NEW COUNCIL OFFICE NOT YET A CERTAINTY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
"The jury is definitely still out on the Civic Centre," says Alderman Melanie Van Haaren.
Aldermen are waiting on engineering consultants GHD to get back to them with information on tender bids that will give them a clearer idea of final costs.
"It's going to blow out – that's a personal opinion," says Ald Ernie Nicholls."It'll be a high maintenance building but we have to go ahead, we have no choice," says Ald Samih Habib.
But Ald Van Haaren does not agree.
She says there is still time for council to "engage with the community" and develop a multi-purpose Civic Centre on "the best block in the CBD" that has "a strong entrepreneurial focus".She says public opinion needs to surface on the issue in order to "turn the tide".
She says the limited public feedback to date is being interpreted as support for the council's plans, but asks whether people are really aware of the implications.
"I for one do not support the expenditure of up to $10m on what is essentially an office block," she says.
While appreciating the need for a more functional and aesthetically pleasing work environment for council staff, a core group of councillors are "very concerned" over the proposed expenditure."It will tie up our rates money for the next 20 years, compromising new initiatives.
"I believe we can do better, in terms of style and function.
"There is a lot of groundwork being done to explore alternatives.
"I know there are a range of community groups who would like to see council building a more multi-purpose centre, that could showcase arts and culture, provide a community hall and meeting places.
"For office space there are other options that could be considered, such as going into some custom-built office buildings that are already available in the town."Ald Van Haaren's picture of controversy and determination is in contrast to Ald Habib's of a "steady as you go" new council, and Ald Nicholls's of a new council dealing only with the old council's unfinished business.
In response to Ald Muuray Stewart's recent remark that he must "have taken a cold shower" Ald Nicholls said, "We haven't had the opportunity yet to deal with issues for which we were elected".
Ald Van Haaren says that work done on the new strategic plan, which involved in part revisiting the community survey on council priorities, made clear that doing something about litter must be at the top of the agenda.
"Good ideas" include:
• more rubbish bins;
• 24 hour service for rubbish collection and clean up (at present the service runs only from Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm);
• mapping rubbish hot spots and providing greater monitoring, in collaboration with businesses in the vicinity, and enforcement of litter by-laws;• ensuring that the council workforce has better equipment including steam cleaning gear for pavements.
Says Ald Van Haaren: "We have made a commitment that Alice Springs will win a Tidy Town award and to this end we are seeking funding from Keep Australia Beautiful to move forward a comprehensive approach to littering in town."She says council is keen to work with traditional owners who have recently been to Darwin to observe how traditional owners there are dealing with similar issues.
On an issue dear to her heart, Ald Van Haaren has also teamed with the Childbirth Education Association and the Breastfeeding Mothers Association to launch Alice Springs as "a baby friendly town".This would include:• having appropriate breast-feeding environments around town, as well as access to clean and safe nappy changing facilities;
• having standardised signage which shows where such facilities are and publicising their whereabouts in a flyer;• ensuring easy access at major events and venues for parents with prams.
Ald Van Haaren says she wants the launch to coincide with next year's National Breast-feeding Week.
She also has feedback on the lowering of the default speed limit to 50 km/hr.
A recent Local Government Association (LGANT) meeting in Darwin, which she attended, determined a "preferred position" that all Territory communities have the same default speed limit.
She says that Darwin Council strongly supports the introduction of the lower speed limit.
Councils are now waiting for more feedback from the Territory Government about support for the change with an education campaign and signage.
MINING PROJECTS ADVANCE BUT RAIL, PORT LAGGING BEHIND. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
They're in the battery of your watch and for some medical imaging they may be injected into your veins: rare earths are a prime resource in hi-tech gadgets and can be worth thousands of dollars a gram, according to Mick Muir, of Arafura Resources NL.
He told a mining seminar in Alice Springs last week that global demand doubles every seven years.
There's a huge rare earths deposit near Aileron, about 100 km north of The Alice.
They're mixed with phosphate suitable for high-grade fertilisers – popular in Asia – which sell for twice the price of broad-acreage fertilisers.
Mr Muir says exploration so far indicates that 24,000 tonnes a year will be able to be mined for the next 20 to 30 years.
That would be almost a quarter of the worldwide demand, 90 per cent of which is currently met by China.
Current metallurgical tests will determine whether a further drilling program is carried out, and if successful the company will be seeking " alliances with fertiliser manufacturers and rare earth users".
Mr Muir says the value in the ground is in the "billions of dollars".
How many billions?
He laughs: "No, no. Too big a figure. You just don't know."
On the other side of the highway, at Harts Range, Olympia Resources Ltd is – judging by exploration so far – sitting on a huge deposit of "detrital".
