NEW CALLS FOR TODD DAM. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Territory Government and the Alice Town Council remain unmoved by calls from Country Liberal Party politicians to put a dam in the Todd River back on the agenda.
All sides agree that a dam at Junction Waterhole, north of the Telegraph Station, is the only way to save the town from catastrophic damage and likely loss of life, containing within the river's banks floods of magnitudes likely to occur once every 100 years.
The 1988 flood, which caused loss of life and millions of dollars worth of damage, was a 20 year flood (see map).
But neither the council nor the government have asked for a fresh look at the Federal Government ban ruling out a dam until 2012.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion says there are provisions for review of the ban now, half way through the 20 year moratorium.
And new NT Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Lim says the issue should be reopened immediately.
After a heated controversy over Aboriginal sacred sites that had raged for some years, Labor Aboriginal Affairs Minister at the time, Robert Tickner, in May 1992 put an embargo on the construction of the dam under Section 10(4) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act."This is an Act of the Commonwealth and the NT Government has no jurisdiction over it," says NT Planning Minister Kon Vatskalis.
And as there is no other suitable site for a Todd dam "it is therefore no longer considered an option."
However, Mr Vatskalis says "discussions will be taking place with the town's new native title body, Lhere Artepe, on the construction of a retardation basin in the Lovegrove Drive area, and funding is provided in this year's budget."
Senator Scullion says a review of the Todd dam option would be reasonable given the advent of Lhere Artepe, and the formation last week of the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) in Alice Springs, with potential access to hydrology experts elsewhere in Australia, and around the world.
Senator Scullion says Lhere Artepe could play a major role in restarting the consultation process about flood mitigation.
He says consultation by the Territory's CLP government at the time leading up to the ban had been "severely criticised".
Dr Lim says the CLP government was "insensitive" when it negotiated more than 10 years ago with sacred sites custodians.
"Cultural issues were not taken into consideration."
He was Alice Springs' Deputy Mayor at the time.
Dr Lim says there should be no political exploitation of the issue: "If I were in government I would be inviting them all to tell me what they think."Lhere Artepe is now considered the authority for land in Alice Springs.
"It's important for the CLP to talk to Lhere Artepe, and come to a solution that is acceptable to them as well as to the rest of Alice Springs.
"It's a new day in the CLP.
"I'm articulating on behalf of the CLP that without the community moving together, black and white, we're going nowhere.
"And it is my ardent hope that Aboriginal people and the CLP can work together."
Meanwhile Mark Stafford-Smith, heading up the CRC inaugurated last week, says the public needs a chance to deliberate on issues more fundamental than just engineering ones: What does the river mean to us?Should we put up with intermittent flooding to preserve the ecological and cultural values?
Are they under threat? (See break-out story.)
So far mum on the issue is Lhere Artepe itself, a key player in the debate although the dam site is just outside the municipality where the group has jurisdiction.
Lhere Artepe chairman Brian Stirling did not respond to an invitation for comment from the Alice News. A new person is likely to be elected to his position during the organisation's annual general meeting this week.
The debate started in the Ôseventies with a proposal for a recreation lake.
Custodians of women's sacred sites objected to their inundation and put up a well organised resistance to the idea of a lake.
By the time the objective of flood mitigation had gained prominence in the debate, relationships between the objectors and the NT Government Ð represented by controversial Lands Minister Max Ortmann Ð had all but broken down, and with the urging of the Central Land Council, Mr Tickner stepped in.
There has been no significant action on flood mitigation since.
A second option, 15 smaller dams in the Bond Springs catchment area, has not been taken up because all it would do is reduce a 100 year flood to a 20 year flood, and it might also encounter sacred site objections.
Two metre high levee banks through the town are unacceptable on visual grounds.
And while Mr Vatskalis is criticising the town council for failing to spend $180,000 allocated by the Federal Government for smaller levees protecting only a part of the Eastside, Dr Lim says the residents there didn't want it.
"A survey of residents in the area that would be affected by the levee bank indicates they are not in favour of it," he says.
"They feel it is a waste of time, it does nothing for them but in fact would cause problems downstream and across in the CBD.
"In fact the CBD would have a flood level of some 70mm higher than without the levee bank."
Says Dr Lim: "When the levee bank was at the height of discussion the property owners were told that potentially, their insurance premiums may rise because of the greater threat of flooding."
As it is, the excess for flood insurance is $10,000.
DEBATEThe intense heat of the debate in the early Ônineties ultimately reduced the options to two: a dam or no dam, with the third option Ð a "dry" dam with the sole purpose of flood mitigation, used only when required Ð failing to be fully explored.
This option could contain a compromise that Aboriginal interests would consider.Said Dr Lim: "There is a lot of property in the CBD owned by Aboriginal people.
"And those properties are going to be damaged."
Mayor Fran Kilgariff, saying she is unconvinced that a dam would work, is calling for "an informed debate in the town about the value of levee banks, how all areas of the town can be protected, and not just where it is easy and cost effective."
She says it needs to be investigated "whether people want to see banks all along the Todd and whether the traditional owners want to see that happen as well.
"The dam has been touted as the ultimate solution," says Ms Kilgariff."I am not sure in my mind."
JUNK TURNS A DOLLAR. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
In its third year of operations the Bowerbird Tip Shop is looking like a going concern: a much needed recycling service run in tandem with the landfill weighbridge contract, it provides employment for six staff, its turnover has reached the quarter of a million dollar mark, and it has been able to pay a small dividend to its shareholder, the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC).
