HEALTH SYSTEM FAILS TOO MANY: CALL FOR GPs. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A "significant number" of the 2000 people living in Alice Springs' town camps don't have an adequate medical service, according to the Division of Primary Health Care.Its chairman, Chris Wake, says for a variety of reasons many Aborigines in the 18 town lease areas don't go to Congress. He supported a call last week by Tangentyere director William Tilmouth that the Aboriginal health service, funded mainly by the Federal Department of Health and Aged Care, should be taking take mobile clinics to the camps. "People serviced by Congress are generally serviced adequately," says Dr Wake. "Congress is doing a good job under difficult circumstances but it is isolated from a group of Aboriginal people who for whatever reason don't want to use them. "The reasons for this are clearly complex but family issues and ties could be one of them."It is this group of people who do not go to Congress who concern me in my role at the division."Taking Congress to the town camps in mobile clinics has been done before but I suspect it is time to revisit the idea. "Those Aboriginal people who don't go to Congress visit the hospital which presents both hospital and patient with a whole host of stresses."About 1200 people attend casualty each week. More than half are Aboriginal.Says Dr Wake: "The hospital would be the first to agree that quality general practice care isn't offered in their casualty department Ð it's not meant to be offered there. "The doctors in casualty are junior, or targeted to emergency care. "They are not involved in continuing care, preventative care or public health. "They are not specialist general practitioners. "Although more than half the people using Casualty for general practice services are Aboriginal people, the hospital is under resourced to provide culturally appropriate and culturally safe treatment. "An example of this is an Aboriginal male needing to deal initially with a white triage nurse. "Such an interface immediately sets up potential barriers to a positive treatment outcome. "A second example would be the lack of an effective interpreter service. "Whilst there are Aboriginal liaison officers in the hospital, they are busy on the wards and work nine to five, they do not have the luxury of servicing casualty." About the proposed private hospital Dr Wake says: "I don't think that this will make a great deal of difference to the loads placed on casualty. "The Darwin experience was that a consult after hours cost up to $80 or $90. "Clearly such a fee represents a barrier to access. Many will still depend on casualty for their after hours general practice care." "The provision of a GP after hours service in casualty makes compelling sense and is sound economically. The problem is that Alice Springs is short of some five GPs so two new doctors would need to be brought to town to operate the service. "This would cost $250,000 per year and we at the division have repeatedly sought this money from Territory Health Services." Dr Wake says it is certainly the case that the hospital executive are as "keen as mustard to progress the GP casualty clinic". The hospital executive understand the spin-offs in terms of non-Aboriginal after hours care and removing pressure from a stressed casualty area as well as providing better GP care to a group of Aboriginal people. Dr Wake says: "It is interesting to note that Territory Health have funded a GP after hours service in the Chief Minister's electorate of Palmerston for some years, to the tune of $180,000 a year. "I am appalled at the lack of progress on these pressing health needs in Alice Springs." The group headed by Dr Wake was formerly the Division of General Practice but is now known as the Division of Primary Health Care. He says: "This name change is in recognition of the changing membership and roles of the division. "It now as well as doctors includes nurses, Aboriginal health workers, allied health professionals, dentists and pharmacists amongst others. "We seek to alter health outcomes in Central Australia by improving the strategic alliances between our member professions." The division has a consumer reference group which acts as a lobby for the general public in health matters. Mr Tilmouth, a member of the group, last week called for sweeping reforms of Congress [Alice News, November 8]. "William is the sort of man who can make a difference," says Dr Wake. "The request for the division to mediate between Congress and Tangentyere, on the background of 15 years of tension between them, came out of left field," he says. "The division does not want to become involved in a stoush between these groups but we do want to be involved in progressing the major issues. "These are: how do we care for the group of people who do not visit Congress, and how do we diversify health care options to Aboriginal Central Australians. "Congress director John Liddle and Mr Tilmouth need to show leadership in progressing these questions. "Then the division and other agencies like the Commonwealth and Territory Health can fall in behind them in providing solutions. These are the only two blokes who can fix this." If Mr Liddle and Mr Tilmouth do not take a "statesman like position in this regard then we are unfortunately in for more of the same," says Dr Wake. Meanwhile, forums dubbed "Getting Community into Community Health" will be held in Alice Springs, with the aim of informing people about Community Health Services and of getting feedback on the services. "It is about Territory Health Services doing a check on the relevance of its programs and seeing how, as an organisation, we can better meet the needs of the community. "We have never done this type of health analysis before," said Mary-Grace Bingham, spokesperson for the Community Participation Committee which is running the forums. For more information call 8951 6708.