That's sand mixed with garnets that you "blow down a hose to take rust off metal," as the company's technical director John Baxter puts it.
He says present plans for the mine will be to produce 100,000 tonnes a year initially, "ramping up" to 400,000 tonnes later, for a hundred years or more.
About 25 people would work the mine and a screening plant.
Despite the vast amount of material dug out of the ground environmental disturbance is minimised by confining work to between 25 to 30 acres at a time, and progressively rehabilitating the land.
Mr Baxter says his greatest headache at the moment is transport, on present figures costing twice as much as production.
The main markets are in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur where sandblasting material is used for cleaning hulls of ships.
Mr Baxter says the proposed mining site, on the Plenty River Highway, is 102 km from the new railway line, which is "the most logical, although at the moment impractical solution".
He says "there is good spirit [with Freightlink], but there are half a dozen issues".
"They thought they could use the ballast carriages but it doesn't look like that's a feasible option.
"The Darwin port, at the moment, doesn't have loading facilities for bulk.
"If we went south, which has never been on our agenda, there are bulk loading facilities at Port Pirie, but all our markets are in South East Asia."
Mr Baxter says he's looking at the "illogical solution which is towing [the material] to Darwin in triples [road trains] and loading it with clamshells".
However, Freighlink CEO Bruce McGowan says the railway "is very capable of transporting bulk materials to Darwin".
"We've not invested in bulk wagons.
"We need contracts in place to do that.
"But it's not a show stopper."
Meanwhile Infrastructure Minister Chris Burns said in the Assembly on May 20 that $7m is provided in the 2004/05 Budget for the construction of bulk materials capability at the Darwin Port.
He said: "Negotiations are progressing with one major exporter, and it is anticipated that bulk handling capacity is likely to be required at the port in the first half of 2005."
Dr Burns would not say when exactly the bulk loading facility would be built, nor about any agreements with miners the government would require.
Meanwhile Mines Minister Kon Vatskalis says the Tanami Exploration Agreement Ratification Act will go before Parliament this week.
The Act ratifies an Agreement between the Northern Territory Government and a number of companies controlled by Newmont and including Newmont Tanami Pty Ltd, Otter Gold Pty Ltd and Newmont Gold Exploration Pty Ltd.
Mr Vatskalis says the agreement will provide for a sustained long term exploration effort by Newmont in the "highly prospective" Tanami region.Over the last 20 years Newmont has spent over $200 million on exploration in the Tanami, finding over 10 million ounces of gold, says Mr Vatskalis.
"The agreement commits them to ongoing exploration expenditure in the Territory, which is presently about $10 million per year.
"Newmont have invested over $150 million in their two processing facilities which produce over 600,000 ounces of gold annually and have contributed over $60 million to the Territory by way of royalties.
"Newmont directly employs over 700 people in the Territory, including about 15 per cent Indigenous employees, and engages with some 250 Territory businesses."
Mr Vatskalis says Newmont is building a training centre at its Tanami mine site to focus greater effort on pre-vocational and on the job training for local people, in consultation with the Central Land Council, the Institute of Aboriginal Development and DEET.
IF I WERE THE PRIME MINISTER. Opinion by SENATOR NIGEL SCULLION.
"If I were the Prime Minister and Lingiari really mattered in the grand scheme of things, then this is what I would do in the next four years."
Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA asked our Federal representatives to comment, responding to the issues as he sees them:
Lingiari remains the land of the missed opportunity. Canberra (direct and via the NT Government) is pumping money into the place at a rate some five times greater than the national average.
Trouble is, this "disability" funding seems not to end, but to perpetuate disability.
Canberra cares little about how the never ending stream of cash is spent although the Territory still isn't a state, and the Feds retain a supervisory role (and consequently, responsibility) until it is.
Chronic problems remain fundamentally unchanged: 25 per cent real unemployment; the black 30 per cent of the population is in perpetual turmoil; half the wage earners are paid for by the public purse; and many of the remainder are working for companies earning the bulk of their money from the governments.
In terms of private enterprise productivity we remain dependent on tourism which is fickle and under-exploited. We have in abundance the "product" visitors are seeking, including space, clean air, freedom and the world's oldest living culture in a state less adulterated than anywhere else.
But we still haven't worked out how to profit from all of this on a large scale, neither financially nor as a community.
SENATOR NIGEL SCULLION (CLP, siting with the Coalition) responds:
The underlying principle in delivering prosperity and opportunity to Lingiari is to provide an environment that encourages and fosters activity and enterprise.
It is my personal view that the current low levels of economic activity that characterise much of the electorate will change only if sufficient incentives are put in place to create new agri-businesses and manufacturing opportunities.
This can be achieved by creating special taxation zones in areas of low economic activity that provide strong incentives to invest in the region, including substantially shorter depreciation schedules for infrastructure investment, and fringe benefit concessions that allow employers to provide housing and subsidised education incentives for workers.
