FREEDOM OF SPEECH STOPS RIGHT HERE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Tangentyere Council is threatening legal action for trespass against Alice Springs News journalist Kieran Finnane following a lead story on March 5 headed "Port wine turns Alice valley into living hell".
Ms Finnane asked two residents of the Hidden Valley town camp to speak to her about alcohol related issues, and the two women invited her to speak with them at their homes.
Tangentyere executive director William Tilmouth concedes the report, quoting in part senior Eastern Arrernte woman Agnes Abbott, is "a true reflection of her frustrations of the 'grog problem' that many of our people face".
However, he attacks it on a number of grounds, including that Ms Finnane did not obtain permission through Tangentyere to enter the camp.
Ms Finnane says Tangentyere's threats are an attempt to limit free speech by Mrs Abbott and Carol Turner, the other interviewee, and seek to exert unacceptable pressure on the Alice Springs News.
"In the interviews, conducted over two days, I asked two willing and highly articulate Aboriginal women to comment on how grog is affecting their day to day lives," says Ms Finnane.
"The account they offered was harrowing by most people's standards and remains available for all to read on the Alice News website.
"The report is in the public interest at this time in particular because the 12 month trial of alcohol restrictions is drawing to a close.
"The restrictions are supposed to improve community well-being, and the community is being asked whether they support their continuation and whether they should be strengthened or weakened.
"The report gives the community information that they can use in thinking about these issues."
Mr Tilmouth claims the report brought "shame" on the camp and that Mrs Abbott has apologised to other members of the camp.
However, Mrs Abbott has not contacted the News to retract anything the newspaper has reported.
The News will investigate whether Mrs Abbott has made any apology, and if she has, whether she did so under duress.
Says Ms Finnane: "We brought to our readers a first person account, inevitably subjective, but with the kind of power that only such accounts can have.
"In the course of describing the rampant alcohol abuse taking place on the community, perceptions and observations came up about other aspects of community life and of services.
NO HELP"Among these, Mrs Abbott expressed the view that Tangentyere know what is happening in town camps but don't help. Mrs Turner reiterated the view that nobody is doing anything to help with the grog situation."We reported these views. It was not our intention Ð nor should it have been in this type of story Ð to contest them.
"There are times when perceptions, as much as cold facts, need to be noted.
"Mrs Abbott also observed that there is no phone at the camp and that Tangentyere Night Patrol only comes through once in the evening, an assertion not contested by Mr Tilmouth.
"We stand by the story and refute Mr Tilmouth's allegations of sensationalism; of having asked Ôloaded' questions; of having questionable Ômorals and ethics'.
"In his letter Mr Tilmouth challenges the media Ôto represent our people fairly'.
"We fairly and accurately represented the views of two highly credible sources that the grog problem is not improving, in fact seems to be getting worse, and is getting worse at least in part as a result of the very program (the restrictions which have occasioned the switch to port wine) designed to bring about improvements.
"He also challenges the media Ôto celebrate the many successes that come from great adversity'.
"The News in fact provides its readers with many such stories and can point to several examples within the first six issues of the year.
"But to only write such stories and the other kind Mr Tilmouth favours Ð reports about funding, projects and programs, quoting only approved sources Ð would not represent reality and would not serve the community, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike."
CRIME STATISTICS ARE UNCLEAR. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
There has been a 375 per cent increase in recorded sexual assaults in Alice Springs É or has there?
The latest quarterly crime statistics show 19 sexual assault offences for the 2002 December quarter, compared to four in the previous quarter (an increase of 375 per cent) and 13 for the 2001 December quarter (an increase of 46 per cent).
Converting small numbers to percentages has an obvious distorting effect, but an increase by six in a serious offence category would still be concerning.
The picture revealed by police records, however, is somewhat different. Police Superintendent Trevor Bell says the 19 offences recorded in the quarterly statistics relate to five "incidents".
One of those involves a step-father and child. The stepfather has been charged with 10 offences, occurring over a period of three years. The offences include three counts of carnal knowledge.
Another incident, where a woman was raped in a motel, involves two offences, one of sexual intercourse without consent and one of aggravated assault.
In an incident involving a couple, where the girl was under the age of consent, her boyfriend has been charged with two counts of unlawful intercourse.
Out of the 19 offences recorded, 16 are being prosecuted.
Offenders have not been identified in a sexual assault on a woman that took place late at night in October last year as the woman was crossing the footbridge to Bloomfield Street. This incident gave rise to three offences.
Supt Bell described the offences as "not a lot" in quantity but "very serious" in nature.
In their range Ð from child abuse and rape to underage sex Ð they are typical.
"We deal with all of these type of offences on a fairly regular basis," says Supt Bell.
The five incidents in 2002 could well be a decrease on the number of incidents for the December quarter in 2001. But then again, the figure for that quarter of 13 offences could also be for a lower number of incidents spawning multiple offences.
Could there be case for recording statistics for incidents as well as offences, to get the full picture?
