WAR OVER GULLIES. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A string of gullies rivalling King's Canyon in beauty, just a few minutes' drive from the centre of Alice Springs, could be a top attraction for tourists and locals, but is likely to be locked away.
While the tourism promoter CATIA and Alice in Ten want to open up Mount Gillen and Desert Park land that is currently unused, including the gullies, the Lands Department is shutting off vehicle access to the ranges' southern flanks, and a major part of the park.
CATIA's Craig Catchlove says the part of the MacDonnell Ranges within the town area is a "massive tourism asset, intrinsically linked to the Desert Park's viability as an attraction".
Several of the gullies are on Desert Park land which extends to Bradshaw Drive and the Stuart Highway, taking in the Western side of The Gap, and goes to the edge of the town dump.
The communications towers at the top of the range, and the road leading to them, as well as the Larapinta Aboriginal town camp, are excised from the Desert Park land.
CATIA is hoping to arrange tours to the towers by an operator using a special vehicle to cope with the steep road.
The western boundary of the Desert Park land runs north-south roughly through the summit of Mt Gillen, marked by a trig point.
The park's southern boundary runs along the southern base of the range, and the northern flank of the Ilparpa claypans.
In effect the Lands Department's action will be cutting off the eastern access to the Desert Park, the dump end, even by foot.
Lands Minister Kon Vatskalis says the access road from the dump is being closed by the Alice Town Council.
However, council's works manager, Roger Bottrall, says the council is only closing a short section of the road in front of the dump, between 6pm and 6am.
Mr Bottrall says the council will be permanently locking the gate to the commonage road upon request of the Lands Department.
He says only Power and Water will be given a key, for access to the sewage plant.
But Mr Vatskalis says keys will be supplied "to those who agree to the conditions of entry".
He would give no details.
The only remaining vehicle access to the park's southern section will soon be from Ilparpa Road, via the claypans.
"There have been proposals to close that but the department has no intention at this time to do so," says the Lands Department's Peter McDonald.
He says: "If there is a proposal by the tourism industry, of course we would listen to whatever they wish to do, and ensure there is an access available that still allows us to manage the area."
At present locals and visitors can drive to the bottom of the gullies over existing roads and tracks, initially leading through commonage land, and then walk and climb to the top of the range, through mini canyons (slot gullies) with waterholes and caves, and rich in trees, shrubs, grasses and wildlife.
The walk to the top takes about two hours, and at the summit walkers are rewarded with spectacular views of the West and East MacDonnell Ranges, and the township.
That opportunity will be all but lost if trekkers have to start from Ilparpa Road or the dump, making the walk too long.
There is also a track on the northern flank, from Flynn's Grave.
Mr McDonald and Mr Vatskalis say the closure is part of a strategy to stop vandals with trail bikes and other off road motor vehicles doing damage to the environment, as well as illegal dumpers of rubbish.
The area has long been neglected by authorities, and inadequate policing has allowed noise and dust nuisance for Ilparpa residents from off-road motorists.
"Local residents and the Ilparpa Landcare Group have been concerned about the damage irresponsible vehicle use has been causing in the area for some time, and this will now help control that," says Mr Vatskalis.
He claims public consultation took place by way of a survey at the 1999 Alice Springs Show, indicating "overwhelming support" for the move.
In fact the survey question made no mention of shutting out vehicles, nor denying access to a major section of the Desert Park and to the gullies.
The question was: "Do you support the proposal to rehabilitate the claypans area and control access?"
"Some Ilparpa people want even more stringent access restrictions," says Mr McDonald.
Mr Vatskalis says "all appropriate measures have been taken to properly advise Ilparpa residents of the action, including a letter drop."
He does not claim that anyone else, including the general public and tourism planners, have been told about the proposed closure.
Mr McDonald confirms that no other notification has been given about the closure. He says the government has the right to close off Crown Land.
Mr Vatskalis declined to comment further comment.
