CONVENTION CENTRE QUESTIONS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The new convention centre is facing a chicken and egg dilemma that
is putting in doubt benefits to the town from the $14m facility, funded
mainly with public money.
Convention industry figures say while the centre is equal in standard to others around Australia, there is not enough high-class accommodation to attract the big spenders.
This will restrict the use of the centre to people satisfied with three star rooms Ð already visiting Alice Springs in significant numbers.
While the centre has been touted as a shot in the arm for local hotels and motels feeling the pinch from growing competition by the Ayers Rock Resort, it now seems that significant benefits will not flow unless and until more top-shelf rooms become available.
And these would need to be within walking distance of the centre.
Two conventions of more than 1000 people each have pulled out.
And one organizer, George Parkin of Sydney based BGM, says the local tourism industry's standard of service would need to be lifted.
Mr Parkin, a former motel manager in Alice Springs, says the convention centre is "probably one of the best in Australia" but "the town does not have the infrastructure of four, four and a half star accommodation within walking distance".
"Also, the attitude of some of the operators in Alice Springs is very much, 'she's right, mate'.
"When you go to Ayers Rock and you walk around Yulara, all the staff greet you with 'good afternoon, Sir, can I help you?'"
He says during a site inspection in Alice Springs for a group of 700 people, intending to come for a five-day period, "we did not see that the venue had the support of the operators and of some of the staff within the properties".
"I think Alice Springs tourism has to really get a grasp of what a venue is all about, get a grasp of the standard of the venue, and go up the notch, or two notches, to work within the four and a half, five star market that's offering," says Mr Parkin.Says centre spokesman Andrew Oldfield: "The demand for five star rooms will vary according to the different conferences."Some want high quality accommodation, some want basic accommodation.
"We've even had a request for backpacker style, it varies.
"Most delegates at conferences have to pay their own accommodation so middle of the range is always most popular and Alice Springs excels at that style of property.
"There will be very few conferences that will demand 1200 five star rooms anywhere in Australia," says Mr Oldfield."This was considered at planning stage, and it is up to the individual properties if they want to upgrade their hotels or not.
"However the fact the Alice has 1400 rooms of varying standards makes it a very exciting destination.
"If we were to rely on 5 star business only Alice Springs would miss out on a lot of business."
Mr Parkin says he was looking for 485 rooms and "between the three properties within walking distance we can get about 320".
"They have invested in a large convention centre that seats 1200 people [but] they will not be able to cater for the calibre of delegates that actually bring in the big money.
"What it will attract is the three, three and a half star market that you've already got.
"I don't see there is going to be a huge increase in new business coming in.
"We cannot put the destination up to the national board of the organization I was representing.
"The revenue, last year in Melbourne, was half a million dollars in five days."
Angela Bain, who arranges conventions for the Association of Superannuation Funds, says Alice Springs is a "great location" but has been ruled out because of the standard of accommodation.
"My delegates require a five star hotel and there are up to 1100 of them," says Ms Bain.
"It's not that we won't ever go there because facilities will increase with the usage of the convention centre.
"We could all go there, it's just we were worried about the actual standard of [the rooms]."Ms Bain says she could find "about 600" suitable rooms as some of them were "a bit far away from the centre, we would have had to have transfers.
"I try to keep everything within walking distance.
"I'll probably go back and visit in three or four years' time, and once the convention centre is up and running I have full confidence that hotels will pop up.
"It's definitely on the horizon. I think our delegates would love it out there.
"If we had two or three hundred fewer people it would not have been such a major concern."
CATIA manager Craig Catchlove says the centre wasn't expected to hold more than around 700 people but since completion it's been discovered that 1200 will fit into the MacDonnell venue, and 450 into the Ellery room.
"One of the major limiting factors to the size of a convention is accommodation rather than the size of the convention centre.
"A lot of people will be looking at their existing properties for expansion.
"My guess is we will have another 150 to 300 rooms in five years' time.
"It will be so successful that the economics will cry out to someone, let's go for it," says Mr Catchlove.
"You've already got the casino adding another 75 rooms which is doubling their stock.
"The centre will generate a small building boom to ramp up and meet this new demand.
"Let's face it, that's what we wanted the convention centre to do."
Mr Catchlove says it is "disappointing" that at least two conventions have pulled out.
"We're going to lose conventions until we've got the stock."
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: SNOB HILL BLOCK UNDER HAMMER.
The owners of the town's most up-market homes are in for some nail biting about what neighbours they may be getting, and our tourism industry will almost certainly lose its last remaining horse trail riding business, when the town's choicest block of land goes under the hammer on July 27.
The two hectares at the top of Cavenagh Crescent Ð affectionately known as Snob Hill Ð will be sold following the death of the land's American owner, Howard Rower, in December 2000. There is much speculation about two consortiums of developers having their eyes on the block. It has great views of the ranges, and backs on to the Overland Telegraph Station national park.
It will be the end of the trail for the last surviving horse riding business between Adelaide and Katherine, says its owner, Harry Osborn, who with his wife Sandy and 14 horses has leased the land for the past nine years.
Harry says there is no other land available from which to realise the dream of thousands of tourists, going for a ride in the outback Ð especially in the picturesque country north of the ranges, featuring creek beds, hills and vantage points for superb views, says Sandy.Andrew Doyle, of Framptons, says he has no idea how much the land is worth, which is why he has proposed an auction. He says the nearest available blocks, roughly one tenth of the size, at the bottom of the hill, are going for around $95,000.
Harry says he's just managed to renew his public liability insurance Ð which has driven many similar businesses to the wall. Sandy says business is booming, with groups of around 10 tourists Ð nearly all from overseas Ð riding most days.
LETTERS: NT Government to act on grog, drugs and street kids, says Toyne.
Sir,- This is an open letter to the people of Alice Springs on crime
prevention.It is my belief that politicians should make promises and
keep them, so I would like to make some personal and public commitments
to you about the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour in Alice
Springs. We all know that Alice Springs is a very special community in
a very special place.
Few other places can match the level of support we give to each other and our public life, both personally and through our rich diversity of community organisations.
No other place can duplicate the unique culture and landscape of the Aranda people.
However, we also know that the character and lifestyle of our town continues to be blighted by public drunkenness, unacceptably high levels of vandalism and theft, and the hidden influences of drugs. The social and economic cost of these activities and their drain on our public budget is huge and unsustainable.We must act now Ð and now is a good time to act. We have a new government full of energy and desire to achieve. We have a Native Title process which offers much toward the restoring of respect for the Aranda places and traditional authorities at a time when they have been increasingly disrespected by visiting Indigenous people.
