ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
March 17, 2004.


HOUSING LAND: BREAKTHROUGH. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

In a major breakthrough, nearly 100 blocks of land are set to come onto the market following the likely signing this week of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement by Lhere Artepe, Alice Springs' native title organisation.
A senior member of the organization, Matthew Ampetyane Palmer (pictured this week on the site of the proposed subdivision), says a "strong majority, including the elders" are in favor of the agreement which would clear the way for the long-awaited subdivision to be built at the western edge of the town.
Differences between the three Aboriginal estate groups have been settled and "we should be able to sign the agreement this week," he said.
Only a death – resulting in "sorry business" – could disrupt Lhere Artepe meetings on several days this week to bring to a conclusion an issue that has dragged out over more than two years.
Land shortage has driven real estate prices sky high, and the stalling of the deal with Lhere Artepe has heightened racial tensions and prompted calls from the Opposition for compulsory acquisition of native title rights.
The government, in response, said litigation would be divisive and delay a resolution for possibly several years more.
Mr Palmer says Lhere Artepe will be getting "about 45 blocks" of the present Crown Land, and the balance will remain with the NT Government, but have native title extinguished so that homes can be built.
He says there have also been discussions about land in Mt Johns Valley – between the golf course and the MacDonnell Ranges.
The signing of a land use agreement for the estimated 600 to 1000 blocks there is not imminent but now that the first agreement is likely to be reached this week, "it should be easier to negotiate the other".
RIGHTS
Mr Palmer says a major issue settled only recently were the land development rights.
He says Lhere Artepe has decided to call open tenders for the work, not excluding Aboriginal businessman Bob Liddle from the process, but declining him exclusive access he had sought.
Mr Liddle has shown keen interest in the project, and has blamed the Central Land Council (CLC) for delays.
Late last year Mr Palmer said:-
• Lhere Artepe should operate as an independent organisation (as it was set up to be).
• Open tenders should be called for the development of land to be obtained by native title holders; Mr Liddle should be able to bid for the job but not get it automatically.
• Traditional Arrernte people should have a far greater involvement in the decision making process and meetings should be held in Arrernte language.
He also said that many elders were staying away because the issues were not explained to them and that the CLC's handling of the process was "bullshit".
A signing eventuating this week would be a major triumph for Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne who has said his own home would be on the line if the deal were to fall through.
The issue was complicated when former Lands Minister Kon Vatskalis agreed to hold off subdivision by the government until Lhere Artepe had sold its land – without any time limit.


