CALL FOR ALICE STUDY: INFANTS' BRAINS DAMAGED BY BOOZE? Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Pregnant women drinking too much alcohol may contribute the region's social troubles by giving birth to children suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
On the rise internationally, it is likely to be especially serious in The Centre because people here Ð per capita Ð drink twice as much as their fellows around the nation.
"We may have a very significant public health problem here that we are not dealing with," says Associate Professor John Wakerman, head of the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs.
Victims of the syndrome have behaviour disorders, brain damage, find it hard to pay attention and can be hyperactive, says a visiting Canadian expert, Margaret Clarke.
She is associate professor in the department of paediatrics at the University of Calgary, and division chief in developmental paediatrics and adolescent medicine at Alberta Children's Hospital.
Alcohol can affect the healthy development of a baby throughout pregnancy, with consequences ranging from miscarriage and stillbirth to FAS and lesser degrees of disability, sometimes described as foetal alcohol effects (FAE)Dr Clarke last week spoke to health professionals and others in Central Australia, calling for understanding and early diagnosis of FAS and FAE.
She says the incidence of FAS in Canada is between one and three per thousand, rising to 10 per thousand for the whole spectrum of effects.
She says some children being described as having ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder) could be more correctly diagnosed as having FAS disorders.
She says a surveillance program through paediatricians in Australia suggests that the incidence is similar here, "although that is not to say that there are not small pockets where it may be higher".
She says an increasing percentage of young women binge-drinking is "a phenomenon present across all our cultures".
She refers to the most recent figures in Australia Ð The Australian Longitudinal Study of Women's Health Ð indicating that 70 per cent of young women binge-drink (five or more drinks on one occasion) at some time, while 19 per cent do it on a weekly basis.
Dr Wakerman says that given the high level of alcohol consumption in the Territory, he would be "very surprised" if there were not significant rates of FAS and FAE.
"But the fact is, we don't know," says Dr Wakerman.
"There is no data for Alice Springs; there is some data for Darwin, based on diagnosed hospital admissions, but I expect it is under-estimating the problem.
AWARENESS"In the current local context of community discussion around alcohol restrictions and other measures to decrease the impact of the high levels of alcohol consumed in the region, there needs to be increased community awareness about this largely 'hidden' problem to better inform our decisions about alcohol availability."Dr Clarke says all pregnant women should be screened for risky drinking and counselled accordingly. Abstinence from alcohol throughout pregnancy is advised as the most "prudent" choice.
The vast majority of women will respond to the information in a positive way, restricting their drinking. Dr Clarke says she has never met a mother who would want to harm their unborn child.
For women who have a more deep-seated drinking problem and continue to drink, she says "very directed intervention" is required: attendance at an addictions program, more prolonged work with an experienced counsellor.
Risk factors associated with mothers of children with FAS include: the presence of a heavy drinking partner Ð most women drink with their partners; past history of physical or sexual abuse (a study of 80 birth mothers of children with FAS revealed that 95 per cent had been physically or sexually abused); the presence of mental health disorders; abuse of other substances; and, social isolation and lack of social support.
Why is diagnosis important? Dr Clarke says recognition that the child has a lifelong disability affecting their brain will be "hugely protective" of them.
"These children need an 'external brain' to help them stay on track.
"They may have a chronological age of 15, but in life skills, social skills and moral judgement, they may only be at the level of a six or seven year old.
"The last thing you want is to see them institutionalised where people could victimise them or teach them bad behaviours."They need to have a stable nurturing environment where they won't be abused.
"So if they are being fostered, it is a huge priority that they don't get moved six times before they reach the age of eight."She says undiagnosed children experience "total success deprivation" without ever understanding why.
A diagnosis offers an explanation and can lead to some solutions, so it is empowering and may save them from the development of further mental disorders, such as depression and suicide attempts; disruption of school and employment; trouble with the law; inappropriate sexual behaviours and involvement in the sex trade; and, addictions.
Dr Clarke says there is now a huge emphasis in Canada on doctors and nurses being trained to diagnose FAS.
In Lethbridge, Alberta, a township close to several reserves, police officers are being trained to deal with FAS children and adolescents: how to talk to them, interview them, be aware of what services are available to help them, and they have a diversion program in place to deal with their offending behaviour.
Dr Wakerman says we can learn from the Canadian experience:"I understand that there is community sensitivity about this issue, people are worried that diagnosis will stigmatise.
"But the data from Canada shows that making the diagnosis is a protective factor. If we don't move in that direction here, the situation for the people affected will only get worse."We also need to be working on preventive strategies, by making sure doctors and nurses have the right information and by educating young people, probably through schools."
Dr Clarke says FAS affected people may take a long time to respond to interventions and it is important to keep the intervention in place over time.
She says an important first step for all people involved in the care of young people giving concern is to get together on a monthly basis, everyone in the same room Ð health staff, teachers, police, parents Ð and discuss how things are going.
