ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
March 31, 2004.


TOURISM ADVERT CAMPAIGN: ROCK SHOOT CALLED OFF. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The producers of a multi million dollar tourism advertising campaign have decided not to film at Ayers Rock.
A spokesperson for the Australian Tourist Commission, which is paying a reported $24m for the campaign, says the crew will film near Alice Springs but will be using file pictures for a possible segment at Ayers Rock.
She said time pressure was the reason for dropping the shoot at the Rock, although filming will take place in numerous other locations elsewhere.
However, a well informed source at Ayers Rock says the shoot was canned when Parks Australia, the Federal instrumentality managing the Aboriginal owned national park, declined to deal with the crew on a Sunday.
This is denied by Parks Australia's NT chief, Peter Wellings, who says "ordinarily briefing [for film crews] are not on weekends" but the service would have made "special arrangements" to assist an effort "significant for a marketing strategy for Australia".
Mr Welling says he has been told that the TV spot's storyline had been "built around people in the community who were not available at those times.
"They did not proceed with filming.
"Our staff went out of their way to be helpful, but [the crew] made its own decision" although a briefing by rangers had been arranged for a Monday.
The ATC spokesperson says the TV spots are being produced to be shown in Australia's key markets around the globe.
It is understood the spots will feature prominent Australians in sport, media and film.
A spokesman for Tourism Minister Joe Hockey says the campaign is part of a Federal government boost – "$235m on top of $400m in the next four years" – to counter the visitation downturn in the wake of disasters including September 11. The News understands the MacDonnell Ranges will feature.


YEAR 12 RANKINGS ARE NOT THE MAIN GAME, SAYS BOSS OF UNI. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

The attention schools, parents and the media give to tertiary entrance ranking (TER) is "unfortunate" and "misleading", according to the new vice-chancellor of Charles Darwin University, Helen Garnett.
CDU has some of the lowest TERs in the country as their cut-off point for entry to courses, although the scores are not much lower than those of other regional universities, such as James Cook in Rockhampton. In some instances and for some courses, they are higher as in the case of Tasmania and Central Queensland, and for engineering, they're on a par with universities like Flinders (SA) and Griffiths (Qld).
Whatever the case, the published cut-off TERs do not reflect the reality of university admissions elsewhere. Professor Garnett says universities regularly take a variety of student circumstances into account and there can be admissions up to 15 points below the published TER.
She says the Australian vice-chancellors' committee is working to impress on all parties that TERs are not the be-all and end-all.
In the case of CDU, she says the published TERs do not reflect the quality of students, nor the quality of what the university has to offer.
"The majority of our students who have come straight from school have higher TERs than the cut-off," says Prof Garnett.
"Students who have scores near the cusp of entry requirements can undertake an intensive Tertiary Enabling Program which can gain them entry into a course if they pass.
"It is also important to bear in mind that more than 50 per cent of our students are mature age for whom the TER issue is virtually irrelevant."
The more important issue for CDU is to ensure that "the quality of programs offered is up there and bench-marked with programs across Australia". "That's certainly what we are trying to do."We have small classes compared to many other institutions, which provide a tremendous opportunity for students."
With the merging of the former Northern Territory University and Centralian College – bringing senior high school, TAFE and higher education under the CDU umbrella – what does "going to uni" mean now in Alice Springs? Are there challenges in selling that formula to the community?Prof Garnett says the more flexible concept of university is the way of the future.
"Universities of the 21st century, modern forward-thinking universities are part of their communities, there to help people change their lives.
"In our context, going to university means making the transition from school to post-school education, whether that's vocational or higher education, in a profession or a liberal-based course, such as bachelor of arts, or bachelor of science.
"The senior secondary college is part of the university, but it is clearly recognised as a school. That's good and not at all degrading for the university.
"The merger provides us with opportunities to create pathways for people in lifelong learning that they can move in and out of as their personal circumstances change, as career opportunities open up, or if they wish to change direction.
"Educationalists believe this is very important for the future. So rather than a challenge, this is a huge opportunity for CDU to be at the forefront."
Prof Garnett says CDU is having no problem recruiting staff.
"For our last five senior appointments, we've got our first choice candidate out of very strong fields.
"They're delighted to be joining a university which they see has got excellent activities and is moving ahead.
"It's a different university, trying to develop niche courses and others of excellence for the Territory."
Her own appointment was a coup for the new university, not that she pointed it out.
She was chief executive of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and a representative to the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency; Professor and Head of the Department of Biology and Founder and Director of the Centre for Applied Biological Research at the University of Wollongong; and before that, Foundation Professor of Microbiology at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.
However, Prof Garnett concedes that she may have a job on her hands to convince parents and teachers of CDU's excellence.
"They hold perceptions, they went to other universities themselves and there's no doubt that people tend to have a link to their alma mater or have some view based on their own experience.
"But the proof of the pudding really is in the quality of staff we are attracting."And there are students I know of who have done one degree at the University of Melbourne and have decided to come north to do a second with us.
"I recently heard of a student from Katherine who, after a year and a half at university down south, decided to come back to the Territory and having studied for a further year up here, is delighted by the small class, flexible personal attention and the quality of education.
"Success stories like that will breed success."She described recent negative press and parliamentary coverage of the situation of some apprenticeships as "a beat-up".
She stresses that CDU is a "new and different institution" and that since its inception, there have been no staff withdrawals or course collapses."These are myths of the past," she says, with some vehemence.
Was a merger with Centralian College, as well as with Katherine Rural College and the Menzies School of Health Research, the only way CDU could move towards being a university for the whole of the Territory?
Perhaps, but the merger is not enough, says Prof Garnett: "We have to also work at it."
She points to a number of initiatives: the appointment of a Professor of Desert Knowledge, Donna Craig, currently Director of the Indigenous Law Program at Macquarie University, who will take up her position in Alice Springs in May; the two-day symposium on "Emerging Futures" held in Alice late last year; a recent meeting of the university council in Katherine; the appointment of an Indigenous executive think tank (Profs Mick Dodson and Marcia Langton, and the land councils' Norman Fry and David Ross).
She says the university is committed to offering a broader range of opportunities on campus in Alice Springs "providing we continue to attract locals".
A focussed effort to attract school leavers into engineering studies, by sending staff out to the schools, has paid off: there's been a "significant" increase in school leaver enrolments in this area.
"It's a matter of informing people about what the opportunities are. I'm hoping that within a few years CDU is the first choice for those students where we offer the courses, recognising that we are not a big city institution, we don't offer everything and we'll never offer everything.
"We don't offer dentistry or veterinary science, for instance. Those people will need to go elsewhere.
"The important thing is to be able to attract a substantial proportion of the good school leavers to those courses that we do offer."Expansion is particularly going to be in the niche areas – desert and tropical knowledge, environmental studies, creative arts.
In some cases it's a matter of re-badging things that are already on offer, to link them with growing community interests and expectations.
There will also be a strengthening of courses from the developing post-graduate areas. For instance, the undergraduate health courses should benefit greatly from the research being done at the Menzies School.
Prof Garnett doesn't like the word "struggling" in relation to the university's financial position.
"Many universities are line-ball and this is one of them," she says."But we have opportunities and we can grow."Taking up those opportunities – fee-paying courses, more overseas students, more fee-for-service work for companies – is imperative "because at this stage, the proportion of our revenue from sources other than government is low compared to other universities in Australia".
Is there a danger of compromise in the university having to sell itself?No, says Prof Garnett: "If contract research is important enough to be done and people are prepared to pay our price, then it should be done, but it shouldn't be instead of those priority areas that we ourselves decide to invest in."


