BUSH ROADS MISS OUT BECAUSE WE HAVE TOO FEW COUNCILS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The most important roads for people living out bush are the highways and main roads and they are not covered by the Commonwealth's recently announced Road to Recovery program.Local governments, both urban and rural, across the Territory are benefiting from a 52.8 per cent increase in their roads funding, but much of the Territory is 'unincorporated' (not covered by local government) and will not benefit at all from the increase.At Ampilatwatja, 320 kilometres north-east of Alice, Council Clerk Tim Parslow says the increase is valued but it will do nothing to improve the conditions of the most important roads 'from the perspective of people who live out here '.Those roads are the Sandover and Plenty Highways.At Papunya, 260 kilometres west of Alice, it's also roads outside of the community boundaries that most affect people.Despite work done on the road to Alice from Papunya earlier this year, sections of it are still 'extremely boggy' after rain, says Papunya Council Clerk Steve Hanley.He says during most of this year's wet spells people needing to travel to town could be pulled through the first two creeks within the Papunya boundaries, but then would get bogged further out.'People say that we should just stay put when the roads are wet but there are all sorts of things that people have to do in town,' says Mr Hanley.'They go to Alice Springs to get X-rays, to sign papers, to do banking, to buy cheaper groceries and a better variety of groceries.'The 105 kilometre road to Papunya from the Tanami Road was closed to trucks for two and a half months this year, which meant supplies had to be brought in a convoy of 4WDs.Mr Hanley said his biggest priority would be to bitumise this length of road.However, the extra $34,551 each year for four years that Papunya will get will not be enough to have this done.At Ampilatwatja, they rely on contract graders. Mr Parslow says the community simply could not afford to buy and maintain a grader.Papunya Council, however, does own a grader and employs a grader operator.Mr Hanley says some of the increase will be used to pay the operator, an Aboriginal man who has been in the job for 15 years, a proper wage.'Our roads get graded three to four times a year,' says Mr Hanley.'And if it's not done right, the operator can get out there straight away and fix it.'With a contractor you might have to wait for five weeks.'At Ampilatwatja getting the roads graded even twice a year would be an improvement.These are the sort of local conditions that both sides of politics in the NT claim have been overlooked by the Federal Government.Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Mick Palmer described the $20m allocation as 'disappointing', particularly as 'the large proportion of the Territory's local rural roads network is funded by the NT Government, and as such has not been included in those grants'.He said a better outcome would have been achieved had the NT Government been consulted.'The Territory Government funds a much larger percentage of local rural roads than its counterparts in other jurisdictions, and we need that to be recognised and acknowledged in these kinds of funding allocations.'Spokesperson for the Minister for Transport, John Anderson, told the Alice Springs News that over $1m has been allocated to the Territory's unincorporated areas. This will be distributed through the Local Government Association (LGANT). LGANT president Dave Elliott said 'it should be sufficient to get some things done'. LGANT employs a roads officer who will coordinate the work.But the amount still seems 'small beer' when you consider the size of the Territory, around one fifth of Australia's land mass, and the condition of many of its rural and regional roads.Territory MHR Warren Snowdon has criticised the deal as inequitable and 'a sick joke', especially when it is compared to the ACT's allocation of the same amount.'Putting $20m for urban roads into a place that already has the best road system in Australia and $17.2 m for our rural and regional roads over four years is a sick joke on Territorians,' said Mr Snowdon. Minister Anderson's spokesperson said that proportionately the NT had done better than the ACT.Its existing grant of $9.5m had been topped up by $5m a year for four years, a much better percentage increase than that of the ACT, whose existing grant of $13m has only been topped up by the same amount.The spokesperson said the ACT had the lowest percentage increase of any state or territory.The spokesperson said the length of roads covered by local government in the Territory is less than in every other state and territory.Length of roads