This contributes to ALEC being able to get on with its other projects, like the newly-launched Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns. Remaining profits will be reinvested in the Bowerbird to improve the business.
On the "to do" list is shade that will be welcomed by customers and staff alike. Craig James, one of the three directors, spoke of "sails" but they won't be anything like Todd Mall's."They'll be made from recycled materials, that's guaranteed," he said.
Organising a new yard with racks where materials can be graded according to quality is another priority, again one that will serve both staff's and customers' interests.More challenging will be to find away of recycling the "big three": glass, aluminium cans, and PET bottles.
"We can't consider ourselves to be a premier recycling station until we can deal with those," says Mr James, a CSIRO scientist in his day job.For a while, Bowerbird was collecting and stockpiling the containers, but that became "overwhelming".
Collection was abandoned, and now the board and staff Ð together with researchers of the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, with which Bowerbird has a partnership agreement Ð are looking for longer-term solutions.
The first step has to be reducing the materials to compact modules: the cans need to be compressed, the glass pulverised, the PET bottles shredded. This would require machinery, which could be the subject of a grant application.
That's the easy part.
Bowerbird would prefer not to ship the materials to Adelaide, because of the environmental as well as economic cost of doing so. So they will be looking for local uses."We need to find uses at the appropriate scale," says Mr James.
"We have a relatively small supply of materials, so there would be no point in investing in a huge recycling plant."
One possible local use might be to mix pulverised glass with other building materials in non-exposed surfaces.
Recycling or re-using paper will also be on the agenda for the new research.
Some locals are already re-using paper at home, turning it into firebricks that are reasonably effective. There may be a way to produce a more effective firebrick that could have commercial potential, says Mr James, and it would certainly be better than burning wood.
Another goal for the coming year is to improve community use of the Tip Shop. That won't lead to dropping prices, which have gone up since the early bargain bonanza days.
Mr James says the staff has learnt the value of what they've got over the three years of operation and for the Bowerbird to be successful, prices have had to rise.
"We know for instance that building materials walk out the door and they still do at the prices we now charge, so we would be mad to sell them for less.
"We have to cover our wages and be able to reinvest in the business so that it meets its triple bottom line, of environmental, economic and social performance. We are proud of our performance in those three areas to date."
It could be better still with greater community commitment to dropping off useful items before they dump their rubbish.
Bowerbird wants to encourage the building industry to think about salvaging materials from demolition sites.
PETER TOYNE, MEMBER FOR CYBERSPACE.
What do Hannover in Central Germany and Yuendumu in Central Australia have in common?
A lively interest in information technology, says Peter Toyne, who lived in the tiny desert community for many years as a teacher and later was instrumental in setting up the Tanami Network, a ground breaking video based communications scheme.
Now Dr Toyne, the Minister for Central Australia, is convinced that pioneering work in Yuendumu and other Warlpiri Centres in internet based education systems can become a major Territory export industry, and he is determined to make it happen.
Dr Toyne recently led a delegation of Territory businessmen to the ICT fair at Hannover, the world's biggest, spread over 27 pavilions, each of them four times the size of the biggest at Blatherskite Park showground. There were 8000 exhibitors.
This month Dr Toyne will head the NT's biggest ever overseas trade delegation, 26 people from 16 companies, strutting the Territory's stuff in Singapore.
He says the aim is for the Territory's ICT industry to get 25 per cent of its earnings from exports in five years' time, five times more than it does now.
So what does Yuendumu have that the world would want to buy?
Its people live in a remote area, are poor and not well educated Ð conditions sadly found the world over.
Dr Toyne says in the Western Desert, teachers, technicians and Warlpiri Media have a head start in efforts to solve these problems, using computers and the world wide web.
They have developed basic literacy and numeracy "modular open learning materials" on primary school level.
Kalkaringi, north of Yuendumu, has the Territory's most advanced remote learning facility for secondary students, with four students in Year 12, one in Year 11 and 10 in Year 10.
But teaching isn't the only field using cyber tools in the bush.
The Warlukurlangu Artists at Yuendumu are using a web site to sell their art and produce CD Roms to explain the works' meaning and stories, says Dr Toyne.
The Katherine West Health Board is using an internet system to process patient information.
It may well be a step towards eGovernment with cyber kiosks in remote communities giving easy access to services taken for granted in the bigger centres.
CONISTON MASSACRE: "I TOLD THEM TO SCATTER". Part Four of a Feature by DICK KIMBER.
'Real True History': Coniston Massacre.
The Killing of Fred Brooks: another version.
Last week's issue concluded with a plain enough, brief account of Fred Brooks' murder, yet it had an error of identification.
Bullfrog's correct Warlpiri name was, as 90 year old Jack Ross Jakamara told me, Kamalyarrpa Japanang-ka.
Arkirkra was another man, and it was he and Padygar who were identified by Lala as key assailants of Fred Brooks.
Lala's account can reasonably be questioned a little.
Since Lala was not part of the attacking group, but instead remained in the nearby camp, how much had he actually witnessed rather than heard about immediately afterwards? Why didn't he mention Kamalyarrpa "Bullfrog" Japanangka at all?
Furthermore, since he had been with George Murray, other patrol members and at times Randal Stafford for almost a month after the event, was he omitting anything, or emphasising certain aspects, to assist the police case?
