SHOULD WE LET PINE GAP FIGHT STAR WARS? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
More information should be released about Pine Gap, and there should be public debate about any role the base near Alice Springs may have in the USA's Nuclear Missile Defence (NMD) program, according to Territory MHR Warren Snowdon (Labor). But Ron Kelly, the CLP's preselected candidate for the new Federal seat of Lingiari (which includes Alice Springs), says: "We may not ever know the full involvement of the Pine Gap facilities in the new missile defence system, if there is any involvement at all. "What we should be comfortable with is that the Australian Government is active in the defence of our national interests so that we can continue to enjoy our enviable lifestyle." Mr Snowdon says the program designed to destroy nuclear rockets in space will have a profound impact on global policies, and Australians should have an informed discussion about "Star Wars" and whether their nation should have a part in it. "We need to get more information about what Pine Gap's participation is," says Mr Snowdon. "I'm led to believe it certainly won't affect the current operations of Pine Gap, but it's an additional thing it will do. "There seem to be varying views about what that will mean. "The crucial issue is whether we as a nation should be supporting such a concept. "This is about the United States effectively junking the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. "The treaty is quite important in quarantining the development of some nuclear based technologies that could give any particular country a strategic advantage over other nations." Mr Snowdon says he is against the abolition of the ABM Treaty: "There has been no informed debate in this country, nor internationally, to justify programs such as Star Wars which would undermine the treaty. "I am dead set opposed, and always have been, to nuclear weapons and believe we should have eventual total nuclear disarmament," says Mr Snowdon."Unlike US congressmen I'm not allowed into Pine Gap to get a detailed briefing on the security aspects of Pine Gap" – something "that's been asked on a number of occasions." Mr Snowdon says former US President Ronald Reagan's original Star Wars proposal "appears to have changed, it may have been modified, but we in this country have not had a detailed discussion, as a community, about what it does mean." Mr Snowdon says Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defence Minister Peter Reith are getting security briefings in the USA but "it is quite unreasonable for them to make assertions about what [any role of Pine Gap in NMD] means for Australia, without other Australians having the benefit of some of the briefings. "It's important that we do get information and that information is properly publicized. "It's an unknown quantity for most of us and quite frankly, you shouldn't buy a pig in a poke." Mr Snowdon says the ALP has been "very assiduous in our concern about the spread of nuclear weapons. "The party's view is that we should not be involved in research related to the Star Wars program."Mr Snowdon says an "open, clear, public debate" may well lead to the conclusion "we all think the missile shield is a bloody good idea". "Or it may not."But in the absence of details "you've got to have ultimate faith in Peter Reith and Alexander Downer. Well, I don't. "Until I see more information I'm not prepared to sign off on it. "I know there are people in the community who would be very concerned about the prospect of Pine Gap being used for this purpose. "It's not good enough for us to just be told, well, don't you worry about that. "Not everyone in the USA supports it, so why shouldn't we have a debate about it?" Mr Snowdon says he he is very skeptical about speculation, at the time, that Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's demise was precipitated by his questioning of Pine Gap. But whether or not high US intelligence officers had a part in Mr Whitlam's dismissal, says Mr Snowdon, "we're now out of the 1960s and 1970s". "That sort of reactionary approach to the way we go about our international relations has passed us for good. "We now have a far more open process for dealing with each other. "I don't think any Australian government would contemplate accepting that sort of intervention by any foreign power, whether it's the United States or anyone else. "The USA is our strongest and greatest ally, but this debate about NMD should be about Australia's public interest, and what we assess is best for us. "From time to time this will inevitably mean that we pursue a different course to the USA, and that we may have a different position." Mr Snowdon says secrecy about