SOCCER HEIST: COPS MUM. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Police have been unable in nine months to solve the theft of tens of thousands of dollars from the Junior Soccer Association.
As nearly 500 young players, supported by countless volunteers, are taking to the field in one of the town's most popular participation sports, it appears police have failed to clear up alleged crimes reported to them mid last year.
Current soccer officials say they cannot comment or give details while the police investigation is in progress.
But former office holders, who do not wish to be named, say players and supporters are being kept in the dark.
Suspicions of theft from the association were reported to the Alice Springs police in June last year.
About one month later hard evidence came to light that almost $10,000 had been misappropriated.
Two cheques, one for $4600 and one for $5000, had been deposited into the bank account of an association member.
It is understood that some time last year the member paid about $16,000 into the association's account.
However, further evidence of misappropriation came to light, and the total amount missing may be as much as $50,000.
This ought to have been sufficient cause for a major investigation to get under way, by at least July 2003. It did not.
According to a well informed soccer source police conducted an interview with an association member in July and then not again until just a few weeks ago, some nine months after the first report.
No charges have yet been laid.
Suspicions started during the association's financial year from October 2001 to September 2002 when, towards the end of that year, financial statements were not being tabled at committee meetings.
In June 2003 the association's committee ordered the responsible member to hand over the books and when he failed to comply a report to the police was made.
The first reaction by the police was to assert that this should be a civil matter, the association should take its own legal action, and it was not a police responsibility.
However, when the matter was reported as a theft the police finally accepted the complaint.
The apparently misappropriated money had come from the travel fund, canteen takings, fundraising and Ð especially Ð players' registrations, an average of $87 each for 495 players, around $43,000.
Only some of that money reached the association and the NT Soccer Federation, for players taking part in a Territory wide competition, but the remainder is apparently still missing.
Although the money trails were obviously quite straightforward Ð for example, cash from the canteen given to someone and then disappearing Ð the police have made no progress.
In July last year they interviewed only the new president and the treasurer, appointed early last year, both elected after the money problems had been discovered.
One ex-official says police were unable to trace a member, identified by the association as someone likely to be able to assist with inquiries, although he was working for a government department in Central Australia.
It appears police have not spoken to any soccer volunteers who had collected money in any form during the period when the amounts were disappearing.
A former official says the association is being kept in the dark by police about any progress it may have made.
"We have no idea what's going on," he says.
Neither the Alice Springs association nor the NT Soccer Federation would comment.
Although they are under no legal requirement to remain silent, they apparently believe they cannot speak out.
Paul McGrath, the vice president of the association, told the Alice News the committee had decided unanimously that "as the matter is an ongoing police investigation we are unable to comply with your request [for comment].
"The Alice Springs Junior Soccer Association has referred the matter to the police and the present committee is cooperating fully with the police."
Bill Miller, the CEO of the federation, said he is "aware the allegations are under police investigation" but would make no further comment.
Wayne Newell, Detective Senior Constable, who is in charge of the investigation, would say only that the matter is under investigation, and he will be making a report to his senior officer upon completion.
The federation, to which funds from player registration should have been given, in part for player insurance, had to advance money to the Alice association so the 2003 season could get under way.
Meanwhile former president Barbara Glover says the loss of money is a serious blow to a group of volunteers who had worked hard to build up soccer into one of the biggest participation sports in Alice, especially for young people.
She says it's taken years to save $30,000 for the canteen, a demountable structure meant to be the forerunner for a bigger building including change rooms.
"Now we've got to start all over again."
However, Mrs Glover says support for junior soccer is unabated and the association will survive the crisis.
The Alice Springs News put the following questions to Police Commissioner Paul White but we had no response by the closing of this edition.
Is the police motivated by the deterrence value of successful prosecutions?
What priority does police attribute to allegations of major theft from community organisations?
What resources were allocated to the soccer enquiry (how many officers, what are their ranks, how many hours have they spent on the investigation)?
What did they do?
What has been achieved so far?
What will be done in the future?
ALICE ARCHITECT: SCRAP PLANS FOR CIVIC CENTRE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
A leading Alice Springs architect is urging the Town Council to review its current plans for refurbishing the Civic Centre and to consult with the public properly.
Brendan Meney, best known locally for his design of the striking and energy-efficient Centre for Remote Health, says he is speaking out of a "combination of community concern and a mounting sense of obligation".
Mr Meney has lodged with the council a detailed letter of objection to the plans, "as a ratepayer who has a genuine concern about the future of our Civic Centre".
His expertise as an architect can't be set aside, however, and Mayor Fran Kilgariff told the Alice News she has forwarded his letter to the council's consultants, the national firm Gutteridge Haskins Davey, for comment.
Mr Meney says his criticisms of the refurbishment plans have "no bearing on the fact that the consultants' team that I was a part of was unsuccessful in being awarded the design contract for the project".
He says the plans that council displayed last month for public comment prompt more questions than answers.
He says they appear to have been cost driven, rather than focused on long-term outcomes, but the economy of the project could prove false because there does not appear to have been any "long term site master planning".
Says Mr Meney: "It is often not cost effective to carry out extensive Ôgutting'-style renovations to an existing building fabric if it substantially constrains the long-term staged development potential of a site.
"The council's exhibit implies the site redevelopment, including the library, will be in two stages.
