BACK TO DRAWING BOARD FOR TOURIST COMMISSION. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Major activities of the $26m a year NT Tourist Commission (NTTC) are
under review by its newly appointed managing director, Maree Tetlow,
and its board.
She says included are efforts to bring Virgin Blue to Alice Springs.
A local medium claimed last week that talks had collapsed but Ms Tetlow says they had "absolutely not".
She says comments by Virgin had apparently been "dramatised and perhaps taken out of context".
The bid to bring the cut-price air carrier to The Centre is "is definitely not off the table, it's very much on the table, and we're looking at ways to support the Alice Springs tourism industry to build that case".
"Negotiations are continuing".
Ms Tetlow was a senior executive for nine years with the Queensland Tourist and Travel Corporation (QTTC).
Although Queensland's population is about 15 times greater that the Territory's, the QTTC has a $42m budget Ð a little more than one and a half times that of its NT counterpart.
Ms Tetlow says other areas of the NTTC being examined are global sales strategies; the future of the commission's Territory Discoveries wholesale arm (both Darwin and Alice Springs); whether or not it should continue to operate from Alice Springs as well as Darwin; efforts to meet the massive demand for Aboriginal "product"; coordination of internet advertising with the booking system Ð and its long overdue upgrading.
Ms Tetlow says the review will include a "six week consultation phase, with not only the industry, but also broader community groups" closely involved.
Ms Tetlow, who replaced Tony Mayell (now working for the Australian Tourist Commission in London), during her time with the QTTC was regional tourism manager and later director of marketing.
She says Territory Discoveries is a "contentious issue, and some people have strong views".
The commission dropped its selling role in the wake of the much maligned Kennedy Report (ironically, the author was also a Queenslander), and brought in subsidies for major wholesalers to look after the smaller operators in the NT.
However, one tourism source says the project was a disaster: "The operators took the money and ran".
In order "to bridge the gaps" in products available the NTTC started Territory Discoveries in 1999, which now has an "important development role," says Ms Tetlow.
Is it likely to be discontinued?
"I'm comfortable with what Territory Discoveries is trying to achieve," she says.
"The issue of whether that is the best method of getting the distribution of that important product, and whether it's the best investment, is another question altogether."
She says one option is paying "community obligation type of fees to other wholesalers so that they would happily pick up those small operators" Ð but she is aware of the views that a similar model had failed.
Ms Tetlow says the Aboriginal tourism strategy "needs reviewing".
"If Aborigines so desire they can become more involved."
The review would look at "what consumers are looking for, and potential Aboriginal tourism product which may fill that gap.
"There is a lot of unsatisfied demand.
"People are able to look at Aboriginal art in art galleries in Alice Springs, and there are some opportunities to meet with Aboriginal people through tour guides and other experiences, but there seems to be a huge opportunity," says Ms Tetlow.
"But that will take time and people's commitment on both sides."
Inducements may include "not so much funding, although that's not out of the question, but it's more about the passing of knowledge from both sides, and about what Aboriginal communities want, and how that may fit in with the needs of visitors.
"Both side need a better grasp on what they want to achieve."
She says the commission's internet site is "successful as far as the web statistics indicate" but these deal with hits, not bookings, which at this stage cannot be made through that site.
The value of the internet site is unclear because the commission currently has no way of tracking which bookings are the result of visits to the web.
Ms Tetlow says the current Atlas reservation system is being phased out, and the commission is looking at new systems, including ones that can utilise the internet direct.
Asked whether pulling the commission's sales resources out of Asia and servicing the region from Sydney had been a good idea, Ms Tetlow says: "I don't know.
"How we service all our international markets, how well we're doing it, and the resource allocation, all that will be part of that very large strategic process."
She says international aviation services into Darwin are down 30 per cent after September 11, but the good news is that according to ABS figures, travel to Australia from the NT's major markets Ð USA and UK Ð were up four and six per cent, respectively, in February.
She says a "huge" campaign in the UK, Discover the Other Oz, is currently being mounted with SA and Qantas: 1200 requests for information had so far resulted from billboards in the London tube.
An even greater success had been a $500,000 domestic TV campaign from mid February to mid March, Outstanding Outback Offers, generating $1.5m worth of sales, not counting inquiries that may convert to bookings in the future.
However, it seems the response caught short the commission's capacity for dealing with inquiries.