The violence associated with heavy drinking has turned our accident and emergency unit at the hospital into something resembling a war zone and produced the nation's worst statistics for chronic disease, law and order breaches, and early death.
For visitors or locals alike, to walk in the streets and public spaces of our town has meant being accosted by beggars, witnessing violence, and feeling unsafe.
The endless talk about the need for action has now ended and, thankfully, we are now acting on public drinking through the 12-month trial brought in by the Liquor Commission.
While it is too early to say what impact the initial measures are going to have, we do know that this effort will have to be sustained for a prolonged period if it is to achieve a lasting effect. We all have to commit to this effort.
We need the support of the public, we need the specialised skills of our government agencies and community organisations, and we need the co-operation of business.
I give you my commitment that I will fully contribute to this campaign, not just over the next 12 months but for as long as it takes to make real progress.
Police and other community agencies have indicated that a lot of our problems with theft and vandalism of property and break and enters of homes are due to street kids. These kids are as young as 10, homeless, and from pretty dysfunctional families. They are tough survivors who live outside our community relations and the law, rather than within them.
There is an understandable frustration on the part of householders and businesses regarding our failure to stop the activities of these kids. There have been calls for the government to take strong enforcement action from some groups and to implement new social programs from others. The reality is that we will probably have to do both. Unless we can get these kids to join our community in a constructive way, punishment by itself will only make them more anti-social.
I have instructed our new Office of Crime Prevention to develop and resource action to intervene with these kids. I commit to the development of positive alternatives for these street kids and, if necessary, to compel them to give serious attention to a new way of living in our community.As a parent of teenage kids in Alice Springs I could only hope that the flirtation that they and their peers had with drugs would not leave them dependent. There are drugs in our town. There is evidence of heavier use of cannabis, and at a younger age, and amphetamines are now a significant presence. We are also seeing more psychotic conditions and suicides associated with heavy drug use in the young.
Our government does not believe that easy access to drugs is helping the quality of life in the Territory and have introduced tough new laws which will attack dealers of drugs in order to reduce supply. We cannot rid the world of drugs but I give you my word that I will work to ensure that our kids have less access to them.
I intend to keep these promises and invite all community leaders to work with me in a spirit of cooperation on these critical community issues.Peter Toyne
Minister for Central Australia.
Sir,- I would like to offer some comments on your recent article titled Living with buffel for over 40 years (Alice News, May 1).
In the interest of conserving our precious Central Australian flora and fauna and a healthy and productive arid zone environment, I have to ask, can't we live without buffel?Greening Australia is not in the pastoral business and we were not around during the 1960s devastating drought years. However, I do know that to their credit, the pastoral industry in Central Australia has become increasingly sophisticated in its approach to land management since the Ôsixties, incorporating flora and fauna conservation, erosion control and weed control into mainstream property management practices. Organisations such as the Centralian Land Management Association (CLMA), with the support of pastoralists, have led the way in advocating and skilling-up pastoralists in best practice land management for positive conservation and production outcomes. Pastoralists now have meteorological information at their fingertips to inform long-term management decisions.
With better equipment and improved road transport networks, mustering and trucking cattle off drought-affected properties can today be done with relatively greater ease than in the 1960s.
So isn't it possible that these improved, better-informed land management practices may fortify the pastoral industry from a repeat of the 1960's? It seems a shame, therefore, that some pastoralists must defend the use of buffel grass, or to quote the words of a well-informed local naturalist, the "botanical equivalent of the Cane Toad".
This contemporary dependence on an environmental weed that competes vigorously with native pasture species and increases fuel loads seems somewhat illogical. Hopefully we might also hear from those equally experienced pastoralists who have rejected the short-term promise of buffel grass, believing it is an inferior option to sound management of native pastures.According to Mr Holt, buffel grass is staying put on Delmore Downs. This is sadly not the case across the board. Buffel grass has engulfed large tracts of land in Central Australia and is on the move.
The speed at which this exotic species has spread is frightening to those who appreciate the natural ecosystems of the Centre. Unfortunately for Delmore Downs, buffel grass favours the more fertile and biodiverse land systems, probably the most productive on Mr Holt's property.
There are many initiatives operating throughout the Territory, searching for reliable, palatable species of native grasses, herbs and forbs for use in pasture enhancement or erosion control. The CLMA in Alice Springs and Greening Australia's Rangelands Revegetation Centre in Katherine are just two examples. Others are investigating methods of broad scale physical control and calling on governments to support research into a biological control.
As with so many good initiatives, however, they operate on shoestring budgets and progress is often slow. Without broad community acknowledgement of buffel grass as a threat to Central Australian ecosystems, sufficient funding will never be available to explore feasible alternatives and control measures.
There is no disputing that buffel grass served its purpose in the 1960s when it was sown across vast areas as a dust control measure. But isn't it time we acknowledge that, in many land systems, buffel grass is replacing our rich native landscape and eroding ecosystem robustness? Can't we rely on sound land management practices rather than a quick fix solution that may leave a devastating legacy for the next generation of Central Australians? As a community, we need to decide what we want our landscape to look like and think about the cost of landscape change. I encourage the whole community to seriously consider these issues.
Alice Springs Regional Manager
PRINCIPAL STRUCK BY A COUNCIL MEMBER: YIPIRINYE
SCHOOL ALLEGATION. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Amidst union allegations of "a long history of harassment, bullying and intimidation of staff," and accounts from a former principal of meddling by council members in educational issues, former Senator Bob Collins was acting as mediator between the Yipirinya School Council and its striking staff this week.
The appointment of the co-chair of the NT Government's Learning Lessons Implementation Committee heartened union members.
"It shows how seriously our concerns are being taken," said Independent Education Union organiser Simon Hall on Monday.
The IEU was representing some 26 Yipirinya staff, about half of whom are Indigenous.
"The conditions on our members going back to work is that they will not be subject to bullying, harassment or intimidation and that council members do not approach our members about anything outside of work-related issues.
"We also want recognition that it is the role of the principal, not the council, to direct staff in the day to day running of the school."
The name of an alternative short-term principal had been put forward in the hope that the school could resume operations as quickly as possible.
The reinstatement of sacked principal Dianne de Vere was still the subject of an Industrial Relations Commission hearing.
Was Mr Hall confident that the situation could be resolved?
"The council apparently wants to run a school and our members certainly want to educate students. There's joint interest that can be worked on," he said."The spotlight is on the behaviour of the council."There has been a long history of harassment, bullying and intimidation of staff."Following exchanges of views where staff members did not agree with council members, staff members have been followed around as they went about their work."Other staff have been told they were useless, that they would never get a job anywhere else, that they would be sacked if they carried on as they were."The principal has been yelled at, had fingers pointed at her at close range."A former principal was struck by a council member."Our members are trained professionals. It goes without saying that they should be able to do their job without fearing for themselves or their families."Mr Hall said the introduction of procedures to deal with future problems was vital to a successful resolution of the present conflict.