BRUCE RUXTON LETS FLY: THE RSL WAR HORSE SPEAKS OUT IN THE ALICE.
RSL top gun Bruce Ruxton was in town for Remembrance Day and the 76 year old promptly fired off a few broadsides.
The flag: There is only one flag in Australia and that's the Australian flag. There is no place for any other flag. I'm told, only this week, there's been pressure placed upon [some Victorian local governments] if they don't fly the Aboriginal flag they're not going to get funding for whatever. I'm going to find out about this. I don't mind the Aboriginal flag being flown over their own settlements. They can do whatever they like. But not for Australians, in public places.
Peace keeping: We've got problems around Australia we've never had before, not only in Timor but in the Pacific. If we let them run wild in the Pacific it's going to be to the detriment of Australia in the long term. I see peace keeping as the major role for our soldiers. It's better for them to be peace keepers than war mongers.
Landrights: There are parts of Australia where tribal values amongst Aborigines should be preserved. I really believe that. But I don't believe in that reckless land claiming that's going on. The southern gold fields of Western Australia ... if they got them they're not going to mine gold. They're going to let you mine the gold and take the royalties and do no work. I'd like to know how many royalties from the mining companies have been paid to some of the Aboriginal leaders up in the gulf, and so on. I know they've been enormous.
Waste: I won't tell you my sources but the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are looking for 400 four wheel drives that are missing, you can't put up with that sort of nonsense.
Hasn't the Department of Aboriginal Affairs been replaced by ATSIC?
What's Herron? Isn't he still the minister?
Well, he's still the minister but the organisation is now called ATSIC.
All right, ASTIC [sic] or whatever it is, his department, I don't know who the vehicles are owned by but the Aborigines have got them and they've disappeared.
The Devil's Marble on Flynn's Grave: I have a good friend who was on the board of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, he resigned over it because they went for it. It's the old business, if you can't lick them, join them. I think that was a disgrace, removing that marble from that grave. I knew [the Australian Inland Mission's] Fred McKay well. It killed him. He was most distressed. If anything shortened Fred McKay's life it was the removal of that rock.
Funding transparency: If money is handed out to the various Aboriginal groups in the area, there should be an audit and it should be open to the public. It's public money and it's a disgrace if audits can't be produced and shown in public. It just shows that money can fritter away into no-man's land. Oh dear, oh dear. Taxpayers' money, everyone's involved!
LETTERS: The Liquor industry deserves say on DASA board!
