ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
February 27, 2002.



REPORT CANES COUNCIL: DEPUTY MAYOR STILL DEFIANT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Deputy Mayor Jenny Mostran remains defiant in the face of a scathing report by two inspectors from the Department of Local Government about the town council budget surplus row. She questions portions of the report, saying the inspectors in private meetings had given two figures about the size of the surplus, putting it at $800,000 one week, and between zero and $300,000 the next. "That hasn't been substantiated," says Ald Mostran. "To say between zero and $300,000 is clearly very imprecise. "I want to know what sort of juggling they have done to get this figure of $300,000. "You can make any figure add up depending on what you put in and what you take away." The recent public furore was fueled by assertions that the council had a surplus of around $1.5m and consequently the 2001 / 2002 rate increase of five per cent could not be justified. However, the investigation found that the surplus is much smaller and the rate increase warranted. But Ald Mostran says the surplus was only one aspect of the ongoing management malaise. The report raises the specter of sacking the council and says a vote, moved by Ald Mostran, of no confidence in the executive management "usurps the power and authority vested in the clerk [and] is damaging to the public standing of the council and by implication local government generally". The report says "the vote of no confidence in the executive management by a majority of aldermen is without precedent" but Ald Mostran says the Alice council had a similar vote in 1991. She says the Local Government Act does not provide for motions of no confidence which are merely "an expression of how [aldermen] felt". "That is absolutely how I felt and so I moved the motion. "What was I supposed to do? "I had been trying for so long to have this issue raised, and it was falling on deaf ears." The report indicates that the council's financial reporting, and communications between aldermen and senior staff, have been dysfunctional for some five years. The inspectors, called in by the council to sort out the mess, say "it appears that financial reporting has been a bone of contention with successive Councils since at least 1996. "It is clear that the Chairperson of most standing committees has not established a rapport with the relevant Director" who is a member of the council's executive staff. The report says: "Should a majority of members refuse to support the [report's] recommendations, or resign rather than support the recommendations, there is no other alternative than to suspend the Council to prevent further damage to its standing." Ald Mostran, in an exclusive interview with the Alice Springs News, says she and her supporters in council will not be intimidated. "That's quite offensive. That's a threat. "I'd like to ask the Minister what criteria there are for sacking any municipal or community council. "There is a whole process to go through. "You don't have a period of good will with a gun held to your head." Ald Mostran, who was elected in May 2000 on a platform of competent business management, says the financial arrangements are "an insidious problem that's not something that's happened just in the last two years". She says she would not tolerate a similar situation in her own company – a major fuel distributorship – but "but I don't run a company with 11 bosses". She says the aldermen and the Mayor are the bosses but "that's not recognized by the executive management". "When we've made directives for things to be done they haven't been done, on numerous occasions, I would think dozens of times. "We would reject a report and ask them to come back, and they would come back, but it may be two months before you had the report you should have had before. "That's the culture we're up against. The staff direct what happens." Ald Mostran says she wrote her first report on management issues in June 2000, dealing with processes, management, customer service, "all the things we're not doing well". However, Ald Mostran is not familiar with recommendations made by a firm of accountants – commissioned by the council – early in the current term. Says the departmental report released last week: "In accepting the report, the current Council in July 2000 resolved to implement four procedures not entirely consistent with the Howarth recommendations." And about monthly financial reporting the departmental inquiry says: "The Local Government (Accounting) Regulations require the Council to approve the format of these reports. "Council has approved the current reporting format without dissension being recorded in the minutes." The fact that the problems remained unresolved casts serious doubt on the ability of local government in Alice Springs to serve the community, and efficiently manage a $15m budget. The report suggests "workshops for Alderman and senior staff in financial reporting and the preparation of estimates". Ald Mostran says "regardless of your skills you should be able to participate in local government". "You should not have to have a degree in economics and accounting to be on the local council. "We need to stop the baffle you with bullshit stuff. "The agenda should be set by the elected members, not the staff." Ald Mostran says she spends 18 to 20 hours a week "researching the reports. "I believe this is untenable for people to participate in local government. "That's without dealing with constituents and going to functions and attending meetings. "Here we are, in February, when we should have had these figures at the end of June last year, still arguing about what they are. "You make a decision on the information that is given to you at the time. "We were told the surplus [was] between $30,000 and $50,000. "I want to know what sort of juggling [the inspectors] have done to get this figure of $300,000. "You can make any figure add up depending on what you put in and what you take away." She says the 2000 / 2001 budget process – the first she participated in – was a mess: "We have been trying. We have been told it's all under control. Leave it with me and we'll fix it. "The next month [the executive staff] would say, oh, is that what you wanted? "We did err. "We trusted and relied on the executive management to provide us with the information and it wasn't forthcoming. "That's the whole issue. We haven't been given the information we need to make informed decisions. Every time we questioned them we were coming up against a brick wall." Ald Mostran says as a result of her initiative in 2000, council elections will now be held in March instead of May, so new aldermen can learn the processes. She says monthly reports "have been accepted but they have been queried". "They get accepted by the majority. "The reports we accepted in June didn't reflect the true financial situation in June. "If that's the information that is given to you then you make your decision on that. "Otherwise I would have to be going in and actually go through the computer system to verify the data input and all those sorts of things. "I don't think that's my role." Ald Mostran, often rumored to be having her eye on Greatorex, says she has no ambitions to stand for the Legislative Assembly – at least not now. "It's not for me. "Some people, and you know who they are, have ambitions to go on to the next level. "So long as they are not sacrificing their commitment to the council I don't have a problem with that. "These rumors are distracting from the real issue which is the mismanagement of local government in Alice Springs." She says her family circumstances (young children) rule out a political career for the moment. Would she consider running for the Assembly in the future? "I don't know," says Ald Mostran. "I came out of left field to go into local government and it's something I'd never considered before." Council CEO Nick Scarvelis says he is committed to implementing the recommendations made by the departmental inspectors and would make no further comment at this time.