Pine Gap is largely the result of "Australian government attitudes – and I'm not defending the Labor Party here". "This is something we need to be confronting: governments, of both major parties, need to be more open about these matters. "The club who have this information needs to be widened to include at least the members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, of which I am a member." And Mr Snowdon says as the Member for the electorate where Pine Gap is located "I should be given more information". "As a community we should know more." Mr Snowdon says there is much information about Pine Gap on the public record but "it is inadequate". "It's about the nature of international relations, certainly with China" and our region in general. "It's clear that China, for one, has raised very serious concerns about Star Wars, but I note that in recent days both the Russian Republic and the United Kingdom have all but given their tacit approval to the modified Star Wars concept." Asked whether the missile defence scheme has increased the likelihood of an attack on Pine Gap, Mr Snowdon says: "I suspect not. "From my very raw knowledge we're in a very different debate now than we were" at the height of the Cold War, when Pine Gap was regarded as a prime nuclear target."We had then a very different strategic outlook world wide. "I've got no evidence to suggest Pine Gap is a prime nuclear target now. "But I was one of those people who thought it was in the ‘ seventies. "In fact I expressed my concerns publicly on many occasions. "I am still, as I was then, ignorant of all of the detail of what goes on in Pine Gap, but I don't think it is as crucial now as it was once." Mr Snowdon says: "I'd be very doubtful if there's any one of these rogue nuclear states which had the capacity to [take out Pine Gap]. "They'd need the ability launch ballistic missiles from a great distance. "But you don't need a nuclear bomb to blow up Pine Gap. TERRORISTS"If terrorists, for example, wanted to upset these sorts of facilities they wouldn't need to do it with a nuclear device." Mr Snowdon says Pine Gap is "probably the biggest employer" in Alice Springs, and has a "substantial" economic impact on the town: "If Pine Gap were to close, for example, and our friends from the United States all went home, that would have an immediate and dramatic impact upon the social and economic fabric of Alice Springs. "They make a great contribution to the community." Meanwhile Alice Springs Mayor Fran Erlich says she's not expecting to be given a briefing on the functions of Pine Gap. She says: "On a micro level, the Americans have been and still are fantastic for Alice Springs. "They are very much part of the community and they bring a lot of money into the town, and stabilize our economy. "I have no evidence that Alice Springs is going to be in any more danger [as a result of Star Wars] than it is now. "I don't expect a briefing. Most people who live in Alice Springs are not party to exactly what happens at Pine Gap. "That goes on at a much higher level than here, so I don't expect a briefing."The CLP's Mr Kelly says: "As a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force I maintain a strong interest in the defence of Australia and in the region. "Northern Territori-ans have a strong defence commitment with Central Australia's main involvement being with the Pine Gap Joint Defence facility. "Defence issues must by their very nature involve a degree of secrecy to maintain security. "The role played by Pine Gap, if any in this defence system, would also therefore demand a high degree of secrecy. "As Pine Gap is in Australia I believe that there must be Australian Defence Force involvement in whatever activities are carried out at Pine Gap. "By incorporating Australian involvement in Pine Gap activities the Federal Government can ensure that Australian interests are preserved," says Mr Kelly. "We are fortunate to live in the Northern Territory in a country where we enjoy a democratic Government and have freedoms to live our lives in comfort. "Unfortunately, there are people in other countries that do not share this and may even try to take our freedoms from us. "It is therefore necessary to have an effective defence system for our Country but only one that has Australian involvement."As a Territorian I would not willingly compromise our safety or lifestyle. "I have a strong faith in the expertise and commitment of our Defence Force members in the security of our country. "Pine Gap and the Joint US and Australian personnel there have a long history in our defence and I am confident that they can continue in that role."
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE! Comment by ANN CLOKE.
