HOSTEL IN CBD TO CUT BACK ILLEGAL CAMPING. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Visitors from Aboriginal bush communities are to get a 60 bed hostel in the heart of Alice Springs.
The NT Government has bought the Stuart Lodge, formerly owned by the YWCA, adjacent to Melanka backpackers' hostel.
The facility will be run by Aboriginal Hostels.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff, who played a part in the negotiations, says the new lodge will reduce the incidence of illegal camping in the town, and Ð being close to the hospital Ð serve mainly families in town for medical treatment or visiting patients.
The Planning Consent Authority last week approved the use of the lodge as a "guest house and hostel" to be used as short-term accommodation.
Ms Kilgariff also says there are talks about land "south of town" to be set aside for itinerants' camping, linked to the town with a bus service.
She says she can not disclose the location.
Meanwhile the service on which the town council relies to keep in check anti-social behaviour says its resources are over-stretched.
This and the ongoing lack of proper camping facilities for "itinerants" may have a serious impact this weekend when several thousand "bush" visitors are expected in town for the AFL Wizard Cup.
Tangentyere Council's Jane Vadiveloo says just two wardens, who double as drivers, are running the "back to country" program.
This involves returning to their home communities, up to 1000 km away, Aboriginal people stranded in Alice Springs.
They are frequently camping illegally, littering and breaching the "two kilometre law" which prohibits drinking alcohol in public places.
The town council has said its rangers are not able to police littering, illegal camping and drinking because they are not adequately trained, may be harmed when confronting offenders, and usually can't get enough evidence for prosecutions.
This is despite the fact that illegal camping violates council by-laws, the council rangers are authorised litter officers under NT legislation, and they could be appointed liquor inspectors with wide ranging powers.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding with the town council Tangentyere patrols the creeks and vacant land, offering people a lift home or cash for fuel and food.
In the six months to December 31 last year, "Back to Country" transported 336 people and gave fuel vouchers Ð an average of $36.90 per person Ð to a further 700.
But Ms Vadiveloo says the Territory Health funded program needs at least twice as many staff as there has been a sharp increase in itinerants.
In addition there are unexpected drains on the service: at the moment there are some 50 inhalant substance abusers Ð sniffers Ð in town.
"Back to Country" achieved a decline in numbers when it was first introduced in 1996.
Ms Vadiveloo says wardens were then patrolling creeks every morning but this has been cut back to three days a week because of lack of staff.
On the other days the wardens are busy transporting people to communities, up to 1000 kilometres away.
"We've used up already the financial assistance for the first six months," says Ms Vadiveloo.
"We need two full time drivers, complementing the two full time people here.
"And that will still not necessarily meet the full need."
Meanwhile, the past four months have been really busy.
"It seems to ebb and flow," says Ms Vadiveloo.
"We have to work really hard, being on their case.
"If the wardens can't do it, with the support of the town council, we bring the police in, and we target those people until they go.
"Usually it works. It takes an intensive approach."
Although participation in the program is voluntary Ð there is no law enforcement by the council Ð the wardens do their best to move squatters out of the creeks or off the hilltops around town, back to their home communities.
Some are trying to abuse the system.
"The advantage of using local people as wardens is they can monitor who's using it.
"They know who's been referred.
"They monitor family groups over-using or abusing the system," says Ms Vadiveloo.
So where will bush visitors stay during the Wizard Cup this weekend?
"That's a good question," says Ms Vadiveloo.
"The AFL should be supporting us to fund temporary accommodation.
"We haven't been able to arrange any of that.
"We don't have the resources or capacity on such short notice to organise temporary accommodation for between 3000 and 5000 people who might be coming in from remote areas."
Although the problems with itinerant people have been going on for decades, only now is a start being made on an independent assessment, a "mobility study" by the Centre for Remote Health, upon request from Tangentyere's executive director William Tilmouth.
It will take 12 months, collecting data about people coming into town camps as well as public housing tenancies.
"It will be looking at numbers, flow and reasons for travel," says Ms Vadiveloo.
She says it seems bush visitors most frequently assisted are from Yuendumu and Harts Range.
BUSTangentyere has been talking to the NT government about starting bus services, firstly on a trial basis.
These, of course, would provide two-way transport Ð not just "back" to the communities Ð and so may increase the number of visitors to town.
Ms Vadiveloo says when the program started there were an estimated 500 illegal campers in town every day.
This was reduced to as few as 20 people, and rarely rises above 70.