Why does he imply only three assailants, then ten and also a "big mob" of about twenty? One can question the detail without disagreeing with its general accuracy.
The second account is substantially based on Paddy Tucker's account (with minor additions). Over the years 1925-1933 Paddy travelled the Warlpiri country with his camels, prospecting, dogging and taking the loading out to the Granites gold field, and he heard different elements of the "Coniston story" throughout this time. Warlpiri accounts normally tell of Bullfrog having two wives, but Paddy's story varies from this.
Bullfrog Japanangka was one of a sizeable group of Warlpiri camped at Yurrkuru. He had three wives. Fred Brooks, probably with rifle in hand, asked-demanded of Bullfrog that he loan him two wives, one named Marungarli, to help him gather firewood and generally act as camp assistants.
While Jimmy Jungurrayi and other Warlpiri people have stated or presumed, as did Bryan Bowman, that he wanted them for sexual relationships, Paddy Tucker learnt that he had wanted them to wash his clothing as a priority, for other domestic tasks, and just generally as domestic company. Some other Warlpiri accounts also support this view.
Paddy believed that Fred, who was in his sixties, was "past it" as far as sex was concerned. He still had a bushman's hardness, but was just about worn out from decades of demanding bush work. Randal Stafford claimed that Fred never had relationships with Aboriginal women, a view supported by Missionary Annie Lock at Harding Spring (well east of Coniston).
Fred's camp was reasonably close to the soakage, but far enough away to allow animals to drink at the water without being disturbed. As was Fred's practice, he was firm in ensuring that all Warlpiri, including Bullfrog and his young wife, camped at a distance from his camp, which meant still further away from the soak. For the use of his two wives, who were to remain at his camp, Bullfrog was promised some rations.
Other Warlpiri who were in the vicinity also visited the soakage and, despite his vigilance, some pilfered items from Fred's supplies.
On the 4th August the prospecting party of Charlton Young, his mate Carter and their "camel boy" stopped at the soakage. They told Fred of the demands that Warlpiri had made of them a little further west, and learnt from Fred that some had been "ratting" his camp.
On the 5th Bullfrog decided to move on, but Fred still wanted the two women to assist with domestic duties, and was emphatic that they stay. (No doubt he wanted to demonstrate his continuing authority and superiority at the camp, again as was almost universal practice at the time).
Although he was a man who fulfilled promises, he had not given Bullfrog any food or tobacco at this stage. This delay annoyed Bullfrog, but he decided to wait another day. His young wife had, as always, stayed with him in their camp.
When Bullfrog was ready to leave on the 6th August, Fred again was emphatic that he wanted the two women to stay in his camp, and do some more washing. Bullfrog was angry now but, while keeping his anger in check (Fred had a rifle in his camp and carried a revolver, and Bullfrog knew their power), brooded on the issue.
Fred could, as Bullfrog knew, easily have done his own washing, even though this was conventionally a woman's task in such domestic arrangements, and even though he was also daily involved in repairing leather harness and camel saddles.
Dinny Japaltjarri implied, in a yarn about "early bird" days in 1980, that Bullfrog expressed his anger to other Warlpiri men who were camped near Yurrkuru, and that they agreed to help him get back his wives. Other Warlpiri accounts indicate the same.
(At this point of the story my personal reaction is to feel sorry for Bullfrog, and to consider that Fred was being, at best, unwise).
Early on the cold morning of the 7th August Fred sent "Skipper" and "Dodger", his Aboriginal "camel boys", to bring up the camels, which had been hobbled out a considerable distance away on a patch of good feed. They had either broken their hobbles or moved an unusually long distance away during the night. As Skipper and Dodger knew, through the universal established practice of the era, they would receive their breakfast when they returned with the camels.
Shortly after they had departed Bullfrog awoke to find the last of the wood used up, the fire down to embers, and his young wife gone. She had decided to follow the walking pad quietly down by Fred's camp to the soakage to get a coolamon of water, then return, collect wood and make up the fire.
In the dawn light Bullfrog only saw that her tracks went straight to old Fred's camp. He became enraged. Old Brooks had taken his third wife while he was asleep!
He put his steel tomahawk and boomerang in his hair-belt, so that they rested against the small of his back and could not be seen. (Other Warlpiri men, knowing his plan to take his wives back, must have been signalled to, and immediately began a swift, stealthy approach too).
He approached Brook's camp, where the fire was blazing with warmth as Bullfrog's was not, and the two older wives were moving about. Fred was sitting close by, working on replacing old laces with fresh ones on greenhide pack bags.
Bullfrog strode angrily towards the camp, without Fred noticing him, then called out in Warlpiri to his two wives, "Grab him by the hands! Hold his arms!" The two young women caught Fred as he was getting to his feet and, with their wiry strength, managed to hold on as Fred frantically struggled to free himself and get his rifle.
Other Warlpiri men rushed forward to join in. Bullfrog stepped in and struck him in the throat with the boomerang and on the head with the tomahawk. Others also struck him with clubs and boomerangs. His death was almost instantaneous, and it seems that his body was severely mutilated during and immediately following the attack.
As can be seen, Paddy's story varies considerably from Lala's, yet there are certain of the same basic elements in both accounts.
Confirmation of these basic elements were recorded by Petronella Vaarzon Morel when, in speaking with Rosie Nungarrayi for "Warlpiri Womens Voices" (1975), Rosie recounted:
"At Yurrkuru my grandfather killed a whitefella. He hit the whitefella because the whitefella stole his wife. That old lady was my grandmother, a Napurrula. She was frightened when that whitefella took her Ð that's why the old man hit him."