Is FAS something we are going to see more and more of in the future?Not necessarily, says Dr Clarke.
"It is 100 per cent preventable if we are steadfast in doing something about it.
"A generation ago we did not always have our children in seatbelts in cars. Now everybody insists that children put on their seatbelts. The same could happen in relation to drinking during pregnancy if we continue to work on this."
DESERT'S TREASURES. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
Desert Mob, the annual showcase of work from Central Australian Aboriginal art centres, opened at Araluen on Sunday, turning over more than $100,000 in its first few hours.
And with new art centres coming on board, and long-established centres trying new things, the art movement out of desert communities asserted itself with ever-greater confidence.
In the words of Desart chair Valerie Martin, telling their stories through painting makes the artists proud and their communities strong.
A more focussed effort at promotion by the Araluen Galleries led to a heightened interest from dealers at this year's show. The catalogue was kept strictly under wraps until the conclusion of speeches.
With one exception, only Araluen staff had had prior access, acquiring a number of new works for their public collections.A mystery buyer, presumably a public art institution, acquired a powerful canvas, "Wantjama", by Tommy Watson, whose superb work from last year's show adorned this year's catalogue and posters. Despite the article in The Weekend Australian (Aug 23-24) sounding the death knell of the art centre at Wingellina where Watson paints, Irrunytju Arts has a healthy showing at Desert Mob, with 11 canvasses and three prints.
Irrunytju's founding coordinator may have departed and they may still be struggling without funding, but hopefully the passion of the artists, as expressed in the Desert Mob catalogue, will see them through.
Araluen's acquisitions include a riveting work, "Tjukurjee", by Nancy Naninurra, an emerging painter of Warlayirti Artists in Balgo.
It also added to its considerable holdings from Ikuntji Art Centre (Haasts Bluff) with a new work by Narputta Nangala.
Works on paper by Hazel Ungwanaka and Dora Wari from Titjikala Women's Centre, a water pot by Sadie Singer from Iwantja Arts and Crafts (Indulkana) and two elegant ceramic vases by Malpiya Davey and Tjimpuna Williams from Ernabella Arts rounded out the acquisitions.TECHNIQUESThese last show the benefits of artists being introduced to new mediums and techniques: Titjikala's works on paper are the result of workshops run at their art centre by Bachelor Institute, while Ernabella now has a full-time ceramicist coordinator and their own kiln, leading to the work on display.
In contrast, the Hermannsburg Potters who have made their name with ceramics, are turning their hand to works on canvas or linen. Judith Inkamala is showing a dynamic painting of egrets, successfully transposing the rounded form of a pot onto her flat surface, and, in a more unusual work, renders echidnas and a log in a close-up naturalistic representation. From this group Araluen acquired Irene Entata's "Six Donkeys", fascinating for its focus on feral animals in a classical Western Arrernte landscape.New centres showing at Desert Mob are from the far west Ð Papulankutja Artists in the Ngaanyatjarra community of Blackstone Ð and from the north, right to the sea at Borroloola. The latter would seem to stretch the definition of desert, but the Waralungku Artists have strong connections into the Barkly, so why not?
The Ngurratjuta Iltja Njarra Art Centre has also been established, right here in Alice Springs, and is showing watercolours in the Hermannsburg School tradition, which it aims to preserve, as well as acrylics in the dot tradition.After 13 years, Desert Mob remains an incomparable experience for its exciting diversity and its enduring cultural depth.
FESTIVAL: LETTING THE GARMENTS SHINE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The "queen of wearable art", Jeanne Little, will be principle judge at this year's Wearable Art Awards, a signature event of the Alice Springs Festival.Jeanne Little made her name as a national television personality on the Mike Walsh Show, with regular appearances over 15 years.
She was particularly famed for her unique sense of style: elegant high fashion clothes, many of them created from recycled household products.This led to her being contracted by National Pak Australia to make a series of garments from Gladbags and Chux Superwipes, which were used in advertising campaigns for these products.
Jeanne will turn her hand to a specially created piece of wearable art for the awards in Alice, and has promised to wear the creation as she flies in on the big day.
Her participation in this year's awards was negotiated by Tiffany Manning, engaged by the festival to coordinate the event.
Tiffany also brings an impressive track record with her: formerly an assistant producer of the Australian Fashion Awards, a production adviser for Sacci & Sacci's fashion advertising account, which took her all over Europe, a coordinator of Benneton's Milanova Moda ready-to-wear fashion shows in Milan; and now, a regular contributor to Vogue Living and other fashion and lifestyle publications.
She came to Alice on a holiday, staying with friend and textile artist, Liz Wauchope. Liz introduced her to festival director Di Mills, who immediately saw an opportunity too good to miss.
Tiffany says this year's awards will build on the success of last year's and improve on the drawbacks.
They will be presented in the auditorium at Araluen, with a professional production team and following a full dress rehearsal.
