DO IT YOURSELF EMBEZZLEMENT INVESTIGATION? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Police have asked the Junior Soccer Association to commission a forensic audit of its books and pay $10,500 for it.
But Commander Gary Manison says the association should "sit down with" the detective investigating the alleged theft from the sporting body of tens of thousands of dollars, so that the request can be reviewed.
The association's vice president, Paul McGrath, says it hasn't got the funds to pay for the audit, and expects the investigation to be done by the police.
"There is no guarantee that the person would be convicted," he says.
"Police are saying we have to prove that he [the principal suspect] has taken the money."
The Alice Springs News asked the principal suspect last Saturday about the missing money.
He said: "I don't want to talk about that."
Mr McGrath, who was elected after the investigation had started, says the association has given extensive evidence to the police.
There has been little progress in clearing up the alleged theft which occurred more than a year ago, and was reported to the police nine months ago (Alice News, April 14).
Commander Manison, the most senior police officer in Alice Springs, says the allegations were brought to the attention of police on July 11, 2003, by an association official who told them about "a deficiency" and "shortages of money", followed up by a letter from the association.
Commander Manison says police asked the association for an audit report.
It was supplied at the end of December last year but police found the audit to be "not conclusive".
He says: "It requires further investigation in relation to a further and more detailed audit."
It is his understanding that requiring complainants to pay for forensic audits "has been a practice, as far as I know, in the NT and other jurisdictions [for some time]".
He says this had also been the advice from the fraud squad head in Darwin, Sue Carter.
Sgt Carter says it is normal for people alleging theft of money from a business or an organisation to provide financial records.
"It's not the police's job to audit books.
"Police are not accountants, only the owner of the records can cast light on the matter."
However, Sgt Carter says police may be able to act on information other than audit statements, such as evidence about unauthorised banking of money.
The association has alleged such transactions, and has given evidence of them to the police.
Commander Manison says: "In clubs such as this, with honorary officials, bookkeeping is certainly not as accurate as what you expect from a business."
He says he is not at liberty to say how much money is alleged to have been stolen: "There is a privacy issue. I'm restricted by the current legislation.
"You have to talk to the officials of that association, to give you those details. It is unclear what the financial situation of the association is.
"We can say we have concerns that a criminal offence or criminal offences may have occurred."
Commander Manison says police regard the alleged theft as a high priority case: "We certainly look at these matters seriously.
"We're talking about voluntary organisations.
"An experienced detective has been investigating this matter all the way.
"We do give them that appropriate level of priority because we know that the people who are hurting in cases like this are generally the members of the community and clubs who can't afford to have losses like this," Commander Mani-son says. "We'll certainly get to the bottom of it."
However, he says "it's very difficult to investigate a lot of these matters.
"Money is liable to go through three, four, maybe half a dozen hands.
"Receipts get lost. Every single transaction has to be tracked down.
"And you can't get every single transaction because of the way the bookkeeping has been undertaken."
Meanwhile the association is having difficulties with ground maintenance and securing goal frames which, according to media reports, have killed dozens of people world wide when they tipped over.
Mr McGrath says the Blatherskite Park trustees won't allow the goals to be fixed to the ground because they need to be moved after the games to allow ground maintenance.
Association officials say the grass on the pitches is too long, making running arduous and the ball slow.
But they say the trustees say that's the way it needs to be to suit other users.
And a $200,000 grant sought from NT Sports Minister John Ah Kit may be tied to use of government land – Blatherskite Park – while the association may wish to move the games to another venue, such as Ross Park.
The Alice News invited the trustees to provide a comment but none had been received before going to press.
Run education like a business, says report. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Education needs to be as ruthlessly managed as businesses are if we are to meet the needs of our clients, the students, says Gregor Ramsey, leading researcher behind the just-released review of secondary education in the Territory.
And students need to have a much clearer picture of where they could go in a society that is constantly changing, none more so than those from the bush who spoke to the review team about their futures, whether as football players or working for the dole, "almost always within the constraints of the limited opportunities currently available to them".
Dr Ramsey describes the review as "one of the most comprehensive undertaken in Australia", focussing on what young people have to say and on meeting their meeds.
He argues that the thorough-going changes the review proposes are no less than what is necessary to bring about a system relevant to the demands of the current era.
Resistance from some quarters is only to be expected, says Dr Ramsey, recalling the ferment of the late 19th century that preceded the introduction of free compulsory state education in Australia.
More than 100 years later it is time for "a whole new rethink".
Schools have to offer what their clients – primarily young people and their parents or care-givers – want.
"If a school offers something that no-one wants, then it deserves to go.
"In the world of business you change the CEO, get rid of those duds who are not performing and it becomes quite clear to everybody that the business is under new management.
"Such action in a school can make all the difference.
"That's tough stuff and we are not used to doing it in education but, like any other client-based organization, if you are not serving the needs of your clients you change so that you are.
"And I think you usually make the changes before you've gone down the gurgler."
The review recommends an accreditation process for schools, overseen by a Quality Services Agency, to achieve the kind of responsiveness required.
Dr Ramsey says the agency must be independent from education authorities responsible for schools.
"The process would be one of holding up a mirror to what a school is doing, not to criticise but to help the school improve."
To people who oppose such a move, Dr Ramsey puts this question: "Would you put your elderly mother in a non-accredited old folks home or have your relative operated on in a non-accredited hospital?
"We simply have to have standards against which we can assess whether what is going on in a school is effective."
However, he is opposed to the idea of a list that ranks schools.
"Accreditation is seeing whether a particular school is doing what it says it's going to be doing. It is not a process of comparison.
"The shopping around where there is a choice, which happens now anyway, ought to be about a parent saying what's the kind of school that is going to suit my kid best.
"An accreditation process should help parents make decisions based on good information."
Would real weight be given to opinions of students and parents?"I think that's absolutely fundamental. You have to get a lot of information from the clients, those who have the most to gain from the school, parents and kids."
Change could not be achieved by "fiddling at the edges" nor just by "restructuring the system", though some of the latter is required. Change begins with the process of teaching and learning.
Dr Ramsey proposes that schools respond to the directions of their own communities and councils and that proposed changes be implemented following an assessment of pilot programs.
Many of the changes could be achieved by a rethink on how to apply existing resources, but there will be no getting away from an injection of funds to bring about improved access to secondary education for Indigenous students on remote communities.
"That has to be the government's priority, in my view," says Dr Ramsey.
"The Territory will be in real trouble if it hasn't got its Indigenous people educated to a level where they can either get employment or enjoy livelihoods that are worthwhile."
Face-to-face teaching in Indigenous communities is indispensable.
System-wide structural changes to the stages of schooling, making Year Seven the first year of secondary education (as it is in Central Australia, but not in the Top End), will have the added benefit of making the numbers of secondary age children more viable in some communities.
In others, the system-wide proposal to create Learning Precincts will show the way: pooling the educational resources of a number of communities or a region.
For example, explains Dr Ramsey, there is no reason why Science at Year 10 level has to be taught in one lesson a day, three days a week over the whole year."You could teach it comprehensively over three months, getting the teachers out there to do the job."
Other system-wide proposals would also benefit Indigenous students.
"Better Teaching and Learning is a very important one. For too long the focus has been on the nature of the curriculum. But it's what teachers do with the curriculum that in the end is the critical point.