Not again ... the four day outlook for the Centre – fine and sunny (yawn), about 28 degrees, how predictable!Our weather is boringly brilliant, week after week, we take it for granted, we expect it to be bright and clear, so when Tropical Cyclone Rosita or any other TC crosses Western Australia, bearing down on the Alice, the weather patterns become a key topic of conversation. Gray skies may bring blue moods, we talk about the changing climes and times. We greet people, and then comment on the weather, saying what a "lovely" day it is, or not, as the case may be. (Friend Franca's days are always glorious, no matter how seemingly disastrous the weather is!) We take responsibility for it – apologizing to visitors if it''s too hot or cold, too humid, too dry, too damp, too windy, too still … We make excuses – "it's not usually like this you know" – as if, by saying "you should have been here yestrday, blue skies, sunshine, spectacular," the weather will miraculously change. Locals cannot believe the impact global warming has had on our weather patterns and the environment in general. Friends, Pat and Vicki, from South Africa, visited in March for six days. It rained every day!! Warm soaking rain. The Red Centre was quite green and there wasn't a glimmer of sunshine. We socialized, shopped, and enjoyed sightseeing in and around the Alice: at the weekend we drove out to Uluru, and the rain followed us. Other visitors have been fooled into thinking Mt Connor is in fact Ayers Rock… for the first time ever we couldn''t see it. The Rock, draped in cloud, resembled Table Mountain, the magnificent backdrop to Capetown: the Cultural Centre was completely surrounded by water, and looked like a thatched island. The walk was closed due to inclement weather (many visitors we spoke to had already decided to forego the climb, respecting the wishes of the Anangu, Aboriginal traditional owners). We headed out to Kata Tjuta – the Olgas, shrouded in mist and cloud, took on a ghostly appearance. We spoke to Austrian visitors at the viewing platform, swapped cameras, took photos. They had toured the Centre six years before, and were delighted to see the contrast that the rain brings – the countryside needs this, they said. Heavy cloud cover obscured any sunset – we drove back to the Resort. The next day, we left for Kings Canyon – a precipitation-free morning gave us an opportunity to climb all around the canyon and enjoy the spectacular scenery. It rained later. Resort staff apologized again for the weather: "So sorry it's so wet." We headed back to Alice, the landscape looking fresh and green. My photos are wonderful – waterfalls cascading off Uluru, fish and frogs in rock pools, a few brave wildflowers, lush ferns and foliage, and great scenic shots. I hope that Pat and Vicki get another chance to visit us – the weather will probably be fine and sunny, no apologies needed, and the landscape will be different again.
MENTAL SERVICES ARE UNDER STRESS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Mental health services in Alice Springs – apart from their success in suicide prevention (Alice News, April 25) – would appear to be at a low ebb. • A high level of mental health patients in crisis over the past few weeks has coincided with sabbatical leave of one hospital psychiatrist and illness of another.• The Program Manager of Mental Health Services has left her position.• The Mental Health Association is struggling to maintain a viable committee; • its rehabilitation program, the Heritage Clubhouse, has been closed since January, awaiting the development of an alternative "service model"; • and, it has lost its premises, the former Superintendent's house at the Old Gaol.Territory Health Services' regional director, Sue Korner, says a locum psychiatrist has been employed at the hospital and it is hoped that the senior psychiatrist's' illness will be short- term.She says the incidence of mental health crises is cyclical, and that recent high numbers are part of "normal business".A local person who cares for someone with mental illness told the Alice News that she knew of three incidents where Mental Health Services (MHS) had been phoned for assistance in a crisis and the caller had been told to ring the police.The carer said that the arrival of police could frighten an already distressed mentally ill person, and jeopardise their trust relationship with their carer.Ms Korner says the involvement of police, under a carefully worked out protocol, in bringing a person into the hospital for assessment, is also normal practice.Says Ms Korner: "If people in crisis want to access Mental Health Services, they can only do so through the emergency department of the hospital."We have an extended hours team that operates into the evening, and a person from that team will come and do the assessment at the hospital."We don't send our team members out into a different environment – assessment is done on site."A letter to the editor by mental health consumer and independent candidate for MacDonnell, Matthew Fowler, published in last week's News, claimed that MHS Manager, Linda Keane, had been "removed" from her position, and that the amalgamation of the management of MHS and Central Australia Alcohol and Other Drugs Service (CAAODS) had been reversed.Ms Korner says Ms Keane has left her position to take up one with the community council at Yuendumu which allows her to combine her training and experience as a town planner with her love of delivering services in remote areas.Ms Korner says the amalgamation of CAAODS and MHS management was never seen as long term, but was done to develop "close alignment between the two services", particularly in relation to dual diagnosis of mental health and substance misuse problems.Ms Korner says that "linkage" is now established and will be strengthened by the