Meanwhile former Yipirinya principal Fiona McLoughlin, who resigned in 2000 (she was not sacked), says a key problem for the school is the composition of its council.The constitution only allows parents of students enrolled at the school to be council members."Over the past eight years this has enabled certain members to take great control of the school operation," says Mrs McLoughlin."Some council members are also staff members."This has led to conflict of interest on numerous occasions, and the students' education and well-being were not always at the forefront of decision-making by the council.
"The stranglehold of certain entities at school council level increasingly became an issue during the time I served as principal, as I tried to challenge the constitutional dilemma."Mrs McLoughlin says she informed the school's major funding agency, the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), that a constitutional change was necessary.She suggested outside representation of a few Indigenous people with a background and interest in education ("of whom there are many in our community") could assist the council to operate the school as the complex business it had become.
This advice was not even acknowledged, much less acted on.Says Mrs McLoughlin: "Had it been, the subsequent perpetuation of issues which are currently facing the school, like lack of policies, nepotism, actions of self interest, financial problems as well as intimidation and violation of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff, could have been circumvented."The council has absolute power and despite the efforts of many Indigenous families to be elected and speak up in ways to benefit the school and the students, the constitution is flawed and must be changed."The Alice News asked DEST Minister Brendan Nelson why this advice had apparently been ignored and the once proud Yipirinya School been allowed to founder, putting in jeopardy the education and well-being of hundreds of Indigenous children in Alice Springs?A spokesperson told the News that the Minister was watching the situation at Yipirinya "carefully and with considerable concern", but believed it would not be helpful to have a "blow by blow dissection in the media".The News stressed that its question was one about departmental responsibility. Surely the Minister should have something to say about that?"I can only reiterate the Minister's concern," said the spokesperson.Why wasn't the Minister "concerned" at the time to act on the advice of a committed professional?"I can only reiterate the Minister's concern," said the spokesperson.He also said departmental representatives would be meeting with the school council early this week, looking for "constructive outcomes and a way forward."Mr Hall said he understands DEST has recommended constitutional change.He said the IEU had also expressed its concern in the past about this issue and would be raising it again with Bob Collins, although "constitutional change it is not within our brief".Mrs McLoughlin says the current situation at the school "in a way has had to happen, so that effective change can be realised, which will benefit the students and the staff at the school"."Each day you see many Indigenous children not attending school, some of whom used to attend Yipirinya."As a community we need to assist Yipirinya to become strong again."It is crucial for young disadvantaged Indigenous children (often from dysfunctional and difficult circumstances) to attend a school every day, which teaches them to respect themselves, their culture, respect others and learn the many skills necessary to succeed and contribute positively to our community."VITAL ROLEShe says Yipirinya School, which over its 24 years of operation had achieved status as an icon in Indigenous education, has the potential to again play a vital role in educating students.In 2000, while Mrs McLoughlin was still principal, 220 students were enrolled, with many attending every day.
The school also operated a popular child care centre and had plans to develop a secondary school.She says the Language and Cultural Program which teaches children in the four main languages of the area Ð Central Arrernte, Western Arrernte, Warlpiri and Luritja Ð employed well-credentialled Indigenous teachers to deliver quality classroom programs."These teachers were invited to a major presentation at Melbourne University in that year and were commended for their curriculum content and innovative methods."
In September 2000 the school won a major National Literacy Award for student literacy outcomes using the University of Canberra's Scaffolding Literacy approach. (This approach is now being trialled extensively in Territory government schools.)
Yipirinya was identified as a school of "Best Practice" by DEETYA (now DEST) which led to Mrs McLoughlin and council representatives delivering a major presentation at a national conference.
Bob Collins' Learning Lessons review also acknowledged the school as a site of "good practice"."Many of the recommendations from the Collins review were already being practised at Yipirinya and had been previously," says Mrs McLoughlin."The school at the time had many excellent hard working and committed staff, 75 per cent of whom were Indigenous, who worked tirelessly to provide the best possible education for the students."
GROWTH SPURT: GARDENING BLOSSOMS.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Interest in horticulture in Central Australia is blossoming.In the last four years full-time lecturers in horticulture at Centralian College have gone from two to five, and even five cannot meet all current demand.Eighteen months ago there was one horticultural apprentice.
There have never been more than two on the books.Now there are 12.
A further five students are enrolled full-time in the certificate course.In the past three years 30 have graduated. All bar one are now employed in the horticulture industry in Central Australia, whether on the farms at Ti-Tree, local nurseries, the Desert Park or Territory Lettuce.
Some students are also enrolled in specific modules. For instance, anyone involved in commercial spraying of weedicides must complete the Chemcert offered at the college before they are eligible for a contractor's licence.And then there are the home gardeners: over 60 of them turned up for a recent Saturday morning permaculture workshop, creating a community garden on the corner of Gap Road and Breaden Street.
Meanwhile, there's a new request for training just about every week from bush communities.
College lecturers travel to deliver training in situ, from Finke on the SA border, to Ti-Tree in the north, west to Hermannsburg, Laramba and Yuendumu, east to Utopia and Ambalindum.
"There would be about 60 students on communities enrolled in the certificate course," says senior lecturer Geoff Miers.
"We need a minimum of 10 to 12 per community to be able to deliver the course."One lecturer has just finished at Sandy Bore, now he'll move across to Santa Teresa."The interest is varied. Some communities are focussed on beautification and revegetation, others are interested in establishing community gardens and orchards."
The citrus orchard at Titjikala is now four and a half years old. Out of the original 100 trees planted, 97 are still growing well. There are also some 50 vines and a large area planted out with rockmelons, watermelons and pumpkins.Mr Miers returned last week for the first time in three and a half years: "I was very impressed with the quality of the trees.
"They have small shade houses where they propagate seedlings and while I was there they were tilling the soil, getting it ready to put in a winter crop."At Injartnama, there is a two year old citrus orchard, again 100 trees, interplanted with bush raisin, rockmelons, pumpkins and tomatoes. There is also a small quandong orchard.Most of the produce is consumed by the community, but at times they have been able to sell their surplus at Hermannsburg.
Lecturers visit communities periodically for short top-up training. During last week's trip to Oak Valley, Titjikala and Finke, for example, Mr Miers gave pruning demonstrations and offered other technical advice."What I would like to see in future is some funding to employ a roving technical officer. There is a desperate need for the position. People need analysis of their plantings. For example, is their citrus zinc deficient?"Are there any commercial scale gardens in the bush?Mr Miers says there are some "in the wings"."But if you are able to meet the fresh produce needs of a community of 150 people, then I class that as an enterprise, and one which could contribute importantly to improved health in that community."This burgeoning of interest started from a small base.
