ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
November 8, 2000

UPROAR AS NATIONAL TRUST CLOSES OFFICE IN THE ALICE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

The energetic Alice branch of the National Trust has been "rewarded" for its efforts by having the sole paid officer withdrawn by the organisation's Territory Council.The branch has recently mounted a vigorous campaign to save the Old Alice Springs Gaol from demolition.It runs the only Heritage Week in the Territory.It gives the National Trust a public face and constant presence in the centre of town, at the Old Hartley Street School, from where it operates a successful shop.Its volunteers keep the Stuart Town Gaol open to visitors for two hours a day, but all this and more has not been enough to save the only paid, part-time position of the National Trust in Alice Springs.The NT Council of the National Trust has moved to put the Alice Springs branch, the McDouall Stuart Branch, on the same footing as the five other branches in the Territory – that is, entirely run by volunteers – despite the fact that the others (except Darwin), by President Gillian Banks's own admission, are "much smaller".Indeed, membership of the local branch, at 123, is only five less than that of the Darwin branch (which is drawing on a population three times greater).The Trust office in Alice Springs will now be "a branch concern"", says Darwin-based Trust Director, Elizabeth Close."There is considerable wisdom based on experience around the world that when you have an employed person, you lose volunteers because they don't see that they have a role," says Ms Close.If, however, the branch wishes to ąem someone it will be up to them " to come up with the funds. But they won't be abandoned to do it totally on their own. They will be able to negotiate some assistance with council," says Ms Close.Fund-raising to pay a part-time administrative assistant won't be a burden; it will be the branch's "biggest enjoyment", says Katherine-based Ms Banks.In Katherine, members run raffles, mow lawns and hold garden parties to pay half the wages of their property attendants.Ms Banks described the move as "a very positive step forward for the McDouall Stuart branch"."Alice Springs is gaining and the whole of the Territory is gaining."She says the savings made will probably be put towards the employment of someone in a Territory-wide "education and events" position. The News understands that the three councillors representing Alice Springs voted against the loss of the local position (the only ones to do so). They are not talking to the media, as they are bound not to by a recently adopted code of ethics.Bev Ayres, who held the administrative assistant's position for the last seven years and who appears to have been widely appreciated in the role, resigned soon after hearing of council's decision. The office has since been open only occasionally.Branch chairman Warwick Marsh says that, while he expects some continued disruption this week, he hopes volunteers will be opening the office as usual from next week.The News understands that a member of the branch committee has also resigned and that at least two more resignations are pending.A branch meeting, the third within a week, was held last night, after this issue had gone to press. In all likelihood, further upheaval has occurred.Committee members have been advised not to speak to the media, but one of their number, heritage architect Domenico Pecorari, spoke to the News as "a concerned member of the Natiovnal Trust".He described the move to scrap the administrative assistant's position as "a definite down-grading":"The National Trust has provided in the last few years a rallying point for local people. "We rallied behind the National Trust to save the old prison, and to save other heritage buildings."It acts as a platform for individuals. Individuals on their own do not have much lobbying power but, if you have the National Trust behind you, you can have organisations reconsider demolishing heritage buildings, as in the recent case of the Kenna residence."If we don't have a strong National Trust down here, if it is just set up as a volunteer organisation and we don't have the backbone and continuity that a permanent position gives, we will be like a ship without a rudder."Most community groups relying solely on volunteers are struggling to survive. "We have a battle to kŅeep the Stuart Town Gaol open two hours a day, relying on volunteers. We would find it near impossible to find someone to work as a volunteer in the National Trust office given all the work that is involved."We think we need to have someone full-time, not part-time. "We were making do with a part-time person because Bev Ayres was putting in up to six or seven hours although she was only being paid for four."The argument for closing the place down has been put as a financial one, saving some $20,000. "But my argument is that we will lose much more than that: there will be loss in fund-raising; loss in the sale of books. We make about $3000 profit each year on the sale of books and heritage material in the shop."We do make some money for the Trust of the Northern Territory down here. "That would have to be taken into the equation in the supposed saving of money."If we didn't have somebody chasing membership, I believe our membership would drop by about 75 to 80 per cent whereas through the efforts of Bev it has been growing for some years. "That loss in membership would amount to about $6000 to $7000 a year. "If Darwin think they can handle it from there, I say to them that I don't think members or sponsors would respond very well to somebody from Darwin ringing them up to ask for their support. "That would be disastrous, it would have to be a local person and someone similar to Bev, very enthusiastic and friendly. "So when you start taking into account the losses, that $20,000 saving is just whittled away to be not much of a saving at all."And all this is not taking into account the loss to the National Trust of its public face."

BUREAUCRATS MUM AS BULLS FIGHT IN PARK.

Openness and courtesy are clearly regarded as a load of bull by the highest levels of the Parks and Wildlife Commission.The Alice News sent the following fax to Regional Director Ken Johnson last Monday, October 30:- A tour operator says he has sighted a number of wild bulls in the Two Mile camp up the Finke from Glen Helen. He says he has counted five to six bulls there, "fighting and roaring at all hours of day and night". He is concerned about potential danger to tourists and local campers. He says he has written to Parks and Wildlife asking that something be done in the interest of public safety, and that the only "response" has been the pasting of a warning on A4 paper over the sign alongside the track to the camp.Our questions:
• Is your service concerned about the presence of wild bulls within the park?
• Are there plans to muster the bulls and get them out?
• Are neighbouring pastoralists cooperating with Parks& Wildlife in this matter?
The News asked Ken Johnson to contact us by phone as we were on deadline and wished to run the story. We didn't hear from him, which on past experience was not all that surprising. His unwillingness to supply any information about the commission's activities or discuss any issues is, however, in sharp contrast to the News's recent experience with other regional heads of departments and services.After a number of phone calls to his office last Thursday, the News was told to contact the commission's media liaison officer in Darwin.She told us she'd been away, but a message in her basket from Director Bill Freeland read : "I don't want to answer these questions."Brief and to the point, at least.The last time the News attempted to obtain information from the commission was in March this year, when we were preparing a comprehensive report on the spread of buffel grass around Alice Springs (see our issue of March 22). For this report we spoke to a variety of sources and wished to ask Parks and Wildlife about what they were doing to control buffel in parks ( we understand that considerable efforts are being made). Similarly, we were sent all the way to the top, and similarly, Bill Freeland didn't wish to discuss the matter.

