SUBDIVISIONS: NATURE'S WAY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Who wants to live next to an open drain, when they could live next to a creek or a lake?Why in an arid zone would you evaporate millions of cubic litres of water each year, when you could use it as a life- giving, money-saving, and even money-making resource?These are what seem to be common sense questions, but they could be ground-breaking for Alice Springs.They were put in a series of presentations and discussions held here last week by a leading expert in "water sensitive urban design" (WSUD), Western Australian Marino Evangelisti (pictured). His visit was hosted by the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment. Although an engineer by profession, Mr Evangelisti insists big engineering solutions to what we do with stormwater are out. Multiple, small, and not necessarily engineered solutions are in.The water cycle in a particular area should be looked at as a whole, starting at catchment level, and solutions to run-off as close as possible to the natural ones should be sought.In urban settings this approach favours cluster development, leaving significant areas of public open space, with soft surfaces following natural contours, allowing for greater infiltration of rain.Natural depressions, conventionally filled, should be left in place. They contribute to water detention during rain events, while, in a town like Alice, for 99 per cent of the time, they could provide parkland.Mr Evangelisti says experience in Australia and overseas shows that these areas are looked after by the community, who appreciate and use them, in contrast to open drains which are neglected, often rubbish-filled, and sometimes attract anti- social behaviour.Natural watercourses should also be left in place: they are nature’s best solution to run-off, important to ecological balance, and enhance the amenity of a neighbourhood.Increasing the impervious surfaces in an area – by building concrete drains, extensively levelled and paved surfaces and no large, soft surface open spaces – directly contributes to increased run-off, by as much as 600 per cent, said Mr Evangelisti.In contrast, water sensitive developments aim for "no worsening effect".In rural residential settings, roads play a major role. There is no need for them to be "mini Stuart Highways", says Mr Evangelisti: they should be level with the surrounding land and do not require table drainage.He pointed to the roads at the Desert Park as "first class rural roads, performing extremely well".He also challenged the practice of removing all vegetation from the verges. He said it was inappropriate for country which is highly erodable.A water sensitive approach changes the way developers, and everyone else involved in a subdivision process, do business.Mr Evangelisti said the conventional solutions – drains, pipes and pumps – did their job very well, when that job was defined as conveying stormwater away as quickly as possible and disposing of it downstream.Now that it's widely understood that water is not an infinite resource, sustainable water management should be planned from the outset, and not necessarily engineered. Engineering is but one component of the process, and is not initially the most active one: defining the objectives of the development and developing the overall design of the site comes first, involving town planners, ecologists and landscape architects, possibly even anthropologists and archeologists, working as a team. The objectives of a subdivision aren't necessarily complicated to define. Mr Evangelisti cited one that he'd been hearing around town: " Let's not repeat the mistakes of Ilparpa at Emily Hills.""That's an objective that anyone can understand."If objectives are not set correctly and then run through the whole process, in the end it's the community that loses out," he said.He showed an example of world best practice for urban development in an arid zone: a residential subdivision focussed on a golf course at Tucson, Arizona.It features surface-level water harvesting, water collection basins, high quality xeriscaping (low water use landscaping), high density cluster development, and diversity of lot sizes and land uses.This development is serving as a model for work being done in Kalgoorlie on a new 1000 lot subdivision also featuring a golf- course (amalgamating three existing courses into one).Mr Evangelisti said Kalgoorlie is in a far more difficult situation than Alice Springs with respect to water use.It has a very arid climate – the evaporation rate is ten times the precipitation rate – and its ground water is hyper-saline and unusable.In 1901 it became the recipient of the world's largest piece of hydraulic infrastructure: the pipeline from Perth designed by C. Y. O'Connor, who is believed to have shot himself over the project one year before fresh water reached the gold-mining city in 1903.The budget for the project was almost equal to that for all of the government's other activities in WA, and it was only finally paid off about 20 years ago."The town and the state can no longer afford to keep throwing money at the pipeline," said Mr Evangelisti.So in Kalgoorlie, "they are harvesting stormwater like never before" and exploring a range of storage solutions, including the creation of an underground dam.Mr Evangelisti said the Territory should take advantage of the WSUD work done in WA and around Australia, while making the adaptations necessary for local conditions."There's no need to reinvent the wheel," he said.He said developers respond to common-sense, but they need to know what they're working with.There need to be well-defined policies and management plans in place and an extensive database providing all the information and guidelines they need.He said the cost benefit analyses of WSUD projects demonstrate that the approach in new developments is either cost neutral or only marginally more expensive.However, as it produces real estate of intrinsically higher value, it more than pays for itself.He said the amenity achieved is such that three communities in WA have agreed to have their municipal rates levied at a higher level in order to maintain the community's assets achieved through WSUD.Retrofitting (fixing up old mistakes) is expensive, but should not be ruled out, he said: there may be funding assistance available.