After Fred had been killed a nearby rabbit burrow Ð which had already been opened up by Warlpiri digging for rabbits (though one account suggests that it was actually opened up as Fred's grave) Ð was used as his grave. He was hastily and incompletely buried Ð one booted foot still stuck out of the shallow grave.
Bullfrog and his wives took what food and tobacco they wanted and Ð as had earlier been intended Ð left for another part of their country. As Rosie Nungurrayi stated:
"After that the old man ran up to the hills to hide. My grandfather was living in the hills, in a cave. That's what saved his life while the police were out looking for him. He stayed in the hills. They didn't find him because he was sitting in the cave."
On the basis of these and other accounts I can fully comprehend Bullfrog's anger at having his wife (or wives) taken from him, and his impression of broken promises (rather than delayed fulfillment of them).
However, I don't condone murder, so certainly also feel compassion for old Fred Brooks.
It is also possible, as Randal Stafford and Nugget Morton believed, that Randal had been the white man whom the Warlpiri wanted to kill. Perhaps Fred, being Randal's long-term best mate, akin in Aboriginal eyes to a brother, "took his place" because Randal was away.
It was still early morning when Skipper and Dodger returned with the camels to find other Warlpiri pilfering the last of the supplies and other useful items. They were threatened in a way that left little to their imagination, and told not to tell anyone of the murder, but instead, if asked about "Old Freddie", to say that he had "fall down by himself" (giving the impression of a heart-attack) and been buried.
Happy to be escaping with their own lives, but also terrified, they rode as fast as their camels allowed to Coniston station homestead.
They found other Aboriginal station workers there (Randal Stafford was at Tea Tree and Jack Saxby was apparently digging and timbering a new well "out west"), so sent word of the murder by them to Bruce Chapman, who was camped a day's ride away on the Lander. He must have learnt the news late on the 7th August, and immediately prepared for travel by camel in to Coniston.
Paddy Tucker, whose story of what transpired has already been told, had camped west of Yurrkuru on the 6th August. He had risen early on the 7th, had his breakfast, and intended travelling east as far as possible with his camels that day.
He came to Yurrkuru, by which time apparently all of the other Warlpiri who had been camping nearby had left. He saw the scattered stores and, realising that something was amiss, searched about and quickly found the murdered white man (he did not know who it was at this stage). Paddy then decided that there was no point in delaying, and continued on his way.
The first Aboriginal groups he met already knew of the murder and, through them (no doubt in whispers because one should not mention the recently deceased), he learnt that it was Fred Brooks who had been killed.
As Paddy believed that the murder would result in a reprisal police patrol, he earnestly told them to "scatter." However, each group he met, whether they had heard of the killing or not, rejected his advice: "We alright. We been working longa station."
No matter how much Paddy advised them to "scatter", they were confident in their own minds that, when they were recognised as having had associations with the different stations, they would be recognised as "friends" of the white people, and not be harmed.
Paddy rode on, feeling sorry for old Fred, and fearing what was likely to happen.
As the frightened station Aborigines at Coniston already knew what had happened, he continued with his camel team towards Ryans Well, letting the few pastoralists he met thereafter over the next few days know what had occurred, and relying on them to pass the message on to the authorities in Alice Springs.
As it transpired, another person's news of the tragedy arrived in Alice Springs earlier than did Paddy's. He repeated his warning to Anmatyerre Aborigines he met as he approached the Telegraph Line Ð "Scatter!"
The further following reconstruction of events is also based on several different, and at times seriously conflicting, versions. That a buggy was used is based on an undated note by Bruce Chapman, which refers to buggy horses.
Normally one would not have expected many bush workers to be passing by Yurrkuru, but late on the 7th Alex Wilson also found the scattered camp evidence and then the body. He instantly knew, as he told me, that there would be "hell to pay!"
Alex left everything as it was and, rather than making camp, rode on through the night to Coniston station. He must have arrived there very late on the 7th and, learning that Bruce Chapman had been called for, awaited his arrival while resting and watering his riding camel in case he immediately had to use it again to race back to Joe Brown.
When Bruce arrived Ð presumably by midday on the 8th Ð Alex told him of finding Brooks murdered, confirming what the Aboriginal messengers had already told Bruce.
However he also told him that Joe Brown was in desperate need of help. Bruce then used a loyal old Aboriginal stockman, "Old Percy", to send a note east to Randal Stafford, letting him know of his old mate's murder and telling him that he was about to leave, taking the buggy horses to rescue Joe Brown.
Randal received this note at Tea-tree on the 11th August and, with the help of cameleer-bushman and station man Bob Purvis (senior), passed the details on to Commissioner Cawood in Alice Springs.
It seems that while Alex was getting the horses in for the buggy, Bruce made a flying trip to Yurkurru and, finding Fred's body wrapped in his mosquito net in the shallow grave, dug a formal grave, buried him properly, and erected a post-and-rail fence about it. (An alternative account is that he formally buried Fred after the police party had briefly examined his body and then reburied it at a very shallow depth).
Michael Terry's photograph of Brooks' grave, captioned to indicate that Bruce Chapman had dug it deeper in the same rabbit burrow as used in the initial shallow burial, is presumed to be where the present headstone is.