BUSINESS IN ALICE: BEATING THE SLUMP. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

Some businesses are doing it tough but the news wasn't all bad at last week's Expo.
Traders say the crisis was brought on by the lack of housing land, soon to be resolved, at least partially, by the recent deal between the NT Government and the native title owners, which will bring nearly 100 blocks on the market.
The other blow was what one business man, Chris Neck, called the "decimation" of the local transport industry by the new Darwin railway.
But most say the troubles are sorting the men from the boys, are honing selling skills and the quality of service, and are sharpening attention towards new products and opportunities.
Mr Neck says the current situation is "challenging, there's no doubt about that."
The main reason? Housing.
Improvements there "would put some spring in the stride of the economy".
He says it's "great" that there will be new housing blocks at Larapinta following the native title deal.
"But is it enough land, how long will it take to come on stream, and where else will land become available?" he asks.
"There needs to be a strategy for land to continuously become available – not an excessive number of blocks, but some.
"The government certainly seems to be distracted by Darwin.
"That's where the votes are.
"The Desert Knowledge precinct coming on stream is a positive," says Mr Neck.
"And the tourism industry is expecting a good year, judging from the bookings so far."
Mr Neck, a member of a dynasty in its seventh decade of trading in the town, says battling the odds, including the "tyranny of distance", has made many local business people resilient.
The ‘eighties saw "unplanned and uncontrolled growth" which did more damage than good.
But for the Murray Neck group, which has continued investing in the town for more than half a century, the motto has always been not to dwell on what can't be changed, while making the most of the plentiful opportunities.
Scott Boocock (Action Enterprises) has the motto "we'll do anything for anyone".
He and mother Eileen (formerly of the Penny Farthing bike shop) started the promotions business in 1999.
Mr Boocock says since last year it focussed on facilitating "incentives" and conferences. Doing business is easy, he says: "A lot of people are trying to get away from the city, go to remote places.
"We've been growing because there are groups – big and small – looking for another destination around Australia."
The clients range from big chain stores, government right down to small businesses.
"We want to provide some sort of ‘Wow!' factor for their people," says Mr Boocock.
"The ‘wow' factor here is the desert.
"They always thought it was flat land.
"They get here and they see the MacDonnell Ranges, the gumtrees, the lifestyle.
"They can actually drive down the street and not sit in traffic jams.
"The stress is gone.
"They don't have to queue up, and they get to see what they want."
Ian Johnson (Top Gear) says the last six months have been pretty tough.
"We had to cut down on expenses, from January onwards.
"January was pretty good, but February and March have been pretty ordinary.
"A lot of the transport industry has left town, or is struggling, as a flow-on effect from the Darwin Railway.
"Because of the shortage of land a lot of builders we know have left town.
"There just seems to be a lack of confidence.
"Consumers don't want to part with their money," says Mr Johnson.
"Hopefully it's one of those cyclical things, and things will pick up in the next few months.
"Two years ago the council and the government should have looked at land release."
Will the imminent release at Larapinta make any difference?
"Not in the short term, none at all.
"I'd say it'll take a couple of years, if the government releases land now, for the people to turn their thinking around."
Beat Keller (Keller's Restaurant) has experienced a downturn of business after 11 years of annual growth.
"There are fewer people in town, fewer tourists, less money.
"When the Iraq war started the large American population in town was not around as much as they used to be.
"I saw that mainly at the Sunday markets where I used to have a very large contingency of Americans and they were just not to be seen," says Mr Keller.
"If there is less money around there are also fewer locals going out to dinner.
"Restaurants are one thing where you can save your money.
"If money is tight people cut back on luxury items."
Mr Keller says tourism promotion seems to be barking up the wrong tree.
Resources applied by each state to compete against each other for Australian tourists should be pooled and put into a campaign for overseas visitors, especially from Europe, USA and Japan.
"The Australian market is good but there is fierce competition.
"All the states are drawing on the same market," says Mr Keller.
He says the style of the message could also be made more appropriate: "A Swiss is more easily convinced by a Swiss or a European who lives here, who has actually made a life out of being here, saying ‘come over here'.
"A pitch from just a marketing person is more likely to fall on deaf ears.
"I was featured in a little documentary on Swiss TV and the impact was huge.
"A number of people sent me emails, and even wanted to work here, and asked me how I could help them. The desert makes for a huge market, freedom!
"People like things explained in their own language.
"And food is an important aspect of their travel.
"They want to try different things.
"We have unique food, buffalo, camel, kangaroo, and all the rest of it, and a unique location, and that amounts to a unique opportunity."
Sales manager for the Crowne Plaza hotel Mildy Raveane says the current trade "fluctuates a lot".
"We don't know what to put it down to.
"March this year has been very good to us.
"Apart from that the last six months have been reasonably quiet. Not what we expected."
What would need to happen for the trade to return to normal or better?
"If I could answer that I would be a very, very contented person.
"A lot of focus has been on bringing another airline into town, but Virgin hasn't helped us very much.
"It would have helped the backpackers [accommodation], the Free Independent Travellers, the Visiting Friends and Relatives and the commercial travellers" – few of whom stay in luxury hotels.
"It's a tough call out there.
"There are a lot of things that are affecting the market.
"There's a lot of video conferencing without people visiting the town.
"The Darwin market, they're coming down in the morning and flying back in the afternoon.
"That doesn't put any expenditure into the place," says Mr Raveane.
"Desert Knowledge is going to be a big one for Alice Springs.
"But something's got to be happening very quickly, whether it's industry or tourism, to get people to come back into town.
"There's just too many people leaving."
Is that based on hard information or media reports?
"It might pay you to follow up with the Bureau of Statistics. I think you'll find it's a bit more than the point seven per cent that's being quoted.
"That's scary." [See footnote.]
Jol Fleming (Direct Four Wheel Drive) says his business – providing competency training for six years now – is booming.
"I've been really busy for the last six months.
"4WD training is probably getting more recognised as something people need for job security, or people are accepting it as part of their training system."
Mr Fleming says his trade is coming from "some small business, and a lot of government, semi-government Aboriginal departments".
"There's not too much on the corporate side of it.
"We're getting a little bit more from government whereas once upon a time that was a non-issue."
Paul Lelliott, for four years with the Alice Springs Camera Store, says trading in the last six months compared to the corresponding period the year before has been "on the same level".
"We're doing the same profit but we're working harder to get there. Which is not a bad thing!
"Numbers are down. Customers through the shop are down.
"But I think we're converting more of those customers," says Mr Lelliott.
"We've improved our selling techniques, I guess, our service.
"We've got new products in our industry, changing from analogue to digital.
"It's an exciting era, and we're in the middle of that transition."
FOOTNOTE: According to the ABS, Australia's estimated resident population at June 2003 was 19.9 million people, an increase of 240,500 people over June 2002.
This represents an annual growth rate of 1.2 per cent, the same as the average annual growth rate for the five years to June 2003.
All states and territories except the NT experienced population growth in 2002–03, with the largest increases occurring in Queensland (up 85,800 people), Victoria (up 60,200 people) and New South Wales (up 52,500 people).
Three states recorded annual growth rates greater than or equal to Australia's overall growth rate of 1.2 per cent in 2002–03.
These were Queensland, which increased by 2.3 per cent, Western Australia, by 1.4 per cent and Victoria, by 1.2 per cent.
The remaining states and territories recorded lower annual growth rates than Australia, with Tasmania increasing by 0.9 per cent, New South Wales by 0.8 per cent, South Australia by 0.6 per cent, and the Australian Capital Territory by 0.4 per cent.
The Northern Territory recorded a population decrease of 0.2 per cent.


