ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
February 28, 2001.


ARALUEN GOES FOR IT! Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

The Araluen Arts Centre, due to open its new gallery on March 13, is gearing up to capture a greater slice of the tourism market. It's the "best regional art gallery in Australia, probably one of the best in the world in its utterly unique reflection of a sense of place", yet it captures not even a quarter of the town's 280,000 visitors, says director of the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct, and of Araluen, Suzette Watkins. Araluen is not yet on the "must see" list for tour groups to Alice, headed by the Desert Park, the Telegraph Station, the School of the Air and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, says Ms Watkins. She says to get on that list is the next challenge for the centre. Their marketing budget is, however, very limited. Ms Watkins would not put a figure on it, but said that the position originally designed to market Araluen's program – exhibitions, theatre, and cinema – is now also supposed to encompass the marketing of the whole cultural precinct. "That's a big call for just one person," says Ms Watkins. She says discussions with the Department of Arts and Museums are looking at reallocating resources to see whether more funds can be directed towards marketing. Asked if more funds would be made available, Minister for Arts and Museums, Peter Adamson said: "The Government does not speculate on how future funds will be directed except that we constantly review how the centre is funded." President of the Friends of Araluen, Lance Robinson, says the Government should publicise a coherent strategy for marketing Alice Springs to tourists and demonstrate where the multi- million dollar asset of the cultural precinct fits into that strategy. CATIA general manager Craig Catchlove says the new gallery will allow CATIA to market the whole cultural precinct - "a fantastic attraction" – more effectively. He says Araluen has been perceived primarily as a theatre, but it will be pushed to visitors now more as an art gallery.The "pushing" will include having a display area in the CATIA office devoted to Araluen and featuring it as a major Alice attraction at trade shows. He says Araluen should aim at attracting half to three quarters of all visitors to Alice, (the Desert Park aims at attracting 100 per cent.) He says the permanent exhibition of Albert Namatjira's work, enhanced by the acquisition by the NT Government of the Rex Battarbee collection, is the "hook". "Namatjira is the icon. Every Australian has heard of him, whereas not every Australian has heard of Clifford Possum."But the gallery could also be sold as a chance to see two different kinds of Australian art: the Namatjira landscapes, the famous heart of the region, and the ‘dot' painting, the famous heart of culture." [See report this issue about the potentially lucrative interest in Aboriginal culture in Italy and France.] At the same time, Mr Catchlove doubts that Araluen would be a sufficient drawcard to extend visitors' stay in Alice Springs. "To get on to town tour scheduling, another attraction would have to drop off. "The Desert Park was designed to get people to extend their stay but they are finding that hard to achieve. "What was designed as a day-long visit is being packed into three hours. "The only markets flexible enough to extend their stay are the caravanners and the backpackers, the independent travellers."Araluen will certainly add to visitor satisfaction in those markets." The new gallery and associated works have been largely funded by a $2.3m Federation Culture and Heritage grant, applied for by the Friends of Araluen. Some of the refurbishment of the existing galleries was paid for by the Northern Territory Government, out of a $1.1m allocation for the cultural precinct (which included the development of the new Museum of Central Australia). Friends' president Mr Robinson says his organisation has been able to achieve more than they originally set out to do.Their preliminary concept was to add one gallery to the arts centre, but their application carried a rider that the community needed to be consulted on how to apply the grant. That process and the subsequent refinement of plans has led to the addition of two galleries – one of around 300 square metres, now the largest in the complex, to be devoted to exhibiting the permanent collections housed at Araluen, the other a small "quick response" access gallery. There is also an expanded foyer more suitable to holding openings and other functions; greatly increased storage space; and, research and work areas. With the cooler weather, work will begin on upgrading the landscaping. The NT Government contribution paid for a new air-conditioning system, and lighter, brighter, more functional gallery spaces, says Mr Robinson. Some limitations will need to be dealt with in the future: there has been a 20 to 30 per cent loss of office space, which would have to be expanded if staffing increased. And, there has been no acoustic treatment of the refurbished galleries, known for their echoing (the new gallery has had full acoustic treatment). Building aside, what of the collections themselves? The holdings are substantial in quantity – over 600 items – and include some significant works, but do they adequately