Alex and he then travelled on to the camp near Mount Hardy to find that the two Warlpiri men, believing that Joe was going to die and knowing that he was helpless, had callously stripped his clothes from him, taken the remaining tucker, and fled.
In that Mount Hardy is over 100 kilometres from Coniston, Alex and Bruce, by pushing the horses and themselves, and by making late camp and early start, must have arrived there early on the 10th September. The two rescuers wrapped him in what they could, then began to lift Joe onto the buggy.
While they were still lifting him, he gave a moan, odd yellow fluid spilled from his nose and mouth, and old Joe was dead. They buried him near his camp, on the edge of a small claypan.
Bruce then apparently left Alex to come in more slowly with Joe Brown's camels while he returned to Coniston at a slightly faster rate with the horse-drawn buggy. Alex must not have wasted any time, for he was back at Coniston with the camels on the 12th.
Bruce had apparently already left for his own camp thirty to forty kilometres away on the Lander.
Whatever time Bruce returned to his own camp, he soon felt unwell, so packed his gear and made, via Billy Briscoe's far west camp, for the Overland Telegraph Line.
He must have spelled often, and travelled on slowly, before he met Jimmy Wickham and his cattle-man partner Mathews at their Mount Peake camp.
Mathews travelled on with him towards Ryans Well. Ten kilometres west of this well the Michael Terry party, coming in from the west by motor vehicle, met them and, because Bruce had "something wrong with his head; awful aches and pains and swellings", he was given a lift into Alice Springs on 3rd September.
There, despite the care of nursing sisters and an emergency dash by a doctor, he died of meningitis on 9th September. As Michael Terry recounted, "his funeral Ñ was the largest anyone had yet had in Stuart; twenty-seven mourners saw him lowered to his last camp."
Seventy-five years later, to the day, with the Acacia victoriae in flower and a blue sky overhead, I sat by his grave at the old George Cresent Cemetery in the Alice. I felt that I knew him just a little: "In Loving Memory/ Of/ Henry Bruce Farrington/ Deeply Loved Eldest Son Of/ HB & IFP Chapman/ Who Passed Away 9th Sept 1928/ Aged 20 Years/ Peacefully Sleeping." I hoped that he was "peacefully sleeping."
All of this is tragically straight-forward enough, and incidentally the numbers at the funeral indicates how very few Australians of European descent lived in central Australia.
NEXT: Another resentment that Bullfrog may have felt towards Brooks. The massacre begins.
Letters: ERA president no 'high priest'.
Sir,- With reference to the article on page 3 of the Alice News, Sept 3 , the 33 Cavanagh Crescent rezoning proposal raises many controversial issues.For Samih Habib to suggest that Geoff Miers is "playing the high priest" is mischievous, defamatory and totally ignores the fact that Geoff Miers, as president of the Eastside Residents Association (ERA), is speaking on behalf of the membership.
May we remind Mr. Habib that ERA currently has over 350 registered members, and that the role of the president is to express the voice of the membership.Further, the ERA committee, comprised of 12 elected representatives from the membership, has unanimously opposed the current proposal before the Development Consent Authority and for good reasons, including:
¥ inappropriate hilltop development, leading to problems with infrastructure;
¥ major traffic issues;
¥ level of density;
¥ and importantly, a range of environmental issues.
The voice of the people needs to be heard. Residents of Old Eastside have voiced their opposition to this proposal via a range of processes, including letters to the editor, written objections to the Development Consent Authority, a petition to Minister Vatskalis, and through the ERA president as spokesperson on behalf of the committee and the broader membership.
Residents of Eastside welcome the Development Consent Authority's rejection of Mr Habib's proposal on 33 grounds.
Andre Burgess and Jack Talbot
Carney 100 per cent wrong on crime stats
Sir,- Shadow Justice Minister Jodeen Carney should learn to read crime statistics.
Her media release of 24 September about the latest crime stats was 100 per cent inaccurate. Ms Carney made four out of four mistakes, while accusing the Government of trying to put one over the people of Alice Springs!
She claimed property crime had increased by 29 per cent in the last quarter. Wrong. Property crime decreased by three per cent or 24 offences from the previous quarter (page 48 of the June Quarter 2003Crime and Justice Statistics report).
She said motor vehicle theft had increased by 10 per cent. Wrong. Motor vehicle theft increased by nine per cent, or six offences from previous quarter (page 51).
Other theft increased by five per cent. Wrong. It increased by four per cent or 13 offences from the previous quarter (page 52).
Sexual assault increased by 78 per cent. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Sexual assault fell by 11 per cent or two offences from the previous quarter and increased by nine per cent over the past 12 months compared to the previous 12 months.
Ms Carney misconstrued the figures by taking one high quarter and comparing it to one low quarter to arrive at a "Ms Carney trend", one that is not true and not statistically sound.
She failed to acknowledge all offences against the person are down by 22 per cent on the quarter and down 20 per cent year on year.
Ms Carney is in denial that property crime is decreasing and equally failed to mention that housebreaks fell by a huge 40 per cent or 145 offences over the past 12 months.
This Government has the courage the CLP never had, to release comprehensive crime figures.
It is high time Ms Carney starting talking the truth on crime and stopped talking down Alice Springs.
Yes, there are still improvements to be made, but we have made significant inroads.
Since we took office house break-ins across the Territory have dropped by 32 per cent, and in Alice Springs they are down by 40 per cent.