Following a workshop in November, 2000 a poster was produced outlining seven steps to start a community garden.Under each heading, the poster listed important contact points and phone numbers, for example of PAWA, the Department of Community Development, Centralian College, Tangentyere Council and so on.Mr Miers is convinced that there is huge potential for expansion."The resources and labour are there and with the right training and initial funding support, I'm confident good enterprises could be set up."Titjikala has not had any big grants and four years down the track they have quite a productive garden and are largely self-sufficient."Some areas, of course, will be limited by their water supply and soil quality.
"If you only get one and a half litres per second from your bore, you'll only ever be able to have a small garden."But if you can get eight litres per second and there's good depth, you can put a large area under cultivation."Soil quality can vary considerably within a small area. Mr Miers has just tested a garden where the soil showed 9000 per million parts salt, "almost as salty as the sea".
"They'll never be able to successfully plant in that soil, but I've identified and recommended a new area nearby which should work well."
COLUMN by ANN CLOKE: Truth or dare.
Only three sleeps to go until we fly out.
Another party at the weekend, this time at home. A big thank you to the Deloitte team Ð good company, great music (thanks to Jim and Dave) and food (hot and hearty, thanks Pam). Emma, my niece, now 18 and finally legal, and her special friend, Davin, looked after thirsty revellers.
Throw in three surprise guests, all of whom used to live and work in Alice, Adam and Shira, now based in Sydney, and Jason, residing in the heart of Melbourne, who thought it would be fun to come up and join in the celebrations with their former boss and mentor, David, and we had the recipe for a super night.
"So what's the most momentous thing about coming back to the Alice?" I asked our out-of-towners when they dropped in, with Sammy, for a "hair of the dog" on Saturday.They each said they'd forgotten about our Indigenous presence. They mentioned the lack of hygiene, the anti-social behaviour in general and the fact that the number of people loitering seemed greater than they remembered.
Adam mentioned that he and Shira promote the Alice whenever they can. Shira wondered how friends, who are visiting the Alice later this month, will react to the sight of dozens of Indigenous people, many intoxicated, some abusive, who have taken over the town centre.
Shira hails from Los Angeles and has lived in many multi-cultural societies, but as she said, the people here are certainly different!
Charles Dickens wrote of "Do not expectorate on the pavement" signs hanging in public places. We see today "Refusal may offend", pertaining to the cashing of cheques, or "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" outside some establishments.Why not a few which deal with hygiene?
"Filthy patrons will not be served, wash before you enter".
What's wrong with admitting that some smells are offensive? I can hear that "WHERE can people wash?" There are public facilities available for the use of travellers.Is it time to play truth or dare?
The TRUTH is that we know that unless there is immediate change, the anti-social behaviour of certain sectors of our community will reach out of control proportions. The townspeople want action and tougher legislation to deal with the nasties.
Various Government departments are allocated millions of dollars annually to conduct surveys and studies into this problem or that solution Ð is it viable, will it work? Often, the findings are not made public.In The Australian (Dec 28, 2001) a column was headed "Aboriginal Health Must Improve", and a New Year's resolution was proposed by someone living somewhere in Sydney, to "fix Aboriginal health".
Australia's Indigenous people have the poorest standard of health of people anywhere in the world. Everyone talks in and around the issues Ð no-one asks WHY, why do our Indigenous people have such poor health?
Minister John Ah Kit has made inspiring speeches promising reform to assist Aboriginal Territorians become part of mainstream society, but nothing seems to be happening. When Imparja Television first went to air, a series of ads, aimed primarily at young Indigenous viewers, were broadcast. Images showed children, of all ages and nationalities, enjoying bath-time and soap suds, children picking oranges, peeling them, enjoying the fruits of their labours, children sitting in classrooms enjoying lessons: wholesome images open to whatever interpretation.There is a need to go right back to basics Ð instil in children the rudiments of cleanliness, hygiene, social learning skills, the difference between right and wrong, between behaviour that's acceptable and behaviour that isn't.
The majority of the critics and people pointing fingers at our particular sets of social problems do not live here. Leaders, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, say that education is the key to a brighter future.
A "one rule for all" policy (every child must attend school; if necessary, buses will collect the children; truancy laws will be enforced) would be a step in the right direction.
The problems are colossal and proposals for change must be broken down into manageable "bite-sized" pieces. What can be achieved today?
An article in The Weekend Oz (April 2), "Resettlement tethers ancient nomads to modern misery", alluded to the end of the Kalahari bushmen's days of hunting and gathering and talked of the decision by the Government of Botswana, Southern Africa, to stop funding a minority's lifestyle. The costs have become prohibitive and are no longer affordable. The article went on, "all children, particularly children of the Bushmen MUST go to school". It also stated that "a nomadic lifestyle is no longer feasible" and that "assimilation is the only way forward"É
The actions of the (black) African government have drawn much criticism globally but the critics don't have to live with the on-going financial burden and cultural issues. The reforms have been introduced by people living in the region and with the problems: by the people, for the people.
There have been questions of corruption raised about mining claims, but in the main, it is acknowledged that this forced assimilation is a positive move to ensure that these people become part of the majority rather than continuing to be a dependent minority, existing on the fringes of society and caught between tradition and tomorrowÉ.There's been a huge shift since "The Gods Must Be Crazy" graced our screens.
Sunday afternoon and we wandered over to the Olive Pink Reserve Ð dozens of people admiring Philomena and Milena's beautiful wearable works of art, Proper Flash, being modelled against a backdrop of gardens, rocky outcrops, big blue skies and dazzling sunshine.
Fran, our Mayor, listed cleaning up the Todd and eliminating anti-social behaviour around the town as key concerns when she was running for the Mayoral seat. The dare, the challenge, is for our elected members to come up with some answers, to implement by-laws and bring about reforms which will ensure that the town has a positive future.It would be great to come home to a prouder, cleaner Alice Springs É one in which everyone, black, white and brindled, co-exists in harmony, continuing to enjoy this wonderful lifestyle with the knowledge that there is a future here for all of us.What a thought! One I will relish as David and I promote the Alice all around the UK and Europe. The powers that be have a couple of months to get things back on track Ð we'll be back, and we'll be checking ÉIn the meantime, stay well. Cheers!