The Tennant Creek community is currently working closely with me to develop a feasibility study for a recycling plant.
This will not only boost the local economy, but provide permanent employment for local residents. It is this scale of enterprise that is required to change the economic fortunes of communities in this region.
To ensure the continued rapid growth of the cattle industry in the Territory, sustainable investment in road infrastructure is essential. The Cattlemen's Association of the Northern Territory will provide advice on repair and maintenance priorities.
Funds will be delivered to the identified projects through the Local Government Association.Much of the prime grazing land belongs to Indigenous Territorians.
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act has delivered land ownership to Aboriginal people, but very little else.
Many stations that have been purchased or acquired by Aboriginal interests have become unproductive.
The Indigenous Land Corporation has now embarked on a process to turn that around. With the introduction of grants to fence and stock these properties, large areas of Lingiari will shortly be making an increased contribution to both the land owners and the cattle industry.
Tourism is a major contributor to the Territory's economy; however few would argue that our cultural and biodiversity assets are fully utilised.
We must change from a practice of "locking up" our natural heritage to one of better managing access.
The Ghan has brought increased prosperity to the Top End, particularly Darwin, but Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine have missed out. We must offer tourists the option of a multiple day visit for each destination in addition to a four hour stopover.
Alice Springs airport must be upgraded to international standard to become the natural starting point and hub for the inbound tourist experience.
The vast majority of our region's Aboriginal population have little prospect of enjoying the same opportunities as other Territorians.
Welfare dependant communities will only make the transition from the cycle of unemployment, substance abuse and poor health to employment, self esteem and a local economy when we provide a "hand up" rather than a "hand out".
Mutual obligation in relation to unemployment benefits must be extended to these communities. Where few employment opportunities exist, recipients' obligations could be met through approved activities including, for example, tasks like taking children to school, participating in "meals on wheels" and similar social programs.
Our fundamental approach to the future must be based on growing a strong regional economy, focusing on maximising our use of the region's rich natural and human resources.WARREN SNOWDON MHR, travelling in remote parts of Lingiari as we went to press, will respond next week.Greens candidate James Bristow was also invited to provide a comment but said he was not able to meet the deadline, and didn't indicate when he may be.
BIKER PAUL BEATS MIDLIFE BLUES
Paul Absalom did the normal thing to take his mind off his mid life crisis: he bought a big motorbike.
Only for him this traditional blokes' remedy was a lot more difficult. Struck down with polio at age five he has only limited use of his legs, which on bikes change gears and work the rear brake.
This was fixed by converting the gear lever to operation via an electrical slider controlled from the handlebars. Next problem, Paul had never learned to ride a bicycle.
To keep his 1100cc Suzuki in the vertical he attached a side car, designing much of the bracket work himself. The machine was now ready but the driver licencing office wasn't.
"They didn't know what to do with me," says Paul. To their credit "they" worked out a special course for him, which he passed with flying colours.
And this weekend the one year restriction on his licence was lifted, allowing him to carry a pillion and passengers in his "chair".
He took the family for a great spin to Standley Chasm, with a few mates sharing the breeze.
"Giving it a handful" were (front, from left) Tyson Pate, Paul’s wife Chris, Paul, daughter Gina, Ollie Curr and Ellen Hutchins. (Rear, from left) Pia and Allan Harrison, Mike Tyrrell, Barbara Curr, Denis Pate and Erwin Chlanda.
LETTERS: Unreasonable expediency on Civic Centre.
Sir,- Our elder alderman appear to have no shame.
Last week, David Koch stated that "we have asked for reasonable expediency" from the architects associated with the redevelopment of the civic centre (Advocate, Aug 13).
This is ironic given that unreasonable expediency has become the hallmark of the management of this project. A review of the past 12 months bears this out.
In August 25 last year the council issued a media release titled: Redevelopment of Civic Centre and a new Library. Within weeks of this release it was apparent that significant errors in the financial modelling of this project had occurred.
Open and transparent governance, to say nothing of accountability, would have demanded a review of the time line of this project.
However instead of prudence we got "uncivil haste". Any attempt at genuine community consultation was abandoned.
Any attempt to reflect the spirit of the previous media release and establishing an integrated master plan was also cast aside. It was now a race to get the tenders out before the forth coming council elections.
In October 30, GHD Pty Ltd was commissioned by our council to prepare documentation for the redevelopment of our Civic Centre site.
Four days later, acting on behalf the public library, I drafted a memo to the council's CEO Rex Mooney, which stated that "the design brief for the redevelopment of the Civic Centre be expanded to include detailed proposals for the future development of the library, and that both buildings be considered as an integrated whole".
