$1.1M FOR NATIVE TITLE LAND. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Lhere Artepe, the native title body for Alice Springs, are selling for $1.1m, according to a reliable source, the rights to develop and sell as freehold land 40 residential blocks in Larapinta.
The buyers are a consortium of Territory businesses, headed by Hannon Brothers and including the Loy and King families.
The sale price puts the native title value of each undeveloped block at $27,500, a significant precedent for future developments.
Lhere Artepe will also have a further opportunity of a 10 per cent interest - yet to be "crystallised into a contract," according to their lawyer Tony Whitelum – in the development.
Meanwhile bitterness and threats to block further residential subdivisions overshadow the sale.
The land was subject to a landmark deal earlier this year between the NT Government and native title holders.
The deal included the extinction of native title over a similar sized parcel of adjoining land on which the government will create 45 residential blocks.
Despite threats by some native title holders to stop further developments, Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne says preparations are under way for the release of about 100 blocks in the Mt Johns Valley, adjacent to the golf course.
Several hundred more blocks may be created in that area later.
And Betty Pearce, an executive member of Lhere Artepe, says no faction within the group can block decisions.
She says the legislation under which Lhere Artepe operates encourages it to make decisions by consensus, but if that cannot be reached, a majority vote decides.
Businessman Bob Liddle, a member of a prominent Aboriginal family and one of the nine unsuccessful bidders for the subdivision contract, says native title holders from his as well as the Kunoth and Stevens families will do their best to scuttle further subdivisions on native title land.
Mr Liddle gave the Alice News a copy of a letter to the state manager of the Native Title Tribunal, urging the abolition of Lhere Artepe.
The letter was written by Mr Liddle's sister, Karen, a Lhere Artepe executive member, and signed by about 20 other native title holders.
The letter is dated May 5, 2004, two weeks after the Indigenous Land Use Agreement was signed which enabled the Larapinta subdivision project to go ahead.
Ms Liddle says Lhere Artepe has a structure "inconsistent with Aboriginal traditional law … has disenfranchised the Mparntwe people, the prime land owning group of Alice Springs".
The letter says: "Lhere Artepe has on one hand requested the release of land by the Mparntwe people but on the other hand has ignored us in making commercial decisions with respect to the development of our lands, an action we find intolerable.
"Family members [in Lhere Artepe meetings] have been subjected to malicious, hurtful and disparaging abuse over a long period and as a consequence it is our firmly held view that the Native Title Act is the most divisive piece of legislation ever introduced."
Mrs Pearce says there are about 600 native title holders in Alice Springs.
Lhere Artepe has 30 members, 10 from each "estate" group – Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Bond Springs and Undoolya.
The executive of 12 has four representatives from each estate group, and a quorum of six, including at least two from each estate group.
Mrs Pearce says the Mparntwe group was consulted during the discussions about the land now being developed, and confirms that preliminary arrangements are under way for a development in Mt Johns Valley.
She says "senior men who have the stories" have been asked to identify sites of significance.
Mrs Pearce says while the first subdivision, at Larapinta, is on Mparntwe land, the native title claim over Alice Springs – the first to be granted over any town in Australia – could not have succeeded without the involvement the Ilpme (Bond Springs) and Antulye (Undoolya) estate groups.
Dr Toyne says the decision by the Federal Court to set up Lhere Artepe the way it has been is firmly based on the realities of traditional land ownership here.
"The court has defined the native title holding in accordance with the best evidence from the native title holders themselves and from anthropological evidence."
Although Lhere Artepe could be paralysed by one of the three estate groups refusing to send executive members to the meetings, Dr Toyne says this is unlikely to occur.
He says he doubts that the members of any estate group are sufficiently in agreement to embark on such a course of action, and public as well as internal pressure to avoid it would be immense.
Dr Toyne says if some native title holders "want to gridlock like that we'd have to compulsorily acquire the native title.
"That is the bottom line.
"You simply cannot conceive of a future where one group is blocking off all further land releases."
Dr Toyne says several impasses during the negotiations for the Larapinta development were resolved by bringing in the old men.
He says: "The senior custodians said, look, we're not going to go with divisive arguments.
"You've got to get together on this and we're going to proceed."
However, Mr Liddle says it was he and his family who had repeatedly urged the continuation of the deal.