Director, Research and Statistics at the Office of Crime Prevention (OCP), Stephen Jackson says offences give a measure of likely charges, whereas incidents tell us about the number of times police respond. One incident can spawn a number of offences in a number of different classes of crime.
Mr Jackson also says there is no standard way of classifying an incident, whereas with offences, "everyone knows exactly what we are talking about, Australia-wide".
The Alice News suggested that the lay person looking at the figure 19 in the sexual assault category might imagine that it represents 19 victims.
In fact, as we have seen, in offences recorded for the December quarter of last year there were five victims.
Is there a case for presenting the number of victims, as well as the number of offences in the quarterly statistics?
That would involve a lot of further research effort, says Mr Jackson. There is no plan at the OCP to do that within foreseeable future.
"That's not to say it won't come. Our office is relatively new, and we are still building up the way we are doing our work. We may get to measuring the number of victims."Meanwhile, there is information about victims made available by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, whose next report on Recorded Crime is due out on May 29.
With respect to all assaults, Supt Bell described the decrease (17 per cent) Ð from 285 (Dec 2001) to 231 (Dec 2002) Ð as "very pleasing".
But, given the big effort behind this Ð alcohol restrictions, changed policing regimes Ð 17 per cent does not seem all that great. (Darwin, without alcohol restrictions, achieved a 16 per cent decrease.)
Supt Bell says policing initiatives like the bicycle and motorbike patrols have only been in place for two months:"We should see more benefit, hopefully a continuing decrease, in the longer term."
About previous quarter figures in many crime categories, Supt Bell says it is traditionally the case: "With warm weather and school holidays, crime goes up."
DROP IN CRIMES AGAINST PERSONS.
Total offences against the person in Alice Springs dropped from 309
in the 2001 December quarter to 258 in the 2002 December quarter.
This represents a decrease of 17 per cent, although there was an increase of 22 per cent on the previous quarter (Sept 2002).
The figures in the same category for Darwin, with more than twice the population, reveal that the incidence of offences against the person in Alice Springs is high.
Offences against the person in Darwin dropped from 359 (Dec 2001) to 300 (Dec 2002), a decrease of 16 per cent.
In both centres, assault is the most frequent offence in the category (89.5 per cent and 85.0 per cent respectively).
In Alice, there were 285 assaults in the 2001 December quarter, dropping to 231 (Dec 2002).
In Darwin, the figures are 302 and 255 respectively. Once again, the Alice figures look high, relative to Darwin.
As a whole, the Territory achieved a decrease of six per cent in total offences against the person.
Total property offences in Alice Springs dropped from 1036 (Dec 2001) to 785 (Dec 2002), a decrease of 24 per cent, although slightly up (two percent) on the previous quarter (Sept 2002).
In this category figures for Darwin look high: 4112 for the 2001 December quarter, dropping to 3382 for December, 2002, a decrease of 18 per cent.
The Territory as a whole achieved a 16 per cent decrease in this category.
Property damage is the most common property offence (40.4 per cent of the total in Alice). The drop was from 444 (Dec, 2001) to 317.
It is followed by "other theft", 35.7 per cent of the total. The drop was from 383 (Dec 2001) to 280 (Dec 2002).
Unlawful entries of dwellings in Alice showed a slight decrease, from 73 to 61.
The decline in other unlawful entries, including of business premises, was almost negligible, from 51 to 49.
Likewise, the decline in motor vehicle theft: 77 to 73.
In unlawful entries of dwellings, Darwin achieved a big drop: from 617 (Dec 2001) to 361 (Dec 2002). The decrease in other unlawful entries and motor vehicle theft, however, were slight.
Police Minister Paul Henderson has claimed that targeted police operations have played an important role in bringing down the number of property offences across the Territory.
As no one was in jail for fine evasion in the last quarter Ð"well down on the 19 in prison this time last year" ÐMr Henderson concludes that "police are out there catching the people who are responsible for breaking into our homes and committing assaults".
He also said police would not let increased prisoner numbers slow them down in targeting criminals.
The daily average number of prisoners in the NT rose by seven per cent in the last quarter to 715, and the number of juvenile detainees increased by 35 per cent on the previous quarter to 27.
Mr Henderson described this as a "good start".
HONOURING ABORIGINAL ENTREPRENEURS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The chairman of Dreamtours Ltd, Fred Japanangka Nelson, announced record profits for his company in his keynote address to the Indigenous Economic Forum in Alice Springs earlier this month.
Dreamtours, set up by the Central Land Council soon after the passage of the Land Rights Act 1976, has for the first time exceeded $100m in annual earnings as it completed its first quarter century of trading.
With its network of 18 hotels and luxury "bush camps" spanning the Western Arrernte, Warlpiri and Pintupi desert lands between Hermannsburg, Lajamanu, Kintore, Docker River and Areyonga, Dreamtours is meeting the still growing international demand for an "authentic Aboriginal experience".
The company's 800 employees Ð many of them shareholders Ð offers a plethora of traditional dancing, bush skills, story telling and dot painting "products", critical to eliminating the formerly chronic unemployment in the region.