LETTERS: Sex pix, another view.

Sir,– Re: "School sex pix set off uproar" (last week's issue).
Let's look at the "Intimate Encounters" exhibition from another point of view.
Let's imagine, for the sake of argument, that an ultra-conservative group wanted to produce and display a collection of poster-size, all colour or black and white photos of aborted babies.
Would the same groups arguing that CDU has an absolute and no-questions-asked right to display the "Intimate Encounters" photo collection in the CDU library rush to defend the right of the hypothetical conservative group to display their artistic collection in the same library?
Steve Swartz
Alice Springs
ED - The Alice Springs News had five phone calls on the subject of our front page story about the exhibition. Some were vitriolic, accusing us of publishing pornography and "filth". We invited all callers to express their views in letters to the editor. None of them did.

Civic Consultation

Sir,– There has been much rebuilding and redevelopment of Alice Springs in recent years, but alas, very little of it noteworthy.
It seems to me that tourists come to Central Australia not just for the spectacular landscape and for a glimpse of Aboriginal culture, but also in the hope of experiencing an outback desert town with a distinctive history and character.
They do not hope to encounter yet another nondescript mall and anonymous civic buildings like so many others they've seen before.
Why are we not promoting innovative and inspirational designs of new buildings such as the Civic Centre, which will one day be worthy of a heritage listing not just because they have clocked up so many years but because they are exceptional buildings?I have spent some time examining the Town Council Civic Centre Proposed Redevelopment plans and I must admit that, as a lay person, I found these poster designs (there is no 3D model available) too cursory and problematic to interpret effectively.
It is really quite difficult to work out how much green area will be retained in the final scheme, what the new materials will look like, and why this new plan does not take the opportunity to embrace the beauty of the river.
The existing civic centre, much of which will be retained with this proposal, is basically a fairly pedestrian assemblage of grey concrete brick structures capped by broad gunmetal green fascias with a number of sandstone walls.
The latter I think are the most attractive feature, along with the beautiful old date palms.
Surely it's time to at least consider the possibility of knocking down the old structure (or big sections) and starting from scratch. Way too expensive? One cannot assume from the diagrams available that adding on some new wings here and there is the most cost effective and intelligent solution in the long run.
At the very least the existing buildings could benefit from some design revitalisation which could also allow them to connect more to the surrounding hills and riverscape.
A new, larger public meeting room is a great idea – why not make it a true "Garden Room" incorporating a flexible outdoor space which could be more actively promoted for community use than the current amphitheatre area has been.
Last year's "Good Umpires" storytelling event in this venue was one of the most engaging, broad-based and well-attended gatherings of this kind I've seen in this town.
As far as I know there was no opportunity to view and comment on the other proposals tendered for this project, so where are the avenues for the public to actually participate in the overall plan for this new Civic Centre?
There needs to be a broad vision for the whole site incorporating the contributions of local architects, planners, designers, landscape architects, artists, indigenous organisations and community members.
The town council, library and council lawns area is not just a group of government offices – it is a focal point in town where people conduct business, utilise educational resources, meet, socialise and hold public rallies and fairs.The current debate over Indigenous use of the library highlights the fact that this is one of the few public indoor spaces in the town which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people appear to access on a somewhat equal footing.
To complain about footwear (or lack of it) in a town where Aboriginal kids have the lowest national secondary school retention rates, is evading the real issues at hand – namely, how to accommodate and indeed encourage both groups to be, comfortably, a part of this shared facility.
Yes, there are valid questions to be addressed (hygiene, food, noise, childcare, etc) but through appropriate community consultation and creative thinking.
Is there not a case for proposing a new, enlarged library building which looks out onto the Todd, has quiet zones, and might incorporate some outdoor verandah or enclosed courtyard areas?
Around Australia, cities and regional centres are reversing the early twentieth century trend of turning their backs on rivers and industrial harbours.
A media release from the ASTC (5/12/02) makes a point of stressing the belief that "community participation and consultation in decision-making are essential".
The proposed Civic Centre redevelopment boasts several environmental design features (e.g. thermal efficiency and orientation) which are to be applauded. However, I have to wonder whether this really is "a building that represents the people of Alice Springs". (Ald Jones, ASTC newsletter, Aug, 2003.)
It seems clear that the current Civic Centre is in need of replanning due to serious overcrowding, overloaded equipment systems and "low quality building fabric in need of refurbishment". No argument here.
However all these factors would appear to apply even more urgently to the library which has almost doubled its visitor numbers in the last five years (Alice News, Mar 10).