$15 A NIGHT TRAVELLERS STILL FLOCKING TO THE ALICE.

The backpacker sector of the tourism industry remained resilient post-September 11 and the Ansett collapse – and indeed is expected to double within the next 10 years.This contrasts with the inbound industry as a whole, which has hit "rock bottom" but is showing signs of recovery, according to managing director of the Australian Tourism Commission, Ken Boundy.ABS figures showed a 9.6 per cent decline in inbound arrivals for January this year compared to January 2001, the fifth consecutive month of decline.US visitors in January had actually increased by six per cent compared to January last year; UK visitors were up by 1.9 per cent. However, arrivals from Asia, Japan and New Zealand had all declined. The NZ decline in part to the lack of air capacity (a problem which continues to dog Alice Springs). Growth was expected from key Asian markets this month, with visitors arriving to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Australia. Last year the festival fell in January.The Japanese group travel market continues to be slow, but bookings from independent travellers are beginning to move, said Mr Boundy.Pictured at left: Recipe for success – good cheap meals ($7.50), reasonably priced bar, friendly atmosphere, great music, Annie's Place buzzing last Friday night. The hostel sleeps six to a room, $15 a head, and the majority of visitors come for the total experience, booking into Mulga's Tours as well. Backpackers talk to other backpackers about where they'll stay and what they'll do, so customer satisfaction is of the "highest importance", says proprietor, Mulga. See page 5 for the latest addition to backpacker accommodation in town, the YHA's historic Kenna House, opened last Friday.