LETTERS: Liquor interests 'stack' DASA.

Sir,- Once again a Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA) AGM has passed without any media interest. Once again elements of the liquor industry have been able to have a large swag of their loyal staff present – people who become members of DASA, attend the AGM and vote for a position on the committee or board of management. Experienced observers confirmed that around 17 of the 37 people in attendance were connected to the liquor industry, most of them being currently employed at a well-known hotel and takeaway liquor outlet. Its two present owners and its immediate past owner also had their reasons for attending. Even the bouncers turned up! From the old committee seven members were re-elected: two employees of the Correctional Services Dept (president and vice president), a licensee, a former licensee, a former employee in the liquor industry, a church leader, and a retired public servant. The new president, who was the old vice president, has publicly acknowledged his alliance with the local liquor industry's stance in the current alcohol debate. The new ten member governing committee contains only three new faces: one from the police, an Anglicare employee, and a substance misuse researcher. Seven people currently employed by Aboriginal organisations stood for positions. All of them have expertise in the area of alcohol and other drug misuse. They included Lorraine Liddle, the Director of CAAAPU; CAAAPU Counsellor Pamela Watts; Bob Durnan, who does Substance Misuse Project work for Congress; Tangentyere Housing Officer Kevin Binbingari; and Mike Bowden, the Community Development Division Manager at Tangentyere. Six of these people stood for the five non-executive committee positions, along with eight other nominees. None of the six managed to get through the gate. This is in spite of the fact that the bulk of DASA's clientele are Aboriginal people. Consequently there are no Aboriginal people on the new committee; nor are there any committee members who are employed by Aboriginal organisations. Even the regional manager of the NT Government's Office of Aboriginal Development failed to get a guernsey. Only three of the ten people on the new committee are thought to be in favour of reducing the excessive levels of alcohol consumption by restricting the availability of alcoholic beverages, as recommended by the majority of Alice residents in the survey carried out by Hauritz and Associates earlier this year. The outcome is predictable, and the NT Government is likely to continue to get advice from DASA that is counter to the demonstrated majority opinion in the town. The question needs to be asked: why would employees of a local hotel arrive at the AGM dressed in their workplace uniform, cast their vote, then leave before the post-election speeches? Could it be that there is a vested interest in keeping DASA a gagged voice in the current debate? While the Alice Springs public continues to allow this charade, there is little prospect that there will be any significant changes in the town's approaches to its entrenched alcohol problems. Surely it's time that the NT Government became serious about listening clearly to both sides of the alcohol debate, and not be seduced by the views of the DASA committee!
Barbara Curr,
Alice Springs

Sir,- These comments and observations are from a paid-up member of the McDouall Stuart Branch of the National Trust in the Northern Territory. I do not hold an official position on any National Trust committee or council but I am a past chairman of the local branch and also a past councillor for the NT. These opinions are my own.Recently fourteen National Trust Councillors held a teleconference (if you don't know what that is, it's a meeting over the telephone, you get patched in and talk to one another). I believe the majority of the councillors were in Darwin and one or two people represented each of the following towns, Katherine, Pine Creek, Borroloola and Tennant Creek. Three people were in Alice Springs. The agenda, no doubt, was substantial and decisions were swift.During this meeting the future of the National Trust in Alice Springs was determined.Voting eleven to three the salaried part-time secretary at the Hartley Street School will be made redundant as of the 31st December 2000 and the office will be downgraded to a second class category to be run by volunteers. What volunteers?To me this spells total destruction of all the good work achieved over many years by the hardworking, dedicated and loyal few. Even with a small subsidy from the head office, if offered, the local branch does not have the resources, volunteers or money to open the school daily as it is as present.Alice has always been the "showcase" for the National Trust in the Northern Territory. Hartley Street School, a heritage building, is well situated in the centre of town, open to the public five days a week. A comprehensive shop with quality gifts is also open daily and returns a good profit. The school is used for book launches, mostly on NT history, school visits, a Spring Flower Show and social activities of the branch. Admission is free and tourists from interstate are frequent daily visitors.Heritage Week, which no other branch, including Darwin, observes is professional and well patronised by visitors and locals. The Stuart Town Gaol is well preserved and returns a small profit which is farmed back into its preservation.So why is the Alice Springs office to be downgraded? All these public relations activities will disappear without a secretary. Can you imagine an efficient office being run by volunteers? No. The problem – shortage of funds in Darwin to pay one person's part-time salary and office expenses.Unfortunately, the public will be inconvenienced further. Bev Ayres, the secretary, discovered informally last week that her employment would be terminated in December. She resigned on the spot. Wouldn't you? The uncertainty and stress over the last year has also contributed to her being ill. What a pity our masters in Darwin did not have the courtesy to inform her immediately after the teleconference. It would have saved her much pain and heartache.I can assure you the downgrading of our office and the premature resignation of our secretary of seven loyal years will not win the council any friends in Alice Springs.And by the way, the National Trust of the NT was founded in Alice Springs in the early 1960s. Progress and streamlining I agree with, but downgrading the Hartley Street School Office I consider a retrograde step. Councillors are silenced by a code of ethics. Tell me, when are the members in Alice Springs going to be made aware our active office will be manned casually by volunteers? In a newsletter perhaps? The next one from Darwin, I believe, is not due out until just before Christmas. Obviously without a secretary in Alice Springs our own newsletter will cease. I imagine we will also have a dramatic fall in membership too, without local stimulation.Have the councillors forgotten the passionate response by Alice members to saving the Alice Springs Gaol? Without an active local office all this enthusiasm will be lost.Shame on you, NT councillors. Find the money for funding elsewhere and don't pass the buck to the local members, most of whom work or are involved in humanitarian voluntary work elsewhere. You can do better than that. The whole messy situation sickens me.
Margaret Baker
Alice Springs