"How much is the upgrade of the existing footprint areas of the building restricting good long-term planning and cost shifting opportunities?"
"It is important for the council to consider the long term implications of refurbishing the existing form.
"I am sure the ratepayers would not appreciate the council coming back to the community in five or 10 years' time to ask for funds to Ôupgrade' the Ôupgrade' because it was ill-conceived in the first instance in 2004."
Debate on the cost effectiveness of the current plans is in any case not possible, says Mr Meney, because "the budget limitations were not aligned with the scope of works or clearly displayed to the public so we could see where the costs are targeted".
"There was no detail in the display, setting out inclusions and exclusions."Has the budget allowed for the development of an on-site arts program and appropriate landscaping?" he asks.
He says the library, delayed until an unspecified future date, should have been a primary driver of the plans, "as the dominant community use component on the site".
"The library seems to have been given the status of Ôafter thought to be addressed later' within the context of the greater site.
"I don't think either of the alternatives indicated in the display plan adequately allow for a functional and low impact integrated solution to the library within the site parameters."One alternative splits the library functions because there is not enough room in the south-west corner of the site to build the entire facility unless they build up, or place the majority of the proposed parking under the new building.
"The other alternative, which is an expansion of the current library location, would create an over powering presence along Leichardt Terrace and destroy the current open space asset which exists there in the north-east corner."
Mr Meney says architectural features could help alleviate some of the clashes and conflicts in library usage, the matter of much recent public debate.
These could include well-vented verandah rooms, access to secure courtyards, linked external toilets and rest areas.
The delay in action on the library reflects the low priority council has given to "true community inclusiveness in the overall site planning", says Mr Meney.
He is also unconvinced by the current plans' "green" tag.
He asks: "Where is the detailed justification and explanation of the proposed energy efficient measures?
"What systems will be in place that capture rainwater, retain storm water, make use of geo-thermal opportunities and exploit the non-potable draw-off opportunities from the town basin beneath the site?
"What is happening electrically to reduce energy loads?"Have the measures, described in the notes accompanying the display, been costed into the project or are they only possibilities still to be fully explored?"Has the energy efficiency analysis of this design been quantified and if so, why was it not on display to contribute to the credibility of the Ôenvironmentally sustainable' tag that this project is seeking?"
Mr Meney says there was so much data missing from the council's presentation of the plans, that it was truly difficult to make any critical comment on the proposal's energy efficiency status at this stage.
"If a project has reached the level of design that this project has currently achieved, much of the energy knowledge should be able to be integrated into the display," he says.
Ms Kilgariff says Mr Meney's concerns will also be referred to Glenn Marshall, of the Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns, "who was on the design team".
The refurbishment has been sold to the community partly on the basis of the "heritage value" of the existing building, in reference to the former Afghan presence on the site.
Says Mr Meney: "In relation to the building form, it is my understanding, after talking to the original architect, that the sandstone buttresses do not have any visual relationship with Afghan iconography and in fact are practical structural elements that emulate the feeling of the building Ôgrowing out of the ground'.
"The original intent of the roof forms was to reflect the surrounding hills and the high roofed homesteads of the early European pioneers.
"The low, large fascias were developed to visually reduce the scale of the building by creating a closer relationship with ground level.
"I am not advocating that they should all be removed but simply want to highlight the importance of not allowing these existing forms to dictate the new direction the Civic Centre should be taking.
"Much opportunity exists to retain some of the existing components considered important by the community and to integrate them successfully into a greater overall redevelopment without allowing those elements to dictate and control the imagery and physical building extent of the new design."
One of the components that should be retained in Mr Meney's view is the amphitheatre/courtyard, which the current plans show as being closed up further.
"It should be enhanced to be inclusive and inviting and it should open up to all access points," says Mr Meney."Where is the inclusion of our local, vibrant Indigenous culture in these plans?
"We are at an important point in time in the town's development, where the community as a whole is desperate to encourage and promote reconciliation.
"The closing off of this important space appears to be short-sighted.
"Some lateral thinking and innovative planning could bring many enhancements to this project through potential commercial opportunities, such as book shops, coffee and tea houses, local Ôliving art and craft' exhibition spaces and quality art sales.
"These could provide a peripheral source of income for the council but would also bring people to the site, making it a true community centre.
"The youth of the town often express the need for a Ôhang-out' which would allow them to mix in a controlled and safe fashion. Council also has an opportunity to be proactive in this area by establishing such a centre as part of the overall development.
"With the library and other commercial components a community activity zone which is vibrant, active and publicly owned could evolve to promote rather than stifle, the interaction between the community, tourists, and council staff."
Such community access areas Ð essential if the community is to have a sense of ownership of the Civic Centre Ð could be more easily accommodated across the site if the designers looked at building up Ð mezzanines, second storeys, bridging Ð and down Ð "under croft" parking to reduce the visual impact of vehicles on the site and to provide them with shade.
Mr Meney is calling on council to comprehensively review their plans and carry out further public consultation "to ensure that this process and project does not result in a liability and long-term burden to the Alice Springs community".
"Council should be considering the cost effective benefits of a staged masterplan over a number of years which would seek to put in place a credible long-term vision for the Civic Centre, one which promotes community ownership, and offers the opportunity to clearly articulate the current multi-cultural status of our town through its central icon of local government."