Ms Tetlow says the "abandonment rate was higher than we would have liked during peak periods of the campaign" Ð people hanging up because they were sick of waiting: "We have to seriously look at how we deal with calls and with campaigns."
The review will also decide the fate of the Holiday Centre in Alice Springs. It was at first based entirely in Alice Springs, but now half of its staff of 22 has been moved to Darwin.
Rumours are rife that the office will be transferred to Darwin altogether.
Ms Tetlow says "costs, operational and servicing issues, staffing" are being considered by the board.
"Staff retention and new staff are issues but not ones that can't be overcome."
LIKE BOOZE, DRUGS WILL HARM ONLY FEW. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Most people's image of an injecting drug user is of someone on a
one-way street to self-destruction, and likely to be caught up in a web
of criminal behaviour along the way.
People closer to the coal-face can see it differently.
Darwin-based advocate Charles Roberts is one.
He has been working in the "community-based response" to HIV and other blood-borne viruses since 1986; he is an executive member of the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users' League; he is currently studying community development at NTU and working part-time as a research associate; and he's also on the NT's Taskforce on Illicit Drugs, representing the Top End Users' Forum.
The taskforce is due to report to the Minister for Health by May 31 on effective rehabilitation and prevention strategies, with a focus particularly on youth (12 to 24 year olds) and on drug-using parents of children under 12.
Mr Roberts suggests that many people who regularly inject drugs manage their habit quite well, and that many of the problems associated with the practice arise mostly out of its prohibition.
He recognises that he out on a limb with this view, "but someone has to say It".
"Society has to look at all the harms associated with drug use, not just a selection," he says.
There is not a lot known about numbers of people injecting drugs in the Territory, but Mr Roberts says it is safe to assume that it is close to the national figure of between one and two per cent (Australian Bureau of Statistics).
The 1998 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that the Northern Territory had:
¥ the highest proportion of people aged 14 or more who have ever used any illicit drug (predominantly cannabis): 62.0 per cent versus the Australian average of 46.4 per cent;
¥ the highest proportion of people with recent illicit drug use (predominantly cannabis) at 39.9 per cent versus the Australian average of 22.8 per cent. The small sample sizes in this survey meant that information regarding consumption levels of other illicit drugs in the Territory was not reliable. However, it is known Ð from a variety of sources such as cause of death and hospitalisation figures, police reports and statistics from treatment agencies Ð what type of drugs are being injected: morphine is number one in the Territory Ð as opposed to heroin nationally Ð followed by amphetamines. The prevalence of morphine may be one of the reasons why the Territory has a low overdose rate.
Morphine, even for illicit use, is usually obtained on prescription and made available in capsule form. So users know exactly how much of the drug they are injecting, in contrast to the "surprise packs" of heroin and other drugs bought on the streets.
The downside though is that the capsules contain substances to assist the absorption of morphine when it is swallowed and these Ð talc, wax, chalkÐ are not very good for the user's veins. The amphetamines being injected are mostly in powder form and are often cut with substances such as sugar or salt, also not good when injected straight into the bloodstream.
These problems could be solved by legalisation and regulation.
In public health terms it's part of a spectrum of strategies called "harm reduction", which Mr Roberts argues doesn't get nearly the emphasis it should by governments nationwide.
One harm reduction measure that has made headway around the country, however, is the provision of needle and syringe exchanges.
In the Territory there are exchanges in Alice Springs and Darwin, while in Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy and Katherine, new needles can be obtained from the local sexual health clinics.
Access to clean needles has meant that Australian injecting drug users have very low rates of HIV Ð remaining below three per cent in Australia, compared to other countries around the world with levels over 50 per cent. Mr Roberts also argues that "supply reduction" would be achieved more effectively by legalisation than by expensive law enforcement.
"If someone can sell what is worth $1 for $500, there's a big temptation to do it.
"If the drugs were no longer illicit the huge profits would disappear and the supply would drop dramatically."
So, let's say the drugs were legal and their quality controlled, would there still be major health risks to be considered?
No, says Mr Roberts: addictive drugs can be managed safely if people are sure of the quality of their product and make sure they use new needles. Manager of DASA in Alice Springs, Nick Gill Ð also on the Territory's Taskforce on Illicit Drugs and a member of the Australian National Council on Drugs Ð doesn't agree.
He says all the evidence suggests that, as with alcohol (a legal drug), about 90 per cent of users will manage their habit successfully, while some 10 per cent will be "totally out of control, with adverse effects for themselves, their families and the whole community".
