CIVIC CENTRE GOES AHEAD AS ALDERMEN FLIP IN VOTE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The Town Council is requesting a police investigation into the leaking to the Alice Springs News of confidential information about the Civic Centre redevelopment.
The move followed research by the News over the weekend into aldermen's views on the tender bid that would be discussed in a secret meeting on Monday night.
The News had put to them leaked information that the bid had come in at $9.2m, an increase of $1.2m over the previously mooted figure.
Although Alderman Ernie Nicholls suggested that "you mob make these things up", the information was accurate to within $50,000.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff confirmed on Monday night Ð after first calling the tenderer Ð that aldermen had voted six to four to accept a $9.15m tender by Sitzler Brothers.
She said yesterday that $5m would come from loans, $3.8m from council reserves and the rest would be "money from our cash flow and [funds] we can bring out of other operational cash flows in the next three years".
Ald Murray Stewart, who voted against accepting the tender, says that this will be paid for by a rate rise over the next four years of 3.5 per cent, on top of rises brought about by CPI increases.
Ald Stewart has also expressed grave concerns about a blowout.
He says the actual figure accepted by council is $9.26m and that it does not cover relocation expenses during the construction period, nor does it take into account the normal 10 to 15 per cent for unforeseen expenses.
Ald Stewart describes the police investigation as a "witch hunt".
He says aldermen from the previous council have been caught out withholding information from the public and only want to make sure they won't be caught out again.
"I don't care who leaked the information," says Ald Stewart."I certainly didn't get elected to shroud council's business in secrecy."
Council's vote on Monday night was taken despite their knowledge that the Territory Government had not closed off selling to the council the Greatorex Building Ð a much cheaper option canvassed last year but not made public.
Ald David Koch irately told the News on Sunday that the Greatorex Building had been withdrawn from sale by the Territory Government in 2003.
However, Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne says that was not the case.He said the council had raised the possibility of purchasing it, had been invited to come back with specifics but never did.
There appeared to be no obstacle to further negotiations about the Greatorex Building, which according to Dr Toyne is the only office block owned by the NT Government anywhere in the NT.
Ms Kilgariff now says the aldermen decided that the Greatorex Building was not "suitable".
At least two of the aldermen flipped when Monday's vote was taken: Samih Habib campaigned for his re-election on the Civic Centre issue, saying the old gaol should be refurbished as council office space.
And Jane Mure told the News last Saturday that $10m is "too much".
On Sunday she was still firmly of the view that council needed to look at other options.
She said even the last official costing of the redevelopment at $8m was "too much for Alice Springs".
She said aldermen had not been given the full picture on all the options and that they needed to "stop, reconsider and make a new decision".
Ald Habib on Sunday had described the $9.2m figure as "unaffordable".
"We would not be getting value for money," he said. "It wouldn't get my support."
As well as Aldermen Mure and Habib, aldermen voting to accept the tender were Robyn Lambley, Geoff Bell, David Koch and the Mayor.
Those voting against were Melanie Van Haaren, Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke, Des Rogers who participated in the meeting by phone, as well as Ald Stewart.
Earlier Ald Rogers told the News that he would want ratepayers to know who had voted to place the municipality in debt for years to come.
He also wanted the tender bid to be carefully analysed, to make sure it covered all contingencies, such as the cost of relocation during the redevelopment.
Ald Van Haaren went into Monday's meeting still determined to put a counter-proposal of separate office accommodation for administrative staff; a shopfront for the convenience of ratepayers; and the conversion of the existing Civic Centre into a multi-purpose community building.
Asked to comment on the potential dangers of exhausting council's infrastructure reserve to finance the project, Ald Geoff Bell said that council would continue to put money into the reserve and it would build up again.
Ald Stewart said it was unclear exactly how much was in the reserve; he had asked at the last meeting and had been told "they were still working on it".
Ald Rogers also said the amount of money in reserve had not been confirmed.
In March this year council's director of finance Ian Mclay in a confidential report to the finance committee Ð again leaked to the News Ð had said "it may not be prudent to draw all of the infrastructure reserve funds down, leaving no funds if something unexpected happens where Council may be left with another funding issue".
Ald Nicholls, who was absent from the meeting on Monday when the tender was let, and consequently did not cast a vote, dismissed this concern, saying council had other money set aside for unforeseen items.
He said he thought the redevelopment cost would "blow out way over" the $9.2m figure put to him, but the project had to go ahead because "too much money had already been spent on it".
LEAKS: Comment by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Alice Springs News disclosed leaked information about the high cost of the civic centre redevelopment some three months after the tenders had closed.
Our disclosure quite obviously had no impact on the amounts tendered, and there was no disadvantage to the public.
In fact the News has been the only source of comprehensive information about the whole redevelopment process and we're proud of it.
