ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
March 14, 2001.


MOSQUITO DISEASE CRISIS: GOVERNMENT LIABLE? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Minister for Central Australia Richard Lim is dodging questions about his government's possible legal liability for an outbreak of mosquito borne diseases. There are now 12 notified cases of Ross River virus disease in the region, and two confirmed cases of Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE).Both diseases may have been transmitted by a type of mosquito now breeding in vast numbers in the overflowing Ilparpa swamp, being fed by effluent overtopping the banks of the sewage ponds.This disaster was forecast as early as 1987 by the government's own experts, including NT Senior Medical Entomologist Peter Whelan, and in a series of reports during the following years, saying that the mosquitoes can fly up to 10 kilometres and are a threat to the town as a whole, with the rural areas south of the range at major risk.Dr Alex Brown, Public Health Medical Officer with the Centre for Disease Control in Alice Springs has told the Alice Springs News that both people who have succumbed to MVE live north of Heavitree Gap. When the Alice Springs News asked Dr Lim about these issues last Friday he walked away from the interview. Meanwhile the Arid Lands Environment Centre's Glenn Marshall says the Power and Water Authority, which runs the sewage plant, "is responsible for the ecological degradation of the swamp and hence the health risks it has created". "PAWA is likely to face law suits if people living near the swamp have contracted or do contract life-threatening diseases from mosquitoes," says Mr Marshall.Independent candidate for Greatorex David Mortimer says it is significant that because of the mosquito plague, authorities considered Blatherskite Park – next to the ponds – as unsuitable for the Kiwirrkurra flood evacuees, while people at the Old Timers and the Palm Circuit tourist and residential area remain exposed. "Somebody must finally make a decision about the sewage plant," says Mr Mortimer. Mosquito fogging by the town council has so far been carried out only by a truck-mounted unit which has been unable to enter the swamp because tracks were rendered inaccessible by the rains. The unit operated mainly along Ilparpa Road. Mayor Fran Erlich says she is not able to say how much of the swamp could be covered by this limited fogging but says it depends on the wind direction and strength. She says aerial spraying is now being discussed with NT government officials, but it is expensive and when used earlier "lasted only a short time", namely two weeks. Mrs Erlich says there is no helicopter in town capable of the work, but aerial spraying every fortnight is under consideration. She appealed to all residents – north as well as south of the range – to "cover up, use insecticides and ideally, stay indoors at dusk and dawn".Meanwhile, John Grundy of the Ilparpa Swamp Community Coalition, who is also a public health academic at the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs, says: "There is a direct relationship between discharge of effluent into the swamp, increased nutrients in the swamp and increased reed growth."The increased reed growth blocks wave and water action, providing ideal growth conditions for disease carrying vectors [insects]."This results in increased vector density. "There is a direct link between increased density of disease carrying mosquitoes and increased risk of disease," says Mr Grundy. Mr Whelan's reports disclose that as far back as 1987 the Department of Health "recommended relocation of the ponds as ‘ the only solution' to the mosquito problem". Studies in other parts of the NT, including Kings Canyon, Adelaide River, Pine Creek and Bachelor, indicated that discharged effluent is probably the most important source of mosquitoes from sewage ponds generally.A principal carrier of Ross River virus and Australian Encephalitis is Culex Annulirostris, say Dr Whelan's reports: " The 1993 survey suggested that Ilparpa swamp was the major source of Cx. Annulirostris. "Larvae were of higher numbers in the nutrient rich swamp than in the open flooded clay pans."The Ilparpa swamp is maintained as a perennial source of mosquito breeding by excess effluent discharge from the Alice Springs sewage ponds. "The fogging of adult mosquitoes is not a satisfactory long term solution because it does not eliminate the problem. "Potential shortcomings of the method include insecticide resistance problems, its dependency on wind direction, the wide expanse of the swamp and thick vegetative growth in the swamp." In 1987 Mr Whelan wrote: "The primary ponds breeding mosquitoes will need to be rectified before any more residential development proceeds south of the Gap."The continued production of Culex Annulirostris numbers in the Ilparpa swamp area must maintain a continuing risk of transmission of arbovirus disease. "Any further residential development within at least three to four kilometres of the Ilparpa swamp will further increase the risk of arbovirus disease."In 1993 Mr Whelan wrote: "The rural subdivision of Ilparpa proceeded in 1987 despite concerns about mosquitoes expressed by the Alice Springs Council and the Department of Health and Community Services [now Territory Health Services]."In 1994 Mr Whelan warned: "Cx Annuli-rostris will breed in natural breeding sites and when they colonise these effluent pools, they could breed up into a tremendous population and pose the potential risk of arbovirus disease."If the effluent leaks continue until there is generalised rain in the area, the effluent will contaminate the nearby creek, raising the level of micro organisms in the water, and hence lead to very high levels of mosquito breeding, particularly of Cx. Annulirostris and An.Annulipes."In 1997 Mr Whelan reported: "The female of this [mosquito] species can disperse up to 10 kilometers from the breeding site, although highest concentrations are usually found within three to four kilometers from significant breeding sites."Mosquito breeding usually does not occur within the treatment facilities, but inappropriate disposal of the effluent produced can cause pooling or ecological changes to receiving water, which results in breeding sites."Mr Whelan says the carrier mosquito "could be expected to disperse to the suburbs of Alice Springs."In 1995 there were 23 cases of "laboratory confirmed" Ross River virus disease in Alice Springs between January 23 and March 15, according to the NT Communicable Diseases Bulletin.It says "nine cases were acquired locally, six appear to have been acquired elsewhere and eight are unknown."A cluster of three locally acquired cases occurred in the Larapinta estate."Medical sources say there may be more Ross River virus disease cases which are not yet diagnosed because sufferers believe they have the flu or some other ailment. Also, people can have the disease without showing symptoms. This is likewise the case for MVE.However, of the small percentage of people who do become really sick with MVE, Dr Brown says one in four are likely to die, and those who recover have a significant chance of permanent brain damage.