appointment of a psychiatrist to a new position covering both alcohol and other drugs and mental health.In the meantime, with the opening of the new mental health unit at the hospital and the need to support the programs being undertaken by the struggling Mental Health Association (MHA), it was too big an "ask" for one person to manage both MHS and CAAODS, which is why the separate positions have been reintroduced, says Ms Korner. The MHA for its part is calling a Special General Meeting on May 22 to fill vacant positions on its management committee and to consider changes to its constitution.With these the association hopes to bring about a greater mix of skills on the committee; representation and input from other "stakeholder" agencies, as well as the active participation of consumers; and an increase in the number of committee members so that a quorum can be reached at each meeting.A stronger committee will be essential if the association is to reopen a rehabilitation program and to continue to auspice the Life Promotion program. Heritage Clubhouse suffered from a range of problems, not the least of which was limited resources for a big job – assisting people with a mental illness in their recovery, including a return to the workforce.Another would appear to be management by a voluntary committee given little training and support and which up till now has drawn most of its members from among mental health services consumers.As with any voluntary committee, consumers are in a unique position to provide input on the relevance and effectiveness of programs, but may find it difficult to consistently provide the full gamut of skills required to oversee complex programs.Despite considerable duress, the MHA committee to their credit has laboured on. Together with the Executive Officer of the association, Geoff Harris, they recognised the problems being experienced by the Clubhouse and requested assistance from THS to conduct a review of its operations.The review recommended immediate closure to allow development of a new program. This was implemented and a project officer has been employed to work with the association to plan a new " psychosocial recovery" service which "best meets local needs in the context of the likely budget".In the interim, THS has employed a half-time project officer to "case manage" the rehabilitation of previous clients of the Clubhouse, as well as some additional clients. The News asked Ms Korner if THS could have provided more support for the committee, considering the sensitivity and complexity of the functions it had undertaken.Ms Korner said it would not be "appropriate" for THS to intervene in the "internal business of an independently incorporated organisation".The News also asked if there was a "squeeze" on the budget for MHS, and whether the extended hours service was going to be reduced.Ms Korner: "Our service is supporting people throughout the Central Australian region and across the border. I guess we've got a fairly large service and the demands are fairly high. "I'm not privy to any discussion about closing or reducing the extended hours service and I'm certainly not aware of a tightening of resources."We have to manage to ensure that we don't keep expanding without good justification."That's just good fiscal management."Meanwhile, MHA could find itself homeless, with the lease on its office premises due to expire, and the Northern Territory Government resuming the Superintendent's House at the Old Gaol for another purpose. Mr Harris describes the loss of the heritage building which gave the Clubhouse its name as "a major loss" and is calling on the community to help the association find suitable premises.
LETTER: Town trash: who's in charge of what?
Sir,- As of July 1, Alice Springs MAY be subjected to arbitrary restrictions regarding alcohol sales. That the authorities have the blasted cheek to regiment a town of 25,000 to when, what, and how much alcohol they may purchase, and yet not have the common sense and GUTS, to call the Alice Springs Police to account for their dismal failure to implement the Two Kilometre drinking law, is just another example of Northern Territory governed by the CLP. In the Charles River there are 29 empty wine bladders in a 50 meter area at the back of a building with a large NO ALCOHOL sign on the front. Cans, more wine bladders and other filth litter the entire stretch of the river bed, which is permanently inhabited by Aborigines, who would NOT be there if they were not absolutely sure that they can and do drink as much as they like, for as long as they like, whenever they like. The Alice Springs Town Council have a great deal to answer for in that the people on it, held up their hands to run the town, and get $150 plus a week (a third of the take home pay of the council employee) to do so. That they have not sought a meeting with the Police Minister on the inactivity of the local police is disgraceful. It is all very well to sign memorandums of understanding with the town Aborigines, who are not the culprits, BUT I too have a memorandum of understanding with the Town Council. It is called a RATE receipt. So buck up your ideas, the town is a rubbish tip. There are 87 silver bladders along a well traveled road; the Charles in front of St. Philip's College is littered with cans and rubbish; the salt bush area at the side of Centralian College is littered with them; the area across from the North Highway shopping centre has daily exhibitions of drinking just feet from the highway; and, on Monday morning [last week] there were two empty bladders in the lane way between the Post Office and the Commonwealth Bank, along with all the other Commonwealth Bank litter. Oh, and the best of luck with the Police Minister and his offsider. Both of them will be at "meetings" and neither of them will return your call.