"For example, everyone has got a sixth sense about young people needing to burn off energy. That has to be reflected in the curriculum, more physical education, more activities, making something that is fulfilling, more music, more doing rather than sitting and endeavouring to learn."
Achieving this involves a change in approaches to pedagogy.
The review proposes a Teaching and Learning Framework as a document working in parallel with the NT Curriculum Framework. This should be written by the Territory's best teachers, whose talents need to be distributed more equitably.
"Specialisation in the teaching profession is very limited compared to other professions. I think if there is a good maths teacher around, every class should have the benefit. One lesson a week from the good teacher, then four a week from the class teacher.
"If it delivers the best outcomes for children then I can't see the profession not doing it."
Teachers need to listen to students about how they want to learn.
"A lot of the kids who spoke to us [in 134 school visits] did not want what they were getting. They wanted to be active, they wanted to be learning but through activity.
"To put young adolescents into serried rows of desks for hour upon hour is just not any way to learn at all."
In this regard, the Year 10 program at Alice Springs High School (ASHS) got a big tick from Dr Ramsey.
"Alice Springs High stood out with its innovation and its ability to interact with young people in a way that the kids found worthwhile."
Vocational education, which has a strong emphasis at ASHS, needs strengthening throughout the system and every school, urban and non-urban, needs a careers advisor or access to one.
"As soon as you have to talk about VET in schools as if it is some kind of injection, that's telling you that the curriculum is wrong," says Dr Ramsey.
While for middle school, – Years Seven, Eight and Nine – the review recommends stronger personal support, and more "hands on" learning from fewer different teachers, for senior secondary – Years 10, 11 and 12 – the needs are very different.
"A lot of the kids are working, they have to juggle work and school.
"There's no reason why how well they are doing that oughtn't be part of a package of skills they are developing with a mentor who works with them, so that they come to see a clear path into the future for themselves."
How great are the barriers to change?
"If parents get hold of this report and see its recommendations as important then change is going to occur," says Dr Ramsey.
The Minister for Education Syd Stirling has committed his government to extensive consultations through to the end of July before any decisions are made about implementing the recommendations.
Urging all Territori-ans to participate, the Minister said: "There could be very few other public discussions which would have the same impact on the future of our Territory."
The web site is at: www.priority.education.nt.gov.au
VANDALISM: WHO ARE THE VICTIMS? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
On the west bank of the Todd a drop-in centre is being officially opened while across the river, just a few hundred metres away, residents are licking their wounds after a nasty spate of wanton vandalism.
It has been committed, presumably, by some of the kids for whose benefit the facility is being created on the other side.
In its quaintly dysfunctional way, Alice Springs is now trying to sort out who are the victims.
The tiny new centre, a demountable containing a kitchen and an office, and an outdoor area with tables and chairs, is tucked between the martial arts shed and the back fence at the Youth Centre.
Speakers from Congress and Tangentyere tell the opening crowd about their heroic efforts in creating the facility, despite chronic and criminal government neglect, and against a backdrop of poverty, dispossession, racism and so on, the familiar litany on such occasions. Foetal alcohol syndrome is the latest buzzword.
In the end the speakers acknowledge that the money for the centre hasn't come from the multi million dollar budgets of their organisations, but mainly from funds generated to support "supplementary measures" in the ill-fated alcohol trial.
"Kids at risk" under 18 will now, the crowd is told, have a resource where they can find support, company, a cuppa or a soft drink, and protection from family or other violence, between 9pm and 1am Thursdays to Saturdays to begin with.
Over in the Old Eastside feelings for "kids at risk", at least for some of them, were a lot less charitable.
Kids had hit more than a dozen cars and homes in the very part of the town preferred by the staff of non government organisations (NGOs) providing services such as the new drop-in centre.
This isn't redneck territory. But at least some of the people there were shocked and disgusted.
The president of the Eastside Residents' Association, Geoff Miers, has lived there for 18 years, is a former alderman and deputy mayor, a CDU lecturer, talkback radio gardener, and a well-known local identity, to the left of centre when it comes to politics. There is no doubt he has a social conscience.
Yet he's talking about leaving town. He rattles off a raft of streets near his Warburton Street address where homes have had their windows smashed or been broken into in the past few days.
Kids recently smashed two windows in his work ute. He made a report to the police. The kids were arrested and – his frustration is similar to that of most vandalism victims – let go again immediately.
Mr Miers suspects that as an act of revenge for being dobbed in they returned to his front yard and slashed his tyres.
He now keeps his ute hidden in a friend's back yard.
"Young people who are angry at not having their basic needs met often lash out at the broader community," says Karen Walshaw, a coordinator of the new drop-in centre.
"That's true not only for Alice Springs but also for every other place in Australia where disadvantaged young people act in anger towards the systems and structures that inhibit their access to the wealth and fulfilment that we expect as being the right of young people in Australia.
"The law and order issue is always an issue for the broader community because it makes people feel afraid.
"But if you look at the statistics for Alice Springs, there have actually been reductions in crime."
That may well be so, says Mr Miers. But he's just had a phone call from a friend who has left town and now lives interstate in a community without juvenile crime – at least none that's in her face.
And Mr Miers, recently holidaying in his former home town in rural Victoria, says the pub in the main street there has a frosted glass window with the hotel's name etched into it.
The glass is half a century old. In Alice Springs it would be lucky to last a few months.
The Territory's Labor Government has all but ruled out locking up young delinquents.
Soon after coming to power, its plan for Alice Springs was this: the "problem kids", numbering only around 30, were known to the authorities.
Rather than shunting them into Giles House, the former detention centre in South Terrace, they would set up "safe families".
These would ideally be part of the offender's natural extended family, and take care of him of her if their immediate family was unable or unwilling to carry out its parenting duties.
Ms Walshaw says the role of Safe Families will be to place kids, between seven and 14, "before they hit the welfare system".
She says there is a crisis accommodation house – still being set up – which is at an undisclosed address.
"Kids could be placed in that house while we find other members of their extended family who could be better able to support those young people," says Ms Walshaw.
"At the same time we will work with parents to develop their capacity to parent their children in more productive ways, support families to grow their children up properly."
So far so good. But nearly three years into the government's term there is not one single "safe family" fully in operation.
It is completely unclear how long it will take to have the required 30 families ready to spring into action.
Responsibilities of the family – immediate or extended – get no mention at the drop-in centre opening.
And this shows a gulf between the Eastside and the Westside that's much wider than the creekbed running between them.
Ms Walshaw puts her case passionately, and with the benefit of much experience, both here and in Melbourne.
"Many of these families are marginalised and disadvantaged," she says.
"They cannot provide the resources their children need.
"You're asking me who is to blame. I don't think there is an individual group that we can blame.
"If parents are struggling to just maintain survival it's very difficult for them to put in the sort of infrastructure that your children and my children take for granted.
"So where that happens we as a community need to step in, and by that I mean service providers, governments, NGOs, general members of the community including people who volunteer here at the Youth Centre.
But in a town where everyone can find a job – or two – in an afternoon, who's doing the marginalising?
"Circumstances are doing the marginalising," says Ms Walshaw,
"Could you tell me one job that would allow you to be employed if you struggled to read and write in English?" asks Ms Walshaw.
Yes is the obvious answer: gardening, unloading luggage, in tourism or horticulture, or truck and grader driving, as the Aboriginal employment strategies at the Granites Mine so convincingly demonstrate (Alice News web site, Issue 0938, Oct 23, 2002).