Sir,- I was fascinated with the front page article "Pollies head for starting blocks" in the Alice Springs News of October 25. When I read the comments attributed to Mr Peter Harvey, a rumoured front runner for CLP preselection in the seat of Araluen, I wondered if he had actually considered standing for the ALP at some stage. It seems that we share common goals. The ALP candidates in Alice Springs are fighting for a "fairer slice of the government cake for Alice Springs", to "drag The Alice out of its current economic slump" and agree, that in reference to Alice Springs achieving its huge potential, the CLP has so far failed to produce the "energetic leaders to bring it to fruition". Given that all three Alice Springs town seats have been held by the CLP for the last six years, Mr Harvey's comments are a clear indictment of the standard of representation that our "voices in government" are providing the people of Alice Springs. In reference to the comments made regarding my candidature for the seat of Greatorex, I wouldn't mind the title "most boring politician" in the least. It seems that the Alice Springs News is less concerned with outcomes than the protracted processes and endless, empty, political rhetoric that inevitably accompanies the glossy volumes that gather dust on the bureaucratic sideboards in Darwin. I don't sit on any high profile committees and I refrain from making a great deal of public comment because it's too easy to focus on the negative aspects of the CLP administration. I'm out there, actively promoting and selling Alice Springs to international and domestic markets and have taken my lead from many of the pioneers of the Territory ... not making a great deal of noise about it but hopefully, kicking a few goals for Alice.
Peter Kavanagh
Alice Springs

Sir,- I have the following views on allocation of preferences:- Preferences are just that – preferred voter intention. I believe that the voter is mature and well-informed enough to make an independent judgment of the candidates. I will not be telling the voter how to vote. I will not be producing a how-to-vote card for Araluen. This will also save paper and reduce the amount of waste at the polling booth. If electors are unsure about the merits and qualities of the other candidates, I am more than willing to discuss my impressions of this with them – in private. Our most precious democratic tool is the secret ballot, which is a right, not a privilege. The voter's choice should remain his or her own decision right up to the time he or she enters the polling booth.
Meredith Campbell
Independent candidate for Araluen
meredithcee@bigpond.com

Sir,- At last week's meeting the Alice Springs Town Council passed the following recommendations:-
• That the Australian flag and the Northern Territory flag be flown during business hours in front of the Council Chambers.
• That provision be made for additional flags (for example, Council flag, Aboriginal flag) in front of the council administration building.
• That major Aboriginal representative organisations be requested to fly the Australian flag in conjunction with the Aboriginal flag and the Northern Territory flag as a gesture of reconciliation.
Central Australians for Reconciliation believes the council has taken a positive step towards reconciliation with this recommendation. However, our desired outcome is that council will ultimately wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity to fly the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian and Northern Territory flags outside the council chambers during business hours. This would be a true gesture of reconciliation, and we trust that it will come to pass in the not-too-distant future.
Lesley Branagan
Central Australians for Reconciliation

Sir, - In "Guns, Germs and Steel", Professor Jarred Diamond has collected a lot of data about wheels. It seems likely that they were invented only twice, and in one of these cases, the potential wasn't realised. Given this history, it ill-behoves any one of us to belittle any of the rest of us over the matter. Very few indeed can properly claim ancestors who invented and exploited wheels, early on.For a Minister for Reconciliation to fall into this trap indicates poor attention to homework. A poor sense of direction, too.
Peter Fannin
Uluru

Sir,- Just found your web page and enjoyed reliving some wonderful memories of our three years in Alice Springs. My husband was attached to the Air Force Det 1965-1968 and we and our children have wonderful memories of those years. We became active in many activities in the Center at that time. My husband was a member of Beef-Steak and Burgundy and APEX and had the distinction of being the first American president of Beef-Steak and Burgandy. I served as president of the Ross Glenn [Park?] elementary school PTO. We also have wonderful memories of dear friends like Dick and Gwen Sweet, Peter and Minna Sitzler, and Bob and Jan Walker, and so many other friends from those organizations. Memories of the Sitzler family and our family heading to the gorges for Easter weekend . Our memories of Bangtail Muster and the Territory's First Still float that APEX put together and the Todd River Races in bulldust up to my ankles bring laughs even today. Watching the Olympics last week made all of my family homesick for our second home. Our kids were truly Aussies when we left and still, after all these years, consider themselves Australians. They may be Americans by birth, but their hearts were left in the Center. My daughter and I still remember our trip to South Australia on the Ghan and our eventful trip back to Alice when the Fink River ran its banks and we spent seven days stranded on the Ghan until they flew us out. Our train drank the pub dry at Leigh Creek and polished off the supplies they had there and just when things were getting interesting, we were able to move up to Oodnadatta where we sat for three more days until the decision was made to fly us out. When arriving back at Alice I remember Gwen Sweet telling Ann and I that we were true Aussies now. While we were there we lived on Stuart Terrace next to Rex Battarbee's gallery and remember all the times the Todd came a banker and we made the walk down to the causeway to watch the river run! We remember doing that a couple of times during the middle of the night when people came in their nightclothes and greeted one another as if it was the middle of the day and we were all turned out formally. Where else could you have that kind of wonderful, crazy happening? Of course, when we were in the Center the population was between 2000 to 4000 people and everyone knew everyone else. There was no television, one radio station which came from Sydney and the town created its own entertainment. We feel fortunate that we were able to be a part of such a wonderful town and group of people. They took us to their hearts and became forever a part of ours.
Shirley & Hal Baker
shirley@digital.net