ARTS FESTIVAL? WHAT FESTIVAL? Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The majority of feature events planned for this year's Alice Springs
Festival are still unfunded, less than three months out from the
festival launch on August 23.Watch This Space are the lucky recipients
of what appears to be the only arts allocation from the NT Government's
Year of the Outback (YOTO) special grants round of $150,000 to
community groups. Even the Space did not get as much as they need to
stage the second Outsite, a national sculpture prize. The inaugural
Outsite, at the Desert Park, was one of the highlights of last year's
festival, for its innovative concept, the high quality of exhibits, and
the large audience it attracted.Most of the events on this year's
program had applied for funding support to the special grants round.The
festival itself has been assigned a budget Outback Central 2002,
drawing its million dollar allocation to produce and manage the Desert
Knowledge Symposium (August 25-29); the Outback Expo (August 26-29),
involving communities from around the country; and the Alice Springs
Festival.However, the extent of the festival's allocation is still
uncertain. A director, Harriet Gaffney, has been engaged for 25 weeks,
a contract that began in the second week of May, and there will be
money to pay for a part-time administrative assistant, as well as a
small amount to support programming.
But more than a small amount is needed for a 10-day festival worthy of the name.Dust Up, planned as a major collaborative multi-arts event with a youth focus, to link in with the national Youth Muster being organised and funded by the National Museum of Australia, applied for funding to the Australia Council's New Audience Development board. They have been knocked back.
The Alice Springs Youth Arts Group planned to participate in Dust Up and also stage an event of their own titled Colour Bind, Colour Blind. They applied to the special grants round and have been knocked back.
So while youth from around Australia converge on Alice Springs, both in the flesh and in cyberspace, our youth, instead of being able to strut their stuff, may well be just going about business as usual.Red Dust Theatre, after their outstanding success at this year's Adelaide Festival, have received no funding under the same special grants round for their new production, Lola in a bathtub by Ann Harris.C-Mob, a talented group of young Alice born and bred rappers, has received no funding.A collaborative concert of regional and local musicians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to be produced by CAAMA, is currently without funding.The festival's closing event, Desert Song, bringing together for the first time ever choirs from remote communities, is still awaiting news on funding from Festivals Australia. This event requires its own artistic director and considerable logistical support."At the moment we're running on faith Ð we have enormous belief in our product," says Ms Gaffney.
"We're hoping to get corporate sponsorship for some events and we may yet get some arts funding for others, but these decisions are probably still a month away. Unfortunately this leaves artists with very little lead-up time.
"A festival is only as strong as its program of events.
"The rejection of funding applications on such a broad scale, just when Alice Springs is to be the focus of national and international attention, has been a real blow."There is a lack of understanding out there about the role of arts and culture in local and regional economies."Communities in the arid zone, where most outback communities are, won't survive as good places to live without a vibrant cultural life. And that doesn't just happen on its own."
Clive Scollay, executive director of Outback Central, says he sees the festival as a core part of Outback central activities."We're relying very much on that program of key events."We are actively seeking to add to federal funds and we are also in discussions with high-profile sponsors."The bright note at this point is the Moonlight Madness Ball, which will launch the festival. It will be held at the new Convention Centre, which has promised considerable in-kind corporate support, and Yalumba Wines looks set to again be a major sponsor. The ball also generates income, which can be used to support other events.
And luckily some events on the program, such as the opening of the annual Desert Mob exhibition, the writers' event, the Irrkerlantye Youth Film Festival, and the opening of Gallery Gondwana's Maningrida/NPY show, are already wholly or partially funded.
"Last year's festival had similar lead-up problems but still managed to create a great program and atmosphere," says Ms Gaffney.
"Chair of the festival's steering committee, Sonja Maclean de Silva, has done a fantastic job laying the groundwork for this year's festival."Now it's time for our efforts, the efforts of all the committed artists in Alice Springs, to be met half way so that we can produce a festival of the calibre we know we are capable of."The Alice Springs Festival acts as a showcase for both the incredible wealth of talent in this region and our fantastic environment.
"In this Year of the Outback it would be a real pity if funding bodies did not recognise the potential at hand here and pitch in their support."
CLARE MARTIN'S FIRST TASK IN POLITICS: HANGING ON TO A SEAT.
The leadership was never something she "plotted and planned for".
KIERAN FINNANE talks exclusively to Chief Minister Clare Martin. See
Parts One and Two in Alice News issues of May 15 and 29.
Clare Martin won her first term in the parliament by just 69 votes. Far from having designs on the top job, she saw her priority as holding onto the seat of Fannie Bay."I became the most consistent doorknocker," she told the News last week.Does she like doorknocking and going now to what must be an endless round of events?
"You have a vision for the Territory but it's got to be grounded in what people want. So I always found going to events and doorknocking shaped the kind of priorities that I had. They can't be out of kilter with what the community wants.
"Doorknocking is not a nuisance. It's a time when you can talk to people about what their aspirations are, what they see as going wrong, what they see as going right."One of the good things about Fannie Bay is that you have a real range of people who live there.
"You've got a lot of professional managerial people who were very happy to take me into their lounge rooms and talk to me about how their businesses were going, how they thought the government should change, what their focuses were.
"That was really valuable for me, a big learning experience.
"There were also a lot of people who lived on benefits of various kinds, in public housing, who were really Ôseat of the pants' people.
"Doorknocking gave you a real insight into where the community was going."For any Territory politician, being in touch with the aspirations of Indigenous people is also important. How does she do that?"Quite a lot of Indigenous people live in Fannie Bay.
"I also worked from the start in a caucus where my colleagues, five of them, had large remote electorates. Caucus visited those, but also we talked about them every time we met."Caucus was very instructive from that point of view. You sat down with someone like Jack Ah Kit, Syd Stirling or Peter Toyne, Maggie Hickey and you realised there was a very different world outside Darwin, not different priorities in themselves, but different needs within those priorities."
(Now John Ah Kit is a Minister in her government, and is joined in the parliament by Indigenous members Elliot McAdam, Marion Scrymgour and Matthew Bonson.)Ms Martin held on to her seat at the next general election, in August 1997, but Labor, under Maggie Hickey, lost badly. Did Ms Martin then set out to become leader?"No, I really never set out to be leader. I knew that one day I might, because given the Territory context you really needed to be a Darwin-based leader.
"I never plotted or planned. When unexpectedly Maggie Hickey resigned, it was discussed with me that I should put my hand up. I got the unanimous support of my colleagues."That was early February, 1999. The next election was due in two and half years.Being a woman obviously wasn't seen as an impediment by Labor, but what about in the Territory? Was it an issue they thought about?"I think there was a feeling that, as the Territory is 53 per cent male and is seen more as a man's place Ð which I always dispute anyway, but it's a perception Ð it would be harder for a woman.