And the response? No response! In December, at the first meeting between the representatives of GHD and council staff I again repeated my request.
This time it was more formally deemed that an integrated master plan was not to be a "significant fact" by which Stage One of this project should be judged.
Twenty weeks after I drafted the memo the public was told: "On the library staff's request of council, Mayor Kilgariff says the sub-committee considered it ‘not feasible' because the approach was only made ‘in the last couple of weeks' and at that stage the redevelopment plans were ‘too far advanced'." (Alice News, March 10).
We are now being earnestly reassured that rate increases have nothing to do with the redevelopment of the Civic Centre.
Such reassurances are being made despite an almost halving of the available reserve funds for this project and a doubling of its total cost estimates.
Such reassurances mean little unless they are matched by a reassurance that using almost all the infrastructure reserves to fund the loan repayments on this project will not seriously erode the council's capacity to maintain new and unexpected capital works projects – for the next 15 years.I do not expect a reasonable or even expedient response to this question.
Former employee of Alice Town Council
Strong growth in public sector jobs
Sir,- Jobs within the NT Public Sector rose by more than 560 in the 12 months to June 2004.The average NTPS staffing level for the June quarter 2004 was 15,103 compared to an average 14,538 in the June quarter 2003 – a boost of 565.
Comparing the June quarter 2004 to the March quarter 2004, there was an increase of 292 staff.Many of the new NTPS positions can be attributed to government's commitment to fund the employment of more police, more teachers and more nurses.
As one of the Territory's biggest employers, the Martin Government is committed to making the NTPS an attractive employer.
We are injecting an extra $1.3 million a year to enhance living conditions and improve access to skills development for the Territory's 1700 public sector workers based in remote locations.
We have introduced 14 weeks' maternity leave for public sector workers – the first Australian jurisdiction to do so – and removed the compulsory retirement age of 65 years.
We have also developed comprehensive strategies aimed at increasing the number of Indigenous people and people with disabilities in the NTPS.
Our $160 million Jobs Plan includes a commitment to employ an extra 200 apprentices in the NTPS over three years and we have delivered the biggest capital works budget the Territory has ever seen.Job creation in the public sector also has positive spin off benefits throughout the economy. The wages generated will provide a boost to consumption, and have other positive flow-through effects for local business.
All of these initiatives are aimed at boosting jobs in the Territory – in both the public and private sector – and keeping the Territory moving ahead.
Minister for Employment, Education and Training
JUSTICE SOMETIMES GETS THE GOOD GUYS. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
Principal actors were rehearsing and minor roles were cast on the weekend for Red Dust Theatre's new original play, Justice, which will be presented at the Alice Springs Festival.The play has been written by Alice woman Danielle Loy, whose day job is as a lawyer for Aboriginal Legal Aid.
It is in fact three short plays united under the thematic title.
The first two are courtroom dramas of sorts but they have no neat resolution. Loy's stories are not about "getting the baddy"; rather they are a teasing out of what justice means to the different players in her human dramas.
"Jana" brings together two women refugees from the Balkans, one a Croat, the other a Serb, both widows of the Balkan conflict of the early ‘nineties and formerly friends.
In the Australian city where they have been resettled, the Croat, Jana (played by Katrina Stowe), has assaulted the Serb, Zenia (played by Loy herself).
In the Australian courtroom there is no legal defence for Jana's action, but in her mind she did the right thing, she was delivering justice, avenging the wrongs done to herself and her family.
The second short play, "An Honourable Man", tells the story of a merchant seaman (Adam Wylie), the victim of a paedophile during childhood.
Witnessing the rape of a young deckhand by an old sailor, he attacks the perpetrator and in a frenzy of anger kills him.
In court, accused of murder, he comes before a judge rumoured to be associated with a paedophile ring.
"Who is the honourable man here?" asks the accused.
Himself, avenging the wrong done to him as a child and preventing further abuse?
Or a judge who is probably also an abuser?
The answer is not simple, however, as Loy makes clear that the judge is innocent.
"What is true is always very subjective," she says.
Having taken us through a magistrates court and a supreme court, Loy sets her third play, "Birds in a Cage", in a prison cell in Central Australia.
Here two prisoners, one who grew up on the streets of Sydney (Wylie), the other from a bush community (Steve Hodder), share smokes and a bit of their histories.
Their thought tracks, spoken to the audience, reveal their prejudices about one another but in the course of their conversation they move towards a better understanding, if only ever so slightly.
All three short plays are held together by a circus setting, complete with clowns, the metaphor being obvious.
They are not meant, however, as an indictment of the justice system, says Loy.
"It's the best we have and society wouldn't work without it.
"I simply want people to think about the issues, to realise that behind every person who comes before the court there is always a story that should be listened to."
Justice is Red Dust's first production since last year's festival.