A catwalk built out from the stage, giving everyone a good view.There will be a live camera feed focussed on detail of the garments, projected on a huge screen at the back of the stage. The name of the designer will also appear on the screen, and a printed program will provide a detailed description of the garment.Tiffany says she will aim for a simple staging that allows garments and models to shine: "a living art gallery".
A pre-judging session will give judges several hours to ponder their decisions, although they will make their call on the overall impact of the garments when they see them modelled on the catwalk "with full hair and makeup".
Other judging criteria are: creativity (of style, design and special features); innovation; and, use of materials appropriate to the category.The three categories are "Open Fantasia", "Recycled Object" and "Natural Fibre", which each attract a $1000 purse.There is also a student category, whose prize, apart from $200 in cash, includes airfares and accommodation while the student undertakes work experience with a top fashion designer.Jeanne Little will be supported by local judges Trish Van Dijk, Elizabeth McCallum from Polkadot, and artist and art teacher, Susie Lyons.
"The judges really know their business well and people entering will get a better assessment of their work," says Tiffany.The audience will also be treated to beer and oysters in the foyer, entertainment by the St Cecilia Orchestra, the services of a roving fashion photographer, random give-aways of VIP fashion goody bags worth $400 and other fashion freebies.
How does Tiffany think the show will compare to the glittering events of the European fashion world?
"It will be simple but technically it will be up there," she says.
"I feel confident that if any international fashion editor were sitting in the audience, they would go away at the end of the evening with the feeling that Alice Springs is the heart and soul of Australia, that they have had the best of a desert experience but that we haven't tried to be something that we are not."
UNEMPLOYMENT SOLUTUIONS: SYD STIRLING SILENT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Treasurer Syd Stirling says while he was in Opposition he attacked the work for the dole scheme, CDEP, for "masking unemployment", claiming in 1994 that the NT's true unemployment was 14 per cent. But this week he left largely unanswered questions about the handling of unemployment by the Labor Party, now in government for two years Ð although he pointed to several projects planned for the future.
Mr Stirling (pictured) said "27 years of neglect cannot be turned around overnight" and echoed Community Development Minister John Ah Kit in blaming "the lack of employment and enterprise on Aboriginal communities" on the CLP's failure to provide "resources in the fields of health, education and governance capacity".
The Alice Springs News reported last week that if CDEP participants were included in the NT jobless figure, it would more than double and make the Territory the nation's unemployment basket case. Nearly 8000 Territorians Ð 7.5 per cent of the labour force Ð are on CDEP. The corresponding figure for NSW, for example, is 0.15 per cent, one-fiftieth of the Territory figure.
Mr Stirling did not reply directly to questions from The News about why the long term unemployed were failing to take part in the healthy labour market in Alice Springs, nor why they failed to take up employment offered in mining and tourism enterprises in more remote areas.
He told the News natural gas projects would continue the jobs bonanza of the Darwin railway. But he did not comment on Central Land Council claims that these opportunities were largely limited to Top End Aborigines.
Mr Stirling claims school attendances had improved in selected areas but gave scant details.
Mr Stirling did not reply when asked what he meant by being "job ready": Is it being able to perform a job, or being willing?
We asked him: "And if it is 'willing', what expectations does your government have of unemployed people to demonstrate willingness of taking and keeping a job they are clearly capable of performing?"
We conducted a follow-up via email to our interview with Mr Stirling.
NEWS: Alice Springs is famous for its ready availability of work. It's not unusual for a couple to arrive in town in the morning and for both to have jobs by the afternoon. Why can it not be expected that our long term unemployed take advantage of those opportunities?
No answer from Mr Stirling.
NEWS: You are saying a range of initiatives is "coming together" (again, we're talking about the future), short, medium and long term, to get the long term unemployed "job ready". You say your government will (in the future) spend $1m to get young people currently "disengaged from the education system" into a state of job readiness, plus $100,000 for "footprints forward". In what way will that money yield the results that the past spending of hundreds of millions on education and programs have not?
STIRLING: An attendance officer employed in Alice Springs has engaged or re-engaged more than 60 young Indigenous people with the education system, many from town camps.
Previously, these young people were receiving no education.
Another attendance officer will be employed in the Central Australian region in the near future to work with remote communities in getting young people back to school.
The News received no reply to these questions:Ð
¥ The Granites Mine has a highly successful program for Aboriginal employment. It waived Year Ten requirements, and is employing Aborigines on precisely the same conditions as all other employees so far as type of work, duties, privileges, remuneration, accommodation at the mine, access to alcohol, 14 days on Ð seven days of, 10 hours work a day, and so on are concerned. The mine says the performance and reliability of the Aboriginal workforce is no different to those of the white work force.
However, the uptake of that employment opportunity is minimal, around 12 Aboriginal people from across the southern NT, despite the immense joblessness in remote communities. Why do you think that is the case?