He says the findings of NSW Institute of Criminology research on cannabis apply also to injecting drug use: illegality is a major deterrent to people taking it up.
Even though cannabis use is widespread, the total pool of users is reduced by its status as an illicit drug, and consequently the pool of 10 per cent of people whose use would be problematic is also reduced.
"Why legalise it and increase the size of that pool? Why would we allow ourselves to be open to this?" asks Mr Gill.
"That said, however, I do strongly feel that any problematic drug use, whether it's of alcohol, tobacco or injecting drugs, should be regarded as a social, medical and psychological problem, rather than a criminal one."
Mr Roberts argues that drug use has been around throughout human cultures; it is accepted that prohibition of alcohol didn't work; 50 years of prohibition of other drugs around the world hasn't worked either.
It's time to try a quite different approach, argues Mr Roberts: "The people working with drug users want to see them stay well, to be able to use safely and to have access to treatments."
Mr Gill says the argument for legalisation is superficially appealing, but that once you look at the people with problematic drug-taking behaviour it is less appealing. He is a strong supporter of harm reduction, but says abstinence is part of the spectrum of harm reduction strategies.
Meanwhile, treatments for injecting drug users, at least, should soon be more readily available in the Territory.
The former CLP Government famously did not support "maintenance or substitution pharmacotherapy" treatments.
The current Northern Territory Government's position is that: "Under Labor, doctors will be able to treat addicts with any pharmacological intervention approved by the Commonwealth."
The Taskforce on Illicit Drugs can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or phone: 8999 2631. Website: http://www.nt.gov.au/health/taskforce.shtml
REFUGE MONEY QUERIES.
A report leaked to the Alice News alleges that the organisation
formerly running the Aranda House youth refuge made payments that are
"questionable, or of a personal nature" to two employees.
Both have now left Alice Springs, believed to be in Queensland, and an inside source says a police inquiry is under way.
One employee received four cheques totalling $18,000 and the other, one cheque for $4560.
No purpose could be found for a cash cheque for $1166.10.
Documents given to the News, reports from two accounting firms, show that all six cheques were signed in March last year by Margaret Furber, who was either the chairperson or the acting chairperson of the Central Australian Child Care Agency (CACCA) in Alice Springs.
CAACA was recently forced by a budget shortfall to close Aranda House Ð leaving dozens of "at risk" children to fend for themselves.
The News understands the shortfall was similar to the total of the payments to the ex-employees, a man and a woman.
The cheque for the woman was counter-signed by the man, and the cheques for the man, by the woman.
Ms Furber declined to comment on the matter, other than saying it is being dealt with "internally".
CAACA chairman Brian White is continuing to evade comment on the closure of Aranda House fiasco.
The accountants' reports say there is no case for paying the sums totalling $22,500 to the man and the woman because both had already been paid overtime for additional work.
Previous major funding bodies for Aranda House Ð the NT Department of Health and Aboriginal Hostels Ð withdrew their support when the budget shortfall was unable to be rectified (see recent reports in the News).
CAACA will not give details about who is funding its two remaining programs Ð foster care and a youth night patrol.
ATSIC says it is providing to CAACA in the current financial year $59,000 for the night patrol and $41,380 for the youth intervention program.
ATSIC's contribution in 2000 / 2001 was $125,500.
111 KAREN SILKWOODS. By guest writer SCOTT
Of all the Pine Gap protests the 1983 Women's Peace Camp is probably
the best remembered and the most controversial. SCOTT CAMPBELL-SMITH
continues his history of the Pine Gap protests (see previous
instalments in Alice News issues of Mar 20, 27 and April 3).
The Women's Peace camp attracted more than 500 women Ð some estimates say 700 Ð from around the country to the gates of Pine Gap.
They undertook various protest actions, the most dramatic the one in which 75 women were to have broken into the compound and all given themselves up under the name "Karen Silkwood" and a number (1-75).
The real Karen Silkwood was a worker on a nuclear power plant in the US who contracted radiation-related cancer and went on to expose work and safety practices at the plant in which she worked. She died under mysterious circumstances just before she was due to provide evidence against her employers, leading to suspicion of foul play.
Each "Karen Silkwood" at Pine Gap was to have had a support person who knew their name and number and could assist in getting them out of jail.
In the event, however, 111 (not 113 as we've previously reported) women invaded the compound, all gave their name as Karen Silkwood, but the support person and numbering system broke down.