COMMERCE LEADERS IN JOBS DRIVE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Leading commerce figures in Alice Springs are throwing their weight behind efforts to boost job opportunities for young Aborigines.Businessman Neil Ross of Ross Engineering was looking to fill three apprenticeships last year: he managed to fill one and that was with a young man from South Australia."My story is not unusual," says Mr Ross, but he is hoping that it will become so, with the help of a new initiative that has grown out of Alice in Ten Quality of Life activity.
"We were confronted with the awful situation in Alice where half the school leavers are Aboriginal but very few go on to find constructive employment," says Mr Ross, who became involved as then chair of the Chamber of Commerce but who in any case wants to do something to stimulate Indigenous employment "for the good of Alice Springs".
"As an employer it's often difficult to recruit staff. If you recruit a local you may have a better chance of them staying."Without going out of his way and never through a specific employment program, Mr Ross has employed Aboriginal people in the past.
"I judge them like anyone else. The results have been mixed.
"From an employer's perspective, and it's a bit hard-line, you've got limited resources to make it work. It can be just too hard."
That's where the idea of mentoring comes in: someone to help iron out the problems, a constructive go-between for both employer and employee.
It was the aspect of the Moree (NSW) experience that locals seized upon after the Quality of Life committee invited businessman Dick Estens and his associate, Indigenous woman Natasha Newman, to discuss their success in dealing with Indigenous unemployment in their region.
The mentoring concept was added to employers' desire to have a one stop shop to deal with, and Footprints Forward was born.
It's governed by a board of half Indigenous, half non-Indigenous representatives, the latter mostly from the business community, including Mr Ross and Tom Kelly representing Peter Kittle Motor Company. (Mr Kelly resigned recently from the board but remains a keen supporter.)
Other members are: Eileen Shaw (IAD), Tony Quatermass (Aurora), Rebecca Cole (film maker), Citt Williams (CAAMA), Graeme Smith (CLC), Helen Liddle (Centre for Remote Health), Joanne Pulsford (Yeperenye Shopping Centre) and Marilyn Smith (Footprints Forward). Peter Strachan (Tangentyere Job Shop) and Owen Cole (CAAMA) are the co-chairmen.
Mr Kelly says Peter Kittle have had "a great run" with their Indigenous employees, "especially with the apprentices".
They have had no trouble recently filling eight apprenticeships with local recruits, including some who are Aboriginal.
But, says Mr Kelly, the automotive industry is increasingly complex and young people need good advice about the skills they need to get jobs in it.
"Cars these days have four of five different types of computers in them – there's a certain level of skill required."
Footprints Forward, for the time being renting office space at CAAMA in Todd Street, consists at present of four Indigenous mentors, headed up by Marilyn Smith.She's had decades of experience in employment services. She started out in the days of the Commonwealth Employment Service and stayed with it for 20 years through its various transformations, ultimately managing its Youth Access Centre. She later worked with a Sydney-based private training company, as their Territory representative, and more recently with the Central Land Council, coordinating their railway and mining employment and training programs.
The Footprints team has attracted funding from the Commonwealth and the Territory for two years and a substantial grant from the Yeperenye Shopping Centre board.
The Commonwealth's money, through its STEP program, is paid on outcomes, says Ms Smith.
"We have to meet our targets in order to get paid and I'm happy with that."The targets include mentoring 150 young people per year, either in school or training programs or in employment.
They also include school visits (24 a year) so that school leavers will know where to go if they need help; and employer visits, so that employers in turn will become aware of the assistance that is available. This target is set at 12, but Ms Smith says they have already done 33 this year!
The greatest number of referrals to the service so far are from the parents of young people, who are hearing about it and bringing their sons and daughters in.
One young woman, who had completed Year 12 and wanted to have gap year before heading off to uni, has been helped to find a job in the social work area.
"She's from a community outside of Alice, her mum brought her in," says Ms Smith."She has to go to a workshop as part of her job but she's not confident about going on her own, so one of our mentors is going with her."
Footprints are hoping that the workplace will offer the young woman a cadetship to assist with her tertiary studies.
Another mother brought in her son who is now doing workplace experience with a panel-beating company. If that goes well, the employer will take him on as an apprentice.
Another young man wanted to do stock work and workplace experience on a cattle station was found for him: he's been there for over a month and is loving it.
All of these examples are in their early days. Often problems arise further down the track, says Peter Strachan (Strachy), who was seconded from the Job Shop to set up Footprints.
"The Job Network contract offers support for up to six months, but the message from Moree is that the problems can arise later, even two years into the job.
"Footprints wants to offer open-ended support."
But neither does every jobseeker need long-term help, says Ms Smith.A lot of the young people they have seen so far have simply wanted help with writing resumes and knowing how to address selection criteria in their job application.They can also need coaching in how to deal with an interview panel (the mentors will attend interviews with them if that is acceptable to the employer).
"Most Aboriginal people do want to work but they don't know how to sell themselves," says Ms Smith.
"I've been on a lot of selection panels with the government and seen so many people sell themselves short.
"Of course, this can be a problem for European people too, not only Aboriginal people."
Neither Ms Smith nor Mr Strachan was able to be specific about the size of youth unemployment in Alice.
The desire to do something came out of "instances that shocked people", says Mr Strachan, of two or three young people who had finished Year 12 and tried to find a job but weren't successful.
"If you're young and not in a traineeship it's increasingly hard to find a job," he says." Neither the private sector nor government agencies want to know juniors."
Footprints want to maximise the number of young people taking up apprenticeships but know that they're not for everyone.
Basically, people will be treated on a case by case basis.
"Safety in numbers" has long been part of the discussion about Aboriginal employment.
Says Mr Ross: "The group factor can be a problem for women too in a blokey workplace like mine. Some don't mind it, but some do."An Aboriginal person coming into my business, a blue collar environment, would have to make an adjustment. If there are comments, for example, that could be seen as intimidating or racist, they have to learn to deal with that."It has to be both ways. Aboriginal people have obligations to family in a way we don't but they also have to understand that in a workplace there is not much room to cater for those obligations."
Mr Strachan says agrees that numbers can be an issue for a lot of people, not only Aboriginal people."It can be lonely to be the only one but the reality is that there is not always enough work for two.
"The difference Footprints will make is that there is a reference point to turn to when the need arises, not only for the employee, but also for the employer."
Mr Ross: "We want to try to get this formula working without rasing too much expectation.
"It will be interesting to see in six months' time how much of a difference it has made."