Sir,- I am writing to you in relation to the letter published in your newspaper last week, [headlined as] "Liquor Interests Ô stack' DASA", the author of which was Barbara Curr. As a re-elected member of the DASA committee, I wish to express the following comments in reply to this letter. These comments are my own personal thoughts. I believe that I may be the former employee in the hospitality industry identified by Ms Curr. If this is the case, yes, I have been employed in the hospitality industry in both management and security positions. However, since retiring from the Royal Australian Air Force in 1992, after a career spanning 22 years in the Police and Security Branch, and taking up residence in Alice Springs, I have also been employed in local government, private industry and proprietor of my own business. I am currently employed as the manager of a locally based registered training organisation. I will agree that there were staff employed at a well-known hotel and liquor outlet that attended the meeting. However, one has to contemplate whether the purpose of their attendance was to "stack the committee" as implied, or whether as employees in the tourism and hospitality industry they are concerned about the alcohol problems we have in our town. In relation to the "bouncer" (security crowd controller) being present, surely that person had the entitlement to be present, as did every other person who was at the AGM. After all, the hotels and clubs of our municipality do promote the "Drink Sense" program through DASA. In respect of the people identified in Ms Curr's letter, who are currently employed by Aboriginal organisations, and who were nominated for committee positions, I pose this question: Why did some of these people not attend the AGM? I would have thought attendance at the AGM would have been a priority so they could speak of their views, or maybe their absence was due to either business or personal commitments. If the latter is the case, so it may be said for those people who departed after the voting was conducted and before the post election speeches. I was one of those people who left prior to the presentation by the guest speaker and my reasons were of a personal nature. Concerning the statement by Ms Curr, "Only three of the ten people on the new committee are thought to be in favour of reducing the excessive levels of alcohol consumption...". If I am one of those three people, I am truly astonished that Ms Curr is aware of my thoughts as I have not, to my knowledge, been introduced to her. On the other hand, if I am one of the remaining seven people, it interests me why she believes that I may not be supportive of the recommendations of the survey carried out by Hauritz and Associates. Again due to the fact that to my knowledge, I have not made her acquaintance. Finally, the question I now ask is, had the six people employed by Aboriginal organisations been successful with their nominations, would the feature have been titled, "Aboriginal interests 'stack' DASA", or for that matter, would Ms Curr have even written to your newspaper with her views?
Sir,- I read with relief the article, "Rain, talks ease bushfire threats" (Alice News, November 1). It is great to see rhetoric moving toward reality. I have always been fascinated by the patterns and processes in Centralian ecology and biogeography since I first visited in May 1978. Your article is a timely reminder of the importance we humans have as stewards of the earth. I am so inspired by your article that I have decided to stand again for public office. The Alice Springs Town Council election of last May 27 surprised me with over 4500 votes cast for me when I stood. I have decided to stand again but now for the Northern Territory Parliament, for the seat of MacDonnell. My biology and tourism training and experience is a matter of record. Further information is on my website at: www.ozemail.com.au/~ozytours I was surprised by the advertisement, "Solutions for the Alice Springs region". It seems that the website http://www.regionalsolutions.gov.au could be the answer for a lot of Centralians. With grants of between $1000 and $500 000 available to assist our community to undertake local projects, I hope we are able to make use of the opportunity.
LIQUOR COMMISSIONER: MEASURES BY JAN 1. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Licensing Commissioner Peter Allen is hoping to introduce new measures aimed at curbing alcohol abuse in Alice Springs Ð among them almost certainly a ban on wine in four and five litre casks but no "grog free day" Ð by January 1.He says Tennant Creek's Thirsty Thursday "once did a very good job, but is no longer performing as well."It is certainly subject to very serious review there."Mr Allen admits the start date is optimistic but, providing there are no unforeseen delays, "certainly early in the new year should be achievable".He will be largely based in Alice in the coming weeks in order to expedite the decision-making process.He says a number of common threads are emerging in the submissions he has received to date, including that of the Alice Springs Town Council, whose comments he describes as " very worthy and in depth".Other submissions have been from the Alice Alcohol Representative Committee (AARC), which oversaw the Hauritz Report funded by the NT Government, the town council and Tangentyere Council, and from the Australian Hotels Association.Mr Allen has also met with local Members of Parliament, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce which offers secretariat support to the Liquor