WANTING TO SEE THE BACK OF BURKE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Araluen MLA Jodeen Carney and Greatorex MLA Richard Lim may miss out on future CLP preselection after a failed bid to unseat Opposition Leader Denis Burke.
CLP insiders, who want to see the back of Burke, say Ms Carney and Dr Lim had assured their Alice Springs backers they would be part of a group of six Parliamentary Members dumping Mr Burke, and installing MLA for Blain Terry Mills.
The Parliamentary wing is mum about the events in a secret meeting, but the insiders believed the coup failed when Ms Carney defected to the Burke camp after being promised the Deputy Leadership.
The Opposition Leader - apart from his own vote - before the spill meeting on Thursday had the support only of Tim Baldwin, Steve Dunham and Mike Reed - the latter believed not to be seeking re-election.
Ex-teacher Mills had the support of the three Alice based MLAs, including MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, as well as the Top End's Peter Maley and Sue Carter.
However, the sources say, Ms Carney did a back-flip and that meant Mr Mills no longer had a majority, and he withdrew his nomination.
Dr Lim then joined Ms Carney, leaving fellow Central Australian Mr Elferink out in the cold.
Media later reported that Mr Burke was confirmed as the Leader unopposed.
Alice Springs CLP members, due to meet today, may resort to dis-endorsing Ms Carney and Dr Lim.
In the 2001 election Ms Carney was endorsed for Araluen with the help of Top End CLP leaders, and against the wishes of local party members who wanted Peter Harvey in the seat.
Mr Harvey later stood for Braitling, but lost to sitting Member Loraine Braham, formerly CLP, who had turned independent during the row over the preselection in which she was dis-endorsed.
When asked to comment about the failure to dump Mr Burke, CLP treasurer Andrew Maloney and a member of its Alice Springs branch said: "The decision is disappointing and not in the best interest of CLP efforts to return to power.
"However, the Parliamentary wing thought otherwise and it is entirely its decision as to who is going to lead their team.
"The Alice CLP Branch invited Ms Carney to explain her actions on two occasions but she thus far has declined to answer questions," says Mr Maloney.
The CLP in Alice Springs now has only one branch, after Greatorex became part of it and Araluen also joined in the wake of dropping meeting attendance.
Mr Maloney says the Alice Springs CLP branch is the party's strongest organisation in the NT - responsible for the Assembly seats of Greatorex, Araluen, Braitling and MacDonnell, and with a membership of about 180.
The CLP was formed in Alice Springs some 30 years ago.
The first NT Chief Minister, Paul Everingham, was an Alice Springs lawyer.
JOB FOCUSSED STUDIES. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Once again "mature age" students dominated the Northern Territory University graduation ceremony in Alice Springs last Friday. Among the 32 to collect their degrees, certificates and awards, was Pauline Kearns who graduated as a midwife and was also awarded the 2003 Faculty Prize, presented by the Alice Springs' Branch of the Australian College of Midwives (ACMI) for being the best student, both academically and clinically.
According to NTU's Course Coordinator for Midwifery, Bev Turnbull, Pauline was a standout student. "She was also the only full time student in Alice at the time, so given she had no one else to interact with, which is really helpful for external students, her accomplishment is even more notable," says Ms Turnbull.
Pauline and family came to Alice on a working holiday three years ago and decided to stay.
Already a registered nurse, Pauline got work at the Alice Springs Hospital and after a year's stint in the special care nursery, looking after premature and sick babies, she decided to train as a midwife. She continued working, with some study leave granted by the hospital.
Luckily her family are all pretty independent. She says it was a busy year: study, work and sleep, no free time.
Studying on her own was fine, she says. She had nothing to compare it with: "I just got focussed and got on with it."
Since graduating she has delivered 12 babies. Senior staff have been available if required but so far she has managed well on her own.
"Attending a birth is very intense but very rewarding," says Pauline.
"If the births are hard or there are unforeseen problems, it can also be emotionally draining.
