ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
October 20, 2004.


SECOND RESORT MOOTED FOR KING'S CANYON. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

King's Canyon will get a second tourist resort if a $35m proposal by Aurora and local Aborigines comes to fruition.
And although the company is tight lipped, it is believed it's also looking at a major complex adjacent to the Ayers Rock Resort.
This would end Voyages' monopoly at the two big tourist attractions south-west of Alice Springs where Aurora already has significant investments with the Heavitree Gap Outback Lodge, the Aurora Alice Sprngs, the former Territory Inn in Todd Mall and the Red Centre Resort, due to be converted to housing.
Aurora's interests in The Alice would be a powerful incentive to draw visitors from The Rock into town, reversing the flow that has been created by the Ayers Rock Resort.
Aurora chairman Ian Drummond says the King's Canyon facility would be at the eastern end of the Watarrka National Park, just north of the road.
It would be on an Aboriginal homeland known as Wanmarra, an excision from the park.
A Wanmarra representative and Mr Drummond made a presentation in Alice Springs today to land council members, and families holding title and ownership of the Wanmarra land, including the Braeden family.
The new resort would coincide with the upgrading of the Mereenie Loop Road and include accommodation, camping grounds, caravan park, service station, mini-market and central guest facilities.
Mr Drummond says he believes tourism to the Kings Canyon area will increase significantly with the opening of the Loop Road, which is being upgraded by the NT Government at a cost of $38m.
The road will provide "an attractive road circuit from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock via Kings Canyon – and with minimal backtracking", says Mr Drummond.
About 300,000 people currently visit Watarrka National Park – Kings Canyon each year.
"We have spent a lot of time in discussions with the owners of the land and the Central Land Council in developing this proposal to meet the anticipated demand of the new road link.
"The proposal we have laid on the table today is a response to an idea formulated by the owners of Wanmarra," Mr Drummond says.
"The Aurora Wanmarra Resort will be themed around the artistic and cultural activities of the traditional people of the area and will include arts and crafts workshops and galleries along with other attractions of ecological and conservational interests."When completed, the resort will provide employment for 50 staff with suitable accommodation for Aboriginal families, management and staff as part of the resort infrastructure."
Mr Drummond says the joint venture between Aurora and the Wanmarra people would provide long-term employment, training and management opportunities and financial security for future generations.
PACKAGE"This isn't just a one off payment in a financial package for the land owners, but a package whereby both Aurora and the families of the areas will have equity, enterprise and long-term involvement.
"This is just one of a number of Northern Territory projects that Aurora is considering and follows successful property ventures at Kakadu and Alice Springs," he says.
Aurora recently announced a $1m re-development of the Aurora Alice Springs, a $3m development of about 45 strata-titled units and 30 land development blocks at North Edge Apartments on North Stuart Highway, and extensive works at the Heavitree Gap Outback Lodge.
The Heavitree Gap project includes a new home for the Brolga award-winning Red Centre Dreaming, says Mr Drummond.
He says his company "is positioning its accommodation infrastructure throughout the Northern Territory to meet a resurgence in tourism which is recovering after the setbacks of the SARS scare, Ansett collapse, September 11 and the Gulf War."