Chief Minister Clare Martin, officially opening the forum, honoured three key figures of the burgeoning black enterprises in The Centre, all with a major or significant Aboriginal ownership that has relegated to history former welfare dependency.
Ms Martin awarded the Order of the Northern Territory to Captain Bill Japaltjarri Anderson, from Papunya, the first Aboriginal to gain a senior commercial pilot's rating.
He is the operations manager of Dreamtours' fleet of medium size turbine aircraft and luxury coaches, transporting the company's 600,000 guests Ð most of them now staying more than three weeks in the region Ð between the many attractions west of Alice Springs, including the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Ms Martin pinned the NT Star of Achievement to the blouse Ð made from locally produced batik Ð of Maryanne Morton, the first Aboriginal woman to head up an Australian company earning more than $50m a year.
Starting as a grape picker for an interstate owned vineyard at Ti Tree in the Ôeighties, Ms Morton, with her family, founded Utopia Produce Ltd in 1990.
Utilising the region's ample Aboriginal labour, almost endless supply of Aboriginal freehold land, and sufficient underground water, as well as initial seeding money from ATSIC, Utopia Produce is meeting the seemingly insatiable demand for early season table grapes, both in Australia and in the affluent parts of South East Asia.
And Ms Martin awarded the NT Medal for Enterprise to Bill Japaltjarri Rice, a mining engineer and chairman of the Yuendumu Mining Company (YMC), owned by 250 Warlpiri shareholders.
Mr Rice persuaded Aboriginal recipients of statutory mining royalties, which previously had fuelled reckless purchases of motorcars and alcohol, to invest their money in the resurrected gold mining ventures in the Tanami Desert, on their traditional land.
But the present substantial Aboriginal equity in these companies didn't just come from various forms of "sit down money".
Under Mr Rice's leadership, a growing number of locals began to work in the mines, accepting equity for YMC as part of their wages.
STAKEToday more than 60 per cent of the mine workers in the Tanami come from Central Australian communities, and YMC holds a 37 per cent stake in the operating company.
And the Chief Minister paid a glowing tribute to the Central Land Council (CLC).
Its earlier land claiming role successfully completed about a decade ago, the CLC has turned its ample resources Ð the $5m a year budget and 110 staff Ð into a finely tuned financial consultancy and management group, assisting and promoting Central Australia's indigenous economy, and finding new markets for it.
And then I woke up.
The reality of the two day forum, regrettably, was vastly different.
There were no gongs awarded and no deals clinched.
In fact business generally gave the talkfest a wide berth.
Private enterprise represented was mostly confined to those firms who are compelled, by law or agreement, to get along with Aborigines: the railway, which is obliged to offer employment, and mines on Aboriginal land, required to seek agreements not obligatory on non-Aboriginal land.
The forum crowd consisted mainly of bureaucrats from the NT and Commonwealth governments, and from publicly funded Aboriginal organisations, plus academics.
There were some examples of black enterprise in the Top End, but precious few from The Centre, the now world famous Aboriginal art movement a very notable exception.
It was bizarre that a quarter of a century after land rights, sold to the Australian public at the time as the panacea of black progress, the forum's main focus was how to actually get the process under way.
The first NT Labor government after 26 years of Country Liberal Party rule Ð albeit a year and a half into its first term Ð announced "a permanent high-level indigenous development taskforce will be established".
Yes, that's future tense.
The Territory's former CLP governments, deservedly, were hammered for their appalling neglect of Aboriginal health and education.
But there was no attempt at self criticism by Aborigines and their organisations, for having failed to make the most of the facilities and services that have been provided by governments, nor for failing to take advantage of ample opportunities outside those supplied by the public purse.
There were several examples of the Northern Land Council (NLC) being alert to opportunities, while the Central Land Council (CLC) region continues its economic stagnation.
For instance, the NLC leapt at the chance of placing many of its clients in the ADrail workforce.
NLC director Norm Fry says the skills they are acquiring during the railway construction Ð due for completion late this year Ð will come in handy when the Timor Sea gas project gets under way.
Meanwhile the CLC complained of a lack of opportunity with ADrail.
Fred Chaney, a former Liberal Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (1979-80), asked CLC director David Ross why he thought Aborigines in The Centre are benefiting much less from the rail project than those in the Top End.
Mr Chaney didn't get an answer from Mr Ross who instead launched into the familiar tirade of complaints about government neglect.
Mr Chaney, in an interview with me, put the blame for catastrophic failures squarely with the Territory's long-ruling CLP, his own background in conservative politics notwithstanding.
He says "vast amounts of money for the purpose of providing a better education system" have been provided by Canberra to the NT, which he calls "the most heavily externally subsidised community in Australia".
Says Mr Chaney: "As the Bob Collins report indicated in the recent past, [education] has been very, very badly done.
"That is one of the great disappointments in the last 30 years.
"It's not fair to blame this on Canberra.
"That is a case where the local contribution has been less than adequate."
Mr Chaney, who was once tipped as the next Prime Minister, is now the co-chairman of Reconciliation Australia.
