HOUSING BLOCKS: WHICH WAY? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Development of government owned housing land in Larapinta may provide an opportunity for large private enterprise profits, with only the prospect of future releases as a check on prices.
Lands Minister Kon Vatskalis says the government will sell the land, yielding a minimum of 30 blocks, to a developer for the cost of the government provided water, sewerage and power headworks, plus a charge for the time public servants spent on planning and negotiating with native title holders.
That sale amount is not known yet but is unlikely to exceed $5000 per block.
The buyer will develop the land.
Based on costs at six subdivisions over the past 10 years this is estimated to cost $20,000 per block (Alice News, March 26).
The sale price will then be at the developer's discretion: "Market forces will direct that," says Mr Vatskalis.
"We cannot dictate prices.
"We cannot tell the developer for how much he can sell."
At the current land prices of up to $100,000 this could result in a profit margin of $75,000 per block, or more than $2m for the subdivision.
However, some blocks, possibly five, will need to be made available to first home buyers at a lower price, according to Mr Vatskalis.
And he says the style of the subdivision, as well as the ultimate sale price of the blocks, will also be a consideration for the government when selecting a developer.
He says intending buyers will be aware that more blocks will be opened up in the area, and may judge that it will be in their interest to wait.
"This is only the first development," says Mr Vatskalis.
"We can hypothetically go to the [boundary of the] Simpson's Gap National Park.
"It would be silly [for developers] to ask people to pay $100,000.
"People will say, I'll wait another year and I'll get another block further up."
Real Estate Institute spokesman Andrew Doyle says last week's report that some of the blocks could go on the market for $20,000 is a "fairy tale" but he was not available to answer questions about specific costs and conditions.
Chamber of Commerce chairman Neil Ross says the project "is a start but not the whole solution" to the dramatic shortage of housing land in The Alice.
"I don't see prices coming down in the near future.
"You can't legislate a price.
"We need to fix up the supply side first for prices to come down."
Mr Ross says: "It is desirable that we should have affordable land.
"Cheap land means more money for proper building and for people to settle in Alice Springs, keeping them here longer."
The Government could act as a developer, as the Commonwealth Government did before self-government in the NT, contracting out the civil engineering works.
That would need to be a "political decision", says Mr Ross.
"The dynamics are different now [compared to the days before self government].
"It was a frontier town.
"They were doing all they could to attract people to Alice Springs.
"And many people did very well out of the low land prices at that time."
Mr Ross says it appears developers would be facing a competitive situation, with the most "user friendly" proposal most likely to get the nod.
Says Mr Vatskalis: "We have to recover the costs. We can't ask the taxpayer to subsidise the blocks."
However, the native title holders will get development approval for half of the land to be opened up, no less than 30 blocks; get to choose the half; have the right to develop first and don't get charged for the upgrading of the headworks.
About the government's portion of the land Mr Vatskalis says: "The government is not trying to make a killing out of these blocks.
"The Government is very pleased to see land released in Alice Springs.
"That's our profit."
Mr Vatskalis says the ongoing negotiations with the native title holders first had to overcome years of distrust of the previous NT Government.
He says: "Native Title has similar strength to freehold.
"And that's why we said, yes, fifty Ð fifty.
"Otherwise they would have said, go away, we're not talking to you.
"The Government wanted an outcome, and we negotiated in good faith.
HARD"It was hard at the beginning because nobody trusted each other.
"But now [the native title holders] are prepared to sit down with us at the table again to negotiate further releases."
He rules out any notion of the government acting as developer of its own land: "In other places where governments tried to operate as real estate agents, in a commercial environment, they burned their fingers.
"The role of the public service is different to the role of free enterprise.
"The public will best be served by continued negotiations for the release of land in Alice Springs."
ART SPACE FOR ALICE.
Alice's arts community will at long last get its multi-purpose art space, to be housed in the old Repco building opposite Billygoat Hill.