"Sometimes there can be a lot of disappointment for people, but more often it's a wonderful experience."
Part of her training involved spending two weeks in a remote community.
Says Pauline: "The cultural aspect is very interesting. Every community is different and I've learnt to be open-minded and flexible. It's been a real benefit to experience this."
Also at the ceremony, gaining her Certificate III in Community Services - Aged Care, was Lorraine Granites from Yuendumu.
She is the senior worker in the community's old people's program, which provides care for the elderly while they are still living with their families.
Her job involves leading a team of women delivering personal care, from help with showering to providing meals and day care. Lorraine also helps to solve problems and liaise with other services, many of them based in Alice.
For two out of four weeks in very month, she is effectively supervising the program, which has over 50 clients on its books, 18 of them with medium to high care needs.
To gain her certificate, Lorraine was assessed in the workplace as having achieved all competencies.
Christine Kendrick was on stage three times during the ceremony, graduating with a Bachelor of Business, as well as collecting the Butterworths prize for the best performance in computer-based accounting technology and the Zonta Club of Alice Springs' academic achievement award of $500.
Christine and her husband came to Alice eight and half years ago and have "never regretted it".
She quickly found work in book-keeping, her occupation back in London, but was determined to gain an Australian qualification.
"I also wanted to expand my knowledge of accounting, to show that I could do it and to get a better job."
She's done it all, with, she says, a lot of encouragement form NTU staff, naming accounting lecturer Maritana Richards and former NTU coordinator, Helen King, in particular. "When you were asking yourself, ÎWhy am I doing this?', Helen King had a way of giving you a little push. She was a great asset to NTU," says Christine.
She's taking a break from study this year but is keeping an eye on the future offerings of NTU in its new guise as Charles Darwin University.
IRELAND AND THE NT: A LOT IN COMMON?
The once poor cousin of Europe, the Irish Republic, remote and underdeveloped, had one thing in its favour when the information revolution happened: a highly educated population. They were poised to turn the Irish economy around. Chairman of the Centralian College Council, John McBride, sees in the example of his native country a message for his adopted home, the Northern Territory. Here is an extract from his occasional address given at NTU's graduation ceremony last Friday:
The Territory is a place of opportunity and an exciting yet sophisticated place to live in. To keep that excitement and opportunity alive and attract others to build a stronger and more dynamic Central Australian region, we need the education infrastructure that our new [Charles Darwin] University hopes to bring to this region.
My background and education and indeed higher education are as a consumer, not an academic. I was born in Dublin, Ireland, more years ago than I want to remember. I came from a hardworking, middle class family, growing up with my parents and three sisters. Attracted to law and economics, I completed degrees in both and was admitted to practise as a Barrister and Solicitor in Ireland in the late Îseventies. I completed Articles of Indenture to become a Solicitor with one of Dublin's leading law firms. It had a client list of national and international corporations in Ireland, the envy of many other firms.
After graduating and being offered a junior associate position with this firm, I asked for a leave of absence for 12 months to go and travel and see a bit of the world. I had not done so up until that time.
I arrived in Australia. Shortly afterwards gaining admission as a legal practitioner in the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Northern Territory, I moved to the outback to take up a position with Paul Everingham's old firm. I have remained in Central Australia and loved every minute of it ever since.
It was the base of education and qualifications that I gained in Ireland that gave me the opportunity to participate and contribute as a solicitor in the Territory.
In Ireland as a teenager growing up I lived in a country that had always placed great importance on education and learning. It celebrated its poets and playwrights. Took pride in its Celtic origins and Gaelic language and boasted one of three mythologies, the others being Greek and Egyptian, not dissimilar to Indigenous Australia's love and respect in their cultural dreamtime.