Do you think while the more rigid than usual discipline at the mine provides the kind of environment that enhances performance, most people can't be bothered? If that's the case, what should be done?
¥ The Ayers Rock Resort has around 1000 employees, many from interstate and overseas. Mutitjulu's unemployment is usually quoted as around 95 per cent. Yet not a single resort employee is from Mutitjulu, just 27 km away, despite the management's ongoing offers to provide employment. (The exception is a small training program for a handful of young people, a few hours a week.)
The answer we've always been given is that Mutitjulu people are not job ready. Is it not offensive and patronising to suggest that they are unable to perform a broad range of tasks such as washing, cleaning, carrying luggage, mowing lawns, guiding?
¥ You say you will bring in "mandatory training" in connection with public works on communities. How will that work?
Mr Stirling did, however, outline the government's approach on regional service delivery which, he says, is leading to long-term sustainable jobs.
STIRLING: An example of a successful regional service delivery model is the Katherine West Health Board which delivers comprehensive primary health care to the region.
In 1997, when Government ran health in the Katherine West region, there were 31 people employed in the health sector in the region. Now there are 80 staff working for Katherine West Ð 65 per cent are indigenous.
This is the sort of regional model that the Territory Government is pursuing Ð in conjunction with local communities and the Federal Government Ð through the roll out of health zones, where health funds are pooled and managed at a regional level. This has the potential to create up to 500 new and sustainable jobs in the Territory.
TERMINALLY ILL KIDS: THREE MADE A WISH.
Three youngsters from Central Australia, with life-threatening illnesses, have had their dreams come true, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, whose first Territory branch has been established in Alice Springs.Scott Boocock, president, and Josie Callipari (pictured), together with more than a dozen other branch members, are looking to be the Territory connection to the national foundation.Their focus is firstly on fulfilling children's wishes and secondly, on raising funds to help make that possible.
Australia-wide the foundation grants a wish a day. In the Centre, it has been three wishes in less than three months.Geoffrey, due for a bone marrow transplant, has been given a computer; Trent, who has had a kidney transplant (his dad was the donor), has been for a holiday to the snow; and a young girl, who sadly has since passed away, was taken on a shopping spree.
The children have come from Tennant Creek, Ti Tree and Alice Springs.Branch members will receive training in the coming weeks, to help them deal sensitively with families under stress.
There are always two branch members involved in interviewing families and their children, to establish what an approved child's wish is. The final interview is done just with the child.Approval, which takes place before the interview, depends entirely on the child's doctor in liaison with doctors appointed by the foundation.
Some 80 per cent of children granted a wish have some form of cancer, says Scott.
He became interested in the work of the foundation when he was working on cruise liners which were often involved in delivering wishes, such as whale-watching.
For Josie, the link is closer to home: she wants to help children like her nephew who died at the age of six from complex heart problems.
A recent fund-raiser at Casa Nostra raised just under $5000 and during the branch's pledge weekend, Alice Springs businesses donated nearly $6000.If you have a sick child who has a wish or you simply want to help, contact Scott on 0428 524 061.
The foundation's national freecall number is 1800 032 260.
ARTISTS REJECT ATSIC MONEY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Artists of Ampilat-watja, following triumphs at the Telstra National Aboriginal Art Awards, seem to have done the unthinkable: knocked back an ATSIC (now ATSIS) offer of $68,000 to their fledgling art centre, in favour of independence.
Their ATSIC grant last year amounted to $58,000, and their finances, including money earnt from sales, were managed by the art centre umbrella organisation, Desart Inc, which has 38 members throughout the Central Australian region.The increase this year was to help pay for a part-time book-keeper now that Desart has disengaged from auspicing art centre grants, and Artists of Ampilatwatja has been incorporated.Spokesperson for ATSIS, Elizabeth Dashwood, says this is the first time to her knowledge that a grant has been refused by an art centre in this region and that ATSIS has not been able to find out why.
Nonetheless ATSIC respects the artists' decision and remains "ready to assist".
Executive officer of Desart, Rose Wallis, says Desart is devastated by the decision: Desart wishes the artists "every success", but "$68,000 is a lot of money for a relatively new art centre to renounce".
Ms Wallis says there was no indication of the artists' impending decision nor of any dissatisfaction during a recent visit she made, together with Senator Richard Alston, to the community.
"Our door remains open to the artists. We are here to support them in the best way we can."In town on the weekend to visit Desert Mob, the annual showing at Araluen of work from the art centres, the artists told the Alice Springs News that they want funding to fix their art centre building but they are going to seek it from other sources, suggesting the Australia Council as one possibility.
The main spokeswomen for the group were Eileen Bonney and Lulu Teece.
The problem the artists appear to be having with ATSIS is centred on their art coordinator, Narayan Kozeluh.