Mayor Kilgariff told the News the future of the plans would depend on "council's reaction to the feedback from Brendan and the four other people who wrote to us with their concerns.She says the majority of feedback was "very positive", adding that "there will also be a chance for people to be involved in the design of the landscaping, through public meetings with the landscape architects who are doing that part of the refurbishments.
"That process won't be happening for some months, as it is separate to the building renovations Ð perhaps we will be able to incorporate some of the outcomes from the recent Public Art Forum in our landscaping designs!"
NEW CDU FEES BLOW TO TRADE APPRENTICES. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Employers of apprentices are concerned about the impact of an apprenticeship fee hike by Charles Darwin University, fearing some apprentices may not be able to meet the costs.
At Amoonguna, too close to Alice to be considered "remote" and thus qualify for an exemption, the community council is working on engaging several of its young men in apprenticeships.
CEO Barry Byerley says neither the young men nor the council could afford the fees.
The largest Territory employer of apprentices, Group Training Northern Territory, is also worried about the financial impact on some of its young workforce.
Certificates I and II are exempt from fees, as are remote students, school-based new apprentices and VET in schools programs.
So the change, applied since the beginning of this year, affects students at Certificate III and higher.
At present, Amoon-guna apprentices have yet to progress to Certificate III but the hope of the community is that they will.
Two young men have begun their plumbing training; three are about to start builder's apprenticeships; and others have enrolled in horticulture.
In each area the approach is "hands on": the plumbers upgrading 31 septic tanks in the community; the builders are working on housing maintenance with the Amoonguna Construction Team; the horticulturalists are developing a market garden that in its first year has already sold hundreds of kilos of fruit and vegies to local vendor Red Centre Produce.
Mr Byerley says the aim is for Amoonguna to become increasingly self-sufficient. The garden, for instance, should ultimately be able to employ three people full-time.
To date, the community has invested $7000 in developing the garden but "council, with all the cutbacks to local government funding, is not in a position to supplement training", says Mr Byerley.
Certificate III fees would amount to over $1000 per person."Where are our blokes going to find that sort of money?" asks Mr Byerley."They're on basic unemployment benefits Ð after they've paid tax and rent, that's about $140 a week to live on.
TOSS"If you toss in fees, they just won't be able to do it."Group Training's apprentices are also "quite concerned", says Antony Yoffa, the company's manager in Alice Springs.
An automotive apprentice doing Certificate III will now face fees of almost $1600, he says, compared to about $450 in the past to cover books.
"For a first year apprentice the new fees amount to about five per cent of their wages, that's a lot really."
Mr Yoffa says Group Training, who employ 350 odd apprentices across the Territory, some 90 of them in Alice Springs, will probably offer its apprentices an instalment plan, where the company pays the fees up front and deducts a weekly amount from the apprentices' wages.
"But 85 per cent of the Territory's apprentices are not with Group Training.
"I don't know what other employers will choose to do."The scariest thing would be if an apprentice said , "No, it's too expensive, I can't do it."No one wants to see an apprentice pull out."
The university, in a letter to apprentices, says it is "aware of the needs of those Territorians who find the tuition fees too high for their financial circumstances".
It says it is "committed to expanding the range of scholarships and student loans on offer and will consider special circumstances for exemption other than [the general ones]".
ALD. CORBY, JEFFORD HIDE FROM QUESTIONS. Report by COURTNEY WHITMAN.
Holders of public office, especially in local government, "closest to the people", don't usually refuse an interview.
Susan Jefford and Bob Corby did. We understand neither will be seeking re-election in May.
Apparently, they have still been getting their $600 a month for serving on council.
I took a look at the council's website to see what else they might have been doing.
Bob Corby is on the civic centre sub-committee set up in August last to oversee the redevelopment of the civic centre.
This redevelopment is supposed to start in April, however, other members of the sub committee (Jenny Mostran and Geoff Bell) are not so optimistic.
Can't ask about that.
In 2002, as part of the Waste Management Advisory Committee, he worked with the NT government to combat illegal dumping.
During this time, he made a few statements concerning the jobs of the Council Rangers.
"The cost of cleaning up rubbish dumped in public spaces is a major expense to council and other agencies," said Ald Corby in a media release.
"In order to recuperate some of our losses, we are prepared to track down and prosecute offenders who refuse to clean up their own rubbish.
"We would like to see an amendment to Territory legislation to allow our rangers to hand out much harsher penalties in future."
However, Mayor Fran Kilgariff and council executives have recently said that the council rangers are not going to catch alcohol offenders on the litter law; it is simply too dangerous for them, and apparently, littering is almost impossible to prove anyway.
Can't ask Ald Corby what he thinks about that.
In 2001, Ald Corby was talking about Container Deposit Legislation, and an Adopt-a-Highway program. A CDL would prevent cans going into the landfill and send them on to recycling centers.
"É the Council will continue to pursue the introduction of Container Deposit Legislation," Ald Corby is quoted as saying.
"We have allocated funds for this strategy and are keen to implement a CDL program.
"We will also be strengthening community involvement in the litter fight through further consultation with businesses and investigation of schemes such as the Adopt-a-Highway program," he said.
How have these programs progressed? Ald Corby's not talking.
And he hasn't been mentioned again since 2002.
He is reported as thinking of running again.