The importance my country of birth placed on education was great, even though post-graduate employment opportunities in Ireland were very limited. Ireland was then an agriculturally based economy and industry was negligible. There were little or no mineral or oil deposits to mine or refine. Coupled with a population that boasted it had Europe's highest dependency ratio, emigration from Ireland was acceptable and encouraged as a fact of life. Yet knowing all this, successive Irish governments placed a huge emphasis on students being retained in secondary and post compulsory education for as long as possible. Ireland's strength lay in part in its enviable educational standards set by and for its citizens. Means-tested grants and scholarships were offered to its financially challenged students and I recall the introduction of free education into the secondary school system in the late Îsixties being hailed with great enthusiasm.
Through general enthusiasm for a better education and in many cases, a ticket for a career and life opportunity abroad, Ireland became recognised as having one of the best educated under-employed labour forces in Europe. Work opportunities even in the classical professions of medicine, law, engineering, accounting and the like, were limited. Gradually, with international borders broken down, after Ireland joined the European Economic Community as it was then called, did things change. A common agricultural policy and regional development policy of the EEC, at the time, presented an opportunity for Ireland to receive substantial development funds for infrastructure from European capital to industry in remote parts of Ireland. Employment gradually improved.
The brain-drain slowed down but still continued from Ireland but with its greatest asset still its educated labour force, Ireland was ready and poised to meet the challenge of e-commerce and IT developments in the late Îeighties and early Înineties.
The government of Ireland set about changing the very basis of the Irish economy from an agricultural based one to a high-tech and financial services based economy. Multi-national corporations entered the economy, attracted by government subsidies in exchange for guarantees on local labour and employment content in such industries.
The Celtic tiger arrived and the poor relation of Europe status exited the description previously given Ireland.
I believe, in large part, there is a lesson to be learned from my country of birth's transition from a remote and poor economy of Europe to one of its leaders in GDP and other major indicators. It is that with education and training that even regional and depressed regions can turn about their circumstances for the better.
I believe education and learning can never be in over supply and can only help equip all of us to a better understanding, reasoning and ability to meet each and every challenge, both social and economic, in our locality.
It is for this reason that Charles Darwin University and its Alice Springs campus, encouraged and supported by us all, will bring about many improvements to our region in a sustained way over time.
STOP SEWAGE PROJECT, SAY RESIDENTS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Residents in the Heffernan Road rural area don't want Power and Water (P&W) to set up, over their back fences, what they fear will be a new system of sewage ponds in the guise of storage tanks.
The residents are circulating a petition urging Chief Minister Clare Martin to stop the P&W scheme under which treated sewage would be pumped to land of the government's Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI), on the South Stuart Highway.
The residents fear the effluent, later to be used for a proposed horticultural project, and initially to irrigate a pasture, will be stored in open ponds, causing problems similar to those experienced by the neighbours of P&W's existing sewage plant at Ilparpa.
Gil Gric, one of the promoters of the petition, says because of P&W's abysmal record its assurances that there will be no mozzies can't be trusted. He says the same applies to the foul smells that are the hallmark of the existing plant.
Mr Gric says he is concerned that the irrigation effluent, rich in dissolved minerals, will contaminate and raise the ground water in the rural residential area, fouling bores.
He says the project is an inadequate measure to deal with the town's sewage disposal crisis.
The plant should be transferred to the Brewer Industrial Estate, well away from residential areas.
He claims use of effluent water for horticulture, including grapes, is not an efficient form of disposal because the need for watering of those plants is least during the winter tourist season when the production of sewage is greatest, and evaporation is poor.
But P&W's Water Facilities Manager, Paul Heaton, says while there "will necessarily be some on-site storage [of effluent] at AZRI to facilitate pumping operations, this will be in lined storages and thus there will be no opportunity for mosquito breeding".
Mr Heaton says ground water levels "in bores adjacent to St Mary's Creek have risen because of the combined stormwater and effluent outflows into St Mary's Creek".
That creek is intermittently used by P&W to dispose of effluent spilling over the existing evaporation ponds into the Ilparpa swamp.
