TOWN COUNCIL SHIRKS THE BIG CHALLENGES. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Illegal camping, littering and public drinking are here to stay because the town council is unwilling to provide the resources to stop them.
The council's camping by-law is continuously flouted because no rangers are working when it is in force, between 9pm and 6am.
Far from making laws stick, early morning patrols, which had a "humbug effect" on illegal campers, have also been discontinued.
There are some prosecutions for littering but mostly the council find it difficult to get adequate evidence, despite mountains of rubbish in public places,.
Littering comes under the NT Litter Act but council rangers are authorised officers under that Act.
Although illegal public drinking is rampant, the council has not taken up the option of having its rangers appointed as liquor inspectors so that they can join police in the fight against this profound irritant in the Alice Springs.
The council is afraid their rangers might get hurt.
Liquor Commission chairman Peter Allen says liquor inspectors have the power to confiscate liquor drunk illegally in a public place.
Aldermen Jenny Mostran and Michael Jones say they don't believe that other tourist towns would allow in their streets the kind of anti-social behavior being tolerated here, but they claim council does not have the legislative powers to enforce proper behavior on the streets (Alice News, Feb 4).
The fact is that they have some significant powers, but aren't using them, and instead are passing the buck to the Territory government and Tangentyere Council.
This has not stopped Ald Jones, pre-selected by the CLP for the Assembly seat of Braitling, from issuing robust rhetoric: "We need people [on council] who are prepared to be leaders in Alice Springs, because there are significant issues that need to be addressed and dealt with in the coming years."
Nearing the end of his four year term, not once has Ald Jones proposed decisive council action on issues of anti-social behavior.
And there are still no moves to set up authorized camping areas for the hundreds of people visiting, at any given time, from bush communities within a 1000 km radius.
The council relies on Tangentyere to round up and transport people back to their communities, under the "back to country" program.
However, anecdotal evidence suggest that program is winding down or is defunct because there no decrease in illegal camping.
Tangentyere has not responded to a request for comment, and the town council says it does not know how many people are being taken back to their communities each week.
Ranger Unit manager Clem Wheatley says illegal camping takes place not only in the river beds but also on top of the hills around town.
"We do regulate it, we chip away at it, given the resources and the other duties we have," says Mr Wheatley.
"We could have numerous teams of people going around doing this, but obviously there would be a cost attached to that.
"Our funds chiefly come from rates and we have to be using ratepayers' funds wisely.
"Even if we did have great numbers of teams going around regulating camping activities, you would still get people coming in and camping.
"You might move a group one day, and a totally separate group from another community would come in that night behind them in the same spot.
"So you're chasing your tail in that way."
Mr Wheatley says he doesn't know how much it would cost to stamp out illegal camping, and in any case, there is no chance to accomplish that.
"This is unrealistic," he says. "That would never happen.
"It is physically impossible.
"It's not just a matter of saying, you can't camp here, move on.
"We have to have the support of being able to get these people physically removed.
"And that's where the back to country programs come in.
"We do report groups of campers to Tangentyere which responds by relocating them whenever possible.
"If resources to conduct adequate patrols were provided to an Aboriginal group, such as Tangentyere, because, let's face it, we're dealing chiefly with Aboriginal people, then you would find the numbers would be reduced."
PATROLSMr Wheatly says wardens "used to conduct patrols for Tangentyere every morning of the week and they'd start at four or five o'clock in the morning, and go right through the whole river and other areas".
One of them was local identity Eddie Taylor, now a town council ranger.
"Before that scheme was started there were between 400 and 600 people permanently in the river."
The morning patrols reduced numbers dramatically.
"It's the humbug effect, I guess," says Mr Wheatley.
"Having adequate resources to conduct early morning patrols on a regular basis is most definitely the answer."
The movements of itinerants are entirely unpredictable as well as unrestrained.
"We might find hardly anyone in the river," says Mr Wheatley.
"The next day we could come along and there are groups everywhere.
"Where the hell did they all come from?"
Mr Mooney says: "Our by-laws prohibit camping in a public place from 9pm to 6am.
"To have council resources deployed seven nights a week would be an enormous impost on the ratepayer."
"At this stage I couldn't tell you, but we have to be mindful of all our competing demands, and of the occupational health, safety and welfare issues."
That's a roundabout way of saying that Mr Mooney doesn't want to put council enforcement officers into harm's way.
Mr Wheatley says the council doesn't want its staff involved in the control of public drinking: "You are getting into a situation where you are seizing someone's property and forcing them to tip it out.
"Our role is not one of forced enforcement, the physical side of enforcement.
"The most practical way of dealing with drinking is obviously to grab it off them and tip it out.
"The reality is, if we were to start doing that, unless we had a police officer with us, I think you would find that my staff would be getting injured on a regular basis.
"And I am not prepared to get into that side.
"I've got to consider the occupational health and safety side of it.
"It's the job of the police and they give us excellent support."
Mr Wheatley says it's clear that most of the litter is from illegal consumption of alcohol, but fighting public boozing in itself seems a futile task.
"Police go along, they tip one lot out, that group goes and another group comes in.
"I've seen groups with alcohol first thing in the morning.
"They must bury it somewhere.
"I think the answer to all these problems is more resources."
Mr Wheatley says litter prosecutions are equally difficult: "We actually have to see someone drop the litter, then we actually have to see them leave it there, unless we can find some other evidence linking the person to the litter."
He says council officers give campers plastic bags and ask them to pick up the litter. "Sometimes they are pretty good. They bag it up and we take it away.
"But if they tell us to get stuffed, so to speak, we sort of tuck our tail between our legs, because legally they haven't committed an offence.
"Unless we've actually seen them drop it there it's not an offence.
"And if we see them put it there, how do we know they're not going to pick it up before they leave?"
Mr Mooney says the Memorandum of Understanding between the town council and Tangentyere was reviewed last year.
Amazingly, the back to country program is now well down on the list of priorities, which is topped by:-
¥ a mobility study of population movements (now "progressing through discussions with the NT Government");
¥ a joint ranger program especially in the area of animal management ("discussions with Minister Ah Kit are under way");
¥ and improving the structure, administration and documentation of the partnership's workings.
Why is there not a place where bush visitors can stay in an orderly fashion?