"Even if you're unemployed you need to fill out an unemployment form.
"You need some level of literacy," says Ms Walshaw.
She says it's not the role of Safe Families to prosecute parents who break the law by neglecting or maltreating their children: "We have statutory child protection for that. That's their role.
"Substance abuse, poverty, family violence, there are a range of reasons why young people may not feel safe to be at home at any given time, and migrate to the streets."
How many parents have been prosecuted for neglecting their children in the past two years?
(We tried to find out from FACS – Family and Children's Services – but our enquiry was channelled to a Department of Health media person who failed to get back to us before deadline.)
"I don't work for FACS," says Ms Walshaw.
"I couldn't answer that question. My interest is not how many parents get prosecuted for child maltreatment.
"Are we going to lock up every parent who doesn't take what we identify as appropriate care for their children? I don't know the answer to that.
"I don't know how helpful that would be. All that would mean is that there are more kids in care.
"And I believe then the community would start to get pretty cranky because of the cost involved."
Ms Walshaw advocates a much wider government and NGO involvement: "We need to invest a lot more money in early intervention and prevention programs.
"This drop-in centre is working in the tertiary end, we're trying to respond to a problem that already exists.
"There needs to be a lot of investment in early intervention and prevention.
"You have to start when children are born.
"You need to ensure that parents have the sort of parenting skills and resources they need to grow up strong children.
"We often only respond to a situation as a community when it becomes a crisis for us as individuals," says Ms Walshaw.
"There is a fear about creating another stolen generation.
"Some of the issues we see today in terms of people's capacity to parent is born out of them having grown up in institutional care where they haven't been provided the necessary role models to parent effectively.
"It's very hard to divert a young person away from an entrenched behaviour and lifestyle pattern when they have spent most of their early years negotiating significant disadvantage and struggle."
BLOCKIES SAY NO TO HOUSING PROPOSAL. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
A public meeting attended by just over 50 people has urged the Development Consent Authority (DCA) to not allow the rezoning of land at White Gums that would make way for the large-scale development of one acre residential blocks in the area.
At present the zoning is Rural, allowing a minimum block size of 100 acres.
Owner/developer Patrick Brown is applying for rezoning to Rural 1 (minimum one acre), bypassing the intermediate R2 rural zoning that has a five acre minimum.
His plans propose an eco-tourism development as well as the staged release of hundreds of one acre blocks, which more than one speaker at the meeting described as creating a "small town".
INVITEDThe meeting on Sunday was hosted by the Alice Springs Rural Areas Association (ASRAA), who invited Mr Brown to attend.
He declined, instead supplying a fact sheet and offering to answer any questions in writing.
The deadline for submissions on the rezoning proposal is April 30, less than a fortnight away, leaving ASRAA little time to disseminate Mr Brown's replies to the eight questions the meeting formulated.
Discussion at the meeting was hampered by insufficient information on the detail of how the development intends to handle, for example, power and water services, sewage disposal, management of open areas, fire management.
There was also concern about the adequacy of the information about the development's impact on groundwater.
Finally, however, the majority of those present took a stand in principle against the rezoning and passed a motion, put by Ilparpa Valley resident David Mortimer, to that effect.
John Elferink MLA, who is a rural area resident, voted against the motion, arguing that taking an in principle stand was inconsistent with also wanting more information.
SHORTAGEAnother motion, put by Chris Tangey, also an Ilparpa Valley resident, was passed, urging the DCA to consider the proposal without reference to land shortage issues in urban Alice Springs.
Mr Elferink again spoke against this motion as a "not in my backyard" approach.
He argued the town has to grow, that will bring economic benefit for everyone and everyone has to share in the costs.
While questions of detail need to be answered, he said, he did not oppose the proposal on the face of it precisely because it would provide a choice for home-buyers between a block in town and a five acre rural block.
Mr Tangey replied that it wasn't a case of "not in my backyard"; it was simply not good town planning to have such an intensive development 18 kilometres from town, and so permanently separated from the town by the MacDonnell Ranges.
He agreed that there was a need for more rural blocks, but "the issue is with the style of development".
Mr Mortimer on the other hand argued against any further development of any sort between Heavitree Gap and Honeymoon Gap in order to protect the "magnificent" natural environment.
Emotion occasionally ran high.
Mr Brown's sister-in-law Jude Pringle, who lives opposite the White Gums tearooms, accused those attending of already having their large acreage and not caring about anyone else.
She said she had wanted to live on a rural block from age 11 but it took her another 20 years to be able to afford to buy in the rural area.
She argued that the proposal deserved support because it would allow people to "go rural" for under $100,000 and "one acre is still a good sized block".
She also said opponents of the proposal were "playing God" in wanting to set standards for the development – eg, having commercial facilities – that they don't demand elsewhere in the rural area.
Developer Ron Sterry, whose development proposals for land in the Emily Hills area have been repeatedly knocked back by the DCA, asked those attending how much longer they would be living in the area, expressing anger about people writing objections to development proposals and leaving town six months later.
He also expressed anger at the apparent ease with which the government is being able to develop land in Larapinta, in contrast to the difficulties experienced by private developers.
TOURISM FIGURES: COMMISSION COY. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Who could have been told what, by whom and when about the catastrophic drop in visitor numbers is becoming a thoroughly vexed question.
Since 2001 the Tourist Commission (NTTC) has been releasing only figures for Central Australia, taking in the booming Ayers Rock Resort, and allowing no conclusions about the state of the tourism industry in Alice Springs itself.
The question is, have the Mayor of Alice Springs, Fran Kilgariff, now near the end of her four year term, and Lynne Peterkin, chairperson for the tourism lobby CATIA since November last year, asked the commission for a break-down, and if so, why didn't they get it much earlier?
Says NTTC managing director Maree Tetlow: "The reason the NTTC has been cautious to release the visitation figures for Alice Springs in recent years is because they were not considered to show the whole picture as yet.
"The board chairman, Richard Ryan, and I were asked in a public forum several months ago by the tourism industry to provide better localised statistics for Alice Springs and we are addressing that.
"The lack of localised data for Alice Springs is an issue we have been aware of, and looking to address, for some time," says Ms Tetlow.
"We have committed an extra $30,000 to enhance the tourism statistics we have for Alice Springs.
"The additional data will include the number of nights visitors are staying and how much they are spending.
"This will present a much more comprehensive picture of tourism in the town.
"We expect this data to be available in several months."
Last week the Alice Springs News reported the only details available from the NTTC so far, namely the number of visitor (not how long they stayed nor how much they spent). These figures showed that the number of holiday visitors to Alice Springs had dropped more than 26 per cent in the two years ending June last year.
CATIA manager Craig Catchlove, over the years, has made several statements to the Alice News, deploring the absence of relevant data about the town's major industry.
Ms Peterkin says CATIA has been lobbying for years to get the crucial numbers, but the commission had been "either unwilling or unable" to supply them.
Unable they were clearly not because to produce last week's statistics the NTTC simply crunched existing data.
Why the commission hasn't yet processed these data to reveal length of stay and spending is not being made clear.
Says Mayor Kilgariff: "I personally haven't asked the Tourist Commission but I know CATIA has, and I presume as the peak tourism body in town that they would have been able to get the figures.
"I'm glad [the figures] are out now.
"I don't understand why they haven't been released before.
"It's a really good baseline now, a really good start."
Ms Kilgariff does not explain why in the past four years she hasn't been much more insistent that the figures are supplied, making statements far from the facts.