While Ms Dashwood told the Alice News that the artists are entitled to employ whom they want "out of their own funds", the artists are under the impression that ATSIS do not want them to employ Mr Kozeluh.
The artists expressed their confidence in Mr Kozeluh, saying that they known him and find him honest.
They said he has shown them records of all their paintings and the prices they have fetched and that they are happy with the situation.
They say they want to find Mr Kozeluh accommodation on the community so that he can live there during the week. At present, Mr Kozeluh spends most of his time in town, showing the artists' work and administering their business from his home.
The artists said that ATSIS have a problem with him not being based on the community.
Ms Dashwood says the funding agreement being proposed to the Artists of Ampilatwatja is no different from that proposed to any art centre.
It has requirements regarding acquittal of funding and processes, such as recruitment processes.
However, she says the artists also earn their own income over which they have full control and are entitled to employ whom they please.
Ms Dashwood says Mr Kozeluh, although invited, has not attended meetings with herself and the ATSIS field officer. She says a three way discussion between the artists, ATSIS and Mr Kozeluh is essential in order to get to the bottom of the present situation.
Mr Kozeluh says he, accompanied by his lawyer, did attend a recent meeting with Ms Dashwood. However, the artists were not present.
The artists told the Alice News that they would like a meeting to take place between themselves, ATSIS representatives and Mr Kozeluh, although they also said that Mr Kozeluh had said "he has had enough".Artists of Ampilatwatja began in 1999, after a painting workshop organised by Desart revealed a number of already accomplished artists, who had begun painting years earlier at Utopia.Mr Kozeluh, already living in the community, began working as their art coordinator about two and a half years ago.
He says about 120 women in the community are painting; about 35 of them are senior artists selling to the fine art market and increasingly sought after.
Among them, Lily Morton Akemarr had a work highly commended at the Telstra awards (a not dissimilar work is showing at Desert Mob). Her painting, together with a work by Michelle Holmes, has been selected to be part of the awards' touring show.
As well, about 15 men at Ampilatwatja are painting and selling to the fine art market, with seven highly sought after.
Mr Kozeluh says his relationship with Desart got off to an unsatisfactory start when, at the behest of the artists, he asked for an explanation of the whereabouts of funds due to them.
He says Desart was unable to offer a satisfactory account of some tens of thousands of dollars due to the artists.
Ms Wallis totally rejects the claim and says matters around the collapse of the Desart Gallery, a commercial arm of Desart, in 1999 and 2000 were fully investigated and resolved by the appointed administrators.
In the last two years, Ms Wallis says, Desart has returned to its core business of advocacy, working in particular on lobbying the Northern Territory Government to develop the newly-launched Indigenous Arts Strategy.
Mr Kozeluh says he also wrote "a detailed report" for ATSIS (then ATSIC) on the state of affairs at Ampilatwatja.
In his report, he says, he asked to talk to ATSIC officers but at that time did not get a reply.
Of recent events, he says "the ladies were forced to choose between funding and me"."That makes me nervous but they assure me that respect for me and honouring our relationship is more important than the money."Can the art centre survive without operational funding?Mr Kozeluh says he is confident that they can build a business.
Last year artists earnt $230,000, retaining 60 per cent, with the remaining 40 per cent going to Desart to pay for their painting supplies and other supports, including administration.
"That's $92,000 and I think we'll double that this year," says Mr Kozeluh.
"We should be able to build a business from that."The maths says we can do it and we'll have to get more creative about ways of earning money."
Ideas include a ceramics project and a project with a national football club, following the success of footballs painted by the artists and auctioned at Sotheby's, with proceeds going to the creation of a sports development fund.He says the reputation of the artists and the friends they already have are the strong foundations of their future. Visitors to the art centre have included Federal Minister Senator Richard Alston, a collector of their paintings; Brian Kennedy, director of the National Art Gallery; Lauraine Diggins, Melbourne-based gallerist; and Susan McCulloch, national art critic.
MUNCHY MUTT MAKES OFF WITH MOLARS. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
People beware: small hungry stray dogs will enter your cat doors when desperate for something to eat.Longtime Alice Springs resident Iris Harvey had that experience recently when a small dog entered the cat door at the back of her house, ate her dog's food and then took her daughter's dentures outside to play with them."The dog belongs to the people who live across the street," Mrs Harvey said.
"They can't keep their gates shut because there are so many people and cars coming and going."Poor little thing was hungry so it came across the street and into our house."I didn't mind it eating my dog Penny's food but when it took my daughter's dentures that was too much."My poor daughter was sick in the bed with a bad case of the flu and the dentures were in a bowl nearby."The dog must have thought they were something different, something to eat or at least play with and took them outside.DEVASTATED
"I tried to find them but could not."My poor daughter was devastated."Later the man staying in our granny flat found the top part in our backyard."Mrs Harvey said she first called the police but they told her since a dog was involved it was a Town Council problem. So she called the Town Council."I was told by someone at the Town Council that they would look into it and I think someone went by the place where the dog stays last week but I don't think anything will be any different," Mrs Harvey said."I just think it is important people are aware that there are hungry small dogs out there who will enter strange premises through a cat door."