Says Mr Wheatley: "It would be much easier for us if we had somewhere for them to go. "Someone would need to service them while they are there, take the garbage away, make sure no-one is under threat, and regulate the time they spend there.
"You don't want to create another town camp.
"Those were set aside for people who came from out bush and became permanent residents.
"I do see a need for somewhere for people to go when they come into town.
"The reality is, people are going to come into town, we can't put up a fence.
"And if they haven't got anywhere to go they are going to camp in the hills and the rivers and other public areas."
CENTRE'S SHAPES AND COLOURS GIVE CBD A BIG LIFT. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
With the new auditorium of the Alice Springs Cinemas, architect Sue Dugdale has signed off with flair on her second commercial building in the CBD.
The first was the revamping of the Yeperenye Shopping Centre.
The two make some headway in having an impact on the remarkably banal built environment of the town, a goal Dugdale has set herself.
At Yeperenye Dugdale, together with Sydney-based retail architects B & N Group, had only the faade to work with, while the cinema involved construction with some complicated constraints.
The end results have in common a confident use of shape, pattern and colour, that stands out with a pleasing freshness yet doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.
Taking her cues from the natural environment, Dugdale Ð formerly with Tangentyere Design, but practising on her own since August 2000 Ð has understood that the townscape can afford, indeed needs, a little drama.
There's a reference to the ranges in both projects, an interpretation in urban forms and materials of their big shapes, colours and movement.With strong accents at a height Ð Yeperenye's undulating lines at roof level and the tall vertical columns referencing the Gap; the cinema's playful roof Ð both get you lifting your gaze, away from the everyday business of the street to actually engage with the building.
Then you realise that that doesn't happen very often in Alice Springs.
Your engagement mostly starts when your body registers the air-conditioning.
The owners of Yeperenye recognised that architectural elements can do more than that.
They asked Dugdale to give that building a stronger identity on the street, one that could pull in people from as far as Todd Mall.
Inside though the task was different: it was to create a lighter feel, providing a pleasing but non-competitive backdrop for the tenancies; and to create a long vista pulling people through the centre, instead of bottlenecking in the middle.
The cinema brief was more functional: adding a fourth auditorium to the existing complex, within the limited land available.
Dugdale says there was really no other solution to the shape of the building, given its technical exigencies: the fire escape requirements, the viewing lines, the connection of the projection room to the existing ones so that one projectionist can operate all four cinemas, and, fitting in a certain number of larger, more comfortable seats.
Beyond this, the owner gave her significant freedom to make her own aesthetic judgements.
She says she wanted to give the building a strong identity that could be quite exotic Ð "as movies are often an exotic experience" Ð and yet also have an Alice Springs "feel".
The scale of the wall facing Leichardt Terrace also had to be addressed.
This was accomplished in a few different ways: breaking up the faade both vertically, with sections of wall at different angles, and horizontally, with the expressively painted purple line suggesting the skyline along the ranges.
The light fittings create accents at height, as does the planter box, also quite high, avoiding the problem of attracting litter as well as referencing the plants that grow from the walls of gorges like Ormiston and Ellery.
On Dugdale's "urban agenda" was also the idea of responding to the K-Mart building, which marks the diagonally opposite corner of the CBD.
Dugdale feels her wall is "a kind of twin" to K-Mart's sandstone wall facing Railway Terrace, which references Mount Gillen. In contrast to the predominant allusions to the natural environment, the chequerboard roof of the cinema is intended as a "foreign object", as different from the rest as a spaceship sitting in a rocky landscape, the idea being that when you enter the cinema it is in fact to remove yourself from your environment, to escape.
Apart from the patterning, the roof also follows the skewed shape of the building and was a challenge to construct. Dugdale says Probuild made a huge effort to get it right.
Her latest project is accommodation for hospital staff, under construction next to the Old Gaol.
The land is part of the heritage precinct and Dugdale's design had to comply with the exacting requirements of the heritage management plan.
As well, the Territory Government wanted the units to be environmentally sound.
Dugdale's design, using passive design techniques including orientation, materials and roof forms, achieved a five star energy rating.
She has also aimed to respond to the aesthetic of the surrounding heritage buildings, particularly the Hartley Street houses, without imitating them.
It's an important distinction for this town that has destroyed much of its built heritage.
Dugdale, who sits on the Territory's Heritage Advisory Committee, wants sites and buildings of significance to be given their due care.
But the challenge for the town is also to create strong contemporary buildings, she says, "because they will form our heritage for the future".
OLD GHAN NEEDS NEW HEAD OF STEAM. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
As hype around the new Ghan reached a climax, the Old Ghan was lying dormant.
Instead of the historic train and narrow gauge line reaping the rewards of this new surge of train buffery, the Ghan Preservation Society has all but relinquished hope of getting the steam train running again and is contenting itself with developing its static display at Stewart Station.
However, even that is not open at the moment.
The society consists of a small band of volunteers and is run as a community-based committee headed up by president Warren Serone.
Until mid last year a small private company was running the steam train and the museum as a tourist attraction but apparently found it unviable.
Mr Serone says the society is now looking for a new operator to run the attraction as a static display, which could "make a living" for "one and half" people.
He is doubtful that a suitable candidate will come forward who could get the train running: that is, a person with hands-on rail knowledge as well as the managerial skills to make it a going concern and be in compliance with the NT Rail Safety Act.
There is also the considerable stumbling block of the estimated $1m to $1.5m needed to repair the track to meet the standards set by the Act, and to overhaul the rolling stock.
With the train running, Mr Serone says the operation could offer employment for at least six people.
He estimates current visitation at 5000 to 7000 a year, which he suggests is "not too bad" for a regional museum.
He sees Alice's remoteness and small population as the major obstacles to growth.
However, these same factors haven't held back what seem to be attractions of a similar order.
The Battery Hill Mining Centre in Tennant Creek, even after the downturn in tourism that followed September 11 and SARS, got just under 17,000 visitors last financial year, most coming from the self-drive market.
The centre employs 10 people, five of them full-time, and earns 75 per cent of its own income. The rest comes from direct government grants or sponsorship.
It offers visitors a safe experience of being in an underground mine and has added a display of an extensive collection of minerals.
Manager Geoff Kennedy says the attraction grew out of a community desire to preserve its mining heritage and to develop tourism attractions, supported by the local and Territory governments, Normandy Mining and the local tourism association.