and the population using them were the two key criteria in the funding decision, said the spokesperson.Historical anomalies accounted for, for instance, South Australia getting a 110 per cent boost.Mr Snowdon also drew attention to Minister Anderson's electorate of Gwydir (in north-west NSW) getting more than twice the Territory's total allocation.Gwydir presently covers 114,460 sq km, compared to the Territory's 1.4 million sq km.Minister Anderson's spokesperson said the size of the electorate will be increasing to 160,000 sq km and that its roads are 'very heavily trafficked'.While both the CLP and Labor are dissatisfied with the Road to Recovery decision, they part company over who should get road funding.Minister Palmer argues that 'community government councils often don't have the expertise or ability to maintain roads in the same way that my department can'.He criticises Mr Snowdon for 'his pivotal role in removing funding for roads from the NT Government and having it directly allocated to local and community government councils'.Mr Snowdon says that legislation passed by a Federal Labor Government in the early ‘nineties merely put Territory local government on the same footing as local government in the rest of Australia.JOINT CALLBoth Mr Palmer and Mr Snowdon have called for the reinstatement of the Strategic Roads Program, scrapped during the first year of the Howard government. Under this program, for example, a $4.5m program on behalf of nine councils in the Western Desert had been negotiated and the Anangu Yiwarra Aboriginal Corporation (AYAC) was set up to do the work. Work began on the Kintore Road – 'a full patrol grade' – and a lot of road building was done between Papunya and Mt Liebig before the funding was pulled.AYAC had been established through the efforts of the Central Land Council and Peter Toyne, then working for the land council as a consultant, now Legislative Assembly Member for Stuart.'This was a way of re-amalgamating the roads money with it still remaining under council control, and then adding Strategic Roads funding to it .'That gave enough of a threshold to launch a major road building and maintenance plant, and to also start looking at the training of young people in the region to do road works,' says Dr Toyne.With respect to the Road to Recovery grants Dr Toyne says: 'It's not a case of just saying you've got to fill in the gaps between the council areas.'You've got to have some structure for that to be expressed through, and I'd argue for an enterprise structure like AYAC.'In the Western Desert the new money will bring their collective roads budget up to about half a million. 'It's still way short of what they need, which would be something like $4m or $5m.'On the scale of a $1.2b project you'd think that would have been pretty achievable.' The Alice News asked CLP Senator Grant Tambling if he had put the Territory's special circumstances to Minister Anderson, but he had not responded by the time of going to press.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM: BIGGER COUNCILS, MORE TASKS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Why does the Alice town council not control Billygoat Hill and other hills in the heart of the town? Why is Blatherskite Park showground managed by a volunteer committee? Why is the council not taking charge of the Ilparpa claypans and, nearby, the spectacular ravines and gullies on the southern flanks of the MacDonnell Range, doubtlessly one of the town's great potential tourism assets?These and many other questions are likely to gain currency as the debate about local government reform gathers momentum.Dave Elliott, president of the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT) says the call for change came from his organisation, from 'member councils, many in the Central Region'. While the proposal was keenly embraced by the NT government, pastoralists, whose leases cover about half the country, say they will fight their inclusion in councils 'tooth and nail'.Says Mr Elliott: 'The advent of the satellite and improved land line Internet communications opens up many possibilities like having a central council or accountancy firm to do the bookkeeping and financial management for a group of councils. 'Councils could amalgamate their road maintenance and construction function, or building construction, into operations that are able to not only carry out the works of the councils, but bid for other contracts.'In the 'bush' there are two main thrusts: firstly, enticing the proliferating Community Councils to share resources either by amalgamating, or by formal agreements for cooperation; and secondly, expanding local government, which currently covers a little more than five per cent of the Territory.And in the regional centres – including Alice Springs – the Territory Government wants councils to take on more responsibilities. A clash in the Assembly last week between MLA for Stuart Peter Toyne (Labor) and the new Minister for Local Government Richard Lim suggested that the road to 'reform' may not always be smooth.'I think there is a scalp hunting mentalitVy in the Office of Local Government at the moment,' said Dr Toyne. 