Chief Minister and Minister for Arts and Museums, Clare Martin, announced today an $80,000 stage one renovation of the building, which will include a new roof, guttering and an upgrade to air conditioning, expectd to be ready by July.
Said Ms Martin: "Secure accommodation in the heart of town, and infrastructure support through shared facilities, will improve the sector's profile and ability to deliver for the community."This can only lead to improved and exciting arts outcomes in Central Australia."
Years of lobbying for such a space intensified following the Year of the Outback celebrations and the Alice Springs Festival last year. The Repco building housed both and seemed well suited for the purpose.
Arts organisations will be invited as soon as tomorrow, via Arts NT's e-bulletins, to express interest in accommodation in the space. Expressions of interest will be assessed on their own merit and in relation to one another.
Organisations will be expected to be actively involved in arts development and activity in Central Australia. Their accommodation in the space will hopefully increase collaboration across organisations and result in greater vibrancy in the arts.
The building, which last year housed Outback Central and before that served as the Desart Gallery (now defunct), could accommodate a number of offices, a workshop and potentially a rehearsal space.
The accommodation will be rent free.
One option being looked at is to also include a project space, able to support visiting artists or arts workers, one-off projects and seasonal events.
An anchor tenant will be appointed to oversee day to day running of the space, with financial recompense from Arts NT.
This is the way that Frog Hollow Centre for the Arts in Darwin is currently run, with ANKAAA (the Top End counterpart to Desart) the anchor tenant.
The anchor tenant will coordinate access to government maintenance systems as well as deal with day to day issues.The face of Arts NT in Alice, regional arts development officer Sonja Maclean DeSilva, won't be accommodated at the space, remaining at the cultural precinct.
HOMEGROWN NURSES. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
One way to tackle the annual nursing shortage at Christmas, when
interstate and overseas recruits go home, is to train as nurses people
who already live here.And it may well be more sustainable in the long
term than the kind of recruitment drives that end up attracting to
Alice Filipino nurses from Ireland who may not be able to stay.
At the Centre for Remote Health (CRH) a group of 17 student nurses have now moved into the second year of their Bachelor of Nursing, and 21 new students have enrolled in first year.
It is only since last year that aspiring nurses could do their training in town.
As course coordinator, Sabina Knight points out, Alice Springs has been importing its nurses since the first of them, Jean Finlayson arrived in 1915!
Although some students are part-time and will take more than three years to complete, a substantial group of graduates should be ready to enter the workforce in 2005.
And if the CRH, NT University and the Alice Springs Hospital Ð the partners in this initiative Ð prove right, at least some of these nurses will remain in the Centre for the long haul.
Jane Barton is a likely contender. She grew up in Central Australia and has family here. At 32 years of age, Jane was inspired to take up nursing by her own experience of serious illness.When she graduates she hopes to work in the bush.
"All my friends live and work on stations. I've become aware of how difficult and yet how important it is for them to access good health care."
Like Jane, most of the nursing students are "mature age", with significant life experience behind them. That has the benefit of making them a highly motivated group, for a range of reasons. Many of them have children and own houses in Alice Springs Ð another plus, as they're unlikely to down tools in a hurry and move on.
So the university works in with their existing commitments, making course delivery as flexible as possible.
Helen Dykstra, who has lived in Alice for nine years, started the course last year with an eight-week old baby in her arms and a three-year-old at home. She began with just a couple of subjects. The baby came to lectures, and her husband looked after the kids on weekends so she could study.
She couldn't have done it without that support and the face-to-face contact at CRH, she says.
This year she's back almost full-time.All of the students are classified as "external", but they attend an introductory two-week block and lectures at CRH every Wednesday. They will do a two-week clinical teaching block towards the end of the year, followed by a clinical placement in Alice Springs Hospital and aged care institutions.
Apart from what they learn from instructors Ð many of them experienced and dedicated local health staff, who volunteer their time as guest lecturers Ð the intensive allows the students to get to know one another and form study circles. Being able to study together can be invaluable for people who have been away from formal study for a long time.