TAKE HEALTH SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE: ABORIGINAL LEADER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The failure by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress to provide health services to Aboriginal living areas in Alice Springs has been sharply criticized by the executive director of Tangentyere Council.William Tilmouth says: "Health has got to be where people are, where people live."If you live under a tree, that's where that service should be delivered to you."Tangentyere provides municipal and other services to 18 Aboriginal lease areas around town, home for some 2000 people. It has just signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding with the Alice Town Council (see report this edition).Congress, which receives $4m a year from the Federal Government, has recently been under fire for spending public money on a trip to the Olympic Games by senior staff, members of its board as well as their spouses and partners, as reported by the Alice Springs News.The organisation claimed the trip was for "study" purposes.Mr Tilmouth told the News: "We don't deliver health services."Environmental and public health are new issues."We don't have the historical capacity within our organisation to give you statistics on Aboriginal health."But let me tell you that Aboriginal health is getting worse, it's not improving."Hopefully, by Aboriginal people participating in the health services themselves you can bring about change."In the past it used to happen. "[Congress] services were on town camps, doctors in a mobile clinic would attend town camps."But for reasons, I think, of economics it was decided that was not cost effective."He says the public can draw its own conclusions about the economic argument."The second issue was that people were becoming dependent on the service."That is not a reasonable argument."I think health has got to come out of clinics."We're working on a protocol with the Central Australian Division of Primary Health Care (DPHC, formerly the Division of General Practice)."That is a protocol in regards to how we want services delivered, and also what services are to be delivered."Very much these are services after hours, when all clinics are closed and people are using the hospital outpatients; services in relation to public health, environmental health, the whole gambit of services needed in the town lease areas."Asked why these changes are sought through DPHC and not by direct negotiation with Congress, Mr Tilmouth said: "The Division has very much a mediation role."Meanwhile Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Dr Michael Wooldridge, and his Parliamentary Secretary, NT Senator Grant Tambling, are continuing to refuse to release details about Congress funding.They have denied access to the News to a special audit report of Congress carried out last year.ATSIC commissioner for the southern NT Alison Anderson has also asked Dr Wooldridge about the trip to the Olympics but says she has not yet received a satisfactory reply.MacDonnell MLA John Elferink says: "The Alice Springs News certainly seems to have stumbled across a very important issue."The appropriate use of public money by organisations at all levels is certainly an important issue."If there is any suggestion of malpractice or maladministration then the matter must be investigated."The taxpayers have a right to know that when public money is allocated for certain purposes, then it is used for these purposes."It would appear that the department has fallen short in the expectation that they review expended moneys because people have felt the need to go to the media," Mr Elferink says.ALP candidate for Araluen Liz Scott, a nurse and health consumer advocate, whose major platform is improved health services, says: "I agree that health services should be delivered where they are needed."Deep and appropriate community consultation must take place."Leonie Young, NT Manager for the Department of Health and Aged Care, provided a statement which said in part: "The Department has received written assurance from [Congress] executive that no Olympic related expenses were paid for with department funds. No further action on this matter is proposed."Regarding allegations of a slush fund, at the invitation of [Congress], an operational review of its financial and operational procedures was conducted by the department last year. "The review found that Congress met all department requirements and there was no evidence of the existence of a slush fund. No irregularities or inappropriate use of grants were identified in the review."The review report is an internal document, classified audit-in- confidence. "Sections of the report may be obtained through a Freedom of Information request."Following the outcome of the review and formal assurances from [Congress] leadership, the department is satisfied that no Commonwealth funds have been used for purposes other than the delivery of health services to the Central Australian Indigenous community."The department has confidence in [Congress], its management and its capacity to deliver health services to the Indigenous people of Central Australia. No further action on this matter is proposed."

MODEL FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT.

A memorandum of understanding between the Alice Springs Town Council and Tangen-tyere Council signed last week is an example of the current reform agenda of local government in the Territory, according to Local Government Minister Loraine Braham."At the moment we have a large number of small councils and many of them don't operate efficiently or effectively," she says.The memorandum is "an indication of the type of things we're trying to achieve with other councils."Both of the organisations have had their differences in the past."These included a long and expensive legal battle, which the town council lost, for the right to charge council rates on Aboriginal town lease areas. The courts found that the associations governing these areas are exempt because they are charitable organisations.Mrs Braham says the memorandum is "the type of partnership we're after".The memorandum is the result of a year of negotiations and covers cooperation in youth development, employment, training, public and environmental health, substance abuse, animal management, public transport, waste management, storm water drainage and flood control.Tangentyere Council has an annual budget of $5m, mainly from ATSIC, and provides support for 18 Aboriginal living areas throughout the town with a total population of about 2000.Tangentyere executive director William Tilmouth, who nutted out the agreement with council CEO Nick Scarvelis, said it expresses "hope for a new beginning" and a move to secure a future "for our children [that] they deserve".Under the memorandum the two organisations would be able to " jointly deal with issues, not just consult" on problems including illegal camping, stranded bush visitors, rubbish, water supply and dust suppression.Mr Tilmouth said he hoped the town council would provide more jobs for Aboriginal people, "just like in the old days".Mayor Fran Erlich said at the signing ceremony last Friday: " While it is a cooperative attitude of working together that will make this agreement work, it is the outcomes that will change people's lives."Mrs Braham says community and municipal organisations are already working together in other parts of the NT."Julalikari in Tennant Creek already look after the dump for the Tennant Creek Council," she says."There's obviously no need for two rubbish services in a town like that."Other functions that could be shared include payroll management, employment strategies and training."This is one small step and if it works well, at then at end of the day Aboriginal people in town lease areas will feel more part of the Alice Springs community."She says negotiations are under way with the Commonwealth about town council road grants being extended to the Aboriginal lease areas.