Worse still, the police, who had to suddenly deal with so many women being purposefully difficult, were overwhelmed.
Police refused the women access to lawyers; it was extremely hot and the women complained that they were not getting water; some toilets in the cells became blocked; some women sang peace anthems at the top of their voices. Relations continued to deteriorate throughout the course of the evening. There was also confusion about the women's legal situation. At the time, in some states, a person could refuse to be fingerprinted, but Northern Territory legislation allowed the use of "reasonable force" in obtaining fingerprints. This confusion resulted in resistance by some women and violence by some police. Several people were hospitalised that night.
A series of Ombudsman's and other reports were subsequently written about these incidents.
The camp outraged some conservative people in town. The political satire in reaction was crude and commonly focused upon crass stereotypes of "butch" lesbianism.
The peace camp experience played a role in further developing the political consciousness of the women involved, both locals and visitors, by exposing them to different views but also by exposing them to a lived experience where those views sometimes clashed.
It resulted in organizational and personal networks that continue into the present. Some women who came as visitors stayed in town and some returned later to find work. For a number of weeks Alice Springs had been the national focus of the peace movement and the feminist movement. The peace camp had also brought land rights into the mix of issues associated with Pine Gap.
Actions by the women had been courageous, controversial and had successfully publicised the issue. But, when it all ended, the base was still there. Women for Survival, the national network who had helped organise the camp, continued to operate and held protests at Cockburn Sound the following year.
NEXT: "Galaxy versus four bicycles" Ð a humorous David versus Goliath action, or frightening and dangerous?
Column by ANN CLOKE: Another outback mystery?
"I heard what happened to Clokey!" Leonie said the other day.
"What did you hear?" I asked, and she told me, which prompted me to write my side of the story, what really took place.
On Easter Sunday, we headed with Kate and Kingy, in David's aptly named Outback, south on the bitumen for some 90 kilometres, to a sign indicating the turn-off to Rainbow Valley and a desert oak lined track, which we followed for about 22 kilometres to reach the Reserve.
The NT Tourist Commission slogan, "You'll never never know, if you never never go", rang true.
Kate (originally from Jamestown) had touched this spot before.
For Kingy, (who was born in the Alice), and David and I (who have lived here for 20 plus years), it was a first experience: the old story about travelling the world to see the sights and overlooking one right in our own backyard!
In fact, as I write, Kate and Kingy are busy packing for Mexico and other far flung exotic places. We arrived and David parked in a sandy spot, which I happened to mention, so he shifted the wagon. There was broken glass near the second area, and I suggested we find another place, which we did, nosing in, which meant no view. So then I said why not park here, but the other way around, easier to unload, better view, etc.
At that point David swung the wagon out, slammed it into reverse, backed quite quickly and hit one of about six shortish pine posts which actually remained upright and totally crumpled one corner of the rear bumper bar. Not the best way to arrive at our "off the beaten track" destination. Then David says it's my fault, when all I was doing was trying to help him find a park. I wasn't even driving!
A good thing there were so many witnesses!
We didn't have a chance to do the "post mortem" and the "if onlys" at that point, which was great. There would be plenty of time later, after we'd dropped Kate and Kingy off ...
People everywhere were setting up camp, relaxing, soaking up the landscape and enjoying a cold beer or a drop of red. One chap brought out his guitar and was strumming as the multi-coloured stripes across the sandstone cliffs deepened and darkened.
We were there for nibbles and sundowners and to see if we could commit to film the intense colours and the vibrant blood red glow of Rainbow Valley at sunset as captured by Steve (Scoop) Strike and other famous outback photographers.
Our sunset was a non-event, the sun obscured by low cloud, much to the disappointment of a couple of visitors who had carried tripods, huge lenses and other equipment out to the dry claypans (where some images show an expanse of water). We'd walked the trails, climbed around rocks, ridges, admired the rugged beauty of the James Ranges, taken a few pix and we drove off as night fell. I'd been the official navigator/gate keeper on the way in, so it was Kingy's turn to open the gate. We were driving on a narrow deeply rutted section of the track and saw lights coming towards us, which then disappeared.
Shades of Min Min in Boulia, except these weren't following, they were coming towards us, or a Wycliffe Well experience, a UFO, but they weren't hovering, they were low and definitely headlights.