He says Lhere Artepe had a motion not go ahead and to let the government develop its land first.
Upon urging by the Liddle family that motion was rescinded and Lhere Artepe was again given priority in the land development sequence.
"The Liddle family got this thing back on track, time and again," says Mr Liddle.
ELECTION SCHOOL POLICIES: WHO WINS? WHO KNOWS! Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Making sense of big ticket items among the federal election promises can be confusing, with schools funding a case in point.
At present all Commonwealth schools funding is linked to a national average of recurrent costs per student in government schools.
Under the Howard Government the 2004 figure has been $6580 for primary schools; $8595 for secondary schools.
Labor has promised to raise this to $9000 for primary schools and $12,000 for secondary by 2012. Those figures would be indexed at about six per cent per annum, says member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, who is seeking re-election.
He says all Territory schools would benefit from Labor's commitment,
"It would take a 30 per cent increase on the Howard Government's recurrent schools funding to reach the figure we are arguing for," says Mr Snowdon.
While government schools nationally under Labor would get a direct boost in funding, the non-government sector would have its current $520m redirected from high fee-paying schools to needy low fee-paying schools, of which $378 million would go to Catholic systemic schools.
By Labor's definition, there are no high fee-paying schools in the Territory, so all non-government schools as well as government schools in the Centre would stand to benefit.
However, the jury is out about how significant the benefit will be.
Territory Education Minister Syd Stirling has described it as "potentially enormous for government schools", although no regional breakdown of figures is available.
INDEPENDENTKath Phelan, executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of the Northern Territory (AISNT) says national average figures for recurrent costs are problematic for the Territory.
In the Centre AISNT represents St Philip's College (whose principal Chris Tudor is its chair), Living Waters Lutheran Primary School, Alice Springs Steiner School, Yipirinya School, Yirara College, and Nyangatjatjara College. The Araluen Christian School is an associate member.
The cost of educating a child in the Territory is more than one and a half times the national average figures, argues Ms Phelan.
And high costs apply to town schools as well as to those in remote areas."In what we understand of Labor's policy so far – and this is also the case with the government's policy – we don't know if any note has been taken of the fact that it costs more money in the Territory to deliver the same service."There is nothing specific in Labor's policy which says that high regional costs will be considered as a factor in assessing need."Greg O'Mullane, acting director of Catholic Education for the Territory, representing Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College in Alice Springs, agrees.
At present, all non-government schools get a percentage of the national average recurrent costs figure. What percentage they get is based on a calculation of socio-economic status (SES). This calculation looks at parent income, education and employment.
"That doesn't work for the Territory," he says, "because our higher cost of living is not taken into account."The NT and the ACT were the only jurisdictions who did not receive an increase to their recurrent schools funding when the SES was revised this year, he says.
If the government were returned, this would be offset to some extent, by a promise to non-government schools in the NT of $17m over four years from 2005 to help with capital expenditure.
Mr O'Mullane says he would expect OLSH to receive something out of this.
But just how much – as with the Labor pledges – it's impossible to say.
Mr Snowdon confirms that the way of calculating the SES will not change under Labor.
He argues that the recurrent costs figure is basically about paying teachers, and that Territory teachers are paid much the same as their colleagues around the country.
He says the greater costs faced by schools in the Territory, and indeed in all remote areas, is recognised in the $179m Labor has pledged for Indigenous education. This is targeted program-based funding, for which government and non-government schools alike would have to apply.
He says the $4m promised at his campaign launch last Friday to improve schools in Gunbalunya (Oenpelli), Ntaria (Hermannsburg) and Alpurrurulam (Lake Nash) is an example of how this additional funding would work.
ADDITIONAL"Certainly in Lingiari all bush schools and many town schools could apply for additional funding," says Mr Snowdon.
Maisie Austin, CLP candidate for Lingiari, by her own admission has "a lot to learn" about schools policy but says voters should heed the Coalition's promise on Sunday of an additional $1b over "four years to rebuild our schools", of which 70 per cent will go to government schools.
She assumes this funding would be "needs based".
However, Mr Stirling criticises the Prime Minister's novel approach to how this money will be distributed to government schools, which cuts the State and Territory governments out of the loop.
Says Mr Stirling: "School Councils will now be required to write a proposal to bureaucrats in Canberra in order to get infrastructure funding.