He urges caution with the assumption that engaging in small business is a sure way out of their misery for Aboriginal people.
"The bulk of Australians don't work in small businesses. 75 per cent of us are employed in service industries."
He says only one per cent is employed in the mining industry.
"The interesting thing is how many of the positive examples [at the forum] relate to the mining industry which perhaps more than any other sector of the Australian economy has tried to come to grips with issues of Aboriginal employment.
"What we have to do is to get some of the same effort in other sectors.
"The mining industry will never employ all Territorians, black and white, because the employment level in mines are actually very small.
"The Northern Land Council were able to leverage the native title process with respect to the [Alice to Darwin] railway into very significant employment outcomes.
"I would see that as one of the ways forward."
I asked Mr Chaney to comment on seemingly absurd situation at Uluru where the Aboriginal community, Mutitjulu, has an unemployment rate of around 90 per cent, yet not a single one of its members works full time at the nearby Ayers Rock Resort, which employs 1000 people, mostly from interstate and overseas.
"I stay in Aboriginal owned accommodation in WA which have no Aboriginal employees and I think that is a shame," says Mr Chaney.
"I do not know to what extent over the period these facilities have been there [at Ayers Rock] there's been anything like the interest and the effort made by those employers that has been made by the employers in the mining industry.
"What stands out is that where employers have a genuine vested interest, which is what the mining industry has, in their relationship with the Aboriginal community, and where they do make the effort, it will produce results.
"And therefore there is a real challenge Ð and the present Federal Government has issued that challenge Ð to encourage other private employers to be as energetic in pursuing Aboriginal employment."
Why should the employers make the effort when, surely, it's up to the unemployed to seek a job?
Says Mr Chaney: "If you go and deal with poor white families in the great cities of Australia you'll find very much the same sort of conditions.
"There are often multi generational families who are simply outside what Noel Pearson has called the real economy.
"This is not just a race issue. This is an issue about whether people, who are what I would call significantly disadvantaged, do have the capacity to break into the system.
"The thing I'm most interested is, what are the mechanisms which end entrenched disadvantage.
"Whether you are dealing with black people or white people, my interest is the same, taking kids who are headed for the scrap heap and turning them into valuable members of the community with self respect and good lives.
"What are the barriers to their full participation in what we would call full Australian life?
"And there are many barriers. That's why there is an ongoing government role to work in partnership with communities to break through these areas of entrenched disadvantage.
"That's what I put my personal time into."
I also asked Jon Altman to give me his views about the employment situation at Ayers Rock.
Prof Altman is the director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) of the Australian National University in Canberra.
He gave daily summaries and a "summary of outcomes" at the end of the forum.
Says Prof Altman: "Tourism is enormously demanding while there are great opportunities.
"The NT tourism industry has difficulty recruiting local non-indigenous people.
"People from a community like Mutitjulu are making choices not to have a direct engagement in tourism.
"People are making choices of what fits into their lifestyle.
"But the level of indirect engagement is often enormously significant.
"Maraku Arts and Crafts markets more than $1m worth of artefacts a year," says Prof Altman.
"Aboriginal art has an international profile.
"But one of the things that came out of this forum very strongly is that indigenous people need to engage at a diversity of levels."
He says there is broad acceptance that Aboriginal arts is making a big contribution to cultural tourism, but the obstacles mentioned at the forum are access to venture capital, attracting high quality management, getting job ready trained staff.
There should be "contestability" with respect to the quality of work by people in Aboriginal organisations.
"Let Aborigines measure the performance of the people who give them advice," says Prof Altman.
"Let's see how they perform compared to other organisations. I think they would stack up.
"It's easy to point the finger at those who are trying to deliver services in the areas that are intractable.
"How successful are the institutions in the mainstream of the NT on these problems?"
He says the forum was given examples of best practice, including joint venturing in aquaculture and pastoralism, but "many of them were from the Top End, there is no question about that."
Prof Altman says it is a "recognition of the enormous job ahead" that the NT Government has made a commitment to set up "a high level task force to pro-actively respond to the opportunities when they arise, to have a coordinated, whole of government approach to these opportunities."
An understanding of best practice in relation to service delivery, governance, community organisations, enterprise development and employment projects is already in existence, but "how do we transport the lessons that some people have learned," asks Prof Altman.
"I heard this particularly from land council presentations, that they are starting to deliver, and the corporates will start making decisions that say, it's in our commercial interest to engage with Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal economic players.
"An example that came across very strongly was gold mining in the Tanami, where the company is making it clear there is capacity for enlarging the indigenous workforce.
"72 per cent of the Aboriginal population is living on Aboriginal land, and that land needs to be generating economic opportunity for Aboriginal people.
"Some communities have fundamental problems they have to address first before they can even consider economic development.
"There is no point talking economic development projects if your people are not job ready.
"But there is no point in pumping resources into health, housing, education, CDEP if, at the end of that process, there is not opportunity."