DRINKING, NOT HUNTING NOW MAIN "CULTURAL OBLIGATION". Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Indigenous leader NOEL PEARSON wants mandatory treatment for alcoholics, strict law enforcement, an end to "passive welfare".
"There must be no more unconditional support if people don't change, there must be a material cost. And, very importantly, there must be an immediate rejection of abusive behaviour by the environment, there must be a social and emotional cost."The absolute intolerance of illicit drugs, absolute enforcement of social order, and mandatory treatment is the core of the strategy."
In face of the disastrous "grog and drug epidemic" gripping Indigenous people, Noel Pearson, Indigenous lawyer and leader from Cape York Pensinsula, is urging them to "take responsibility".In a speech made last year – in memory of Dr C. Perkins and in the lead-up to the Federal election – he cut a swathe through muddled "progressivist" thinking to further promote a tough stance, by Aboriginal people and communities, and by governments.Neither major party get it right, according to Pearson: Labor is good on rights and recognition, weak on responsibility; the Coalition are antipathetic and wrong in relation to rights, but have a better understanding of responsibility. Those who pay the price for this "indulgent political divide" are the "black vulnerable: the children, the women and the elderly". Pearson tries to understand the paradox of the social breakdown that has accompanied the advancement in the formal rights of Indigenous people, not least the restoration to many of their homelands.He rejects the prevailing analysis that substance abuse and addiction are symptoms of underlying social and personal problems: ingrained trauma, trans-generational grief, racism, dispossession, unemployment, poverty and so on."Addiction is a condition in its own right, not a symptom," he says. "Substance abuse is a psychosocially contagious epidemic and not a simple indicator or function of the level of social and personal problems in a community. "Five factors are needed for an outbreak of substance abuse: (i) the substance being available (ii) spare time (iii) money (iv) the example of others in the immediate environment and (v) a permissive social ideology. "If these five factors are present, substance abuse can spread rapidly among very successful people as well as marginalised people."He acknowledges that substance abuse got a foothold among Aboriginal people because many of them were bruised by history but asserts that "when a young person (or an older non-addict) is recruited to the grog and drug coteries today the decisive factor is the existence of these epidemics themselves, not his or her personal background". Alternative, drug free activities can never compete with the more exciting drug-induced experiences for young people's attention, says Pearson. "We can never convince an addict to quit by offering a materially and socially better life including land rights, infrastructure, work, education, loving care, voluntary rehabilitation and so on. "The addict will just use all these material and human resources to facilitate an abusive lifestyle."We must understand that trauma, dispossession et cetera make our communities susceptible to grog and drug epidemics, they do not automatically cause abusive behaviour." History is irrelevant in the treatment of the addiction, says Pearson: "It is the epidemics that perpetuate themselves". Some addicts may overcome their addiction after many years, following a "last warning" from a doctor, but by then a lot of damage has been done, not only to the addict's own health but to his or her family and community.The opportunity to choose an abusive lifestyle or continue leading one needs to be removed."I have seen to my surprise and horror how large groups of ‘normal', functional people who took responsibility for families and originally were very distant from abusive behaviour, were sucked into the alcohol abuse epidemic when it gained momentum in my hometown of Hope Vale and in other communities in Cape, and other abuse epidemics are now following grog and gambling … "The substance abuse epidemics are embedded in our Aboriginal social web and have become our new dysfunctional culture: to drink is to be Aboriginal. "When you look at a drinking circle you see people who are socialising around grog. Everyone is obliged to share the money and the grog."These social and cultural obligations are invoked at every turn by members of the drinking circle … "What – when people are not drinking but hunting – is a cultural obligation to share food with countrymen, is turned into a cultural obligation to share grog. "In fact your fellow drinkers will challenge your Aboriginal identity in order to establish your obligation to contribute money to buy grog."Outside of this drinking circle are the women and the children and old people and the non-drinkers. "These non-drinkers are placed under tremendous social and cultural pressure to contribute resources to the drinking circle for buying grog. Ultimately the addicts resort to intimidation and violence."Pearson says that plans to combat the substance abuse epidemics are being developed in Cape York Peninsula. They are based on two fundamental points: first, that it must be more uncomfortable for substance abusers to continue with the abuse than to quit; and there must be enforced treatment. "In order to cure an epidemic there must be involuntary, mandatory and humane treatment of people who are engaged in abuse … "A great mistake in our discussions has been the idea of trying to ‘normalise' drinking when confronted with an epidemic. "Given the large number of problem drinkers in our social web and the existence of the epidemic – who really believes you can incrementally reduce the problem from a, say, 80 per cent problem down towards a ‘normal' 10 per cent level? "Alcoholics cannot ‘normalise' or ‘control' their drinking – they must rehabilitate and abstain."Moving beyond passive welfare will be indispensible to the success of these strategies, argues Pearson. FREE MONEY Receiving obligation-free money is irrational, he says, and it has inclined Aboriginal people "to wasteful, aimless behaviours": "Like other people who can't see any connection between their actions and their circumstances, we waste our money, our time, our lives."People highly motivated by their strong addiction to grog and drugs now regard and treat other people in our society in the same way as the passive welfare resource: these people (wives, girlfriends, parents, grandparents, children, relatives) are not valued and respected. "They will always be there and the addicted do not have to take any responsibility for them. These people are simply a source of resources (money, shelter, food, comfort and care) and they are treated accordingly." The traditional Aboriginal economy was a real economy: if you didn't work, you starved. Even in the mission days, Aboriginal people lived partly in a real economy. The provision of passive welfare in the ‘seventies changed all that: Aboriginal people withdrew from participation in the real economy, and the disaster of neglected children, mass incarceration and the grog and drug epidemics began to emerge. "Of course racism, dispossession and trauma are the ultimate explanations for our precarious situation as a people. "But the point is that they do not explain our recent, rapid and almost total social breakdown. "And most importantly, if we build our ideology and base our plan of action on our justified bitterness about what has happened to us, we won't be able to claim our place in the modern economy."Economic development has generally been put in the "too hard" basket, says Pearson. Attention is focussed instead on behaviours, such as domestic violence, and on health problems.But the issue is fundamental and has to be tackled: "It is the government's responsibility to coordinate and facilitate the solution of an urgent social crisis. "It has the responsibility to facilitate our return to the real economy. "However the government can only facilitate a solution, it cannot solve the problem. "It also follows from what I have said that the government's responsibility is only transitory, or at least not indefinite."Pearson does not provide a blueprint for the "immediate dismantling" of passive welfare but says that is where attention must be refocussed, accompanied by "an end to permissive thinking about grog and drug policy"."What we are doing now is that we create the optimal conditions for our addicts who don't want to change, to consume all of our resources and to disrupt our society. "What abusive members of our communities experience is not a determined rejection of that behaviour, it is (i) unconditional financial support for nothing (ii) endless nonsense talk to give the impression that something is being done (‘prevention', ‘harm minimisation') (iii) limitless understanding and care when the complications of abusive behaviour become annoying and (iv) ideology production for the defense of abusive lifestyles (the ‘symptom theory', ‘inherited trauma')." Pearson is not suggesting a simplistic abolition of welfare entitlements, and is not against increased government funding, but points out that "most of it will be squandered if we have no understanding of the problems".
Source: Dr C. Perkins Memorial Oration by Noel Pearson, On the Human Right to Misery, Mass Incarceration and Early Death.