It would seem more feasible to find alternative temporary rented office space elsewhere for the council than for the library.
A holistic approach to the whole site would involve a serious consultative discussion NOW as to the most appropriate use of the entire site including the pros and cons of semi-underground parking, elevating buildings above flood levels, the possible loss of valued green areas, the incorporation of artworks and so on.
So, how can the council, which "has stressed the need to take an integrated approach to addressing socio-cultural, environmental and economic needs" (The Quality of Life in Alice, Jan 2000 ), expect to avoid allegations of short sightedness if they are not prepared at this vital "consultative" stage to actually facilitate easily accessible and informed exchanges on a range of possible options.
This time last year Jenny Mostram rightly congratulated the Eastside Precinct Work Group's progress on their consultative process in revitalising public space. Let's see a similar level of enthusiasm from the ASTC to engage the community at large in this more urgent reassessment of the town's future requirements.A number of recent buildings – the Centre for Remote Health, the CATIA and Yeperenye Centre's redevelopments, the new cinema theatre and the Fred McKay Education Centre at St Philip's College – are bold and energetic endeavours to lift the built landscape beyond grandiose statements of glass and steel (e.g.the Conference Centre) or just bland functionalism.
Such buildings enliven the architectural profile by the use of colour, form and materials which connect strongly to the natural environment.
Last December the Charles Darwin University hosted a two-day symposium at which our own mayor Fran Kilgariff delivered an inspirational paper acknowledging the multi-layered and sometimes strained interactions of our diverse community.
Ms Kilgariff's talk revealed an inclusive approach urging us to "work together to create social amenity" by acting on a local level to "change community attitudes and perceptions" and by the "building of appropriate infrastructure in the town which promotes a feeling of being part of the community". I could not agree more.
Pip McManus
Alice Springs
ED - Ms McManus is a ceramic artist / designer who has coordinated a number of public art projects, including Smith St Mall, Darwin and Uluru Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre, and has contributed ceramic designs to public areas including the Darwin Botanical Gardens Children's Playground, the footpath in front of the CATIA information office in Alice, and the walkways at the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct.

Tougher rangers needed

Sir,– As a candidate in the upcoming town council elections, I agree one hundred per cent with your position on the Town Council Rangers' lack of action on public drinking and litter.
What a soft old world we are living in when our leaders' primary excuse is they may get hurt.
If all law enforcement agencies around the country took this position on reneging on their responsibilities, there would be anarchy.
I say, if the concern is safety, then surely working with police as an overseer is a possible solution, or if not, employ Rangers who have the necessary steel and skills to deal with such scenarios.
Meanwhile, whilst our Rangers continue to wave the give-up flag, our town continues to drown under all manner of discarded waste, and remembering that people from all over the world visit here on a daily basis, Alice Springs is fast becoming an international disgrace.
Murray Stewart
Alice Springs

Dob-in a neighbour?

Sir,– All of us must have seen by now in the local, regional and national media, the advertisement of DIMIA (Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs) asking the "good citizens" of this country to dob-in those who are taking job opportunities away from Australians.
Is this the job card leading to the forthcoming elections?
We have already seen the racist card mixed with border protection in 2001.
I remember well that not so long ago the same "good citizens" were asked by the Prime Minister, in the name of national security, to dob-in those who would, could, may seem to engage in subversive activities which may, could, would lead to terrorism.
Then came the ASIO bill that allows to arrest, detain and interrogate "suspects" (when they have been dobbed-in by their good neighbours).
There is a legislation passed for the Olympic Games in 2000 but still in force, whereby the Army could step in and assist the Police in restoring law and order when a "mob" of more than three (sic) demonstrate their feelings too strongly!
I cannot avoid having flash-backs of more notorious regimes over the last 60 years whereby "collaborateurs" or supporters of some sort or other of military-backed dictatorships in many parts of the world would dob-in their neighbours in the hope that it would bring them personal advantages and security.
Nationalism, Army and Police have proved to be a fatal combination for world peace.
For heaven's sake, where is this country going?
Our democratically elected government is introducing, in small drips, an environment of suspicion soon to become hatred of the "other".
So much for the old "Christian" value of love your neighbour…Is this still taught in schools?
Or perhaps that dobbing-in is becoming part of the new Australian values taught in "private" education?
People who use illegal means mostly do so as a last resort for the mere reason that the legal channels have proved impossible to follow and lead nowhere.
I certainly do not condone illegality, but I strongly reject the idea of Mr Citizen becoming a dobber!
As a summit of contradiction, DIMIA simultaneously advocates "Living in Harmony".
Harmony Day will be celebrated in March throughout the nation so that we can all live together in mutual acceptance and trust, with a clear conscience; suspicion and fear do not fit the equation.
Maya Cifali
Alice Springs