Susan Jefford on the other hand is reported as not running again.The last time we heard from her on the website was at the start of 2003, when she announced that Council would audit its waste management strategy.
The Council's Waste Management Advisory Committee had advised this, after hearing that at our current rate, the landfill will reach full capacity between 2020 and 2030.
Ald Jefford is mum on progress on this issue.
In 2002, she also had a comment to make on a Container Deposit Legislation.
As a member of the Waste Management Advisory Committee, Ald Jefford said, "The whole of the Territory would benefit from the CDL initiative. We are unique in that most local government jurisdictions cover relatively small areas.
"Here in the Territory we have thousands of kilometres of roads, which are managed directly by the Northern Territory Government. Under these circumstances, litter management incurs significant costs.
"The CDL would help decrease these costs."
So, what happened? What may happen in the future? Ald Jefford isn't saying.
Ald Jefford was on the swimming pool committee, looking at, among other things, a heated swimming pool. Ald Raelene Beale is very passionate about this subject, claiming it would offer tourism opportunities and help keep people in town.
Maybe Ald Jefford is just letting Ald Beale be the mouthpieceÉ or is she doing most of the work as well?
Alderman Russell Naismith was almost as shy as the other two, refusing to allocate a time for an interview, but I did manage to nab him on the phone at the last minute.
Veteran alderman of two terms and a candidate for mayor in the last election, he sees himself as the "can-do community man". However, he's unsure if he's going to run again.
"It's still too early," he says.
Although he also says, "I've lived here for the past 26 years, I love the town, and I'm only happy to help make it a better town".
Last term, Ald Naismith made the comment that he hoped common sense would one day prevail and "hopefully sooner rather than later we will get toilets in the CBD".
And yet, they're still not here.
Ald Naismith says that we need to address the amenities block question soon, because "we're a tourist town".
As Chairman of Economic and Community Development, he's seen public park shade go up, which made him very happy as he's been through two terms with that project over his head (no pun intended).
"This term, I think we've cleaned up the town to a fair degree," says Ald Naismith.
The Public Open Space Revitalization project has "involved the community" by helping them to "take an interest in the parks in their vicinity".
The council's website also reveals that in 2002, Ald Naismith helped start a horticulture project with Centralian College to supply students and know-how to beautify the town with natural flora.
He said at the time that the town had matured enough to "take pride in their surroundings," as it was no longer so "transient".
In 2001, Ald Naismith was also active on moves to remove illegal campers from the rivers. Since then, with "Back to Country" not well funded, river campers are on the increase.
Ald Naismith disagrees, and explains that council has recently entered into another agreement with Tangentyere to patrol the rivers.
All in all, Ald Naismith says he is still "committed to the town" and its growth.
CENTRE FOR REMOTE HEALTH: WORLD'S BEST PRACTICE RIGHT HERE IN ALICE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
It is part of the Charles Darwin and Flinders Universities, but it would be wrong to see the Centre for Remote Health (CRH), which has just celebrated its first five years, as an ivory tower.Workforce issues are at its heart: how to better equip health professionals to work in remote areas and how to retain their invaluable experience in Central Australia by offering career paths that lead to teaching and research positions.On this front, its achievements have been remarkably successful: together with CDU and Flinders, the centre has established a nursing program in Alice Springs, about to see the graduation of its first cohort of students; and it is running two post-graduate courses. Indeed their masters' degree in Remote Health Practice, with 120 students, is now the biggest post-graduate program in Flinders' Faculty of Health Sciences.
The research that CRH undertakes is guided by the needs of health services and the communities they serve.
Initially this has meant a wide variety of research projects, a lot of evaluation work and service planning.
The results of such projects Ð for instance, to report on the extent of implementation of the National Aboriginal Eye Health Program Ð can take a while to filter through, as change depends a lot on policy-makers.
"You don't necessarily see the immediate impact of the research results," says CRH director, Associate Professor John Wakerman, "but in the longer term, because they provide clear information on which to base decisions about policy and services, they will contribute to better health outcomes."The big breakthrough research project that changes practice on the ground does not happen all that often.
"It is a more incremental process, but the strong relationship we are developing with communities and organizations will enable us to build a longer term program of research.
"Because we work in an area of such great need and relatively limited resources, we sometimes don't realise the extent of our own achievements in a national and international sense.
"For example, the CARPA Standard Treatment Manual is used throughout the Territory and is an example of the development and utilisation of clinical protocols with an uptake that is not bettered anywhere in the world."
Prof Wakerman says CRH is very concerned with research "transfers":"The first thing we do is to make sure the transfer is part of the research plan, that is, how the findings will be disseminated, how they will be used."And we make sure that they are accessible to the stakeholders.
"That means we may write a report for policy-makers, and a different one for communities, as well as giving direct feedback.
"We are always looking for feedback from the communities."
CRH also aims to improve "Indigenous research capacity".
A recent opportunity was provided by the evaluation of the liquor restrictions trial. In collaboration with Tangentyere Council and the national Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, CRH offered a workshop for a dozen Aboriginal researchers in which they developed survey instruments and trained the researchers in how to use them with town camp residents.