They still have a vision of becoming a permanent, professional company bringing to the stage four original works of theatre every year.
Adam Wylie has taken over from founding director Craig Mathew-son as Red Dust's anchor man.
Formerly a reporter with the Advocate, Wylie studied acting with the Centre for Performing Arts in Adelaide and was involved with amateur theatre there for a number of years.
He's now devoting himself full-time to Red Dust.
There will be another Red Dust production before Christmas, the company having received a $12,000 grant in the latest Arts NT round for a play about Aussie Rules football in the Centre.
Barracking is being written by Steve Hodder and Jane Leonard.
NEW ARRIVAL CONNECTS WITH CULTURE IN ALICE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE & SAM NICHOLSON.
A paid arts job in the competitive arts environment of Adelaide was a tough ask, but arriving in Alice Springs arts worker Anna Maclean was offered two.
She'd also applied for all sorts of other work, some 20 jobs in all, and was offered most of them within the week!
Maclean had decided to "go bush" to develop her own art, after volunteering and training in the Adelaide arts industry for years and working creatively across a wide range of art forms.
She had negotiated a menteeship with an artistic director but got knocked back on funding, essentially because she wasn't showing clear enough direction in her work.
Now, as part-time coordinator of the artist-run Watch This Space and working for Music NT on the NT Contemporary Music Festival she will once again run the risk of being too busy to focus on her own art.
But the work is "exciting and worthy", she says, and through it "you also meet people who are supportive of your practice".
After travelling for a while, Maclean chose to stop in Alice with her three cats because as "a part-bush, part-urban setting" she thought it would be reasonably cat-friendly.
She's since discovered that this is not quite so – "Alice is not a cat place" – but "it does offer amazing work opportunities".
In her time at the Space she hopes to strengthen its networks with South Australia.
"Watch This Space already have good networks with Canberra and Darwin.
"South Australia is an obvious next step.
"This would give members increased opportunities to show works interstate and offer interstate artists opportunities in Alice."
The next shows at the Space are part of the Alice Springs Festival program.
On September 2 Alice film-maker and artists Sue Richter will present a retrospective of her film and installation works, while Alice Rendezvous opens on September 9.
This is a show of collaborative works by visual artists and writers, on which Maclean is working with Isabelle Kirkbride for the NT Writers Centre.
For Music NT, Maclean in collaboration with ASYASS is organising hip-hop workshops in the lead-up to the NT Contemporary Music Festival, which incorporates the inaugural Indigenous Music Awards and is also be part of the Alice Springs Festival.
The workshops will be presented at ASYASS in town and out bush at Ltentye Purte and Titjikala, with everyone coming together at the end for a hip-hop party.
The Darwin-based hip-hop crew, Culture Connect, who do a lot of work in communities and schools, will lead the workshops.
"Hip-hop is a great way for young people to express themselves," says Maclean.
"It's honest, creative, popular and accessible, including for people who haven't got a high level of literacy.
"And it's fun!"
Also fun as well as useful and free will be professional development workshops that Maclean is also organising for local musos with music industry lawyers and NT reps of APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association), scheduled for Sunday, August 29.
THREADPETAL YEAR. Walk in the bush with MEG MOONEY.
I keep meaning to write about something other than plants, but the plants are singing out so loudly at the moment.
On my walk the green has lifted to nearly a foot above the ground and is reaching its peak. It's yellow-green really because the plants are flowering now, but they're not showy flowers.
The waves of lime-green are the beautifully-named threadpetal: it has distinctive stringy green petals, which coil at the ends.
Not much to look at in one plant but quite a show when there are thousands of them.
It's this skinny little annual that's giving the local hills their rich sweet smell at the moment. This scent is strongest at night, and you get whiffs of it driving down Ilparpa Road. Stringy stinkweed is another name for this plant, but I don't favour that. I love the smell, it's like the stony plains are fermenting with sweetness.
The other prolific flower on my walk is a daisy with dark leaves and tight little yellow heads – en masse there are dots of yellow floating above expanses of green.
The threadpetal and this small yellow daisy are the main colour on my walk, but there are scatterings of little white paper daisies, their flowers about to open.
Another daisy has single straight stalks and pale button heads. A patch of these looks like masses of short parallel strokes drawn above the ground and topped with big dots.
Look out for Lepidium, a short herb with lacy spikes of pale pink flowers and rows of tiny oval seedpods.
You can snack on this herb – it tastes as you'd expect from its names of peppercress and mustard grass. Aboriginal people used to steam it between hot stones, which makes the taste less sharp.
After the rains a few years ago, the white paper daisies and the yellow-tops, with their rays of golden petals massed on these winter slopes.