"But it wasn't something that I was ever going to see as an impediment."There was a lot of good will in the party about let's get on and start thinking about how we'll win the next election.
"That's why I took on the leadership, I didn't ever take it on to be a good opposition leader. I had a reality check on that but I believe very strongly that you have to set out to win."The Territory has a very different constituency from all other jurisdictions in Australia. What does Labor stand for in the Territory?"Labor's core issues are relevant to the Territory: how you build jobs, the health system you provide, the education system you provide.
"The other major issues here are around how we manage in the whole Indigenous area and particularly on the issues of land rights and native title."I believed Labor had a much better fundamental approach to resolving those issues, taking the ideology and the confrontation out of them."It's been really exciting to get into government and see that you are able to do that, it wasn't just a theory."The harm and division that I saw particularly in the Ôeighties, both to our community and to how those outside looked at us, to be able to start changing that is a real driver for me."Although she went into the election widely recognised as Labor's most popular leader to date, no one quite expected the win. The party's own polling did not indicate that they would get the eight per cent swing in Darwin.
"I was genuinely surprised.
"We'd done a lot of work, we'd certainly examined our weaknesses and set about tackling those, looking at everything from policy to how we sold the message.
"We'd done a lot of consultation, started producing our New Directions Papers, which we'd taken around the Territory.
"We were very clearly defining what Labor was about, but if you haven't won in 25 years, and when you thought about the number of seats needed, it was a big ask.
"I think the swing was a combination of the CLP losing touch and Labor being in a position to be trusted with a vote. Traditional political analysis says that governments lose, but oppositions have to be trusted to take on government."
How much was the swing a vote for Clare Martin as leader?"I honestly don't know, and we haven't done any polling that could tell you, but we ran 'Clare Martin as leader' very hard, on the posters around Darwin and Alice Springs.
"We certainly used the high profile I'd achieved as part of our campaign."How had she managed to create that profile? What were people interested in?"I had been around Darwin and the Territory since 1983. I knew a lot of people.
"I worked very hard as Opposition Leader and previously as member, going to functions, meeting people, meeting with lobby groups.
"I certainly didn't back off when I had media opportunities."Media opportunities favoured her. Her journalistic background helped her put on a polished performance, and it didn't hurt being a woman. The cowboy image of her opponents started to look rather worn, but she says she was careful about playing the woman angle."I didn't run gender as an issue. A woman had never led Labor to a victory in Australia and in the Territory it could have seemed even less likely.
"I was very careful about running a strong Labor agenda, as opposed to any specific women's agenda.
"But now that I've got to leadership, one of the things that has really gratified me is how delighted Territory women are with having a female Chief Minister."It's something that's taken me a bit by surprise, young women coming up to me at places like Casuarina Square and saying, 'Can I shake your hand, I'm really delighted you are Chief Minister'.
"Women in a variety of ethnic communities have been absolutely delighted to have a female Chief Minister.
"The Territory has always been seen as very much a male place, and the win has been a really strong recognition that there are women here, there are a whole lot of women doing really amazing things, and we are holding up just under half of the sky."How much of an adjustment was it to move from being Leader of the Opposition to Chief Minister?"The change is learning all about how government runs and then just the details, from how cabinet works to the level of ministerial correspondence that lands on your desk every day. It's about how you put effective decision-making into place, how you translate the intensive policy work we had done in opposition into government.
"You move up a floor in Parliament House, from fourth to fifth (laughs).
"It's an adjustment that you make day by day.
"I think one of the bonuses is the greater level of support you get and I was really gratified by the way the public service supported the new government.
"Every day I reckon I learn something new."And every day it's an enormous challenge."Is she there for the long haul?"At the moment, I'm so engrossed in the day to day that I'm just looking at the short term."I'm turning 50 next month, I still see myself as pretty young, full of energy but I've also got a very strong view that people shouldn't stay in parliament for too long.
"I've always thought that three terms seemed like a pretty good commitment from anyone. I've done nearly seven years. Three full terms, being 12 years, I would see as a maximum.
"But I take it day by day, you've got to have the confidence of the electorate, and certainly as Chief Minister I've got to have the confidence of my colleagues."
FINKE: FROM MUD TO BULLDUST IN WHOOPS A TOUGH NATIONAL OFF ROAD QUEST. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
A year ago 12,000 faithful Finke followers faced a weekend of rain,
mud, and slush. For competitors the Monday return leg proved to be an
absolute nightmare, with vehicles limping home like war-torn comrades
seeking the security of the finish line.This year it seems Finke will
present a different challenge. In the "whoops" the bulldust is sitting
in billabong proportions, waiting to trap the unsuspecting. In other
sections the track is lightning fast, tempting the field to let the
throttle right out.
Finke 2002 seems set for a fast "take no prisoners" dash with the car entrants vying for Australian Off Road Championship points. This is the inaugural year of Finke being a part of the national championship, which lifts the whole profile of the event. Over a quarter of a million website hits are expected from fans sitting in the comfort of their home offices around the globe, thinking of Finke.Trackside some 270 bikes and a little under 100 four wheelers will cross the Start line in the perilous push 230 kilometres south to the community of Apatula (Finke), where they will rest overnight and prepare for the homeward journey the next day.
Along the way thousands of campers will take in the race and the ambience of the bush. Many campsites are now traditional venues, claimed by the legends of the spectating sector for the weekend. Others will be those of casual observers who simply drive south and find a suitable spot to roll out the swag.At Cotter's camp features of past Finkes have included television for the footy fans, a billiard table, and pizzas delivered from town. This year Michael and his mates have gone a step further. They had lawn mowers and whipper snippers clear the area so as to accommodate a Bocce field, for a little friendly exercise while "roughing it".
In the run up to the weekend, the Todd Tavern will host a Calcutta tomorrow night, when punters will be able to"buy" a rider or driver.
Scrutineering at Blatherskite Park begins at 5pm on Friday.
From there the action moves south to the Start Finish line. Saturday's Prologue is structured for the family, with free admission. The Prologue gives spectators an insight to the chances of the field, as entrants put themselves through a sprint to determine grid placings for the Sunday start.From 7.30am on Sunday the Finke of 2002 will get underway, with check points, fuel and water stops at Deep Well, Rodinga, Bundooma, and Mt Squires.
The cars are going into this year's Finke as the favourites to conquer the conditions.
In the Single-seater Buggies Class to 6000cc, David Fellows will head up the local chances. He's finished on the podium in the past and knows what is required.
Bernard Singer from Indulkana has again entered, as have Ray Farrows and Craig Downs.
Julia Creek, over the border in Queensland, will be represented by David McGill, Ian Larkins and Chris Sollit, while Bill Hall will come in from Mysterton in Queensland. A notable absentee from the single-seaters will be Paul Simpson, who for years has vied for line honours.