The statistics are published so the community can access the truth about crime levels and there can be some truth to the public debate on crime. If Ms Carney wants to quote the crime statistics she should respect the figures in these quarterly reports, sourced from the police, and independently audited.
Waterwatch may end in Territory
Sir,- The Arid Lands Environment Centre is concerned the Alice Springs Waterwatch program may fold following recent Commonwealth National Heritage Trust funding cuts, unless additional funding is sourced in the next few months.
Alice Springs Waterwatch is an ALEC community water quality monitoring program that has been active locally since 1998. Territory-wide, already four of the six Waterwatch programs have folded due to funding cuts, with only the Katherine and Alice Springs Coordinators remaining.
Waterwatch is the only independent water quality monitoring in the Northern Territory.
It is essential that we keep this program going so that ongoing monitoring and research into Central Australian water systems continues.
Pollution to the sites monitored by Waterwatch may go unchecked if Waterwatch folds.
Waterwatch provides a fantastic educational service to the community, giving training and hands-on experience in water quality monitoring to the public, schools and wider community.
Since 1998 Alice Springs Waterwatch has trained thousands of people in water quality monitoring techniques, educated thousands of school students about water quality and wetland health and developed many self-sufficient Waterwatch groups. Waterwatch groups in Central Australia independently monitor water quality at sites that include the four waterholes of the Todd River, Ilparpa Swamp and St Mary's Creek, water holes of the Western MacDonnell Ranges and Watarrka National Park and Mary Ann Dam in Tennant Creek.
As Waterwatch coordinator Felicity Forth says, once volunteers are properly trained they can conduct rigorous scientific testing at no cost to the taxpayer.
The test results are used to determine if an area is receiving pollution, and where the pollution may be coming from so something can be done to stop it.
There are lots of pollutants for Waterwatchers to keep an eye on. Waterholes in Central Australia can be impacted by things such as feral horses and camels, cattle, sewerage effluent overflow, tourist activities and industrial toxic waste.
It was a school group on a Waterwatch excursion that found the only extant population of the invasive feral fish Gambusia holbrooki in Ilparpa Swamp in 2001 and Waterwatch coordinated its removal.
It was a Waterwatch volunteer that identified the toxic algal bloom in Ilparpa Swamp in January last year.
Central Australian Waterwatch volunteers have collected the most comprehensive water quality data set available anywhere in arid zone Australia over the last six years.
Despite the current funding crisis, Waterwatch is by no means dead and buried. Many Waterwatch groups have the capacity to continue Waterwatch monitoring in the short term. ALEC is committed to finding on-going support for the program. ALEC welcomes any suggestions on how we can keep Waterwatch alive.Vanessa Boxshall
Arid Lands Environment Centre
Dry Sunday would turn back clock 40 years
Sir, - The NT Government could ban Sunday take-away Ð or allow Alice Springs liquor stores to open for trade Ð under a forced review of NT Sunday liquor trading, we are told.
To ban sales of alcohol altogether on Sundays would be turning the clock back 40 and more years, to when Sunday trading was not allowed, except for the bona-fide traveller who had travelled at least 50 miles from his or her place of residence.
It was on a Sunday that most road fatalities occurred, when people travelled 50 miles or more to grog on.
Dry Sundays came to an end and across Australia people went for Sunday drives feeling much safer on the roads.
Another problem with Dry Sunday was some people stacked up their refrigerators and cupboards on Saturdays to carry them through until Monday morning. The drunks were still on the streets, but not in great numbers.
The Johnny "get rich quick fellow" did very well, selling alcohol at the back door of his hotel for double the price. At times the price would get much higher if the police were snooping around in back lanes of hotels.
Some Sunday traders set up their little bottle shops out in creek beds or up in gullies a few miles out of towns and did very well with sales. The days of restricted trading hours for alcohol outlets were good for us taxi drivers in Darwin and Alice Springs. Some Sundays in Darwin I was hired for the day to drive a group of people down to Adelaide River Hotel and to Pine Creek.
In Alice Springs I was hired for the day often on a Sunday to drive to the Aileron Hotel. The only problem that I had with restricted trading hours was being asked, "Hey Cabbie, do you have a carton or two or half a bottle in the boot of your taxi?"
Reducing trading hours will not solve the problems but bring back those of many years ago.
The reason we have the extended trading hours for liquor sales is because this is what the people of the Territory wanted more than 30 years ago. In those times we only had two bottle shops but because of so many problems around them, the people wanted more liquor outlets spread out over town. Then there would not be so many problem drinkers loitering around bottle shops and in the CBD fighting, which gave the tourists a very bad impression of Aboriginal people.What new residents and the young Territorians need to know is that it was not we Territorians who created the problems 40 years ago. As a cab driver back in those times I was in a position to talk to many Aboriginal in the Centre and in the North of the Territory who said, "We don't want drinking rights. The whitefella's grog will destroy our people." It did.
My message to Clare Martin and Dr Peter is get tough on dealing with the problem drinkers. But don't penalise others, black or white, with restrictions.
The other side of Territory Inc. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
For all of us, there are certain times of the year when the cost of living seems even more oppressive than usual.
Like when the rates bill arrives, as it did last week, when the house insurance is due, also last week, or when I need an asthma prescription.
Which was last week.
Have no fear. This is not a talkback radio rant against inflation and taxation. I might have some ugly character flaws, but whinging about prices is not one of them. Far more interesting was the way that the arrival of these mighty invoices coincided with one encounter I enjoyed with the informal economy of Alice Springs.