represent the history of the visual arts in Central Australia, and particularly the region's Indigenous art of the last 30 years, which has been among the most significant that Australia has ever produced? And how much of the collections will be able to be seen at any one time? The Namatjira and Battarbee collections, including works on loan from the Ngurratjuta Corporation, are now reasonably comprehensive. A two year curatorial plan has been drawn up for their exhibition which will follow a single "storyline" but involve a rotation of objects every three to four months. Apart from anything else this is to protect the works on paper, which can only tolerate a certain length of exposure to light. With the other collections, on-going curatorial work assesses their strengths and weaknesses and these judgements guide acquisitions. However, the ability to acquire is very limited, especially given the market value of the best and most historically significant Aboriginal work. Mr Robinson laments the lack of resources which has allowed works such as the recently exhibited Yuendumu doors to leave the region. He looks to both government and the corporate sector for greater support. Ms Watkins declined to put a figure on the acquisitions budget but made the following comment: "We could spend the entire amount on just one modest painting." However, she says the Territory Government's investment in the cultural precinct and their $.5m acquisition of the Battarbee collection shows that they "realise the worth of what is here". She says: "I believe they will assist us in time to add to the collection appropriately, with maybe bigger works and more expensive works on occasion." Like Mr Robinson, Ms Watkins also looks to local benefactors and business to help. They are currently considering some "significant" works, including works by Aboriginal artists, offered to Araluen, among other institutions, in a bequest. And for 30 years, a major contributor to the permanent collection has been the Alice Springs Art Foundation through its annual Alice Prize. However, money to date generally offered by the prize has been a modest $5,000 and judges have usually split this amount between several works. (The Alice News understands that a substantial bequest to the art foundation, in honour of a deceased member, may greatly increase the future resources of the prize, which will be held again this year, after a break last year. The bequest, understood to be more than $300,000, is from the father of Tammy Kingsley, an American woman who worked in Alice Springs in the ‘seventies and was killed in a traffic accident.) Another contributor to the permanent collection has been the Central Australian Art Society, through its NT Art Award, and Araluen also gets first choice at the annual Desert Mob show, although acquisitions must be met from its budget. The major plus of the new gallery is that the permanent collections will be drawn on for a continuous exhibitions program, with a new show every six months. This will allow five to 10 per cent of the holdings to be on view at any one time. It might be considered that the scope for the collections to interpret the region's culture and history and to inspire, while much improved, remains somewhat limited ( a limitation which interpretive work – books, CD-Roms – could help overcome). Mr Robinson, however, says he understands that 10 per cent is in the order of what most galleries in Australia have on display, and that the advantage is that the gallery program remains fresh, for locals and return visitors alike. Serious research requests will be considered for access to works not on display. Meanwhile, although increasing non-local visitation to Araluen will be an important focus, Ms Watkins is equally keen to see greater community use of the centre. Since, under her directorship, the centre started keeping figures on local versus non-local visitation, it has never been operating at full strength, so there is not yet a valid statistical picture of visitation. But, based on personal observation, Ms Watkins says the centre is underutilised by schools; by Indigenous people; and by the 14 to 20 years age group. She says it would also be nice to get more men, across all groups, but that is a problem for the arts "everywhere in the western world". She says 70 per cent of performing arts audiences are women and about 90 per cent of tickets are bought by women: "They're the movers." Her primary vision about the way Araluen and the cultural precinct will be used is "to make it as easy to visit, as simple to think about as it is to go to the supermarket". "You don't have to get dressed up, you can come in your shorts and thongs to a performance, an art show, an opening – who cares? "And you also don't have to know something about it. Just by coming along you'll soon know something more!" Mr Robinson wants the Friends to continue to be a channel for " the community's voice". "Araluen is an unusual facility, being government-owned but with quite a large input from the community. "It's important for it to continue to be responsive to what the community sees as its priorities." As a Centenary of Federation project, the new gallery looks forward: "It will set a standard, be a baseline for the Bicentenary," says Mr Robinson. "People in Alice Springs then will be able to look back and see how far they've come."