AN END TO 'DARWIN STYLE' SUBDIVISIONS?
"Just because we've done Darwin-style subdivisions in the past, doesn't mean we have to keep doing them."Now we have a golden opportunity for change."These were the closing remarks of John Baskerville, Alice Springs's most senior public servant, at last week's presentation by Marino Evangelisti.Mr Evangelisti himself commented that he had not had any negative comments during his three day visit, involving nine presentations on water sensitive urban design (WSUD) and numerous informal discussions with developers, construction professionals and officers from the town council and relevant government departments.If the winds of change with respect to water issues are finally blowing in Alice, how ready is the town to do business differently?Russell Grant, manager of Resource Management in the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment says one of the problems is that we haven't got the local professional expertise required for the WSUD approach.There are no private consultants in landscape architecture and town planning in Alice.Town planners employed by government are involved in regulation, not in design.There is a lot of conventional stormwater drainage expertise among the town's civil engineers, who have traditionally laid out the subdivisions.Have we got a comprehensive database that developers can access, for all the land use and capability information as well as planning guidelines they would require to carry out a WSUD project? Mr Grant says there is a lot of information available but perhaps not the level of detail required by developers.For example, his unit is producing a soil and land capability map for the whole municipal area, but a developer would need a more detailed focus on their particular site, and there aren't a lot of consultants in the Territory who could provide that level of detail.Mr Grant says that elsewhere in Australia, private consultants more than government departments are involved with these issues.Peter McDonald, regional manager of the Department of Lands, says it is now recognised that a purely engineering approach to subdivision lay out is not best practice, and that the adoption of best practice is critical in an arid zone like our own.He says a WSUD approach will produce a better living environment in the Centre, will reduce development costs and future maintenance costs.The lay out of the latest subdivision in Emily Hills has been an example of WSUD at work in Alice (see Alice News, Oct 25).However, in that instance the developers certainly complained of the up front expense.Mr Grant suggested that that was because of the newness of what they were attempting to do, involving their consultants in a lot of extra negotiating, especially with the town council who have responsibility for drainage works.Mr McDonald says trying to change "decades of an approach to development that hasn't worked well for us" will be a "tough call"."We are tackling the issue on a number of fronts. Inviting Mr Evangelisti was one way of trying to change thinking, both within and outside of government."Developer Ron Sterry, who wants to subdivide land off Ragonesi Road in the Emily Hills area, welcomes the WSUD approach but says it may be happening too late for him. He says two years ago, when he said he wanted to retain the natural watercourses on his land, the then town engineer had insisted that pipes should go in, and his own engineer had agreed."Developers then start fighting the professional people they employ," says Mr Sterry."The problem in town is that engineering hasn't come up to the 21st century!"Before Mr Evange-listi's visit to Alice Mr Sterry had visited him in Perth, where he also had discussions with a landscape architect and town planner .The trouble is, says Mr Sterry, the delays to his plans to subdivide, chiefly over drainage issues, have cost him $600,000 on his million dollar investment."In the end I'll be lucky to earn about five per cent off my land."I'm still assessing whether or not to take the risk."
CENTENARY OF FEDERATION SHOW IN ALICE: 1000S OF KIDS, BLACK AND WHITE!