But these are not hard figures, says Ms Vadiveloo: "It's a guesstimate, very, very much a guesstimate."
There is still no progress with authorised camping areas for itinerants, on the agenda for years.
Ms Vadiveloo says Tangentyere was approached two years ago by Alice in Ten to come up with a solution about visitor camping, but the organisation is stretched: "We're dealing with 18 town camps with a lot of their own issues and needs.
"We don't have the resources to monitor a temporary camping place, which could become a permanent camping place which would need good planning and good management," says Ms Vadiveloo.
"You're going to end up with people in overcrowding and continued poverty.
"We don't want to perpetuate that.
"It's a huge problem for the housing associations as well as public tenancies."
The beginning of decent accommodation for itinerants been a long road: "In the last six months I would have gone to meetings at least every fortnight," says Ms Vadiveloo.
"We need sustainable, long term strategies, and I feel through the quality of life [Alice in Ten] initiative we're now finally getting somewhere," she says.
FINKE RACE GETS GOVERNMENT MONEY.
Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne rarely passes up an opportunity of getting into (or on top of) something hot, so when Geoff Roe (above, left) offered a ride in his class two buggy, he had a keen passenger.
The occasion was an announcement by Dr Toyne that the Finke Desert Race would get a further $350,000 from the NT Government, bringing the total to $650,000.
The latest grant will be for the start - finish line, headworks for permanent power and water, and turn-off from the Stuart Highway.
The start will now be further west, between the old and new Ghan railway lines.Race president Anthony Yoffa welcomed the more reliable services: gone are the days when a faulty generator shut down the results computers or the dunnies wouldn't flush because the tanks were dry.
The prologue track (pictured below) is over 8 km long. Some of the government money will be used for fencing it.
STRESS DOWN, PERFORMANCE UP AT ALICE SPRINGS HIGH. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Classrooms have become "mess halls", teachers are "like your friends", teachers and students alike are all "part of a team", and there are "fun things" on the timetable, from photography to psychology.
The new approach to Year 10 studies at Alice Springs High, trialled last year and now firmly established, took attendance from 80 to 96 per cent; retention this year has gone to 100 per cent; plus a number of students transferred to ASHS from other local schools.
"We were getting poor attendance in Year Nine and too many students were dropping out," says Trevor Read, the "team leader" who helped drive the change.
"We realised the only way to solve that was by catering better for all students' needs."
This included the needs of Indigenous students. At 172 students ASHS has the highest Indigenous enrolment at secondary level in the Territory and is getting more Indigenous students through Years 11 and 12 than any other school in the Territory.
Change at Year 10 level involved in part offering a greater number and variety of subjects to study Ð there are 26 on the current timetable Ð as well as a change to "values" (and this was before the Prime Minister made that word the latest catchcry in education debates).
In April Mr Read will address a national conference, being held by the federally funded Curriculum Corporation, on "how to ensure that values are being taught in schools".
"I'm passionate about our values of cooperation and respect," says Mr Read, "but I don't think you can teach them by standing up and talking about them.
"At ASHS we are teaching them by working in teams, by mentoring the students, by being their advocates."
Standing in front of a class of 25, with five "up the back throwing things and swearing" is a thing of the past.
Apart from the core subjects, "kids are choosing what they want to learn and we are facilitating", says Mr Read.
"Our stress is down, their performance is up."
The formal name for the large open Year 10 rooms is "Teaching and Learning Areas" but "mess halls" seems to be preferred by the students.
One of the mess halls had a number of computers arranged along walls with some worktables in the centre. The other, apparently more popular, had computers sprinkled throughout the room. All computers were occupied, with students appearing to be beavering away at their work alone or in pairs. There were also a few groups gathered in low-key discussion around papers and books at the worktables and a number of students either going to or returning from the library.
It took a while to notice staff members Ð there are at least three staff present at all times, two of whom are teachers, for a maximum of 15 to 20 students, while other students (this year a total of 105) are meanwhile in class elsewhere. The staff were moving slowly through the mess halls, offering a comment here, sitting down and really helping out there, ticking off the daily checklist when units of work were completed.
The individual attention has been critical for student Dallas Campbell. He "got through" Year Nine but is finding Year 10 easier because "you get all the help you need". Last year he would often skip Maths, finding it just too hard. This year, moving at his own pace and getting the help he needs one to one rather than having to ask for it in front of everyone else, he is managing it quite well. He says he comes to school every day, "hoping for a great day".