Keep Fish from water

Sir,– Love Fish's observations.
Having lived in both country and city locations I can relate to his experiences.
I recently (last August) looked up your newspaper on the net to gain a feel for the Territory as my boy and I were travelling to the big island (from Tassie) for the U-14 National Basketball Tournament 2003 being held in your great spot.
I was enlightened to come across his column.
Having been born in the city (Adelaide), then relocated to the bush, Whyalla, then Port Augusta, I came across the same anomalies of culture.
Travelling the train as a youth to work every day while training as a sparky in Adelaide, the occupants would all stare at anyone who boarded at a stop, then universally ignore you as you sat and would be hesitant to strike up a conversation, preferring to stare out the window in deep individual thought, something that, with time, I emulated.
Those that you communicated with, in a different location (a city street) would become immune to you and treat you as a stranger.
As youngsters, we would walk the pipeline between The Gutta and Whyalla and wave at the occasional passing vehicle, cursing those not responding and classing them as tourists.
I used Fish's column as an indication of the possible cultural changes that may have taken place since my youth.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the clear, dry, honest sense of humour/reality still existed in Oz (must be the clean air).
The team travelled to the Alice via the Ghan as a once-off experience.
Being a confirmed smoker, I trekked to the smokers' van on the train (several times) and came across a group of American uni-tourists, who pointed out the Aussies' bad treatment of our local ancestors.
In came an indigenous individual (Smokey), with whom I struck up a conversation and found out he was a previous driver of the Ghan.
The Americans' conversation changed immediately.
Smokey remarked how fast the Ghan now travelled, and in his day, you could shoot a rabbit, cook and eat it and still catch the last carriage.
Asked about the purpose of his trip, he replied it was "to visit his uncle", six longnecks southwest of the Alice.
Thanks for your insight into our culture and may we strive to be "fish out of water".
Brian Ross Curtis
Glengarry, Tasmania

Great future for Alice

Sir,– I enjoyed your article on tourism (March 10).
I have moved to Alice Springs because my son is a tour guide here; he was not coming back to NSW.
Here I am now and enjoying Alice very much.
We both believe Alice will boom with tourism in the coming years. Everyone will gain!
Nola Leybak
Alice Springs