'The field officers are hell bent on bringing home a successful amalgamation.'This was rejected by Dr Lim who said the discussion 'has been going on for about two years, and we are determined to have exhaustive consultation and consideration of all proposals'.Dr Lim rejected a claim by Dr Toyne that Kintore, in the far west of The Centre, had been left out of the process. Dr Lim said Kintore had been invited to or been present at all official discussions about local government in the Western MacDonnell region, 'with a specific invitation to the Hamilton Downs meeting in July this year. 'Some hundreds of people were there from across Central Australia,' said Dr Lim.He said in the adjournment debate on Wednesday last week that interested parties would be meeting at Kintore two days later.The need to spend more money on roads, a key element in the local government debate, was driven home dramatically when the Kintore meeting had to be called off because rain had knocked out the access roads.Dr Toyne cautioned against the view that big is best: 'There have been many assertions made out there that there are going to be these economies of scale, that we're going to have less corruption in the administration of community councils, that the council will be more competent and better run if it is made larger by amalgamation. 'I don't think there is any evidence at all. In fact, in terms of the Office of Local Government's own survey of councils, when you look through the 35 or so case studies ... there is absolutely no grounds ... that you could say that a big council by definition works better than a little one.'Dr Toyne's reticence is not shared by ATSIC Central Zone Commissioner, and former Papunya Council Clerk, Alison Anderson, who speaks positively about one of the models under discussion.This model would allow a series of communities to operate local government, health, education, housing and other services across an identical geographic area.'Such an arrangement would allow for the sharing and efficient use of resources, whilst retaining decision-making within communities and creating more jobs for local Aboriginal people,' says Ms Anderson.She supports the local government reform agenda as part of a ' governance reform' package that she refers to as 'regional autonomy'.She says the present systems of governance operating in remote communities are not adequately providing Aboriginal input into decision-making, nor are resources being used as effŤectively as they might be.Ms Anderson: 'It is not going to be easy to convince communities of the benefits of the governance reform agendas.'The rhetoric of Northern territory politicians has developed a genuine fear in the minds of Aboriginal people, which is working against the good work of NT officials.'It is difficult to encourage change when Aboriginal people believe that there might be a hidden agenda to reduce resources and allow NT politicians greater control over people's lives.'It is important that community members are thoroughly aware of governance reform issues and that a healthy debate takes place so that ideas are discussed openly.'While the rest of the nation has had the 'third tier' of government for a century or so, in the Territory it is in its infancy: for example, the Alice Town Council is not quite 30 years old (which still makes it older than the Territory Government).Some of the 'bush' councils are much younger still, or yet to be formed.In Alice Springs the town council looks after just a tiny fraction of the 'municipal area', with huge slabs of land still under NT Government ownership.There is apparently no debate about expansion to take in – for example – Amoonguna to the east, the Iwupataka Land Trust (along the Hermannsburg Road) to the west, Owen Springs to the south and the several Aboriginal outstations around the Sixteen Mile and Harry Creek to the north. Meanwhile, local government reform is proceeding apace in South Australia. In Victoria former Premier Jeff Kennett slashed the number of councils from 300 to 100.The NT government aims to have the most progressive local government legislation: it's flexible, making allowances for the region's complex cultural realities.Dr Lim says the government's aim is to 'establish decision- making structures that are seen to be legitimate by the communities covered'. 