We put to Mayor Fran Kilgariff that her apparently impending police investigation is no more than bloody mindedness towards the News.
She said: "The elected members were very upset about the fact that information was leaked to the News before they even had a chance to read it.
"We're operating in a climate of distrust and disloyalty."
If the council's sense of trust and loyalty is keeping the public in the dark, then we'll be running lots more leaks.
PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN: WHAT POINT IN NEW LAWS? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Rampant abuse and neglect of children, especially in Aboriginal society, will be the focus of multi-million dollar NT Government initiatives, but they seem to be flawed by contradictions.
Nowhere in a 7300 word statement does Community Welfare Minister Marion Scrym-gour raise the obligation of parents to properly look after their children.
Instead she promises "action which is respectful of parents and their hardships" although without their being "frightened by the excesses of past policies of child removal".
Ms Scrymgour says: "I am not just going to look at the problem Ð I am going to tackle the problem. "I do not need more information before taking action.
"The easiest thing for me and the Government to do would be to announce another review. I will not." Yet in the same statement, it is exactly a review that she is announcing: "The Community Welfare Act has not been properly reviewed in over 20 years.
"We are conducting an overhaul and it is a big task."
And a statement from her staff says "a review and complete overhaul of the Community Welfare Act" will be complete early next year.
The statement says this would be followed by "comprehensive community consultation" Ð presumably delaying actual action till the end of Labor's first ever term in government, four years by August next year.
While Ms Scrymgour claims "we need an integrated response to families who are in strife" Police Minister Paul Henderson says: "It is Family and Children's Services (FACS) that make those decisions, not police.
"The issue of the ongoing custody and well being [of children] is an issue for FACS and police will refer it to them." At the same time Ms Scrymgour describes police as "front line workers" in outlying communities where FACS has no permanent presence.
And the Community Welfare Act refers specifically to police as one of the agencies charged with taking action in child abuse and neglect matters.
"The police act under legislation," says Mr Henderson.
"If a person makes a complaint then police will investigate in the same way that they investigate any other breach of the law.
"They act upon complaints."
Given that police are based in remote areas while FACS staff are not, we asked Mr Henderson whether offences against children are something he would instruct his police to keep an eye out for.
He says in line with the principle of separation of powers, it is not him but the Police Commissioner to whom the News should talk about these issues.
Says Mr Henderson: "The Minister cannot direct the Police Commissioner.
"I cannot countenance an area where I would instruct the police to engage in a particular operation.
"That is fundamentally an issue under the Police Administration Act for the Police Commissioner."
It is clear Mr Henderson is wrong.
The Police Administration Act says: "The Commissioner shall exercise and perform all the powers and functions of his office in accordance with the directions in writing, if any, given to him by the Minister."
Mark Finnane, Professor at Griffith University, specialises in policing studies, has written several books on the history of policing in Australia, and is the author of "Police and Government" published in 1994.
Prof. Finnane says: "The Police Administration Act has the same kind of provision that generally applies in Australia between police ministers and commissioners in which the commissioner acts in response to the minister's directions.
"Given that this provision [Section 14 of the Police Administration Act] appears under Ôcontrol and management of the force' the minister might interpret this power very narrowly.
"But the line between control and management decisions and general policy about where policing priorities should lie in respect of the vast range of police powers and duties in enforcement situations is very flexible.
"If police repeatedly and over a long period of time ignore enforcement in a particular area then ministers might want to know why Ð and then direct that a commissioner should look to enforcement of a particular area, while leaving individual cases to police discretion (that's another area altogether)."
Police Commissioner Paul White was unavailable for an interview with the Alice Springs News.
Overwhelming statistical and anecdotal evidence suggests the broad powers provided under the existing Community Welfare Act are not used as widely as they could or should be.
This begs the question, what is the point of creating a new Act when there is no will to use the existing one to its full extent.
For example, under the present law, "the Minister, an authorised person or a member of the Police Force may, where he or she believes on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of care, and that no other action would ensure the adequate care of the child, take the child into custody."
Or: "Where a member of the Police Force believes on reasonable grounds that a child has suffered or is suffering maltreatment, he or she É shall, as soon as practicable, notify the Minister" and "may investigate the circumstances to ascertain if the child has suffered or is suffering maltreatment."
Although child neglect and abuse are reliably believed to be grossly under-reported, the figures are frightening.
Between 1997/98 and 2003/04 notifications of child abuse and neglect have increased more than threefold.
Two-thirds of the notifications are about Aboriginal children.
The number of children in care has more than doubled.
It is five times more likely than with white children that allegations of abusing Aboriginal children are substantiated.
Yet FACS in Central Australia has no staff based outside Alice Springs whose staff of 25 includes a "remote team of six who visit communities regularly".
Clearly, that team does not have a capacity of rapid response, unlike police based in remote communities.