No more laser rainbow serpent along the MacDonnell Ranges; rather, thousands of Yeperenye kids, Indigenous and non- Indigenous, in a massed performance representing the Yeperenye (caterpillar) stories: step by step the vision of the Yeperenye Dreaming Festival next September 8 is taking shape.Following negotiations with Arrernte traditional owners as well as the national Cultural Indigenous Advisory Group (CIAG), which met in Alice Springs last week, a four-part day of celebration of 100 years of Indigenous achievement has been agreed upon.The event will start in the early afternoon with a welcome ceremony by the traditional owners, who will then be joined by major language groups from the Centre to give a region-wide welcome.Next, a showcase of traditional Indigenous cultures, with participation from groups all over Australia, under an Arrernte title which translates as "coming together as one".Executive producer of the festival, Lex Marinos – who has had a long career in Australian film and television both as an actor and a director, was awarded an OAM for his services to performing arts and who directed one of the segments of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony – has not ruled out a massed performance for this segment in Alice:"That was one of the questions I asked the advisory group when they first met, and there is in principle agreement for a massed performance if we can create it."If we can get enough of the groups in early enough in the week leading up to September 8, then we would like to bring a lot of those groups together, but not necessarily do the same thing as they did in Sydney."They may want to develop something else."The children's presentation of the Yeperenye stories will follow. Mr Marinos says any child, between the ages of eight and 14, who is interested in taking part will have something to do in this segment, which will be developed in collaboration with their schools throughout next year."This won't be young talent time for kids who have had singing and dancing lessons, it will be tailored to skills that the kids have and that can be developed through the process."The director for this segment has not yet been chosen, but he or she will work with Mr Marinos and the festival's artistic director, Nigel Jamieson, as well as with the owners of the Yeperenye stories.Mr Jamieson, a highly regarded director of physical theatre, took up his position three weeks ago. He directed the "Tin Symphony" segment of the Olympics Opening Ceremony; was artistic director of ABC TV's Millennium broadcast and recently produced "Theft of Sita" for the Melbourne and Adelaide festivals. This production, bringing together a large company of Indonesian and Australian artists, explored the recent social and political upheaval in Indonesia, and has since been invited to Hanover, London, Berlin and New York.The fourth element of September 8's program will be the evening concert, billed as "The Road Ahead".It will feature contemporary musicians, dancers, singers and filmmakers, with material reflecting the last 100 years of Indigenous achievement. Some non-Indigenous artists, particularly those who have made a contribution to Indigenous causes, will also feature.Mr Marinos says the aim is to create a show that will run for 75 to 90 minutes, with a single, large concert band that will back individual performers.Integrated with the show will be clips made by Indigenous filmmakers, projected on large audio-visual screens. What happened to the laser rainbow serpent?Mr Marinos says neither he nor the traditional owners were enthusiastic about the idea. He feels far more committed to a mass performance involving children, than to something highly dependent on technology which "isn't that great anyway". Will there be any Indigenous people involved in the festival in producing and directing roles?CAAMA is project managing the festival which has a $2m allocation from the National Council of the Centenary of Federation, to stage it as one of Australia's two national events during next year's celebrations.The other event is the January 1 commemoration in Centennial Park, Sydney, of the proclamation of the Australian Constitution.CAAMA deputy general manager Chris Ross says a number of Indigenous candidateswere not available to take up the festival's major early production and direction appointments but may come on board next year.She also says CAAMA will be seeking expressions of interest from local Indigenous people who want to become involved in various other aspects of organising the festival.Cultural officers, Margie Lynch and Baydon Williams, have already been appointed.Other Indigenous appointments include Jenny Nixon (administrative officer) and Neville Khan (media liaison)."Employment and training are key elements of our involvement," says Ms Ross."It will be a great opportunity for Aboriginal people working alongside these guys."And obviously, CAAMA Productions and CAAMA Music will be making important artistic contributions."One of these could come from musician Warren Williams who, following the release last week of his new album on the CAAMA label, intends writing a play about his history and people in time for the festival.Says Mr Marinos: "Clearly the growth industry in Central Australia is in cultural tourism."There is more and more demand for people who have the sort of skills required to put on a festival."That's happening across Australia and there's a strong demand here."If a particular skill doesn't already exist here, we'll look at bringing someone in but only if there's someone local training with them."Ms Ross says the $2m allocated thus far will not be enough to run the whole festival: CAAMA will be seeking major sponsors."Two million sounds like a lot of money, but a lot of that is absorbed in wages and on-costs, establishing an office at CAAMA, and organising the consultation that needs to happen."Bringing 25 people [the delegates to CIAG] into Alice Springs, all of that adds up."Will infrastructure at the Blatherskite Park site have to be upgraded?Apart from building a temporary stage in front of the grandstand, and bringing in some additional seating, Mr Marinos says not."We'll design an event that is more interactive than just sitting around, although this is still subject to a lot of negotiation, not only with traditional owners but with the Blatherskite Park trustees."But at certain points there may be a number of satellite areas, two or three things happening simultaneously."We also expect the perimeter to be surrounded by stalls, food, craft, information from Indigenous organisations, and visual art displays."A lot of groups will be camping on site."It's an opportunity to create a microcosm of Indigenous Australia within that week on that site."With so many people involved – possibly two to three thousand performers alone – it is likely that a lead up festival " involving other Aboriginal nations" will take place over three or four days prior to September 8. A total audience of around 20,000, with up to a half coming from interstate, is "not unrealistic", says Mr Marinos.The National Council is doing the national marketing of the event, while CAAMA is responsible for local and regional marketing and promotion through Indigenous media.The process will kick off in a dawn ceremony on January 1 at Uluru, where an Arrernte family will invite their Pitjantjatjara neighbours to participate in the festival on September 8, and will then fly to Sydney to take part in evening celebrations at Centennial Park.There they will extend their invitation to the Eora elders at La Perouse and to the Governor-General, as a non-Indigenous elder. From there the invitation will travel around Australia.And after September 8, what will be left behind?Ms Ross says the festival's legacy is "first of all, the recognition of Arrernte people as a key group of Aboriginal people in this country".Mr Marinos says the legacy he would like to see is reconciliation:"While I‘m excited by September 8, I'm more interested in how we get there and in what is left afterwards. I just assume the day will be fantastic, but for me it would be less meaningful if there weren't something important that came out of it."Part of what this festival is trying to do is to reinforce the position of Indigenous culture within our society."My personal feeling is that the relationships in the area that I am more closely associated with, which is multi-cultural arts and migration, are never going to be sorted out until this major relationship is sorted out."