"This will disadvantage those Schools Councils and Principals who simply don't have the time or the resources to be writing lengthy submissions, particularly those in rural and remote areas."
Mr Stirling also notes that, "Federal Liberal made absolutely no mention of schools in their recently released policy document for the Northern Territory".
"The concern remains that the Liberal Party is more interested in funding wealthy private schools in southern states than looking after the needs of government schools in Central Australia," he says.
"ME TOO" SAYS SNOWDON ON ANDERSON'S AIRPORT PLEDGE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The sitting member in Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, says Labor is supporting plans for an international airport in Alice Springs.
His announcement follows a declaration last week of support for the project by the Federal Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson.
Warren Snowdon, who lives in Alice Springs, said he had read the airport's master plan, which was forwarded to the government last Friday, and it had his support.
"It's an important and necessary development for the long term future of tourism in Central Australia and I want to see it happen as soon as possible," says Mr Snowdon.
"Internationalisation is the logical thing to do and would bring significant benefits to the Central Australian tourism industry and the local community."
He says the master plan indicates that Alice Springs Airport will seek to attract international charter flights in 2005 and beyond.
Mr Snowdon said that for that to happen, the airport must have facilities available for customs, immigration, quarantine and other requirements.
"I am confident that under a Labor government this will happen," Mr Snowdon said.
"If, as the master plan indicates, international charter flights will occur infrequently in the first few years of operation, Labor would look at using existing customs, immigration and quarantine personnel from Darwin.
"Labor will work with the operators of the airport to develop a strategy to base these important officials at the airport on a more permanent basis when the international business at Alice Springs Airport increases or demands it."
Meanwhile Don McDonald, CEO of Alice Springs Airport Pty Ltd, says support from Mr Anderson could smooth arrangements for customs, immigration and quarantine services.
And he says the proposed $250,000 subsidy, in equal shares from the NT and the Federal governments (Alice News, Sept 22) could be the seed money for the $2.5m that would ultimately be needed to bring the airport to an international standard.
But if the mooted "checked bag screening" is introduced the cost of the upgrade would increase by $5 to $10m.
Mr McDonald says a trial scheme proposed by NT Senator Nigel Scullion and CLP candidate for Lingiari Maisie Austin would enable more appealing arrangements to be made for international passengers than the "plastic curtains and hospital screens" used for the few overseas charter flights in the past.
Sitting MHR for Lingiari Warren Snowdon did not respond to an invitation to comment on the proposal.
Mr McDonald says an upgrade to international standard is part of the airport's current plan, on which Mr Anderson, as Federal Transport Minister, is due to sign off by the end of this year.
A financial contribution from the governments would provide the opportunity to proceed with an interim development at a reduced risk.
Mr McDonald says the runway is long, wide and hard enough for the envisaged international market, 767s flying from Asia.
For heavier jets flying longer distances and needing bigger fuel loads the runway would need to be extended "but this can be done".
A 1988 proposal by the NT government to create an international airport in Alice Springs said the runway would need to be lengthened.
However, modern engines need less fuel, allowing reduction of the planes' weights and take-off distances.
Current airport passenger charges in Alice Springs are $10 (arriving) and $11.34 (departing).
Meanwhile Chief Minister Clare Martin says around 20,000 more airline passengers arrived in Alice Springs in 2003/04 than in 2002/03.
She says Qantas has forecast a 14 per cent increase in capacity into Alice for November 2004 from Sydney and a 24 per cent increase from Brisbane compared to November 2003.Ms Martin says the figures highlighted the recovery in Territory tourist numbers following last year's record $27.5m increase in government funding over three years for the Northern Territory Tourist Commission.
BID TO MUZZLE ALDERMEN GETS DUMPED 7 VOTES TO 4. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The town council overwhelmingly dumped a motion for a new media policy that aldermen said would have seriously curtailed their freedom of speech.
Only Mayor Fran Kilgariff and aldermen Robyn Lambley, Jane Mure and Ernie Nicholls voted for the policy at Monday's council meeting.
None of them spoke except for Ald Lambley who said the council should present a united front.
Seven aldermen voted against the motion.
Ald Murray Stewart led off the debate against the new policy, saying the public despised secrecy at all levels of government, feeling shut out of the processes.
In any case the proposed restrictions could not be enforced in any court of law.