Most students talk about the changed relationship with teachers.
"In Year Nine they were always on your back," says Karlee Button, "now they are heaps nicer, more of a friend."Tyrone Griffin transferred from another school because the teachers were "way too strict". He and a mate came together to ASHS.
"We were sick of it where we were," he says.
"I used to walk out when it got too much."Being to a large degree in charge of himself has changed his attitude to school. Now he's coming every day, getting on with his work.
It's a theme taken up by Ronja Moss, who arrived at ASHS this year from interstate.
She missed a lot of school last year but this year she has only missed one day.
"I want to go to school. I'm enjoying the teachers and the classes.
"It's much better than what I've known before. There are no teachers preaching to you, they are more your friends.
"You're going at your own rate and kids who really want to learn, can."
There is less "stress" in Year 10 than Year Nine, says Samantha Vandenberg. She puts this down to the flexibility and variety of the timetable. Apart from the core subjects, she is doing Japanese, photography, cooking and "Duke of Edinburgh" (outdoor education).
"You don't have a person you hate in your class the whole time," she says.
On the other hand, now that the old classes have disappeared there is the opportunity to get to know more people in your year level.
"I know Ôem all now, we're good friends, better than at my old school," says Tyrone.
"We're all in the one class now so you make more friends," says Karlee.
"Last year we were all in different groups, this year we're talking to each other," says Ashleigh Barnden. "I think by the end of the year we'll all be like sisters and brothers."
"I used to have problems sometimes in Year Nine, with both teachers and friends" says Sye McKee. "Not this year Ð it's happy and joyful!"
A lot of the subjects on the huge timetable are actually being taught at Charles Darwin University. ASHS is spending around $15,000 a year on taxis to take students across to the uni campus.
Ronja is doing art there, Dallas is doing construction, Ashleigh is doing psychology and multi-arts.
She had thought that she wanted to be a lawyer, but is thinking again, finding she is getting "really interested" in psychology.
All of the subjects at CDU are actually at Year 11 (VET) or Stage One (academic) level, so this way about 40 per cent of the Year 10 students are getting a head start on their senior studies.
Does this mean they are skipping Year 10 work? No, says Mr Read, it's simply a matter of using the town's education resources to best effect. For instance, if ASHS students couldn't study construction at CDU, ASHS would offer technical studies in house. But why not, for the price of a cab fare, take advantage of CDU's superior facilities?
In order to compare apples with apples, ASHS have retained Year 10 exams, identical to those of the old system. Mr Read says the standard achieved in Maths and English under the new system is considerably higher, with all students passing their exams in 2003, compared to only 83 per cent in 2002.
And what is even more pleasing, only one of the 69 students in 2003 dropped out of further education and training. Three students began apprenticeships, having accessed VET courses in their area of interest in Year 10 and the rest all progressed to Year 11 or Stage One studies.
At their exit interviews, Mr Read says 100 per cent of the students reported that they loved the new system.
Other schools are taking an interest. Nightcliff High in Darwin has already restructured their Year 10 along ASHS' lines, and late last week ASHS' principal Peter Vaughan explained the approach to a cluster principals' conference.
ALICE Ð A STAGNATING OR HAPPENING LITTLE TOWN?
COURTNEY WHITMAN continues her series of interviews with Alice's aldermen in the lead-up to the local government poll at the end of May.
Public toilets in Todd Mall, and camping facilities for itinerants are issues that should have been resolved by now, says a "tired and frustrated" Alderman Annette Smith.
A more upbeat Alderman Geoff Bell, chair of the Finance Committee, claims success for council in the economic area: "We're getting the town back on its feet É more construction, more tourism," he says.
He'll probably stand again in the upcoming elections, while Ald Smith, who had a two-month spell in hospital recently, is still thinking about it.
It's been a long four-year term for her.
"I raised [the toilet issue] so many years ago, and now everyone is jumping on after me," she says.
In her view lack of hygienic toilets, even hand washing facilities, in the town centre contributes to the spread of disease.
"Toilets should be the first thing to go up in the new Civic Centre," she urges.
"But there should definitely be facilities on the mall as well."
Ald Bell, a member of the Civic Centre sub-committee, hopes the toilet issue will be sorted out once and for all and agrees that the new toilet block should be the first thing built in the new centre.
There should also be a toilet somewhere on the mall, and Ald Bell thinks it should be free.