On March 10 she to the Alice Springs News: "I don't believe tourism is stagnant.
"I think international tourism has dropped a little, but there are more backpackers here than there used to be.
"And a lot of tourism businesses are actually doing well."
Had Ms Kilgariff asked the commission for the data to save her from being so profoundly wrong?
"My understanding was they weren't available," she says.
"The explanation has always been these figures weren't available because they were commercial in confidence, because to give out these figures might have compromised the Ayers Rock Resort."
Is that what the Tourist Commission told her?
"That's what I've always understood," says Ms Kilgariff.
"It's the explanation always given by CATIA as to why these figures weren't available."
Both Ms Peterkin and Ms Kilgariff say Alice is hit especially hard because its traditionally main clientele – tourists from overseas – is reluctant to travel in the wake of global terrorism.
"International visitors are our biggest market, and hopefully, our biggest growth market as well," says Ms Kilgariff.
But while The Alice has taken a dive, the Ayers Rock Resort is still doing very well.
A spokesperson said last week the resort was booked out, and she estimated that two thirds of the guests were from overseas.
Already years behind the eightball Alice Springs is now forming yet another committee to develop the town, this one with the brief of "branding" Alice Springs.
Mayor Kilgariff has already tried her hand at it (Alice News, March 10): "I think the days of [Alice Springs'] frontier image are long gone," she said.
"We're no longer a frontier outback town but something that reflects Alice Springs as a go-ahead, innovative, creative, bustling town, a centre of excellence, an enthusiastic, vibrant, go-ahead town."This new "Destination Alice Springs Marketing Advisory Committee" will join a plethora of others, including the Town Council, the Office of Central Australia, CATIA, the Chamber of Commerce, Quality of Life Project, the Community Harmony Project, Alice in Ten, Desert Knowledge, Tourism Futures, Amazing Alice, Local Government Minister Jack Ah Kit's new Regional Development Board for Central Australia (chaired by Mayor Kilgariff), and then several government departments (for tourism, business, sport, recreation, parks, and so on), plus Aboriginal organisations such as the Central Land Council and the Institute for Aboriginal Development.
And then there is the "Visionary Committee" which, according to the Tourist Commission, "has the responsibility of developing the town's identity and addressing how the town presents itself, the Marketing Committee then uses that identity to brand and market the destination".Is there a case for leadership by a strong council to bring some common purpose into this hodge-podge?
No, says Ms Kilgariff: "Coordinating is the core job of the Tourist Commission and CATIA.
"The Town Council is willing to help where we can. We put money in to show we're willing to do that."
Ms Kilgariff says the budget meetings starting next week will consider whether a "tourism/events officer" should be employed or "have a fund, similar to our community development fund, which will allow local marketers to go to official trade shows to market their business and more widely, Alice Springs," says Ms Kilgariff.
She says possibly $50,000 would be put into such a fund.
COMMENT: Why spend a fortune on the civic centre?
Is it reasonable for the town council to rush through a decision to spend $6m on refurbishing its offices at the end of its four year term?
There are well-argued criticisms of the project, and a new council, due to be elected in just six weeks' time, could knock it on the head.
(It would have to act fairly quickly but it seems to have every chance of doing so: The election is on the last Saturday in May. Design and documentation for the building are due to be finished mid May, with tenders to be called in late May, closing on June 25. Ministerial approval for the funding has yet to be given. It appears all the new council would be committed to are the costs for design and documentation, for which the contract has already been awarded.)
We all know that the town's population has hardly grown in the past 10 years, if at all. This would suggest that the council's workload hasn't, either.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff argues the opposite but fails to be convincing. For example, she says, the number of library users has grown from 110,000 to 210,000 in five years. But the library refurbishment has to wait until a not yet scheduled stage two.
Ms Kilgariff says the "usage and patronage of sporting and playing fields has grown … sports and recreation have grown …we've received a lot of grants in the last few years for roads … the kilometres of cycle and pathways in the last four years are far greater than they have been previously.
"Involvement in all sorts events around town has increased out of sight." Like what?
"The Masters Games, Henley on Todd, there is not one event that happens in town where town council workers don't prepare the venue beforehand, clean up afterwards and quite often manage traffic."
Terrific … but all these are tasks for the outside work force; maybe it needs a bigger depot.
How do these activities, if in fact they have increased, translate into a need for more office space?
Ms Kilgariff says: "Tourism has grown a lot also in the last 10 years. [But in the past two years it shrunk by a quarter – see report this page.]
"More people in town mean more infrastructure, [making demands] on our rangers, our workforce, cleaning the town, picking up litter."
Again, those are jobs for the outside workforce. So far as tourism is concerned, Ms Kilgariff has stated firmly that the council's role is no more than providing some support, not taking a leading role.
Another point is that computer hard- and software in the past 10 years have undergone astonishing improvements, allowing well-managed businesses to economise on staff and space while increasing output. That means the council should need less administrative space, not more, as the council's bureaucratic workload has hardly grown, if at all.
Ms Kilgariff disagrees: "Now we actually need computer staff we didn't need before. [Computers] make work more efficient but they don't necessarily reduce the number of skilled people you need to operate those computers."
A wag might suggest the council should sell its computers, make redundant its computer staff, let out surplus space so created in the existing office, drop its refurbishment plans, and spend ratepayers' $6m on something from which the town would actually benefit. Food for thought for aspiring aldermen!
- ERWIN CHLANDA
LETTERS: Choose council candidates carefully.
Sir,– I write this letter in reply to the letter of prospective candidate Murray Stewart published in this newspaper on March 31 and as a concerned rate payer.
I implore voters in the forthcoming local government elections to consider the suitability of candidates before casting a vote.
It is concerning to me as a ratepayer that a possible future town alderman would launch such an attack on the personal attributes of council staff and their ability to undertake their duties.
It is also concerning that such a person would display such scant regard for the occupational health and safety requirements of an employer and make such comments without first obtaining the necessary facts.
It would be good practice if, before making comments or allegations regarding the attributes and suitability of council staff or the operating practices, success or otherwise of their duties, people would familiarise themselves with the facts rather than make comments based on emotion, misguided beliefs or lack of knowledge.The system of local government prescribes that the elected members represent the constituents and work with staff through the CEO to formulate policy and oversee the running of the council as a whole.
As part of this role it is important that they understand the conditions, guidelines and constraints under which staff conduct their duties.There are enough uninformed comments being thrown around without prospective elected members adding to the confusion.
In my opinion, a candidate worthy of election would make public comment based on factual information, rather than that based on what they have read in the media or on what they think are the facts.
Such information can be easily obtained from appropriate council staff.
I would like to clarify previous comments made regarding this staff enforcing the law on illegal consumption of alcohol and littering.
Council staff are not authorised to enforce alcohol consumption and should the unlikely occur and authorisation be given in the future, they are a long way from being adequately resourced.
The enforcement the law on littering is conducted.
However, council staff are required to operate within the constraints of a seriously flawed and outdated statute in the form of the NT Litter Act.
I for one have already been able to discount one candidate as being worthy of my humble vote.
I make this decision as an informed one, after over 10 years in local government and a combined total of 18 years regulatory experience.
Grandstanding, procrastination and sensationalism are unfortunate traits displayed by many politicians.
The voters of Alice Springs need to try and recognise such traits and vote for candidates that will manage the town's assets wisely.