NTU also offers a common unit in academic literacy to all its commencing students across the university Ð some 40 in Alice this year.
Rebecca Johnston, born and bred in Alice, didn't have the opportunity to move away and go to university when she was younger. Now married with two children, being able to study in town is ideal.
"My house isn't tidy any more, because I study while the kids are at school, and then we can still have family time when they get home."
She has always been interested in helping people "who are less fortunate, who need care and love".
Ultimately, she hopes to specialise in palliative care (nursing the terminally ill).
A number of the students already work as enrolled nurses (nurses' aides in old parlance). The hospital supports them with study leave of one day a week as well as for the two-week intensives.
Annette Wilson has been an enrolled nurse for 16 years.
Now it's time to move on, she says.
She also feels it's important for her seven-year-old daughter to understand that education is important for women and that to achieve it, you need to put in an effort.
"That's working," says Annette, "and she also thinks it's really cool that her mum's a university student."
When she graduates she hopes to nurse in theatre or emergency.It was Sonja Martens' experience as a social worker in accident and emergency departments that sparked her interest in nursing.
"I got a buzz out of being in that environment," she says.
Sonja has worked for four years in Alice and two in Tennant Creek.
She's excited about the range of opportunities that nursing will open up, including work overseas, but she says Alice is home: she has bought a house here and she loves working out bush.
At 24, Rohan Diflo is one of the younger first year students. He's driven taxis, delivered pizzas, been unemployed, done some social work and worked as a theatre orderly in Darwin's private hospital.
Working in a sterile theatre was much less messy than being a Red Rooster kitchen hand, he discovered, and he loved every minute of it, especially the camaraderie.
"And I looked at all those nurses and could see they would never be unemployed," he says.
So he took the plunge.
At his age, he's unsure about where he'll end up working. He's just taking it one year at a time.
Tim O'Callaghan has been an enrolled nurse for 13 years, seven in the Territory. Doing a nursing degree now is the next step up and also one towards being able to work in an Aboriginal community, which is what he would ideally like."I think it would be more challenging, I'd have more autonomy, get to make more decisions and I like the lifestyle out bush."
Sheryll Cole, mother of five who has lived in Alice for the last 25 years, did her enrolled nurse training (one year) two years ago. Now she's working on the paediatrics ward at the hospital and is starting her degree studies.
She's 50 years old and has wondered whether it was too late to make a start on a new career.
Her age is simply not an issue, says Sabina. Sheryll's healthy and her adult children have all made their homes in Alice: she's a good bet for long term employment.
Sheryll is enjoying the challenge of academic studies, the sense of achievement. She thinks she'd like to work with babies but is looking forward to covering the wide range of options during her studies.
Joanne Cook did a science degree when she left school but didn't get much satisfaction from the work it led to.
Her mother is a nurse, so the profession has always been in the back of her mind.
Her science degree will be useful in her studies, but what she is enjoying is the relevance of what she is learning, looking at anatomy from a medical perspective rather than a simply scientific one.
In the CRH's Lecture Room One the enthusiasm was palpable, even as they were dissecting sheep hearts. It's an important step being taken, by the students themselves, but also by the town in conducting its own professional training and development.
THEY CAN DO IT! Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
"Don't judge what I can do by what you think I can't."
That's the title of a publication by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, launched in Alice Springs last week by Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM.A large number of people attended the launch, interested to learn more about Australia's Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and how it might apply to their workplace, organisation or business.The DDA came into force 10 years ago and since then thousands of individuals and organisations have used the act to create change, either by making complaints about discrimination or using the law as a basis for negotiating change or educating organisations on their responsibilities."Despite the advances brought on by this act, there is still a long way to go to eliminate discrimination," said Michele Castagna from the local Disability Services and Liaison Office. "Recently there was an announcement that the DDA was going to be reviewed.FUNDING"Usually when a review is announced, it is assumed that there is going to be a reduction in funding."But this is not the case; the review in this instance is to see if the Act is working properly and to see how it can be reviewed to better meet its objectives."