OUT OF ALICE EXPERIENCE. Column by ANN CLOKE.

I received quite a lot of feedback after last week's "Fortress Alice", thought about doing a follow-up piece, but decided a "lighten up" piece could be in order: a light-hearted look at life after Alice.It is said that we travel the world in search of what we need, and return home to find it.So, with that in mind, I opened up our address book. Between us, David and I have always had quite a lot of the world covered, friends and family living in the United Kingdom, Europe, much of Southern Africa and New Zealand (an extremely popular destination thanks to close proximity, brilliant scenery, and the release of the movie Lord of the Rings: this was opportune because people have now stopped talking about the disastrous cricket season and speak instead of Middle Earth!). It's comforting to have friendly faces together with invaluable local knowledge when it comes to possible stopovers in new destinations on overseas travels. It's important to now sort out the Australian sector. David and I are planning to crisscross our beautiful continent, clocking up thousands of kilometres, over many trips in different seasons. We need to ensure that friends who have decided to take the "retirement elsewhere" option are living in as many different locations as possible. It's no use having all of them living, for instance, in South Australia – that's about as much use as feathers to a pig, as Mummy sometimes says. We, as intending travellers, need choices. Friends should try to purchase properties which feature fully equipped self-contained guest retreats preferably with private road access and spectacular outlooks – mountains, rain-forests, tranquil lake settings or, even better, sea-views…We wouldn't expect to stay for any more than two nights, remembering the old analogy to do with fish and visitors who overstay, and the observation that they each go off after a couple of days. Depending on how the investments are looking, we'll alternate between friends, the swag, bed and breakfast houses, motels, hotels and the odd luxury camp site complete with adjoining canvas-covered en suite bathroom facilities. This is a great way to experience the bush, especially up around the Okavango Delta in Botswana, when there's no moon and the lions are prowling around the campsite. So, when people say they're thinking about leaving the Alice, instead of becoming depressed, have some input. Be positive: "Great idea, but doesn't the company need a branch in (say) Broome, Port Douglas, Apollo Bay, Eden or George Town?" or "Have you thought about relocating to Exmouth or Airlie Beach?" Friends will value your input, and they may end up telling you where to go as well…Saturday evening, we had a great time over at Cheryl and Thommo's with Kate, Kingy, Wendy and Leigh.At some point in the little hours – two? three? – someone told us ALL where to go …in the nicest possible manner of course … so we said farewells and departed, which was a good idea, it was time to go.