In Class One, the Buggies up to 6000cc, former winners Mark Burrows and Michael Shannon will again be at the start line in their MBR Jimco, which is normally garaged in Burrumbeet, Victoria. No doubt the Burrows team will be hot favourites again, but will be faced with opposition from both interstate and Alice Springs.
Bob and Janette Mowbray from Riverstone NSW will again be in the hunt in their Jimco; Eric Smidt returns yet again in his Volkswagen from Hope Valley in S.A.; the teams of Murray Rae / Paul Bennett, and Trevor and Gary Brebner have entered from Mt Isa; and Brian Robinson / Paul Currie have done so from Waterman, WA, as part of the 29 strong class field.
Adding to the flavour will be locals Peter Kittle and Adam Ryan. Kittle has been a staunch supporter of Finke and in recent years has lost a few hairs in trying to put together a race winner.
James Nielson and Shane Ride joined the Buggy class for 2002, as have Fred Grey and Ronny Kennett. Grey and Kennett carry the local Lions colours for the event, and will be doing their best to see the wheels stay on their Southern Cross Mark 11.The Buggies up to 1600cc have attracted 10 entries from interstate including Stephen Burrows of Burrumbeet. In terms of local participation, the accountant John Trezona has teamed up with paperman Stewy Pritchard to race a 1600 Southern Cross.
Greg Hicks and Kylie Bell have prepared a Challenger 1600. Chris Coulthard and Matt Wharton, who is better known in a horse saddle, are revved up. Anthony and Jo Coulthard; Vee Wee experts from Autocraft, Gary and Kaye Nicolle; and Two Dogs Racing, Bill Yan and Scott Brealey, will see the Centre well represented.
The Four Wheel Drive Class up to 6000cc were the true survivors of Finke 2001. Bruce Garland, last year accompanied by Harry Suzuki, grew an extra leg in the run home as others staggered through the mud and slush. This year may well be a different story, but Garland, and the Holden Rally Team will again feature in the Finke, this year with navigator Wayne Webster. Otherwise local mates Bruce Muir and Peter Treis have teamed up to propel a Nissan Ute through the whoops; and Mark Booth and Brendan McGrath will pilot a Nissan Patrol Wagon.
An interesting entrant is Stuart Zlotkowsky who hails from Wollogorang in the Gulf country. This year he has a partner in Tod Fleming, and they will race their household favourite, an 1800cc Subaru.In the field of Two Wheel Drive Baja Modified 4001 to 6000cc vehicles are some local living legends. Danny Reidy and Danny Hayes will take to a Holden Rodeo; Glenn and Ross Wallace will be in a Ford Ute; Peter Taylor and Troy Annesley have gone for a Nissan Ute; Damien Aspinall and Troy Camileri have opted for a Mitsubishi; Chris and Lawence Wallace are powered by Ford; and Steve Jentsch, along with journo Mark Wilton, have stuck with the power of the Chevy.
The Two Wheel Drive Baja Modified Class up to 4000cc again sees strong local representation. Two veterans, Wayne Sanderson and Terry Hird, will strap themselves into a Toyota Twin cab; Julie Wallace and Rob Pearson are pinning their hopes on a Nissan Ute; Andrew Mowles has stuck to his VW Beetle and will race with Grant Whan. In a 1974 Datsun Matthew Lawrence and Simon Frederiksen will mount a challenge; and Chris Ryan will team up with Grant Ballantine in a Mitsubishi; while Neil Hind and Ken Wegert will race a Nissan.
The Class Five entries also pose a degree of intrigue. From Centralian College, Vic Varley and John Mason have teamed to drive a Holden Ute; David Totani and Phil Kershaw will be in a Nissan; and Yvonne Johnston will pilot a Chevy with navigator Jeff De Soyres. Larry Zaglas will again battle the Finke with Rod Lutwyche in a Ford, while from Brookvale NSW Graham Lees has entered with Angus Laird in a Porsche Coupe.
In the Bike Classes the pace is just as hot! While the big guns have this year opted for state of the art four cylinders, Class One is again dominated by the trusty Honda CR500s. No less than 17 CR500s will line up in the class, which has attracted 21 starters.
Noted riders who should be prominent are past winner Ricky Hall, Mark Harvey, Alan Nicol, and Steven Severin. Providing plenty of opposition will be Mark Sladek and Brenton Tobin on Kawasakis; and Daniel Merino and Alan McGuire representing KTM.
The Four Strokes form Class Two and it is from this class that an outright winner may well emerge. Michael Vroom and Stephen Greenfield have both stepped up to the Honda XR 650 and their performances will be keenly observed.
From the local Race stable Andy Hayden has returned and on his KTM 520 SX will be a firm consideration. Promoting the KTM brand name will also be Brad Wiliscroft and Shane Magnusson from NSW, Haydon Montgomery from Roxby Downs, Steve Douglas of Yulara, Darwin's Alan Henderson, James Creber of Rosebery, and Colin Lawson from Atherton, Qld..
With 70 entries in the Class, the Four Strokes will certainly head the list of "must watch" vehicles.
Class Three is for Two Strokes up to 250cc and with 26 nominees the racing should be fierce. Gavin Chapman heads up the KTM representation from the Race Motorcycles stable. In opposition he has Ben Brooks and Cody Goodwin on Honda CR250s; Lenny Cole racing a Kawasaki KX250; Andrew Coates on a Suzuki; and Clint Allen and William Willis from the popular Pine Gap Desert Race Team.
In Class Four two strokes up to 200cc compete.Ben Neck will carry the family name on a Honda CR 125. Josh Briskey from Katherine will be worth watching on his KTM 125SX, as will Aaron Butler out of the Race stable.The Suzuki name is featured in Class Five for Four Strokes up to 400 cc.
Desert Edge's Damian McGrath heads the nominations along with the entry of two female Suzuki riders, Sonia Empson and Judi Bissell. Again the Pine Gap team are prominent with four entries, Aaron Hughes, Wayne Bennett, Mark Guzman and Richard Wehipeihana.
The Masters battle for honours in the Class Seven. It is here that patrons will see some real class. Phil Lovett, a legend in the sport, has come from Cessnock with his KTM 520 EXC. Andy Caldecott from Keith has KTM power, as has Darren Griffiths from the West. John Bridgefoot, who races the Darwin circuit and teaches 16 year olds the road rules around town, has entered on his Honda XR 650.
Pine Gap are in their element with entries from Stephen Briggs, Kevin Hargrave, John Sisko, Steve Noble, John Lowrance, and Graham Elliott.