Closer to home, indeed in immediate proximity, The Road Transport Hall of Fame pulls 20,000 to 30,000 visitors a year.
It is run entirely by volunteers, who keep it open seven days a week, 9am-5pm, and after hours on request.
Its very considerable private sponsorship is directed into its display and associated activities.
Long-time president (and at present also caretaker) is Liz Martin.
She says her committee has been determined to be self-reliant, rather than seek "hand-outs" from government and they have been singularly successful.
They've recently received $80,000 from Volvo for the renovation of a truck; $200,000 from Kenworth for their annual reunion (attracting visitors from around the country) and a new building; and have just signed off on deals from Shell Australia and Cummins Diesel Engines for $250,000 and $100,000 respectively.
Ms Martin says she sees a lot of potential for her organization and the Ghan Preservation Society to work together, just as historically "road and rail have always gone together".
Mr Serone acknowledges his neighbour's success, but says road transport has "greater volumes of people" involved in it as well as a huge private sector industry.
The obvious sponsor for the Old Ghan would be the new train's owners, Great Southern Rail.
However this relationship got off to a poor start when GSR threatened to take the Ghan Preservation Society to court over the use of the name "Ghan".
This matter has since been resolved and the society now has a licence allowing it to use the name "Old Ghan".
A more positive note was struck recently when GSR presented the society with a plaque to mark the occasion of the first passenger train journey to Darwin.
Central Australian Tourism Industry Association general manager Craig Catchlove says a tourism attraction "revolving around" the Old Ghan is "imperative".
He sees the hurdles as considerable, not least the potential conflict between the objectives of the preservation society and objectives of a viable commercial operation that could compromise authenticity.
"Anyone involved in tourism in Central Australia over the last 20 years has tripped over this issue," says Mr Catchlove.
"The old train is an intrinsic part of our heritage and it needs to be developed so that locals as well as visitors can enjoy it.
"We need an outcome on this one."
CRANKING UP THE KNOWLEDGE TRADE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Desert Knowledge last week got a sharp boost, as a short term money spinner for Alice Springs, and as a long term initiative aiming to make the town a major player in the arid regions which are home to one sixth of the globe's population.
Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne turned the first sod Ð with a backhoe Ð for the Desert Knowledge precinct south of The Gap.
Over three years the $27.8m construction project will create 245 jobs, an "enormous boost" to the Central Australia's economy at a time when the Darwin railway is causing massive losses of jobs in the local trucking industry, says Dr Toyne.
The budget includes $8m from the Commonwealth Government.
Meanwhile Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) executive officer Ken Johnson says a string of projects have already come into the organisation's orbit.
DKA is getting started as a clearing house for anything that helps people living in the desert, but down the track may develop a strong economic base as a global broker of skills, services and ideas.
The precinct will also house the Alice campus of the Batchelor Institute and the Centre for Appropriate Technology.
The third teaching organisation initially involved in the project, the Institute for Aboriginal Development, pulled out and is building a $5m campus on South Terrace.
The precinct's aspirations are reflected in the names of its segments: you will be able to get to the International Desert Innovation Centre, the Welcome Strangers Courtyard and the Graduate Desert Knowledge University via the Avenue of Knowledge having passed through one of the two Precinct Entry Portals that will, drawings suggest, look like the welcome sign near the Adelaide turn-off, but be on both sides of the Stuart Highway.
The sketches of the layout are dominated by straight lines linking existing facilities (including the Arid Zone buildings opposite Radio 8-HA and Yirara College), and the planned ones nearby.
On some drawings these lines continue to locations far out bush, apparently signifying some kind of alignment that is obvious only from outer space.
More tangible are the projects DKA is already associated with, although some of them have been around for a while.
Dr Johnson says these include:-
¥ Remote sensing developed by CSIRO officers in Alice Springs: It draws on a 20 year archive of satellite pictures taken fortnightly.
The density of vegetation, plotted against rainfall at the time, allows deductions about land degradation or recovery. The system is used by Australian government agencies and NGOs, as well as overseas.
¥ The Royal Flying Doctor Service has developed "a lot of expertise in movement of people over many years," says Dr Johnson. It has a contract with Saudi Arabia to set up a similar operation there, including training of staff.
¥ A group headed by Alice identity David Frederiksen developing a power station for Bridsville driven by geo-thermal energy, heat from beneath the ground, "an entirely renewable energy source for a whole town, 24 hours a day. Even solar doesn't do that," says Dr Johnson.
¥ Experiments by NT government engineers with the salt stabilisation of road base: in dry times dirt roads break up but this can be retarded by mixing salt, which draws moisture from the atmosphere, into the road base. Tests are under way between Alice and Tilmouth Well, on the Yuendumu Road.
Dr Johnson says Desert Knowledge is stimulating the exchange of knowledge between desert regions.
For example, other arid zone towns could learn from an innovative program in Moree (NSW) that deals with youth unemployment.
Three scientists from the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, which has 450 members and an annual budget of $30m for programs all over the world, visited Alice last November.
They were "most interested" in Tangentyere's processes involving indigenous and non-indigenous people, which the visitors planned to apply to their work in East Africa.
They also checked out our ground water sensing techniques and water management, and how a partnership in fighting bushfires could be formed.
"That's exactly what we're in the process of doing now, forming a memorandum of understanding that will allow for that sort of partnership, and participation in international programs and consultancies in various parts of the world," says Dr Johnson.
"The role of Desert Knowledge Australia is not in Ômanufacturing' but in facilitation.
"In the longer term I would imagine it would have a potential revenue flow from brokerage of desert knowledge.
"We'll have the network to bring the parties together to provide a service.
"We'll be able to pull together fairly significant expertise from around Australia, and potentially, internationally."
Dr Johnson says the venture could be more than consultancy: "We've got groups in renewable energy [that is, manufacturers] who want to establish in the precinct of Desert Knowledge."
The organisation could "provide the test bed and the management for the reliability if these kinds of systems.
"There's one being developed in Canberra but it's not been tested in the environment in which it would normally be applied."
COME AND TALK TO US, SAY ALDERMEN. Profile by COURTNEY WHITMAN.
Beautification of the town, security and more car parking space are top of the agenda for Alderman Samih Habib when he seeks re-election to council in May.