LETTERS: Where councils may go, where Richard should go, and where Meredith should not go.
Sir,- The development of specific proposals for reform of Local Government is a matter for the councils concerned. The Department is providing information, talking about options and trying to have councils and communities think about better ways to make decisions at a local level.The aim is to see a stronger, more effective local government tier. With a strong local government, there will be greater control to local people over the services they receive.There are errors in your article (Alice News, Dec 6). The major ones are:
• Encouragement for Alice Springs to take on more – it is not clear where these statements have come from. We would like to encourage the town council to consider whether it sees benefits for the community of Alice Springs in reform. There are no specific views within government about how that should occur or where.
• The Victorian Government in fact reduced the number of councils from 210 to 78.
• The Northern Territory's budget for local government funding has normally increased each year. It does not take account of the number of councils, rather it focuses on the population.
• The focus of reform is not on the inclusion of pastoral leases. There is no intention that they be included in reformed councils. This was the position put by the previous Minister and it has not changed.
All local roads, other than those that are specifically identified as "strategic roads" by the Territory Government, are already the responsibility of local councils. It is perhaps noteworthy that, in the recent distribution of funds from the Commonwealth in "Roads to Recovery", funds flow only to councils. Those roads that are the responsibility of the Territory missed out. [This situation was covered in detail in the Alice News' front page story in last week's issue.]Clearly, Tim Parslow, the clerk at Ampilatwatja, is not up to date with what is underway. This is unfortunate. A great deal of information has been made available and numerous forums have been held. Mr Parslow will be provided with more information to ensure that he is brought up to date on the matter.It is noted that there is a tendency on the part of many people to look for a prescription from the Government. There simply is no prescription. We are intent on generating development of legitimate decision- making structures that direct effective service delivery frameworks.We can and do provide ideas but would prefer to respond to ideas put forward. We are doing this in the opposite way of Victoria. There, it was imposed. Here we are giving local government the chance to work out how to do it better and giving help where we can.
Richard Lim MLA
Minister for Local Government
[ED – The News sent Dr Lim a draft of last week's story on local government reform before publication, but his response arrived well after deadline.]
Sir,- Following the disendorsement of the former Minister for Central Australia by the Darwin-based central council of the Country Liberal Party, it seems clear that anyone that fails to toe the party line will suffer the same fate. The reward for blindly following the dictates of Darwin (check Hansard, you won't find a dissenting comment in six years!) appears to be the job of representing The Centre in Cabinet.During a recent radio interview, the new Minister for Central Australia, Dr Richard Lim, indicated that the views of the residents of Alice Springs will continue to be ignored by the CLP power brokers in the Top End. Referring to a survey initiated by his own office, the Minister admitted that the majority of the residents of the Old Eastside that had responded to the survey were opposed to the construction of a levee bank. However, he indicated that the construction was going to proceed. The Minister was confident that dissenting members of the public would see the value of the project over time. What has changed? Dr Lim promotes himself as a consultative representative. Unfortunately, this example indicates that if the will of the majority conflicts with that of the Darwin Government, our Minister for Central Australia reverts to being an advocate for Darwin policies.When Dr Lim outlined a proposal for the management of the Todd River, he failed to mention any upgrading of the Tuncks Road causeway. My discussions with residents of the Golf Course area have clearly indicated that the upgrading of the Tuncks Road crossing is a major concern. Dr Lim has repeatedly shifted responsibility to the town council. The council has resolved to seek funding for the upgrade from the NT Government. Let's see if our new Minister for Central Australia has the political clout to represent his constituents effectively and help provide the funding for the upgrade. Can Dr Lim convince the Darwin Government that Alice Springs people know what they want? Given that he was one of the Government MLAs effectively " gagged" during the previous election campaign, it seems extremely unlikely.