A NEW LIFE FOR HISTORIC HOME. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Kenna House, which once slept a family of three, can now sleep 52!If they were brothers and sisters they'd be complaining bitterly, but for backpackers it's a lifestyle that not even the Childers fire tragedy can put a dampener on. Their numbers are expected to double within the next 10 years and it's to cater for that increase that Youth Hostels Association Northern Territory have opened a new wing at their historic Pioneer Theatre premises in Parsons Street. They have joined the site to the once-private residence built by Snow Kenna in 1942 or '43 fronting onto Leichardt Terrace. It's the only surviving private home of the era and heritage campaigners were keen to see it preserved. For YHA it made sense as an extension of the Pioneer Theatre site, but only if it could accommodate the required number of beds and meet stringent safety standards, especially with respect to fire. At last Friday's opening ceremony, Kenna House was hailed by Minister for Central Australia, Peter Toyne, as a plus for the town's tourism infrastructure; and by Stephen Sutton, director of the NT Heritage Conservation Branch as a "fantastic example" of "adaptive re-use" of a heritage building. To doubters who would suggest that the branch is only championing such re- uses, Mr Sutton said that is not the case. "Where it's appropriate and where it's the only solution, then it's a good way to proceed," he said. He praised the way the ablutions block at the rear of the building articulates itself as a contemporary add-on yet is in sympathy with the old house. Similarly the intrusion of the smoke detectors, sprinkler system and air-conditioning vents has been kept to a minimum while honestly, yet sensitively stated.He was pleased with the preservation of many heritage features inside the house, albeit behind fire-retarding partitions and hence not visible. They are there in case one day someone again wants to live in the house as a private residence and restore it to its original condition. To a visitor or casual local observer, it certainly looks from the outside like a piece of "old Alice" and with so little left, that has to be good. But once you're inside, there's not much by way of ambience, let alone revealing detail of domestic architecture and lifestyle in another era. Functionalism rules. "Do you feel like you're in a heritage building?" one preservationist asked me. I would have to say, no. Domenico Pecorari, heritage architect and chairman of the local branch of the National Trust, says, given its use as 52-bed backpacker hostel, he doubts that the character of the interior of Snow Kenna's house could have been preserved. He reiterates his regret that a more sympathetic re-use, such as a guesthouse, was not found.


PLANTERS TURN 30. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.