Ald Raelene Beale, who is caring for her elderly father, will not seek re-election this time round but hopes to return to local government in the future.
She rates council's developing relationships with Tangentyere Council and Lhere Artepe (the native title holders' body corporate) as top "macro" achievements of the current council.
At the "micro" level, she says there is much more shade in parks and a verge beautification program underway.
On car parking Ald Habib says "we've got to start to prepare for the next 40, 50 years, I mean, what will happen to the town then if we get slack on parking?"He hopes private investment might expand private car parking in Alice, maybe around the Hartley Street area, or "if we can, take from the government to establish a car park".
There could also be "a bigger car park alongside the river", says Ald Habib.
A sharp businessman, Ald Habib is also passionate about the beautification of Alice.
He is pleased that council has "nearly finished" the first stage of footpath building around the town.
He has also been pushing for beautification of the southern entrance to Todd Mall.
Walking tracks are a priority. Ald Habib says work has started on the first stage of this project, from the Casino Bridge to Tuncks Road. The second, from Tuncks Road to Wills Terrace is "in the pipeline".
He says he is now pushing for Stage Three from Wills Terrace to the Telegraph Station to get underway, with financial assistance from the Territory Government.
Ald Habib says something must be done about the security of the Todd Mall: "It is time for us, as a community, to look around for something that works."He suggests police kiosks along the mall, or a single station, to combat anti-social behaviour.
However, according to Ald Habib, the police "don't support the idea at all", they don't see it as "a necessity".
Ald Habib believes that it would be a "great help" for security issues, that "people would see a couple of cops, and that's it".
The police would also be able to "assist tourists".
"Mostly, tourists need information about the town, you know?" says Ald Habib. "There couldn't be anybody better than a policeman to ask, now, could there?"
(Acting Commander Trevor Bell says the police have considered the proposal but do not think it is the best use of their resources, especially as the police station is only 100 metres from the mall.)The council has been cutting down on consultancies, which means, says Ald Habib, that the public must become more involved.
He would like to see more community meetings, attended by more people.
He says there needs to be more pressure from the community for the things that they are really affected by.
He is also hoping to open debate about abolishing pay toilets in the CBD. He believes they should be free of charge, because the people who don't have the money go out to the trees on the street.
On the controversial and frustrating issue of public toilets in the CBD Ald Beale says the community needs to define what a public facility is.
"Should it be manned, should it be accessible, and accessible to whom?
"Should they be pay toilets? Should they have showers?
"What's your idea of a public toilet?" asks Ald Beale.
She says public toilets involve health and safety issues, tax issues, and tourism issues. She has been lobbying for public debate on the toilets for some time, and has finally succeeded in putting the issue on the agenda of the next CATIA executive meeting.
Ald Beale will "absolutely" run for council again, "just not this election".
She says the four years of her first term have involved "very interesting community work".
Council has "worked really hard to develop partnerships" with Tangentyere Council and Lhere Artepe, and with the community at large.
When asked why the Lhere Artepe memorandum of understanding was still unsigned, Ald Beale says cultural obligations of the native title holders have delayed the signing.
She says council's decision to fly the Harold Thomas-designed Aboriginal flag has definitely made Aboriginal people feel "more welcome" in town and has brought the Alice community together through debate.
Likewise debate around the "Alice is Wonderland Gay and Lesbian Festival", which she supported, has raised the level of community awareness son issues that were hardly talked about before.
She has enjoyed working on the Swimming Pool committee. She suggests funding could be attracted by making the pool a Desert Knowledge project, using solar energy for heating during winter.
It could become a "showcase" for a "triple bottom line" approach, addressing social, financial, and environmental issues.
Ald Beale also enjoyed working with council's Araluen community access grants.
They give very real opportunities for artists to perform in a "professional setting", promote "developing talents", and support local schools to stage their end of year programs in the auditorium.
She says council has made progress on the civic centre plans (not yet available), shade in the parks, a verge and beautification policy linked to parks and recreation, working with internal council employees, and supporting the CEO and directors of departments.
Council has also been brought into a "new era", by changing its logo design and colours.
All these things show that council is concerned with community awareness and participation, says Ald Beale, and they also promote an "understanding that the council, as an elected body, represents the community".
When asked what projects she would have liked to see come to fruition yet was unable to, Ald Beale replied, "Council is a numbers game. If you don't have the numbers, you don't have your project".
She found her term on council "very challenging" with different views, different values, and different belief systems all "coming together".
She stood alone against council's reaffirmation of support for the Joint Defence policy.
"The creation of the Joint Defence Facility had nothing to do with council and I felt the policy didn't give a balanced view," she says.
She was also against the changed in the middle of the term of the way aldermen are remunerated. Formerly they received an allowance; now part of their remuneration is tied to their attendance of meetings.
Her advice to prospective candidates:
"Learn meeting procedures, learn processes, and understand the role of an alderman.
"If you haven't already, get some governance training. Understand what governance is. "Be organized in time management, set aside enough time.
"Come with an open mind, and be prepared to be flexible, but most importantly be yourself, remain true to yourself."
CONISTON: CAN WE MAKE A JUDGMENT? Part Eighteen and last of a Feature by DICK KIMBER.
'Real True History': Coniston MassacreConstable Murray, murderer or hero?
Before considering whether the "Coniston killings" constituted a massacre and whether Constable Murray can be seen as a murderer or a hero, I want to briefly examine the research subsequent to 1940.
I am only aware of three researchers after this date who interviewed George Murray, two of whom published their material and one of whom left his information in thesis form.
Ernestine Hill, and Sidney Downer in his 1963 book, "Patrol Indefinite", do not challenge the figure of 31.
However, M.C. Hartwig's 1960 thesis, "The Coniston Killings", is by far the most rigorous examination of the situation. Hartwig carefully chose his words. His title, it will be noted, is not "The Coniston Massacre".
He appears to have had a degree of cooperation from George Murray, but also to have met some barriers. His estimate is therefore based on Annie Lock's and Pastor Albrecht's figures, and he considers it "more correct" to accept 70-105 as the number shot.
Douglas Lockwood referred to the 31 admitted shot in his 1960 book "Fair Dinkum" and his 1964 book "Up The Track", but in his earlier book of 1959, "Crocodiles and other people", had stated, "they were decimated and scattered, migrating east and north". This implies that he believed that a much greater number than 31 were killed, but he makes no estimate. (He does make the further point, though, that some of those who were forced to flee to neighbouring country were sometimes killed in inter-group conflicts there. While this is a realistic supposition, he provides no evidence for it).