INDEPENDENTS SWELL RANKS OF TERRITORY ELECTION CANDIDATES. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

All urban seats in Alice Springs will have an independent candidate allied with the former Minister for Central Australia, Loraine Braham, at the next Territory elections.She says a "male" candidate – his name still a secret – will stand in Araluen against the three women who have declared their bid for the seat so far, Jodeen Carney (CLP), Liz Scott (ALP) and another independent, Meredith Campbell.Businessman David Mortimer, a long-time Central Australian and former CLP branch member, announced last week that he will stand against Richard Lim in Greatorex.Mrs Braham says the all time high number of independents – many of them conservatives – is a sign of disaffection with the CLP. She says independents are standing because Alice Springs isn't getting a fair go under the "Darwin controlled, arrogant" government, but they don't want Labor to win seats in the town. She says she will also have links with one independent each in Tennant Creek and Katherine and two in Darwin. Mr Mortimer says he was a member of the CLP's Greatorex branch " off and on" for 15 years but turned away from the party when, during a combined meeting of two Central Australian branches, he witnessed a "political assassination attempt" of Mrs Braham by local "power brokers" mid last year.She was disendorsed later in 2000 when the party's Darwin- dominated central council overturned preselections by local branches. "Because they have a sitting member they think they own that person," says Mr Mortimer, who claims to have been "horrified" by the experience. "I asked myself, what am I doing in this party," says Mr Mortimer. "Locals have no voice, no say, no recognition."He claims "impressing the chiefs from Darwin" is a prerequisite for preselection. Mr Mortimer says he approached Mrs Braham to form a loose alliance after he had decided "to stand up and be counted". He would live in Greatorex if elected. Meanwhile Mrs Braham says while Dr Lim announces that 22 new public housing dwellings will be built in Palmerston, "no public housing has been built in Alice Springs since the ‘ eighties".On the contrary, hundreds of public housing dwellings in The Alice, worth an estimated $5m, have been sold off. She says in 1998-99, 203 were sold to tenants and 81 at auction.In 1999-2000, 61 were sold to tenants and 66 at auction, and last year, until October, seven to tenants and six at auction. She says while the government has built "hundreds" of units in the Top End, there is now a need for seniors' government housing in Alice Springs. It takes five years to get, for example, a unit at the Old Timers.Mrs Braham says the government should immediately build a seniors' village on a vacant block near the School of the Air, similar to those built in Darwin. This could also be a mix of publicly and privately owned dwellings, for occupants ranging from those on the waiting list to retirees wishing to move out of larger dwellings. They would be able to buy smaller units – alongside publicly owned ones – whilst enjoying the facilities such a complex could provide.Minister for Central Australia Richard Lim declined to comment on the issue.