MEDICAL SERVICES PRIME TARGET FOR ALP HOPEFUL. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Labor candidate for Araluen Liz Scott is making better health care in its widest sense the main plank in her platform.The 41 year old mother of two young children, married to the owner of a small building business, poet Michael Watts, tackles the job with considerable knowledge and a more than usual amount of passion.The qualified nurse and health consumer advocate, an Alice resident for 11 years, says there is no excuse for the perennial staffing shortages and massive turnover at the Alice hospital.Its planned private wing is not an appropriate way to solve the town's most urgent problems, with more accessible after hour care at the top of the list.If it goes ahead, out of the three tenderers "it should go to the Catholic nuns because of their bottom line is spiritual care, as opposed to financial gain".And Aboriginal health services, including the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, need to look at their operations, delivering care "over a wider catchment area, supporting issues of access and equity".Ms Scott says: "I love living here but I don't want my kids to grow up in a town of fear and neglect."All these issues have driven me to stand as a candidate," she says. "I cannot sit back any longer.Ms Scott says it appears a large slice of the $30m currently being spent on upgrading the hospital will be for a private wing, a "criminal move in a town with so many health problems".She says Territory Health appears to expect that reasonable after hour care will be delivered by the proposed private hospital service. "I waited for seven hours for a 10 minute consultation at the hospital when my son had an ear infection," she says."This may have been extreme, but four hours is common."It seems the NT Government's attitude will be that people looking for a more efficient service will need to consult the private hospital, at a minimum charge of $92, if Darwin is any guide.Ms Scott says her work with "skinny, sick and dying children" in Yuendumu in the late ‘eighties will help her understand Aboriginal health problems in Alice Springs.A failure to thrive program she managed at Yuendumu gave her an insight into the impact of bad nutrition, a history of marginalisation, loss of some traditional skills and social disruption caused by alcohol.Women she had worked with there later formed the first night patrol, a movement that has since spread across the nation as one of the most successful health and social justice initiatives.Ms Scott says there are no quick fixes, and short term funding strategies are useless.That applies equally to the Ilparpa swamp where "successful solutions will only come from extensive community consultation focusing on both the environmental and health issues." Ms Scott was born in Melbourne in 1958 and lived there until her family moved to Adelaide in her last year of school. She studied nursing in Adelaide where she qualified as a Registered Nurse before moving to Sydney. In Sydney she worked in oncology and developed an interest in " loss, grief and palliative care". She says her interest in those areas and in palliative care lasts to this day.Upon returning to Adelaide she developed her interest in psycho-social health, studying to be a counsellor in Adelaide, Sydney, England and the United States. She moved to Alice Springs in 1988. She was a youth refuge worker at ASYASS and continued to be a member of the service's management committee. She is also well known in the art community, particularly from her role as manager of Desart in 1995.She is a board member of the Northern Territory Remote Health Workforce Agency, a member of the National Consumer Health Forum and the Northern Territory Strategic Reference Group.She is a past member Central Australian Division of General Practice Consumer Reference Group.Ms Scott says she will consider the question of preferences when "the field of candidates is known".

OIL FOR US: COULD DENIS BE A FUEL SAVIOUR? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Could Chief Minister Denis Burke turn Central Australian oil into a home-grown relief for the exorbitant cost of diesel here?If your head is spinning after accusations and counter accusations at the premiers' and chief ministers' conference, here's some more fuel for controversy.When the Mereenie oil field west of Alice Springs was being developed in the ‘seventies, Chief Minister Paul Everingham promised he would make sure that this Territory resource would benefit primarily Territorians.Yet today we're paying the nation's highest fuel prices. Current Chief Minister, Denis Burke, is chiming in with his interstate counterparts in blaming the Feds for letting motorists down.However, it seems Mr Burke's government, and its predecessors – all formed by the Country Liberal Party – could have done a great deal to bring relief. Mereenie crude was prospected and is now being produced by a consortium including Magellan, Oilmin and Santos.They, like other Australian producers, are selling their crude at world parity prices, currently near a record high.Late last week a barrel – that's 159 litres – was worth US$32.55 or around A$61 a the current exchange rate for our dollar, which is very close to an historic low. That puts the world parity price at 39 cents Australian a litre.Although it's the Arab oil cartels who are setting that price, the Australian producers are merrily taking part in the bonanza.But they are not the only ones enjoying the windfall: when it comes to Mereenie crude, the NT Government is doing very well because it gets 10 per cent of the well head value by way of royalties.So, by the way, are the Aboriginal traditional owners: they are collecting about 11 per cent.Both are now getting three times as much when compared to two years ago.The Mereenie consortium is operating under a licence granted by the NT Government.That licence agreement does not govern the sale price of the crude, but there seems to be no reason why it couldn't.For example, the government could say: "You're very welcome to that oil, which belongs to the people of the Northern Territory, but up to the level of meeting all local demand, you must not charge more than US$25 a barrel."Would the oil companies have said, no, thanks? Unlikely.However, a spokesman for Mines Minister Daryl Manzie says if a ceiling is put on a product, the supplier may also deserve a " floor" – say US$15 a barrel, sometimes considered the break-even level.The argument advanced by the government for not regulating the price is as follows:- The market should regulate the price. If we hold the price artificially low then oil companies won't go out and explore. Our quest for self sufficiency would be threatened. The nation would be worse off.What the government could add is that every time OPEC doubles of trebles the price of crude, the government's royalties shoot up by the same factor.At present the great majority of the Mereenie crude production – about 555,000 barrels a year – goes to Port Stanvac in South Australia for refining. The cost added between the well head and the consumer include freight, plus 30 cents excise and eight cents state tax (which the NT Government also pockets). These government charges are fixed and not dependent on the current world parity price.In the last financial year the NT Government received A$4.3m in petroleum royalties (from Mereenie and Palm Valley)."This goes into treasury and that's where it benefits the people of the NT," says Mr Manzie's spokesman.At the bowser a further 10 per cent GST is added. But not all Mereenie crude goes "south": A portion is bought by Alice Springs' very own refinery, operating quietly in the Brewer industrial estate.Last year Central Oil Refinery (COR) sold three million litres, mainly to big trucking companies, for around 10 cents a litre less than is charged at the bowser in town.The plant, built at a cost of $3m and opened in 1983, is closed at the moment for a $2m upgrade.Mereenie crude is of a very high quality and needs little refining before it can be used in diesel engines.In fact, it is understood that the production companies have been using the crude, after simply removing dirt in a centrifuge, in diesel powered vehicles at the Mereenie field.So why is COR making so little noise about its venture?Manager Ray Bonser hints that getting up the noses of big oil companies may not be a good idea.However, he says there is a good reason for not opening a service station in town: "We can't get a site for a reasonable price."He says service stations in Alice Springs are operating on the highest margins in Australia and consequently, the businesses are worth a lot more than they would be elsewhere."We could buy three service stations in Brisbane for the price of one in Alice Springs," he says.