The Alice Springs Australian Plants Society (APS) celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, with an evening of reminiscing on March 6, 7.30pm, at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. Long-time CSIRO field-worker in the Centre, Des Nelson was among those attending the inaugural meeting and is expected to be on hand again this time.Daphne Calder hosted the meeting on March 1, 1972, which established an Alice Springs branch of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) within the South Australian Region. In the late 1990s the name was changed to Australian Plants Society and today the group is affiliated with Australian Plants Society, South Australia Region, which has around 1000 members. Nationally, APS membership is close to 10,000. Initially, in Alice Springs members were interested in plant identification as well as learning where they could obtain seeds of native plants. Minutes of the first meeting provided hints for easier plant identification which included suggestions to obtain "a flower of such plant if able and several leaves and twigs". "Items should be pressed between sheets of newspaper and succulent plants can easily be kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator." Over the years the society has built up a comprehensive library of resource materials, provided newspaper articles and radio gardening talks, advised people and organisations, arranged field trips and guest speakers and conducted workshops on plant propagation. Today members collect and propagate the seed of rare Central Australian trees and shrubs and hold regular seed-packing sessions. Other activities include bushwalking, garden visits, weekend camping trips and guided walks. And the group has published a listing of local plants for Central Australian gardens. This alphabetical listing, first published in 1991 and updated in 2000, provides details as to genus, species, common name, height spread, uses (small gardens, saline conditions, ground cover, windbreaks, and so forth) and pertinent comments. The document also provides suggestions as to where what plants could be planted. Gardening in Alice Springs has changed considerably since the society started. Originally members concentrated on informing people about the benefits of "going native" as well as providing Australian plants at plant sales, which sold out quickly. Today members see their roles more as experimenters with more uncommon Central Australian plants as gardeners are always looking for something new and there are many local species with horticultural potential. Another recent activity has been monitoring Acacia latzii (Latz's Wattle) trees. Latz's Wattle is known from only two populations in the Beddome Ranges (spanning the NT/SA border south of the Finke) and in the Bacon Ranges, south-west of Alice Springs. The group built two small enclosures in 1992 to protect the nationally threatened plants from grazing by rabbits and cattle. Members visit the sites regularly to record rainfall and measure any change in the plant population, looking for new seedlings and recording the sizes of plants, among other things. The APS is always present at the annual Alice Springs Show, to provide information on how to establish gardens in all types of Central Australian soil as well as on the preservation of Australian flora in general. Members work year-round to keep their permanent site at the showgrounds weeded, sprayed, mowed and pruned. Many of the original members of the group still hold a close association with the society and help by way of plant identification and as guest speakers. Longest-serving members are Meg and Bruce Simmons, closely followed by Audrey Hull and Connie Spencer. Monthly meetings are held, as ever, on the first Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm, at Olive Pink. Web browsers can the APS web site at http://users.tpg.com.au/opbg/asp

HELPING ALICE'S BRIGHT INTO UNI. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.

Helping young people get a tertiary education is what the Rotary Club of Alice Springs' Education Trust Fund is all about. The club recently presented the annual John Hawkins Memorial Scholarship to Renee de Jong.Renee, who completed her secondary studies at Anzac Hill and Centralian College, is off to Adelaide University to study commerce and law.The scholarship perpetuates the memory of Dr John Hawkins MBE, an active and highly respected Alice Springs surgeon who died of a heart attack in September 1979 at age 52 while at Katherine Gorge. It is open to all local Year 12 students intending to undertake tertiary studies, and is worth $10,000 over a three-year period.Selection criteria are based on general academic ability, citizenship, presentation, ability to communicate, and future aspirations.Kylie Hogan, a graduate of Alice Springs High and Centralian College, was presented with a one-off cheque of $3000 from the Trust Fund. Kylie has been accepted at Adelaide, Melbourne and Australian National Universities.She plans to study maths and computer sciences when she resumes her formal studies in a year's time. Also attending the meeting was Dylan Fitzsimons, who received a scholarship last year.Dylan is at the Australian National University, doing law and Asian studies."There is a different level of study at university and a different mind set," Dylan told the club. "Going to university is a big change and a lot of effort, but the atmosphere is very supportive and one comes to grips with the differences very quickly."All three were presented their awards by Kay Hawkins, Dr Hawkins's widow.Later, Dylan said he felt his education in Alice Springs had prepared him well for university life. After talking to other students who had come from small towns in Australia, he realised that Alice Springs had many opportunities available to young people which were not so readily available elsewhere. All three young people agreed that scholarships, such as the John Hawkins Memorial Scholarship, encourage young people in Alice Springs to "get out there and then bring their knowledge back".