Another long-time resident, Pat Elvins, has had a similar experience."A neighbour's small dog came through my cat's door and ate all the cat's food," Pat said.
In Pat's case, the dog also went through the cat's small hole in the wall of the adjoining utility room."The cat uses both the hole and the door without difficulty," Pat said, "but I didn't think a dog could do so."I would not have believed it possible if I had not seen the dog in my house myself."
The A List: it's tough at the top. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
A card I was given years ago reads: "Life isn't a Cabaret Ð It's a ******* Circus!" And that typifies the past few days!
A week or so ago David and I were invited to an indoor-outdoor venue, and under a canopy of bougainvillea, with burning braziers, fine wines, nibbles and pleasant company, we celebrated John's 50th:
Frank, who'd known the birthday boy since childhood, flew in especially for the occasion, presiding over the reaffirmation of wedding vows, ten years on. John and Karen declared their love and commitment to each other in the presence of their children, Rebecca and Anthony, and invitees.
Although this was John and Karen's A list we had a lot of A people in common on that night, people who Appear at the same functions as us, people who might be on my A list, if indeed there was one, people we enjoy Associating with every so often, Krafty, Jenny, Kevin, Di, John, Kieran (looking forward to September 12th and the book launch of poetry penned by local writers), Erwin, Editor Extraordinaire and others.
Erwin's Comment last week was echoed by many people, disappointed that the Alice Springs Town Council is unable to allocate necessary funding to the Alice Springs Festival. In August 2002, Alice Springs, Capital of the Outback, simply oozed energy. The calendar promised a "cultural kaleidoscope of both indigenous and multi-cultural events in the genres of film, theatre, multi-media, performance, visual arts, song, music, poetry readings, literature and dance." It did not disappoint Ð people gravitated to the Alice and our festival. Council should have seized this excellent opportunity to re-focus the spotlight on the Centre.Robyn Archer, singer and artistic director of Adelaide Festivals fame, brought together Ten Days on the Isle, an Arts Festival with a difference, in Tasmania earlier this year: Island states from around the world, New Zealand, Reunion, Cuba and Papua New Guinea participated: the festival received rave reviews.
Federal Tourism Minister Joe Hockey said recently that all regional tourist bureaux have to focus on individual markets and sell the concept of visiting somewhere specific, whether it's Cairns and the reef or The Alice and a cultural experience, as opposed to simply advertising what a great place it is/what a superb time can be hadÉTell people what makes a Red Centre experience stand out from others. We are fortunate to have so many dynamic innovative people in the Centre, concentrating efforts and energies on how to make Alice a star Attraction. How is any great idea kick-started? It's imperative that Council is open to suggestion and prepared to back new initiatives.Over the past few days I've had a lot of positive comment re my writings, and interestingly enough, most of the feedback has come from people who aren't actually on the Alleged A listÉa cynic might suggest that they're trying to get on to it: Flattery may get you everywhere, or notÉ I'm being read, and people have their own interpretations, which is what life is about Ð diversity, opinions, freedom of thought and speechÉ
Last week as I perused my AS News and Mars brightened night skies, I wondered: Are there A lists elsewhere?
I had no time to dwell on that because A get-together for a dear friend's 60th had been Arranged. I won't go into the A(ttendance) list, because it was J's, but it was Again Amazing to note so many Absolutely Affable people, in one place, at one time, and know that we have J in common.I've never Actually thought about an A list. I'm lucky to have great friends, and family, living in the Alice: Most have the core values that David and I share, views on any number of issues and a healthy mutual respect for each others' opinions.
A could be Almost Anything, Alice Alive, Affection, Accountability, Aims, Achievements, Acceptance, Appreciation, Action, Awareness, Attack, and Agendas, possibly hidden.
A embraces All, but it really depends on who's writing what list.
A stone's throw from nowhere. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
The way people behave when living far from where they belong is a source of fascination for me.
This makes Alice Springs a great place to live because the town is full of people who are just passing through. Few reach the point where they can claim to belong here. Their contract ends and off they go to somewhere else.
The loss of belonging affects anyone who has ever claimed to have put down roots in another place. Along with identity, a subject to which I will return (wearing plated armour), belonging is a topic of hidden importance. We rarely mention it, as though we don't want to show any sign of weakness.
This is Australia, mate, would be the reaction. How can you feel homesick or displaced as a whitefella in your own country?
Shape up, mate (or ship out). We might not talk about it, but often the way we handle ourselves reveals the emotion.
The most obvious behaviours relate to sport. How many Collingwood fans become that bit more passionate in Alice Springs than they were when they lived a stone's throw from the MCG?