It has now been channelled to flow under Ilparpa Road and the South Stuart Highway, and - depending on the size of the flow - floods out near the Pioneer Park racecourse, the site for the Desert Knowledge complex, AZRI, the rural residential area and even the airport land south of Colonel Rose Drive.
Mr Heaton says: "There has been a general trend of rising bore levels in most of the farms area.
"Many bores rose considerably in the mid-1970s due to flooding and substantial river flows - similar to what occurred in the Town Basin.
"There is no doubt that the outflows in St Mary's Creek also recharged the local area.
"Ground water management in the Farms Area and beneath the horticultural development will be one of the key components to be considered and managed."
Is P&W guaranteeing that whatever it does, it will not contribute to the further rise of the ground water table in the Heffernan Road rural residential area?
Says Mr Heaton: "P&W is funding an investigation into the hydro geology of the AZRI site to determine what if any effect there will be on the ground water table and the overall suitability of aquifer storage.
"One of the critical aspects will be to ensure that the amount of water stored, can be recovered so as not to contribute to a net ground water table rise, as well as to ensure that irrigation of horticulture will neither cause a significant increase or lowering of the ground water table."
SCHEME However, while that study is clearly not yet completed, some $6m has already been allocated for the AZRI scheme, and work has started.
The search for a private user of the effluent has been under way for some two years.
Mr Heaton said recently an agreement with a company - not yet named - is expected in the near future.
Meanwhile the terms of a government licence for P&W to allow effluent to drain into the Ilparpa swamp remain a mystery.
From 2005 P&W must stop discharges during "dry weather" - but it remains unclear how "dry weather" is defined.
Says Mr Heaton: "The statement in our discharge license is Îdry weather effluent discharges are to cease prior to December 31, 2005'.
"Wet weather discharges can continue. However as part of our licence we have to agree with the Controller of Water Resources (within DIPE) on what are the rules for those releases.
"This is based on a realistic recognition that there are circumstances (such as an event of biblical proportions where it rains for 40 days and 40 nights) in which it is impracticable to prevent overflows."
Asked whether discharges will be permitted only in the event of "biblical proportions of rain for 40 days and 40 nights" Mr Heaton said: "The licence itself does not define wet weather, and the exact definition will need to be agreed to by the Controller of Water Resources.
"However, it would be reasonable to expect that wet weather would include sufficient rain to cause the swamp to fill and the [St Mary's] Creek to run."
OUR FUTURE MOVIE MOGULS? Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The future Northern Territory film industry will be well served by the dozens of clever young arts and media students being trained in Alice Springs schools and community groups.
It's the season to be seeing the results of student work.
In the past fortnight, I've been to showcase evenings at Centralian College and at the Learning Centre at Larapinta Valley town camp and to the Trash Theatre / Centre Stage production of Titus.
Although quality varied during each of the presentations, overall each was genuinely entertaining and full of exciting promise.
At Centralian there were some delightful dance numbers, choreographed by student Fatima Kamara, a dazzling dancer herself and joined by other young women with flair.
In quite a long program, several video works were shown. Two that stood out especially were "The Yobbo", by Philip Drummond, Daniel Buck and Michael Downs, and "The Circle", by James Berry. "The Yobbo" is a very funny, clever take-off of a David Attenborough doco, the wildlife being the all-Aussie beer-bellied male.
With "The Circle" James Berry does a beautifully conceived, poetic reflection on life, from birth to death, set to Pachelbel's Canon.
Year 10 ASHS students, who come across to Centralian for Year 11 Multi Arts, impressed with their engaging short play, "One Last Sleep Over". They were Julia Winterflood (J), Cherisse Buzzacott (Abbie), Ala Fiefia (Hen), Bronte Hewett (Quincy), Beth Sharp (Gertie), Stacey Blom (Maddie) and Kirri-Lee Bawden (Belle).
The students wrote the play together with their teacher, Glenda McCarthy, and presented it with the conviction that comes from knowing the material inside out. (The unplanned arrival on stage of someone's little sister hardly caused a flutter.)