KIT HEPLS PRIMARY SCHOOL KIDS TO UNDERSTAND PEOPLE FROM AFAR. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.

The Migrant Resource Centre of Central Australia has developed a Resource Information Kit for Primary Schools.The kit will assist teachers and schools to develop awareness of the migrant community and to foster multiculturalism within schools and the wider community.The kit contains information fact sheets, publications, visual aids, and other material which cover a broad range of issues relating to migration and multiculturalism. "The Territory has always been regarded as a model of how many cultures can live in harmony and coexist side by side to the benefit of the community," writes MLA Loraine Braham in the kit's foreword. "Alice Springs has a long history of migrants from around the world arriving to make this special place in Australia their home."We acknowledge their contribution to the development of the town and how they have demonstrated that although we can have different origins, we can value those differences and respect each other's traditions and beliefs."The Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) of Central Australia started in the early 1980s and was incorporated in 1992 to be independent of the Darwin Migrant Resource Centre.The group's aim is to assist in the settlement of migrants and refugees in Alice Springs and its environs.The MRC presents or participates in a number of community events from National Harmony Day celebrations in March to visiting schools to talk to students about multiculturalism and to show aspects of various cultures, for example traditional clothing and dances. "As an educator and member of the Legislative Assembly, I see tremendous benefits of this kit as a teaching resource," says Mrs Braham."It contains information in a form that is practical and easy to access."It is also important that students are aware of the implications of legislation that protects residents against discrimination, regardless of sex, religion or race." The kit can be obtained from the MRC, on 8952 8776.

STORM IN TOWN POOL.

Twenty years of community cohesion and achievement has been ripped at the seams, say Alice Springs Swimming Club committee member, Belinda Farmer and past-president Tim Jennings. They told the Alice Springs News that controversy around the role of swimming coach Rod Woolf is threatening to split the club: parents are divided in their allegiance, and, worse still, on the pool deck children, once good mates, are being reduced to tears. And all this, just three weeks out from the NT Age Championships. RESIGNEDThe problem is that Mr Woolf, who came from Mt Isa as a Level 2 coach, has resigned after only a few months in the post, and from one day to the next has set himself up as a private coach. Mrs Farmer says the club had no quarrel with Mr Woolf as a coach, indeed they wanted him to remain with them, but the committee required him to resolve problems with a volunteer coach and he refused to cooperate. "We wanted him but we can't afford to lose volunteers," says Mrs Farmer, "and so far he has refused to front the committee to discuss the matter." Mrs Farmer says the situation is extremely confusing and upsetting for club members, both parents and children. She says so far there has been no talk of a breakaway club, and the children who are continuing to train under Mr Woolf are still considered to be club members. She and Mr Jennings believe that in a small town like Alice, with an established largely voluntary club, boasting assets worth more than $100,000, it is imperative to keep all swimmers together, training and competing under the Alice banner and benefiting from the whole community's input. If an individual seeks Mr Woolf's personal coaching, that's fair enough, but when it comes to coaching club members, his relationship to the club needs to be resolved.Town Council by-laws require that a coach at the swimming centre must have permission in writing to offer his or her services for "reward". PERMISSIONCouncil's Roger Bottrall, director of Planning and Infrastructure, said on Monday that Mr Woolf did not yet have permission in writing, but he had been informed of his obligation and was seeking permission as a matter of urgency. "I see no reason why he shouldn't get it," said Mr Bottrall.Mrs Farmer and Mr Jennings hope a solution will be found by bringing all parties together: Mr Woolf; the Town Council; their agents who manage the pool, the YMCA; and the swimming club committee. The Alice News had been unable to contact Mr Woolf at the time of going to press.