BUILDINGS THAT BELONG HERE.

In his on-going search for a recognisable desert architecture for Central Australia, local architect Brendan Meney has used the presence of Aboriginal sacred trees to guide his design for the new Centre for Remote Health.The centre is a tertiary institution supporting local and long distance education and research into isssues relating to remote health. It particularly addresses Indigenous health issues and the educational needs of Indigenous health professionals. A joint venture between Flinders University and the Northern Territory University, the centre's facilities will also house the NT Clinical School and Menzies School of Health Research. Located behind the old Alice Springs Gaol, the new building (drawing at left) will be set amongst a series of old trees that are registered sacred sites. In consultations with the Aboriginal custodians and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, the significance of the trees was explained and the "level of avoidance" determined. As the root systems were likely be effected during construction and by the permanency of the building, an arborist was also engaged to set the limits of the buildings from the tree trunks. By setting the sight lines between the trees and using the physical form of the spaces to embrace the sacred sites, Mr Meney's design forms natural courtyards. A tile mural will be commissioned from one of the traditional owners who is an artist, to allow the traditional story related to the site to be visually depicted within the building. Planning is also underway to have Indigenous bush tucker and bush medicine landscaping woven through the spaces around the building. The old trees create a natural shade canopy for the control of heat load on the building, and through the sight lines, their presence will be continually reinforced to the occupants and visitors using the spaces. Other design initiatives respond to Alice Springs' arid zone climate. The main internal spaces are designed to be opened to the elements when conditions are mild, offering an alternative to enclosed air conditioned offices for the remote Aboriginal health workers and other occupants. The northern verandah is planned to have an operable roof to take advantage of the winter solar gain into the north-facing offices. The building will be raised 700mm above natural ground, 300mm higher than the anticipated one in 100 year flooding level as modelled by engineers. A series of dwarf walls supporting the suspended slab will provide a labyrinth air path to maximise thermal exchange between the in-coming ventilation air and the ground, thereby gaining the greatest cooling effect achievable from the mass of the building above. These natural and cost-effective ventilation intake paths finish at the eastern wall where floor grilles will allow the cooled air into the three main education rooms. In conjunction with the under floor air system, the ceiling space will be utilised as a solar chimney to assist in drawing the air through the internal space and exhausting it via roof vents on the west side. This will be achieved by an unlined corrugated iron roof which will allow considerable heat build up from the sun . The roof ventilation is designed to reduce any potential reverse action of down draught when prevailing winds enter the roof space. Mr Meney is working in association with Woodhead International and the building is being project managed by Flinders University.

GETTING THE CONVENTION CENTRE DESIGN ON THE RIGHT TRACK. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Chairman of the Convention Centre Project and senior public servant John Baskerville says the convention centre will be a building Alice Springs can be "proud of" and one which "suits our environment".He says he and members of the Alice in Ten Built Environment committee have worked with the designers, Darwin-based Savant Pty Ltd, to make changes to their early proposals."We didn't get 10O per cent of what we wanted, but we have gone a long way towards it," says Mr Baskerville.He says the designers were taken to the top of West Gap and shown the vista to the east, taking in the area where the convention centre will be built, alongside Lasseters Casino.They were also taken to the Desert Park to see what has been achieved there in terms of "blending buildings and infrastructure with the surrounding countryside".He says that following the first round of discussions the design was changed, in particular in relation to the orientation of the building.Its entrance will now feature views to the MacDonnell Ranges and Heavitree Gap.The glass surfaces of the building will be well shaded."There'll only be half an hour in the whole day when the sun hits the glass, and that will be right on sunset," says Mr Baskerville.He says landscaping will be put up against the building, as it has been at the Desert Park, and the colour schemes will blend with the Central Australian environment.A second round of discussions followed up on concerns put to the Development Consent Authority about the energy efficiencies of the building.The designers "have come to the party on the bulk of our suggestions," says Mr Baskerville.These include:-
• ensuring that air-conditioning can be switched off in areas not being used;
• using town basin water for landscaping, rather than Roe Creek drinking water;
• using solar energy as much as possible for hot water heating;
• harvesting water and using it for landscaping, rather than letting it run into the stormwater drains;
• using ice produced at night, during the low tariff period, for air-conditioning during the day.
Mr Baskerville says the government, which is providing 85 per cent of the finance for the $10m construction, has been "assured by the designers that they are doing everything within their powers to respond to concerns".He says criticism of the early design proposal was "valid"."The early design was not appropriate for Alice Springs and didn't take into account the building's surroundings."He says timing of the construction of the convention centre has posed a dilemma for the Built Environment Committee, which has let a consultancy to develop a style manual."The problem is that architects and developers haven't had any kind of document that says what the design parameters of their projects should be. The style manual will give them that."