GROG TAKE AWAY HOURS MAY BE CUT. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

A community meeting last week "broadly resolved" to put two alcohol sales restriction measures before the public, says Licensing Commissioner Peter Allen.The measures are:-• to ban the sale of wine in four and five litre casks;• and, to restrict takeaway liquor trading hours on weekdays, from 2pm-9pm.At present takeaway liquor is available from 12 noon. The 10am opening on Saturdays and public holidays will remain unchanged. The meeting was chaired by Minister for Central Australia, Richard Lim and attended by 40 to 50 people representing a " broad spectrum of community and business groups".These included a number of Aboriginal organisations, the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce, CATIA, and a number of liquor licensees.No representative of the Labor Party was invited to the meeting.The meeting did not reach a consensus: opposition to the restrictions was expressed by CATIA and all the licensees.But there was "broad" or "general" agreement about the measures, and that they should be introduced for a 12 month trial, said Mr Allen.There was also discussion about takeaway trading hours for clubs and hotels.Mr Allen said that officially these hours are the same as those for other takeaway outlets, but it was suggested that some clubs and hotels "mind drinks" for patrons until they leave the premises, taking their supplies with them, usually outside of takeaway trading hours."This would be a breach of licence conditions and is something that we will pursue," said Mr Allen.The issue of underage drinking was raised, but, says Mr Allen, it was agreed that this is a community issue and not a matter for the Licensing Commission.In the coming weeks the community will be advised by advertisement and mail of the details of the possible restrictions and asked to express their views, if any, to the Licensing Commission.This process is expected to take six to eight weeks. Allowing then for a period of assessment of the community's views, Mr Allen says trial restrictions, if implemented, are not likely before July 1.Chair of the Liquor Licensees' Association, Diane Loechel, says licensees will wait until the community expresses a view before taking any further action.CATIA general manager, Craig Catchlove, says the tourism industry, "from a purely industry perspective" opposes restrictions, but "on the broader social issues, we have no mandate for comment".Labor MLA for Stuart and pro-restrictions campaigner, Peter Toyne, says he is pleased with the broad agreement around proposed restrictions."These restrictions would make some inroads on public drinking during working hours. That's a key issue with residents."They feel the town is dishonoured by public drinking. But restrictions on their own would only be a sign that the battle had started. They have to be accompanied by other measures, like strengthening night patrols, rehabilitation and education."

"BEFORE AND AFTER" FOR OLD CEMETERY.