BIRTH OF A STYLE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Is there such a thing as an Alice Springs or Central Australian style in architecture?
There's not, but one could be emerging.
That seems to be the consensus among the designers to whom I put this question, focussing on form, materials and colours.
And if a local style is emerging, it's because designers are responding at a number of levels to the local environment.
"If you can't imagine the building elsewhere, that's a sign of good design," says Elly Kordic of Tangentyere Design.
"It's not possible to separate the climate from your response to the design task.
"In the Centre, we are much better off if the shell of the building does as much as possible to shelter the inside from the extremes of climate, so if the air-conditioner breaks down, you are not sitting in a hotbox. In a milder climate, this is not as critical."
Materials, colours and forms all have a role in creating protective shells, but the site and the client's brief – who they are and what they want the building for – have to be attended to at the same time, says Stephen Lumb, also of Tangentyere.
For example, passive energy design favours a northern orientation but that might also be the street side of the building, which may affect the client's wish for privacy.
The environment of a building is multi-layered: there's the broad-scale landscape, the topography and shape of the actual site, its history and the buildings around it.
"Applying these basic principles in this specific environment could lead to a ‘look'," says Mr Lumb. "However, we shouldn't start with this ‘look' as it's not as important as the principles."
For example, Jacinta Hill (Tangentyere) points to the inappropriateness of a "heritage green" roof – argued for in some quarters – when the climate clearly dictates light colours, ideally white.
Should white rooves then become mandatory? None of the architects favour a rulebook: it wouldn't allow for experimentation, would imply a lack of trust.
"We need to guide people to the general principles," says Ms Hill.
Design guidelines are prescribed for the heritage precinct in Alice. According to Mr Lumb, they have produced the ultimate irony. As one approaches the precinct, heritage-style buildings (hipped and gabled rooves being the key), dated 2004, are the first buildings to be seen.
Architect Brendan Meney is adamant that designers should leave behind their "baggage" when they come to the Centre and start afresh, "by reviewing the local culture, climate and landscape setting".
"First and foremost, the extremes of climate and energy efficiency dictate certain approaches in terms of materials," says Mr Meney.
"Thermal mass" must be created on the inside of structures so that it can stabilise the temperature produced inside, whether it's from heating or cooling. In so doing, the thermal mass produces a time lag in energy transfer. The inside will stay warmer or cooler longer before being affected by the external conditions, which means you won't have to turn on your heater or cooler as soon as you otherwise might.
Reverse brick veneer is ideal: that's brick or blocks on the inside, protected from the sun or icy winds by a skin on the outside.
At the Centre for Remote Health, Mr Meney protected the eastern and western sand-filled blockwork walls with a skin of copper penny custom-orb, a product since withdrawn from the market.
The vibrant copper hue of the custom-orb responds well to the warm tones of the Centre's earth and rocks. So, from functionality, Mr Meney also gained an aesthetic appropriate to the landscape, from which he believes designers should take their cues.
Other materials he favours, for their performance as thermal mass as well as their " Australian" colour, are mudbrick and rammed earth.
"They are local materials with potential to create local industry and have less overall embodied energy as a construction medium," he says.
According to Mr Meney, while climate also dictates light colours for roofing iron, some of the glare problem could be reduced by Alice Springs households committing themselves to a solar energy future and using their northern roofing area for photovoltaic panels.
Colour on walls and in interiors should be used to enhance the design but should never drive it.
"Colour shouldn't be in your face. It should be subtle and integrated. If it's loud, it needs to be telling story, expressing something about the structure or enhancing the atmosphere, inside or out, " he suggests.
At the Inland Nursery, he painted the internal beams red to offset the coolness of the mostly metal building materials, to accentuate the structural lines of the building, and to respond to the warmth of the timber screen used to diffuse the light from the central clerestory.
"You also have to think about the play of light on surfaces," says Mr Meney, "and about using materials that respond to light and shadow so that the building expresses itself as a living thing."
Again at the Centre for Remote Health, he used a twin-walled poly-carbon sheet to shade the north-facing windows. It cuts radiant heat by 56per cent but allows light and the play of shadows inside.
Architect Susan Dugdale cites the Centre for Remote Health as one of the recent local buildings contributing to a nascent "school of design" in Alice.
"Good design responds to the environment but also to the work of other designers," she says, "as well as to community appreciation."
Ms Dugdale believes that Mr Meney, the Tangentyere Design architects and Melbourne-based Rick Blake, who designed the Fred MacKay Education Centre at St Philip's College, as well as herself, have all "made really good starts on developing a local vernacular, the elements of which can't be regulated. Otherwise you would end up with a built environment that looks like a stage set".
She is less adamant than Mr Meney about taking cues from the landscape, even though she has done just that in her designs for CBD buildings, the facades of the Yeperenye Centre and the new auditorium at the Alice Springs Cinemas (see Alice News, Feb 18).
At the Gap Childcare Centre (Park Crescent), she put the comfort and pleasure of children and their carers to the fore of her thinking. She used a material for the skin that evokes "home" – pressed metal sheeting with a weatherboard look, and colours that are fresh and cool – blue for the bottom fifth of the walls, then white.
These colours respond well to the contrasting bright colours of children's toys and often their clothing.
She added playful touches under the eaves at the corners – large white bird forms.
"They're there just for pleasure – I'm interested in decoration on buildings," she says.
Brilliantly coloured sculpted birds with the distinctive Peggy Jones silhouette, have been used as striking accents in the grounds in front of the Julalikari Council's Nyinkka Nyunyu Cultural Centre in Tennant Creek, designed by the Tangentyere team.
The sculptures contrast with the pressed earth brick and rusted iron used in the main structure, natural materials in keeping with the building's reference to the totemic animal of the area, the spiky-tailed goanna.
The soaring roofs at either end of this building are part of what could be emerging as a Central Australian "look". While in this case they refer to the stance of the little goanna, it seems that architects are on the lookout for verticality, rising forms. They've taken from wings – Tangentyere Design's birds of prey amphitheatre at the Desert Park (Deb Fisher, senior architect), the Fred Mackay Education Centre; and the ranges – the Centre for Remote Health, the Tangentyere team's new IAD buildings on South Terrace (in association with Susan Dugdale).
Even in the case of refurbishment, as in Tangentyere Design's national award-winning work at the Central Land Council offices in Tennant Creek, on which Ms Dugdale was the senior architect, the desire seems to be to find ways of lifting the building up, giving it a feeling of rising from the ground, rather than squatting on it.
This refurbishment also reflects Ms Dugdale's eye for the decorative, her commitment to giving visual pleasure.
For the colours of the side street-side awnings, she did take her cues from the landscape, though not always from its most obvious elements and not exclusively from its natural elements; the weathered colours of 44 gallon drums were also an inspiration.
For the forms of the awnings, she went away from the desert, taking inspiration from Queensland domestic architecture. A typical "Queenslander" has a lot of greenery, latticework and louvres to create a transitional zone between the bright, hot and humid zone outside and the more deeply shaded, cool interior.
She tried to achieve a similar transitional effect using structural elements only, with slatted awnings and louvred screens at different angles, allowing a constantly shifting, complicated play of light and shadow. Since construction, bougainvilleas have flourished along this faćade, adding to the tropical feel.
Ceramic artist and designer, Pip McManus, who has coordinated and contributed commissions on some major buildings and public areas in the Territory, says designers need to have vision to always push the boundaries.
Importing a design made for a quite different environment is acting without vision and totally inappropriate.
"The environment a designer responds to can be human – cultural, historical – as well as natural," she says.One example is the ceramic work inspired by Islamic design that forms part of the footpath outside the CATIA information office in Gregory Terrace.
The reference here, of course, is to the historic presence of Afghan cameleers and their place of worship on the site.
Another example is the ceramic "signposts" in the walkway at the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct, where the imagery refers to the cultural activities offered within the precinct's different facilities.
"As a material, ceramic is one of the most appropriate for this environment," she says. It is very durable in the elements; it's easy to achieve lasting, bright colours with it; and it lends itself to the incorporation of natural textures – plants, rocks and fossils (see the signpost tile for the Museum of Central Australia at the cultural precinct).
"Ceramic is also flexible – it can fit any shape – and is sympathetic to a lot of design elements that you may be asked to work with," she says, pointing to the way it suited the story-telling role of the Uluru Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre.
Ms McManus, working with artists from Mutitjulu, was the coordinator of the ceramic project for the centre. Among its features were large three-dimensional ceramic snakes representing the totems of Uluru, and texts on clay tablets set into the mud brick surface of a "touch wall".
"This project was the best I've ever been involved with," says Ms McManus, "because artists sat down at the beginning with the traditional owners, interpretive designers and architects. Our work was part of the whole, not an afterthought."
Part of an Alice Springs style, then, could come from a commitment by planners and architects to working with artists and making art, which has such a strong presence in the Centre, an integral part of the built environment.
(As the News went to press a public forum on art and design in the built environment, presented by Arts NT and the Town Council, was underway at the Convention Centre.)