I LOVE A SUNBURNT CARPARK. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Does Alice Springs need more car parking places in the CBD?
And is that simply a functional question or is it a "quality of life" question?
The Town Council is about to provide 90 to 100 more (not 300 as reported in last week's article) with its redevelopment of the Civic Centre, and even more again with the proposed double storey carpark on its Hartley Street site.
This last move would appear to pre-empt the findings of a traffic management and car parking study it has commissioned from consultants, Cardno Willings, which is to take into account issues identified in the Central Area Master Plan.
That document does not have a lot to say on traffic and car parking, but it does say that the emphasis in the CBD should be on "providing high quality pedestrian environments" and minimising pedestrians' and cyclists' "conflict with vehicular traffic".
Large chunks of the CBD are currently given over to car parking, with the latest addition being the extension of the carpark at the northern end of Todd Mall.
If you are aghast at this poorly organised and completely unshaded expanse, take some comfort: it is temporary.
Manager of the site for Alice Plaza, Tony Bruno, could not reveal complete plans but told the Alice News they include a more efficiently organised carpark, increasing the number of places available, with shade, lighting and landscaping. As well there will be some other development on the site, with an announcement due within a couple of months.
There are also plans to redevelop the Yeperenye site, with changes to the street front to stimulate pedestrian use– more tenancies and wider footpaths, with landscaping at key points; and to car parking – more places, tucked away inside the development.
SOLUTIONS?So, significant changes are being led by developers on the separate sites they control.
Will this process bring about the best solutions?
An issue with new developments is pointed out by Peter Somerville, town planner for the Territory Government's Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment.
The Town Plan requires provision of a certain ratio of car parking places to floor area in new developments, but this can be varied by the Development Consent Authority (DCA), who can order a payment in lieu to the Town Council.
This payment has to be put into a fund dedicated to future provision of carparking places.
The council's director of planning and infrastructure, Roger Bottrall, says the Town Council accepts the ratios laid down in "the government's Town Plan for better or for worse".
He says if the current study demonstrates that there is a shortage of carparking places in the CBD, "we will have a look at applying a scheme ourselves, outside of the Town Plan's scheme".
He also says that if there is a shortage, it is probably as a result of "compounded exemptions" to the ratio, approved by the DCA.
"We never get any more, we only get less."For example, with the Yeperenye redevelopment plans there is a shortfall of 27 places on the quota for the proposed new tenancies.
Mr Bottrall says the exemptions are "not a problem for us as long as we get enough compensation".The compensation fund amounts to around $150,000 at present, "probably not enough" to pay for the works to the carpark behind the Civic Centre.
The Alice News also discussed solutions to carparking with a number of local architects.
At Tangentyere Design Chris McInerney, Jacinta Hill and David Havercroft are firmly of the view that there is no current need for expansion of car parking places, but future needs should be looked at in the context of long-term planning for the whole of the CBD.
Chris McInerney suggests that it might be time for a rethink of the assumption that you will be able to park in front of the place you are going to:"People in the cities don't expect that you can do that."
But a walk of any distance in Alice Springs in summer can be gruelling, so the issue is also bound up with the provision of shade in our streets.
It's hardly rocket science but this desert town has been astonishingly slow to move on the shade front.
The major retailers have all done something about shade for cars: from K-Mart's bottom-of-the-barrel shade structures to Coles' more generous effort.
But there's very little shade for pedestrians outside of the shopping malls.
There's the partially shaded walkway from the back of the Post Office through to Yeperenye, and from Todd Mall there are the adjoining arcades, Springs Plaza and Leichtodd Plaza, that can take you through to Leichardt Terrace. And that's about it!
The solution is simple, says Mr McInerney: "Rip up the bitumen and plant trees!""Look at what works," adds Ms Hill.
"Everyone enjoys walking down Todd Mall, locals and tourists alike."
The elements are simple: curved lines, open space with grass and trees, shaded benches to sit on. If there were more pathways that worked in the same way then more people might be happy to leave their cars at a distance and walk.
Carparks along the banks of the Todd River have had their critics, but while Mr McInerney is unsure of the river's edge as a location for carparking, he feels that the layout there is good: they are only two bays deep (a better solution than acres of bitumen acting as a heat bank), there are plenty of trees and reasonably good pedestrian amenity.
The Tangentyere team's emphasis generally is on opening up pathways from perimeter carparks like these, leading people in pleasant conditions to where they want to go.
David Havercroft points out the potential of arcades like the Cummings Plaza (opposite Flynn Church) and the Fan Arcade, which are then blocked off from Leichardt Terrace and the river banks. He suggests that council should negotiate with private landholders to open up some walkways extending from these points.
He also expressed concern about the development of internal carparks by shopping malls, that act like "a vortex", pulling pedestrians out of the CBD streets.
Susan Dugdale, the architect behind the redevelopment plans at Yeperenye, which will have extensive internal carparking, says the important thing is to provide streetfront interest and amenity for pedestrians, to pull them out from the carparks and malls and onto the streets.
Car parks fronting streets is a poor use of urban space, she says.
The council-owned Hartley Street carpark occupies a large site in an area that is becoming "the centre of gravity for the town". It has apparently been mooted as the site for a multi-storey carpark.
Ms Dugdale says the edges of such a development would be critical, suggesting tenancies (shops, offices, cafes etc) on the streetfront, with the multi-storey carpark behind.
The carpark would also need to be set back from the heritage-protected Hartley Street School.
But all of these issues need to become the subject of well-informed policy, argues Ms Dugdale.
"Setbacks, for example, don't give urban quality per se.
"Urban environments can need to intensify, by building right up to the boundaries."
Shade provision could also be driven by policy, she says. The planning department could, for example, insist on the provision of shade over footpaths in all future developments.
"None of this has been dealt with in the recent Central Area Urban Design Guidelines yet it is just what they should have been about."
The discussion so far has assumed that it would be better to have more pedestrian-friendly streets. But why?
"For community," says Brendan Meney.
"The streets are the public places where opportunity exists for people to mix with one another. If they don't mix, that's when all sense of being a community breaks down."He cites Christmas carols in the mall, organised by the council, and the street parade that opened last year's Alice Springs Festival, also in the mall, as high points of community life in Alice, "the sort of experience that makes people happy and stimulates good reason to live here".
LAMENTThere is potential to do a lot more in this direction, says Mr Meney, and it can be helped along by the design of better streetscapes:
"The streets should be telling us what kind of town this is."He laments the lack of progress in commissioning public art for our streets; in developing more paving like the section in front of CATIA which came out of a council-sponsored study of pavements in the CBD.
"The CATIA paving was supposed to set an example for how other footpaths in the CBD could be developed, but interest and development of policy by council to implement this has apparently dropped away."
Mr Meney says the townscape needs to provide a vibrant reflection of Indigenous culture, and progress in that direction, involving Indigenous artists and tradespeople, would be an important step towards reconciliation.
"These are big picture, long terms plans that need to be developed as policy in consultation with the community and a commitment then needs to be made to implement them steadily over the next decade.
"A memorandum of agreement between the Tangentyere and Alice Springs Councils already exists to facilitate this."
Community involvement is critical, argues Mr Meney."Drunks claim the public space in this town because nobody else does."People expect council come up with the solutions for them, but it's community space, we all need to be involved to guide the process and make the streets what we want them to be."None of the issues discussed can be isolated from the issue of public transport.
Better public transport provision could reduce the number of cars coming into the CBD, as could improved cycle and walking paths, especially from the suburbs closest to the centre.This would be a "prevention rather than cure" approach, says Mr Meney.He also thinks the merits of a trolley bus for the CBD should be considered to cater for the elderly and disabled and to offset the need for all day carparking in the central core by people who work in the area.
Alderman Jenny Mostran says this need will be relieved to some extent by the proposed new car parking places behind the Civic Centre, which should "get things moving" in the carparks closer to commercial activities.