The informal economy is all the unregulated work that exists on the edges of the mainstream economy. This includes moonlighting, street trading, bartering, cash-in-hand work and the odd favour here and there. In fact, anything that might be called unofficial and untaxable. In my case, a man offered to clean my windscreen as I waited in the car park of an Alice Springs shopping centre. He charged me three dollars. We bargained a bit (an ugly flaw of mine). He did the work.
This little exchange must have broken a long list of loitering by-laws, health and safety guidelines and tax regulations. But what kind of place do we live in if someone cannot try to live without having a "proper" job or business or welfare payments?
The formal economy is just fine. But the informal one helps pay those mighty invoices for those who exist outside it.
Much of this harks back to an early generation; the wartime one of rationing and no white bread or the traditional farming one when labourers supplemented their wages with chooks, a veggie plot and some side jobs for the neighbours.
Come to think of it, the generation ahead of me, all those rellies in their seventies and now eighties, were schooled in these ways. After retiring, they switched smoothly into the informal economy.
They fixed door frames and welded trailers. They mowed lawns, they painted each other's fishing boats and they bought a jug of beer and six straws to go around. They paid little tax because they earned little money.
My generation might think we have risen above all this, but still over three-quarters of the people on earth operate outside the mainstream economy. According to one study, the food production figures for Russia show that most rural folk should have died of hunger years ago. But people get by through the informal economy.
In Peru, there are one million backyard enterprises employing the majority of people in a country with a similar population to Australia. Here in our bubble in the desert, the informal economy might be less obvious but it is not hard to spot, even from behind a smeared windscreen.
It is never a smart move to try to romanticise the grinding poverty and stress of life without a job that pays a regular wage or a decent business with regular customers, whether in Alice Springs or anywhere else. I wouldn't swap places with the windscreen-washer. I'll just watch him washing. But at least let's acknowledge the resilience and creativity of the informal economy. It makes a refreshing change from the pathetic obsession we have with house prices and the All-Ords Index.
For my money, far away from the mainstream is where many new ideas start out, whether in computers, arts, business, engineering or any number of pursuits.
For this reason, there are few more depressing sights than a government-sponsored program to promote innovation. Excuse me, but innovation is everywhere. Stop cramping people with petty rules and regulations. Then they'll innovate.
Time for reflection. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
On Friday night David and I had a chat to Adrian, of 8HA fame, sporting a Collingwood polo shirt and looking forward to the Colling-wood / Brisbane match.
"Don't you ever run out of subject matter?" he asked me.
"Sometimes you seem to manage to make something out of nothing."
I was a bit flat when my sis, Lynn, flew out last week: we'd had a wonderful Alice interlude, immersing ourselves in all things Centralian, the landscape, dear friends, sunrises and sunsetsÉ David and I are fortunate that we manage to see distant family and friends on a fairly regular basis Ð it takes time, effort and planning, and as farewells are being made, I'm usually thinking about the next time we'll all get together.In the middle of wallowing in self-sisterly-sorrow, looking from a blank computer screen out to our gloriously blue sky and dazzling sunshine, I decided, once again, to make something of nothing, and share this piece which a friend sent some time ago.It's called "Marbles", and I've modified it, but I wish I knew who'd written it:
It opens with Jack listening to the radio on a Saturday morning: the talk-back presenter, a younger man (say Tom), is interviewing an older man about life.
They've discussed today's stress points, financial pressures, longer working hours and the inability for many people to find the time to spend with family and pursue personal interests.
The older gentleman responds.
Tom, it's a shame that you have to work sixty hours a week to make ends meet and that you missed your son's football final last week.
Let me tell you something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own prioritiesÉ
One day I did a little arithmetic Ð the average person lives til they're 75. I multiplied 75 x 52 and that totals 3900 which is the number of weekends that the average person will have in a lifetimeÉIt took me until I was 55 to think about any of this in detailÉand by that time, if I lived to be 75, I'd only have about one thousand weekends left to enjoyÉSo I went around all the toy stores and bought a thousand marbles. I took them home and put them in a large plastic container next to my radio.
Every Saturday since then I've taken out one marbleÉI found that by watching my store of marbles diminish, I focussed more on the really important things in life: there is nothing like watching your time here on earth run out to help you get your priorities straight.Let me add, he continued, before we finish and I meet my wife for brunch, I took the last marble out of that container this morning.
I figure if I make it until next weekend then I have been blessedÉIt was nice talking to you Tom and I hope that if we meet again you'll have managed to take control of your life, rearranging your days to spend more time with your family and doing the things that matter.Tom thanked his guest and brought the interview to a close: everyone at the radio studio was quiet. Jack, listening at home, decided against going to work that morning Ð he woke his wife and suggested that they take the kids on a picnic somewhere É he also wanted to call into a store to buy some marbles.
I hope you enjoyed the last weekend in September Ð superb weather and blooming gardens around the Alice Ð and that you managed to make time to do the things you really wanted to do with the people who matter.
CRICKET MOVING TO NEXT LEVEL. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
While sports enthusiasts across the country have been savouring the highs and lows of finals football, cricket lovers of the Northern Territory have engaged in a period of planning and restructure that should take their game to the next level.
The Top End tour that brought Test Cricket to the Territory in the Darwin dry heralded the gradation.
In the background, however, the governing body of the sport, Cricket Australia, conducted a review at the request of the Northern Territory Cricket Association (NTCA). This review acknowledged the achievements of the NTCA, despite challenging circumstances, and made recommendations for the future of the game in the NT.