LETTERS: Much scratching of heads as pollies get cracking for Territory election.

Sir,- I write with regard to your article "Braitling: grappling for issues" (Alice News, Feb 14) and about comments attributed to Peter Harvey, the CLP endorsed candidate for Braitling, and about what he (perhaps unintentionally) is saying: "Alice Springs hasn't had the focus of politicians that it really needed ... there was a lack of representation of Alice Springs ... If you talk to the community of Alice Springs they will say not enough has been done.'" All this is rather surprising, to say the least, from a CLP candidate in one of several Alice Springs seats, all which have consistently voted in CLP members since their inception. May I remind Mr Harvey, in the light of his comments, that two of these are sitting members, have been re-endorsed by his party and make much of being "the voice" of their respective electorates. Also, the person he hopes to replace was obviously seen as the pick of the bunch and rewarded with a Ministry (over others by the same Chief Minister who then gave her the flick). Another one, who decided to retire to Queensland, also held various Ministries in this government. Mind you, Mr Harvey, I think you are right. For a political party that makes much of being born and bred in the Centre, we've done very poorly by it. Talent has never been a prerequisite for endorsement as a CLP candidate. However as the Chief Minister says: "There was no time for … loyalties." It would seem the loyalty that Alice Springs has shown at every election since self government is not reciprocal. All of which brings me to ask (and answer) two questions:-What Ministry in any government in Australia has no Acts of Parliament to administer, no department nor head of department, office, statutory authority or staff to administer its affairs or conduct its business? Answer: The Minister for Central Australia. Nice little earner if you can get it. Which government department has provided the most candidates, in Central Australia, for Territory elections over the past three – all of whom have returned to work there when they have been unsuccessful or done their job as an "independent"? Answer: The Chief Minister's Department. All that would be rather comical if it were not for the fact that taxpayers pay their wages when there is not an election campaign on. Yes, Mr Harvey, it really is time for Central Australians to focus on the politicians that it really needs.
Michael Sandford
Alice Springs

Sir,- Crikey, One Nation in the Alice is in trouble. In Kieran Finnane's report in last week's Alice News Mike Klarenbeek called for more Asian immigrants, he wants an uncle and aunty from the Philippines for his kids. Fair enough, but doesn't One Nation have some firm ideas on Asian immigration? And Uncle Alf down in Little Bosnia comes out and peddles something about the Japan and the UN being somehow involved in the Port Arthur massacre and/or Howard Government's tough new gun laws. Strong stuff! But then Pauline herself comes out the next day and repudiates all that nonsense. She says there is no place in the One Nation party for anyone who believes in these conspiracy theories. So the two blokes who want to kick start PHON in the Alice have a problem – Mike is too far to the left to be welcome, and Alf is too far to the right, he's over with Genghis, Attila and the X Files! Jeez, politics is harder than it looks!
Ian Sharp
Alice Springs