'There's no single method, no one size fits all, to achieve either of these aims. A range of possibilities are available,' says Dr Lim.For example, the Willowra Council consists of six women and six men.Other Community Councils have members chosen in accordance with skin groups.The large Anmatjere Council takes in far flung communities but not the areas in between.It's up to the councils to decide what they take on: dumps, sewerage, electricity, litter, pools, stores and parks can all come under the umbrella of local government.The NT Government provides an operational subsidy, according to Mr Elliott, 'to help offset some of the additional costs not met through the Federal Financial Assistance Grants (FFAG)'.Says Mr Elliott: 'The per capita funding of FFAG discriminates against the NT councils because of our small population.'For example, in 1999–2000 Alice Springs with a population of 28,398 received $914,686, Mt Isa (pop 22,189) received $1,717,820 and Whyalla (pop 24,152), got $2,724,105.'The Federal money, coming through the Grants Commission, is allocated taking into account locality, population, degree of difficulty and Aboriginality.The funding of the 'bush' councils is a vexed issue. They have been proliferating over the past 15 years but the NT Government's budget for councils hasn't kept pace, certainly no proportionally.It seems the NT Government is now applying a carrot-and-stick approach: if you use wisely the money you get from Canberra and from us, we'll reward you; if not we'll chop your allocations. One key question will be to what degree ATSIbC funded resource centres and Community Councils collaborate.Aborigines control about one half of the land and cattle men the other.At present it seems most unlikely that the twain shall meet in the council chamber.Cattlemen's Association spokesman Bob Lee says his group would ' fight tooth and nail' any move that would force his members into local government.Mr Lee says recently sacked Local Government Minister Loraine Braham gave an undertaking, 'before witnesses', that the pastoralists won't be forced into an local government arrangement.Cattle stations have always been self reliant with respect to services elsewhere provided by governments, first, second or third tier – power, water, sewerage and garbage.With respect to roads, Mr Lee says the cattle industry is no different to any other taxpayer who is using public roads.Because so little of thńe NT land mass – just over five per cent – is under local government, the NT did badly in the recent ' Roads to Reform' handouts from Federal Government (see report this issue).Says Mr Elliott: 'The pastoralists have no problem using the roads or other services provided by local government or the NT Government but they do not want to contribute to those services, even in the most minimal of ways, through involvement on a council and the payment of a minimal rate.'Says Mr Lee: 'The cattle industry has contributed an average of $70m a year over the past 25 years to the Alice Springs economy.'Mr Elliott and the other members of his Local Government Association are very good at spending other people's money, but they should look a how much of their own money they are contributing to the community.'It seems clear that the major roads – such as the Tanami, Plenty, Sandover 'highways' – will remain with the NT's Transport and Works Department. But the other roads may well become a Community Council concern.No way, says Mr Lee: all these public roads should also remain an NT Government responsibility.Meanwhile Tim Parslow, Council Clerk of Ampilatwatja, north- east of Alice Springs, says confusion reigns: 'I don't think I'm the only one who doesn't know what's going on.'It does not appear to be a well communicated program.'Someone thinks of something, and someone else thinks of something else, it's higgledy-piggledy.'It seems to be affecting [the councils west of the Stuart Highway] more.'Here, east of the Stuart Highway, it's hard to see the benefit as the communities are so widely spread.'But meanwhile they are cutting a bit each year from our budget.'I'm speaking as someone who went through four years of amalgamation in Victoria.'There it was a fait accompli. They said this is going to happen and forced it through.'My council needs something firm to respond to.''What would be the advantage of people fighting amongst themselves for resources?'Under the present arrangements we basically get a good deal, most needs are met and we're able to respond as needs come up.'The models they have appear to be more appropriate to people who have the same culture and live in an urbanised environment.'
HIGHSCHOOL A 'WRECK' SAYS ARALUEN HOPEFUL.