SON ABOUT MOTHER OF YEAR: SHE'S ALWAYS THERE FOR ME!
"I don't find myself extraordinary – I just do the everyday things a Mum does with her children," says Sharon Donnellan, Alice Springs mother of six. But 14 year old son Braedon, the eldest of her brood, thinks she's pretty special, for giving him a family that's "fun, energetic and lifeful". "She's always there for me, at my sporting games, picking me up, dropping me off, on the committee at school," says Braedon, a talented young athlete. When his nanna told him that the children's charity, Barnardos Australia, had a Mother of the Year award, he decided to nominate Sharon "as a way of saying thank you". Sharon, Territory winner and thus national finalist in the awards, says if she's been a good mum, it's down to the love and support she's been given by her own parents, Ron and Christine " Biddy" Donnellan. They were there for her when she became pregnant with Braedon at 17 years of age. "They made me take responsibility, they told me it would change my life, but they helped me too," she says. She and husband Bradley Abala went on to have five more children: Alexis, now 11, Bradley junior, nine, Sherkeira, seven, Tisharlia, six and Kyanna, four. The couple separated when Sharon was expecting Kyanna, and tragically, Mr Abala passed away earlier this year. Once again, Sharon says the support from her parents, sisters and brothers, has pulled her and the children through a difficult time. This extended family, which now includes 19 grandchildren, 16 of them in Alice, spend much of every weekend together, starting with "tea at Nanna's" on Friday nights. "Open house" – especially to children – is a family tradition: Sharon's great grandmother was Arrernte woman Topsy Smith and her grandmother was Ada Wade, both of whom have been honoured for their help to children who were not their own. (Wade Court was named for Ada; a "house" at St Philip's College was named for Topsy.) "When my grandmother passed away, my mother took on the role. When we were growing up our friends could always go to our parents' place. "Now it's passed down to me. It's nothing for me to have 10 kids in the house of a weekend." While bringing up her children, Sharon has also managed to obtain a degree in adult education from the University of South Australia, studying through the Institute for Aboriginal Development. These days she adds part-time teaching at Centralian College to her busy week. She says now her children are older, she feels more like their friend than their mother: "We all go out and about together, and I meet a lot of friends through my kids' activities." Sharon played hockey for the Territory when she was at school and the children, while choosing different sports, are following in her footsteps. In the cooler part of the year, there's not one day of the week when one of them isn't playing a sport. Wednesdays though take some beating: after school Braedon plays touch football; Alexis and Bradley have got basketball training; Sherkeira and Tisharlia, netball training. TRAININGSharon then takes Bradley to soccer training, goes to buy takeaway dinner for her three youngest and drops them off at her Dad's, after which she goes back to the basketball stadium where she plays in B Grade, and Alexis also has a game. When she finally gets all the kids home, there's still homework to supervised before showers and bedtime. There have been two and a half thousand nominations for Barnardos' Mother of the Year; tomorrow Sharon goes with Braedon to Sydney where the national winner will be announced at a lunchtime function on Friday.