[ED – Mr Wheatley is the town council's manager of rangers but he has advised us he is writing this letter as a ratepayer and not on behalf of the council.]
Help me help you
Sir,– As electors may be aware, the Alice Springs Town Council election will be held at the end of May.
It is a democratically elected community forum of representatives.
Last time, I stood simply to provide a democratic alternative; 4500 people surprised me with their votes.This time I do the same.
However, I also seek to represent people's views as the basic unit of community.
Councils do more than provide leadership and implement management of roads, rates and rubbish.
You can see some of the activities the council does at www.alicesprings.nt.gov.au.
I rely on your input to effectively represent you in a partnership.
I am genuinely interested in learning what you would like see council continue, stop or start doing.
Points for improvement are certainly areas that can be continually reviewed.
Please take some time to consider what I could do to help you with council matters.It seems to me that effective communication is the most important strength any group has, so I try to actively listen to what you would like to see happen.
I am also interested in putting systems in place that allow council to be clear, open, honest, transparent, consultative and accountable.
I ask for your help to facilitate this.
Remember, it is our money, directly as taxes and rates or indirectly as rent, that pays for council services.I seek to give value for money.
Sharing our desert knowledge
Sir,– "Living in the Outback" is the theme for the next Australian Rangeland Society Conference (ARSC), to be held in Alice Springs from July 5-8 this year.
It's a great opportunity for the widely dispersed people of the outback to come together to explore and learn more about what we have in common and recognise and celebrate our differences and diversity.The conference will consist of three days of spoken sessions together with formal and informal poster viewing and a choice of field tours held on July 7.Some of the questions that will be addressed in the sessions include:-"How can we continue to thrive in this unique but highly variable region?""How do people in the rangelands learn to incorporate wider community values into their management programs?""How do we establish viable business systems and better manage risk?"The timing of the conference coincides with a very festive time in the region.
Mental health forum
Sir,– The Rotary Club of Mbantua invites the Alice Springs community to attend a free mental health forum at 6 pm on April 28 at the Anzac High School hall.
One in five Australians is now troubled by some kind of mental health problem – something with a specific label, such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, or something as vague as ‘depression'.
Douglas Holmes and Tilly Barger have both agreed to come and tell their personal stories in the hope of breaking down some of the taboos that surround mental health and discussing these problems.
Douglas Holmes is the executive officer with the NSW Consumer Advisory Group, Mental Health Inc. and a member of the community advisory group NSW Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health. Tilly Barger was widowed last year when her husband, Jeff, committed suicide.
Since telling her story to the Melbourne Age, she has been contacted by more than 300 people who all related in some way to her experience.
They will be joined on a panel taking questions from the audience by Carolyn Banna, who has also experienced the suicide of a partner and Sarah Chunys, a successful ambassador for youth mental health.
Also on the panel will be psychiatrist Dr Anne Noonan, child and youth psychologist Robin Gracie and Steve Waldon, the Melbourne journalist responsible for his paper's award-winning report on the alarming rate of depression and suicide among older men.
We invite sufferers, their families and carers to come and learn, talk and ask questions.
Rotary Club of Mbantua
ATSIC, major benefits
Sir,– The Prime Minister's decision to abolish ATSIC without providing any vision for a replacement organisation has placed the jobs of more than 150 Territorians at risk.
The employment of staff at ATSIC and its executive agency ATSIS brought major benefits to regional communities across the Territory, which could be undone by the Government's plan.
Apart from turning Indigenous affairs back a generation, there are other problems that arise from the Prime Minister's Old World proposal.
What will happen to the 151 Territory staff who are currently employed by ATSIC and ATSIS?
What will happen to their families and how will the closure of ATSIC's regional offices affect communities like Tennant Creek, Katherine and Nhulunbuy?
The failure to replace the staff of these offices, which provide a significant number of jobs to local communities, will have a significant impact across Northern Australia.
And as they close down, there will also be indirect consequences for local businesses and contractors.
ATSIC and ATSIS employ more than 1200 people nationally, including 70 in Darwin, 35 in Alice Springs, 18 in Katherine, 17 in Nhulunbuy and 11 in Tennant Creek.
Abolishing ATSIC without replacing it with an alternative form of representation also raises questions about the future of other organisations.
What will happen to the arrangements that ATSIC has put in place for the future, like the Indigenous Housing Authority of the Northern Territory (IHANT)?It seems very likely that the Government hasn't even considered these questions.We should be very concerned at this regressive 1950s approach to Indigenous affairs.The Government's attempts to hide the crisis of Indigenous poverty will only make it worse.
Member for Lingiari
Looking for my father
Sir,– For a number of years I have tried to locate my father, Cecil Fred Suttie, who migrated to Australia from the UK many years ago.
As he would now be 88 years old and as the family is not noted for longevity, I can only assume that he has passed on.
I hope to visit Australia later in the year and would like to visit his resting place and I have found out that Alice Springs has/had the only resident in Australia with the initials of C. F. Suttie.
Is there any way that I could find out if this was in fact my father?
He was born in South Shields, Tyneside on December 14, 1915.
A. T. Kirby
Sir,– My wife and I visited Alice Springs from January 2-4 during your hot spell (44 C).
The hospitality was very good. Had it been a little cooler, it would have allowed us to explore on foot!
Thanks to Karl of AAT Kings for an eventful visit to Palm Valley!
Chris & Anne Morgan
BOOZE CRIMS: GROUP WANTS FORCED REHAB.
Compulsory alcohol rehabilitation ordered by the courts should be trialled but not in voluntary treatment centres, according to the People's Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC).Spokesperson John Boffa says PAAC, which in the past has focussed mainly on measures designed to reduce consumption, is strongly in favour of measures requiring greater social responsibility from drinkers, especially from those who commit criminal offences.Compulsory treatment is canvassed in the NT Alcohol Framework, the subject of a public meeting last week.
PAAC says mandated clients can be disruptive voluntary treatment services like DASA and CAAAPU.PAAC also does not want to see compulsory rehab as a punitive measure.
Their preferred option is to see rehab offered as a pre-sentencing option, which, if taken up, the court could then take into account when sentencing.
The program should be offered in a dedicated setting, and should be trialled to see whether it works – whether the participants get off the grog and stay off the grog, says Dr Boffa.
VICTORY FOR BROMLEY - AND COMMON SENSE.
Bromley, that naughty bear which raised the ire of Uluru national park managers by being photographed on The Rock without permission, is back in the shops.
In fact Lori Johnson, of the Outback Gallery in Todd Mall, bought up every copy of the book she could lay her hands on.
Lori has a letter from the book's authors, Alan and Patricia Campbell.
They say: "We are pleased to inform you the Environment Minister Dr Kemp has decided not to pursue a test case against our little bear climbing Uluru.
"Dr Kemp said recently that in his opinion, court action over the Bromley case 'was not appropriate given the importance of principles of freedom of expression in our society and the nature of the action'."
UNDERAGE DRINKING: HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Report by TESSA GEOGHEGAN-JAMES.
As the week turns to weekend, teenagers rush to the bottle shops to buy their drinks for the parties ahead.
As I found out last weekend, yet again people thought alcohol made the party.
It was fun dressing up and looking forward to the night and at first I was having a great time, catching up on the week just gone and seeing people I hadn't seen in a while.
But as the night rolled on, so did the drinking. I saw three fights and more than one person fall over.
At one stage I caught an elbow to the head and didn't receive an apology.