Alice Springs High School urgently needs a major capital injection, says independent candidate for Araluen, Meredith Campbell.Ms Campbell continues to emphasise local issues in the electorate, which she says is resentful of 'the lack of presence of the current member' (Eric Poole, who retires from politics at the next election).'People in the electorate say to me ‘we don't care who you're standing for, as long as you're there for us',' says Ms Campbell.'The commitment they want is that their member will earn their money provided by the taxpayer, represent them and the electorate and do something about the issues they see as important.''Upgrading the high school is one of those issues.Ms Campbell describes it as a 'wreck' and a 'gulag', virtually unchanged since it was built in 1974.She says its air-conditioning system 'claps out most summers' and needs replacing, not just patching up.She says a school-based committee, of which she is a member, is working on a master plan for the future development of ASHS and its 11 hectare grounds.Her daughter Julia is a student at the school, while son Hugh attends Gillen Primary.Says Ms Campbell: 'I live there and my children go to public schools in the area.'It means I'm familiar with a huge slice of life and the way it operates with a small family in the electorate.'Living on 'the western side of the tracks' also gives Ms Campbell a particular perspective on the Alice to Darwin railway.She says the inconvenience to motorists and the problem of the passage of emergency service vehicles have to be addressed realistically.She says a report produced two years ago for the Alice Springs Town Council pointed to the problems but 'was not even looked at' by the Northern Territory Government. Motorists would be waiting 11 minutes for a 1.5 km train to pass and during some of that time all crossings allowing access to and from the west would be blocked.Ms Campbell believes it is not too late to come up with solutions:'I think we've got time considering the slow progress of construction.'We have to seriously think about how the community is going to handle being a railway town – divided down the middle and with the middle of the town an industrial railyard.'It's a quality of life issue which has been practically ignored.'I think a local member would have to take that up aggressively.'Another major infrastructure asset in the electorate, the recently upgraded Alice Springs Swimming Centre, is ripe for additional development, says Ms Campbell. She says the Commonwealth Government's Regional Solutions program could provide funds for a covered 25 metre pool offering year-round swimming access.She has met with a community group which is working with the Alice Town Council on a funding submission.She would also like to work with the town council on the provision of shade in parks, including the Frank McAllister park, 'a magnificent piece of public infrastructure but not used at all in the hot months'.Expansion of the Gap Youth Centre is another development Ms Campbell would like to sponsor.All worthy local issues, but what about the bigger picture?For Labor opponent Liz Scott health issues in the region are a major priority and the initial focus of her campaign.Ms Campbell's chairing of Holyoake (for five years), of the Alice Alcohol Representative Committee, and her membership of the board of Bindi Inc, all show a commitment to improved community well-being.She was cautious in commenting on the issues raised by Ms Scott (see Alice News, November 8):'I know the hospital General Manager Joyce Bowden has been pursuing the provision of an after hours GP service to augment the emergency service for a long time. 'Money could be provided by offering rooms. A GP could be located there and use Medicare to support his practice.'Commonwealth money could also be used to provide this after hours service.'Generally I would see the hospital redevelopment as going in the right direction.'CLP candidate Jodeen Carney, the latest arrival on the campaign trail in Araluen, sees town and Territory-wide issues as the most pressing, among them mandatory sentencing, which she predictably supports.Again, Ms Campbell is cautious. She describes her position as ' sitting on the fence':'Mandatory sentencing is something that I personally don't live with easily but I think it is here to stay. 