In 1992 Kurt Johannsen was clear, from what he had heard, that the massacres constituted "an act of revenge", and stated that he understood that "one can still go into certain areas and find hundreds of bones scattered around in the scrub." His perception was accepted by Julie Marcus in her 2001 study of "The Indominitable Miss Pink", but neither author gives an estimate of the total number killed.
Thus, as far as I know, no other researchers have been able to be more accurate than Mervyn Hartwig, and unless an extraordinarily detailed diary by Constable Murray comes to light (highly improbable), the estimates will always be very "rubbery", and open to debate.
Without going more exhaustively into the reasons why, I believe that there is too much oral history and circumstantial evidence that states or suggests otherwise to accept 31 as the number of people who were shot.
The second patrol remains a mystery as to details, but is likely to have resulted in shootings as well as the arrest of two men, given the evidence for the first and third patrols. My own conclusion is higher than the Central Land Council's conservative estimate, and I believe that over 70 were shot, and that possibly over 100 were, for Pastor Albrecht (see last week's article) was not given to extravagances.
However, as a conservative estimate, I believe that 70-80 people, mostly men but including some women and children, were shot or murdered after being captured or injured.
I also believe that, though Paddy Tucker and Walter Smith probably over-estimated numbers, it is highly likely that a further 100 or more people, mostly men, were shot in the station country under consideration, and in a wider general area from Central Mount Wedge in a western arc through Mount Farewell to Tanami. I believe that police patrols were not normally involved in these shootings.
Some of the people shot were killed in the period 1911-1927, probably mostly in the 1920s, and others in the period 1929-c.1935. Walter Smith's estimate of having seen 200 skulls and other skeletal remains no doubt included many who were shot during the police patrols, and numerous others who were shot both shortly before and shortly after the patrols.
And although Walter did not think so, it is also possible that some of the skeletons that had become uncovered were of people who had died of natural causes, or inter-group fighting independent of any pastoral presence.
Further to this, another 100-200 probably migrated in a permanent way to Wave Hill, Gordon Downs, Birrindudu, the Hermannsburg- Haasts Bluff country, all along the Overland Telegraph Line route from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs, and in the 1930s to the gold, wolfram and other mines of the Tanami, Granites, Mount Doreen station, and the Anningie country.
Many of these were women widowed as a result of the shootings, with small children to care for, but some also migrated because of the severe drought conditions. The widows were almost certainly all taken in by, and married into, the safer Warlpiri, Gurindji, Warrumungu, Kaytetye and other peoples of the country to which they migrated. These are the only people for whom there is a half-reasonable chance of identifying with any certainty, as they may have been recorded on early census forms.
Vast changes in Australian society have occurred since those times, 75 years ago. It would have been interesting to consider some of them, particularly the more immediate ones that occurred in Central Australia in the next few years after the events of 1928, but time does not allow for this.
Similarly it would have been interesting to reflect on the Reconciliation Commemoration held out at Brooks Soak on the 23rd and 24th September last year. It was a moving time for many, including members of the Murray family who laid a wreath Ð on behalf of everyone, I like to think. In the end, though, those who have it in their hearts to be reconciled will be, and there will be those who won't be reconciled, or perhaps feel no need whatsoever to be reconciled.
So, was it a massacre? Or was George Murray a hero?
The Macquarie Dictionary definition of "massacre" is: "1. the unnecessary, indiscriminate killing of a number of human beings, as in barbarous warfare or persecution or for revenge or plunder. 2. a general slaughter of human beings." Broader definitions are given in some other dictionaries, referring to general "slaughter" and "carnage". Although the evidence suggests that, generally, women and young children were allowed to survive, I believe that, whether 31, 60-110, 200-300, or 600-700 is the number accepted as having been shot, the witnesses' own evidence alone leaves no choice other than to accept that a massacre, or series of massacres, took place. When oral histories and circumstantial evidence are taken into account, the proof is strengthened.
According to the majority of people in Central Australia, and quite possibly in Australia as a whole in 1928-1929, the enquiry had proved that Mounted Constable Murray had been doing his duty when 31 Aborigines were shot. Only a small number of people, mostly missionaries or church representatives, believed that he was a murderer and that another enquiry was needed. To some he was elevated to hero status.
While it is important for every individual reader of these articles to make his or her own mind up, it is clear that there will be two responses 75 years after the actions.
Those who believe that the Board of Enquiry, though perhaps flawed in its membership, and perhaps incorrect in its summaries of drought impact and missionary influence, otherwise essentially "got it right", will at the very least believe that Constable George Murray was doing his duty. In taking into account the difficulties and dangers he faced, some will believe that he was a genuine hero.
Those who believe, as I do, that he deliberately covered up evidence; at times lied under oath; at times shot people down "like dogs", "like bullocks", "in cold blood" and "wholesale" (as the judge in Darwin perceived the actions); and along with the other patrol members killed far more than the 31 admitted to, will judge him differently.
They will almost certainly consider him a policeman who lost his judgement, and became a murderer as he led "punitive", "vengeance" or "revenge" patrols that massacred many people. (The degree to which his superiors and the general body of frontier people were complicit is another interesting question).
However, perhaps it is possible to consider him both a hero and a murderer. To consider him this way is, I believe, to contribute to the sense of reconciliation that prevailed out at Brooks Soak on the 23rd and 24th of September last year.
It is not meant as an attempt to ignore old Fred Brooks' murder, or the sense of loss felt by the survivors among the Warlpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye, nor to dodge the issues, but to take into account a greater part of his life. Every single person who helped to kill old Fred Brooks, and every single member of the three patrols, could be similarly considered.
I think of myself as a friend or friendly acquaintance of Bullfrog's grandchildren, Alex Wilson's sons, Police Paddy's grandson, Billy Briscoe's descendants, Harry Tilmouth's descendants, Jack Saxby's wider family's descendants, and John Cawood's grandson. They are not to blame for anything at all, and it is understandable if they feel defensive about their parents' or grandparents' generation. Can we of the present day judge them? It is doubtful that we can in a fair way, yet we often do. I will now consider Constable Murray just a little more, then pass my judgement on him.