MASTERS ARE MARCHING IN. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

The mayhem of the Masters Games opening ceremony for 2004 saw Saturday night fever sweep across the whole town.
4500 competitors came together with just as many well-wishers to celebrate the unveiling of a week of unprecedented "friendship" through sport.
The locally-born Sports and Recreation Minister (and darts come eight ball competitor) John Ah Kitt welcomed one and all to his "home" at the opening ceremony. In doing he unleashed the caste of "friendship"-oozing Masters from the formality of the march past and speech making, to recreate the true spirit of the Games.
The North Queensland touch side led the soirée, shielded from the desert sun by what seemed to be size 50 gallon cowboy hats. With them was the individual who brings a sense of security, peace and goodwill to the Games, the comic book hero of the Masters generation, the Phantom.
From each state and territory, competitors melded into a beehive of colour, accentuated by the dazzling uniforms of tropical teams.
Standing out from the crowd were the beach girls from various points of call who clothed themselves in bikini t-shirts, recreating illusions of bodies from a bygone day.
And as a stabilising influence there were the hundreds of ambassadors and volunteers in their Territory rig, forever acting as fountains of information and reassurance for the throngs of party seekers.
And party they did on Anzac Oval with Billy Thorpe, Frankie J Holden and Wilbur Wilde saying it all.
By Sunday morning the fancy dress had been closeted for another year and the town became a drone of gold giggle-hatted athletes wending their way from motels to sports venues to eateries, and then more sports venues, forever catching up with faces from past Games or making new acquaintances through sport.
And the opportunities to mingle have been endless. At the netball the local T-Horny Devils are typical of the teams entered. The Devils are made up of players from the Bruisers, Federals, Eastside Opals and Donald in Victoria. Captained by Jo McKenzie, they have a coach in Sue Killingbeck, manager Jo Clarke and umpire Nina Bell from Wests, all of different persuasions during the netball season, but best mates at the Masters.
At the cycling, Jerome Carrigan, father of Athens Gold medallist Sarah, has kept the seat warm on his bike entering a range of events while daughter has been distributing medals.
The baseball at the Lyell Kempster field has its own brand of tradition. Hosting the visitors are the Legends. In a cunning move to keep a sense of civility on the home front these local boys have again rented a house for the week, leaving wife and kids to some sense of relative peace in the suburbs.
Entertaining is the focal point at their base, and at the centre of their role is the duty to care for the "fat-arsed wombat" who, with a flavour of his own, has flown into Alice Springs for another Games from Denver in the States.
Cricket continues to allow many an old champion to don the pads again as games are being played across town on the Larapinta, Head Street and Charles Darwin pitches. The side to watch this year hail from Groote Eylandt, with their mentor and coach Max O'Connell (of test match fame) battling to keep Patto and the boys in order.
At the weekend, the rugby union Golden Oldies fraternity took to the streets in their now traditional pub crawl. Starting at Federal Club, a formal court session heard charges of poor form from across the floor, and fines were imposed appropriately.
A hundred soccer players have registered to taste the turf at Ross Park. Among them are the blue and red team from Old Bar, a beachside village near Taree in NSW. They have been coaxed to town by Lance "Leggie" who gained his nickname from cricket matches at the VRD held at Frank's legendary Bar and Grill. "Leggie" is now spends his days resting on Kiana Station in the gulf country and has come to the big smoke to rekindle the form he once showed on the coast.
Masters aren't restricted to one sport however. Seen on his bike, with tennis racket, goggles for swimming and a cricket ball, is the multi-enthused Robbie Wetherald. Robbie is fondly remembered in Alice for his contribution to a variety of sport over the eighties and nineties, and the sight of him pounding the pavement reassures one that the Alice Games are something special.