'FIRST NATIONS' INTEGRATION. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Visitors to Alice Springs last week from the Canadian Office of the Auditor-General expressed surprise at the apparent separation of the races in our town.
Assistant Auditor-General Ronnie Campbell and colleague Jerome Berthelette told the Alice News that all regional centres or towns in Canada with significant "First Nation" populations show more obvious "integration".
"Either First Nation peoples live in their own separate communities or they are integrated," said Mr Campbell.
"You would see them working behind the reception desk, working in the stores."They were also dismayed by the existence of town camps – "I have never seen anything like this in my life," said Mr Campbell, who has spent "a fair chunk" of his life working with Aboriginal communities; and dismayed too by the quality of the infrastructure in the town camp they visited, Larapinta Valley.
There they spent time at the school – the Yarrenyty-Arltere Learning Centre. They expressed interest in the way the centre was delivering education services but said you would not encounter school buildings of this poor standard in a Canadian community, not in a mainstream community nor in an Aboriginal community.
All Canadian First Nation communities, even those with fewer than 300 residents, have a school, a nursing station with residential staff, an airstrip and a store. Some are remote from regional centres, similar to the situation of many communities in Central Australia, but services are delivered by air, they said. Ten to 12 hour trips on dirt roads in 4WDs or trucks are unheard of.
Mr Campbell and Mr Berthelette are involved in conducting "performance audits" of government services delivered to Aboriginal people – seeing whether they get "value for money" – and were interested to compare their experience with that of New Zealand and Australia (they had also spent time in Canberra and were to go on to Sydney).
They said the Canadian Auditor-General, Sheila Fraser, had made Aboriginal issues her "first priority" over her 10 year mandate (now in its third year).
As well as differences – and they were keen "not to pass judgement" – the visitors had also observed plenty of similarities. Mr Berthelette has recently completed, for example, an audit of "reporting burden" where he found that some communities of fewer than 300 people would be completing as many as 164 annual reports to government authorities.
The burden was particularly onerous in relation to children's services where there tended to be multiple providers.
He said the organizations they talked to – Tangentyere Council, Central Land Council and the Yarrenyty-Arltere Learning Centre – all experience onerous compliance reporting.
Canadian First Nations had also experienced their own "stolen generation", with a residential school policy from the 1870s to the 1960s that took children away from their families for their school years.
The impacts were found to be long-lasting: loss of language, of culture, of relationship with families and communities, and parents' loss of parenting skills, to name some of the well-documented consequences.
There were also cases of sexual and physical abuse in the schools, hundreds of which are before the Canadian courts at the moment.
A difference in Canada, said Mr Campbell, has been that the government apologised. He could not recall if the words "sorry" or "apology" were used (they weren't, it took the form of a Statement of Reconciliation) but he said "it was seen and felt as an apology".
The government also transferred $250m into the Aboriginal Healing Foundation which is under the control of Aboriginal people.They are using the money to deliver healing services to communities, such as psychotherapy and counselling services, over a period of 10 years (beginning in 1998).
The government has also set up, through its Residential School Department, a mediation process – still in its early days – which can be chosen as an alternative to litigation for the resolution of cases of abuse.
Land is also a common issue. While many First Nations had treaties with the Canadian government, which recognised their entitlement to a certain quantum of land, many were also "short-changed" , failing to gain real control over their lands.
Government is now funding a buyback, although communities have to wait until their land comes up for sale.
The visitors said that where Canada could learn from Australia is in the development of institutions that deal with Indigenous issues, that sit between government and the communities, pointing to the land councils and ATSIC as examples.
In Canada the federal government deals directly with over 600 Aboriginal communities.
"Sometimes small communities simply don't have the capacity to respond to all the demands made upon them," said Mr Berthelette.
"They also don't have advantages of economies of scale in delivering, for example, education services."
To achieve such economies, some communities are looking at, for example, amalgamating education delivery by establishing a single Board of Education responsible for several communities.
"They hope to strike a balance between communities feeling that they have control over their children's education and gaining the benefits of critical mass," said Mr Campbell. It is important that communities feel empowered, not disempowered by the institutions that are developed," added Mr Berthelette.
Although in Canada, as here, there are still significant gaps in quality of life between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people, the gaps are closing. The gap in life expectancy, for example, is down to about eight years, compared with our 20 years.
There is also no regression, they said, again expressing surprise to hear from the organisations they visited that many Aboriginal people today are less educated than their parents were 30 years ago.
Neither has there been a backlash in Canada about the delivery of separate services to Aboriginal people, as was seen in Australia with Pauline Hanson's One Nation and as is heard often enough around Alice Springs.
"The disparity in quality of life is still such that it would not occur to a Canadian that there is any advantage in being an Aboriginal person," said Mr Berthelette.
"Their circumstances are seen as being difficult and a society has to do its best to help its disadvantaged people.
"That is a measure of what makes a society a good society."He suggested that the existence of treaties between settlers and the Aboriginal people of Canada has made a difference to understanding between the two and that "that may be a discussion that needs to occur in Australia".