On a local note our chances in the Veterans Class for over 45 year olds rest with Derek Poolier, Bryan Cartwright and Glen Auricht. These fellows take their sport seriously, despite their age, and give Finke a sense of decorum!
Completing the field are the Outfits, made up of a staunch contingent from the Barossa Valley and country SA. This year there are eight entries in the Class, which always attracts attention. All seems ideally placed now for a Finke to remember.
RULES: THE EAGLES AGAIN! Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
By PAUL FITZSIMONSPioneer, the lethal legends of Aussie Rules in
Alice Springs struck in the third term at Traeger Park on the weekend
and took home a win they will cherish as the 2002 season unfolds.
The Eagles were pitted against West who beat them at their last encounter and looked to be well on the way to repeating the dose before the Pioneer turn-around.
At the final siren Pioneer scored 16.5 (101) to West's 10.10 (70).Earlier in the day Federal gave South a real fright before the Roos were able to gain some momentum and win 14.8 (92) to 12.8 (80).The curtain raiser was toted to be a close affair and when South ran on minus Herman Sampson, Adrian McAdam, Clinton Pepperill and Shane Hayes it was obvious they were short on manpower.
Shane McMasters also registered as the Roo coach for the day as Shaun Cusack wisely opted to play without the responsibility of calling the changes.Feds jumped Souths early with Darren Young establishing command at the centre bounces and putting the ball down the throats of the running players. By the first change the Demons, in new strip, held a 3.1 to 2.1 lead.In the second term Federal added five goals to South's two, with Daryl Ryder, Farron Gorey and Daniel Palmer calling the shots and Young playing like a dynamo. In fact the Demons extended their lead early in the third term to lead by seven goals and were looking the winners, with Troy Erlandson starring on the half forward flank. Alas inexplicably, after South countered with two goals, the Feds went to water.
Nigel Lockyer gained control in the centre and Willy Tilmouth found touch, driving the ball well into the Roos territory. By the three quarter break only three goals separated the teams, with Federal on 11.6 to South's 8.6. In the run home Federal still seemed favourites but a succession of fine passes to find Trevor Presley in front of goals soon put paid the Feds' chances.
The Roos got their tails up and sniffed victory. Any Federal attack was repelled by Donny Scharber, and Bradley Braun, Lionel Buzzacott and Malcolm Ross took control in South's forward zone.The Roos rattled home winners by 12 points and were glad to have saved their bacon when the final bell rang. Trevor Presley ended the day with four goals. Bradley Braun kicked two and eight others scored individual goals. Their best man was Donny Scharber, with Lloyd Stockman, Buzzacott, Presley, Ross and Tilmouth worthy of mention.For Federal the loss was a bitter pill to swallow. Graham Hayes played well, as did Jason Fishook, Darren Young, Glen Moreen, Farron Gorey and Troy Erlandson, who top scored with three goals.In the late game, Pioneer ran with West and took the rough and tumble of the physical encounter in their stride. They established a five-point lead at the first break, but then surrendered the lead in the second term to allow West to hold sway by seven points at the big break.
It was in the third term that the game was there to be won and Pioneer wasted no time in booting three successive goals before the Bloods countered. With little separating the sides, Pioneer then received a concerted boost from Craig Turner, Ryan Mallard and the consistent Joel Campbell. The pressure of the game suddenly seemed to have a valve release and the Eagles skipped away to lead 11.3 to 9.8 at three quarter time.
In the run home Pioneer sensed victory and got their running game going. They scored 5.2 for the quarter while West could only manage 1.2.
In the Pioneer camp Turner was a huge contributor. Graham Smith despite still seeming to not be 100 per cent fit, dominated, be it in the centre or at full forward. Mallard again showed he has huge potential, and Campbell just keeps putting in with every game. Norm Hagan and Aaron Kopp played their usual productive games and Trevor Dhu top scored with five goals, despite a run in the mid field.
Wests will learn from their first loss for the season. Curtis Haines covered himself in glory with a top game in defence. Rory Hood and Jarrad Berrington kept the pivot pounding throughout, and both David James and Adam Taylor put in. Up forward Steven Squires did all that was asked of him with four goals.This weekend footballers in the Centre rest while the Finke Desert Race beckons them to bonding times south of town.
LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE OUTSIDE DRAMA ROOM! Preview by KIERAN FINNANE.
The cast was rehearsing without scripts in hand for only the second
time, and the prompter was getting a reasonable workout.
They had two weeks to get their lines "cemented" and their actions clear, before the five Year 12 drama students from St Philip's present their production of Loot, a black comedy parodying detective fiction by 'sixties London hit playwright Joe Orton.The students will face not only their audience, but their public examiners.
If that prospect is daunting, they weren't showing it in rehearsal.
Despite the effort of concentration the young actors were having a lot of fun.
It's not always the case though.Rehearsing takes a lot of energy.
"When you've just come out of a boring Maths class, it's hard not to feel flat in rehearsal," said Therese O'Brien, who chose to do Drama precisely as an antidote to boring classes.
"For me it's good if I'm in a good mood," said Jessica Yates.
That's one the basic lessons for actors, said their teacher and director, Steve Kidd: "You've got to leave your baggage outside the drama room."So rehearsals always begin with a warm-up: "You enter into the physical and mental world of the play."
The students were also striving to learn their parts as professional actors do, being guided by the intentions and thought processes of their characters.Most of them used to start with rote learning but have already seen its pitfalls: "If you leave it up to reciting, you get really flustered if you forget your lines," said Jessica.Whereas the other way, if you forget the exact wording of your lines you still should be able to paraphrase them.
Why an English farce? It seems rather remote from their world.
There were a few reasons.
They like comedy: "It's hard but it's more effective in the end, more enjoyable for the audience," said Fiona McDonald. They also needed to find a play with five characters, there being only five students in the class.
They hit upon Loot after a long search on the Internet, but it had roles for four males and only one female, while the composition of the class was the exact opposite.
A bit of gender-swapping solved that problem. In a setting of an earlier era, it might have been difficult, but in swinging 'sixties London delinquent girls and a butch detective are entirely credible.
Mr Kidd was concerned to get "the best possible vehicle for the students to get good marks" and Loot is "very well written and very funny".
So, are any of the students looking to a future in theatre?Only Jessica will apply for a drama course, but her interest is broad, not necessarily acting but something in film and theatre production.Freya Tomren sees drama as a useful experience for her intended career in public relations.Fiona similarly sees it as a good confidence builder for journalism.
"It teaches you to cope with criticism, to take it positively," she said.Therese and Lucas Hemsley are leaving their options open.
Meanwhile, they'll be putting their best foot forward at St Philip's next Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 13-15, 7.30pm.
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