Ald Stewart said the council should "give life to our views" and only council members whose actions are transparent could expect support at the next polls.
Ald Melanie van Haaren said she reserves her right to speak her mind.
If the policy came in then at times she would have to say no comment to constituents rather than "inventing a support story".
Ald Samih Habib said aldermen have the right to speak without "big brother watching us".
Ald Dave Koch said he would not be stopped from speaking his mind and there was no need to change the existing media policy.
PUBLIC"Ninety nine point nine per cent" of matters become public anyway, he said.
However he stressed the need for confidentiality in commercial and personal matters.
Ald Des Rogers said the freedom of speech is inherent in Australia's democracy.
On another issue, the council decided to offer a reward of $500 "to members of the public who, by reporting an act of wanton vandalism against council property to police or council, cause the perpetrator to be prosecuted and convicted for the relevant offence".
AMBULANCE OFFICERS LOOKING FOR COVER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Health Minister Peter Toyne says there will be an 1800 free call service to a qualified nurse able to give advice and help assess whether an ambulance is needed, to take the pressure off St John crews.
Craig Garraway, the ambulance service's deputy operations manager in Alice Springs, says about 20 per cent of the calls are not emergencies.
Other staff have estimated the percentage to be much higher.
The new service will be accessed by callers direct, or they will be patched through by St John if they call 000.
FILTERDr Toyne says this will be a "first filter" and is expected to be in place early next year.
The announcement coincides with a new enquiry into St John "following concerns raised by a Coronial Inquiry and the public," according to Dr Toyne.
"The Coronial into the death of [Darwin man] Stephen John Power was critical of some aspects of the delivery of services by St John in the Northern Territory."
The Alice Springs News has since learned that a man died in Jay Creek recently while the two ambulances on duty were busy with other calls, and could not respond quickly.
TRIVIALSt John has all but stopped treating patients – no matter how trivial their complaint – without transporting them to the hospital, causing a substantial increase in the workload of the outpatients' department.
Says Mr Garraway: "It's best for everyone to take people to the hospital.
"We don't refuse anyone.
"This way we cover ourselves."
He says priority is given to the obviously serious calls such as traffic accidents, chest pains, shortness of breath, seizures, accidents, uncontrolled bleeding.
On a recent Tuesday the service had 42 calls.
Seven or eight crews couldn't have kept up with the workload, says Mr Garraway.
They had no time to return to base from 8.10am to 6.30pm, had to eat on the run and refuel in town instead of at the base.
STAND-BYAt the moment Alice Springs has two crews and one on stand-by.
After 11pm and on weekends there is only one crew.
Territory wide St John has 25,000 call outs a year.
A spokesman for Dr Toyne says the new "treat and transport" policy has been adopted by St John, and has not been imposed by the Health Department.
"The Franther Report into the NT Ambulance Service was done five years ago, in September 1999," says the spokesman.
"The report at the time found the service was slightly under funded and as a result the NT Government provided increased funding to the service.
"The government provided $6.3 million in 2001/02 and this has been increased through to this financial year when the service will be provided with $7.3 million."
KINGS OF THE ROAD AND GUARDIANS OF THE ROAD.
meets road train driver
"Her head was twisted and she screamed a horrible scream when I moved her. I laid her under a tree by the side of the road on a mattress from the road train. It was five hours before the ambulance reached us.
"It gives you bad dreams, seeing things like that."
That's Alice-based road-train driver Frank Bilato's account of an traffic accident he witnessed during a job to the Kimberleys in Western Australia.
"I've lost count of how many accidents I've seen, it's horrendous," says Bilato, 38, co-owner of G&S Transport in Priest Street.
Saving lives is just one part of a road train driver's job.
"You have to learn to take all sorts of unexpected situations in your stride," says Frank.
"We often stop to help tourists who have broken down, and have to change our own tyres and mend punctures up to three times a trip. Engine mounts, axles on the trailers and spare tyre holders are always breaking out on the road," explains Frank. "Our drivers have to be real all-rounders and very industrious."It's a responsibility not to damage the trucks and the load – road trains are worth $500,000 each and they're expensive to fix."
Frank bought G&S Transport in 1993 with his brothers, Robert and John. Today the company employs eight drivers, a welder and a mechanic, and the row of gleaming road trains in the Bilato yard is quite a sight.