CLASS CLOWNS IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN. Review by JULIA WINTERFLOOD.

There's one in every classroom, a particular blend of audacity, tenacity, and pure tongue-in-cheek, a student who sends the rest of the class into hysterical convulsions and the teacher round the bend: the Class ClownAnd now, they've stepped out of the classroom and behind the microphone, to amuse and offend, although this time, without a detention.
Participants in the NT final of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Class Clowns performed at Witchetty's last Friday, before an audience of about 20 students and a handful of extremely supportive teachers. After all, the national winner does receive $3,000 for their school.
Rebecca Woodman and Stacey Molloy from Charles Darwin University (CDU) were the opening act, setting a high standard as Martha and Beryl, two highly animated geriatric women with beautifully smudged lipstick and a remarkable aptitude for dancing "like J. Lo."
Relying on visual gags and sharp dialogue, the 16-year-old Stage One Drama students looked and sounded at least 80, yet still managed to get the youthful crowd energised by their antique antics.
Tim Blacker, also from CDU, presented more traditional style of stand-up, as did the majority of the Class Clowns, yet Tim's sketch differed slightly: he gave a lesson on "how to be a comedian". Surprisingly, Tim's performance was the only one to include toilet humour, the ubiquitous resort of stand-up.
Jesse Laughton from Tennant Creek High School (TCHS) gave a slightly more risqué performance. His week of work experience with the Tennant Creek Police, and the favourite pastimes of inmates of the Tennant Creek Gaol, were the focal point of his act.
Steven Stagg (CDU) resorted to being "unfunny" in order to be funny, giving a poignant yet pleasing personal account of dyslexia, and even delved into the metaphysics of comedy and laughter.
Tessa Geoghegan-James (CDU) spoke of the three stages of life and of being a teenager; Matthew Lethaby (OLSH) presented "a day in the life of a teenager"; and Chris Hammond (TCHS) walked on stage accompanied by his surfboard – with a bite taken out of it. He reckons the surf is great in Tennant Creek, and even better in Alice, considering we're equidistant from every beach in the country.
Joseph Macarthy (TCHS), performing as "Crisp E. Strip", was the winner of NT Class Clowns 2003. He had a highly engaging stage presence and obviously enjoyed performing his regular material in front of an audience.
A visual gag sketch involved a bloke in rural regalia of singlet, shorts and thongs, played by Tim Maddock, hopping in a car with a girl all in pink, inches of make-up and pouting lips, played by Sonia Johnson, both from CDU.
The car trip was going smoothly until the bloke spoke, and the audience's assumptions of both characters' personalities were turned upside down: he was actually really camp and would not stop complaining about the damage to his hair, let alone his carefully manicured cuticles!
She kept muttering obscenities and burping loudly. This sketch gave the simple message that appearances can be deceiving, as Tim and Sonia's characterisations took the audience completely by surprise.
Liam Mammond from St Philip's was introduced as "Tommy Starbucks, straight from LA!" Immediately Liam established his outstanding natural flair for stand-up; he showed such professionalism it was hard to distinguish whether he was speaking from actual personal experience, or if he was acting.
Tommy Starbucks explained why he thought toasters have that illusive number six on the dial that turns bread to charcoal, and how he empathises with New Zealanders abroad, as everyone mistakes them for Australians, because, as a Canadian, everyone mistakes him for a woman.
In closing Tommy Starbucks graciously thanked his fellow competitors, as he felt he was leaving the stage with not only the experience of competing against such fine young comedians, but also with their material.
Liam obviously had what the judges were looking for, as he will now be competing in the Class Clowns Grand Final in Melbourne on April Fool's Day, before an audience of 1,500 students, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
One of the fascinating aspects of this Class Clowns final was that of the 12 participants, eight were males. That's a ratio of two to one, in favour of the testosterone. Perhaps Federal Labor Leader Mark Latham should investigate the place of humour in the classroom in an effort to increase boys' academic success rate. Maybe the results will give everyone a good laugh.