No doubt drawing from their own lives, they played girls who have been friends from childhood, getting together on the eve of their Year 10 formal for a last sleepover, reflecting on the past, wondering about their futures and the survival of their friendships. On a more ambitious footing was the staging of Titus last Thursday at Araluen. The abridging of the play was not without cost to the coherence of the narrative and at times it was hard for the young actors to deliver their Shakespearean lines with the right kind of force and clarity. At other times, though, there was some excellent acting, in both comic and tragic veins, and it was particularly pleasing to see a number of young men on stage with a powerful presence.
The production was also quite stunning for its look and feel. Much of this was derived from the costumes and particularly the set, designed by young Rob Evison. It was simple but created the space and structures appropriate to the epic scale of the play's action.
Trash Theatre deserves much greater audience support than it got last week.
If audience reaction were the meter of excellence, then a short film shown at Larapinta Valley would have to win first prize. Made by young people from the town camp, it was a silent comedy, featuring an astonishing toddler who loads his baby sibling into a toy pram and goes "cruising" Sÿ all over town and eventually to the top of Anzac Hill.
There's nothing like a couple of adorable kids to get to an audience's heart, but I've never witnessed anything quite like the joyful reaction to this little duo's adventures. Behind the cuteness factor, though, were excellent direction and timing of sequences by the young, presumably first-time, film-makers.
Those were the days, my friend. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Wherever you are, you can be sure that the old-stagers will tell you that the place was always better several years ago.
I do that whenever I visit my home town, which is now restricted to once every few light years due to the high cost and the greenhouse gas emissions required in getting there.
In a nutshell, it used to be better in Ipswich, England, when six-lane concrete highways did not circle the town and when there were no out-of-town shopping malls built on the fields in which I used to play as a child.
It was better when the trains ran on time and the winters were colder so that you felt like you had been in a winter instead of a mush. And it was better when lots of people went to work wearing flat caps and riding bicycles at the same early hour for a day of earnest toil in the manufacture of tractors and assorted light engineering.
Most of all, there used to be proper cinemas in town. Then one sad day they all moved out, joined together and became multiplexes. I remember riding out to a multiplex on my treadly. The car park was vast. So big that I couldn't see the other side. I leaned my machine against the shiny glass panels at the front of the building and went inside. "Where can I leave my bike?" I asked the usher in a friendly but purposeful way. "I don't know, but not there," came the reply, as if only people who arrived in cars were welcome. I stormed out and went home, missing my solitary chance ever to see "Beverly Hills Cop 2". See what I mean; places used to be kinder before they became modern.
In Alice Springs, lots of people say that it used to be better between 10 and 30 years ago. Their views feature on letters pages and metamorphose into a kind of infectious bug that quickly becomes the talk of the town. I like listening to people who talk about the past. They create a few pieces of the jigsaw in my mind of the Alice that used to be. I heard a great story about the confusion when the traffic lights were installed and about the queues when K-Mart opened. And another, about the way that folk used to congregate at the railway station to meet the train coming in for the supplies and news that it would bring.
The problem is that I have no first-hand knowledge of the past in Alice Springs except sepia prints of people in suits and big frilly skirts. I saw a photo of Railway Terrace taken from the top of ANZAC Hill in the Îthirties, showing fields where the fast food drive-throughs and video shops are now located. The sacred Aboriginal puppy site is there somewhere, before it became hemmed in by the brick buildings of multinational companies. It must have been better in the old days.
What? Now I'm doing it too. Sometimes, I don't know what to believe. So my little puzzle is a contradictory one. On the one hand, who can resist an old-fashioned photo of a simpler time? But then again, too much cheap coffee dulls the senses and makes us think that law and order involved happy-go-lucky policeman who stood in pubs slapping passers-by on the back in a warm and comradely way. Or that waste was always well managed and that litter didn't exist. Nobody was ever drunk in public and that the streets were not paved with broken glass on Monday mornings. This is surely rubbish, excuse the pun.