Ms Scrymgour believes the higher figures partly stem from greater reporting, not more offences, but gives no details.
Three years into its term, some of the government's initiatives still have long way to go before they actually protect children.
Ms Scrymgour says "we are developing new first response guidelines for front line workers É consult with and involve community members in designing early childhood programs É new child care facilities and services are now under active development É the NT Government values children and recognises that the best way for children to get a good start in life and develop into healthy young adults is for them to live within safe and supportive families and communities É this Government has developed an Office of Children and Families which is actively involved in developing new programs and services, with a particular focus on improving parenting support and children's services" and so on.
Ms Scrymgour says the government will focus on the role of alcohol in child maltreatment: "I have called publicly on Aboriginal community leaders to confront the damage done to children and young people as a result of alcohol and other substance abuse.
"The link between such behaviour and general violence is well established.
"What is also now becoming increasingly evident is the clear link between alcohol and other substance abuse and child sexual abuse.
"Children and young people need strong family and community leadership and they need it now. "For my part as an Aboriginal woman in a leadership role I will continue to urge colleagues in the Aboriginal leadership to stand up and tackle child abuse head on."
Territory wide FACS employs about 160 staff in the Department of Health and Community Services, "the majority performing casework".
"FACS also funds non-government organizations to deliver a wide range of individual, family and community support services, including some in remote communities."
The budget for 2004/05 is $31m, of which $14m will be allocated to the non-government sector. The current Labor and previous CLP governments have consistently been under-spending their Federal Grants Commission allocations for Family and Children's Services.
Of $98.5m the Territory received in 2002/03 the government diverted $68.4m to other purposes.
[The Alice Springs News has asked the police for details of its work under the Community Welfare Act. We intend publishing the reply next week.]
WE USE OUR HANDS TO MAKE AN OPERATION ON THE BODY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
"Doctors do operations, we do something similar."Ngangkari (traditional healer) Rupert Peter was making it easy for his audience of rural and remote area health professionals to understand.
His colleague Andy Tjilari took the explanation further:
"A medical doctor has his methods Ð he uses X-rays and operations.
"We access our healing power, it's in the body.
"We work with our hands to make something like an operation on the body."
He held up what looked like a small elongated stone."This is what I use with my work. It's like a sensing device, it works inside the body.
"It can be a man, a child, a woman Ð I can bring life into that person, restore them in some way.
"We see our work as comparable to what doctors do. We didn't learn by going to school or from a paper, we got it from our grandfathers."
Mr Peter described how he had received his gift:"From a distance my grandfather put the power into me, he shot it into me. It knocked me over."I had to spend some time integrating it.
"Night-times I would notice something strange, it was my grandfather working with me in the night, training me."The ngangkari, who are on the payroll at NPY Women's Council, were the star turn at the National SARRAH (Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health Inc) Conference held at the Convention Centre last week.
Their session, accompanied by a richly illustrated power point presentation, packed out the conference room. The men spoke in their first language, Pitjantjatjara, which was ably translated by interpreter Suzanne Bryce.
The men returned time and again to the comparison of their work with that of doctors Ð achieving "similar ends with different means" is how Mr Tjilari put it.
"We are able to restore the spirit," he said, "we are able to free a person from any entity interfering in that person's well-being.
"We take the entity and free it from the body.
"We do a lot of our work at night, when people are asleep. We take spirits with us from people while they are sleeping. We are flying with the spirits in the night, soaring, healing, and restore those spirits to the body Ð that's our work."They were keen for people to understand that this is no dying art. There are ngangkari everywhere.
"This isn't just something from the old days," said Mr Tjilari. "This is how it works in the bush or in Alice Springs. We take the spirits to a ngangkari's sacred place to fix them up."
Young people are learning from their elders. Mr Tjilari's grandson, for example, is a ngangkari now.
"There are lot of people, girls and women as well as men."
Mr Peter spoke about a woman he had cured: "I had a patient, a woman, she couldn't sleep, day after day, no sleep."She went to Darwin but couldn't sleep. She went to Adelaide as well but still couldn't sleep. Then she came back to Alice Springs."Angela got me to work with this woman, to go and see her."Angela Lynch, a social worker employed by NPY Women's Council, assists with the coordination and administration of the ngangkari's work.
"So I worked with [the woman], I worked over her whole body Ð legs, shoulders, arms. I had to drive this entity out, hit it, get rid of it.
"She's all right now."
Mr Tjilari recalled a child who had something "very seriously wrong" with him."He was sent to Alice Springs, had an X-ray, and was brought back.
"The nurse asked me to work with him.
"I removed something from here," he said, pointing to the shoulder area.
"The doctors found his condition had cleared, he's now back at school and very well."
But there are some things in contemporary Aboriginal life that ngangkari can't work on Ð petrol, alcohol, marijuana.
"Doctors don't seem to be able to do anything with these either," said Mr Tjilari.