Prof Altman says the forum has pointed to a way out of the dilemma: "Take up opportunity whenever possible, but also recognise that some communities cannot take up market options as the backlogs are currently too great, so have to prioritise equitable bestowal of citizenship rights first."
CLASS STRUGGLE: REVIEW OF EDUCATION. PART TWO of a report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Former Territory teacher, now an education consultant with an international reputation, Gregor Ramsey is heading up the Territory Government's recently announced review of secondary education.
In part one of this interview by KIERAN FINNANE, published in last week's issue, Dr Ramsey argued for thinking outside of the box when it comes to catering for the Territory's top students.
Indeed, a fresh approach could be in order even in relation to the accepted divisions of primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Dr Ramsey says the review team, from Northern Territory University, will spend quite a bit of time looking at the transition phases of schooling.
"The transitions in life and in schools are always the most difficult. "From the end of primary school to the beginning of secondary is a very critical transition and not all children make the transition as comfortably as they should.
"The way that primary schools operate, where a single teacher does most of the learning, is very different from the subject by subject system that happens in the very next year.
"Why should Grade Seven [the first year of high school in Alice, though not in Darwin] be suddenly so different from Grade Six, when Grade Six is not so different from Grade Five? Or for that matter, Year 12 from university? We need to talk about that transition.
"Then there's another transition at the end of compulsory schooling, but we don't draw that line anywhere near clearly enough. So we need to have a look at what age compulsory schooling should end, what are the goals of compulsory schooling?
"Then you move from compulsory schooling to the senior school. "In most schools that's not a very harsh transition but it's still not an easy one, moving from a general education to what is starting to become a more vocationally directed education.
"We need to address that transition. The next one, from school to work or university or TAFE, is also critical. It informs whole-of-life choices.
"Some people are of the view that making a transition tough is a good thing, that it strengthens people, gives them backbone. I don't happen to subscribe to that view. Most transitions are tough enough for most people without making them even harder."
The existing divisions and drivers within the education system are historic but may not be what we need to move forward now.
"We all know that secondary education has been controlled for too long by the requirements of university admission. I think we are slowly moving away from that.
"Universities are becoming more flexible and young people are realising that if you don't go to university when you finish Year 12 there are second chance options all the way along for the rest of your life. We must encourage people to take these options and be prepared to learn throughout their lives.
"I think the move for medicine to draw on a graduate selection rather than a Year 12 selection is a very good thing, and will have quite a dramatic effect on how people view Year 12."We're in a period of transition in a lot of these areas.
"Is it better to put most of your resources into the elite? That was actually not a bad solution 50 years ago because what you needed was a significant elite to do most of the serious decision-making and professional work, with everybody else basically doing what they were told.
"The world isn't like that now. You now need everybody with significant skills and knowledge.
"Those countries which will be the most economically viable and strongest will be those that give the best skill education to all of their population. In the NT that challenge has to be especially focussed on the Aboriginal population."
In this area, the review will build on the Collins Review of 1999, now in its implementation phase.
Says Dr Ramsey: "With regard to secondary education, we may take the work of that review a step or two further, or we may say it would be better to concentrate on one set of issues rather than another in the first instance."
Among external impacts on the Territory's system, the review will look at issues like the poor performance of boys relative to girls, and the global teacher shortage.
"It's very clear to me that the education systems in Australia for a while have been failing boys in relation to the successes of girls. "We'll need to make some comments about that in the review.
"I don't think there's any doubt that girls do mature faster than boys during the secondary years.
"Boys are very physical at adolescence. To sit in a class all day is acting totally against that natural urge.
"There is also quite considerable evidence around that for intellectual growth in some subject areas, separate sex classes are an advantage. Although for social development you need some mixed activity. Probably like most things, you don't throw all your eggs in one basket."
We may need to develop a more flexible approach to teacher provision.
"What is most important?" asks Dr Ramsey."Is it that you teach this curriculum, which is Maths, English and whatever else, or do you teach a curriculum based on those teachers you can find who are good.
"Would you rather have your child taught Maths by a bad Maths teacher or Latin by a very good Latin teacher?
"I've no doubt, I'd choose Latin by a very good Latin teacher and hope that in a year or two the fact that they missed out on their Maths for a while will be overcome by having a superb Maths teacher.
"We've got to look at things a bit more flexibly.
"One of the big problems for education has been that parents are encouraged to think that a teacher is a teacher is a teacher. We don't do that in medicine, we will actually check up on who the best doctors are.
"I think we've got to match the skill with the curriculum with the class much more than we have been able to in the past."
Seeking South Africans to plug skill shortages. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
My husband David is on a mission Ð heading to South Africa to interview and employ accountants for Deloitte's, Northern Territory. This is the second such recruitment drive in three years.
The response has again been overwhelming from qualified South Africans who desperately wish to leave their homeland: last time David was able to offer positions to 10 interviewees.Yet again advertisements placed in national newspapers around Australia failed to attract any interest. Employers in what are considered to be remote areas Ð the Territory including Darwin, and even Western Oz Ð are up against the eastern seaboard, city or coastal lifestyle versus the unknown.