RAIN TURNS CRICKET INTO A REAL FIZZER! Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

Cricket in Central Australia has turned into a real fizzer: rain again prevented the completion of the two-day fixtures at Traeger Park and Albrecht Oval. The top two teams were playing off at Albrecht Oval. It was a significant match as the team finishing minor premier gains an automatic place in the grand final, and in fact the challenging team has to defeat the minor premier, who has time and weather on their side, to take the flag. On completion of the first day's play Rovers had established themselves well, making a fair 191, but then stalking two West wickets late in the day to have them 2/11 at stumps. Admittedly the Bloods had their batting strength to come with Ken Vowles padded up, and capable support down the order. But with the Blues at their best, bowling tightly and fielding without blemish, a win was within the realms of possibility. Six points from a first innings win would have taken them to the top of the ladder, albeit by a bee's kneecap. At Traeger the situation was more concerning. Fourth placed Federal had placed themselves in with a real chance against third placed RSL. They fielded well first up to dismiss the Razzle for 171. Adrian McAdam picked up five wickets and Alan Rowe four. The Demon batsmen then proceeded to consolidate the situation by scoring 1/53 by stumps. They had Tom Clements and Jamie Chadwick at the crease, and with solid batting to come, a win was well within their capabilities. A result in the match would have almost determined which team bowed out of the finals. With so much at stake, a few realities have come home to roost this season. The value of gaining maximum points early is vital. Only 50 percent of the fixtures have ended in a result due to the rain, and hence it is imperative to gather points whenever the opportunity arises. The other matter of concern is the pitches. The ASCA in good faith have responded to the need for covers at both venues, and a messenger was dispatched south over the festive period to procure suitable covers. Alas the camel train has been delayed and they have not yet been seen. Of even greater concern however, in this week's case, has been the situation facing the curating team. With continual rain during the week the lack of time available to prepare the pitches ruled out any chance of play. To play on turf at the elite level in town does have its merits. It has tradition, and it's a great surface to play on. In consideration of emerging talent, the young players will have had experience on the surface prior to touring south. With the cost of preparation, and the effect the weather can play in a season such as this, is there an alternative to the hallowed turf in our desert environment?

MUSIC MAKES MATHS MARVELS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

When children learn music, they learn more than playing an instrument: research shows that children who participate in musical activities tend to be more emotionally secure. When they play in an ensemble they learn self-discipline and cooperation; it's a "really strong and powerful influence on their general well-being and education". This is the message of Gary McPherson, Associate Professor in the School of Music and Music Education at the University of New South Wales. Dr McPherson spoke to parents and teachers in Alice Springs last year and will return later this year as a guest of the Department of Education's NT Music School. "Music is one of the most powerful ways a child can learn," said Dr McPherson. "Learning to think in sound, as well as in numbers and words, has really important spin-offs for maths, languages and literacy. "We know, and have done for a long time, that children participating in bands and orchestras, and group instrumental programs, tend to achieve in other subjects at a higher level. "They are more comfortable about their education, it means more to them." If this is well known, why is music not more central to our schools' programs? Dr McPherson: "The general trend over the last 20 years has been to cram more and more into primary school programs. If kids are taking drugs give them more drug education, if they're anti-social, give them more civics education."That has really missed the mark in terms of what we should be covering for a young child – maths, literacy and the arts, not only music but the visual arts as well. "Those are the sorts of things that impact on a child's development, that make them feel more secure about their learning, that make them feel happier at school. "Then all these other problems tend to solve themselves." Dr McPherson says, just as with general school work, parents are the most important factor in whether a child will succeed with music. The children of parents who are more involved, who help them with homework or with instrument practice, will tend to do better. Any parent who has struggled to get their child to practice will be encouraged to learn that beginners will make progress with as little as five to six minutes a day, two to three days a week. Of course, the ideal is 20 minutes a day five days week, which should ensure really good progress."Kids do need a lot of reminding," says Dr McPherson. "Very few learners are able to take control of their own learning. "The key role of parent is to encourage to practice, to be supportive, not confrontational. "In most cases the child will do it even if it's for a short period, and especially if the time is negotiated with them."Eventually when they can see their own skill developing, they'll practise four to five days a week and they'll make rapid progress, develop into quite advanced musicians, with lot of skill, and really enjoy their music." Dr McPherson said he would never "push" an unwilling primary school child into music: "That's not in their interest and I would say that generally for education." Pictured are the NT Music School's combined bands under the direction of Peter Weston at a concert at Araluen last year.

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