Probably the buffel grass has held some of the yellow-tops at bay, but the suite of flowers we have now are the ones favoured by the particular amount of rain we had, and the particular time when it came.
This is something that botanists can't really predict, and horticulturalists certainly can't replicate. On the low stony hills around Alice it is a threadpetal year.
Ways to traverse Tanami. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
There are two versions of the Tanami track. The first goes like this:
You leave Alice Springs and in no time arrive at Tilmouth Well, which is so civilised it's like a little piece of the CBD broken off and floated up into the desert.
Everyone arriving at Tilmouth Well has a happy-go-lucky and optimistic air about them.
In one direction, they are soon to enter the Tanami properly, which is an uplifting thought.
In the other, they'll soon be back in Alice Springs for real newspapers, a hot shower and Market Day at Bi-Lo.
Then, so the story goes, after Tilmouth Well the scenery becomes diverse and stimulating.
At this time of year the wildflowers are a riot of colour.
Yuendumu arrives and is, well, Yuendumu.
Then you cruise on for another four hours through wonderful billowing clouds of dust and past the economic marvel that is the Granites.
Before you know it, Australia's most remote roadhouse comes into view. Rabbit Flat is pure earthy outback charm.Contentedly you camp, singing happy-clappy Bob Dylan tunes around the fire before heading out next day at the crack of dawn.
After a quick detour to Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater, you sail in your vehicle through that riot of bush fauna and flora for a few more kilometres, then up and down some gentle hills.
You meet the bitumen south of Halls Creek, sedately rolling into town in time for a filling dinner at Russian Jack's followed by a deep and satisfying sleep.
The second version goes like this: The scenery is monotonous. The colours of the landscape are either orange or light green and nothing much else. You don't see any wildflowers. You wonder what all the fuss is about. Yuen-dumu is, well, Yuendumu.
After hours of mind-numbing driving on roads that threaten to separate your vehicle into its component parts and spread them over 300 kilometres of bulldust, you arrive at Australia's most remote roadhouse just before sundown.
Rabbit Flat is like a little piece of another planet, hurled down to Earth for our bewilderment.
The owner notices how much you would like to camp nearby to enjoy a cold beer and a hot meal, but he closes the roadhouse tonight and moves you on.
As the daylight fades, you search painfully for a roadside verge that offers both plenty of wood and a spinifex-free space where your fire won't put the whole of the Northern Territory up in flames.
Trucks from the Granites coat your possessions in a film of reddish haze.
After three hours of freezing light slumber, you drag yourself back behind the wheel and brace your body for a further 500 kilometres of orthopaedic adjustments.
The access road to Wolfe Creek gives new meaning to the expression "4WD only". The corrugations are like tank traps.
Disorientated, you limp into Halls Creek, where the shops are shut. Oh no they're not, it's just that they don't have windows.
You park and go to buy milk and bread, but then the shops really do close just as your shaky hand gropes for the door handle.
You collapse into bed, descending into a disturbing nightmare featuring a lone vehicle lost on the surface of the moon driven by a creepy bald man without a positive thought in his head. These are two ways in which the Tanami is traversed.
For my money, a trip on a long bush road has to have elements of one version or the other and no in-betweens please.
That would be too bland for an epic trip. I also discovered that, love it or hate it, the Tanami track is far better than spending too much time in town.
Not carping about buffel. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
At the back of our house we've cleared away the buffel grass and now wildflowers are about to bloom there.
Buffel grass is often talked about as one of the great evils in Central Australia.
It burns too hot and kills the trees and pushes out all the native grasses and flowers.
This is true, but it is also a great survivor and has reduced the dust and improved the grazing.
I don't like it and plan to get rid of as much as I can, pulling it out by hand.
Obviously it is impossible to clear big areas like that, even though it is quite effective on a smaller scale.
On Catalyst the other night they showed winners of the Eureka award.One of them was a very simple but clever carp trap for the Murray-Darling river system.
The carp, introduced in the sixties, equal 90 per cent of all fish in the system. Not only do they dominate but they also muddy the water making it less habitable for other species.
This trap should change all that and make it possible to control the carp population.
The inventors of the trap talked about knowing your enemy and finding a weakness. I'm hopeful that we will eventually find a clever way of controlling buffel grass.
What I find interesting is how easily we as individuals and a society go from having a positive attitude to something to hating it and labelling it evil.
Cats, rabbits, buffel grass. In themselves they are just other products of evolution or creations of God if you like. Not good or evil.
A cat isn't evil for wanting to eat a bird.
It is part of its nature, part of its survival skills.
I don't think any of the ancestors of the wild cats in Australia swam here from Europe, nor did the rabbits.
We enjoyed them and brought them with us and like ourselves they are very good at adapting to different environments, but they've gone out of control in this different ecosystem.