Labor candidate for Greatorex
Sir,- I'm writing about your article on candidate for Araluen, Meredith Campbell (Alice News, Dec 6).I continue to be amused at Ms Campbell's comments on what she believes she can achieve for our town if she is elected as the Member for Araluen. Many of the things she states as objectives as a Member for the Legislative Assembly are local government issues. She has had her opportunity to achieve these when she was an alderman for local government. The shade at Frank McAllister Park is a major priority for the new council. Our first budget allocated $60,000 for shade and a master plan will be available for public comment in March. Work will commence soon after.The current council has been working with the Gap Youth Centre to help negotiate with the Commonwealth Government for the expansion of the centre's current premises. Mayor Fran Erlich, the CEO and I met with the Federal Minister''s advisers for the Department of Community Services in Canberra last week about this very issue. We will be forwarding a submission to assist this very worthy organization. I am looking forward to an interesting debate in Araluen and would urge Araluen voters to be aware that in all levels of government you need to have a local member who will work with others to ensure the best outcomes for the whole of Alice Springs.
Alice Springs Town Council
Sir, - Please allow me to introduce a new political party formed by everyday Australians, to have builders, nurses, teaches, swecries and other working class people elected to the Senate at the next Federal election.The "Lower Excise Fuel and Beer Party" was formed only three months ago and the response from the public and the media has been overwhelming.Apart from our obvious plan to reduce the excises on fuel and beer (almost half of both is some form of tax), the following forms part of our constitution and is the stand we would take on issues if elected to the Senate in next year's Federal election:-
• We will vote against any downgrading of the Medicare system, will encourage bulk billing and insist that more money be available to the states to reduce waiting lists at public hospitals.
• We will vote against any further sale of Telstra and all other government owned institutions.
• We will always support legislation that assists the underprivileged. In particular we will support aged pensĎ ioners, and will vote against legislation such as the Nursing Home amendments.
• We will support legislation to increase the minimum wage, and will encourage industry agreements but the agreements must protect the lower paid workers from unscrupulous employers.
• We will not support legislation to impose the GST on fresh food.
• We will vote to abolish the GST on rent paid by permanent residents of caravan parks.
• We will support absolute equality in pay for women.
• We will support legislation that closes taxation loopholes exploited by large business, to ensure all Australians pay their fair share of tax.
• We will vote against legislation allowing the import of subsidised primary products, such as pork and bananas, to protect farmers' livelihoods, and to prevent the introduction of diseases from overseas countries.
We will also give more assistance to Australian ideas and innovations, to ensure they are developed and promoted here.
• We will support legislation that assists the unemployed find work, particularly people in the over 40 bracket.
• We will support legislation to make politicians more open and accountable.
• We will support legislation to force banks to retain over the counter services in not only country areas, but many less wealthy suburbs in major cities. We will also vote to help get more competition into the banking industry, in an effort to prevent the further introduction of crippling fees.
• We will support legislation to the further introduction of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind generation, so as to eventually remove the need for oil and coal.
• We will not support racist or other divisive policies.
To enquire about membership, or to start other state branches, please phone (02) 6653 7711.
Secretary, Lower Excise Fuel and Beer Party.
Sir,- I am currently researching the former Old Ghan railway in the Northern Territory from Wall Creek to Alice.I'd like to hear from any former railwaymen or settlers who used to work on the narrow gauge line, and who have interesting stories and memories to tell which could be used in a coming publication about the line. Any photographs that tell a tale would also be of great interest.I'm interested in yarns about the Old Ghan passenger train, the livestock trains – in the days of steam, or with diesels – the characters that lived or worked at sidings along the line, the men who kept the trains running in times of war, flood and drought. Please contact me by post at 5 Lady Penrhyn Court, Wynnvale, SA 5127 or by email at email@example.com or in the evenings on 8289 0976. All replies will be answered.Don't let the Old Ghan's history disappear along with the people who worked and lived along the track.
