang in there. "Perhaps it's because of the unsociable hours."The single biggest saving the college will make by having the facility, now at Gillen House on Memorial Avenue, on its main campus will be in transport cost.Mrs McGrath says at present the college has to run a bus service almost full time to take students between the two campuses.Other savings will be achieved through reducing duplication in the provision of classrooms on the two sites, administration costs and maintenance. A single site will also allow greater flexibility with time-tabling, and students and staff will save time.Around 80 of the college's secondary students do food and wine service training. Students from the other secondary schools in Alice also use the college's facilities for hospitality courses.A group of adult trainees in both tourism and hospitality work for the Tourist Commission and at some of the town's major hotels, and a further 30 to 40 are at the Ayers Rock Resort."We train the resort's trainers," says Mrs McGrath."We'll also go down there to assess the trainees and to deliver special courses."There is a general move towards workplace training, rather than having it all in the college."First classes in the new facility are scheduled for next February, with the popular restaurant lunches and dinners open to the public expected towards the middle of the year."The meals are good and cheap, but you have to expect that service by the trainees may be a bit slow," says Mrs McGrath.

INFORMATION BOOTH: WHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Eureka! The mystery of the tourist information booth opposite the Old Timers is resolved, following criticism of its disuse and dirty state. The red stone structure came into being in 1976, in the dim dark ages of "Canberra Control", constructed by the Commonwealth Department of Works. According to Assistant Secretary of the Chief Minister's Department in Alice Springs, John Baskerville, the building became an "asset" of the Territory Department of Transport and Works following self-government for the NT. The booth gradually fell into disuse and finished up as an eyesore.It is now proposed to give the old booth a new lease of life, in a different place and with a new purpose.The department, guided by the Alice in Ten "Built Environment Group", is looking at developing a tourist information bay at the site of the much-photographed "Welcome to Alice Springs" stone sign near the Adelaide turn-off.Mr Baskerville says materials from the offending structure will be used at the new site.It will include the steel structure, now also opposite the Old Timers, and – yes! – advertising from local tourism operators. By the way, the service clubs notice board in the present bay, according to identity Reg Harris, was manufactured by Bill East "more than 20 years ago", paid for by Rotary and erected by Reg, initially closer to The Gap.

HOSPITAL GIVES CASH INFUSION!

There are still opportunities for local contractors with the $35m redevelopment of the Alice hospital, according to Minister for Central Australia Loraine Braham. She says head contractor John Holland Constructions is calling tenders for Stage Two, worth $17m. While initial interest from local firms appeared to be slight, despite what may see as a slump in the local construction industry, Mrs Braham says 37 contracts worth $10.1m have now been let. Of these 33 contracts, worth more than $9.7m, went to Territory firms. Stage One, costing $3.9m, is on track, involving 24 contractors, of whom 17 are local.

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