FEDS WIN AFTER 10 YEARS. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

Intrigue was the hallmark of the weekend's cricket grand finals.
After a decade in the wilderness, Federal turned the game their way late in the A-grade match to take the premiership and add it to their minor one and the one-day flag capping off a remarkable year.In B and C grades, West took home the silverware and in the Colts, the honours when to club champions, RSL Works.Indeed, the performances of one player, Tom Scollay, not only helped bring home the bacon for RSL in the Under 16s but could well have replicated success for the Seniors.
Scollay is about to venture north to further his career with the NTIS, and enjoyed the distinction of being selected in both the under 16 and A grade finals.
This meant lining up Saturday and Sunday morning for the Colts and then to Albrecht Oval for the A grade in the afternoon.
Tom's contribution was a half-century on Saturday morning followed by a wicket and a catch when in the field on Sunday.On Saturday afternoon he took two catches to dismiss the lethal Jarrad Wapper and skipper Jason Swain.
Then on Sunday afternoon, with his team chasing a mere 170, Scollay compiled a controlled 73 before being run out, trying to complete a second run.
The form he showed on Sunday was such that he seemed destined for a century and, had he done so, the premiership could well have gone the way of RSL.After the first day's play, the minor premiers Federal hadn't set too high a target for their opponents.
They won the toss and went into battle.
Tom Clements again illustrated his ability to consolidate and build an innings.
He and Brendan Martin established a start for Feds with a partnership of 69, before Graham Schmidt struck, claiming two wickets, Martin LBW for 23 and Clements for 58. Michael Smith in the meantime was run out on 11.NO INFLUENCE
Darcy Bradmore, absent since Christmas, returned to the Oval from Darwin just for the game but had little influence, after being bowled by Scott Robertson for 1.The pressure was then on Wapper to hold the order together but he succumbed to Robertson and was duly caught on 17. From there, Feds found the ball to be a little too paced and failed to go on with the job.
Matt Allen was given LBW for 9.
BJ O'Dwyer was caught and bowled by Matt Forster for 7, and with confidence Forster and Matt Salzburger dismissed the tail.
Salzburger claimed skipper Swain with a catch by Scollay for 10, and Forster cleaned up with the wickets of Allan Rowe, Eglington, out for 14 and Chris Clements, bowled for 6.After only 78 overs Federal were dismissed for 170, and play was called off, the clock showing not enough time for a changeover.The best performers were Schmidt taking 3/32 off 23 overs; Forster 2/27; and Robertson with 2/30.RSL went to the crease on Sunday favoured to take the game on the first innings.
But when the score reached 12, Schmidt (4) was given LBW off Curtis Marriott.
At the other end, Scollay took control of the game and found the attack easy to manage. Jeff Whitmore only stayed long enough to compile 3 before he too saw the fickle finger raised, adjudged LBW off Smith.From mid-afternoon, Wapper began a sustained spell of spin bowling, which gave him the wickets of Robertson, caught behind for 23 and then Troy Camilleri, LBW for 0.The turning point came with Scollay run out. Soon after, Smith drove a pearler off the meat of the bat only to see Wapper snare a low-down catch on his follow through.Although RSL were 6/118, with Salzburger and Forster still to bat and the RSL tail renowned for its ability to wag, the odds seemed to be still in their favour.But Swain and Wapper had something to say about it as they maintained a tight line and length, Swain bowling Craig James for 9 and leaving RSL with 48 to make off 16 overs and 3 wickets in hand.After drinks, the Swain/Wapper combination settled into their task.As scoring was restricted, pressure mounted on the batsmen.
Salzburger seemed to be looking for a swashbuckling answer to the situation but found himself given LBW to Swain off 5.
The pressure then sat firmly with Forster who needed by now to break the bowling stranglehold with some strong hitting.
This was not to be, as Swain again proved himself master bowling Forster for a duck.The Feds skipper then finished the job by having Eglington given LBW for 2 and Nathan Flanagan left not out at the other end for 1.Swain returned 4/29 (15.1) and Wapper 3/42 (22).With 8.5 overs remaining, Federal had dismissed RSL for 134 and claimed the 2003-2004 Premiership.


RACING: A CUT ABOVE THE REST. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

Terry "Razor" Gillett's stable ruled the day at Pioneer Park on Saturday.
Coming to Alice Springs in recent years, Gillett has built up a stable of some thirty horses and saw four of his gallopers greet the judge over a card of five races.The first race of the day, the ASCC Community Support Program Class 2 Handicap, was raced over 1400 metres.
Unfortunately the field was reduced to four when the probable favourite Geodude was scratched on Saturday morning.Having broken through the Maiden ranks, Leica Cumnock was installed as favourite with apprentice Joel Dessa from NSW in the saddle.
Leica Cumnock led into the back straight with Classic Khan, Burran and the Adilar in pursuit.
In the straight, Classic Khan came at Leica Cumnock along the fence and nosed to the front while Burran challenged down the outside.
However, fifty metres from home, Classic Khan found the going tough and Leica Cumnock proved too strong, surging home to win by a nose.
Classic Khan held on for second to beat Burran by a long neck.The 1200 metre Correctional Centre Three Year Old Class Three Handicap was a sound win for Delway, returning from Adelaide.
When they jumped, Masked Lady, Awash and Foghorn Leghorn raced to the front of the field with Delway away in fourth place.
On the turn, the front runners soon felt the pinch and Delway was guided through a gap by Ben Cornell to race solidly down the straight and record a three and a quarter length win.
The sentimental favourite Chigwidden let the connections down this time but rattled home for second, while Shavanesi at double-digit odds filled the placings.
Then came the treble, three wins out of three, to cap off a great day for the Gillett team. In the 1200 metre Rod Williams Superintendent ASCC Class B Handicap, young Joel Dessa completed his second win for the day on The Red Faced Rat.
Starting from barrier one, Dessa soon converted the race into a procession by surging to a handy one and a half length lead that he stretched to two or three lengths by the turn. In the run home, it was a one-horse affair with The Rat scoring by five and a quarter lengths.
Upton ran on well for second, and will improve, while Smytzer's Taro at $11 completed the placings.The Razor stable raised their glasses yet again after the Class Four Chris Manners Handicap over 1200 metres.
The highly regarded Babouchke was provided with a perfect run when stable mate My Woody set the pace from the jump.
By the turn, My Woody had played his part leaving Babouchke the task of running the race out.
This was completed in style, with Babouchke recording a three and three quarter length win.
Cartoon Hero ran on well to take second money while Zetegic, lumping 60 kg around the track, did well to collect the third place cheque.The 1100 metre Dr Peter Toyne MLA Handicap was the attraction of the day.
Greg Carige's Almighty Yallah took all before him and led with Gillett's Our Mate Jack perched on his flank.
In the straight, Almighty Yalluh started to flag as Our Mate Jack took up the running and went to the line a winner by a length and a quarter, so giving Dessa a treble for the day.
The Nev Connor-trained Bathers put in a most encouraging run, and Lion Pride came home well for third after appearing to lapse mid-way through the race.The race day was dedicated to the staff and members of the Alice Springs Jail who undertake a variety of work throughout the year to maintain the course at its high standard.