I'm sure if alcohol wasn't involved I would at least have got a quick "sorry".
The aggravated boys and the catty girls quickly turned the night around.
Best friends ended up fighting over a guy and guys ended up arguing over girls.
It was amusing for a while but then enough was enough.When I left the party with a friend we saw three people on bikes who were really drunk.
A sober girl spent half an hour trying to get her boyfriend off the ground because he wanted to make "snow angels" in the dirt. Eventually she ended up on the ground with him after giving up on trying to get him back on his bike.
I asked some teenagers I know about how much drinking is too much at teenage parties.
ZoĎ Collas-Arundell says, "Drinking at parties is fine except people go over the top, when people start crying about nothing and when you do things you regret.
"I saw a chick do a strip tease, I knew she would regret it in the morning."
Savannah Tabart says " I think drinking is alright, except the way people get it could be dangerous, like asking strangers to get it for them.
"I once saw people lying in the middle of the road, which I think is going too far."
There are many ways a night can be sweet or sour.
Alcohol can be fun but it can also wreak havoc among the people who are not drinking.
It's not like I haven't been drunk before, but there are many effects of drinking that we don't think about until the hangover next day.
Many people drink to make them confident and others do it just to get the horrors.
Chris Betters says, "There is really no need for drinking because we don't need to be messing with our bodies while we are still young and developing.
"I don't go to parties because I don't see the point.
"I'd rather go to school and do well there and get a good job because life after school is a lot longer."
In years of attending parties, I have seen dozens of fights that were alcohol related, but on the other hand I have had some great times dancing and catching up with everyone, sometimes with alcohol involved.
I'm not saying alcohol is bad or good, only that we teenagers need to start thinking about the amount of alcohol we drink and why.
I believe if you are going to drink, make sure you are with friends you trust and can rely on, always make sure you have a way home or a place to stay and always tell someone where you are going, what you are doing and who you are with. This will help your night be fun and safe.
TAYLOR & TAYLOR, PAINTERS. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
Two small exhibitions showing in tandem at Watch This Space give us an insight into the artists' processes.
Jenny Taylor (above left), who moves through very distinct modes of expression each time she exhibits, includes pages torn from her pocket-sized artist's notebook to reveal how she got started this time.
Knowing that she wanted to make drawings about the natural world, which she says includes human experience, she began with exercises in mindfulness of that experience, writing (some fine short poems), sketching, taking rubbings as she walked in the bush.
What emerged then in the first period of work was a series of white drawings on a black ground with a strong emphasis on rhythm and pattern.
While each is a thing of beauty in its own right, together they form a fine and intricate web as if strung across a void, a metaphor perhaps for emerging knowingness, for the singular crystallising out of all that is possible.
In the second period of work, coming months later, Jenny worked in colour and took inspiration from "secondary" sources, the work of other artists and traditional crafts.The web now weaves itself more densely, it's as though she has entered into matter, uniting with it.
Julie Taylor (no relation), best known for her sculpture of a foot carved from newspaper acquired by Araluen a few years back, is showing process about the act of drawing itself.
Large scale works in charcoal were done at a "Drawing Marathon" conducted in Adelaide by the New York Studio School. While at one level these drawings are about technique, for instance, about working right to the edges of the paper, they reveal a vigour, a passion that seem distinctly personal.
This is less the case with Julie's drawings of trees, which seem to be more about translating meticulous observation and so are more distant from realising on paper "the deep need to engage" with her subject that drives her practice.
Both artists will give a talk at the Space (9 George Cres) next Wednesday (April 28), 7.30pm.
RENAISSANCE OF HERMANNSBURG SCHOOL: ART HAS SAVED THEIR LIVES. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
Behind the usual concrete and glass of an office in the industrial area, is a scene of quiet concentration as brushes dip into pots of colour and marks are carefully made.
Walls and shadecloth keep out the glare and dust. Five women, who hail from Papunya but now live mostly in town, work on unstretched canvasses on the ground.
Among them is Topsy Napaltjarri, who is painting a women's story associated with Karrinyarra (Mount Wedge).
Visitors are welcome to drop in at this art centre, Ngurratjuta Iltja Ntjarra, one of the region's newest, operating behind the main office of the Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation in Wilkinson Street.
When I show an interest in Topsy's painting, she gets up and takes me inside to see more of her work, in the kind of direct contact with artists that many art-lovers long for.
She paints in the Western Desert style, not in the Hermannsburg watercolour style more readily associated with Ngurratjuta.
Marilyn Armstrong, a key driver of the art centre, talks about it in part as a "resting place" for the Hermannsburg painters – Albert Namatjira, of course, but also the other Namatjiras, the Ebatarinjas and Pareroultjas.
"Other people bring their loved ones' remains back home. We are buying up our loved ones' paintings and bringing them home," says Marilyn.
"I like them to be here."
Royalties from the natural gas fields at Mereenie and Palm Valley provide the funds, allowing Ngurratjuta to become a major collector of the Hermannsburg school.
Paintings from their collection are regularly loaned to Araluen for display in the Namatjira gallery.
"For free to the local public," stresses Marilyn.
The painters of the past provide firm foundations for those of the present and future.
While Marilyn speaks, two artists are at work at a large table.
Kevin Wirri is painting a scene at Haasts Bluff "from memory".
"I paint the places where I used to go hunting," he says.
"I can see them clearly."
Just as Kevin sat down alongside Albert Namatjira to watch and learn – and later did the same with Keith, Ewald and Oscar, and then Clem Abbott – now his son Elton sits down with him.
It began when Elton was 10 years old.
"I gave him brushes and colours," says Kevin.
"I didn't tell him too much. He was sitting next to me, copying my style, watching me mix colours for hills, trees, ground.
"I bought him brushes, palettes, colours, he's got a case full of his own painting gear."
Now Elton's 13, quite accomplished in the style and beginning to sell work.
"We're very proud of Elton, he's our youngest artist. He'll probably be famous one day," says Marilyn.
Coordinator of the art centre, Anna Mackenzie, is conscious of the need to develop Elton's talent.
He has been brought up largely in town and doesn't know his traditional country as well as his father does.
Many of his landscapes are based on paintings, particularly Namatjira's, rather than on direct experience.
Anna says a bush trip is planned where Elton will be encouraged to draw and paint in the open.
That will be a different approach to Kevin's, who talks about memory but also must mean imagination.
"I paint a little bit of this hill, a bit of this mountain, it's there sitting in my memory."
The views are a distillation of the experience of country rather than an exact representation.
Kevin's painting career has had a number of stops and starts: work, family, town living, heavy drinking and loss of his mentors have all been reasons in the past to stop.
The art centre has been an important trigger for the latest start.
"Dougie Abbot asked me, ‘You still painting? I want to see you get back into it, that's your life'.
"I thought about it.
"He was right. It is my life."
Marilyn echoes that sentiment.
Indeed, she says painting saved her life.
She loved painting as a child, especially birds and insects.
"All my Pareroultja uncles showed me."
But she didn't return to art as an adult until a crisis loomed.
She points to a photo on the wall of the late great Papunya painter.
"Old Possum, he encouraged me," she says.
"I was suffering from burnout, from working in the women's shelter.
"He told me to go out bush and start painting.
"I had leukaemia and look, I'm still here.
"That's where the answer is if we need to heal ourselves.
"Better to go out and sit in the bush, listen to the birds, look at flowers.