On average these beasts of the road are 50 metres long, have 18 gears and can travel up to 100 kilometres an hour – and compared to the average car, fuel is 18 times more expensive.
Thanks to the niche transport service G&S offers to very remote industries in the rural outback, like mines in the Simpson Desert, the Gibson Desert and on the Tanami Track, business at G&S hasn't been affected by the extension of The Ghan railway.
His eight drivers start at 6am with long days, on the road for up to 14 hours.
It's clear that their driving skills have to be well-honed to be able to handle such large vehicles, especially across difficult terrain like the Tanami Track. A one-way trip to deliver cement and lime to the Tanami mines across 600 kilometres of dirt, dust and potholes takes 14 hours.
"Driving across the corrugations and the dirt needs patience and experience," says Frank. "I only know of 12 drivers who are skilled enough to keep making that journey.
"The Tanami road is just shocking – the corrugation can get to six inches high and it sounds like you're driving an express train. Forget using a CD player!
"You're down to just 20 to 30kph because the road is so savage."
Frank explains how he rotates his drivers because of the health risks created by driving across such rough ground: "I've had bruised kidneys and my urine goes brown because of being bounced around like billyo. It really hurts your back too."
Road trains have to be replaced every six years – Frank has been driving for 14 and notched up 400,000 kilometres.
"Diesel is in our blood," he says. "When we were growing up in Darwin our father had trucks, and my brothers and I have been playing with them for as long as I can remember."
Frank's passion for his job is evident as he smilingly describes how driving in the outback makes for a unique feeling of freedom with just nature for company.
"I've seen meteorite showers, dust storms, whirlwinds and incredible sunsets and sunrises.
"And the people you meet are fantastic. People living in the outback are so uncomplicated and not at all materialistic. Some of the Aborigines I've spoken to have never been to a city or even seen traffic lights.
"When the road train drives into some places it's a big event. People come out into the street to watch and children leave school to see you."
But this feeling of freedom is mixed with loneliness for the long-distance driver. "Being a road train driver is impossible with a family," Frank explains as he remembers missing his children's birthday parties.
To watch his young family grow up, he used to bring his now nine-year-old son, Ryan, with him on the road: "I've been taking him out with me ever since he was tiny. I changed his nappies in my road train. He's done over 15,000k with me."
"I love doing something different every day and what I really enjoy is going on roads or driving to areas I've never been to before.
"It's like travelling I suppose. Every morning you wake up in a different bunk with a different view out of your window. It could be desert, sea or anything.
"It's made me more open-minded and accepting of people, and worldly-wise too.
"And I've learnt how to argue with my wife! I have so much time to think about things when I'm driving, she says I can come up with an answer for every argument.
"Road train drivers would make good politicians I reckon."
A PLACE OF THEATRE. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
A strong sense of theatre and of the powers of language helped overcome the predictability of some of the ideas at work in a place, which showed outside at Watch This Space on the weekend.
This is the latest performance work from red shoes and shares with previous works the directing and writing of Dani Powell, the performance talent of Emily Cox and a commitment to making site-specific theatre about, as the program notes put it, "this landscape, this climate, this social milieu".
The site chosen – the dusty yard at the Space, hemmed in by corrugated iron fences and industrial-type odds and ends – suited the themes of the piece and the ensemble used it to good effect.
The yard remained closed until the audience was fully assembled outside, with only lamplight from the ticket desk breaking the dark, and the scent of a white cedar tree in bloom hanging in the warm night air. It was a simple strategy but it worked in creating anticipation.
The yard appeared almost bare as the performance started but simple props were in fact on hand, revealing themselves as the action unfolded. This too suited the themes of the piece, which was all about perceptions, "What do I see? What do I not see?".
My reservations began from the first scene, which immediately set up a dichotomy of black and white, black equalling suffering subject, white equalling the profit principle.
This thinking is just a bit too tried and true to be intellectually satisfying.
My frustration, however, was held in check by the first use of text: a recording of voices speaking fragments of perceptions and experiences of Alice Springs.
The ideas benefited from concrete references; the fragments wove together to create a nuanced picture; and the delivery of text was just right. A credit to Powell and the performers, Cox, Nic Hempel, Anna Maclean, Sylvia Neale, and to the sound people, Hempel, Tristan Ray and Maria.