What about Scotsmen who wax lyrical about the damp greens and blustery winds of the golf courses at home, when the truth is that they wouldn't know one end of a golf club from another.
Now that I am setting up a website with commentary on my distant and under-achieving home soccer team, the same question comes to mind. Would I do this if I was still living in the same town?
Food and drink works in the same way. Your hometown beer was just beer when you lived there. But in the Alice, even Emu Bitter becomes a sought-after exotic brew that identifies you as a native of another place. Barramundi is more than just fish. It is a cry from somewhere else.
There are other signs of a loss of belonging. Let's call them the tendency to try too hard. There might be aspects of Alice life you like a lot, but you make them the centre of conversation with someone who doesn't know the area.
You drum up a new sense of belonging to replace the lost one. I have found myself praising the Todd Mall as if it's a desert Champs Elysees (not that I've ever been there).
Yes, it has interesting features like buskers, skateboarders, markets and an absence of cars. But at the end of the day, it's only a mall.
These are expatriate ways. Even Australians in the Alice can feel like expats. It seems like another country next to the Sydney or Brisbane sprawl.
For one thing, there are plenty of people here, the Indigenous ones, who do feel belonging. So if you miss home, then it's more acute in a location rich in languages, cultures and places of profound importance to the locals.
My favourite giveaway of we fishes out of water is the knowing comment on local life.
That little offhand remark about sacred sites or the Ghan timetable.
The seemingly in-depth knowledge of local schools. A false affinity with Vietnamese market gardens. In the Alice, you become the worst kind of fake enthusiast in next-to-no time just by collecting some loose ideas and reading a guidebook.
I am glad that no friends of mine ever visit. They're slaves on a minimum wage.
They have superannuation benefits that wouldn't keep a teenager in crop tops.
So not hosting anyone means I don't have to worry that my verandah is unfinished and my backyard looks like an open-cast mine.
Instead we stick to emails. That way, nobody ever invites me to drone on endlessly about minor details of the Red Centre. I can avoid becoming an Alice bore. Or at least I can try.
Sir,- Both my partner and I enjoy Steve Fisher's weekly column in the Alice News.
I am a botanist by training and a desert rat by preference, and I have known a few "Greenies" in my time. Re "Greener peopleÉ" (August 20) while I applaud your humour, it would seem important to address the complexities of the issues as well.
"Or maybe water-using cotton farmers versus people who care about the Murray River." Now that seems a clear-cut dichotomy upon first reading ... but if you apply your test of "people who care about where their electricity comes from", then things get more complex.
Where does the cotton in your clothing come from? Domestic production? Or was it grown in a developing nation where the land could more beneficially be used for food production?
And what of "people who care about the Murray River"? For drinking water downstream, irrigating grapes instead of cotton, or to just "save the river" (for its own sake, presumably)?
The Greens as a political movement are presently playing upon a quasi-religious "concern for the environment" with very little grounding in real policy development, as you mention.
"But global warming is more terminal, more politically complex and much harder to tackle than any other challenge" is a bit of a furphy ... there is not yet conclusive evidence that "global warming" is in fact a human-induced phenomenon.
There are climate models which suggest that global warming would be more like "business as usual" than castastrophe.
EAGLES OFF TO THE BIG ONE. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Pioneer Club has taken the minor premiership by virtue of their win on Sunday over reigning premiers West in the Central Australian Football League.The tussle for second and third spot will go right down to the line this weekend, as West and South, who are equal on premiership points, play out a decider for the double chance.
Rovers have secured fourth place, and will play Pioneers, while Federal whose season finished last Sunday, take both the bye and the wooden spoon.
On Sunday South had a convincing win over Federal. They scored 28.20 (188) to 6.2 (38), which did their percentage the world of good. In the main event West and Pioneer played a memorable game, with the Eagles taking the points 16.10 (106) to 14.6 (90).Wests drew first blood when after five minutes of tense, mistake ridden testing, Jarrod Slater took the ball at centre half forward and goaled. Within minutes this was followed by a six pointer from Jason Swain and the Bloods looked to be on a run.
Never to be written off Pioneer responded with a pipe opener from Chris Clyne, to which Slater countered with a second personal goal. Late in the quarter Pioneer were able to settle and they booted five unanswered majors through the agency of Ryan Mallard, Trevor Dhu, Nathan Flanagan and Matt Campbell.This barrage of goal scoring allowed Pioneer at quarter time to rest twenty point leaders, 6.3 to 3.1.West, however, dominated the second term. Slater, Swain, and Troy Camilleri provided the Bloods with a scoring machine, and they ran the ball through to the forward line with relative ease, scoring 5.2 to a mere 0.3. The pressure was on both sides and late in the term Trevor Dhu let fly with a jab that Anthony Mundine would be proud of, decking Adam Taylor and earning himself a red card. The loss of Dhu deprived the Eagles of not only a key player but also an element of leadership on the ground.West established an 11 point lead at half time.Come the third quarter Taylor, obviously suffering from the blow he had received had less influence on the game, and eventually took himself from the field to have his jaw examined.