We could then argue that so have we as a species on this planet. And maybe that is the core of the hatred issue.
Maybe we so strongly dislike these other survivors because they, just like ourselves, have ruined the environment and pushed aside other species.
I don't think that makes us evil though. Shortsighted, selfish and dim-witted, but not evil.
We are able to recognise when we have made mistakes and do our best to fix them.
What we also should do is learn from our past behaviour, take a good look at how we make decisions and spend more time and money working out the possible impact of our actions.
We already have the knowledge to make Alice Springs a better place both for ourselves and for the environment.
We can start by reducing our energy consumption and turning to renewable resources.
It is great that the government is spending "$18m to improve power supply", but more money needs to be spent on implementing systems that will sustain us in the long term.
I'm sure buffel grass and the cane toad seemed heaven-sent when they were first introduced, but neither turned out to be a long-term winner.
At Larapinta School they've got a sign that reads STOP, THINK, DO.
That is exactly what we should all keep in mind, whether it's an election year or not.
BMX WILL BE RED HOT. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The competitive edge in the "winter warmups" of the Red Centre BMX club left no doubt on the weekend that it will be a red hot season.
The rescheduling came as a result of the event's cancellation at Finke Desert Race time, and although contested at the end of winter, the Warm Ups provided plenty of competitive edge.
The Sprocket Rockets comprise three divisions that generally cater for youngsters aged five, six and seven.
Thirty-five riders took to the track with the "baby" of the pack at just three years old.
The Sprockets don't race for placings, but instead each competitor receives a memento of their participation.
In the Under Eight Boys section only one point separated Jordie Lane-Robinson from Harry Weckert, while Melissa Manuel proved to be all class in the Girls division.
The Under Nine Boys event resulted in a Deadman's Final, with 11 riders vying for the eight places on the grid.
Erin Wasley-Black actually finished first in entering the final but found himself relegated to second place after getting caught up with a pack of fallen riders in the final.
A further highlight was the effort of Jenna Makarenko who won each of her Under 10 races.
Interestingly Alexandra Aspinall finished second behind Jenna on each occasion.
A consistent trifecta was then conducted in each of the Under 11 Boys races.
Jake Weckert, Daniel Long and Wade Price finished in that order at the finish of each of their races.
Great racing always prevails when Phillip Ballard and Sam Rolfe are matched up, and this weekend was no different.
Ballard came home with the bacon, with Rolfe right up there at the ready in the Under 13 Boys division.
In the Under 14 Boys Alan Chambers made a clean sweep of all events, while the Under 16 field got a real touch up from 13-year-old Hayden Jude, who took the honours.
AUSSIE RULES: FIERCE FINALS FLAME. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The flame has been ignited in the charge to the CAFL finals.
Federal, who have risen from the dead over the past two seasons, forced a draw against Pioneer on Saturday night.
The 10-14 (74) a piece result left those true believers at the game pondering just how far Federal can go.
In the curtain raiser South had a trot in the park over Rovers, cruising home by 152, 26-22 (178) to 4-2 (26).
At a league meeting last Tuesday week all clubs agreed to a change in umpiring interpretation that would penalise those who take it upon themselves to harass the refereeing process.
From the umpires point of view a more personalised approach is being adopted that includes the men in white visiting change rooms prior to the game and establishing the attitude of the game.
The fruits of the changes were born in the Federal versus Pioneer clash where, despite a close score-line, emotions were controlled and the game was played with a focus on possession right to the final siren.
Federal actually jumped Pioneer in the first term and established a 19-point lead over the Eagles who could just not find the goals.
They plonked five minor scores through without a goal while Federal had Liam Petrick, Sheldon Palmer and Kelvin Neil to thank for their three goals for the term.
After responding well in the second term it was the Eagles' poor kicking that let them down.
They registered only one goal for the quarter through the agency of Craig Turner, which progressed their total to 1-9 (15).
In opposition Federal had a mere two scoring shots, both resulting in goals. Adrian McAdam and Darryl Lowe scored them but in all it was a team effort to maintain the rage and hold a lead of 21points at the half way mark.
The most influential aspect of the game then revealed itself when Pioneer unleashed a 5-2 quarter while Federal fell into a pressure situation, adding only six behinds.
Ryan Mallard burst onto the scene for the Eagles, providing a thoroughfare to the goal- mouth and scoring three goals himself. Brother Gordon Mallard chimed in with a major and Jawoyn Cole scored another.
The recovery by the Eagles was guided by the inspirational play of Wayne McCormack, Geoffrey Taylor, and Jethro Campbell, who were all able to counter the blistering pace set by the committed federal players.
Pioneer went into the last quarter as leaders by five points and at no stage could they shake off their opponents and establish a match winning lead.
The ball went from one end of the field to the other with players 100 percent focussed on possession.