'If I had to make a decision about the direction of those laws, initially I would seek to be better informed about whether they have in fact reduced the rate of crime.'If they hadn't, I would look at ditching them.'Emotionally, I would say the operation of the law is discriminatory, it disproportionately affects Aboriginal people.'Practically, I would like to see the figures on how mandatory sentencing reduces crime or affects the way people interact with the law.' She also says : 'We have to look at what causes people to commit crime, rather than just look at what we do with people who commit crimes.'A lot of it relates to basic issues of poverty.'I think we need to somehow produce a more equitable social environment.'That's one of the reasons I put so much energy over the past two or three years into the process of reconciliation.'In relation to Aboriginal people living in the electorate, Ms Campbell would see her role 'as working very closely with Tangentyere Council'.'They really are the quasi-municipal body.'I think my voice could bridge the divide between town camp dwellers, Tangentyere Council and the Alice Springs Town Council.'I certainly want to seek more contact with town camp dwellers.'What I would hope to provide for them is strong local representation and understanding of local issues, including poverty, violence and access to grog.'DRUNKENNESSPublic drunkenness is another issue nominated by Ms Carney.It's one Ms Campbell is well-placed to comment on, having chaired the Alice Alcohol Representative Committee (AARC) which oversaw the production of the controversial Hauritz report.She resigned from that position as soon as the report was presented to the Licensing Commission. Was it too much of a hot potato?She says not; that her brief, 'largely endorsed by the town council', was to continue as chair of AARC until Hauritz report was delivered.'On July 12 when the report was delivered I thought, probably naively, that my job was done, that the Licensing Commissioner and his colleagues had a blueprint for action.'When I heard the commissioner the next day say ‘It goes a long way towards telling me what the community of Alice Springs wants', alarm bells rang.'But I was no longer an alderman and after two years assisting to set up the report, driving it and having it delivered, I'd run out of energy.'I thought I'd leave it to other people, especially as we seemed to be facing an aggressive government environment. 'Now we've seen the revival of the People's Alcohol Action Coalition which is being supported by the Central Australian Division of Primary Health Care.'They support the major thrust of the recommendations of the Hauritz report and have asked the Government to introduce a serious trial of alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs, and to recognise the enormity of the problem.'If I do get a seat in Parliament I will be better resourced to take up the challenge again.'Does she stand by the report 100 per cent?'There are probably some recommendations that are already covered by the intent and content of existing legislation. Examples that come to mind are the provision of ID cards for under-age drinkers which are already provided through MVR, although there is a great opportunity to rort that system.'I stand by the foreword I wrote because I think when we're describing the severe impact on people's lives we have to consider the emotional context. 'Let's face it, women are emotional when they turn up at the Women's Shelter because their husband is drunk and is abusing them. 'At the pointy end there's a lot of emotion. 'To me the facts and statistics in Marge Hauritz's comprehensive report – mostly derived from government sources – presented a picture which needed to generate an emotional report. 'If governments can't respond to people expressing their feelings, I just don't think they're listening. Marge and Finn took the time to talk to people about their emotions. 'I stand by everything I wrote in the foreword and stand by the comprehensiveness of the report.'It provides an authoritative snapshot of where we are in this community with grog and what a representative sample of people in this community see as a way forward to enable their lives to be more regulated and safer. 'The aim of the whole exercise is to make a safer community.'
RECONCILIATION ... AT HOME. Part One of a series by KIERAN FINNANE.
'People say to us how do you stand living in a racist town like Alice Springs?'My answer is we just don't come across it,' says Dave Price.He's been living in the Centre for over 20 years, married to Warlpiri woman Bess Nungarrayi for most of that time, and they have a daughter Jacinta, who is now a young mother herself.Dave, Bess and Jacinta see themselves as a strong, mixed race family with a lot to say about race relations in Australia, and in the Centre more particularly.Their basic message is that, with respect and better understanding on both sides, it is possible to live together and get on well.They also feel very strongly about Aboriginal voices being heard: there is no one Aboriginal viewpoint, just as it would never be supposed that there is a single non-Aboriginal viewpoint.These days Dave and Bess run a consultancy business, offering cross-cultural training in work environments like the gold- mines of the Tanami.When they met they were both teaching at Yuendumu School.Yuendumu is Bess' birthplace.Dave comes from Newcastle in New South Wales. He trained as a teacher of the deaf but was only offered work in mainstream schools. When he heard the Northern Territory was recruiting, he headed bush for what he thought would be an 'exotic and fascinating' change. Arriving in Yuendumu was his first contact with an Aboriginal community, although not with Aboriginal people.His father had worked in rural NSW and had a few Aboriginal mates.'He was of the old school,' says Dave.'He'd say so and so was a blackfeller but he was really a whitefeller inside, standard stuff of the rural working class.'His family had also had a young Aboriginal boarder, a friend of his brother's, as Dave grew up.Dave describes his family as working class and Catholic, of the Irish variety.'We had pretty much a ghetto mentality,' he says.'Our attitude was the same people who give us a hard time, give blackfellers a hard time so they must be all right. 