After this, there wasn't quite as much text as I would have liked. I appreciated the work with silence, another way used to heighten awareness of perceptions, but at times the pace lagged and the ideas being transmitted by gesture and dance wore somewhat thin. The choreography, especially the way in which inner torment was expressed, was often inventive and at times quite demanding to watch, especially when the performers threw themselves against walls and to the ground.
On the whole, I came away from a place with a sense of having been taken somewhere: not so much to this place we live in, but to a place of theatre and that's a great place to be.
HOWZAT! CRICKET SEASON BEGINS EARLY IN THE ALICE. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
In a move that that has been unprecedented in the sport, cricket will begin in Alice Springs this weekend.
Tradition is that players usually observe a rest period between the winter football and summer cricket seasons.
But in order to fulfil playing plans, the local association has recognised that the season of 2004/2005 will need every weekend it can muster.
The playing season will be shorter than usual thanks to the movements of the moon and an early Easter next year.
Added to this, weekend play will also be lost due to the Masters Games, the Imparja Cup, and a planned Wizard Cup per season match in Australian Rules.
As well as these planned interruptions, weather patterns in recent years have left every indication that play will be lost at times due to rain.
Hence from Saturday, A Grade launches its season with four clubs, Federal, West, Rovers and RSL Works, playing in one-day matches at Albrecht Oval.
The season promises to be one to remember. The Federal Club have not wasted any time in the off-season in planning celebrations for what will be their 40th year of play.
They have mustered up a contingent of ex players and officials to replay their careers in the homely confines of the Federal Club throughout the weekend from Friday week.
Guest of honour will be the ABC's now legendary commentator Kerry O'Keefe.
But the question has to be asked: Is cricket at a high water mark in the Centre?
The game has beginnings that stretch way back before 1964 and the Federals. Photographs record evidence of cricket, tennis and race meetings being features of life in the Centre as early as the 1800s.
Formal matches were first recorded in 1937, but it was during the war years that the game really took off in town. Many pitches were built to cater for the recreational needs of troops stationed here.
Then in 1945 a three-team competition began. There is a cloud of mystery over the actual names of the three teams but long-time resident Max Juett believed they were Rovers, the Post Office and the Buffs.
In the 1949/1950 season a Colts team was formed with three senior players and the rest being young lads from around town.
By the 1956/1957 season there were two new teams entered in the competition – Works Cricket Club and the Commonwealth Railways Institute. They helped form a five-team competition with the Stuart Arms, Alice Springs Memorial Club and Hotel Alice Springs replacing the original clubs.
In 1964 Federal Cricket Club was admitted, making it a seven-team competition – quite amazing considering the towns population at the time.
And the competition grew even stronger when ESU (Electrical Supply Undertaking) fielded a side in 1965 and Wests CC came into being in 1969 /1970. The eight-team competition in 1970 was certainly a high water mark for the game in Alice.
Inter-town competition has taken place in Central Australia since 1945, when Alice Springs played Tennant Creek. Then in 1954 regular inter-town competition was established, with Alice and Darwin venturing to Mt Isa – unfortunately only to see the home town win.
In 1955 the three teams played each other in Darwin, and the following year they met again in Alice Springs. The competition was supported by an engineering firm from Mt Isa, and annually the Crossley Cameron Shield was at stake.
By 1969 Katherine had joined in the competition, but by 1971 the Crossley Cameron Shield had run its race as Mt Isa wished to play in their state's Country Carnival, also played at Easter.
Hence the 1971 Shield was played for the last time on a winner-keep-the-shield basis, with the honours going to Alice Springs.
In 1972 the Calder Shield was inaugurated in the Territory. As with its predecessor, the Calder Shield was designed as an inter-town competition.
Over the years, Tennant Creek, Gove and Jabiru participated with Alice, Darwin and Katherine, which gave all players in remote and regional centres of the Territory at least one chance each year to ply their trade as cricketers.
In recent years the Calder Shield has been somewhat altered in format to encourage the aspiring elite at the expense of the everyday bush cricketer.
This move may satisfy the needs of a select few but certainly Easter in the Territory is no loner the preserve of grass roots cricketers getting together and having a go.
Like the Federals reunion, perhaps the four-club competition should reflect on days gone by when eight teams competed and blokes like Sam Calder, Rex Sellars and Bruce Deans were simply enjoying their cricket at Traeger Park.