RAILWAY A FINANCIAL DRAIN FOR HALF A CENTURY: DICK KIMBER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Not a single one of the Alice to Darwin railway contracts let so far, worth a total of $280m, has gone to an Alice Springs company. And a spokeswoman for ADrail says its project director, Al Volpe, is "unable" to say when and if an Alice Springs firm will become involved. Neither was ADrail prepared to disclose the individual contract amounts to be paid to the seven SA and nine NT companies, and three from other states. The project requires 75 per cent of the $1.3b to be spent either in SA or the NT. The spokeswoman says to date, $150m has been spent in SA – including an unspecified amount to OneSteel in Whyalla for 145,000 tonnes of steel rails. Meanwhile Alice Springs historian Dick Kimber (pictured at right) says the project "will be a monumental disaster for the whole of Australia for the next 50 years minimum". Mr Kimber, a long time resident of Central Australia, has published 100 journal articles and books, and recently appeared as a commentator in Robert Hughes'' acclaimed TV series, Beyond the Fatal Shore. Mr Kimber says the investment so far by the Federal, SA and NT governments – a total of $550m – is "a minimal figure". "Those private consortiums will not go in unless they are guaranteed a very large return. "That return has to be better than any bank offers, it has to be up in the 14 to 25 per cent bracket. "They are going to be guaranteed that, in my view. "The Northern Territory Government guaranteed the Sheraton Hotels. "They effectively guaranteed the casino in the early days. They guaranteed Yulara. "So what you have is guarantees that certainly, as with all the precedents of the NT Government, are absolutely red hot guarantees. "If all the assumptions I have made are even remotely correct, and I bet you some of them are, these guarantees are going to be paid out over the next 50 years. "It's fair to look at another side. "John Howard has said this is a major project that he has wanted to go ahead for a long time. "It has been on the agenda of the NT and South Australian governments for well over 100 years. "But that in itself doesn't make anything viable. To say you want it is the same as saying, I want a pie in the sky! "Adelaide, in world terms, is a very small city. "Alice Springs is a drop in the ocean, Darwin is a drop in the ocean. All three are slow growth cities, if not marking time. "The proposal is that once you build a railway line it will open up new mines. "It will not. If these mines were viable they'd already be going. "It will supposedly open up new markets of all kinds for produce up and down the track. "Certainly, Ti Tree might grow another 100 tonnes of cabbages or grapes, but we're not talking about anything on any major scale being developed as a result of that railway line. "You've got the idea of this kind of funnel coming from all over Australia and using the train line to head north. "That's an illusion to start with. Trucking, shipping and airline business will remain competitive, and the alternative railway through Victoria, NSW and Queensland to link with the Territory will surely be competitive too. "John Howard has actually stated that it does not have to be economic to be a great venture, which surely means that he does not perceive it as economically viable ever. "He says this is the new Australian Snowy. "I'd say it's more like the new Ord River Dam. "That was a disaster for a long time." "For 20 years it benefited one man and a dog, apart from the fact that a lake was built and that lake attracted a number of tourists. "The reality of this line to Darwin is that you have 1000 tourists joined up to go on it. "Well, hooray! 1000 tourists are booked to go. "You'll be lucky to pay the cost of polishing the windows on that." Mr Kimber says the extreme secrecy surrounding the project leaves many questions open: "What Asian people or nation are going to say they're going to accept everything? "Dick Smith's peanut butter is going up the line. Who's going to buy it? "Is it going to help the military? Will it be used to move nuclear waste to the Tennant Creek area? "We're looking at a 19th century solution to a 21st century ‘ problem' which simply doesn't exist." As the governments have already broken promises about the level of public financing when they committed an extra $70m in the wake of the John Hancock pull-out, further cost overruns are likely to occur. Mr Kimber says if the $1.3b cost doesn't blow up to $2b he'll be surprised:"This is going to be a white elephant on a monumental scale." Equally, the construction period is likely to blow out to five years, "no matter what they say".The construction phase is likely to be the time when there will be "some opportunities for some workers" from