BUFFEL GRASS: LANDSCAPE'S BLEAK FUTURE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Buffel grass is pushing out native grasses, wildflowers and small plants around Alice Springs, and will ultimately dominate large parts of The Centre's landscape.Its high fuel load will make wildfires more frequent, destroying mulgas, witchetties and ironwoods. They will start to disappear in just decades.This is the dire prediction of two eminent scientists in The Centre.While buffel can be controlled over small areas, eradication of the grass on a broad scale seems unlikely. On the contrary, the local environment and climate combined with human and human-induced activity create ideal conditions for the spread of buffel.These sad conclusions reached by CSIRO scientist Graham Griffin and Parks and Wildlife botanist Dave Albrecht, were presented during a field trip last week organised by the Central Australian Buffel Grass Working Group.Mr Albrecht showed the group trial sites set up at the Desert Park to assess the effects of buffel on native plants and a range of control methods.The 60 five metre by five metre plots were established in September last year in an area where buffel was already growing quite densely.Control plots where left undisturbed, with breaks cleared around them so that they would not be affected by neighbouring plots.A number of plots had the surface raked to look at the effect of surface disturbance.Some sites were burnt; others were burnt with follow-up spraying of regrowth.A large number of sites were chipped: on some the buffel was left on the surface, with follow-up chipping of seedlings; on others the buffel was taken off the site, with follow-up chipping of seedlings; on yet others, the buffel was removed, and the site vacuumed, with follow-up chipping of seedlings.On the remaining sites, buffel was first whipper-snipped. Then on a number of sites, the regrowth was sprayed with Roundup in January of this year, and then with a grass-specific spray called Fusillade in March.On others, the sites were whipper-snipped a second time in March, and the regrowth sprayed with Roundup.The use of Fusillade was successful; non-grass species were left unharmed.The success of the different methods was measured by the appearance of native species on the plots at any time during the year.Chipping with follow-up chipping of regrowth and seedlings and whipper-snipping with follow-up spraying of regrowth and seedlings achieved similar results; burning with follow-up spraying of regrowth was not far behind. On the plots that had been burnt with no follow-up, the frequency of buffel had returned to its pre-burn rate within six months.Mr Albrecht commented: "If you haven't got the resources to follow-up, with dense growth you're better off leaving it alone."The native species that had appeared on the plots were all short-lived annual grasses and herbs, responding to the exceptional summer rains, followed by autumn rains.The time period of the trial has been too short to see if perennial species would become established and, as Mr Albrecht noted, one the reasons why buffel has done so well in this area, is that there are no analogue native perennial grasses to compete with it.Mr Griffin also suggested that if the trial plots were left with no further treatment they would soon revert to their buffel-dominated state.At this stage of the trial there has been fairly sparse recruitment of buffel on the plots, which Mr Albrecht found surprising. He said there did not appear to be a big seed bank of buffel in the soil and he could not explain why this would be so. It contradicted his experience with buffel in other nearby areas.A side study on the effect of deep burning on buffel was also conducted. The buffel was divided into size classes and each class was subject to high temperature burning of different durations.This was done during a dry period when the plants should have been "stressed", yet the only plants to die were the really small ones.What accounts for the extraordinary hardiness of this plant?There are a number of factors, according to Mr Griffin.It is a deep-rooted plant which allows it access to moisture and nutrients well below the surface, giving it an advantage over shallow-rooted natives.This also protects it during fire, as the rate of heat transfer through soil is very slow. The plant will regrow from the base, to which it has in the meantime drawn all its nutrients.It requires soils with relatively high levels of phosphorous and nitrogen. This is why it has not spread into spinifex sand plains and mulga dominated landscapes where nutrients in the soil are very low.Buffel also thrives where the soil has been disturbed, in particular by grazing and by rabbits.When the soil is disturbed, new soil is brought to the surface and as it oxidises and mineralises it releases levels of phosphorous and nitrogen that are sufficient for buffel to capitalise upon.For this reason, said Mr Griffin, while chipping allows for short term control of buffel, in the long term it actually creates conditions for the plant to thrive in.Every major river system in Central Australia is now also furthering the spread of buffel. World-wide, river systems are a major conduit for the spread of weeds, said Mr Griffin.Roadworks throughout the Centre are having a similar effect. Even in areas where buffel is unlikely to get a strong foothold it is established along the roads.Mr Griffin blames rabbits for the presence of buffel on top of the ranges.What does all this mean for control of the weed?Beyond chemical spraying, which is not necessarily desirable and almost certainly not affordable, Mr Griffin can not see a solution. He says the probability of finding a biological control that would affect only buffel is very slight, as buffel is, after all, not so unlike many other grasses. Even if a biological control were to be found, its introduction would meet stiff opposition from a multi-million dollar industry in Queensland which cultivates buffel for fodder."We continue to provide the conditions for its growth and spread," said Mr Griffin."I wish I could see a way forward, but I'm sorry, I can't."

NUGGET COOMBS: FATHER OF ABORIGINAL ORGANISATIONS! Interview by KIERAN FINNANE.