Professionals living and working elsewhere in Australia still consider it will be a sideways (if not regressive) step to accept an employment offer anywhere outside the commercial centres considered "mainstream".
It's strange because we who live in the Northern Territory know that once people have extricated themselves from whatever and wherever they think their comfort zone is, they usually enjoy the lifestyle on offer. When we do meet people with exceptional qualifications, we tend to wonder what exactly they're doing here Ð why Alice?!I'm joining David: I'll be talking to the partners of the candidates David deems suitable and telling them about our Territory. The Alice Springs profile as collated by the Alice Springs Town Council and distributed by the Chamber of Commerce gives new arrivals a broad introduction to the Alice. I've also collected extra data on the rest of the NT, cost of living, housing and vehicles, education options, and the like.It's going to be an interesting exercise: I love living here, and have done for 20 plus years, so it's easy to sell the benefits of Alice Springs.
Both David and I will be giving prospective employees and their families a balanced view of what life in the Territory is all about because anyone looking to relocate internationally, in this instance from Africa to Australia, to the Northern Territory in particular, needs to be aware of exactly what's on offer.
Despite the current social problems, which are hopefully solvable, the Centre has much to offer: a multi-cultural society, top class facilities, spectacular desert-scape and ranges, the colours, textures, sense of space and huge skies plus a relatively easy pace of life.
It'll be a hectic two weeks based mainly around Johannesburg, which is not our favourite city, with a few days in Durban and a quick trip down to stunning Capetown.
Jane Fraser described in her column, Weekend Oz February 8-9, how she prayed nothing would happen to her children when they were travelling around South Africa last year Ð it didn't Ð but when they arrived back in Oz, one of her daughters was robbed at gun point in Sydney.
It's the fear of the unknown, isn't it?The NT Government needs to address the issue of positive populating policies. We know we have to look for our professionals, engineers, accountants, teachers and doctors, elsewhere. Southern Africa makes sense.
The majority of people trying to emigrate are qualified. They don't want to leave Africa, but security and living conditions are such that they have to. Employment opportunities will be considered in Australia, or New Zealand, America, Canada, anywhere. And it doesn't matter whether the opportunity is in a city near the coast or in the outback.
Qualified people who want to come to the Northern Territory should be actively encouraged to do so. David and I are able to sell the many benefits of working in Outback Australia with ease: maybe it's time for a new project Ð a roving recruitment agency?
How breaking up can break you up. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Modern gadgets can have hidden benefits. Take mobile phones. If you are lost in a public place, just wait a while until a mobile user comes by.
For example, if you travel out on the airport road on the airport shuttle bus and arrive at a building that could be Alice Springs airport, but you're not certain, just walk through the doors and stand still. I guarantee that you will see a harassed man shouting into his hand-held friend, "I'm at the airport, you're breaking up, my batteries are low". Then you will know that you have arrived at the right place.
Ever been confused about which supermarket you are standing in? Have no fear. Soon someone will pass by shouting down the line to their loved ones, "I'm in Flynn Drive Foodland. Do you want mild curry sauce or hot? You're breaking upÉ"If Alice still had a functioning drive-in cinema, you can bet that most of the customers, at some point during the movie, would answer their phones and say, "I'm at the drive-in. What? Can't hear you, Bruce Willis is bashing some bloke". So if, for some reason, you are watching the same movie but don't know where you are, this undervalued directional service is always close at hand.
So it seems that one gadget actually reduces demand for another. Who needs a satellite geographical positioning system when mobile phone users are telling you where you are?
But sometimes, there are so few places to escape from all this directional assistance. I've seen the adverts where that driver gleefully turns off the bitumen and into the bush in the full knowledge that he is never too far away to place a bet on the 2.15 at Warnambool by switching to satellite phone. So even remote areas are not immune.Now the news that airlines are frantically competing to open up airborne internet access, causes dismay to those of us who find an occasional trip on a plane to be both an expensive luxury and one of the last busy but quiet places left in the world. First, the Internet, next will surely follow the mobile phone, despite claims by airlines that they have no intention of subjecting passengers to, you guessed it, "I'm on the plane. You're breaking upÉ"These telephone phrases have become so recognised that they probably qualify as an international language to rival Esperanto. As if Esperanto was ever a serious proposition. There was never any marketing behind it.
On the other hand, as Phillip Watkins of the Central Land Council pointed out on the CAAMA Radio Program "Our Place" last week, if you come from a bush community and you visit Telstra in town, there is no lack of sales blurb on mobiles. But want to know how to get a payphone at your remote location? You have to use the phone and talk to someone down south in a language (English) that might not be your best.
Ho hum, how I wish for simpler times.
LETTERS: Parliament needs to be briefed about Pine Gap, says Federal Member.
Sir,- The Federal Government must provide parliamentarians with security briefings on the operations of the defence intelligence facility at Pine Gap.
The former director-general in charge of the facility, Ron Huskein, has claimed that the base is playing a key role in the preparations for military action against Iraq.
The reports of the increased role of Pine Gap in the Gulf highlight the need for public transparency on the role of the facility.