"It was a watershed experience for us," says Prof Wakerman, "the culmination of the relationship we have built with Tangentyere, and the sort of thing we would like to replicate with other organisations."Prof Wakerman says Tangentyere, represented on CRH's board by executive director William Tilmouth, has a sophisticated understanding of the role of research for their advocacy work and is negotiating a memorandum of understanding with Flinders, CDU, and Edith Cowan and Curtin universities in WA.
In March last year CRH opened a new unit in Katherine and also has staff based at CDU in Darwin.
Prof Wakerman says the developments in health services in the Katherine region are the most exciting of any in Australia, as the whole region moves towards community-controlled primary health care services.CRH's role has been to evaluate the programs, gathering good information to guide similar developments in other regions of the Territory and other states.
Commonwealth and NT agencies obviously have direct concerns with health delivery to Aboriginal people in Central Australia and the Territory and have commissioned major research projects from CRH.
However, CRH is also venturing interstate and overseas, making it a good example of a "Desert Knowledge exporter".
Examples are research for the NSW Department of Health (looking at cervical cancer screening of Indigenous women), and for AusAID (looking at how to strengthen the capacity of the Cambodian Medical Association to provide professional development for its members).
CRH is also working with other Flinders academics to develop a post-graduate rural health management program for a major university in China.
CENTRE FOR REMOTE HEALTH: FORMER CLEANER IS NOW DOING MASTER'S DEGREE. Report by COURTNEY WHITMAN.
Tahnia Edwards, now studying for her Masters in Remote Health Practice, originally got into health care when she traded her cleaner's cap for a nursing assistant cap at a nursing home in Alice Springs.
Staff at the Hetti Perkins home encouraged her to become a nursing assistant after they saw her interacting with the residents.
She stayed for two years and left when she had her first child and moved to Adelaide.
"When I left, the matron Ð Grace Smallwood, herself an Aboriginal Registered Nurse Ð said I should consider a career in nursing," says Tahnia.
In Adelaide, she had two aunts who were studying Ð one at college and one at uni. Inspired by their example, Tahnia went back to school when her daughter was 18months old.
She completed her Bachelor in Nursing at Flinders University.
"It was a hard course, but I struggled through it Ð I wanted to do something with my life."
She worked as a nurse for four years at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and then applied for a job as a remote area nurse. She saw this as an "opportunity to come back home and to meet new challenges".
Tahnia has always loved Alice Springs, and has her large Arrernte family here to encourage and guide her.For her first four years she worked as a RAN out at Kintore, near the border with Western Australia."It was really quite different working in a bush clinic, to working in a major city hospital.
"In Adelaide help was always at hand when there was a critical incident with a client.
"In a remote community you have much greater responsibilities. You work more as an independent nursing practitioner and have less resources and staff to work with."The experience was "very grounding and humbling" and fantastic for her "personal and professional development".
"I personally feel honoured to have had this experience," she says.
Her next job was at Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, as a Child Health Coordinator.
What did that job involve? "It was all of the above! It was a very hands on job based here in Alice Springs.
"My role was to deliver a child health program to mothers, babies and small children. I worked in the clinic and provided a community outreach service to a large number of families.
"I really like working with the community, it is an immensely rewarding experience."
After 18 months, she was approached by Sabina Knight at the Centre for Remote Health to act as "a mentor for their nursing program and a role model for Aboriginal nursing students".
She "juggled" both jobs for a bit before she decided to go back to university herself to do her Masters in Remote Health Practice, a Flinders University program delivered through the Centre for Remote Health.
She'll finish next year, but she still finds time to devote about 15 hours a week to her job at the Centre, lecturing on nursing and supporting the Indigenous students.
The Masters in Remote Health Practice is "equivalent to a Masters in Public Health, but it has a much stronger Indigenous health focus as well as Australian rural and remote focus and is more appropriate
to the circumstances here in Central Australia.
"Indigenous health is a major problem, especially here in the Territory."The disease morbidity and mortality rates clearly demonstrate how bad people's health is.
"It is well known that Aboriginal people die earlier and suffer from a much greater burden of disease than other Australians."One way of addressing this is to get an education in order to challenge the status quo.
"Research is an area I am considering as a possible career path."Research informs health policy Ð so it is important that we get the processes of research right to begin with, otherwise it will have a snowball effect, in that health policy and service delivery will not deliver any real improvements."Many aspects of Aboriginal health have gotten worse since I was a child, but people are dying from different causes such as diabetes, renal disease and trauma.
"My inspiration is my family.
"There are a lot of unsung heroes out there, working hard for the good of their families and communities and I certainly classify my mother, Jeannette, as one of them."She's been working with Aboriginal people for the past 40 years, mostly in remote communities in Central Australia and she has been faced with many issues in that time.
"I have many, family members who are high achievers and I look to them for inspiration.
"It's very important that you don't lose sight of your family roots.
"Your beginnings keep you grounded."Tahnia says "one of the biggest challenges we face in addressing Indigenous issues is racism".
"It presents itself in many ways.
"I don't think most people appreciate how much of an impact the western world view has on Indigenous people and their ability to negotiate their basic human rights.
"People take things for granted, when they are socialized and encultured into western society.
"Most people recognize blatant forms of racism such as prejudice but racism is also subtle, in the form of institutionalized racism Ð it's the way the laws, institutions and education systems are structured around the western world view instead of incorporating both cultures, values and beliefs.
"As a health practitioner, and in all other professional capacities, you are in a position of power.