Our minds play tricks. For example, I don't think that people really wore flat caps to go to work in my home town during my lifetime.
They did between the wars but somehow my subconscious wants to come from a place where workers rode upright bicycles instead of Ford Explorers. And so, hey presto, in my mind it becomes the truth.
Overall, was Alice Springs better in the old days? I may know nothing, but I would hazard a bet that it wasn't.
Lazy weekends and stupid stats. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
There is still much debate as to whether in fact Australia should celebrate the Queen's Birthday - which is okay, because we've managed to do it again this year!
The royalists say yes (although Her Majesty's actual birthday is on the April 21), others say let's seize the day, but call it something entirely different. It's observed in Western Australian on September 29 and June 2 marked HM's day in New Zealand. Trans-Tasman, the weather wasn't quite as bright as ours here in the Alice. The date seems flexible enough to change weekend to weekend, year to year, around Australasia: we all love long lazy weekends in spite of inclement climateSÿ maybe the Kiwis should defer their day Îtil mid-summer?
I had a look at international holidays on April 21 to see who actually celebrates HM's birthday on the day - the 21st marks San Jacinto Day in Texas and Tiradentes Day in Brazil. From the 16th and running for five days is Holy Week in Venezuela and Tourist Week in Uruguay, both of which encompass the 21st , but have absolutely nothing at all to do with the Queen's birthday! There was no mention of the British Isles celebrating at all on the day.
Just for interest and to fill in time between serious subject research, and the sundown Todd River circuit David and I power walk (?) every so often, and with temperatures plummeting to a low, suitable to warrant switching on the heating, I checked what happens internationally whilst desert dwellers and visitors are in the midst of Finke fever. I noted that in the list of International Public Holidays, June 10 was marked as "Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen in Australia" which would lead anyone overseas who didn't know, and was looking at that particular website, to believe that she's Queen of Oz only and enjoying cakes, candles and balloons over here!!
There were no other public holidays on that particular date so I surfed around: on June 3 it's Bank Holiday in the Republic of Ireland; the 5th is Liberation Day in the Seychelles; the 9th is Senior Citizens' Day in Oklahoma; the 17th is Independence Day in Iceland; the 18th is Queen's Birthday in Fiji; the 23rd is a National Holiday in Luxembourg; the 24th is not only Peasants' Day in Peru, but also Fisherman's Day in Madagascar, Mozambique and Somalia; the 30th is Day of the Army in Guatemala. So many other occasions, Constitution Day, Emancipation, Memorial, Commemorative or Independence Days - an intrepid traveller could circumnavigate the world waving flags and clocking up international holidays!!
"You lucky thing!" groaned my sister, Lynn, from her sitting room in Christchurch, when I rang to tell her about our idyllic Queen's Birthday break, the brilliant weather, a family barbeque breakfast, the vibrant Sunday market, the town packed with Finke followers, visitors, happy to be here and sun-downers on the veranda with friends that evening.
Then I mentioned that we have yet another long weekend coming up, when we celebrate Show Day, early July.
"We are lucky," I responded enthusiastically, and hopefully we'll have dazzling sunshine and beautiful clear blue skies again, although sometimes the weatherman wakes up a bit grumpy on Show Day - sends grey skies instead of blue.
And in August we have Picnic Day in the Territory.
Wouldn't it be great to have three day weekends every weekend. Here in the Centre our long weekend is synonymous with the Finke Desert Race, the longest desert race in the worldSÿ
We already have our Territory Day, so perhaps a new title for our June break could incorporate Desert Dwellers or Finke: go Finking, camping, gardening, playing and partying, and forget the Queen's Birthday which she has well and truly celebrated back in April. Maybe we should call it what it is - APHINA - we're enjoying "Apheena" with the ph, phonetically sounded like fun and frivolity: Another Perfect Holiday in Northern Australia.
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