"One day I remember I had to pawn my watch at Woollies. I got my watch back," he jokes, "but it's ridiculous."
CAMPINGAld Smith is appalled by the lack of camping facilities for transients.
Where else are transients to go but the river Ð where there are "no toilets, running water, electricity, etc".
"I work for the Department of Health," says Ald Smith.
"There's a lack of free drinking water in town. We still don't have public facilities in town to wash hands.
"I thought I would be able to involve council more on these issues when I ran, but I really haven't been able to."
She feels that those who say that building a place to camp will "just encourage people to stay" is "bunk".
"They have a home to go home to. They'd go back just like you or I would.
"Some of them are family of the injured or sick, visiting the hospital. And look at the courts, how many hundreds and hundreds of people come here for court?
"They've got every right to come here."
Separate camps for different tribes are needed, due to cultural considerations.
A camping place for backpackers would be nice as well.
But as of now, there is no affordable place for itinerants to stay, so they stay in the river.
Ald Bell says Tangentyere Council " should concentrate more on the Return to Homeland project, so they can get people back where they came from".
Ald Smith completely disagrees.
"Tangentyere is barely financed to run the services that they do have," she says.
"We've failed to address the issues. We need a comprehensive policy with council, government, regional, and Indigenous groups."
On the positive side, Ald Smith says council has made progress on footpaths, public shade, the skate park, and in hosting the Australian Local Government Association conference.
With first-hand experience of life in a wheelchair, Ald Smith has also valued her role on the Access Advisory Committee, which deals with policy areas specifically affecting the disabled and people of ethnic backgrounds.
NEXT WEEK: Land crisis is our problem, not the government's.
RACING: BABOUCHKE IS THE WORD. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Punters were given yet another insight into Cup Carnival possibilities when Pioneer Park hosted a four event card on Saturday.In the Imparja Cup Open Handicap over 1100 metres, Ben Cornell posted an easy win on Gamera who started at the handy odds of $4. By Joe, who had the inside barrier advantage, jumped well and led with Ganga. Gamera settled off the pace some three to four lengths back in the company of Southern Renegade followed by I Thee Do Wed.
By the corner By Joe wilted under the pressure leaving Gamera to stride up and tackle Ganga. The second surge of pressure in the running then counted on Ganga, and Gamera went to the line under hands and heels riding.
The impressive one and three quarter length win saw first up runner southern Renegade run on into second place a length and a quarter in front of the favourite Ganga, $3, who hung on for third money.
Daraby Livewire then proceeded to impress those in the ring when he recorded a second win in a row on the Alice track. In the Square Leg Class Six Handicap over 1200 metres the $2.25 favourite raced at the front of the field in company with Cherry Bay.
By the 600 metre mark Cherry Bay had run its race, leaving Daraby Livewire to take command of matters despite having raced off the fence thus far. In the run to the post, Jubes looked the danger, making a concerted surge, but the pull in weights made the difference.
Newly arrived apprentice Matthew Hart claimed 3kg on his mount and Daraby Livewire took full advantage of having less lead in the saddle. He went on to record a win by three quarters of a length. Jubes took second place and Ollie rattled on for third, some four lengths in arrears.
For Hart the win was his first on Centralian soil, but being with a sound stable and having natural skills he should be able to raise his whip on the way back to the scale often.The Mid Off Three Year Old Class One Handicap over 1200 metres saw The Red Faced Rat jump from the number one barrier and lead with Foghorn Leghorn who came out of barrier two. The Foghorn was left in front by the 400 metre mark as the Red Faced Rat ran out of steam.
In the straight however, Gold Hawk was able to show his fitness when he surged to the line to claim victory by a neck. The winner paid $15, in defeating Foghorn Leghorn at $2.10, while the favourite Coyote Gorgeous at $1.60 finished a further length and a quarter back in third place.
The last race of the day, the Backward Point Class Three Handicap proved to be a windfall for those in the know. Babouchke from the Terry Gillett stable had been the whisper during the week, and in running proved to have potential.
Tim Norton rode him with confidence throughout and was not worried about racing wide. Zedrovski led but on the corner Norton called on a sustained finish and the rest is history.
Babouchke ran like a $2.10 favourite and won by nine and a quarter lengths. Only a long neck separated Aldilar from Zedrovski in finishing second and third. Aldilar's performance was one worth noting as he came from the rear of the field to finish second.
RAPS WITH THE BROTHA-BOYS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
He's a rapper into "really positive stuff".
He wants to entertain, interact with his audience.