The late H.C. "Nugget" Coombs was nearing retirement as Governor of the Reserve Bank when he took on the challenge of developing Indigenous policy for then Prime Minister Harold Holt.KIERAN FINNANE asks historian Tim Rowse, author of "Obliged to be diffcult", an account of Coombs' contribution to Indigenous affairs, what Coombs hoped to achieve in the area.See our issue of October 25 for Part One of this interview.
Dr Rowse: I think Coombs was primed to say yes to Holt out of a sense that – to use a topical phrase – there was some " unfinished business". He had presided over a post-war economic boom in Australia , had been one of its main architects (in so far as you can have architects of an economic boom in a dependent economy).He could look across an Australia that was doing very well in all departments, but in August 1967, as Governor of the Reserve Bank, he did a tour of the north of Australia, from Cape York to the Kimberley, looking at new mining projects. He noted with great optimism the stimulus to the Australian economy that they were providing, but he was worried about what was going to happen to the Aborigines in the area. In a speech he said, "We haven't found a way of including them in the boom". He could see that in the north and the centre of the continent there was no clear formula for the government to follow about how to develop Aboriginal interests.
News: So what did he achieve in this regard?
Rowse: I think his most important achievement was to show the government a practical way of realising the notion of Aboriginal choice.The assimilation policy as it was being revised and rethought in the mid to late ‘sixties was starting to concede that assimilation could be very coercive. Even if you have people's best interests at heart, you can't coerce them into advancing. There has got to be a degree of choice involved.Showing government how to actualise or put into practical form the idea of Indigenous choice – by Aboriginal people forming themselves into local incorporated bodies – was, I think, Coombs' most important achievement in this area. The idea of the Aboriginal organisation really begins in the late 1960s, early 1970s with people like Coombs and Charles Rowley. A very important part of Coombs' strategic thinking about this was that it was much more important to develop the local Aboriginal organisation than it was to develop a national assembly of Indigenous people to determine policy; that the real political creativity was going to be at the local and regional level.He thought that there was a danger that if you developed national and representative bodies, they would favour the participation of educated southern Aboriginal people, products of the assimilation era who had learnt to write, speak and act politically in an effective way, and that those national bodies would not be truly representative of the huge diversity of Aborigines.He was not unconcerned with the fate of the southern Aborigines but he thought there was a real chance that the Aboriginal people of the north and the centre could make genuine choice about their destiny, whereas the moment of that choice had passed for a lot of Aborigines in the south, they were inexorably being sucked into the white man's system. Or so he thought at the time.He thought there was nothing inevitable about that for the Aborigines of the north and centre and it was therefore essential to put in place political mechanisms whereby those remote people could have a real choice.
News: Was his contribution mostly in the form of ideas?
Rowse: Yes. Coombs' model of bureaucratic political activism was one that he brought with him from the 1940s when he was Director-General of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. In that model you have a small, intellectually dynamic government department which does research and lots of consultation with the public and other government agencies and comes up with new policy ideas which it then advocates to the relevant government department.Coombs tried to resurrect that model in the late 'sixties, early 'seventies, and that's how the Council for Aboriginal Affairs worked. It was a think tank, an advocacy body for administrative and political innovation. And as the book that I've written tells, Coombs' immediate field of influence was the Northern Territory because the NT had Commonwealth agencies working in it. So you could talk to Commonwealth agencies about improving policy in the NT, which would give example to the other states, particularly Western Australia and Queensland.The difficulty that he encountered was that the Department of the Interior,which governed the NT in the 1960s, was very wedded to the ideas of assimilation and very suspicious of the changes that Coombs was advocating.
News: What sort of headway did he make with them?
Rowse: He made so little headway initially that by 1971 he and his colleagues in the council – Barrie Dexter and William Stanner – put out a press leak which said they were about to resign. That forced the Minister to confront them and they laid out their complaints.The policy breakthroughs they eventually got after a change of government, when the Whitlam government came to power in December, 1972. Though just before that there was a serious argument going on within the Commonwealth Government about land rights.In 1971 the Blackburn judgment had said that the Yolngu people of Yirrkala could not be recognised as landowners in Australian law. By then there was a certain amount of public sympathy for land rights and that judgment, which was thought to be correct in law, was thought to be bad, morally and politically, by a very large number of Australians, including some people who would be expected to vote Liberal.A serious argument took place under the McMahon government. Coombs and his colleagues pushed the idea of land rights for reserve-dwelling Aborigines as far as it would go. Ultimately they were unsuccessful, but they got so close that by the time the Whitlam government got in it was relatively uncontroversial for Whitlam and then Fraser to legislate.So that's one part of Coombs' success: he was part of the early advocacy of land rights and he himself played a role in the selection of Justice Edward Woodward as Royal Commissioner and in the drawing up of Woodward's terms of reference.On the administrative side Coombs was less successful, because the Whitlam government set up a Department of Aboriginal Affairs as a central Commonwealth agency for all Aboriginal affairs programs.Coombs thought that was a dreadful idea. He wanted to stick to the model where you have a small unit which advocates ideas which are then taken up by a diverse number of government agencies. He thought that if you had one department that was responsible for all Aboriginal affairs programs it would run into all sorts of difficulties, one of them being that it would become a ghetto.
The reader who is interested in why Coombs was an early critic of DAA will find this part of the book very interesting.News: For the reader interested in contemporary Aboriginal affairs, what sort of light does the book shed on thinking about the issues?
Rowse: One of Coombs' great endeavours, part of this idea of actualising and making real Indigenous choice, was to encourage the government to self-consciously cultivate an Aboriginal intelligentsia (that's what he called it). Clearly, one of the things that has happened since the late 1960s is that there is an Indigenous intelligentsia, a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are politically savvy, have a lot of experience, often in these local organisations, sometimes in national ones, sometimes in Commonwealth and State bureaucracies. They are people who know how government works and who are capable of being effective leaders of their people in negotiations with the government. One of the manifestations of that emergent Indigenous intelligentsia was the constitution of teams of Indigenous negotiators to deal with the Keating Government in developing a Native Title Act. Similarly, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation at the moment over reconciliation can be seen as a product of that drive to constitute an Indigenous intelligentsia. So that's one legacy of Coombs' work which is visible now. Another one is the unresolved relationship between national representative bodies, like ATSIC, and local and regional representative and service delivery bodies, like the Land Councils, Congresses, legal services and so forth. Coombs' career was a bit paradoxical: he did want a national Indigenous intelligentsia to emerge, but he didn't want it to emerge too quickly, he thought it should emerge from the grass roots up. There's an abiding question around all national Indigenous representative bodies about their degree of representativeness, their ability to represent such a diverse and localised constituency. The persistence of that issue is something that Coombs foretold. It's not an issue which you can''t get around, it's not as if you have one or the other, you've goto have both and therefore you've got to have this tension between the political work at the national level and at the local or regional level. Land rights, that's part of his legacy too. He was worried about native title. He thought that the Native Title Act had been developed too quickly,that there needed to be a much longer process of discussion and digestion of the implications of the Mabo decision and that the government was too quick to try and deal with a new uncertainty in Australian law by codifying Aboriginal title as the Native Title Act. But it was at the moment when he was making that warning that his public career was ended by his stroke, so that was pretty much his last effort.
News: Have his concerns been borne out?
Rowse: I think Coombs would have been very encouraged by the degree to which negotiation rather than litigation is common under the native title regime. Not every assertion of native title has to find its way to court, there is negotiation going on all over Australia between putative native titleholders (whose claim hasn't been tested in court ) and other interests. The other interests figure that it''s much better to talk as if that claim were provable than to push it all away into the courts and create lots of legal and political hassle.I think Coombs would have felt very good about that. What he was worried about though – and this has been amply borne out in the Howard government's actions – is a tendency for non-Aboriginal authority to want to codify in a very restrictive and clearly defined way what the incidents of native title are. In other words, he liked the idea that the incidents of native title, that is the rights which go with being a native title holder, were a bit open ended rather than clearly defined by white law. So to the extent that the common law remains dynamic in Australia in its recognition of native title, there is the kind of hope that Coombs would have wished to see.The legacy of the last 30 years is inextinguishable really. There are 5000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations – at least that was the count in 1996 – doing all sorts of different things all over Australia and that is the bedrock of self-determination.That was recognised as such by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Coombs, I think, would warmly applaud the fact that that is the bedrock of self-determination. It could not be anything less, in his view. Towards the end of his life he was advocating that on the basis of these many local organisations you could start to get regional coalitions of organisations, and so you could start to get regional Indigenous government which would find its own place within the scheme of Australian federalism. To go right back in Coombs' career to the 1940s, he was an advocate of regionalism in Australia's post-war reconstruction policies. His advocacy didn't get very far, because the Australian Constitution works against regionalism; the states find it threatening and the Commonwealth doesn't like doing things which the states find threatening. But a new mandate for what you might call northern and remote Australian regionalism is arising from the fact that there are parts of Australia whether it makes a great deal of sense to think of the Kimberley or Cape York or the Torres Strait as units requiring a certain degree of self-government and where the main constituency to be addressed is an Indigenous one. Coombs was very excited about that. In 1994 he would say to anyone who would listen, "Regionalism is an idea whose time has come". For him that had taken 50 years.