The dash of Neil, the Ryders and Bradley Turner of Federal complemented the ascendancy established by Adrian McAdam as well as the raw dash of Patrick AhKitt.
In the dying minutes of the struggle, Pioneer were able to capitalise on Federal's blunders in the skill department.
In the last minute, through a Ryan Mallard free, the Eagles were able to establish a six-point lead and so the game appeared out of Federal's reach.
True to their word however Federal regained consciousness and from a successful hit were able to have Neil find AhKitt free in the scoring zone.
With an uncanny kick, the ball defied normal expectations and veered through for a major that sealed the draw.
The game was so close to the end that the siren went just as the umpire bounced the ball in the centre to run the clock down.
In recent weeks "coach of the year" Gilbert McAdam has had to face up to charges resulting from close game frustration.
Somehow on Saturday night he was not only able to remain outwardly cool, but he also held his players together in a tense situation.
This aspect in itself was the Federal high-point. On ground Adrian McAdam wove his magic and Pat AhKitt was able to produce when something special was needed.
James Braedon, Bradley Turner and Kelvin Neil each contributed superbly.
From the Eagles' perspective, the run into the finals is going to be an absorbing affair, as August is traditionally the time when players apply themselves to the task in earnest.
Not only will the Pioneer boys be seeking extra fitness, they will be acutely aware that in West, South and Federal there are players capable of pushing them to their very limit.
Young players like Geoff Taylor, Jethro Campbell, Ryan Mallard, Luke Adams and Joe Cole provide the run.Clinton Peperill and Craig Turner can dominate in the air, and the mere presence of Graham Smith on field provides the side with the know-how to win.
In their performance against Rovers, South showed they are a formidable outfit, despite the game being a one horse race.
Sherman Spencer proved his worth in any side with a bag of 11 goals.
Ten other players were able to find the space between the big sticks, and around the ground the Roos looked ready to defend their Premiership of 2003.
Ben Abbott played a pearler while Charlie Maher, Trevor Presley and Trevor Satour showed they are back to their vintage best, and with their contingent of Country players champing at the bit, good days appear ahead for South.
SOCCER: PRIME CUT DENY TOP GUNS VERDI MINOR PREMIERSHIP. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The minor premiership has been denied to Verdi, the league leader of local A grade soccer for the major part of the season, as they fell to the hands of Federal Prime Cut Strikers by four goals to one.
In the other fixture S&R Vikings put in a tremendous effort to whitewash Neata Glass Scorpions, taking the honours with 9-0.
To establish the lead for Verdi, Lauren Mengel pounced on a loose ball close to the goal, after Federal's goalkeeper Yanni Hatzsimihail deflected Ross Arezolla's shot.
In response Federal were able to even the score when Luke Bosio found the back of the net.
It was then the customary brilliance of Adrian McAdam that came to the fore in the second half; McAdam scored a hat trick denying Verdi any chance of a comeback.
HAULThe Vikings reversed their form from last week with a nine-goal haul against Scorpions.
After only ten minutes Chris Bettineschi opened the Vikings account and five minutes later Rory Hood came into the action with a goal.
Two further goals resulted late in the game, one being an own goal and the other from wing-attack Jamie White.
Vikings took the half time break with a secure four- goal lead, and come the second half the onslaught continued.
Adam Taylor scored a hat trick, Hood notched up a second goal and Cameron Finlay netted the final to extend the lead to nine.
In B Grade, the Central Falcons continued to impress with an 8-3 win over Federal G&S Scorers.
The win places Falcons third on the premiership table but the carding of three players, two from the Falcons, marred it to some extent.
On the brighter side Trevor Satour scored a hat trick to head the Falcons tally while Jeremy Ryan recorded a double for Scorers.
Noel Murtagh then sealed the game for Dragons against TDC when he bagged four goals in the Dragons' 6-1 win.
TDC started behind the eight ball by fielding only seven players, and paid the penalty.
Buckleys and Neata Glass Scorpions played the top clash of the division, which resulted in a two all draw.
Buckleys surprised by forging a 2-1 lead in the second half thanks to goals from Tom Clements and Nick Marshall Hayes, while Scorpions opened their account off the boot of Matt Gridley, and then had Dave Miller even the score.
RSL proved their critics wrong when they registered a 2-0 win over Stormbirds.
Adrian Glover and Tanya Dyer scored, with Dyer also providing dour defence when required.
In C Grade the Desert Spinach played a scoreless draw with Stormbirds.
Although Desert Spinach were unlucky at times not to score, the solid defence from the Stormbirds resulted in the deserving draw.
The top of the table clash saw Gunnaz outgun the Scorpions 5-1.
Gunnaz played as a team and were able to penetrate the Scorpions defence, effectively taking the win.
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