"Combine that with cultural and language differences and the barriers for Aboriginal people are enormous," says Tahnia.She believes the Centre goes a long way toward helping the different cultures get over some of those barriers."They are trying to create an environment for the expression of ideas and solutions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people."
Desert poser to desert loser. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Two significant events recently took place within my tiny humdrum existence.
The first was that I was granted permanent residence in Australia and the second was that I moved house. Actually, the two are connected.
Buying a house is more difficult when you are a temporary resident.
It's something to do with the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act (1975), about which I have become something of an amateur expert, but promise I will not bore you now.
As part of this process, I found myself phoning various people in government departments over several weeks, trying to negotiate a safe path through the complications of immigration regulations, remote area employment, police checks, medicals and references, in search of that elusive moment of "convergence". Convergence is what happens when everything comes together.
You get a stamp in your passport, you move house and it's a happy ending for your nearest and dearest and a whole string of helpful folk who make an honest living out of these exchanges.
With that pleasant Australian manner that doesn't yet come naturally, I learned the first names of everyone I spoke with and kept asking for them when I called back.
Sometimes, they even called me, including two Saturdays ago when the Australia Federal Police rang from Canberra after my umpteenth desperate phone-call.
They had found my application for a police check somewhere in the vaults under the other 1500 applications that arrive on February 15.
Not only that, but the kind officer would send it to Immigration without delay.
At times like this, I am extra grateful that I don't occupy a leaky boat somewhere off the north coast of the country and carry a developing country surname.
When competing with 1500 others for your papers to be processed in an office down south, it is sometimes handy to use your location to make yourself more distinctive and therefore more memorable to the harassed public servant at the other end.
This may be sad and even manipulative, but to shout down the phone with your hand slightly covering the receiver and to name yourself "Steve from Alice Springs" seems to work wonders.
I was treated with great care, like someone deserving of sympathy, tea and biscuits or a person recovering from a nasty bout of travel sickness. I wonder if people do this in Siberia when they phone Moscow.
Do they say "I'm Igor from Siberia" and expect special treatment? And do they get it?
Does this happen when people from the Outer Hebrides phone London or when residents of the frozen wastes of northern Canada call Ottawa?
I somehow doubt it.
But I bet readers of this newspaper do it, because the tendency to mention the Territory early in a conversation with someone in a capital city is hard to resist.
It's like a dirty secret.
My pretence at being exotic worked a treat.
Or at least it did until Mandy from the Federal Police asked me why I needed the police check so urgently.
"I'm buying a house in Alice Springs," I replied, seeking to impress her with my rejection of mainstream urban life and commitment to the supposed hardships of life in the real Australia.
"Why?" came the reply from Mandy.
"Why on earth would you want to buy a house in Alice Springs?"
Look, I know the police try to be helpful, but real estate advice seemed beyond the call of duty.
The effect was to take the wind out of my sails.
One outback caller, confident in his curiosity value, suddenly became just another misguided individual with bad taste in locations.
And so the moral of the story is that it may be easy to be a desert poser, but it's even easier to turn into a desert loser.
Substance abuse in The Alice. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
According to ABC news mid-week, there is evidence of substance abuse in Alice Springs.
Although the evidence may have just come to light, the issue of substance abuse is not new to Alice.
Alison, founder and Public Officer of Green Gates Inc for Drug and Alcohol Support & Respite in Alice Springs, continues to lobby politicians for funding.
This is to assist in the acquisition of a suitable property for a drug rehabilitation centre providing long-term accommodation and support for people who are trying to break a drug dependency addiction and detoxify in Alice Springs.
There is obviously a belief that there are no substance abuse problems in the Centre among our non-Indigenous population, because Alison's submissions continue to fall on deaf ears, whilst Darwin's number of residential rehab centres is growing.
The latest at Bees Creek, a 16 bed hostel, was opened in March.
Auntie's news item last week wasn't about ALL substance abuse Ð it was zeroing in on petrol sniffers.
Sniffing petrol, paint or glue is not in itself an illegal act.
However the devastation to the substance user's health, the threat to society and the problems associated with criminal activity and violence, point towards the need for yet another review, and possible changes to local legislation.
Imagine going into a liquor store to purchase a bottle of your favourite label and being asked the following: What is your name? How old are you? Where do you come from? What do you intend to do with this purchase? And, lastly, can you guarantee that you will not hand this purchase to a minor?
These are the questions that the staff at Craig and Robyn's Mad Harry's outlets ask customers whenever there is a request for either paint or glue products.
In fact, since day one of trading, that stock has been kept under lock and key.
Craig works closely with community groups, including members of Tangentyere Council, recording who is buying what product.
The Weekend Oz (January 2001) ran an article "Sniffers are New Lost Generation" that centred around the Mutijula Community at Uluru
At that point, brain damaged sniffers were sent interstate for treatment.
The community requested, without success, funds to build a rehabilitation centre close to home. In November 2001, a five-page article "Highly Inflammable" in the Weekend Oz magazine highlighted petrol-sniffing problems at Pukatja.
It reported on the lawlessness of young hardened sniffers, their frightened parents and the authorities, which are powerless to act.
Minister Ah Kit has spoken before about life in some communities breaking down, and we now have stage two - bored young people gravitating to the nearest regional centre and continuing to do exactly as they please Ð because they may know no better.