Dr Ozdowski said the publication was a celebration of the Act's achievements."Some argue that it has gone too far, others say it could go farther," he said.
"During the past 10 years there have been many achievements especially in the areas of transportation, education and telecommunications."Eighteen percent of the population has a disability and it is a waste of profitable resources if these people cannot participate in life as fully as possible."Complaints are still one of the greatest ways to get change; complaints tell us that there is still a problem and can't we fix the system."The largest group of complaints have to do with access to buildings, touch television services and access to ATMs, EFTPOS and other banking standards.
"Another area where more needs to be done is in the area of employment.
"For example having a current driver's licence is often listed as a criteria for employment.
"That eliminates a lot of people.
"The question is how much driving is actually part of the job or couldn't the person use public transportation when travelling was required.
"This publication looks at many of these issues, it will be a useful resource.
"The objective of the Act is to achieve a society free of discrimination based on the grounds of disability."
The Anti-Discrimination Commission NT offers training programs and seminars throughout the Territory, designed to assist everyone understand their rights and responsibilities relating to illegal discrimination and harassment.
For more information, phone 8999 1444.
Sustainable development: how do we get it? COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
Earlier this year, for the first time ever, the Northern Territory recorded a negative population growth: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, whilst elsewhere in Oz the population growth is steady, people are leaving our Territory.
The idea of living and working in the Outback seems to have lost its appeal. The NT was once sold as the "Last Frontier" Ð the attraction of better than average job prospects with the opportunity to earn a reasonable living, the chance to refuel mind, body and bank balance, enjoy a good quality of life, see more of the real Australia and perhaps (heaven forbid!) even consider staying here and making a real go of it seems to be disappearing along with the freedom which was once synonymous Territory living.
Local real estate agents tell a different story Ð they can't keep up with the demand for housing in either the rental or sales markets - there are new arrivals to the town, plenty of auction action and properties are changing hands.
So here we are, less than 200,000 people, give or take a few, living in this enormous part of Oz.
Today every environmentally conscious group is trying to ascertain how the world can achieve an ecologically sustainable population.
Projections suggest that there are in excess of six billion people on the face of the earth and we're reminded every day through the media that the human race is slowly but surely killing the planet.
Friend, Francoise, forwarded me an email, Global Village: it's a little exercise in which the world's population is hypothetically shrunk, taking into account all existing demographics, into a village of one hundred people.The ratios show 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Americas and eight Africans. Of the 100, 52 would be female and 48 would be mal; 70 would be non-white and 30 would be white; 70 would be non-Christian and 30 would be Christian; six people would possess 59 per cent of the world's wealth; 80 would live in sub-standard housing; 50 would suffer from malnutrition; 70 would be illiterate; and only one person would have a university education. A real melting pot.
In 1945 Ayn Rand asked in her novel Atlas Shrugged, what moves the world and what happens when intellectuals are taken out of society? When the last light bulb blows, who will know how to make the wax and the wick for the candles necessary to light up our lives when the knowledge to identify and smelt the ore, refine the copper into the wiring to conduct the current and allow our electric bulbs to keep beaming, has gone. Who will have the necessary knowledge?
Decades before environmental impact reports were commissioned and countries got together globally to discuss world affairs, Rand and others believed that civilisation was facing a crisis.
The most recent World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg in 2002, and thousands of people protested over the issue of hosting this conference in a country where thousands are dying daily, where nothing seems sustainable.Every so often I collect my niece Lesley Ann and nephew Bart from school Ð it's always a great leveller. They're 11 and 10 respectively and have opinions on everything and anything. Young people today seem more aware of environmental issues, erosion, water conservation, recycling, disposal of waste products and the need to care for our planet.
Last Wednesday I asked what they'd do if the last bulb fizzled out. Lesley Ann said that she has a candle making kit (somewhere) and Bart told me he has a pen-sized torch and lots of batteries.
Wouldn't life be simple if the issue of how the world, Australia and the Northern Territory in particular, could achieve an ecologically sustainable population, was as easy as flicking that switch and lighting up a path in the dark.