THE PRICE FAMILY: LENDING, GIVING, DRAWING THE LINE. Part Two of a series by KIERAN FINNANE.
When Dave and Bess Price married 20 years ago it was the start of a long journey – tough but worthwhile – in cross-cultural relationships, not only for them but for their families.Bess is a Warlpiri woman from Yuendumu; Dave is from an Irish Catholic working-class family from Newcastle. They met each other in Yuendumu where both were teaching at the school.They now live in Alice Springs from where they run a consultancy in cross-cultural training.They have a daughter, Jacinta, a young mother herself.This is the second part of KIERAN FINNANE's series.See Part One in last week's News.Dave and Bess Price don't deny that racism may exist in Alice Springs but it hasn't been a factor in their lives together. Cross-cultural marriages were relatively rare 20 years ago.At the time Dave thought he was joining a fairly exclusive club and was pretty chuffed, but if he and Bess hadn't had the support of both their families, Dave believes they probably wouldn't still be together.Other people, Bess says, "were accepting". "We didn't come across anybody who thought our getting together was bad."On the contrary, says Dave, most people were interested. The only negative discrimination they ever encountered – "if we'd been inclined to see things that way" – was on two occasions in dealing with real estate agents.A reverse kind of discrimination has sometimes bothered Dave:"Sometimes I feel that there are whitefellers who are all over Bess because she's black. They're desperate to be seen to be non- racist, to have an Aboriginal friend in Alice Springs, especially when they've just arrived. It's a sort of status thing, I suppose."It hasn't bothered Bess: "I don't feel anything like that, I'm happy to get on with anybody," she says.Tensions have arisen, however, around cultural differences on both sides.A big issue has been around lending or giving money and things to Bess' family.Bess explains: "In our culture you are obliged to give to in- laws. If they ask you for anything, you give without questioning."In our culture we can't distinguish between lend and give. "My family, aunties and other relatives expect Dave to give whatever they want. "And Dave says ‘I've worked hard for this, I can't hand it over'."Was there a time when Dave did hand it over?Dave: "I got far stingier as I got older. "I've never been as generous as Bess' family would have expected a Warlpiri person to be. "And I've always been far more generous than my family would have expected me to be."I'm a lot stingier now because we've made decisions as a family about what we want to do with our lives and if you do it the Warlpiri way that is simply not going to happen. "So I get to be the stingy bugger who says no all the time. I don't mind that role at all. If we decide as a family there's going to be a line drawn, then I draw the line."That always has been a source of problems and tensions, for sure, but I think Bess' family is far more understanding and tolerant than your average Aboriginal family in my experience."They, certainly to my face, respect my point of view. When I say support from family, that's what I'm talking about. It goes way beyond saying we agree to you marrying."Says Bess: "My Mum and Dad and brothers and sisters and aunties have accepted it."We work it out, which people to lend things to, which people not to. "As we've gone on with life we've kind of come to an agreement with ourselves."Dave says this problem is not only one for a mixed race family:"There are a lot of Warlpiri who want to do things differently. "It's a tension within the whole community now. People are saying what's the use of working myself to death in a job I don't particularly like to get a whole lot of money which I have to give away. Therefore I won't work, or if I do work, I'll find some way of hanging on to the income. "It puts a lot of people in difficult situations. "In fact me being a whitefeller is a huge advantage for us. People will take no from me but simply would not accept it from Warlpiri. "For Bess' mob one of the hardest things for them to do is to say no to a relative. "It's hard to over-emphasise how difficult it is. People will literally get sick from the emotional distress of having to say no."But the lending/giving is not all one way.Jacinta doesn't get asked for much, and often feels looked after by her Warlpiri family:"They see that I have a young family and we're just starting out and they tend not to ask me for much. In fact I might be more on the receiving end of things."I think Mum and Dad are in a bit more of a vulnerable position because they're stable and set up."Dave also says he and Bess "are given to".The big problem he finds is that the demands from his in-laws are not consistent:"You never know when it's going to happen. You can't plan or budget for it. Bess' family would give me their last dollar if I needed it. The problem is when the bills come in people haven't got what you need."Another problem over the years has been relatives arriving unannounced and expecting to be looked after, but this doesn't happen quite so often now. A lot of Bess' family work regularly and appreciate the difficulties.Says Dave: "There are huge cultural differences but they are a bunch of individuals just as we are. There are people on Bess' side who you can sit down and talk about all this stuff with and they understand it completely. They're not all the same and we're not all the same."
NEXT: Dealing with alcohol.
Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.