It was uplifting to read "Community on the Right Track" (Advocate, April 2) about the grass roots initiatives and outstation programs that are helping to curb the violence, petrol sniffing and alcohol abuse at Hermannsburg.
Youngsters are re-enthused about life and going back to school.
The community reports a positive turnaround.Australia's population is over 20 million.In the Territory, we have 200,000 people from different cultures and varied backgrounds and around 26,000 of them live in Alice.
Some of them are occasional substance users and others are addicted to that habit.
There are so many different dependencies out there that current strategies don't seem to be working.
Labor's Plan to build a better territory is founded on building a safer community.
In September 2001 there was a "Get Tough on Drugs" stance within the Election Promises.
The check-list included zero tolerance on drug traffickers, dealers and manufacturers and giving the police targeted powers to attack drug trafficking and dealing.
There was also to be compulsory treatment of addicts arrested on drug related crimes, a properly resourced drug prevention strategy, including family support policies and education campaigns aimed at young Territorians through the schools.
The CLP Government had the Living with Alcohol and Alcohol and Other Drugs programs strategy.
Possession of substances such as paint, glue, petrol or vanilla essence is hardly a crime and the act of sniffing is a different issue and must be treated as such.The initiatives shown by the people of Hermannsburg in tackling head-on the problem of young petrol sniffers in their own environment should be upheld as an example of what can be achieved when all community members work together.
The Parliament of South Australia introduced the Public Intoxication Act in 1984 which provides for apprehension and care of persons found in public places under the influence of a drug or alcohol.
In 1998 the City of Adelaide Act established the mechanisms to promote key strategic requirements for economic, social, physical and environmental development and growth of the city, with a focus on cultural, educational and commercial activities.
It is futile to think about introducing new laws which make sniffing illegal, as we continue to adapt existing legislation to target minority groups in an ever-widening circle of what is, and is not socially acceptable.
The authorities, police and social workers must have the ability to work within existing legislation, which already allows for the apprehension of any young person who is not under parental control.
Sniffers should be removed from the streets, relocated to a safe haven and made to enter rehabilitation programs.
As the focus moves to sniffers, mainly young Indigenous people, perhaps those who have been in denial for years about the presence of other substance abusers and the ensuing anti-social episodes around our town, may decide that there is a need to lobby politicians for funding for a long-term rehabilitation centre in our region for ALL substance abusers.
Whether Alice is granted funding or not, the Northern Territory will need some tough community-backed policing programs to ensure that sniffing is not allowed to become the next great social problem whether it be in remote communities, the rural areas, other city centres or in Alice Springs itself.
THE SMELL OF LEATHER. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Australian Rules football is back in town, the local version.The smell of liniment and leather will pervade Traeger Park on Saturday afternoon and intensify through till September.On the weekend the traditional Lightning Carnival, sponsored by Ngurratjuta, will herald the season of 2004.It is again expected that 20-plus nominations will be received in this the 20th year of the carnival.The big improvers over recent years have been the communities with the grand final last year being an all out of town affair, honours going to the Yuendumu Magpies.The carnival is conducted in two divisions with a cup (Division 1) and a plate (Division 2) being contested.
A feature of the carnival is the constant flow of short games leaving little breathing space between contests and action-a-plenty.After the carnival's conclusion on Sunday night the football public will have only a six-day wait for the CAFL competition to commence.
During the off-season the league has introduced changes to the conduct of the game, one of the most dramatic being the scheduling of fixtures on a Saturday and the use of Albrecht Oval as well as Traeger Park.
At club level the changes have not been as sweeping. For the 2003 premiers the season started last weekend when the South club provided a family day for supporters at Larapinta Oval.
The day honoured Tony Cusack, a son of the club who met with the most unfortunate of accidents on the field, leaving him a quadraplegic.
This year, the Super Roos will be coached by Tony's brother Shaun, who is no stranger to the role.
He has the capacity to lead, be it on or off the field, and will have plenty of support with both Kelvin and Charlie Maher at the ready.
The Roos have also recruited well over the summer attracting the services of a host of western desert players, who over the years have been the on-field heart of the Rovers side.
The transfer of the premiership coach, Greg McAdam, to Santa Teresa has created an interesting situation.
For Souths his absence will be missed, but for Ltyente Apurte the benefits should be great.
In the communities competition they have always shown the ability to "knock on the door" for finals glory and McAdam may be the tonic they need.McAdam's appointment to the community could also prove to have the effect of a double-edged sword.
At Federal in the CAFL, Gilbert McAdam is conscientiously rebuilding the local stocks to the extent that he has had well over twenty players training in the pre-season.
Included in the signings are Adrian McAdam, and the two Liddle boys, Ruaidhri and Ryan.
If Gilbert and Greg can blend in their philosophy to the game, as they have over the years, the problems associated with fielding country-based Federal players who can't train with the club may go a long way towards resolution.
The Pioneer Club, although having to accept the bridesmaid's title last year remain the most successful club, arguably in Australia.
They have held their AGM and have a committee.
They have as usual been noticeably quiet on the training track, but at this time of the year not a lot should be read into this situation as the business end of things does not come around for six months.