Change ticket when life turns to pasta. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Have you ever sat in Alfresco's with a bowl of tubular pasta?
Have you watched through the window the faces of the people leaving the Alice Springs Cinema after the previous showing of the film that you are waiting to see? How was it?
If most of these movie-goers are already chatting on their mobile phones before they even pass the popcorn on the way out, you can be sure that the movie was forgettable. Entertaining maybe, but not something that might sustain you in the coming days and weeks. You should change your ticket for a different film.
I did this in Melbourne once. There's an arthouse cinema underneath the ANZ Building, tucked out of the way as if the developers were embarrassed by it. The cinema is called Kino Dendy. At least I think it's called that. Trouble is, the name is spelled in that strange way where it looks like one word instead of two and there are lower and upper case letters mixed up in it.
What is the matter with these arthouse types? Didn't they go to school? Or did they miss the English lesson where the teacher tells you not to put capitals and small letters in the middle of the same word. Or maybe they didn't even go to a proper school like what I did.
Anyway, next door to Kino Whatsit is a health food cafŽ. The outdoor chairs and tables extend across the entrance to the movie house. This is a dream situation for a lentil-munching film enthusiast like me. I could have sat there all day, savouring a pasta salad and watching the people coming out. Except that I chose the wrong film because I always read movie reviews by arthouse types who didn't go to school.
Sometimes life is like pasta. There's a space in the middle where the substance should be. Instead, everything is thin and superficial, like a coating of pasta sauce. For example, if I hadn't spent so much time watching the wrong movies, I might have understood higher art and therefore the significance of Kino Whatsaname. If I had listened to fewer repeated news bulletins, I could have dedicated time to the ukulele and toured Queensland with an experimental jazz band. If I hadn't been lured by the superficiality of music videos, I might have worked all this out before.But then again, you can find substance in the most unexpected places. In Melbourne, I had six cab charge vouchers. These are the public transport equivalent of a magic carpet. No windy platforms, no bus timetables, no small change. Just up, up and away. So, apart from the endless views of desolate suburbs, I also had the never-ending pleasure of conversations with taxi drivers.
It must be something to do with the low chance of ever seeing you again, but these 20-minute chats were full of the missing bit in the pasta. It wouldn't be like this in Alice Springs. Why tell a stranger something substantial and personal when you might bump into them in Mad Harry's at the weekend. In a big city, it's different. You don't see people again so you can tell them anything.
During these journeys, I met an African student driving cabs to finance his way through college. I talked to the obsessive soccer fan with Greek parents and memories of going to two World Cups. I learned about the taxi driver who had lived and worked in Melbourne since arriving from Europe nearly 50 years ago. Now sixty-seven, he still can't afford to retire. But I thought this was the lucky country?
Finally, I listened to the Sri Lankan driver who pointed out that the English have a poor record of plundering many nations all over the world. "Er, that wasn't me," I replied lamely. "It was somebody else."
There lies the problem. In many cultures, a forthright discussion about the important things in life, like politics, war, history and religion is welcomed as part of the substance of life.
In my culture, let's just neatly side-step the substance so we can spend more time on the sauce.
By the way, did you see the final part of Joe Millionaire?
CRICKET: RSL TAKE THE FLAG. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Cricket conducted its finals over the weekend, ending a six-month season that has enjoyed several highs.
In the competition RSL made amends for their loss in last year's A Grade final by defeating Rovers quite comfortably.Rovers took first use of the bat and didn't live up to expectations. Albrecht has been a pitch better described in recent weeks as "a road", and certainly conducive to run making.
The seasoned Matty Forster, however, capitalised on the finals situation and was able to snare the prize wicket of Matt Pyle for three lbw and then continued a wicket-taking rampage which resulted in figures of four for 19.
He was well supported by Cameron Robertson with 2/14 and Wayne Egglington, 3/22.