FEDS BEAT WESTS TO HEAD FOR CRICKET FINAL. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

The Federal Club stitched up an automatic entry into the A Grade cricket grand final when they defeated Wests in the first innings at Albrecht Oval on Sunday.
The significance of the win cannot be underestimated as it now means that the winner of the elimination final starting Saturday, between West and RSL, has to go on and actually defeat the minor premiers in the grand final to claim the premiership.
On Sunday Federal resumed at 4/141, having bowled West out for 99. They went on to post 8/262 before declaring and having the Bloods face 29 overs, ending the day at 4/93.
On Saturday RSL adopted similar tactics by opting to give as many players as possible a good work out rather than chase an outright victory over Rovers.
On day one, RSL had registered 205 and had Rovers 4/32 at stumps. They dismissed the Blues for 57, but rather than inviting a follow on, opted to bat again making an electric 4/164.
Rovers returned to the crease but withstood the RSL onslaught to finish their season at 6/115, thus only losing on the first innings.
The star of the day, however, was the seasoned Matt Forster. He was instrumental in seeing Rovers collapse in the first innings, taking 7/21. To add to the statistic, Forster claimed a hat trick, and in doing so claimed the off stump for his first wicket, the leg stump for the second and then middle stump for the third wicket.
For Rovers the season is now over, and in the off months no doubt a serious recruiting drive will be launched. Rovers have done amazingly well over the last two seasons to remain competitive, having lost the services of a stream of players, in the main due to transfer.
When RSL and Westies play this week the result could well hinge on the approach taken by West. If they play at their best they can account for any club in the competition. But as with their encounter with Federal over the past two Sundays, Wests can almost self destruct.
They went to Albrecht for day one of the match with only 10 players. This week they regained the services of Greg Dowell, but it was a day too late. Federal capitalised on day one by bowling West out for 99 and then proceeded to 4/141, as a starter for day two.
Tom Clements and Jarrad Wapper extended the Federal lead, taking the score to 5/199 before the partnership was broken. Clements was eventually caught by Leith Hiscox off Dowell for 84 and Wapper was caught by Dowell off Ryan Thomson for 65.
The contribution by Michael Smith in making 56 earlier in the innings gave Federal the momentum required to post a secure score. In the bowling department Thomson found form, taking 3/31 and Shane Trenbath returned 3/41 to be the best for West.
With the game all but over West cruised through to stumps at 6pm, losing four wickets for 93. Kevin Mezzone was undefeated on 30 when stumps were drawn, with Dowell having contributed 22 and Stockwell 16.
For the minor premiers, Michael Smith returned 2/9.


WARRIORS TAKE UNION FLAG. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

The Warriors, formerly Kiwi warriors, performed a complete form reversal in Central Australian Rugby Union when they took out the 2003 - 2004 Premiership on the weekend, having been wooden spooners the season before.Matched against traditional foes the Dingo Cubs, the Warriors recorded a memorable 23 to 15 victory. The dynamic Jono Swalger was declared player of the match and while Warriors rejoiced with the premiership, the Federal Devils were the recipients of the equally prestigious wooden spoon.For skipper Tui Ford competition participation has been the achievement, with much of the credit needing to go also to James Nolan. He put in the hard yards during the off-season to rebuild the club that for many years has been the yardstick in terms of CARU performance.