West opened the term with a goal from Slater but from then on languished in the forward line. In defence Kevin Bruce emerged as the dominating player, but even he was unable to tame the Pioneer endeavour.
They booted six goals to nil in the quarter with Mallard proving an absolute thorn in the side for West, scoring four consecutive goals and helping establish a 26 point lead at the three quarter time mark.
To many the lead was enough to suggest that the fat lady was stepping up on the stage, but as the term unfolded this was far from the case. West applied themselves to the task, with Bruce as the trump card, initially in the backline, and later up forward.
Quick goals early in the quarter from Curtis Haines and Swain brought the Bloods right back into the game. Joel Campbell steadied the ship for Pioneer, with a slick snap, but then West surged again through the agency of Camilleri, Bruce and Slater to bring the score to within three points.At that point a poor decision spelled disaster for the Bloods. Nick Kerber in kicking in from a Pioneer point, plonked the ball directly to 15 year old Joe Cole, who steadied and delivered a major. The pressure then swung right back into the West quarter and Pioneer were able to drive in again, the score once more off the boot of Joel Campbell.
Controversy continued until after the final siren as the umpire awarded Pioneer a mark on the siren, only to see all three umpires consult and declare the mark to be invalid. As such the Eagles won the game by 16 points.The efforts of Nathan Flanagan in piercing through the West defence earned him best player votes for Pioneer. Others to do well were Geoffrey Taylor, Wayne McCormack, Craig Turner, and Ryan Mallard with his bag of five goals.
For West Kevin Bruce stood out as best on ground. He's a player who should feature well in the Minahan Medal voting for the League's Best and Fairest player of 2003. He was well supported by Andrew Wesley, Victor Williams, Mike Hauser and Jarod Slater.The game between South and Federal ran to expectations. Federal began with the bare minimum on the bench, and found South simply too talented. The Roos scored 7.4 to 1.2 in the opening term, and added a further 6.6 in the second term to 3.0, to rest at half time 56 point leaders. In the second half they added 15.10 to 1.0, and took the game with ease. South have Charlie Maher in form, and he along with Kasmin Spencer, Edwin Cook and Brian Stirling had the ball flowing freely into their forward line.
In front of the goals, Malcolm Ross accepted the ball with pleasure and he scored seven goals. Shaun Cusack as usual offered the Roos stability, regularly performing the hard work and setting the South runners up with possession.The pleasing aspect of the Federal performance was in the rooms after the game. For Feds, season 2003 was over, but the players certainly showed camaraderie and a positive element of resolve. Coach Gilbert McAdam has the desire to stick with rebuilding the club, and with the Under 18s and B Grade both in this year's finals, he has the basics to build on. The A Grade only celebrated one win for the season, but did learn from the season. By fostering juniors, Federal have a future.
SLEEPOVERS: A WAY OF LIFE IN ALICE. Report by LINDA HUGHES.
Sleepovers! Every young person has been to one, but what are they all about?
The night starts off by getting dropped off at a friend's place, excited and looking forward to fun, and ends by being picked up the next morning tired, but with a big grin and a crazy story to tell about their night.
I talked to a few local girls and they told me some of their more memorable sleepover moments.
Asta Hill and her sleepover friend dressed up Asta's pet dog in their clothes and modelled the dog, using the hallway as a catwalk.Thea Hersey had a sleepover/camp in her backyard. They made a mini campfire and toasted marshmallows and told scary stories until late.Rebecca Brown made a funny movie about her and two friends. That night she had a sleepover with lots of friends where they watched the "premiere" of the movie.
Natalie Inglis stayed awake until 3am at her last sleepover talking, watching movies, listening to music and playing truth or dare. There were lots of funny dares and her dare was to run down the street in her underwear. She did it!
Savannah Tabart had friends sleep over. They dressed up in old clothes, used mulberry juice as hairdye and lipstick and then went to the cinemas.
Maxine Craker's sleepover friends had been swimming and were coming inside when Maxine's mother came home and entertained the girls with "the chicken dance" and then tried to get them to join in.
I also asked some boys for any stories from sleepovers, but they answered, "Guys don't have sleepovers," and, "That's a girl's thing."So I reframed my question and asked for any stories from "camping at a mate's" or "crashing at a friend's place" to make sleepovers seem more manly. I received a better response.
Matt Connole slept at his mate's house and they snuck out at 1am to see some friends. They were walking down their street when his friend's parents caught them.
Shaun Ashcroft was at a big party/sleepover. They watched scary movies until late into the night. Then he and a friend scared other people by throwing objects at them in the dark. When nearly everyone was asleep they attacked the sleepers with make-up and toothpaste.
With all of these nights as examples, it's no wonder Alice kids always want to sleepover at a friend's house!
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