While the memory of Ly Underdown lives on in Uncle's Tavern, standing where his Alice Springs Hotel once stood, his remains have till now lain in an unmarked grave in the Alice Springs Memorial Cemetery. That fact was the only disappointment recalled by Esther McGuirk, now in her eighties and who worked as a barmaid for Ly for more than 25 years, an "absolutely brilliant" experience.Esther made the remark to David Mortimer at an old timers' reunion dinner in 1998, and David resolved to do something about it.This week a headstone will be placed on Ly's grave, but that is only part of the story.Dave and other Rotary Club members who undertook the project realised that they had enough money from a fund-raising dinner held in November ‘99, and enough energy, to do more.So work began last year on restoring the entire H row in the cemetery's Church of England section, containing 18 unmarked graves, including Ly's.In the whole cemetery, out of 2720 known graves, only 500 are marked.Records held by the Alice Springs Town Council indicate who is buried where, but the information is scant and does not always include even a full name.Dave is trying to find out more about the occupants of the other unmarked graves and to have headstones provided for them [see list this page].Family names would suggest that some of the deceased were Aboriginal.So David went to see senior Arrernte man Wenten Rabuntja – " considered the law man for Alice Springs".David says Wenten was more than happy to help identify the occupants and has since been assisted in the task by Tangentyere Council and the Central Land Council.He says Wenten wants to have the right "totems" for the headstones of Aboriginal people and will "sing the songs" during a dedication service to be held at the cemetery on April 24, as part of Heritage Week.But how is it that Ly Underdown, as former proprietor of a big hotel, did not have a headstone, usually a sign of poverty?According to Reg Harris, whom Ly brought to town to do the electrical wiring for the hotel, the business ran off the rails for two reasons.One was that Ly overcapitalised when he added a third storey to the already substantial building, to accommodate a convention centre, restaurant and bar.The other was that the beer garden he built for Aboriginal customers turned non-Aboriginals away from the hotel.Reg says that the beer garden, on the southern side of the hotel, was nick-named the Colosseum, or alternatively, Madison Square Gardens, for the number of fights that took place there.It didn't sit well with the rest of the business, which was decidedly upmarket for the time.The hotel was the town's first two storey building; the first to be built with crushed aggregate, rather than just river sand, in its concrete, making it a very solid building; and the first hotel to offer its guests ensuite bathrooms. Indeed, the ground floor, apart from its huge lounge, smaller bars and bottleshop, boasted seven luxurious suites – sitting room, bedroom and bathroom – while another lounge, bars and 40 to 50 rooms with ensuites were on the second floor."Before that if you stayed in a hotel in Alice, you had to walk down the backyard to go to the toilet," says Reg."Ly should have stuck with just the two storeys."He borrowed a lot of money from the South Australian Brewing Company to be able to build the third storey, but the whole pub was terribly badly run and was losing a lot of money."On top of that as he got older he used to get on the grog a lot and eventually, although they didn't want to, the brewery foreclosed on him."He was quite bitter about it and after that he used to do his drinking at the Stuart Arms."Ly was 82 and a sick man when the hotel, renamed the Telford by new owners, caught fire on November 3, 1984. Reg says that the hotel band was playing "Boys light up" at that very moment and Ly slipped into unconsciousness before news of the fire reached him."I reckon he made a pact with the devil," says Reg. "Burn the place down and I'll go quietly!"Ly died the next day.Reg laments the subsequent demolition of the building. He says only the third storey was damaged by the fire, and the rest of the building would have stood for another 100 years.Now, at least Ly will get a headstone, made of "beautiful brickwork", says David. And when H row is finished and the dedication service held, David and Rotary will turn their attention to another row, and another unmarked grave of a well known pioneer.Asked why he thinks it's important to mark a grave, David asked for permission to read from a poem – "My wife Pat wrote it and it says all I would want to say about why I'm doing the project."

CYBER HALL FOR WOMEN BEFORE EARTHBOUND ONE.

As the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame launches itself into cyberspace – Australia's first virtual women's museum – its committee is still uncertain about whether the Old Alice Springs Gaol will become the site for their permanent "bricks and mortar" home.Federal Minister for the Centenary of Federation, Peter McGauran, and Minister for Central Australia Richard Lim, on behalf of the Chief Minister, yesterday officially launched the Hall of Fame's website (both governments contributed to its funding).The museum's three permanent exhibitions can now be seen on- line, and the site will also provide a forum for discussion and for the submission and dissemination of pioneer and Aboriginal women's stories, says Hall of Fame curator, Pauline Cockrill.Ultimately, Ms Cockrill would like to see the museum's whole database on-line, so that their information can be accessed worldwide.The site will also be used to run the museum's "buy a brick" fund- raising campaign for their new home.However, more than a year after their first submission to the Northern Territory Government, to move to the now heritage- protected Old Alice Springs Gaol, and following a second submission, the committee has now been asked to supply "firm figures".Ms Cockrill says government feedback on their proposals has been positive but "they want to know that the museum will be viable on the site".Its present site, in the Old Courthouse, is both too small and, not being purpose built, poses other difficulties for the display and storage of exhibits.The committee itself is still weighing up the move to the Old Gaol: there are questions about its origins and history being appropriate for their activities, and questions about the space available for a purpose built facility. Ms Cockrill says the committee is mainly interested in the land available on the site, rather than in converting the existing structures, with the exception of the superintendent's office which could possibly be used for office and storage space, and a library and research area.A consultant will be engaged to look at the feasibility of building on the site, and will also look at other sites south of the Gap.Ms Cockrill says some members of the committee favour a single large structure, like the Stockmen's Hall of Fame in Longreach, for which they would need a large unencumbered site."But what works in Longreach, won't necessarily work in Alice Springs," says Ms Cockrill.VISITORS"We'll have to look very closely at what visitors do here."We know there's stiff competition from the ‘big four' – the Desert Park, the Telegraph Station, the School of the Air and the Royal Flying Doctor Service."The Old Gaol site, being next to the RFDS, could be advantageous, but it's an assumption that needs investigation.The Hall of Fame's website address is www.pioneerwomen.com.au