When we stopped, Kingy alighted and opened the gate: we drove through and there was the vehicle, a ute complete with canvas top over the tray, lights switched off, parked off to the left on a bush trail. Our minds immediately went into overdrive: Kingy got back in the car: "I was thinking about Falconio," he said. As were we É
There's no way it could have been that utility, we concurred, that's not possible. There are thousands of people who enjoy the Outback experience, heading bush, setting up camp and sleeping under the stars, and there are tens of thousands of dirt tracks, in different states of repair, depending on how often they're used, criss-crossing our vast interior.
There's no doubt that someone with bush knowledge, off road maps, sufficient water and a long-range fuel tank could go anywhere out there.
If that's what did indeed happen. And if it isn't, will we ever know what really transpired? Will the Falconio/Lees case join other unsolved Australian outback dramas? We drove back to town talking about the anomalies surrounding the incident, voicing theories along the wayÉ
There are so many mysteries in life. At some point it's advisable to concentrate on the ones which are readily solvable in the immediate future. How does a little knock cause such a lot of damage? Why does it cost so much to replace/repair said (relatively small in the whole scheme of things) dent? Whose fault is it really? More importantly, who's paying?!
A bit of a poserÉ but we'll get to the bottom of it eventually.
AUSSIE RULES: SATURDAY SIRENS SOUND! Report by
While the smell of liniment will pervade the town on Friday, on the
eve of the Origin Lightning Carnival, a Football Summit will complement
the kick off to the season.
All lovers of the gameare invited. It is a first, and could well be the foundation stone for great things to come.
The summit is an initiative of the NT Government who in pre election times recognised the significance of Traeger Park as a community sports complex, and the importance of Australian Rules to our culture.
In calling the talk fest however the Minister of Sport is not positioning himself or his agenda on the front line.
An independent facilitator will guide the forum, with the CAFL in the prime seat.
Such is the interest in the event that Ed Biggs, an AFL legend, will come up from Melbourne, and Chris Natt from the NTAFL will fly in from Darwin. All clubs, both community based and affiliates of the CAFL, have been invited and encouraged to bring with them their respective business plans for the next five years.
No doubt certain topics on the non-prescriptive agenda will stand out in the proceedings.
At competition level, we have seen the CAFL conduct League football of a Sunday, with Pioneers, Rovers and Federal having played in such games since 1947. In the last decade in particular, the communities have developed what is now recognised as the Country Competition, played of a Saturday.
Sunday football has the prestige, and supposedly is the better standard of competition. But it is the Saturday game which nowadays provides the lifeblood of the League in terms of numbers through the gate and revenue.
It is from the Saturday game also that more and more players are recruited by town sides, not just to make up the numbers, but increasingly to play dominant roles in the CAFL Sunday matches.
At home the communities see their "cream" moving to Sunday football and playing in "foreign" club colours. Naturally they want to see their talent representing their people.
A ground swell has stemmed from this, and the more professional administration of country sides, to place on the platform for discussion the future format of football in the Centre.
In lieu of the separate competitions, one proposal may be to adopt a divisional system as exists in English Football whereby the top division's bottom teams are relegated, and top sides from the second division are promoted. One competition of two divisions could be played over the two days.
The financial and social issues pertinent to the future of the game will no doubt also be points for discussion. It is no revelation to say that it is through the sale of alcohol at Traeger Park, that the CAFL coffers are kept buoyant. However with the social dilemma Centralians face in coming to grips with the abuse of alcohol, and the recent introduction of trial restrictions, it may well be a prime time at the summit to seek other ways of tackling both these fiscal and social challenges.
The summit could also touch on the development of facilities at country venues, and the possibility of games and carnivals being played at bush locations on surfaces better than a graded dirt surface, and scant changing facilities.
Then again the bread and butter issues of CAFL Clubs, the CAFL role in the context of the NTAFL, and the overall structural plan for the future of Traeger Park may get airplay.
Even before the summit begins, the mere fact that all parties have been invited to an open meeting to discuss the future of the game we love, is a giant step in the right direction. It is a positive for football and good for all people in Central Australia.
Meanwhile, when the siren sounds and the first ball bounces in the dew on Saturday morning at Traeger Park, what is believed to be the biggest Aussie Rules carnival in the land, the Origin Lightning Carnival, will have started.
The carnival which, began over a quarter of a century ago, originally gave local CAFL sides a chance to grade their players, and sides from the communities to have a run on the MCG of Central Australia.
It was in essence a fundraiser for the League, assuring the development of the game at junior level.