BRAHAM CLEARS UP QUERIES ON ALCOHOL MOVES. Report by ERWIN CLANDA.

The government has not taken the Licensing Commission "out of the loop" in current moves towards alcohol control measures in Alice Springs, says Minister for Central Australia Loraine Braham (pictured).She has been charged by Chief Minister Denis Burke to report to Cabinet about public opinion on the issue.He said in the Legislative Assembly on August 2: "I expect to see wide community consultation including a whole range of stake holders from the business community and other interest groups." He asked Mrs Braham "to take carriage of the issue for government and to coordinate the departmental response through a cabinet submission in due course to government. "From that we will provide a holistic response to all of the recommendations".This has prompted comment from the Labor Party and community leaders that Mr Burke has taken the process out of the hands of the Licensing Commission.But Mrs Braham told the Alice News last week that the government will be dealing only with issues over which it has control, while the commission will be taking charge of matters falling under its statutory responsibility.She says Licensing Commissioner Peter Allen would make decisions "in matters that pertain to him, all those things that come under his portfolio".This would include all questions of liquor trading restrictions and conditions. The local members of parliament – as does anyone in the community – will be able to express their views to the commissioner.Ms Braham says she would convey to the government any " recommendations that have financial implications, such as matters to do with the police, or any need for additional resources".She says she has so far received submissions from the Alice Alcohol Representative Committee, the Licencees' Association and the Alice Town Council.She says she will be meeting soon with Mr Allen and the Quality of Life branch of Alice in Ten."We will get a feel of where all these groups are heading," she says. "We'll thrash out where we think we should be going. There is a diverse range of opinion in this."Sometimes they overlap but quite often they don't and quite often there is not a common thread through them."I'm particularly interested in what Quality of Life will come up with because they're actually representative of all those groups as well, and I don't know how they'll ever reach a consensus."It is obvious from discussions that the [Hauritz] report itself has little credibility and the issue of availability is but one aspect of the alcohol debate."I hope we will be able to come up with a set of recommendations that will be acceptable to government and acceptable to the community, and to all the groups we're consulting with."These recommendations will cover a wide range of initiatives."She says there is no time frame yet for her report to Cabinet but it will be "hopefully not too far away".She says she expects the Licensing Commission will come up with measures that reflect "a common thread, a common thrust" from all the recommendations.Mrs Braham says the town council commissioned Hauritz report made recommendations for action by the NT Government, the community and the Licensing Commission.Meanwhile Ms Braham says there are no grounds for speculation, published in the Alice Springs News two weeks ago, that she is having health problems."I am fit as a fiddle'" she says, and she has applied for preselection again in her seat of Braitling.The CLP's Central Council is likely to announce preselected candidates next weekend, a "collegiate" panel having interviewed applicants for all Central Australian seats in late October.

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