He wants to launch his group, the Brotha-Boys Family, on the national and international stage.
And, in so doing, he wants to do something for his "peoples" Ð "for my children's children".
His rapper's name is J-dash-P, on the streets of Alice though he's called Jai, or Jaiia Urban-Pryor.
He was raised by his white family, had met his Aboriginal father only a few times before he died when Jai was six, yet, he says, it is the Aboriginal side that "stands out most inside of me".
"I have Aboriginal ideals and values that are just natural to me, they're instinctive, as well as some I've learnt.
"I have very strong family values which I learnt from my white family and that's why I want to help my peoples, because we are not family any more."
He is "angry because of whatever injustices were done" but he wants to "do something positive to express that anger".
So he raps about life with his brotha-boys, about the things they go through:
"Cos I be living with all of my brotha-boys / who be doing their thing / living going on in this world / keeping it real. Are you telling me to / keep on living in midst this here / coz all these tears see all my peers / we share Ôem É"
And he pushes them along with him, to perform and lately to make an underground album, no holds barred."All my tracks are positive, inspiring. I like to communicate, interact with my audience.
"I'm not what you'd call a hardcore rapper, but some of the brotha-boys, the Charles Creek Crypts [or Triple C], they won't put any fairy floss on the rough edges. They are more hardcore.
"I like to support these dudes to have the freedom of speech to express what they feel."
They laid down their tracks on very basic equipment, burnt a bunch of CDs, designed a cover and a webpage, and got a distributor Ð the local music shop, Chatterbox.
Jai says the brotha-boys can hardly believe it, but there it is, on the shelf.
The idea is to take the underground album into a studio as a blueprint for technically superior recording destined for nationwide release. But the underground album has its own validity and if Jai has his way, it may one day be a collector's item.
"It's a limited edition, with lots of tracks and verses that won't be on the next recording."
To date the brotha-boys activity has been self-financed. Now they are looking for an investor to take them to the next level.
Jai has absolute faith that they will get there.
He talks about forming an independent entertainment company.
The webpage confidently proclaims that the beats and the lyrics on some tracks "compete with the best in the world", while acknowledging that the quality of equipment and vocal delivery is low.
It promises though a "total facelift" and "the highest level of sound quality" for the re-release, and further, that every client who purchases the underground album will get the re-release for free.
Jai says some of the best rappers in the world are underground, "just as good or even better than the mainstream". He keeps track of what they're doing over the internet, taking inspiration to add "colours to his palette".
In this way he has forged links with his "favourite rapper of all time", C-dash-R, who lives in Memphis, Tennesee and collaborated with the brotha-boys on the graphics for their album cover.
This kind of experience helpas convince Jai that the world is small, too small to mess with.
On the recent war in Iraq he raps: "É and we retaliating, / instead of finding a one true answer/ to the problem because honest what will clearly/ another f****n war do probably/ provoke it more, leading to another war / leading to more war toys and troops for them to implore / leading to more me's seeing where this could end up if we ignore / the pure fact, you have to wise up and clean your act up É"
He's a guy with his eye on the big picture, in more ways than one.
The brothas' website is: http://www.brothaboyfamily.tk
Being without paranoia. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
Last Friday morning we saw Carmel (of Central Second Hand fame) speed walking along Todd River/South Terrace and she beamed as we met: "Isn't this the best walking track in the world!"
On that particular day, David and I had to agree Ð a great sunrise, perfect light reflecting off the mica-tipped MacDonnells.
A week or so earlier a toot interrupted thoughts as David and I were on the same circuit Ð a friend and a wave. It makes us feel good because although we tell people we are exercising, there hasn't been a lot of change physically (especially in the losing weight department!) so it's positive when we're actually spotted. The same friend said, when we saw him a few days later, that he wouldn't walk along the river because "you never know what might happen"É
David and I have been power (!) walking across Tuncks Road, along South Terrace, back over the Casino causeway and down Barrett Drive for years, on and off admittedly: we've never felt particularly threatened, though often totally outnumbered by Todd River dwellers and their dogs. And sometimes when walking into a sunset, it's a good idea to ignore the yelling and screaming and drunken revelry and simply get to where we're going.
In fact, the morning walks are definitely a lot more peaceful. Once an older Indigenous man called: "Faster! You're only going sixty miles an hour É" which was funny. He laughed, we did as well. People communicating.The media is again full of anti-social behaviour and concerns Ð illegal camping along the Todd and around town, people living in squalid conditions, defecating where they eat, drink and sleep Ð and no suggestion of a workable solution.