SERIOUS ART AT ALICE'S UNIVERSITY. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

There's more art on show in Alice at present that can fit in the usual places and some of Artback NT's shows have had to spill into the library at Charles Darwin University.
I caught Two Laws…One Big Spirit there before it closed on Saturday and what promises to be a confronting and stimulating show, Disability & Sexuality, opens there this Thursday (6pm).
The library as a venue for serious exhibitions has its drawbacks, primarily because there is a lot of distracting visual information (including the backs of people's heads at the computers) that competes with what you are looking at.
But there are also advantages in getting art out of its typical haunts, exposing it to people who may not chose to go to galleries.
There are undoubtedly larger numbers of people going through the library each day than there would be at Watch This Space, for instance, and possibly even Araluen; hopefully they'll take a minute to focus on what they're seeing and think about it.
There's little doubt that they will for the upbeat, often audacious and also moving photography of Belinda Mason-Lovering who is exploring disability, sexuality and body image.
But the work in the quieter Two Laws risked being overlooked and that's a shame, because it was worth pondering this dialogue between two painters, one the East Kimberley artist and senior Gija man Rusty Peters, the other Peter Adsett, originally from New Zealand, now a Territorian and lecturer at CDU.
Peters was invited to live and work at Adsett's house over 14 days. He began the process with his painting Place I Was Born; Adsett responded the next day with Painting number two and so it went.
An exciting idea, though not one designed to put Adsett's work in an advantageous light.
Peters work is sublime: his concepts simple and profound – dealing with birth, land, law, family, language, race, culture, death – with flawless formal resolution of the visual expression of each.
They are the kind of paintings that have life beyond the canvas, that inspire reflection.
Adsett's endeavour – large hard-edged shapes in stark black and white with just a hint of red ground showing through – seems bloodless alongside.
In the material accompanying the exhibition he is quoted as saying, "In painting abstraction, I am attempting to undo painting." Surely this territory has been exhaustively explored and I am amazed that a committed artist, as Adsett is, still finds nourishment in it (and I know he's not the only one).
A non-indigenous viewer, I found far greater cultural affinity with Peters' work and somehow felt let down by the sterility of Adsett's response.
I felt that "my culture" should have been able to do better in this dialogue, offer some richness back.There was just one instance of a pair (numbers nine and ten, pictured) where I felt a dynamism in the exchange. Peters' had painted Great Grandfather's Father's Burial Place and Adsett had responded with a white opening in black that spoke to me of the grave, hence the inevitability of death (our fall) and the way its links all humanity.
Adsett would probably reject this. He describes attempts to "read image into the work" as "form control".
What more can I say? Just that I'm grateful to the Rusty Peters of this world for not being interested in undoing painting, for painting with "big spirit".


Will all bright sparks stand up? COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