Licensees' Association, and will meet with various community groups in the coming weeks.Says Mr Allen: "At this early stage I do have to say that the notion of a grog free day is not widely supported."All of the organisations that have written to us have condemned the continued sale of four and five litre wine casks."The hotels themselves have once again responsibly indicated their willingness to trial restrictions on four and five litre casks"All the organisations that have written to us have also talked about training of bar and bottle shop staff, and there's a widespread view among key stakeholder groups in the community that the commission needs to review its scale of penalties."The commission will certainly take all that on board."No doubt those common threads that run through everybody's responses will form part of the overall framework of initiatives to take back to the community."Is there support for other measures restricting availability of alcohol?Mr Allen: "There are a number of responses that go for further restrictions in trading hours and others go for restrictions in product."That will give the commission food for thought."When we have decided which way it will go, I will share that information with key stakeholder groups, such as the town council and local elected members and others before we put the framework up for comment to the public at large."On the Hauritz report Mr Allen says, while it has been subject to "a fair amount of criticism", it also has "some good ideas".He says: "Those good ideas are now also coming to us by way of submissions from other groups."Will Mr Allen be considering an increased presence of the Licensing Commission in Alice Springs, as recommended by the Hauritz report?He says he will be looking at an improved "division of labour" within the commission, separating the roles of considering licence applications from licence inspections.He says, given available resources, he is satisfied with the number of inspections carried out in Alice Springs by officers of the commission as well as by police."The police have shown themselves to be very active in that area."It's probably not well known that every police officer has the power to inspect licensed premises by virtue of their appointment."The Hauritz report suggested that there has been "no effective demonstrable regulation of the Liquor Act". Does Mr Allen accept that?Mr Allen says: "I think sadly the Hauritz report tends to find all licensees, and indeed the commission itself, guilty without any form of trial. "The report does tend to find that licensees are doing wrong just because they're licensees. I think that's unfair. "From time to time licensees are found wanting and are penalised, but that's not to say that all licensees are doing the wrong thing all the time."The commission identifies and applauds some of the suggestions of the Hauritz report, things like looking harder at penalties and looking harder at inspections, yes; restrictions on wine casks, yes."The commission and other groups in the community are supporting those suggestions."It has been suggested that the commissioner's role in this process was compromised by interference from the Northern Territory Government (see Alice News, Sept 6). Does the commissioner accept this suggestion?Mr Allen: "My role is quite clear and any thought that the government or anyone else has compromised my position I would regard as erroneous and misconceived. "It's very clear that the Licensing Commission has its statutory role and duties to perform and has no option but to perform them."The Licensing Commission cannot lawfully sit on its hands and has no intention of doing so."Having said that, sometimes community groups and others expect a lot more of us than is within our powers."In Katherine for example we were criticised for not saying anything about education, health, welfare, employment et cetera, et cetera. "Well, this is a Licensing Commission and our focus will be on licence conditions and the manner in which licensed premises are conducted. "That is the statutory limit of our powers and the Licensing Commission is the authority to deal with that."The other range of issues, and let's not forget that there are a whole range of issues that impact on liquor and vice versa , those other issues are the province of a range of government agencies, including the Territory Government, local government and non-government organisations, and the community itself. "It always concerns me as a citizen, putting aside my statutory role, that whenever there's an issue, people want to call on government. "Well, there's no help like self-help. "There is no interference in the work of the commission. Minister Loraine Braham made that very clear in [the Alice Springs News last week]."We all have our own job to do." Is the commission going to do anything about Aboriginal representation on the commission?Mr Allen says the last series of advertisements to fill vacancies on the commission ran over two weeks in the middle of this year, in the press in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin.They attracted 36 expressions of interest from across the Territory, but not one was from an Aboriginal person."We are not about to seek special Aboriginal membership when they have had every opportunity to express their interest, along with everybody else, and have not done so. In the fullness of time there may well be other vacancies on the commission and they will again have the opportunity, along with everybody else, of seeking membership," says Mr Allen.
$1m FOR ART FROM WESTERN DESERT: DIALYSIS APPEAL.