In late March, 1929, only one month after the Board's findings were delivered, the famous aviator, Charles Kingsford Smith, was forced down by bad weather near the Glenelg River in the north-west of Western Australia. Keith Anderson, a friend of Kingsford Smith's, and a mechanic mate, Bobby Hitchcock, shortly afterwards arrived in Alice Springs in another aeroplane, the "Kookaburra", to search for them. They were forced to land in the northern Tanami Dersert country, south of Wave Hill, where both men died. Further searches by aircraft enabled Kingsford Smith to be rescued; located the scene of the "Kookaburra" tragedy; and enabled a ground party from Wave Hill to bury Anderson and Hitchcock, and record details of the men's last troubles and their deaths.
News of the tragedy resulted in public subscriptions and a demand that the bodies be brought back to their home communities (Sydney and Karakatta in W.A.) for formal burial. A recovery team of Miles, Nettle and Berg arrived in Alice Springs with a Thornycroft 4 wheel-drive truck, and on June 3rd were joined by Constable Murray with his T model Ford, and Stan Cawood, son of the Administrator. They travelled north to Newcastle Waters, then up the Murranji Stock-Route, and finally followed the previous party's horse-tracks in to the "Kookaburra."
This was not easy going, and it still isn't today, and in all it took 10 days. Digging up the bodies and placing them in coffins was not a pleasant task, either. However, all members of the party worked well, and the mission was accomplished.
Constable Murray deserved every commendation for his excellent work, as did all other members of the group. It appears, though, that this hard and selfless work was then almost certainly undone by another act of mass murder.
Nugget Morton had withdrawn from the Lander River country, and was on Amaroo station by the early 1930s. As one might expect, he and George Murray remained in touch. In his 1992 "A Son Of The Red Centre", Kurt Johannsen writes:
"[Murray] was alleged to have been an Ôaboriginal hater' É ÔNugget' Morton É and Murray were also allegedly involved in the ÔSandover Masacre' where 100 or more aborigines were either shot or poisoned after it was alleged the aborigines had speared some cattle. Apparently strychnine [normally used to poison dingoes] was put in the soakage of the Sandover River."
This, of course, is only an allegation, and there is no intention of investigating it here, but given both Nugget Morton's and George Murray's records, it does not "look good."
We all have saints and sinners among our ancestors, so how might we judge Constable Murray if, by some miracle of longevity, he were alive today? A Warlpiri man recently described him to me as "cheeky", a word which, in the context, can be translated as "deadly dangerous."
However, in my experience the Warlpiri and Anmatyerre never judge him as other than the leader of the police patrols in the Coniston country. Indeed, the middle-aged man who discussed the police patrols with me did not name anyone but Murray.
Thus, as with all legendary tales world-wide, Constable Murray has already at times come to represent all who were involved. This is understandable, for how many of us can now name more than Napoleon, Nelson and Wellington of the millions involved in the Napoleonic Wars or, closer to home, more than Stuart of his exploration parties of 1860-1862, or all of present Prime Minister John Howard's cabinet? As historian Peter Ryan commented in "The Age" on October 23 last year, "History, with time, wears thinner and thinner."
I consider that, in the broader context, if Constable Murray were still alive today he would be acknowledged as of pioneering farm family stock, yet lauded first and foremost as a trained Light Horseman, an original Anzac, and a Western Front legend.
However much I believe that this series of articles has proved otherwise, he was not found guilty of crimes during the Coniston massacre, and despite allegations about the Sandover River massacre still persisting, they remain unproven allegations.
I therefore think the positives might outbalance the negatives. Thus his World War I service and his exemplary work during the recovery of Anderson's and Hitchcock's bodies would, I suggest, prevail in the media news next Anzac Day.
He would, I believe, be substantially rehabilitated from the role of murderer in the minds of most, and any other flaws on his Army and Police service records would be considered dealt with fairly during his decades of service. There is no real doubt in my mind that he would be hailed as one of the last great legendary heroes of Australia.
I believe that I would keep in mind his Coniston massacre role, and his possible acts in the Sandover massacre, yet I think I would consider him a legend too. Like Ned Kelly without the romantic image, he would be a very flawed legend to me.
It is worth thinking about this. It rarely happens, but a hero can become a murderer, and a murderer can become a hero.
And in Constable Murray's case there is every chance he became a murderer again.
Shakespeare would have written a wonderful play about George Murray, giving him an evil heart, a tortured soul and the gift of golden language. And I'm not being sentimental or meaning to offend when I also say that, on the 24th September out at Brooks' Soak, when Mounted Constable Murray's relatives placed a wreath of flowers in remembrance of all of the Warlpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye Aborigines who died, in a way they were also placing it there for George Murray too. And for all of his patrol members. Some of you, perhaps many of you, will disagree.
JUST REWARD FOR QUEEN'S IMAGE. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The gallopers at Pioneer Park showed a glimpse of what is to come in Centralian racing when four events unfolded on Saturday.The first, the Class Four Red Kangaroo Handicap over 1000 metres, allowed Compass Boy to register two wins in a row.
He and Corruptible jumped to the lead from the gates and proved to be the speedsters of the race.
As they shared the lead the other three runners formed a group of their own, some three to five lengths behind.
In the straight fitness told as Compass Boy took control of the running and careered home as a $3.40 winner by two and a half lengths.
The $3 favourite filled second place, and Jetven did well enough to take the third place, a length and a half in arrears.
In the Red Kangaroo Class One Handicap over 1200 metres, Classic Khan was able to atone for defeat the week before by scoring an impressive win by a length and a half.
Unlike most Pioneer Park events in recent times, Classic Khan came from behind to score.
Rustic Outlook led early by three to four lengths but by the turn found the going testing. The favourite at $3, Criterium was hence set up with every chance to claim victory having enjoyed the sit of the race.
It wasn't to be, however, as Criterium couldn't run on and the fast finishing Tiepolo on the fence and Classic Khan in the centre of the track settled down for the run to the line. Classic Khan claimed a solid victory, but Tiepolo, in paying $9, was value for money for a place punter.The South North Rail Maiden Plate was raced over 1200 metres. In this the star of the show was a race scratching from a week ago, Foghorn Leghorn. Foghorn jumped with Litigious and the pair made the running to the turn where Litigious showed signs of weakening under pressure. This allowed Foghorn Leghorn ($4) to career away, winning by over nine lengths. Litigious as $2.80 favourite claimed second place, and the $4.60 pop Gold Hawk ran on well to fill the placings.The 1200 metre Ghan Open Handicap completed the card. In this race Queen's Image was rewarded, having run well for a second last week behind Scotro.