In the Rovers camp, Adrian McAdam top scored with 17, and Glen Holberton gave it his best late in the innings with 14, but a total of 72 after only 30 overs was always going to put Rovers under the hammer in the field.RSL took to their batting task with confidence, but lost Graham Schmidt for four to McAdam, which may have given the Blue boys a glimmer of hope. That hope was short lived however as RSL settled and through Rod Dunbar with 28 and Jamie Smith with 27, the game was put beyond doubt.By stumps on Saturday night RSL went home with 153 on the board, having lost only five wickets.
In resuming, RSL skipper Jeff Whitmore said it all with his bat, making 63 before falling to Gavin Flanagan. The knock was enough, however, to see his side play out 80 overs for 266 and so take the premiership.
Of the Rovers bowlers, Adrian McAdam and Flanagan performed best returning 3/66 and 3/18 respectively.RSL had more to celebrate come presentation time when they were announced as Club Champions, and had Graham Schmidt as Senior Cricketer of the Year.
It was a tribute to RSL who have fostered a true club approach to their cricket from juniors' D Grade up through the ranks.
The other club to have a reason to party were Wests. They capped off their season with premierships in B, C and D grades.
Last year they won four premierships out of four and this year they made it an all up tally of seven out of eight. Most notable in their success was the performance of their juniors. Darcy Brooke was declared Junior Cricketer of the Year.
Others to prove their worth over the finals were Colin Ballard; Brad Hosking; and John Sharp who literally carried their team mates, the "old fellows", to a premiership.
In all the season has been successful, with the Imparja Cup Carnival being the flagship of events. In a period of four years this competition has gone from being a Super 8s match between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs to being an Indigenous Carnival played in two divisions and attracting players from every State and Territory.In fact, the Super Eights competition held by the ASCA was won this year by the Imparja Cup Squad. The One Day Competition premiers were Federals.
In looking to the future, the Calder Shield for this year will be played under a different format. In view of the fact that there will be an NT representative side playing Bangladesh prior to the first ever test in Darwin, the NTCA have scheduled a game between Top End (North) and Centralian (South) teams.
This will give selectors a good look at the cream of Territory cricketers, so enabling the selection of our best possible team.
RACING: SCOTRO SCORCHES TRACK, NAPPA TESTED. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The card at Pioneer Park suffered a dampener during last week when one event had to be cancelled at acceptances time, so leaving four events for the day.
The quality of these races, however, made up for the shortened program.
The premier race of the day was the Dr Peter Toyne MLA Handicap, raced over 1000 metres.
Terry Gillett's Scotro, who looked home and hosed on debut prior to being run over by Nappa, repeated his front running tactics and this time was able to scramble to the line, a winning favourite. Weight possibly was a telling factor on Scotro's struggle to the line, when Tim Norton mounted the new comer half a kilo over.
However the lead in the bags did not deter Norton as he drove Scotro to the front from the jump, in an electrifying display of speed.
He played his own tune to the straight, but then drifted five wide and seemed to lose his way. This gave the rest of the crack field a chance as they lined up for the run home.
The favourite was able to steady, however, and battled his way to the line a winner by a neck from the impressive Swiftly.
Also travelling well to the line was last start winner, Aspen Star who in stepping up in class was a mere short head away in third place.
Eminency, unbeaten to date at the park, was able to maintain the regard of the punters with a sturdy fourth, and last year's Pioneer Sprint winner, Bathers, impressed with a first up fifth.The first race of the day was the 1200 metre Class Two Handicap, and the honours went the way of the second favourite, Greg Carige's La Mexa.
La Mexa proved to be a class above this field as he led by a couple of lengths to the turn and then responded in the straight to cruise to the line a five and a quarter length winner.
Rank outsider, Jayashari exerted some pressure around the back but was never going to be a real force, battling on for second from Wounds, a half length back in third place.The Class Six race over 1400 metres tested the punters' pal, Nappa who was out for his seventh win on the trot. Ilkara, who has a good record over the distance, jumped well from barrier two and was able to hold Nappa, from barrier five, out. As such Nappa raced on Ilkara's girth most of the way, with Pure Gold enjoying the sit.