The Western Desert Dialysis Art Appeal has surpassed all expectations, raising over $1m at a fundraising auction, conducted last Saturday night by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in conjunction with Sotheby's.Labor MLA for Stuart, who together with Smithy Zimran from Kintore sowed the seeds of the appeal, said the auction was one of the most inspiring events he has ever had the privilege to witness.He said Mr Zimran's dignified and heartfelt speech to the guests about why it is so important for his people to stay in country and therefore why dialysis is needed on communities, moved people to tears.They responded by bidding generously for the works on offer, overshooting Sotheby's estimate of the outcome by more than 100 per cent. The highest bid of $300,000 was for the Kiwirrkurra men's painting, one of four collective works created specifically for the appeal.The Kintore women's painting went for $130,000; the Kiwirrkurra' women's painting fetched $100,000; and the Kintore men's painting went for $75,000.Donald and Janet Holt had donated a painting by the late Emily Kngwarreye which sold for $42,000.A painting by Yala Yala Gibbs, donated by Daphne Williams, sold for $26,000, while a sketch on paper by an unknown artists from the earliest years of the Papunya Tula art movement, donated by Geoffrey Bardon, fetched $33,000.Said Mr Toyne: "It was as if the people who collect Aboriginal art had been waiting for this opportunity to deal with their unease about the gap between the prices these paintings can fetch and the often dire poverty in the communities where the art comes from."Mr Toyne says the first step towards the creation of a dialysis clinic at Kintore will be the formation of a committee so that the community can shape the program they want. He said the clinic will not require full-time specialist staff to run it. According to Mr Toyne, one of Australia's leading nephrologists, Dr Alec Disney from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide, has successfully supported dialysis in Port August and other centres via video conferencing. He says funds will also be put towards a raft of strategies to prevent the onset of renal failure. At present some 35 Kintore residents are showing the early signs of renal failure, while another six, including Smithy Zimran, are forced to live in Alice Springs to access dialysis.
NATIONAL TRUST: PUSH TO MAKE ALICE THE HQ. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The National Trust of the Northern Territory appear to have wasted no time in dismantling their Alice Springs office. The committee of the Alice Springs' McDouall Stuart Branch have had instructions to return their post office box key and understand that all mail will be redirected to Darwin.This is despite the fact that the decision by the National Trust Council to make redundant the part-time administrative assistant's position in Alice Springs originally allowed for a transition period at least until the end of this year. This changed when the incumbent resigned.Domenico Pecorari, speaking as a concerned member of the National Trust, said on the weekend that a request to Darwin headquarters for the branch to be allowed to keep the post office box number had been denied.Mr Pecorari said that the branch was trying to find out whether their phone and fax lines would be disconnected.The branch had also learnt via the media, rather than in advice to them, that the Darwin office intends to move local research files and archives to Darwin.Mr Pecorari, a heritage architect, said the branch has no objection to Darwin holding copies of the material, but the archives should remain here:"People like myself and indeed the residents of Alice Springs need access to this material so that we can actively go about preserving our heritage."Territory President of the National Trust, Gillian Banks, said on Monday that decisions on all of these issues were in abeyance until yesterday (aft the News had gone to press) while a motion put by councillors representing Alice Springs Ð Dave Leonard and Bill Low Ð was being considered and voted upon."I am very hopeful that all of these matters can be resolved," said Ms Banks.She said if files and archival material were transferred to Darwin, local access would be managed as it is for other branches in the Territory: a phone call to the research officer would result in a dispatch of information. Ms Banks said she understood the director, Elizabeth Close, was examining how often local files were being used.The branch committee has become very active over the last week. They now have a full complement of eight committee members. Pending resignations have been withdrawn, and two new members have joined the committee. As well, ten new applications for membership have been received.Chairman Warwick Marsh says a delegation from the committee last week presented him with a letter asking him to resign, signed by all members of the committee. At the time the News went to press Mr Marsh was still considering his position.In the meantime, the committee has continued to meet, electing an acting chair at each meeting.In response to calls from