In Saturday's race the pacy Ganga led early allowing Queen's Image to drop into second place a length off the pace, with other chances Gamera and Coppers Edge further back.
Ganga kicked to a lead of a length and a half, but had to face the charge by Gamera and Queen's Image in the straight. In the run home Queen's image showed her true potential in charging to the line a winner by a length and three quarters and paying $2. Ganga held on for second, with Gamera being the third number in the frame.
FEDS LET RSL OFF THE HOOK. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The game being played at present between Federal and RSL Works is significant in terms of premiership ladder placings.
In Alice Springs cricket the team finishing on top at the season's end has to be beaten in the grand final to lose the premiership. The present game could well determine the minor premier, and after one day's play Federal, who are in top spot, must be ruing the fact that they may have let RSL off the hook.
RSL won the toss at Traeger, and skipper Jeff Whitmore naturally elected to bat. They got away to a solid start with the openers putting together 46 before Tom Scollay was caught off the bowling of Michael Smith for 17.
Scott Robertson joined the stoic Graham Smith but could only register three runs before B J O'Dwyer caught him off Allan Rowe. Smith himself was the next to succumb, when, on 37, Jarrad Wapper did enough with the ball to have him caught.
At 3/64 RSL were not looking good, but worse was to come as they tumbled to 7/109.
Troy Camilleri and Jamie Smith supplied some resistance to the Federal attack by putting on 19 and 29 respectively. Smith in fact stuck around to only be the eighth wicket victim.
But Feds certainly held the upper hand.
Jason Swain struck, claiming skipper Whitmore for a duck, and Rowe picked up Matt Sulzberger for two. This really left Feds perched in a position to dictate the game.
However, with three wickets to fall, they allowed RSL to bite back from despair.
The loss of Smith as the eighth wicket had allowed them to push the score to 129. Five runs later Matt Forster fell for 15, but then the mouse really got away from the tomcat.
In the last partnership Wayne Eglington and Nathan Flanagan were able to produce a further 44 runs to give their side a show when Federal bat next week.Jason Swain's 4/31 off 13 overs was impressive, while Rowe and Smith were effective with two wickets each.
But significantly Federal managed to bowl 82 overs for the day which places them in the advantageous position of RSL having to bowl at least that many overs this week.
The Albrecht Oval game took on a very different perspective. Rovers batted first and were dismissed for a meagre 140. Darryl Lowe was the best performer for the Blues with 40 in an innings that was otherwise disappointing. With the ball Jeremy Bigg put in a real captain's effort taking 4/26.
West then took full advantage of the situation and by stumps had 165 on the board without loss. The star of the innings was Adam Stockwell who remained at the crease with 123 n.o. by his name.
It was an innings to be remembered, and from here this young man should seek to step up to the next level and develop his full potential.
RULES TO GET A NEW LOOK. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Central Australian Football League have announced innovative changes to their programme for the coming season.
Twilight games, matches at Albrecht Oval and family days have been scheduled as have visiting sides to provide Wizard Cup and representative football experiences at Traeger Park.
More significant in terms of the CAFL is the fact that it seems five clubs will again vie for premiership honours. West, South and Pioneer are well positioned to play influential roles in the battle for the flag. Rovers have again had a surge in interest, with stalwart Brett Wagner taking the reigns as coach and attracting a solid cohort of players to the training track.The side that seemed to be in jeopardy over the off-season was Federal. Before Christmas they tried to hold an AGM without being able to raise a quorum. This was repeated twice in the New Year.
On Sunday a core of keen supporters gathered in the third attempt. Although the number needed to conduct business was not reached, it was decided to press ahead and try to keep the Red and White colours alive in 2004.
An interesting ploy is now likely to be tried in calling the AGM at a time when numbers are present at the sports club, primarily for social reasons. It is not uncommon for Territory sporting organisations to have to resort to such strategies to attract the numbers to satisfy constitutional demands.Last year's president, Robbie Rolfe, will again be there along with the seasoned team of Dave Gloede and Peter Thomson. Gilbert McAdam has expressed interest in coaching. From such a base Federal will be looking to attract players and administrators.
Looking at their performances through the grades during 2003, Federal can take some heart in that the Reserve Grade and Colts performed creditably. It is in the A Grade that work needs to be done to have a competitive team run on each week.
The Easter Carnival will usher in the season, with well over 20 clubs participating.The CAFL season will then begin on Saturday April 17 with a replay of the 2003 grand final, between South and Pioneer.
TOP OZ GIGS FOR ARALUEN.
Circus from Circus Oz, La Boheme from Opera Australia, and The Nutcracker from the Australian Ballet headline this year's theatre season at Araluen, launched yesterday.
Alice audiences will also get to see Bell Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, Legs On The Wall's Runners Up, and a dazzling lineup of other shows, ranging from cabaret to comedy, daring to dance, wind quintets to guitar quartets.
This year, Araluen's 20th Birthday year, the season has been expanded to 16 productions, including some of Australia's flagship performing arts companies.This continues the Northern Territory Government's commitment to bring quality performing arts experiences to the Territory, says Suzette Watkins, Director of the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct.
While theatre is "an expression of our humanity Ð our desires, our fears, our aspirations", it is also "about fun", she says."And this year we have several productions that are just plain fun!"
Kicking off the season on March 6 is the "sophisticated and sassy"cabaret Dislabelled by Australian Theatre of the Deaf. Combo Fiasco, "one of the hottest cabaret acts in the world today", follows on March 10.
Waak Waak Jungi with special guests Pitjantjatjara Choir is a musical performance, exploring voices of Aboriginal Australia, from strictly traditional to cutting-edge contemporary, on March 12.
The "wild and unfettered," Circus Oz will be here from April 10 to 12 , followed in quick succession by Runners Up from Legs on the Wall "renowned for startling, sensuous and emotion-charged theatrics" (May 5-7), and the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow (May 8-9).
And that's not all É watch this space.