"I set this place up so artists would paint more, drink less.
"It's an idea Dougie [Abbott] and I had."
Marilyn says they now have big plans for the future, to expand the centre so that they can accommodate more artists and hold exhibitions in interstate galleries.
Meanwhile, the artists, who also include Peter Taylor, Myra Ah Chee, Ivy Pareroultja, Doris Abbott (Kevin's wife), and their daughters Jennifer, Janet, Christine, will be represented again in this year's Desert Mob, scheduled for September-October. (The Papunya women, although they paint at the centre, are represented by Warumpi Arts.)
ROOS: FIRST BLOOD. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Souths prevailed over Pioneers as the Australian Rules season in Alice Springs kicked off last Saturday afternoon.
Last year's premiers played the runners-up in a grand final replay, beating them
15.8 (98) to 14.10 (94).
As opposed to seasons gone by, a hallmark of the game was the high standard of fitness and skill on each side.
From the opening bounce, the spoils were shared for some five and a half minutes before Ryan Mallard provided the Eagles with a chance to open their score. Alas he hit the post.In response, South surged but only well enough to even the score.
From the kickout however, the rebounding "Sherrin" found Gilbert Fishook unattended and he made no mistake.
From there the Roos went on something of a roll scoring a further four goals without reply.
The dynamic Kasmin Spencer threaded one through, and then Fishook, star of the 2003 final, booted successive goals from set shots within the 50-metre zone.
The Pioneer response was triggered by Shane Hayes, who banana-kicked a point and then received a gift when, from the kick out, he was presented with a sitter.
Hayes inspired Pioneer to score a further two goals in quick time.
Graham Smith, who is moving seemingly as well as ever, was responsible for the second goal.
On the run from 30 metres out he made no mistake.
The Eagles' third goal for the term came off the boot of Mallard, who was already proving to be a danger at full forward.
Prior to the siren, Sherman Spencer gave South a little more breathing space by snapping their sixth major.
At the break, South looked to have the goods at 6.3 (39) to 3.3 (21).
The second quarter saw a touch of the Eagles of old emerge. Mallard, after scoring a behind, rebounded with a goal.
The seasoned campaigners Trevor Dhu and Craig Turner combined to reduce the margin to five points.
As if listening to their elders, two of the younger players on the ground, Luke Adams and Matt Campbell put together a combination to see Pioneer hit the lead for the first time.
The game was being played as football should, competitively and at a high standard.
The ball moved into the South's attacking zone, when mysteriously, after having had his ankle stomped upon and verbally reacting, Sherman Spencer was given a yellow card.
Prior to the match it was understood that umpires were going to come down hard on the use of "language" in the game, but this incident and one involving Clinton Pepperill later, left one scratching the head.
Despite the send-off, South managed a goal through Trevor Presley to recapture the lead.
It was short lived however, as Geoff Taylor cleverly ran in a goal, so leaving the score at half time 7.7 (49) to 7.4 (46) in Pioneer's favour.
South responded to coach Shaun Cusack's call for a long-kicking game when Sherman Spencer took the ball deep in attack and goaled early in the third term. This was followed by another from the boot of Fishook, who was proving to be a real handful for the Pioneer defence.
With South establishing a slender lead, Mallard again entered the scene on behalf of the Eagles scoring a goal from a set shot, gaining the benefit of an after-disposal decision.
Not to be denied, the Roos surged again this time with goals from big Max Fejo and a nifty Galvin Williams.
The dominating influence of Pepperill in ruck, supported by Smith, saw the ball then spend time in the Pioneer forward line with Taylor and then Mallard capitalising, leaving the game wide open at the orange break, South holding a slender lead, 11.7 (73) to Pioneer 10.8 (68).
The final term was worth every penny of the entry fee.
In the twilight, the advent of the lights may have affected a few players but the standard of the game lifted with a sense of urgency developing in both sides. Generously, Mallard hand-balled to Hayes who opened the Pioneer account for the term and claimed the lead.
Campbell then repeated the dose on the run through half forward, so putting pressure on their opposition.
However South proved that they were up to it and struck with successive goals from Presley, Charlie Maher, Darren Talbot and then Fejo. The scoring spree forced Pioneer onto the back foot as they required three goals to reclaim the lead.
Campbell began the revival when in the goal square area, he faced three opposition players only to see them collide and he was left with the ball straight in front.
Despite a further goal from Smith from the scoreboard pocket, the Eagles surge was cut short by the clock. South won the showdown 15.8 (98) to 14.10 (94).
There is no doubt the Roos have been strengthened by community stars Fishook, Fejo, Ngalkin and the Spencers.
For Pioneer on the other hand the proven formula of mixing experience with youth will be a key in their approach to 2004.
DELWAY TAKES THE BIG BUCKS. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Alice Springs Cup Carnival started on Saturday, giving away $20,000 prize money in the gala event, the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs NT Guineas, raced over 1600 metres.
The Terry Gillett trained Red Faced Rat led the field in predictable style, with stable-mate Shovanest in second place followed closely by the favourite Not Abandoned, Ranks and Delway.
By the turn Shovanest was the first of the leaders beaten while Not Abandoned moved up to the leader followed all the way by Delway, with Ranks pushing up nicely.
In the run to the line, Delway beat the favourite to go on and win by a length and a quarter from Not Abandoned, with Ranks some three and a half lengths away third and not quite running out the mile.
The early leader Red Faced Rat faded to fourth.
This is Delway's third win in the five starts he has had in the Alice and it augers well for his chances as a Derby contender.
Young Guns Day got under way with the running of the Emily Dash Trobis Two Year Old Plate over 1100 metres.
The Darwin galloper Our Last Resort had legendary hoop David Bates on board and was backed heavily to start at $3.40.
Our Last Resort took the lead early and shared the honours with Indecent Exposure.
The favourite Kenoath was three to four lengths back on the fence.
The remainder of the field was well strung out thanks to the hot pace up the front.
In the straight Our Last Resort was able to shake off Indecent Exposure and go to the line by three-quarters of a length over Archart who ran home from midfield to take second money from the weakening Indecent Exposure.
The 1000 metre Absolute Steel Open Handicap saw Our Mate Jack upset the expectations of the Gillett stable when he beat the favourite Nappa, who finished third.
In the running Our Mate Jack led but had Aspen Star hot on his heels.
Behind them Nappa, Earth Legend and Amber Style raced together.
By the turn Our Mate Jack had shaken off Aspen Star to go to the line comfortably by three-quarters of a length.
At his girth was the perennial place-getter, Earth Legend, who once again ran on well.
Nappa filled the placings but in his first run back did not appear to be the performer of last year.
Al Tayar then made it two successive winners on his return to racing by taking out the Murray Neck Music World Class 5 over 1200 metres.
The Peter Moody trained performer jumped from the inside barrier to share the running with Skiing, On My Oath and Blue Venture.
In the straight however Al Tayar showed his class by stretching out to a five and a half-length win over the favourite Blue Venture with Queen of the North finishing third.
The Cougar Bourbon Maiden over 1400 metres was just the medicine that trainer Vince Maloney needed.
A week ago Everytime was backed to pay for more than the punters' Christmas dinners and failed to return on the investment.
This week it was a different matter.
The Darwin visitor Bartorq enjoyed the front running with the impressive Bellanto at his girth.
Everytime had settled mid-field.
The favourite Bellanto took control in the straight and looked promising until Everytime made a telling lunge on the line and was judged to win by half a head.