Sir,- The independent Member for Braitling, Loraine Braham, addressed Territory Parliament last week (February 20), and made some relevant points in her own right and from her own mind. Freed from the constraints imposed by following the party line, Loraine expressed her concerns about a number of things that specifically affect Central Australia, including a disparity in sports grants funding either side of the Berrimah Line. She was concerned that the bulk of the grants had been directed to our friends in the north. Of course, the party dispatched a hit man to put Loraine in her place. This task was assigned to Deputy Chief Minister Mike Reed, who stated that if she had been doing her former job properly (as Minister for Central Australia) this would never have happened: the grants would have been apportioned more fairly. This was one of the reasons she was no longer a CLP Minister. Come on Mike, as if Minister Braham could have voiced these types of concerns as a member of the CLP Cabinet? She would have been shown the door long before the CLP Central Council got the knives out on that fateful November night. As if she could have been so bold under the leadership of Burke and Reed! I'm reminded of a comment on ABC Radio last year by ex CLP Chief Steve Hatton, who will retire at the next election. He had briefly contemplated continuing in Parliament as an independent member; at the time he had been frustrated about some aspect of his party's philosophical direction. Steve said: "Instead of being knocked down by the constraints of the party, (as an independent member) you find there are things you can raise and discuss and do outside the party." Well, I don't think the party's over for Loraine Braham. It's probably just begun. At last, she can speak out for her electorate and her region. I wonder if the new Minister for Central Australia will have anything to say in Parliament about where the sports grants are in fact going, and if there is a Top End bias, will he do something about it? I think he will be knocked down by the constraints of the party. Meanwhile one evening last week I had a most bizarre phone call from a market research company called Best National Market Research. They are based in Adelaide; I asked the caller, who identified as Rose. I also asked her who the client was but she said she didn't know. She described the company as an independent market research company. The first question was did I vote in the last election when Shane Stone and Maggie Hickey were leaders. Then she asked who I voted for: CLP, Labor, Democrats, Greens or independent. Somewhere along the line I was asked about my support for One Nation, including was I likely or not likely to vote for One Nation. The most bizarre thing though was a series of questions specifically about the electorate of Araluen. I was asked if I regarded each candidate – all four were named, including myself – as favourable, unfavourable or neutral. I was asked if I had heard of each candidate. I was even asked who I would vote for. Then there was a series of questions about the qualities of a local member, for example, active, gives plenty of feedback to the electorate, communicates well, tends to listen, et cetera. I was asked to comment on the performance of the sitting member. Did I go to town! Then Rose asked me if I would be prepared to participate in focus groups, for which the company pays $40 per hour and a half. When I agreed, and gave my name and contact details, Rose was naturally a bit flustered. It was certainly unusual to hear one's own name in a political survey such as this one. I suppose they are providing questions that pertain to each electorate. There was absolutely no comment – good or bad – provided by the interviewer about each of the candidates or the parties. The interview took about ten minutes.
Meredith Campbell
Independent candidate for Araluen
Alice Springs

Sir,- With much regret I learned of the death of my very good friend, Gerry Tschirner. He was one of a new intake of school teachers who arrived in Alice Springs early in 1956. He was a big hale and hearty fellow with a great sense of humour. He took up residence at the Administration Hostel which was sited where Melanka hostel is today. I also lived there and it was there that Gerry and I struck up a friendship that lasted for many years. We had many interests in common. We liked firearms and often went out on shooting trips. Gerry had a fine collection of old pistols and rifles. We enjoyed tinkering with motor cars, especially old ones. Gerry had a Triumph Speed Twin Motor Bike which he took into places where dirt bikes are used today. I acquired a 1929 "A" model Ford which we called the "Fordaroo". I passed it on to Gerry some time later. Its registration number was NT522. Gerry disposed of the Fordaroo but retained the number plate NT522 on a succession of vehicles to the end. Gerry married Mary, also a teacher. They had two sons, Paul and Kurt. Gerry would have been best man at my wedding but for the imminent arrival of one of his and Mary's children. Gerry's teaching duties eventually took him away from Alice Springs. He taught at towns and communities all over the NT. Finally he settled in Darwin where his latter years with the education system were spent in the field of publishing educational literature. Throughout the years we managed to keep in touch. I was fortunate enough to spend half a day with Gerry in Darwin just before last Christmas. He was looking a bit frail but it still came as a shock when I heard of him passing away.There is much much more I could write about big strong Gerry – his love of cricket and music, his disdain of bureaucracy. Many Territorians benefited from his teaching skills.This is just a small tribute to my good mate, Gerry. May you rest in peace.
Des Nelson
Alice Springs