YOUNG GUN LETS FLY. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The image of gentlemen in waders stalking out onto the lake at dawn with shotguns nestled into the tweed creases of their winter jackets, trusty golden retrievers paddling at their sides, is one that stirs the emotion of supporters and detractors of the traditional art of duck season.
From such beginnings, the clay target trap form of the sport has now been accepted throughout the world as an Olympic event.
Here in the Centre, for the coming Masters Games some 63 entries have been received. Competitors from every state in Australia except Tasmania will gather for the three-day shoot over the Thursday, Friday and Saturday making it a record field on the local range.
And for those who think clay target is a dying sport, the tradition of the art is being well and truly upheld in Alice by the Evans family.
At the weekend, as a lead up to the Masters, the annual Evans Shield was contested.
This event appropriately recognises the efforts of Ernie Evans who put in plenty in the formative days of the sport and the range in Alice.
Over recent decades it has been Bronte Evans, the local "bean counter" by weekday and shotgun romantic on his days off, who has nurtured the sport at local, state and national levels.
Then on Sunday his 12-year-old son Tom stepped up onto the mound in the event commemorating his grandfather's deeds.
He scored with the best of them and the message was sounded loud and clear that he was competing in every sense of the word.
Tom shot 47/50 to take fourth place.
In doing so he has given notice to his fellow club mates that the name Evans is unlikely to fade from the Honour Boards of Clay Target in the years to come.
CYCLIST GEAR UP FOR OUR GAMES. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The hangover of AFL grand final day seems to have crossed all fields of endeavour – including cycling in the Centre.
A week ago Tony Fitzpatrick showed his class by taking out the Alice Springs Cycling Club's time trial championships.
The event was tough with a field of 18 struggling against the notorious Ross Highway winds.
Fitzpatrick averaged over 40k per hour over the 20k course to position himself well for gold in the Masters Games.
Veteran Kym Hansen rounded off his preparation for the Masters with a stoic second place behind Fitzpatrick, and all-round sportsman Ben Clarke completed the placings.
Other Masters regulars honing their skills on the Ross Highway were John Dermody, Andrew Koop and Eddie Alblas.
The first of the women home was Loie Sharp who rode a creditable 32.75 to take the honours from Sally Luchich.
Both of these women will race again in Masters magic come late October.
However, it was a different story for cyclists on Sunday morning, as the fever of the finals in football dramatically affected the number of participants in the suburban criterium series event at the Mueller Street circuit.
PICTURESQUEThis is without doubt one of the more picturesque tracks around town, and while the cyclists were again grateful to the local residents who welcomed the bikes onto their streets, numbers were down to a baker's dozen making for a more social outing rather than fierce competition.
Running concurrently with the ASCC criterium, the mountain bike devotees also held a pre-Masters meet on Sunday morning.
The attraction of the day was the return of Rhys Heard from his university studies in Adelaide.
The ex-Centralian was welcomed home by way of a downhill calendar event that attracted eight starters.
The race was conducted in vacant land off Lackman Terrace – and interestingly it was won by a rider on a borrowed bike.
In mountain biking, the format of the bike's assembly is all-important in terms of it's compatibility with the track terrain.
HONOURSSean Anderson found that despite the bike he rode wasn't his own, it was just right for the Lackman Terrace downhill charge and he took the honours.
The mountain bikers will hold a final downhill event at Eagle Court on October 10 before taking on the true test on the Masters Games' cross country circuit off Kurrajong Drive.
We have nothing to fear but fear itself. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
When I first moved to Alice nine years ago I worried a lot about the spiders and the snakes.
Red backs especially scared me and I used to ask my husband to sort them out. I had never lived in a place with creatures that could kill you or make you seriously ill.
Except for humans that is.
The other day I spoke to some ladies who had moved here from America. They said they were greatly concerned about the fact that Australia has some of the world's most poisonous spiders and snakes. For months one of them would not let her toddler go into the back yard without checking for snakes first.
But we agreed that after you've lived here for a while, the spiders aren't as scary anymore and as you hardly ever see a snake, you stop thinking about them all the time.
I have only seen a snake once in my garden and it was a yellow faced whip snake which I am told isn't too poisonous to humans.