Note: Mr Peter and Mr Tjilari together with 14 other ngangkari tell stories about their work in a beautifully produced publication by NPY Women's Council, titled Ngangkari Work Ð Anangu Way, available in local bookstores.
In their introduction Mr Peter and Mr Tjilari say: "We want all the doctors and nurses who come to work on the Aboriginal lands to read our book. We are hoping that when they do, they'll be made so much more aware of our work and how it fits in with people's lives."
IT'S FUN BEING ON THE TOWN COUNCIL - WELL, SOMETIMES. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Are alderwomen more curious than aldermen? It seems so.
Last Saturday all four women aldermen joined council staff on a Cook's Tour of the town, the dump and Araluen, to get the low-down on recent town council activities.
But none of the blokes were there.
Highlights included the Bowerbird tip shop, which is branching out into a whole new range of preloved items.
Another eye opener were mountains of organic mulch and fertiliser, at the back of the dump (sorry Ð the landfill), to date produced by the Tangentyere owned Fertile Ground Company, and which became a division of the council today.
Over morning tea at Araluen, three of the female aldermen Ð all of them new Ð reflected on the good and the bad of their first nearly 100 days on council.
Melanie van Haaren says on the positive side is the opportunity of becoming familiar with "very innovative, cutting edge stuff" such as the council's waste oil and green waste management, and organisational and information technology concepts.
But it's not all beer and skittles.
"The most frustrating aspects have been the realisation that you can't work quickly to address the issues you want to address," says Ald van Haaren.
"The way in which the council works seems to be bound up in delays and procrastination.
"It's almost like turning round the Titanic in terms of process."It makes you feel like grabbing the paintbrush and doing things outside the normal avenues.
"The Mall desperately needs a big spruce-up.
"I'd like that done before the Masters Games.
"I'm not optimistic that that might happen because there are scheduled maintenance programs.
"In situations like that we should just be prepared to be flexible and responsive.
"I think the town is dirty.
"We've got steam cleaning equipment and I'd be running it 24 hours if I had my way," says Ald van Haaren.
Robyn Lambley says the new aldermen were given "a really good orientation".
"There is an acknowledgment that we need time to learn."
She says there is no indication of a split similar to the one that marked the last council.
"They are a good group of people but not unanimous."
While there are diverging views there is "not a permanent line developing".
Ald Lambley says she's used to formulating opinions on a range of issues, "but when you're actually under the spotlight you have to articulate those opinions.
"That's probably something that I've found quite challenging.
"In normal life you can take time to develop those opinions, and you're not under any sort of microscope, whereas in a public position you have to know what you think, and you have to know it fairly quickly."
Jane Mure says she is finding it rewarding to realise "how many different facets of life we do have an influence over, and how seriously the people in the town take the issues".
"People I've known for years have never discussed issues with me and now they come and they're ready to tackle me in the street, let me know what they think.
"It's been really good to know that the town is really interested in what's going on."
Major issues are the proposed heated pool and the cost of the Civic Centre refurbishment.
She says $10m is "too much".
The toughest ask on her first three month on council is "having to cope with the previous council's rash decisions.
"We've been stuck with them. I don't understand why."
GETTING SELF ESTEEM BEHIND BARS. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
"Before I took the course I felt pretty lost," said Casper Green, one of nine inmates of the Alice Springs Correctional Centre who recently graduated from the Family Wellbeing Program.
"I felt as if I had nowhere to go, I felt alone.
"Now I find things look different; I feel great and I look forward to the future and going back to my community and helping my family and friends.
"I hope more prisoners will come forward and take this course and not be afraid to learn to interact with others."
Eddie Nayilibidj hopes to become a counsellor when he is released "and help others in my community".
Thomas Neal found the course really good and hopes "it will help me get released"."What I learned will help me help my family when I am released," he said.
"We learned a lot of things including leadership and life skills," Wayne Marshall said."It has enabled me to get my respect back and I look forward to being able to go back to my community to help others.""I hope I can find field work. I'd also like to become a youth worker and help others learn about men's health and the affects of alcohol and drugs."
Others to graduate were Demetrius Sambo, Alistair Naroldol, Eddie Nelson, James Marama, and Dennis Mick.
Developed in South Australia in 1993, the nationally-recognised five-month Family Wellbeing Program addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual issues which impact on an individual's wellbeing, family unity and community harmony.As a counselling model, it places emphasis on the development of analytical and problem-solving skills to address life challenges.The course has been co-ordinated and delivered by Tangentyere Council facilitators Eunice Blackmore and Kathy Abbott and is accredited through the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) as the Registered Training Organisation.
The course has four stages: Foundations in Counselling, Skills in Dealing with the Grief Process, Changes to Patterns, and Opening the Heart.