Today, while it is still a major fund raiser for the CAFL, the features of the carnival are the numbers it attracts from all parts of the bush, and the improvement in standards both on field and in terms of club administration.
In 2002 the carnival is a display of raw, talented football, supported with the enthusiasm of any Collingwood versus Carlton encounter.
Between 24 and 28 sides will take to Traeger, by day and under lights culminating in finals on Sunday.
Teams will come from Pipalyatjarra on the South Australian and Western Australian border; from Harts Range east towards Queensland; and the Trucking Yards at the end of Smith Street here in town.
For true believers in the game this will really be the game of "running with the ball" as it was designed.
Individuals will give of their level best; teams will be playing with community pride at stake; and at all times the ball, and possession of it, will be the focus.
Talent scouts from south will be there; locals will fill the mounds; and tourists looking for a real Centralian experience should make it a "must see" during their stay.
The carnival is the trumpet that resonates through Alice Springs and the bush, heralding the real time of the year.
BALGO: DREAMTIME PLUS. Preview by KIERAN FINNANE.
Aesthetic descriptions Ð "brilliant colour, richly textured"
Ð and brief outlines of Dreaming stories usually fall well short of
articulating why some works by Aboriginal artists are just so
I was reflecting on this problem after previewing Art from Balgo at Gallery Gondwana, which opens this Friday.
There are some wonderful paintings amongst the 25 works curated for this show by Erica Izett, coordinator of Warlayirti Artists.
Particularly vivid in my mind are works by Bai Bai Napangarti and Elizabeth Nyumi. They have a transporting power Ð your banal surrounds drop away, you are fully engaged by the work Ð and you know that is only partly explained by the visual success of Napangarti's robust designs or of Nyumi's serene, creamy surfaces.
I found a more satisfying framework of response in an essay titled "Touching the land: Towards an aesthetic of Balgo contemporary painting" by Christine Watson.
Watson spent time with senior women in Balgo and outlying communities, researching an MA thesis on their contemporary art.
Her essay details her observations of the multi-sensual nature of mark-making in Kutjungka culture.
She notes the one word, jiri, means "marks", "names" or "songs"; that the word used for the act of painting on canvas, wakaninpa, renders it as "a matter of poking".
This, she suggests, unites painting on canvas with the traditions of sand drawing where the ground is pierced and raised in ridges Ð the shadows of which are integral to the created motif Ð or, in a more restricted form, is beaten, using a curved stick called milpa.
At sites such as Yarlurluyarturlu in The Granites, the images have been pounded into the surface of the rock.
Women's body painting sees pigments smeared over the skin.
Then there is the tough mark-making of cicatrisation on the bodies of both men and women.
With sand drawing and rock art the mark-making is in immediate contact with the earth, saturated as it is with "the bodies, power, bodily fluids and songs of ancestral beings".
Kutjungka people receive this contact through their skin, which in turn is marked, linking individuals with their "human relatives, ancestors, ceremony and land".
Watson notes the importance for Kutjungka people of being unshod, walking bare-footed on the land, and most especially dancing bare-footed, and of spending a lot of time sitting or lying on the ground.
"They, like the Warlpiri, are proud of living on the ground."
She refers to comments of an earlier observer, Father Anthony Piele in 1985, that Balgo people find it important to be "in open space so that the wind, the original breath of the Dreamtime, can penetrate their bodies and in this way nourish their breath and their spirit".
All of this integrated sensual/spiritual experience is powerfully translated in the best Balgo paintings, whose artists, Watson points out, have honed their calligraphic skills in the sand since childhood.
The viewer can see and feel the tracing, beating, striking, stamping, breath of the wind, flow of milky floodwaters, loving touch on "the skin of the ground and the skins of people". There is a physical vibrancy, a kinetic energy beyond the visual, connected to the earth and its creatures, that we are given the opportunity to apprehend through the paintings, whatever our ignorance of their full cultural significance.
Watson urges viewers to recognise Balgo paintings as a devotional art practised to retain traditional religious knowledge (as well as to obtain financial gain) and at the same time "to start feeling the paintings through the sense receptors of their skin, sensing the qualities of touch and the qualities of emotion which are recorded in the paintings, as well as using their eyes to pick out the symbols and their minds to process their interpretations."
(Watson's essay is published in Art from the Land, Dialogues with the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of Australian Aboriginal Art, eds Howard Morphy and Margo Smith Boles, University of Virginia, 1999.)
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