Alice Springs, and a few of its businesses. Entertainment venues such as the casino are likely to benefit from patronage by off-duty workers. Mr Kimber says if the employment regime at the new Ghan line, completed in 1981, is any guide, staff will be working 12 hour shifts 14 days in a row, followed by a couple of days off. Many will want to make a lot of money and work to the maximum," says Mr Kimber. "The focus is certainly not on Alice Springs which is incidental to the major construction of the line. Tennant Creek will benefit in the short and long term, as will Katherine and Darwin. "Will The Alice become a ghost town like Oodnadatta effectively became when the Ghan line was extended to Alice Springs between 1926 and 1929? I would be very surprised if Alice Springs maintained its present rail head [function] as a distribution centre. "Elements of the trucking industry will have to relocate to Tennant Creek ... which will become a focal point of this new line, during and after construction." Mr Kimber says eastern-bound freight will be handled through Tennant Creek instead of Alice. With the shift of trucking businesses from Alice to Tennant will come the shift of support businesses, such as tyres and mechanical services. "In a Territory sense there will not be a loss but in an Alice Springs sense there will be a considerable loss. "My guess would be that we could lose a population of upwards of 5000." Mr Kimber says there needs to be a "baffle zone" with sound dampening structures between the railway line and residential areas in Alice, now that the government has decided – against strong public protest – to run the line through the town. Mr Kimber says the line will diminish Alice Springs' appeal to visitors and locals alike.
EVEN BROTHER WAS 'SIR' ON BIG NIGHT!
The toughest task for Katie Daniels on her first night waitressing at a three course restaurant dinner was addressing her brother, Tyrone, aged 12, as "Sir". She says: "I had to. "He laughed a bit, but I'm not giving him the same treatment any more." Tyrone, his parents and about 100 other guests were pampered patrons on April 26 at the opening of the Desert Lantern restaurant, showpiece of the $5m hospitality school at Centralian College, and one of the town's smartest and most pleasant eateries. Katie, 15, (pictured at right) was one of a dozen students serving, for entree, a choice of smoked emu salad or bush berry soup, and as the main courses, chicken breast with Bearnaise sauce or rack of lamb with bush tomato sauce. It was delicious and cooked by lecturers Ingolf Eigenwillig and Max Matter in the huge, lavishly appointed kitchen, which has a fully equipped butcher's shop attached to it. The evening proved the move of the tourism school from Flynn Drive was a great success. A rammed earth wall separates the lobby from the spacious restaurant whose entire southern facade is a massive glass wall, with views of the MacDonnell Ranges (if you come before dark). The young "staff" were smartly dressed, black and white uniforms, moving quietly and efficiently between the comfortably spaced tables. "It's a good place to work," says Katie. She and her colleagues started at 3.30pm and finished at 11pm. The biggest chore was "cleaning up afterwards because you have to carry so many plates at a time". "But we didn't have to wash up," says Katie. She goes to Anzac High, the largest source of hospitality students in her course which also has participants from OLSH and Alice High. Five of the 12 starters had dropped out, she says. Katie hasn't decided yet whether to make hospitality her career: "Might be, I don't really know as yet." If she enters the tourism trade she expects that some customers "are nice, some are arrogant. "You try not to let them see they're getting to you." Course manager Sandy Smith says students range from Year 10, 11 and 12 students to adults attending night classes. "The students learn a range of skills from waiting on tables, bartending (they need to be in Year 11 or older), and we have a class of students doing Certificate I in Hospitality (Kitchen Operations), which can lead to an apprenticeship as a chef," says Sandy. The college runs night classes which cover restaurant and bar work, hotel and motel front office work, as well as travel consulting and tour guiding. Students usually attend for a full school year, and most people attending any course can get a qualification within 12 months, says Sandy. The adjacent electronic learning centre has up-to-date computers and computer software for the latest tourism reservation and front office systems. Says Sandy: "All lecturing staff have a practical background in their prospective fields and many of them continue to work in the tourism industry part-time."
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