Are there any bright new ideas out there anywhere?
Words strung together as never before, a thought that hasn't seen the light until that particular moment, a piece of music or a talent entirely untapped, an innovative scheme or plan to better a situation or environment which no-one else has ever thought of, conceptualised, let alone put on paper.
That was the question I found myself pondering when I saw last Tuesday's Advocate – a great photo of Jenny (Mostran) revisiting a much explored concept, a multi-level car park in the CBD. I mentioned that idea in this column, October 2002, when I described the plans of a group of businessmen, Les Loy, real estate guru, at the helm, in the early 1980s, putting a proposal forward to build, on the Council-owned land on the corners of Hartley and Gregory, a multi-storey car park with council offices, library (with toilets, obviously), access and community centre on the ground level.
It was mooted primarily to free up what is a strategically located parcel of land which currently houses the council offices and to tidy up the surrounding lawn areas, which are often used as a tip by any number of Alicephiles. Imagine how much money the rate-payers would have saved in construction costs had the idea been taken up at that time!National headlines scream that even more restrictions may now be imposed on photographers trying to capture Uluru and Kata Tjuta in a bid to stop commercial exploitation of those images at some point in the future.
The tougher guidelines will apply to tourism spots with cultural significance throughout the Territory and may include the Devil's Marbles and Nitmiluk near Katherine, and possibly other as yet unidentified sites.
My columns, last July, "Unbearable Nonsense" (about the call by management of Parks Australia to ban the reprinting of the children's book "Bromley Climbs Uluru"), and "Making the NT off limits"(about the power the Federally-appointed Parks Australia continues to wield with the management of our national parks) were about the age old issues, censorship and copyright.
It is totally unreasonable to demand that any photo which MAY, at some point in the future, be used for commercial purposes be vetted by Parks Australia in conjunction with the traditional owners of whichever particular part of the country we are touching at the time.
It's all well and good being politically correct and culturally aware but at what expense? The Territory's lifeline, tourism, a key employer for years, is being strangled.
It has been suggested on numerous occasions that Parks Australia is anti-development and anti-tourism. Access to many of our more popular tourist spots is slowly being denied, whether for cultural reasons or, as in the Twin Falls scenario, cultural concerns combined with the question of visitors' safety due to unstable walking tracks (the walkways at the top of the falls are now under repair) and the risk of attack from ever increasing numbers of crocodiles (again, the issue of culling operations has been raised, but no decisions have been taken).
Many international visitors are saying why even put the Northern Territory on the itinerary if they can't explore (let alone take photos) as per advertising brochures. Swimming will now be allowed at Twin Falls, Kakadu, following the Federal Government reversal of an outright swimming ban, however the plunge pool is out of bounds for "safety and cultural reasons".
The bold headline "Black Law Poses a Threat to Tourism" (The Oz, Aug 20, 2003) documented creeping restrictions and asked pertinent questions regarding tourist operators' continuing access to not only Uluru, but also the Great Barrier Reef, Central Australia, Cape York and Tasmanian wilderness zones. At that point there was no mention of Kakadu.
These articles are written by journalists who will, along with most Australians, continue to ask the age old question: How can anyone, regardless of creed or culture, claim copyright on creation? And how can legislative bodies try to enforce that claim?
With the implementation of ever-changing restrictions regarding access to much of the Northern Territory, we now have a situation where non-Indigenous Australians do not have the same legal rights as Indigenous Australians. We appear to be developing different rules for different groups.David and I sat with Alison and others, discussing anything and everything, enjoying coffees at the Sports Bar, and watching a constant stream of people, black, white and brindled, locals and visitors, strolling through yet another wonderfully colourful Sunday market.
Later, when we arrived home, David remarked: The real question has to be is ALL of Australia for ALL Australians, or not? It would seem that we're into one of those cycles where old issues are still being thrashed around, locally, and nationally.
There is merit in revisiting them as we head towards Sunday, March 21, Harmony Day, and the ever-evolving future of the Northern Territory.


Are your offspring positive? COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Ages ago I read a book about being a parent that took 200 pages of tightly-packed text to explain one message; the responsibility of parents is to produce offspring that make a positive contribution to society.
I have never forgotten those last four words and have used them as a yardstick of my incompetence ever since.
At that time, I was fresh-faced and so open to new ideas. The positive parenting book was like a gardening publication that explains how to prune citrus. Just follow the steps and everything will be easy.
Except that children are not fruit trees. They don't respond to a plastic tub of granules from Big O and a few diagonal cuts with a pair of secateurs. Nevertheless, I followed the instructions, determined that they would have a thorough understanding of social justice by age five and could cook up a vegan casserole at the drop of a hat when visitors come to stay.
None of this ambition amounted to more than a hill of beans. But at least my children have become old enough to point out when my parenting skills fall short.
I can now rely on a regular commentary on their allowance, my manipulation of their weekend schedules to give me time to put my feet up and my failure to act my age when talking to their friends.
I have reached the point where it is time to stop worrying about what kind of parent I am and what contribution they make. Better to concentrate on my own contribution to society. What is it? And, for that matter, what is yours?
There's a short answer to this. When my fingers smell of rubber solution and I have discovered the umpteenth miniscule hole in an inner tube, I reckon that my most significant lifetime achievement is to fix bicycle punctures.
I am now entirely responsible for keeping four people on the road, week in and week out. This is one step short of fleet management.
It weighs heavily, I can tell you, especially as the incidence of punctures doubled since we came to the Alice due to those thorny thingies and the amount of broken glass on the bitumen. I used to love the sound of breaking glass. Now I reach for the tyre levers.
To get help with this task, I have to pay more pocket money. It's my own fault for trying to instil enterprise and a work ethic in my children. Yes, they'll work, but only for award-level allowances.
So after all these years of complaining about them being the pop video generation with the self-discipline of a flea, I have no more than a rudimentary understanding of positive parenting.
Even if you get close to doing a half-decent job, a whole host of other influences grow ever-greater, pushing your own role into the background.
We saw The Missing at the cinema last week. It featured a single-parent family living on a lone ranch. The children were helping out with the milking and the cleaning. My son leant over and asked me whether they were slaves. Er, no, I replied, this is what children used to do.
Other members of my family have younger children. They are making well-meaning attempts to shield them from violent images and jokes about flatulence. Better to relax, I reckon, and work on getting some help with the cooking and the punctures.
This could be the modern equivalent of asking what your parents did in the war. "What contribution did you make to early Twenty-first Century society, Dad?" Out come the pipe, tobacco and fleece-lined slippers. "I spent a lifetime fixing punctures, son. Remember how we did it together."
steve@afishoutofwater.com

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