Members of the United States Congress are granted access to the base and receive periodic security briefings.
I am the Member of Parliament for the area, yet neither I nor the people of Alice Springs are allowed any such information.
In the current environment, where this Government has committed us to going to war, we have the absolute right to know the extent of our involvement Ð including the provision of intelligence.
Dr Huskein told ABC radio that Pine Gap, which lies about 20km outside Alice Springs, has doubled in size since the first Gulf War and now comprises 26 satellite grounddishes and nearly 900 staff.
As the local Federal representative and a member of the joint parliamentary committee on defence issues, I have raised the issue of security briefings with the DefenceMinister on a number of occasions, most recently on October 1, 2002.
The Minister acknowledged "that both residents of [Lingiari] and parliamentarians have legitimate interests in Pine Gap", but has ruled out the briefings.
I understand that these briefings would require undertakings in regard to the confidentiality of the base's operations.
But it is of the utmost importance that members of Parliament have an understanding of the role Ping Gap plays and is proposed to play in the future. It's all right for John Howard to spruik the benefits of going to war, but he's doing so by making sure we're kept ignore of our total involvement.
It's not good enough that the Parliament, along with the public, are being treated like mushrooms on this issue.
Sir,- An ABC Television News segment (March 13, 2003) suggested that Pine Gap would play an even more significant role in the forthcoming Iraqi conflict than it did in the previous Gulf War. Pine Gap intelligence will provide the largest Australian contribution to the war effort, far greater than that from troops or war machinery.
When interviewed for that news item, Mayor Fran Kilgariff tried to reassure us that Pine Gap would be unlikely to become a terrorist target, because of our remote location and small population.
Senior NT police have however the opposite view, which is that Pine Gap's key role in the Gulf War and in America's War on Terror make it a prime target for terrorist attack (NT News, Jan 29, 2003).
Remoteness will provide no protection from danger. By hosting Pine Gap, we invite danger here. What plans has the Council made to deal with that danger? In whose interest is this apparent state of denial?
Dr Ofra Fried
Sir,- As a citizen of the United States, who this past summer visited Australia, including Alice Springs and parts of the Northern Territory, I must say that Australians are amazingly nice, warm people who deserve a lot more credit than they actually receive.
When I travelled recently, I believe that Alice Springs was one of the better cities that I had visited.
The citizens of the city were so kind, compassionate, and not judgmental at all.
I congratulate your city and its people on being some of the most wonderful that I had the pleasure of meeting in the Australia.
It was a great city with a magnificent feel about it that made me feel like I was at home.
I believe it is the people who make or break the town, but I perceived Alice Springs as being a marvellous and breathtaking city in the Outback of Australia.
San Diego, Calif.
BEER, BLARNEY AND BETTING AT THE PARK. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The punters at Pioneer Park could not have wished for a better day out on Saturday when the annual St Patrick's day meeting was conducted: the Guiness flowed, blarney and good cheer prevailed, and the betting was steady throughout the five event card.The St Pat's Cup itself proved to be a real draw card for the big crowd.
The newcomer to the park, Scotro, was punted in from the fours early before Nappa fans came to the party and sent the consistent galloper out favourite at two to one.In the running Scotro bounced out well to take up the running and at the turn seemed to have the race well in control.
Sitting midfield Ben Cornell was patient with Nappa who had won his last five races in a row. One hundred and fifty metres from home Crazy Cotton made a bid to catch the leader, when down the outside the favourite made his bid, gobbling the field up seemingly in a stride and surging to a two length win.
The four year old proved a point in winning over the 1000 metres, as his recent racing has been over the 1200 metre journey.
To be able to come back and win with comfort as he did sets him now as a real chance in the sprint during the Cup Carnival.
The two year olds started the day's racing with nine nominations in the Hour Glass Jewellers Two Year Old Handicap over 1000 metres.
The best backed starter was the Nigel Moody trained Getting Lucky who copped an unfortunate kick behind the barriers.
Consequently he missed the start and so was hunted up early, to lead by some two lengths into the straight.
Earring and Archy Baby enjoyed the sit in the race, and in the straight Earring proved to have too many guns for the field, scoring by half a length.
Blev ran on greenly down the straight to pick up second money and Awash was good enough to fill the placings.
In the second, the Hahn Premium Light Maiden over 1400 metres, Terry Huish on Palazzo was able to make amends for three bridesmaid's appearances in recent weeks. Sarason's Girl led early, with Palazzo and Bletchy taking up second and third positions in the running. On the turn Sarason's Girl drifted and Palazzo enjoyed the run of the race along the fence.
In contrast Bletchy had to go wide around the tiring leader, and then slug it out with Palazzo down the straight.
The inside runner held sway in the battle and ended up winning by half a length.
Bletchy took second money, and Sarason's Girl faded to finish over four lengths back in third position.
The 1400 metre Sun FM Blarney Stone Handicap saw El Alamador take up the running early, almost as though it were a 1000 metre race.