In the straight Nappa was certainly on terms with Ilkara but he failed to run the extra distance out, allowing Ilkara to then hold Pure Gold at bay, despite being headed in the running.
Ilkara scored by a half a head, with Pure Gold a mere short half head in front of Nappa.
In the Class D over 1400 metres, stable mates There's Dad and Phil's Faith took on equal favourite Blechy.
There's Dad held sway into the straight, and on the turn drifted, carting Blechy wide.
This created enough space on the rails for Phil's faith to take the quickest track home, leaving Blechy with an uphill battle.
With Tim Norton aboard, Phil's Faith got to the line a length and a quarter in front of Blechy, with There's Dad only a short half head behind in third place.
The first three races of the day were named in honour of Correctional Services staff and the service itself, in appreciation for the good work prisoners do in maintaining the environs of Pioneer Park.
A group of prisoners also enjoyed the day at the races per the hospitality of the Turf Club.
DISTANCE CAN BE A BLESSING. By JULIA WINTERFLOOD.
We don't surf, sunbake, or swim in the shallows of the sparkling blue. We don't feed the seagulls, or stroll along the shore when the sky is enraged. For we live in the centre of this wide brown land, far away, yet roughly equidistant from, any beach in Australia.So if life's a beach, Central Australia is not for you. The only surfing you'll do is on your computer. And as various social commentators have pointed out, although surfing the net may get you connected, an up close and personal relationship with your PC can actually increase your isolation. So whether you are on-line in Newcastle or New Crown Station, you still have to tackle one of modern life's most pressing problems, especially facing young people: social isolation.In real terms, therefore, the fact that we are so far away from the beach or the city does not affect our degree of isolation. It's all about getting out and making the connections. And here in Alice Springs, it's remarkably easy to make the connections and participate in the opportunities.
So how do young people in this town make the connections and access the opportunities? Some young readers may be thinking right now that I have put on Rose-Coloured Glasses (hang on, aren't they back in fashion?) as I share these thoughts and observations. But when it comes down to the business of living, at any age and stage, I believe that small is beautiful, especially in a town of less than 30,000 people.
It's not hard to factor in all the advantages of living small, especially for those of us who aren't licensed to drive. The short distances from A to B within the Alice city limits makes you wonder why ABC Territory Radio even has a Drive program! Time and space prevent me from listing all the advantages we all take for granted as some of the nation's most isolated urban dwellers. Generally speaking, though, our public facilities, especially for those who like to hit or kick balls on green ovals, are second to none.
Our schools boast much smaller class sizes than the national average. There are even programs in schools for young people who don't fit into standard education environments, especially in their senior education years.So why does not a single day go by without a young person saying, "Geez, I hate this place. Can't wait to get out of here. It's so boring."
Maybe it's the Teenagers' Mantra; it's what teenagers have said the world over to their parents over countless generations. Or maybe it's just young people expressing a universal human preoccupation Ð with what others have and which (they imagine) they haven't.
Well, it's hard to think the grass is greener in any other place than the Alice. Power and Water tells us that we are second only to the town of Kalgoorlie in average daily water use. This tells me that, if we want to enjoy life in our wide, brown land beyond this century, then we'd better get greener.This is the challenge for young people today, from Newcastle to New Crown Station. But don't get me started about Newcastle. Silverchair kick off their national tour there, and I won't be going. Sometimes life really is a beach.
ANTHONY NOT FAZED BY NATIONAL STAGE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
"It's nice in Canberra, there are no flies!"
For a high achiever, Anthony Ormond (above) is pretty laid back.
The 16 year old from Alice Springs just been to the national capital as one of 50 members of the National Youth Round Table Ð "it was really great."
Last year he was on the Chief Minister's Round Table of Young Territorians Ð "so I thought I'd give the national one a go."
In Canberra over seven days, he and his peers got to meet a lot of the Federal Government Ministers Ð "but we didn't spend much time with them because they had to talk about the war in Cabinet."