Bartorq completed the placings some two and a half lengths away.
The "Razor" stable then struck when Leica Cumnock registered a hat trick taking out the Melanka Party Bar Class 3 Handicap over 1600 metres.
The bold front runner led from the jump and was able to stave off the opposition as they ran for the line.
Geodude, the favourite, and Wolf Trap raced second and third behind Leica Cumnock but were overpowered in the straight by Aldilar who came from last to finish third.
The first heat of the Rainbow Reticulation Quality Handicap over 1600 metres gave an insight into chances for the Alice Springs Cup, and Viv Oldfield's Grey Desert did everything needed to command respect.
As expected, The Spunk led out of barrier two, with Barrow, Copper's Edge and Southern Renegade racing off the pace.
Southern Renegade was the first to pounce taking on Spunk, while Grey Desert weighed up the situation and had the race in his control as they entered the straight.
He went to the line strongly, winning by a length and a quarter from the impressive Son of Grace who came around the outside of the field, with Southern Renegade holding on for third.
In the second heat of the Rainbow Reticulation, the well travelled Rockhound saluted.
Market Link set the pace with Rockhound content to sit second and Edge to Edge in third place.
In the run home Rockhound had a few too many guns and went to the line a winner by three quarters of a length with half a length separating Edge to Edge and Market Link.
The runner to watch however was last year's cup winner Duchovney who came from the rear of the field to claim fourth place.
Racing continues this Saturday with Ladies Day and the Chief Minister's Cup.
Clever gadgets that drive you mad. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
It has taken me a while to own up to this, but one day during summer I noticed that the temperature in my house was 38 degrees, despite the fact that the air-conditioning had been switched on for two hours.
This temperature also happened to be the ambient temperature in Alice Springs that day.
I held my hand up to the vents and could tell that the temperature of the air entering the house was around the same.
So the combined effect of being in any of the rooms was like having a hair-drier on your head while you stood in a sauna.
I concluded that the air-conditioner was not working properly.
This is what a college education does for you.
It turns common sense into a scientific exercise involving long-winded skills of inference and deduction.
Any trades-person who has worked with an engineer will tell you the same.
The words that engineers use are longer and their approach looks more scientific, but a bent screw is a bent screw no matter how you dress it up.
Life is full of technical stuff and it is getting more technical every day.
There was a time when you dialled a number to call a friend.
It was easy.
Now we have hundreds of different mobiles, each with complicated payment plans. And then there are Internet and video phones.
Now phones are not even phones any more, but multi-purpose life-organising devices.
With the right one you can have the pleasure of waiting several minutes to download a digital picture sent by a rellie of a new coat of paint on their caravan. Like most communication technology, the quality of the content and the intelligence of the user lag far behind the capability of the equipment.
"Technical" and "support" ought to be two of the most reassuring words in the language, especially when spoken together.
If you are not technical, living in an increasingly technical world, your existence is one long slippery slope of humiliation in front of your friends and family.
Not only that, but you have to endure long waiting periods to be put through to the technician who can fix your air-con while you listen to an electronic version of Greensleeves. Even cars have computers now and most toys are electronic.
The days when a cross head screwdriver and a little knowledge of the basic trades took you most places are firmly dead and buried.
Here's a case in point. One day I changed the ink in my computer printer, but it immediately stopped working.
I tried everything to fix it, including visiting the manufacturer's website and following the troubleshooting guidelines.
Nothing in my toolbox or my head was equipped to deal with this.
I had horrifying visions of having to wrap the machine in sheets of bubbly stuff, send it in a box to Adelaide and wait six weeks for it to return.
Finally, I rushed it to a company in town like it was a child with acute appendicitis. The man in technical support took one look, lowered the clamp that holds the cartridge in place and gave it back to me.
"There you go," he said, as if I was a person with the technical capacity of a gnat.
This begs the question of what kind of technical support people really want.
In this case, I was grateful for any. But in general, is it the no-nonsense, grunting impersonal kind where the job gets done and the interaction is minimal, meaning less chance of embarrassment?
Or is it the kind where the technical support person jabbers on in some kind of foreign lingo telling you stuff you didn't need to know and making you feel even more inadequate?
The answer is neither.
We just need the confidence and knowledge to handle more technical support ourselves.
Sniffing, grog: What's your point? COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
During the week a couple of people said they liked my thoughts on how to control petrol sniffing in my "Substance abuse in Alice" piece.
Someone else wanted to know "what's your point?" adding, "because nothing seems to be changing."
I thought it was apparent, but I'll elaborate.
We have so many rules and regulations currently in place which are not being observed by the public.
In many cases they cannot be enforced for any number of reasons by whichever body, be it the police, town council, social workers or night patrol.
I fail to see the sense in changing, or introducing, new legislation to bring in laws and by-laws which will probably be, like the rest of them, ignored and flouted by certain sectors of our population.
The reason I cited the City of Adelaide by-laws was that they seem to be working, especially the Public Intoxication Act, which provides for apprehension and care of people found in public places under the influence of a drug or alcohol.
The authorities here must have the authority and ability to work within existing legislation. Any young person wandering the streets at an ungodly hour is obviously not under parental control and should be removed to a safe house, as should drunks and sniffers, the latter to enter rehabilitation programs.
Next time you're elsewhere, sit in a mall and people-watch.
Rundle Mall is a cultural buzz with no hint of any anti-social behaviour.
Friends who live in Adelaide would possibly say that any problems have been shunted a few blocks out of the city centre, but the council has recognised that most visitors to the city gravitate to Rundle Mall, so the rules are enforced.
Todd Mall should be our focal point, but it's not.
In fact, many locals don't venture into the mall unless the Sunday market is on, or there's banking to be done, which is a shame because it offers great restaurants and retail outlets.
The last time I sat in Rundle Mall was Friday, March 12.
It was early. A chap sat down at the table next to mine and said, as he pulled alongside his trolley with what looked like most of his worldly possessions, "there's nothing like a strong coffee and a fag to start the day, is there?"
He had the coffee and I offered him a cigarette.
He looked like one of Adelaide's homeless people, many of whom wander the streets with their livelihoods carried in bags or wrapped in blankets.
I didn't ask how he came to be there but I did wonder and by the time I thought about the life he could have led, he'd wished me a nice day and had wandered off pushing his trolley.
There was a constant stream of people going by and the mall was exceptionally clean, flowerbeds were neat and feature sculptures of bronze pigs attracted everyone's interest.
Every 200 metres there were selfless people collecting for any number of good causes.
There was so much activity, so much vitality in a relatively small area – one city block.
It was an uplifting inner city experience, a perfect day in Rundle Mall, people of every culture doing any number of different things, and seemingly getting along together - acknowledging one another without aggro, drunken displays, abusive language or other nasties.
Last week I sat at a favourite coffee shop and watched the world unravelling in Todd Mall.
The noise pollution was at fever pitch but it wasn't melodious.
It was raised voices, yelling and swearing, with visitors to town trying to sidestep groups of malingerers (or mall-lingerers) and there was rubbish everywhere.
A John Cleese type would scream "What's the point?"
The point is that the heart of our town needs an injection of pride and a total tidy-up. The mechanisms to make Todd Mall an attractive place to locals and visitors are already within the existing legislation.
Enforcing those by-laws would be a positive step if in fact Alice Springs is truly to be promoted as a destination in its own right.
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