Each stage covers a range of topics such as anger management and wisdom of tradition and includes role-playing and discussion on bringing all aspects together to become an effective counsellor or support person.The presentation of certificates started with a healing ceremony conducted by facilitator Kathy Abbott, followed by traditional music and dance presented by a group of inmates including those graduating.
Recently named Commissioner of NT Corrective Services Jens Tolstrup was among those to congratulate the men.
From Denmark, Commissioner Tolstrup has been given the task of turning the NT Correction Service into one of the best of its type in the world.
Ms Blackmore hopes a facilitator course can be offered next.
"Building up life skills is so important," she said.
Ms Abbott commended the course for enabling participants to have an intense look inside themselves.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 800 DAYS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
It takes Fumiaki Kodama about 3000 kilometres to wear out a good pair of hiking boots.
In the last nine years he's walked some 11,000 kilometres, in Europe, South America, New Zealand, and now Australia, from Darwin to Adelaide.After a couple of weeks' respite, he set off from Alice Springs this week, heading for Uluru. It'll take him a month to get there.
He walks about 20 to 25 kilometres in the morning, till about 1pm. After that he goes off into the bush, pitches his tent, makes lunch, reads and rests until the evening when he lies back to enjoy the stars and play the didjeridu he has made himself.
Originally a backpacker, Fumiaki now carries his possessions on a light-weight aluminium trolley. In New Zealand a small one sufficed but in Australia it's quite large because he has to carry at least 30 litres of water. If the load is well-balanced it's quite easy to manage, he says.
The former civil engineer started walking in 1995 when he was 29 years old.
Family and friends were worried. Some thought he would die, most thought he was simply crazy to walk out on his good job.
Now they've given up trying to change his mind.
Fumiaki says walking is the best way to travel: "I can see nature very well, even better than a cyclist, I think, and people take an interest in me. It's easy to start a conversation."
Even in the long stretches between towns on the Stuart Highway, Fumiaki meets people: kindred spirits on bicycles and caravanners who stop and make him a cup of coffee.He is enthusiastic about the country he is encountering, and once he got used to the howl of dingoes at night, he hasn't felt at all lonely or threatened."Staying in the bush is so fantastic for me."The didje keeps him company.
Making it and learning to play it is an example of the kind of special thing that happens to him because he is moving slowly, he says.
A man he met in Katherine showed him how and now he plays almost every day.
"I'm getting better."
He has also been taught about bush tucker along the way and doesn't hesitate to eat it when he finds it.
While he was in Alice he joined Conservation Volunteers for an unforgettable week in the Simpson's Desert, helping to build a protective fence around a stand of the rare acacia peuce Ð "all for free".
It's been part of the "good luck" that follows him, says Fumiaki.
Although he doesn't have specific religious beliefs, he feels that he is "helped by something".
"Always when I have trouble someone comes and helps."
When he returns to Japan, to see his family and work to save for his next trip, he sometime feels envious of the lives of his friends, who are married and have children, for instance.
"It's something I don't have, but I am satisfied with my life.
"And many people say to me they would like to do what I'm doing but can't."He thinks he will keep walking, perhaps in India next time.
"I don't want to achieve any record, I just want to enjoy it. So I don't need to walk on every continent but I always want to go somewhere I haven't been before."
Batting for Venus. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
Last week a good friend of mine lost her father.
Her mother lost the love of her life, the man she'd been married to for nearly half a century.
The grief and pain they are experiencing is immeasurable. Love hurts. But I know they would not have wanted a life without him.
It is bittersweet like lemon meringue pie, too much sugar but still irresistible, sticky and messy and bitter and sour.
It is impossible to find for yourself if you are looking too hard yet all around.
We are afraid to get hurt.
If we hope we might be disappointed, if we love we might experience immense emotional pain.
In trying to protect ourselves from everything that might hurt us emotionally in some way we build walls around ourselves and hide behind them.
We compromise our dreams, lose our faith, and stop believing in Santa, the tooth fairy and in God.
We want to believe but won't risk it and talk about fairy tales versus reality. The fact is that the real world is full of beauty, possibilities and love.
It doesn't make headlines but it is still there. Often we limit the way we see things, trying to be rational realists who know it all.
We say we want what we think we can have, we choose the practical over the beautiful.
We tell our children that there is no such thing as magic yet they know there is.
As they grow they are discouraged, told to work harder, dream less, grow up, be sensible and rational. And life knocks you around.
The problem is that this affects all of us on a personal as well as community level.
The Civic Centre is a good example. Very few options and possibilities have been discussed publicly.
Or perhaps in my ignorance I missed some phase of the project that sought input at a broader level.
There is a budget and there is a need for improvement. But what could we build if we let ourselves go, let ourselves be creative and use our imagination?
We limit ourselves. First we need a dream or a vision, then we work out how to get there. During the Alice Springs Festival there is going to be a lantern making workshop. That is great.