As an Indigenous youth, he was one of six to meet Indigenous Affairs Minister, Philip Ruddock, outlining for him the research he intends doing on why young people drink alcohol and do drugs.All of the round table members are doing a research project about issues affecting youth, which they will present to the Federal Government in September.
Why did he choose alcohol and drugs?
"It's a big issue at the moment, not just in Alice, but everywhere."When they're under the influence people start fighting, running amok, trashing property, making a nuisance of themselves. I want to find out why.
"Maybe it's boredom, maybe it's family problems, maybe it just relaxes them, or it could be peer pressure, I don't know yet. It's too hard to guess."
What do he and his friends do to have fun?
"We're all right, we don't drink or smoke, we're just not that type, not into that stuff. It makes people look like idiots, and then other people talk about them.
DRIVE AROUND"We just drive around, sit back, talk to people, look at people.
"It's okay, something to do. There's not much to do in Alice at night, past 10pm."
What does he think there should be?
"I don't know yet, that's what I want to find out. But whatever it is, it has to offer something that young people want."
Anthony, who is a Year 11 student in the Future Directions program at Alice Springs High, is drawing up a survey to distribute through schools. He also wants to have informal discussions with teachers and students.
Other members of the round table are looking at issues like youth suicide, eating disorders, teen pregnancies.
An Islamic youth wants to inquire into discriminatory attitudes towards Muslim girls and women wearing veils.
A girl wants to look at the prospect of setting up emergency refuges for men, like those for women.
A young quadriplegic is going to develop a football game for youth in wheelchairs, right down to the cheering squad.
Anthony really enjoyed getting to know these young people from such varied backgrounds."At the end, we all wanted to turn the clock back, to have the seven days again knowing one another."He especially enjoyed meeting up with other Indigenous youths from around the country.
"Once we all got together, that was our little group. It's not racist or anything, it's a bonding thing."
Nonetheless, the experience of the round table has confirmed Anthony's belief that all youth are basically the same, despite differences in culture.
In Alice he sees social divisions as more to do with hobbies Ð are you a skater or a footy player? Ð and sometimes do with attitudes Ð are you a bully or do you play fair?
When he was younger, Anthony thought he wanted to be a policeman "to make Alice Springs a better place".
He still thinks about that, but his new experiences have seeded another idea: he thinks being a flight attendant would be great as he loves meeting people and travelling.
GETTING READY FOR THE TERRITORY'S TOP CRAFT SHOW. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
Territory Craft members are busy unwrapping and wrapping entries for this year's Alice Craft Acquisition which opens next week at Araluen.Each box has to be opened and the item or items checked for any damage.
The paperwork is taken for inclusion in the ACA catalogue, and the item rewrapped until it is time to actually set up the exhibition.
This year's ACA, the 28th, has attracted 100 entries from 80 craftspeople from all over Australia, including a number from the Territory and Alice Springs.The works cover a wide variety of craft fields including jewellery, pottery, ceramics, fabrics and wood.
Ceramicist, academic, and Chair of the National Association for Visual Arts, Michael Keighery will advise Territory Craft-Alice Springs about pieces that should be acquired for their permanent collection.
The ACA is strictly a craft exhibition, showcasing craft trends from other parts of the Australia. It is also a selling exhibition.
Through the ACA, Territory Craft has been collecting important works by contemporary Australian crafts people since 1975.
Before Araluen opened, the ACA was known as the National Craft Award and was held in a number of venues around Alice Springs.
For today's ACA all entrants go through a selection process. Expressions of interest along with slides or photographs of works are assessed by a panel of local professional crafts people.The selection panel looks for originality in concept and design and a high level of technical resolution in the chosen medium.The 28th ACA will be opened on Friday, April 11 at 6.30pm by Jasmine Welling, proprietor of Leaping Lizard Gallery
Running concurrently with the Acquisition, Territory Craft will exhibit parts of their permanent collection in their June Marriott Gallery, adjacent to Araluen.
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