ARALUEN'S NEW GALLERY CELEBRATES THE CENTRE'S DIVERSE ART. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

The first exhibition to grace the new Araluen gallery which opened yesterday celebrates the centre's collection assembled over the past three decades.It brings together acquisitions from the Central Australian Art Society's Northern Territory Art Award (in its early days known as the Caltex Art Award); the Alice Springs Art Foundation's Alice Prize; donations to the Town Council; and works acquired by the Araluen Centre itself.Curator Caroline Lieber also strove to strike a balance between works by male and female artists, Indigenous and non- Indigenous artists, and to find works that hadn't been hung in recent years.In doing so, the more formalist of the Alice Prize acquisitions have dropped out, and the show divides into two broad streams: one, Central Australian Indigenous art; the other, non-Indigenous art, strongly representational of The Centre – its landscape and its people.Even regular visitors to Araluen collection exhibitions over the last decade will get some surprises. I don't recall having seen before what must be among the earliest Aboriginal works in the collection.From 1972 and acquired in that year, as the winner of the Caltex Art Award, is Kukatja/Luritja man Mick Wallangkarri Tjakamarra's "Bush tucker and water story".For the second year in a row the award had gone to an Aboriginal artist. The inaugural award the year before had been won by Anmatyerre/Arrernte man Kaapa Tjampitjinpa. The winning of these awards helped to quickly establish the relative quality of Aboriginal art in the context of contemporary Australian painting, although it took some time for the market to follow the lead taken by the judges.In this context, it is interesting to see in the show a beautiful small landscape by Queensland born, long-time Alice resident Halcyon Lucas. Titled Trees, it too was acquired in 1972 from the Caltex award. The work also reveals the early idiosyncratic talent of Lucas, and the consistency of her vision, looking forward as it does to her sculptural work of recent years.Two other early Aboriginal works were donated to the people of Alice Springs, through the Town Council, by former Mayor, and later Territory MHR, Jock Nelson.Pintupi man Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra's' work dates from 1971-73. He was one of the men who painted the Honey Ant Dreaming mural on the school wall at Papunya, and thus one of the founding members of Papunya Tula Artists.Charlie Tararu Tjungarrayi's work dates from 1972-74. He too was a Pintupi and a founding artist of Papunya Tula. The three works are apparently modest but extremely important to have in the collection, creating the opportunity as they do to speak of the early history of the ground-breaking Papunya painters. Indigenous and non-Indigenous works do not always hang well alongside each other. But here, thanks to the spaciousness of the new gallery and judicious choices by Lieber, they work very well together.Anne Flynn's "She walks these hills", for example, hangs alongside Bessie Liddle's 1994 untitled work, showing ceremonial body designs. The brilliant orange of Liddle's canvas calls on the sombre orange of Flynn's, and the breast shapes in each also create a subtle link. The Aboriginal ceremonial culture expressed in Liddle's work lends context to Flynn's parodic figure of a pistol-toting nun parading the rounded hills of a Central Australian landscape.The high wall on the southern side of the gallery – a felicitous feature of the new gallery that almost didn't happen – allows some of the few large works of the collection to be shown to great advantage.They are by the late J.W. Tjupurrula, acquired from the 1978 Alice Prize; a prolifically patterned Utopia silk batik by Suzie Petyarre; and a 1986 untitled canvas by Lily Napangati Kelly. Other medium sized works – such as Rod Moss' 1993 "Funeral at Santa Teresa", one of his best and most powerful works, acquired just last year; Iain Campbell's 1990 "Ladies Day, Alice Springs Bowling Club", a classic artifact of the town's non- Indigenous cultural history; and the early (1992) "Desert Flowers" by Daisy Napaltjarri Jugadai – are also able to make their bold statements without being hemmed in, or crowding out other works. The show underlines the valuable work of the art awards and collections in preserving some of the town's and the region's cultural heritage.The ability of the Art Foundation, in particular, to continue this work has just been significantly enhanced by the Pamelyn Scott Kingsley Memorial bequest. Mrs Kingsley, known as Tammy,was killed in a car accident in 1980, and her father, George J. Scott, has left over $300,000 to the foundation in honour of his daughter who was a keen member of the group during her short time in Alice.The foundation, while soliciting ideas from the community about how to make the best possible use of the bequest, has lost no time in announcing that it will increase the Alice Prize from $5000 to $15,000 this year. The richer prize should attract an even higher calibre of entry to the exhibition and make for more significant acquisitions for the Araluen collection.

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