How about a Civic Centre workshop for children and adults where Lego, clay and papier machier is used?
We live in a democracy. Why do we compartmentalise the needs and functions of our society?
Alice Springs is a small town. It is easy to get to know a lot of people from different walks of life.
We have an opportunity to create something truly wonderful, something more than a building, a Taj Mahal.
We don't have to settle for something functional, a life or a town without magic.
Maybe at the end of the day we cannot have it all but that should never be a reason not to dream or imagine.
Maybe fairytales are just that, but we love them, and I know that they are an essential part of reality.
Sometimes our eyes cannot see what our heart already knows.
The eagle and 20% discount. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I saw a wedge-tailed eagle soaring high over Smith Street. It circled Home Hardware at least three times.
Craning my neck to watch it, I nearly fell off my bike. Meanwhile, the eagle stretched its neck in the other direction, peering intently at something that I couldn't see.
The eagle and the hardware store. The symbolism was irresistible, if only I could work out what this was meant to symbolise.
I have always been a soft touch for the kind of photo-journalism where one object is taken in the same view as a sharply contrasting one.
Two examples are an image of slum houses in India leaning against the walls of palaces or a photo of flowers growing out of open sewers.
Yet after years of gazing at these pictures and saying "Wow'" to myself in a vacuous way, the practice seems to have done me no good.
What did the juxtaposition of the eagle and the hardware store actually mean?
This is another sign that I shouldn't have gone to engineering school.
We spotty nerds could never keep up with the arty types who could see the hidden meaning in everything and had proper girlfriends.
While we calculated the bending forces on steel beams, they did life drawing with no clothes on.
The models had no clothes on, that is. Come to think of it, neither did the artists.
So what was that eagle doing? Had it spotted a rodent in the timber yard, an easy lunch option?
Was it about to drop a smelly package on the roof of the hardware store? Was it looking for a set of screwdrivers for $6.99?
I'll never know, but there are other symbolic and contrasting objects around town.
For instance, along Railway Terrace a small Aboriginal sacred site is ringed by a single post-and-chain boundary and a little plaque.
The site is squeezed between a video shop, a launderette and a bakery that loom over it like night club doormen.
Then there are the more obvious contrasts of the casino against the mountains and the VB cans against the trees in the Todd.
I also appreciate the rows of water tanks in the bone-dry backyards of plumbing suppliers. If I could take a half-decent photo, I could fill the southern glossy supplements for a month of Sundays.
Best of all is to view the MacDonnell Ranges from the comfort of the art house section at Blockbuster.
That way, you can achieve the feeling of being an outdoors type while browsing the DVD features on a range of cult foreign films.
Try it some time. You may have to crouch to see Mt. Gillen properly, but it's worth it.
If you are too self-conscious, pretend to drop a handkerchief and bend down slowly to pick it up until the Ranges are in view.
Look, I'm often in Blockbuster so if I see you struggling I'll come over and show you the precise spot to perform this manoeuvre between Fellini's Ô8' and a Wim Wenders box set.
But none of this explains the eagle and the hardware store. Did you know that a wedge-tailed eagle can lift the equivalent of its body weight?
I thought about this as I struggled out of the hardware shop with a small bag of ready-mixed concrete.Not only that, but positioned at the top of the food chain, the wedge-tailed eagle has no natural predators.
Mine are men in blue polo shirts offering 20 per cent discounts on tools.
So maybe the symbolism is this; the eagle climbs effortlessly through the clear sky, unencumbered by the concerns of humans.
It looks down on me, laden with price-reduced hardware, trying to pedal across the Stuart Highway through gaps in the traffic.
Someone should take a picture.
LETTERS: Pollies into the ring.
Sir,- The Federal Government's announcement of $450 million in new funding last week, saying it would help Australians aged 65 years and over afford private health insurance, will do nothing for the people of Lingiari.
What's the point of health insurance if the closest private hospital is more than a day's drive away?Labor will oppose this move to spend an additional half a billion dollars propping up private health insurance.
This money should be invested in our public health system, which is under enormous strain thanks to the collapse of bulk billing.But instead of investing in Medicare, the Howard Government is establishing a two-tiered health system in Australia, where the quality of your healthcare depends on your wealth and where you live.
I am concerned that the Prime Minister has chosen not to recall the House of Representatives.
The reason the Prime Minister has opted for this path is clear.
He would prefer a six-week campaign to allowing the House to scrutinise his record of truth in government.
In doing so, he again demonstrates that he has something to hide.
This will be a significant campaign issue, but I will be focusing on the issues that I have been raising across the Territory throughout my parliamentary term.
These include Medicare, bulk billing and the health system, education, jobs, roads, telecommunication services and families.
Member for Lingiari
Sir,- I will be standing as the Greens' lead Senate candidate in the upcoming Federal Election.