Sir,- Greetings from Oklahoma, USA! I have been a visitor twice to your town, as I have a pen friend living in Alice for many years, we have been penpals for on to 32 years now. My last visit was May of ‘99, and I cannot say enough of this wonderful town in the desert. The wonderful people I have met, the quaintness of the town, the setting in the desert, and the lack of the frantic rush you find in America. I will always love Alice and the people of Alice. I came upon [the Alice Springs News] web site as I was playing today on the internet, and I find Australia my favorite site. G'day to all of you, from all of us in Oklahoma, and as always, y'all come now!
Jean M. Webb
Owasso, Ok, USA


PLANNING GREEN LIGHT FOR YOUTH CENTRE IN GAP. Report by NICK SHEPLEY.

Delighted youth workers have praised the Town Council for backing them in their bid to open a new centre for disadvantaged youngsters, given the go ahead by the Development Consent Authority (DCA) last Friday.Russell Goldflam and Susan O'Leary of ASYASS, the Alice Springs Youth Accommodation Support Service, asked for the backing at a recent meeting of the council's Planning and Infrastructure Committee.They called on support for the project – entailing a move from their current cramped premises in Todd Mall to a larger centre on the corner of Breadon Street and Gap Road – because of objections that had been sent to the authority from local businesses.A number of local tourism businesses claimed that young people aided by ASYASS may cause trouble in the area and contribute to anti-social behaviour.However Mayor Fran Erlich told the Alice Springs News this week that she and her fellow aldermen were "strongly supportive" of the scheme.ASYASS manager Ms O'Leary said: "It was really good that members of the council turned up to the DCA in person to give us their support."Of course we are very pleased, but it would be nice to think that we have a caring community that would back young people." The site will be developed into offices, open during business hours, from where ASYASS will continue to give counseling to young people and run a variety of projects for them, including Job Search, and education assistance.Chair of the ASYASS management committee, Mr Goldflam, told the council: "It is not a place where young people will be living."Objections that have been raised have been from tourist operators in the area. "There have been concerns that there will be threats to residents and backpackers down that end of town and that there may be hostel vandalism. "What we are proposing is not going to be incompatible with tourism."We are hoping we will see a reduction in the level of anti- social activity in the area."He said by supervising troubled teenagers and giving them something constructive to do, visitors to Alice Springs were far less likely to be harassed."We are proposing to do some $40,000 worth of improvements to the building in the long term," said Mr Goldflam.

ALICE IS 'CAPITAL' OF LAKE EYRE DISTRICT.