On the track Roy Arbon is as ever out there with the boys, and hopefully in 2004 the idea of team coaching will evolve further than the Arbon and Graham Smith combination of recent times. Arbon would love to acquire the services of Eagles legends, Lance White and Paul Ross, to add even more fuel to the Pioneer furnace of success.
On-field, the Eagles will miss their strike player of 2003 Joel Campbell, but one asset that Pioneers can rely on will be bound to ring true this season.
Up and coming players will emerge to fill any gaps in the first 18, and as sure as the sun comes up, the Eagles will see rising stars come to the fore.The tight-knit West camp launched their 2004 campaign with their annual bonding session at Aileron last weekend.
Rob Wenscke and his committee have continued to keep the faith with coach John Burke, and as usual the Bloods will run on as a physically challenging side who play a brand of footy more reminiscent of the game played in southern country centres.Rovers have undergone a concerted recruiting programme over the summer.
They have appointed Brett Wagner, a true blue, dyed-in-the-wool player and administrator, as coach.
The Blues have campaigned intensively within the town precinct and have attracted a healthy cohort of players to the training track.
The absence of the likes of Edric Coultard, Clinton Ngalkin and company will leave a gaping hole in the Rover line-up, but to their credit Rovers recognise the need to regenerate their stocks from their traditional town base, and are looking to the future. CAFL or community action, the Ngur-ratjuta Lightning Carnival on the weekend will have something for everybody.
LORNA MAKES GOAL SHOOTING LOOK EASY. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Sundowners have had a great victory at the beginning of the Alice Springs netball season.
On Saturday at the Pat Gallagher Courts, their A-grade side recorded a massive 81 to 17 win over the Neata Glass Giants.
The Sunnies were always hot favourites to take the game, but it was the manner in which they achieved the result that left the crowd pondering just who was going to challenge them in 2004.
The star of the show was undoubtedly goal shooter Lorna Walker who managed to score 73 of the 81 goals netted.
For David Yeaman's young side, Giants, it was a case of watch and learn as the competition leaders created a constant corridor to the receiving hands of Walker.In the earlier match between Rovers and West, it was expected that a titanic struggle would provide the spectacle of the day.
West however bounced out of the blocks early and established a five goal lead by quarter time. Rovers countered the West attack in the second quarter only to find West surge again in the third, creating a match winning 28 to 19 lead at the final break.
They then maintained the momentum in the run home to finish the game 40 to 28.
RACING: BIG FIELDS, BETTER RACES. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Carnival time is just around the corner and good times are ahead at Pioneer Park.The opener for the day proved of value to punters when Kenneth from the Sheila Arnold stable jumped from the inside barrier and lasted the distance in the Hourglass Jewellers 2-year-old over 1000 metres.
The inside barrier is a real advantage in a two-year-old race and Kenneth made the best of it leading with Indecent Exposure and Crown Pilot on its outside.
Crown Pilot weakened and it was left to Indecent Exposure to take it up to the leader.
In the fight to the finish Kenneth was able to hang on to score by a neck while Shirley's Boy came home to take third place three quarters of a length behind Indecent Exposure.The Jon Griddle Handicap over 1200 metres was a class 5 event.
Al Taker made a welcome return to racing after having had surgery for chips in his front knees a year ago.
Predictably Lady Archer led the field early but felt the going tough by the 500 metre mark, which was the signal for Al Taker to make a move from the rear of the field.
In the running Mr Carding railed along the inside, and thus provided the two equal favourites with the opportunity to fight it out in the straight.
Al Taker with Tim Norton on board proved the stronger claiming victory by a long neck, from Mr Carding with Gold Boss two and three quarter lengths away in third place.The 1200 metre Clare Linkup Maiden Plate over 1200 metre gave local identity Ted Wade a winner.
Gary Lief had to ride Centre Raja hard early to claim the lead over Ballot and Liaise, and in doing so established a two length break on the field.
Going to the line he recorded a one and three quarter length win over the impressive Ballot, while the favourite Shovanest completed the placing, a half length away in third place.The Peter Los Class Two Handicap over 1400 metres proved an ideal comeback race for Geode who was scratched from racing the previous Saturday.
For trainer Vivian Old field the win proved to be the first of a consecutive double.
With the scratching this week of Puerto, and Scott Lackey being able to claim as an apprentice, Geode jumped to the lead and took up the running some two lengths in front.
The Darwin visitor Desert Prospect sat back nicely on the fence and was hoping to complete a hat-trick of wins.
However Desert Prospect gave little in the run home as Geode had to contend with stable mate Burran who had made a concerted run from the 600 metre mark.
Geode survived the challenge to win by a short head, while Coyote Gorgeous rattled on for third.The Three-year-old Handicap over 1400 metres would have filled Oldfield's cup with delight.
In the class field The Red Faced Rat set up a two-length lead over Foghorn Leghorn, with Delway third and Not Abandoned sitting fourth.
The Rat tired by the turn to allow the race to be run in earnest.
In the straight Not Abandoned proved too strong and went to the line a two and a quarter length winner over the impressive Delway with Chigwidden who came from well back, surging to the post in third place.The two Open Handicap races that completed the day were both raced at a fast pace, and both events went to seasoned campaigners.
Le Saint a former horse of the year, took out the Keith Hillier Open Handicap (1) over 1500 metres. Market Link, Edge to Edge and Coppers Edge led proceedings with Le Saint in fourth spot.
Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.