members, they are considering circulating a petition expressing the branch's lack of confidence in the National Trust Council's ability to look after the best interests of the National Trust in the Territory. This is because the council has not factored into its decision the negative impacts that closing the Alice office would have, such as a drop in local membership and fund-raising capability.Mr Pecorari said the membership, through the committee, is also pressing for major changes to the structure of the National Trust in the Territory. They want the headquarters of the National Trust to be established in Alice Springs, with a secretariat office maintained in Darwin, a reverse of the arrangements that existed prior to the present controversy.On this point, Ms Banks said it has been previously raised and seriously considered by the National Trust. Her personal view is that having headquarters in Alice could possibly work, but she is against having a second secretariat.The membership, according to Mr Pecorari, also want National Trust funding, which comes from both the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory Governments and is disbursed by the NT Government, to be split, allowing for complete autonomy of the southern region.Mr Pecorari said the membership want the director's "costly position", currently held by Ms Close, to be abolished. With the savings, estimated at $80,000 (salary and expenses), they want to establish two coordinator's positions to manage the northern and southern regions separately. This would be an upgrading of the local position, in contrast to the present scrapping.Ms Banks said the present director has "huge financial expertise" and she sees the need for a single person "at the helm". She also said that motions yet to be considered by the council may address some of the issues being raised by the Alice Springs membership.
ARALUEN FRIENDS REWARD ARTISTS. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
The Friends of Araluen have awarded two Community Arts Grants.Artange, an Arrernte word meaning working together, received $500 for their project to create a mural for their community, Inarlenge (Little Sisters) [see Alice News, November 8] and at the Alice Springs Hospital.Sadadeen Primary School also received a $500 grant to continue their dance project which employs a young Alice Springs dance instructor to come to the school to teach the students.Kerri Lenehan, Rosie Driffen, Marina Strocchi and Helen Gillen were present from Artange to receive the grant.Ms Lenehan said the mural project was community driven and assisted by Tangentyere Council and Batchelor Institute.Jo Sherrin, representing Sadadeen Primary School, said the dance project was part of the school's Indigenous Studies program.Mrs Sherrin says: "The dance program has been very enthusiastically received by the students, especially by the boys."This is particularly important when studies today indicate education is failing to keep boys interested."Friends president Lance Robinson said that the grant monies date back to the original group who did a lot of fundraising in the late 1970s and early 1980s to get Araluen built.Last month, the Friends donated a motorised chair or " scooter" for people to use to tour the galleries and/or the precinct.Mr Robinson said the scooter would help people who may have a temporary injury, such as one that could have occurred during the Masters Games, or older people who were not as active as they used to be and became tired when walking between galleries or between buildings at the precinct.The Friends raised $1700 to purchase the scooter while the Town Council contributed $580.The Friends of Araluen meet once a month and membership is open to the public.People interested in finding out more should phone 8952 4971.
UP, UP AND AWAY FOR THREE ALICE TEENS.
Alice teenagers Rachel Kantawara, Derek Lynch and Tania Walker feature on a new CD, The Spirit of Australia, in which young Australians perform some of the country's best loved songs. The CD was launched last Friday by Qantas.Commissioned to celebrate the 80th birthday of Qantas, the CD will help raise money for CanTeen, the peer support organisation for young people living with cancer, which Qantas has sponsored since 1991.Fourteen year olds Rachel, Derek and Tania were chosen after an Australia-wide talent search involving hundreds of young singers and musicians.Said Qantas Group General Manager Marketing, Sandra McPhee: " Aside from talent Ð which we found in abundance Ð we were looking for young people from all over the country in a range of ages and from different backgrounds. "Finally, 19 individuals were selected to record, including an eight year old didgeridoo player from Sydney, and some incredibly talented young singers from as far afield as Cairns, Alice Springs and Perth." Rachel, Derek and Tania perform together on the track "World Turning". Derek and Rachel also join a larger group for "I Am Australian".The Spirit of Australia is available from all major music retailers, or from the site at www.qantas.com.au. It retails at $19.95.
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