The review recommended that the NTCA rebrand itself, creating a professional and fresh image, to become NT Cricket. Despite an enormous workload and achievement by the administrators of the game here, signs are evident that the sport has mushroomed over the years.
A more up to date approach to the promotion and development of the game is required, reflecting an organisation that will progress from being committee-based and run by loyal devotees to being managed as a business.
In recommending the change to NT Cricket, the review sought to have the board of NT Cricket take on a clear mandate with a focus upon the whole Territory, recommending a restructure of the board and a re-examination of its membership criteria.
To achieve this a new constitution was developed by the NTCA in 2002. The establishment of a board will enable expertise from throughout the community to be engaged in the management and administration of the game. Cricket will step to the next level by engaging a chief executive officer and board which will more professionally service the core business functions of the game and better foster its growth in the community.
For the sports lover in the Territory it will also have implications. To date NTCA membership has been domineered (and naturally so) by the players. With the Bangladesh versus Australia Tests, and in 2004 the tour by Sri Lanka to the Territory, there is and will be developing interest from the public in taking up NT Cricket membership and so enjoying the privileges of affiliation, as one does at state level be it at the Gabba, SCG, MCG or Adelaide Ovals.
On field NT Cricket will grow the participation in the game by focussing on the wide range of programs which cater for the needs of cricketing groups. Have-A-Go; Cric Hit; Kanga Cricket and school-based cricket will be nurtured.
Cricket Australia and NT Cricket are committed to the growth of Indigenous Cricket. Women's cricket will be fostered, and club cricket will continue as the prime means of competition throughout the Territory.
By developing a strategic plan, NT Cricket will be able to set a vision for the game in the city and the bush, and have goals and objectives that will result in positive outcomes for the game.
For the cricketing public in Alice Springs the ramifications of this review should be seen as a breath of fresh air. Through restructure the needs of all of cricket's interest groups in the Territory will be represented. The Darwin versus Alice bickering, be it on field or off, should be eliminated, and NT Cricket should develop with the interests of the whole game being served.
In Alice the turf at Traeger Park should be ready in a fortnight, so providing grade cricketers with two turf venues that are among the best in regional cricket.
To better cater for the competition, again playing its finals at the end of March, the Corporate Cup Super Eights format has been dropped from the calendar. After testing the concept over a period of years now, it was evident that corporate involvement was not going to be achieved on field with the temperature maybe above 40 degrees.
A success story of Centralian cricket, however, has been in the nurturing of the National Indigenous Cricket Carnival. After beginning as a game between Indigenous cricketers from Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, the carnival last year hosted 16 sides, including each state and territory and six remote community sides. The benefit of the carnival to Central Australia and its cricketers of the future speaks for itself.
Cricket Australia is committed to growing the game in Indigenous communities, and Alice Springs is now well placed to be the on-going hub of the game. Such is the commitment to Indigenous cricket by the national body, that Chairman Bob Merriman flew home from World Cup matches in South Africa last year to be present at the carnival.
The carnival will continue to grow in 2004 with the games scheduled for the last weekend in February.
RACING'S REAL ISSUES. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Spring means racing in Australia and from now to November, sporting interest in the community will build to that one day of the year when the nation stops Ð for the running of the Melbourne Cup.
In the Territory Spring racing gives the industry a second surge of real public interest for the year, following the Cup Carnival times.
At Pioneer Park racing will soon be in earnest with weekly meetings complementing the Melbourne Carnival. Quality racing will lure a greater turnover in the betting ring, and fashions of the field will bolster racing's ambience.
In contrast, in the back rooms Territory racing administrators will have to make some hard-nosed decisions over the next few months when they address a discussion paper that Minister Syd Stirling released last week.In essence the discussion paper promotes the idea of an independent principal racing club being formed to best serve the interests of NT racing.
History shows that prior to 1995 both the Darwin Turf Club and Alice Springs Turf Club (formerly Central Australian Racing Club) each carried principal club status.
As a result of an Australian Racing Board review of membership and voting rights, it was determined in 1995 that the Territory should be represented by only one principal club. Since then the Darwin Turf Club has carried the mantle and represented the interests of Territory racing on the Australian Racing Board, while delegating powers to the Alice Springs Turf Club to oversight clubs and meetings in the southern region.
The discussion paper makes the point that the present arrangement tends to reinforce the perception that there is bias towards the northern region. Racing is not the only sporting (or other) industry that has had to grapple with the notion that a Berrimah line exists, and conflicts of interest can be perceived.
Other states have addressed similar problems by establishing statutory bodies as their principal clubs.
In the case of the NT, the Minister has proposed that consideration be given to establishing a representative association to be the principal club to oversee the Territory's racing industry. This would allow the major centre turf clubs to revert to operating effectively as traditional race clubs.
The proposal ventures on to suggest that membership of the principal club could be made up of representation from both the Darwin and Alice Springs Turf Clubs; a "country" representative; owners and trainers from the north and south; and an independent chair.
Issues like NT Racing programming, the timing of meetings, prize monies, work place agreements, and the negotiation of funding agreements, could be addressed in an independent, clear manner, breaking down any perceptions of a conflict of interest.
Already the administrators at Pioneer Park have met with the Minister for discussions on the matter.
Any interested parties have been invited to provide feedback, through the Racing, Gaming and Licensing Commission.
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