I'm leaving town. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
The last time I wrote a column about semi-retirement and the pros and cons of staying in the Alice ("Fortress Alice Ð Do you think you'll retire here?", February 2002) I was almost hung, drawn and quartered, on paper anyway.
Someone wrote, "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem", referring to my tirades about on-going social issues and concerns in the Centre, and the fact that none of the authorities seem to have any idea about how to manage them.
Maybe people get to a point where they can't actually remember what the initial poser was: what they were trying to resolve É
I cited the benefits of staying as a Territorian Senior, weighed up against other options, although I'm well aware that many people, trapped by a variety of circumstances, don't have the luxury of options. I believed then that David and I would definitely semi-retire in the Alice É
Now, here we are, two years later, preparing to relocate into the thick of it all Ð not 1770 (Agnes Waters) or Byron Bay, but dense enough for desert dwellers. The reaching of this decision has been, and still is, for me, a highly emotive one.
Alice Springs has been my home in Australia for over 25 years. David and I met here in 1983 Ð he arrived straight from Zimbabwe, middle of southern Africa to the middle of Australia, and has only ever lived in the Alice. He's intimated for a while that the Centre could be too restrictive for what he thinks semi-retirement should encompass and he'd really like to experience living elsewhere.
I don't know that I particularly wish to explore the idea of aging (gracefully?) anywhere. Birthdays come and go: suffice to say that David is a "tad" (as departed friend, roving cameleer, Dennis, would say) older than me. Despite having dear friends here, the ease of lifestyle and pace, the spectacular landscape and all the pluses that a town like Alice has to offer, David is enthusiastic about a shift out of our comfort zone, the prospect of heading east and taking on new challenges.I was talking to Bev at Dymock's last week and she said something along the lines of, "When we're green we grow, when we're ripe, we rot", which is quite a good analogy of life and attitudes.
I have never felt the need to be like the other 95 per cent of Australians who live within 100 kilometres of the coastline, but if I do have to become part of that statistic, then I think a sea view, no matter how distant, could help my emotional dilemma.
I know that LAA (Life after Alice) exists because friends who have shifted over the years tell us so in emails and postcards from other beautiful parts of Oz.
I'm fickle Ð I have to admit that I'm getting quite excited about this, the next phase of life, but thoughts of selling the house, packing, the physical extrication from this beautiful part of the world and the good-byes, depress me totally. I wish I could also take our friends, but then they wouldn't be able to visit us in a new part of Oz and if it isn't what I think it should be, it'll be okay, because in my heart of hearts, I know we can always come back.
I also know that wherever we go, we will promote the wonders and beauty of Alice to everyone we meet. Where else, on a balmy Saturday evening with a sprinkle of rain and the promise of another dramatically cloudy sunset, could I sit on a sideline and watch quality rugby union, guys versus girls, with gigantic river gums, sandy banks and the historic Todd Tavern as the backdrop? Mentions should go to referee Warren (Snowdon) who courageously enforced the "no swearing and no heavy tackling" rule and was so fair, that the full-time score showed a draw; Steve (Smith), fearless captain of the boys' team; John (Elferink) who magnanimously attributed many of the pinks' ball handling errors to inferior choices of make-up; Annie P offering encouragement from the bench and on the pitch; Rosemary, who managed to score a try without dropping her bright pink handbag; the brave boy pinks, "Am I Not Pretty Enough", "Is My Heart Too Broken" and "Do I Cry Too Much"; my niece Emma (I'm extremely biased!!), number 69, a formidable player with or without ball possession; the rest of the players; water and champagne boys, linesmen, supporters and spectators.
So, away with the tissues (there'll be time enough for tears later), or should I say (perhaps), stop celebrating, because we're not heading out until mid-year, and there are columns to be penned, issues tackled and lives to be lived to the absolute maximum in the Alice.
Give us a break. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
When I first arrived in Alice Springs, people told me how important it is to leave town from time-to-time.
This seemed like peculiar advice to offer a newcomer. It made me nervous.
I thought there might be something lurking, unknown to us that made the place unliveable, like an all-pervading smell or an annual bout of heavy diarrhoea that struck down the locals.
This cheerful advice implied that eventually my family would be driven away from town for the kind of respite that carers of people with illnesses need. But what was sick about the Alice, I couldn't work out.
Get out of town. The words still reverberate. Not everyone has the time off work, the money or the inclination to take an occasional trip away. But there's still a huge exodus of people who head south over Christmas. That's what I did too, except that I had no rellies to visit, which may seem a bit sad but was no bad thing. Instead I deepened my relationships with inanimate objects like gym machines and video shops, always easier to manage than those with animate members of your own extended family.
At the same time, I sampled the delights of Adelaide. Having endured a hard sell from a succession of Alice folk about what a wonderful place it is, I plunged in with both feet.
I was dragged by my children around gleaming and chilly malls. I watched people test their four-wheel drive vehicles on pristine beaches. I nodded earnestly as coastal dwellers complained about the heat once it reached thirty-two degrees. I endured the daily worship of Steve Waugh in the local media. And I went to watch Adelaide United in the first soccer stadium that I have visited where soychino is served and the fans swear in European languages other than English.
The better bits of the city were modest but new experiences. I promise I won't go on about this for long, but Adelaide must have the best public transport system that I have seen for ages. And I study them intimately.
In a matter of days, I was confidently alighting from one bus, striding to the neighbouring stop and boarding one to another destination. I just knew it would be waiting there because the pack of leaflets the nice lady had given me at the bus information office said so.
She gave me a little wallet to hold my day ranger ticket and I clasped it close to my bosom the whole time I was in Adelaide, only getting it out to present to the bus drivers, who didn't want to see it anyway because there was always a ticket-punching machine further down the aisle. But I liked showing it to them anyway.
If this hedonistic trip had any higher purpose, it was to work out why so many Centralian residents treat Adelaide like some kind of promised land. Yes, it's a pleasant and leafy city with the best of coast, countryside and hills. The shops and cinemas have all you could ever want and more. But it is a long, long drive to get there. And that's just through the suburbs.
So the truth must be just as those people told me when I first arrived in the Alice. Adelaide is not a magnet for people like us.
More likely, it is a convenient place to go when you just have to get out of town for a while. Assuming you have the time and money to go there in the first place, it offers choice, respite and anonymity in just the right amounts.
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