It led by six to eight lengths in the running and predictably had run its race by the turn, finishing at the rear of the field. Star Damsel however maintained third place in the running and had plenty in the tank when the tear away came back to the pack.
The fence run showed its advantages in the straight and Star Damsel recorded a four length win from Ayr Rider who made up plenty in the run home having been some 20 lengths off the pace early.
Kalashow filled the placings.Navigator showed the way in the 1200 metre Betta Electrical - Guinness Class Three Handicap.
Ben Cornell enjoyed the sit on Barrow in third place making his move in the straight and proving too strong in the closing stages. Strategic Hit got to the line a length and a half away second and Arch Henry picked up third money.
Racing continues at Pioneer Park on Saturday.
CRICKET AT THE BUSINESS END OF THE SEASON. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
After an intriguing season, somewhat marred by interruptions to play
due to weather, finals time has arrived for our cricketers.
In the run to the business end of the season, RSL have been able to score premiership points consistently and so wrapped up the minor flag weeks before this.
Federal by virtue of good results in the one day series amassed the points needed to take a place in the final three and Rovers, with a sound outright win over the past fortnight, secured their right of passage.
For Wests the finals will be a matter of watching from the sidelines; the club who created history a year ago winning A, B, and C grades, couldn't find their way out of the cellar this season.
Rovers came home strongly last Saturday by taking an outright win over Wests. On day one West had batted poorly to compile a meagre 124, with Rovers losing only three wickets in making 125.
This week the Blues took advantage of the situation pushing the score on to 7/334. Veteran Robbie Cameron put together a superb 91 and Adrian McAdam continued to show his value as he scored 60.
Rovers, rather than batting on all day, then gave an outright a go and were able to demolish the West resistance in a mere 18 overs for a paltry 85. The destroyers were McAdam with five and Jamie Tidie with three.
Federal set themselves up well with a score of 289 on the first day of play. On Sunday RSL were put under the microscope, albeit against a meek Federal bowling attack.RSL took to the task well, batting through to the second last over of the day before making the target and with it first innings points.
Graham Schmidt led the way with an inspiring 113, and he was well supported by Jamie Smith who compiled 61. The other pleasing performance came from skipper Geoff Whitmore who put together 43 not out.This weekend's knock out final will be a winner take all affair between Rovers and Federal, with the winner playing RSL in the grand final. Federal have the batting power to be real contenders, but will need to be at their best in the field to counter the Blues' strength down the order.
WHAT A DRAG WITHOUT THE DRAGS. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
"What a drag it is getting old" were words made famous by the Rolling Stones in the Ôsixties.
In Alice Springs the same addage is being applied to the very essence of what dragsters need Ð a good track to race on!
Over the past decade the Alice Springs Dragsters have quietly achieved plenty in catering for the needs of motor speed enthusiasts in the town.
Pre May 30, 1993, those of us who had a lust for competition in cars had to resort to informal, and often illegal, drag meets at venues like the Yuendumu Road to the north of town.
But the likes of Big Al Stainer saw the need to have the road racers reform and campaigned hard for the establishment of the Seven Mile Drag Strip at the airport.
With the help of popular pollies, Al and his mates convinced the powers that be that a home base was essential for Drag Racing.
The old runway near the old South Road turnoff provided an ideal, and inexpensive setting for the sport, and so the dream became a venue, and the best racers from around the land accessed it along with the novices who otherwise would have been burning rubber in the suburbs.
The big names to have fired up the Seven Mile Track include Kerry Ellis from North Queensland; Brisbane based Brett Stephens; John Taylor with his nitro methane Funny Car, the first of its type to race in the Territory; current world record holder Victor Bray with his Castrol Chevie; and Danny Brookes in his Tectaloy Chevie Camaro.
Locally Andrew Sutton led the pack with the one-eighth mile track record for the Territory, but following in his footsteps were and are a myriad of would be champions.
Alas, after a decade of service and probably another forty years serving well for aircraft, the Seven Mile Track is literally cracking up.
Such is the state of things, the airport owners, with support from the Drag Association have declared the track unsafe for racing.
For the racers it is catastrophic: they now have nowhere to ply their trade. This is despite the fact that for the past decade they have poured thousands of good dollars into the track by way of emulsion.
The real problem lies in the braking area , where despite constant care cracks are turning into serious gaps, rendering the surface hazardous. Such is the state of the area that a crust on the surface merely covers the serious problems below, and the only real solution seems to be resurfacing (an expensive exercise).
From the community several $1000 donations have been forthcoming and the Drag Association have lodged this money in a special account to meet the intended purpose.
And so for the present, while drag racers don't have a suitable legal raceway, it's not as though they have sat on their hands and moaned.
Indeed lobbying is in full swing with the powers that be to develop a multi purpose motor sports venue.
Within a matter of months it could be that the dragsters will have a strip side by side with the start / finish line of the Finke Desert race.
The venue in mind is naturally south of town, in a small sector of the Primary Industries Quarantine Reserve.
The benefit of such a shift would no doubt also overcome another overriding problem, that being security on airport property.
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