I am 30 years old, have lived in Rapid Creek for the past six years and am an experienced NT environmentalist.
I worked as Coordinator of the Environment Centre NT from 1999 to 2003 where I played a major role in campaigns to protect Darwin Harbour, the Daly River and to stop uranium mining at Jabiluka in Kakadu.
I am now working on a project establishing solar power stations in remote communities across the Top End, and am also a part-time lecturer at Charles Darwin University.
I have degrees in Australian history, economics and adult education.
I also spent three years in the Australian Army from 1993-95.
Issues high on my agenda and the Greens' campaign include:
¥ Affordable health care. Since I arrived in Darwin bulk-billing doctors have just about disappeared. The Greens want to boost public healthcare and reverse this trend.
¥ Leadership on northern Australian environment issues. The Labor and Liberal parties have offered very little in the way of policies to protect northern Australia's unique environment and culture. We want to work with the community to develop environmental policies specifically for northern Australia's conditions.
¥ Good economic outcomes for Aboriginal communities. We need to look at how we can achieve economic and social development in Aboriginal communities that doesn't undermine the region's environmental and cultural values.
¥ Sustainable development for the NT.
We continually see governments pushing big developments for the NT like the Daly agricultural development and oil and gas ventures in Darwin without proper consultation with the community or seriously considering whether they are sustainable economically and environmentally.
The Greens want to consult with the community to protect the natural environment, create jobs and improve living standards across the board.
¥ A review of the maritime boundaries with East Timor. People in the NT have a special relationship with the people of East Timor.
We want to see the Timorese get a fair deal in the carve up of oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.
The NT Greens will be announcing their threshold issues for preference decisions in coming days.
I join Ilana Eldridge (Solomon), James Bristow (Lingiari) and Shan McKenzie (Senate) as the Greens candidates in the upcoming election.
With strong candidates and policies and voter fatigue with the old parties, the Greens hope to offer a fresh choice to NT voters at the upcoming election.
RULES: AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Aussie Rules finals time has arrived, reduced to a race between four clubs.West, the minor premiers, have shown in the last game of the season a return to form along with the availability of a full list of players.
Both Pioneer and South have realised the significance of this time of the year, while fourth placed Federal are a creditable member of the finals quartet.
Rovers played their last game for the season last Saturday and went down by 213 points to Pioneer. This has not been an isolated experience for the Blues this year. They began the season with a policy of rebuilding by recruiting from their heartland of support in town.
They have had some notable achievement with the performance of their Under 17 side. In the senior ranks, however, it has been nothing short of a hard slog for the side steeped in tradition and proud of its past successes.
For most of the year Brett Wagner took the reins and faced the brunt of the pain of severe losses. Late in the season work commitments prevent Wagner from continuing and Glen Shorrock took over.
To his credit Shorrock has stuck to his guns in a situation very few would be prepared to tackle. Come 2005 all concerned with Australian Rules would be hoping for a better outlook for Rovers.Meanwhile, Pioneer had an absolute field day on the weekend when they accrued 34.16(220) to 1.1(7) against Rover.
The 18 goals kicked by Ryan Mallard presented him with a second successive leading goal kicker award in the CAFL. Otherwise the rampage was completed by Trevor Dhu with five goals, Jeremiah Webb with three, Matt Campbell with two and no less than six individual goal scorers.
The Pioneer pattern was to score eight goals in each of the first two terms and then to wreak havoc in the third with a 12 goal explosion. They than coasted home with six goals in the last term.
Rover's sole goal for the game was registered in the second quarter off the boot of Julian Williams.
Interestingly, the Eagles line up lacked the presence of the experienced Graeme Smith and Craig Turner, but the name Richie Cole as water boy held some significance. Cole returned to Alice on the weekend, after a disappointing loss to Carlton on Friday night, to join in a family celebration.
The mammoth win over Rover should now set the Eagles' minds on finals football and its demands.The late game on Saturday also gave supporters an insight into how prepared finalists are for the business end of the season.
West have had a wavering run into the finals after a fine start to the season. For a month now the minor premiership has been stitched up by the Bloods. On field however their performances have waned. The unavailability of players has no doubt upset team structure. But it has been noticeable that the Bloods attitude hasn't maintained consistency.
On Saturday it was a different story. West played like winners from the first bounce.
Almost in contrast Federal lacked the absolute commitment it has shown in the latter part of the season. They were missing the services of Adrian McAdam on field, and in anyone's language this means plenty.
West were able to capitalise early through the height of Kenrick Tyrell, Andrew Wesley's ability to read the game, and Scott Bird's presence in the scoring zone. They had a director onfield in Ben Whelan, who had the team running off the knockouts and penetrating deep into the forward line. It is in this department that Adam Taylor comes into his own.