We may not often think about the Lake Eyre basin, but Alice Springs sits on its north-western rim and is by far its largest population centre.The region's "Desert Rivers" – the Hay, Hale, Finke, Todd, and Plenty – all flow towards Lake Eyre and form part of its drainage basin.The drive to manage the basin sustainably, across borders and in a community-controlled process, came out of the thinly populated lower Channel Country around Innamincka, SA, in an effort to avoid proposed World Heritage listing.Birdsville was the venue for a first meeting in 1995, out of which grew the Lake Eyre Basin Coordinating Group, now based in Longreach, central Queensland.The group aims to give a voice to all interests across the basin's vast area and to achieve consensus on how to best manage its rich natural and cultural resources.Covering one sixth of the Australian land mass, the basin is the world's largest internally draining system and one of its last unregulated, wild river systems.Two new projects hope to get residents of Alice and the south- east quarter of the Territory involved in the work of the coordinating group.The first of these, the Heritage Tourism project, funded by the Commonwealth Government's Regional Solutions initiative, will be carried out over the next 12 months.A coordinator will be employed to travel throughout the basin, consulting with interest groups in order to assess the area's resources, tourist infrastructure and tourism potential.The project will also design a strategy for the integrated and sustainable promotion and development of these assets.TOURISMA case in point will be tourism to Lake Eyre itself. Following last year's heavy rains the great salt lake filled with water, and the desert around it sprang to life with plants and animals making the most of the exceptional season.But so did tourists, both domestic and international, and "the infrastructure simply couldn't cope", according to Peter McLeod, chief executive of the coordinating group."There was damage to roads and creek crossings and significant disturbance to the native habitats."We don't want to put a stop to tourism nor to restrict it, but we need to come up with a strategy to cope with it, indeed to enhance it."A second project, still in the pipeline, wants to establish an appropriate representative body to coordinate integrated catchment management across the whole of the "Desert Rivers Region".Mr McLeod says they will be working with Indigenous, pastoral, tourism, urban, industry, government, and other groups to ensure their participation in any "Desert Rivers" body and its future work.Territory participation in the work of the coordinating group thus far comes from Peter McDonald, Alice-based regional manager of the Department of Lands, Planing and Environment; Colleen O'Malley of the Threatened Species Network; and Mick Davies from Ross River Homestead.

EUROPE LOVES THE CENTRE.

Three dancers from the Alice Springs Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre found overwhelming imterest in Central Australia's culture during a tourism sales mission to Italy and France in January. In 25 days, Arthur "Turtle" Tamwoy, Peter Seden and Moses Bon performed 30 times for trade consumers and the press. Colin Cowell, a marketing consultant to the centre, says the interest in Aboriginal culture in France and Italy is such that the Aboriginal dancers were the primary Australian tourism "product" used to attract the consumer, trade and media interest to the traveling trade show.At present Italy and France, both with populations around the 60 million, provide only 50,000 out of the total of five million international visitors a year to Australia, so tourism authorities hope for real growth from these two markets.Says Mr Cowell: "Last year the ATC struggled to get on average 20 travel agents to a trade night and then they would only stay an hour or so. "This year we attracted up to 100 per show and they stayed for three hours, often queuing to meet Karen Gussman, Northern Territory Tourist Commission representative for France and Spain."Mr Cowell said the mission's live concerts attracted close to 15,000 people and some 15 million television viewers."We had over 500 turn up at some of the ‘Australia For You' travel centres and the performers were treated like celebrities."We even had the papparazzi in Rome following us into restaurants for pictures, and the boys loved every minute of it!"They appeared on seven television programs including Italy's leading travel program and top evening variety show, where the dancers not only performed but were also interviewed about Alice Springs."The ATC values most television coverage on Italy prime time at $50,000 a minute. AIR TIME"The 30 minutes in total television time we gained in France and Italy for Australia, the Northern Territory and Alice Springs has been conservatively valued at $1m."A highlight of the trip was a fund raising event in Pescaro, sponsored by the operators and the Australian Embassy in Rome to raise money for a children's bone marrow transplant hospital.Over the Australia Day weekend the three dancers, billed as Red Centre Dreaming, supported by Tommy Emmanuel and a large number of Italian-Australian celebrities, put on two major concerts attracting over 6,000 people and raising $30,000 for the children's hospital.The event was supported and covered by many Italian media groups, and a documentary about it will be released later this year in Italy and Australia through SBS-TV.Said Mr Cowell: "The Sydney Olympic Games coverage of Aboriginal art, dance and culture presented an exciting opportunity for all of us to promote to the world tourism market a positive image of contemporary Australia as being rich within its cultural diversity."Aboriginal culture is and will continue to be a key factor in Australia's national and international marketing and product development."From the feedback Mr Cowell has been getting from European tour agents, the next few months should see a marked increase in tourism numbers."Bookings for our Aboriginal tours in Alice Springs even at this stage of the year are up by 80 per cent, so that is great news for all sections of the Alice Springs economy," said Mr Cowell.

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