Of course it doesn't mean that you cannot come across a western brown and get fatally bitten or end up in hospital after a nasty red-back encounter.
We get used to the dangers we know about and live in close proximity to, and we fear the unknown.
I used to wonder how people could stay in Northern Ireland at the height of the conflict there, when bombs were blowing up everywhere.
But it was home to them and they got used to the threats and learnt to live with the conflict and the risks.
Fear is paralysing and it's impossible to do something about a possible threat if you are paralysed.
Winston Churchill knew what he was talking about when he said ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself'. What the thought of, or the fear of, terrorism is doing to our minds is truly terrifying.
Malaria kills more children than anything else, yet it is not seen as a major threat to the world. We don't go around spraying for red backs everywhere or gather up all the poisonous snakes in central Australia because they might kill somebody.
We will learn to live with the threat of terrorism and actual terrorist strikes as well. Living in fear is a bad option.
When we can deal with our fear we can deal with the threat.
The scariest aspect may be that it is other people who are potential threats – and that they don't carry big red dots on their backs.
It might be difficult to know our enemy by sight.
The twist is that it is something within ourselves and our human make up which we may have to come to terms with and recognise as a threat. When people are scared they either don't think clearly or they become paralysed. Living with snakes and spiders, however poisonous, is not like living in a war-zone where you might get blown up on your way to the market.
But if we let our fear of dying paralyse us we might as well be dead.
At the end of the day we must all find a way to get on with living, spiders or no spiders.
Dogs don't lay eggs. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I have practised for hours in front of the bedroom mirror, but I still can't bring myself to say "chook".
The word is too much like spook or crook for my liking. No offence, but "chicken" or just "hen" will do just fine.
All the same, I have had to knuckle down and learn to use it if I want to be accepted into the chicken-rearing classes in Alice Springs. I know nothing about poultry farming, but using the wrong word just confirms it.
This is a shame, because for some time my household has been a part of the local chook economy, that group of mild-mannered people who set aside a corner of their backyard for scratchy, egg-popping hens and squawking roosters. Chook-keepers are pragmatic folk. For example, I heard one explaining that dogs are no use because dogs don't lay eggs. And they tend to hold values of frugality, cooperation and a love of the gentler things in life.
These are values to which I also aspire, but only in the breaks between violent Hollywood movies and tribal European soccer.
The chook economy is supported by relaxed local laws on suburban farming and an undercurrent of self-sufficiency that flows around places like the Old Eastside.
The kindly folk of the chook economy exchange not only eggs and birds but also advice, even if you don't want it. So here's some advice for you: get a couple of chooks. Your life will be better.
There are heaps of books on poultry. The ones about backyard chooks describe them as pets that you eat, which is confusing to the novice. They suggest you give names to your hens (one of ours is called Dot) and in the next chapter they explain how to prepare Dot with a serving of hot chips and coleslaw.
There's even a backyard chook book called Living with chickens. Listen, I don't live with them. They scratch around in the dustiest, most couchgrass-ridden corner of my yard.
So here's some more advice: skip the sentimentality and get a book about proper poultry farming.
Many people think of chooks as if they are people. They reckon their hens have moods and throw tantrums. They say that, like teenagers, chooks pick the sunflower seeds out of the food you give them and leave the rest to go to waste.
Supposedly, hens stare at you quizzically with heads tilted on one side if you break their routine. These comparisons are all very well. We all do it. But my tip is not to blur the distinction between animal and human life. It can lead to eccentricity.
Talking of which, one of our chooks became broody at around the same time as the 25 per cent off maternity wear sale at K-Mart.
I don't think that the two events were related. It was just a coincidence. But for a fleeting moment I toyed with the idea of taking her to see some flowery tent-shaped frilly frocks.
Advice: beware that you don't become as clueless as your flock.
Children love animals and so in theory the work of feeding, watering, collecting eggs and so on can be left to your offspring while you watch Terminator 3 on DVD.
The reality, of course, is different. Getting children to enter the chook pen at feeding time is like getting a bantam to come down from a tree.
Whatever the trials of the chook economy, there's no denying that there is something deeply therapeutic about chickens. Watching them scratching is like staring at a fish tank, but more productive.
In fact, I feel a lot better just for having told you all of this. When can we start on ducks, geese, rabbits and goats?
Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.