Bank can make a queue disappear. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Everyday life might mostly be tedious, but sometimes it's not.
I went to Bank SA the other day, excited by the prospect of making a deposit, only to find a big queue.
So I ducked down to the chemist to buy some raspberry lozenges. When I returned, the whole line had gone.
I wondered if this was an example of modern practice in banking service.
The bank teller pushes a lever and all the customers making withdrawals descend to the concrete dungeon below so that a deposit can be made.
Believe me, customer service is one of the most under-rated sources of fascination that the modern world offers.
Even more interesting is how international standards of customer service are applied locally.
For instance, sometime in the Middle Ages before university courses were devised about the subject, I applied for a job in a bike shop in my home-town of Ipswich, England.
At the interview, the owner explained his philosophy of sales: "Get ‘em in, take as much money off them as you can and get them out of the shop quick".
By "them" he was referring to the revered customer without whom none of us eat.
AVERAGE
I didn't get the job, probably due to being bald at age eighteen, which even I admit is a bit weird, not to mention off-putting for the average customer.
But the point is that the attitude of the proprietor was true to the way things were done in hospitals, clubs, churches and everywhere else in town.
The local culture encouraged a no-nonsense, light industrial, "get them in, get them out" approach to life that dispensed with the pleasantries of more sophisticated places with proper hotels and fashionable eateries.
Since then, the world has changed.
We are all supposed to be customer-orientated now.
Customers are to be understood, their expectations measured and buying patterns analysed.
"Get ‘em in, get ‘em out" has either gone or is disguised deep in the psyche of the modern salesperson.
No customer service manual will ever legitimise the local culture.
In countries where people never ever say please or thank you, the service doctrine still preaches that frontline staff should do it.
So I tried to do some modest research on customer service in order to work out whether there was any room anywhere for local colour.
But first I had to get past the management mumbo-jumbo that plagues everything from building a railway to selling a parsnip.
For example, I read about the "Eight steps to wowing your customer" (nine, I reckon, if you just sell them the parsnip) and I pondered whether I should "Make a sincere effort to remember personal details about your customers, such as birthdays, children's names, their jobs and accomplishments".
Frankly, there are times when I have enough trouble remembering my own children's names, let alone those of a bloke in a singlet who bought a vegetable.
One book promised that "You'll find 91 more tips plus much more in 101 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty", the thought of which made me queasy.
I know there has to be some kind of international standard.
UNIFORM
But if customer service is just the latest subject to be made uniform all over the world, where does this leave people in remote locations with more than one local culture?
Do we all have to conform to a management standard or can we hang on to a few of our own quirks?
For my money, lose the local and you lose pretty much everything worth having.
We all have irritating habits, but let's hope that customer service in Alice Springs always includes asking you how you are even if the enquirer is not interested in the answer and that people remark on the weather even when it's the same every day.
It all helps to keep the service local.
steve@afishoutofwater.com


Perceptions, celebrations. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

Last week was an upbeat one: meeting with friends, some of whom lived here and left years ago, others who are still Alice residents, people joining together on Monday as the sun slipped behind our magnificent MacDonnells, to help John King toast the last day of his fifth decade.
The next day, his 60th, was also perfect, leading into celebrations at the Windmill Restaurant out through Heavitree Gap.
Stephanie had excelled.
The venue was superb and the atmosphere lively with soft moods from Sally Ann on harp, speeches from the heart, followed by entertainment courtesy of the Shanfloozies, singing especially to the birthday boy and later, belting out some boisterous dance numbers.
It was a wonderful night.
Interstate visitors commented that we who live here take it all for granted, alluding to clear days, balmy nights and the Ranges at our doorstep.
One couple, now residing in country South Australia, said they'd walked around town and had forgotten how dirty it is.
They mentioned the "in your face" spectacle of vagrants in the mall and shopping centres, the swearing, jostling and drunken antics.
Others said they hadn't noticed any difference.
Wednesday, another glorious day in the Centre, I had a slight headache and a coffee with David and others at the Sports Bar.
Lunch, al fresco, at a favourite place.
A police patrol car cruised by slowly a couple of times, but on that particular afternoon, there were no signs of any untoward behaviour.
There were a few people enjoying sandwiches or siestas under the gums and jacarandas on the lawns near Flynn Church, and Heather, now living in Queensland and back for the first time in nearly four years, commented that she'd walked the mall all week and hadn't seen any anti-social incidents.
On Thursday I caught up with John and Stephanie who were still busy with out-of-town friends and were enjoying showing them the changes around Alice.
Entrepreneurs Wayne and Marg, who had business dealings here in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties, hadn't visited for ten years.
John drove them around residential subdivisions with architecturally designed homes and through the Western Precinct and Smith Street industrial areas: they were suitably impressed with the amount of development, growth and future prospects of Alice, which will hopefully continue.
On Friday, just prior to officially opening our biggest Expo for years, Chief Minister Clare Martin launched Franca and Liz's business venture, goodcareermove pty ltd (Get a life – get a job in the Territory!), at Limerick's Inn.
She is very enthusiastic about any new initiative helping to raise the profile of our Territory.The Convention Centre, much admired by those who were wandering around it for the first time, was a hub of activity as business people got together to showcase respective products.
In Editor Extraordinaire Erwin's report on wish lists and local tourism (March 10), Mayor Fran Kilgariff said that the Town Council spends hundreds of thousands of dollars facilitating tourism to ensure "the town looks good, clean, tidy and the infrastructure and facilities are up to scratch."
The perceptions of those who came back for John's party were varied: it really depends on what's happening where, and whether visitors to the Centre have a positive or negative experience, doesn't it?
The commonality was that Alice Springs holds a special place in the heart of all those who once lived here and they promote it as such.
Most have returned to their homes elsewhere.It's another relatively perfect day with the promise of much needed rain later.As Stephanie said last week, there's so much uncertainty to life that we need to appreciate the joy of each day.
Why wait for special occasions, birthdays, baby-naming days, graduations, weddings and funerals to get together?
We need to toast life, good health and prosperity as we approach the second quarter of 2004 and the start of what is being touted as a much more positive tourist season around the Alice.

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