'It was pretty naive, but in my family we always looked upon Aboriginals as being victimised: they're underdogs and so are we, so we should get on.'This approach didn't really prepare Dave for life in Yuendumu.'It was like going to a different planet in a lot of ways.'Initially it's the differences which hit you full in the face. 'Suddenly you're very aware of skin colour. 'But after you're there for a few years and get to know people as individuals all of that falls away. 'My life there was difficult but always very fascinating.' Meeting Bess and wanting to marry her only added to the difficulties, as well as the fascination. Both were already married, although both say their marriages were collapsing.Says Dave: 'It's not really the case that we left our previous marriages for each other, but culturally, from both points of view, it made it easier for us to leave our previous marriages that we both had someone to go to. 'That had a lot to do with Bess' family supporting us, because their culture has this notion that a woman should have a husband, and I guess there's a fair bit of that on my side too, that a man without a woman is a bit strange.'Living in Yuendumu was no longer possible. Does Bess have any regrets about that?Says Bess: 'I wanted to leave anyway because my marriage was falling apart.'The only way out for me was to leave with David. 'I'm not regretting it, I think it was a good choice.'Dave told Bess' family that she would always be free to come back, and they left.Says Dave: 'We both took an enormous risk. We really didn't know each other, we had no opportunity to get to know each other really intimately as you probably should before you marry. We knew each other as friends, but not as lovers.'
NEXT WEEK: Coping with extended families.
DOORS ONTO A CULTURE: WHERE "DOT PAINTINGS" STARTED.
At first glance the 'unhinged'Yuendumu doors, now showing at Araluen, may appear to be mostly of art historical interest: another landmark in the astonishing flourishing of Western Desert painting.But according to Peter Toyne, then principal of Yuendumu school where the doors were originally painted, they tell a broader story.The doors were a direct off-shoot of the bilingual program at the school, and were used to teach the cultural part of the curriculum.'Senior men wanted to bring Yapa law and authority into the school, in front of the kids,' says Dr Toyne.'So many of our schools are very white institutions.'The doors were an important statement by the old men about keeping their culture strong.'The doors also brought the old men and art practice together, mobilising them to work collectively and to form Warlukurlangu Artists, now one of Central Australia's most successful art centres.Over time, other stories started to be told on the doors: graffiti additions reveal the clash of traditional values with those of children growing up in a very changed world. Senior men were upset by the graffiti and at one stage Paddy Japaljarri Sims began to overpaint one of the doors ('Crow, Possum and Dawn').By then the doors had already become the subject of a publication and Dr Toyne says he persuaded Mr Sims to abandon his project and allow the door to be taken back to its original state.'That raised questions about the degree to which these doors should be treated as archival objects or was that getting in the way of an ongoing cultural and creative process,' says Dr Toyne.We will never know what Mr Sims might have created, but the surviving door is particularly appealing with its sun, moon and stars integrated with Crow and Possum Dreamings.The accompanying texts for the doors are worth reading. About ' Crow, Possum and Dawn' Paddy Japaljarri Stewart explains in part: 'This story is about the sacred earth created from the [Crow] Dreaming. The crow itself is just a useless black bird.'Before the doors were acquired by their present owner, the Museum of South Australia, they looked like being dispersed into private collections and some may have been lost all together. Dr Toyne says one was found being used as a platform to sleep on! The museum has selected 12 out of the original 30 doors for this exhibition.It includes a touch screen interactive, allowing visitors to interrogate the art and relate it to the landscape and Dreaming story to which it refers, plus video, animation and photography.Also on display are a series of etchings based on the doors, produced by Mr Stewart and Mr Sims, with Northern Editions Printmaking Workshop in Darwin. They will be published in two editions next March.
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