The spectre of public drinking, in your face stuff, groups of undesirables blocking doorways and paths, shouting abuse at passers-by, is again becoming the norm. On a Saturday morning amble by any licensed liquor outlet just before 10 am. It's a hopeless situation with people in various states of inebriation. Habits changed with the banning of the sale of five litre casks: beer and wine gave people the "sleeping sickness", now there's added aggression. For years it has been said that licensees have to be more responsible about selling liquor.
Find a vantage spot and note the number of cabs that pick up clients, transport them through the drive-in bottle shops and drop them somewhere close by. And now, a "new" proposition has been mooted to prohibit licensees selling takeaways on Sundays. Prohibition hasn't worked before É why would it now?!
Keith Windschuttle, author of the controversial "The Fabrication of Aboriginal History", made headlines (Oz 27/2/04) with his "Close Down Failed Black Towns" comments. Remote communities are a thing of the past, he said.
Respected Indigenous leaders say that Aboriginal people want to take responsibility and resolve their own problems, and, ultimately, they are the only ones who can make decisions and convert them into viable policies.
I don't want to have to assess every move I make Ð the pros and cons of doing, or not doing, anything in particular. I certainly don't want to stop walking because of what is perceived COULD happen, although I know of people here who have changed life patterns so that there is less chance of confronting anti-social behaviour.
The nasty anti-social concerns, along with everything else in the too hard basket, must be addressed. If Alice Springs and ALL her people are to grow, prosper and enjoy life together, some tough decisions need to be made sooner rather than later. It gets late so early Ð some would say it's possibly too late already.
Absence makes the heart desperate. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
As I was saying, it can be an enormous relief to get away from time-to-time to a capital city. But, on the other hand, it can be an even bigger relief to come back again.
The trouble is that I am starting lose the ability to live in an urban environment. I am going through a process of de-skilling that will eventually strip me of the necessary skills to live in a real city.
By "skills", I don't mean word-processing or arithmetic or that basic life knowledge that employers measure when they look school-leavers up and down. Although heaven knows I wouldn't want to be tested for any of them. An example of urban skills is the ability to walk down a crowded street without bumping into anyone. I must have lurched into at least 50 headless shoppers during my first day in Adelaide. It was like a first attempt at Crash Bandicoot on Playstation 2. I couldn't predict their movements nor work out a reasonable line and length for my stride. I was stuck on level one.
After a couple of hours, I stumbled into one of those trendy bookshops with cafes and ordered a large flat white. I could at least recover some form inside the equivalent of a library with drinks. Let's take stock of the day so far, I thought; no Christmas presents purchased, several near-misses in the pavement rage stakes, my children prematurely complaining of boredom and family risk of dehydration higher than at any time in Central Australia.
The coffee arrived in a cup about the size of a laundry basin. It looked like a bowl of leek and pumpkin soup, except thicker. Settling down to wade through the inch-thick froth, the afternoon was about to take on a surreal sense of floating as I consumed a litre of strong coffee on an empty stomach. Gee, that picture book of the alphabet was a good read and I felt both ill and elated as I tried to leave through the passage to the toilet. Another urban skill that I have lost is choosing wisely from a long and complicated menu. In capital city pavement cafŽs, you need four European languages to read the specials board. Give me a break. Food is hard enough without having to translate it first.
And so I pined for the simple pleasures of the four-dollar Todd Tavern salad bar with its whole beetroot and its oodles of beansprout salad.
Look, I know that country town life is supposed to be slow, but in no way does it prepare you for re-entry into waiting for ages at pedestrian crossings. This is yet another capacity that I will never recover; the ability to wait patiently for the red man to turn green for the umpteenth time in a short walk across a CBD. And I hate gazing at someone in a shiny 4WD negotiate the intersection while checking whether their dry cleaning is ready over their mobile.
But the low point of my last urban visit was standing outside the Marion Centre trying to explain the importance of culture to my children, who had just lost theirs through excess exposure to the consumer society. Too much Hollywood, extravagant choices of fast food, everyone trying to sell you something and the dwindling of any values beyond the next purchase.I staggered out into the grey Marion suburbs like I had been on a Mars probe.
The journey away from and back to Alice Springs is such an epic one that you feel that something must surely have changed during the time that you were gone. But when you get back, nothing has changed at all. And that's beautifully comforting.
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