By half time the Bloods had the game in their keeping with 10.4 (64) to 4.2 (26) on the board. Two five goal sessions saw West take the premiership points, 20.18 (138) to 11.8 (74).
The value West will gain from Tyrell in the air will be telling in the matches to come. He has developed into an effective big man and can run all day. Andrew Crispe and Andrew Wesley are both power points in the West line up and on Saturday this pair returned dividends for the Bloods.
Michael Gurney once again proved invaluable, and like Taylor, is a consistent possession winner who will be a cornerstone come the games that matter.
The road for Federal may well have been smoke-screened in the match against West. From next week it would be expected that both Gilbert and Adrian MacAdam will run on for the Demons. This being so, a different scenario would be ensured.
Last week, however, it was the dynamic Kelvin Neil who caught the eye. There is little to this runner in terms of weight and height, but he certainly gives Feds plenty and teams up well with other dynamos Darryl Ryder and Darryl Lowe.
In the big man department Feds have Pat Ahkitt ready to give plenty, and a valuable pick up in Dave Atkinson.
Finals this week will see Centralian football at its best.
SUNDOWNERS' GOLDEN ERA. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Sundowners are relishing a golden era in this year's netball season.
After a predictable 48 to 20 win over West on Saturday, the minor premiers will now venture into the games that matter, having to simply repeat the dose on Westies this week to cruise into a grand final appearance.
At the other end of the table the newly established Panthers have the dubious distinction of being wooden spooners. However their position on the premiership table has little to do with on court form.
The Panthers defeated the Giants33 to 25 to round off their inaugural season, but the win counted for little. Earlier in the week the club were penalised two premiership points for failing to attend an association meeting.
This neglect of responsibility, which comes on top of earlier indiscretions and premiership point penalties, will hopefully be rectified in the new year.
Above Panthers on the table are Federal who went down to Memo Rovers 41 to 14.This game gave the young Memo Rovers girls a sound hit out before they go into battle against Giants and probably in turn West to see who will challenge Sundowners for A Grade supremacy in 2004.
SOCCER: VIKINGS FOR GRAND FINAL. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
League Champions S&R Vikings won a spot in the grand final thanks to a spirited second half in Sunday's match.It resulted in a 3-1 score over the Verdi club. It is not curtain time for Verdi, however, as next week they'll have a second chance in an elimination final.Verdi must have been feeling good after Nathan Goodwin gave them a dream start with a goal at the five minute mark of the game. The score stayed at 1-0 through until the half time break, but a new look Vikings took to the pitch for the run home. Vikings applied a pressure game against their rivals, which paid dividends early.
Three minutes into the second half Rory Hood scored an equaliser. From there the game was again open to be won and it wasn't until the 52nd minute that the dead lock could be broken.
James White scored to give Vikings a 2-1 lead, and then it was Hood with his second who put the game beyond Verdi in the 73rd minute.This takes Vikings directly into the grand final while Verdi have to come back and fight another day.
Their opposition in this Sunday's preliminary final will be Federal Prime Cut Strikers. While Adrian McAdam failed to take his place in the Australian Rules line up at Traeger Park on Saturday, in Sunday's soccer he again played a pivotal role in Federal's 5-0 win over TDC.McAdam took advantage of a penalty at the 12 minute mark to open the Federal score. To their credit TDC were then able to hold their opposition to the half time break.
The Strikers cut loose in the second half, however, with Dean Goodger bringing up their second goal. Four minutes later the dynamic McAdam struck again to extend the lead to 3-0.
As if orchestrated the reigning champions then completed the day's play with two more goals from Neil Rutland and then Chris Hatzimihail.
With the 5-0 result Federal will now be keen to go one step further and eliminate Verdi next week.In B Grade the Federal G&S Scorers' game against Central Falcons had to be decided on penalty kicks after the score was one all at full time.
Federal started the action when Josh Wiles neatly beat the keeper after a solid build up from Federal. But 15 minutes later Falcons equalled with a converted penalty from Trevor Satour. From there both teams had chances but could not capitalise.
In the shoot out it was Federal who came home with the bacon, shooting four out of nine as opposed to three from Falcons.Buckleys then found themselves with the task of playing Federal this week in the knockout final after they went down to Neata Glass Scorpions 2-1.
This game also went down to the wire with a Golden Goal deciding the winner in extra time. Chris Huen opened proceedings for Scorpions with a goal, but a solo run by left full back James Tudor resulted in an equaliser.With the full time scores level it was David Hoey who grabbed the decider five minutes from time after a deflection went his way. Scorpions will now wait to see who they play in the grand final when Buckleys and Scorers meet this week.In C Grade Storm-birds scored a 3-2 win over Desert Spinach. Gunnaz went on to account for Neata Glass Scorpions, making for a Stormbirds versus Scorpions battle royale on Sunday. The winner will challenge the Gunnaz in the grand final.
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