HOW THE NT GOVERNMENTS BLEW OUR CHANCES FOR CHEAP CAR FUEL. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

When next you fill up your car for $1.29 a litre, spare a thought for the Territory governments – including the current one – which have blown opportunities to provide you with cheap fuel.
About 150 km west of Alice Springs is the Mereenie oil field, opened up in the 1970s.
It began under the Everingham CLP government, which touted the resource as a prime asset for the benefit of Territorians.
In fact for decades now the vast bulk of Mereenie crude has been allowed to be taken out of the Territory.
It has been re-imported, as petrol and diesel, at prices governed by the world's parity pricing for crude oil.
That's currently climbing through US$53 per 159 litre barrel, and rising seemingly unchecked, providing an extraordinary windfall for the Mereenie partners.
Their production costs have grown nowhere near as much as the world parity price, yet making Territorians pay through the nose for a resource that they in fact own.
Chief Minister Clare Martin castigated, in June, the Federal Government's energy policy for doing "very little to assist the development of major new energy projects … that would provide the widest possible diversity in the marketplace".
Meanwhile her mining Minister Kon Vatskalis renewed, for 21 years, the Mereenie production licence.
Mr Vatskalis has been evading for several weeks giving answers to questions from the Alice News.
A Vatskalis staffer says the renewal had to be granted because the oil companies, headed by Santos Exploration Pty Ltd, which holds a 65 per cent share, had done all the right things in the past.
A refusal, or a change of conditions, would have given the NT Government a bad name in the oil industry, so the minder declared.
But this is the very nub of the question: have the joint venturers been doing all the right things?
It seems not. And that would have given Mr Vatskalis an opportunity of gaining an advantage for his constituents, cheap access to their own oil.
But despite Ms Martin's declared aspirations Mr Vatskalis blew it.
When the field was first opened up there was a great deal of talk about an oil refinery in Alice Springs, worth between $50m and $70m at the time.
A project of that magnitude never eventuated.
A much smaller refinery was set up, by interests outside the Mereenie Joint Venturers, with very little volume and ultimately with very little success.
The project is now under external management.
In fact the push for a big refinery, run by the joint venturers, was a lot more than just talk.
The Alice Springs News has obtained a letter dated March 4, 1983, signed by William Singley, of Oilmin N. L., the operating partner.
That letter invites seven companies to "submit a proposal for engineering and consulting services in connection with the Mereenie Oil Field Feasibility Study".
Mr Singley states in part: "Under the terms of the Petroleum Lease granted over the field, the MJV [Mereenie Joint Venture] is required to carry out a feasibility study of a refinery to process Mereenie crude and to construct such a refinery if it is shown to be economically feasible.
"Further, if the MJV proceeds with a refinery, it becomes entitled to a pipeline licence for a pipeline between the field and the refinery."
In 1984 Oilmin produced a document entitled "Report on Demand Study of Products from an Alice Springs Oil Refinery".
It is very up-beat about the potential of such a refinery.
The report says in part:-
• Demand for motor spirit in the NT will between 1975 and 1995 grow from 80 to 175 megalitres and for automotive distillate from 50 to 280 megalitres.
• The market is seen as including the Top End, Mt Isa, Pine Gap and the Granites Mine.
• Both the NT and the Commonwealth governments "would endorse the more efficient use of resources that flow from locally processing crude oil".
• The Commonwealth "has stated that it will pay freight subsidies to refiner-marketers establishing remote inland mini-refineries, such as that proposed at Alice Springs.
"The freight subsidy scheme will materially assist the MJV in market development."
• Under the heading "viability of local market" the report says about the proposed 6000 barrels a day refinery: "The relative remoteness of the Alice Springs / Barkly district from both Darwin and costal refineries provides an Alice Springs refinery with a natural marketing district that uses significant quantities of motor spirit, distillate and avtur [jet fuel].
• "The sale of distillate to large users … would be attractive. Such sales are usually written as contracts for supply periods of one or two years."
• "The Mt Isa district presently uses about 500,000 barrels a year. Mt Isa Mines Ltd is a major user of distillate."
This raises some tantalising questions.
Why did MJV not build the refinery?
Given that it had not built a refinery, why did the NT government give the MJV permission to produce as well as a pipeline permit?
It was clearly the intention of the NT administration at the time that a refinery should be built – if it didn't have that intention, why would they require MJV to produce a feasibility study?
And why did Mr Vatskalis renew the production licence while MJV remained in default of what was clearly an obligation to build a refinery?
The University of Melbourne's agreements database points out another apparent failure by the joint venturers "to do the right thing".
The database says: "Even though the earlier agreement contained provisions relating to indigenous employment, not one Aboriginal person was employed throughout the twenty one years the agreement was in operation."
This is only partly true, according to prominent Aboriginal businessman Bob Liddle, a key adviser to the MJV in its early days.
He says some 25 Aborigines were employed in and around the field when Oilmin and Mooney Oil left him in charge of Aboriginal issues.
However, he says in the late 80s, AGL Petroleum and Santos Ltd took over the running of the field and since that time no Aborigines have been employed.
Mr Liddle recently called for an audit of the royalties the companies have been paying to the traditional owners.
And he says he now regrets having assisted the MJV in its early days.
Mr Vatskalis' silence extends from oil to gas, produced by the MJV in the Palm Valley area, just east of the Mereenie field.
This gas is widely used in the Territory, fuelling power stations between and including Alice and Darwin.
At what price do the MJV sell the gas? Mr Vatskalis is stumm.
So we have the bizarre situation where a Territory owned resource is exploited by an outside organisation with permission of a Territory Minister who is elected by Territorians. The gas is sold to Territory owned power stations – PowerWater – whose clients are all Territorians.
But Territorians are not told how much they are getting for their gas at the well head nor how much they are paying for it through their electricity bills.
IGNORANT
It's commercial in confidence, say PowerWater and Mr Vatskalis' minder, apparently blissfully ignorant of the transparent government Ms Martin keeps telling us she is running.
[FOOTNOTE: The Mereenie Oil and Gas Agreement of November 2002 was made between the Central Land Council, Aboriginal owners and the Mereenie Joint Venture comprising the following companies: Magellan Petroleum (N.T.) Pty Ltd., United Oil & Gas Co (N.T.) Pty Ltd., Moonie Oil Pty Ltd, Farmout Drillers Pty Ltd., Transoil Pty Ltd., Petromin Pty Ltd., Canso Resources Pty Ltd., and Santos Exploration Pty Ltd.The agreement covers the Mereenie Oil and Gas Field on land belonging to the Haasts Bluff Aboriginal Land Trust, west of Hermannsburg in Central Australia.
The operations are conducted by Santos Limited which ultimately holds 65 per cent of the interests in the Mereenie Joint Venture.A previous 21-year agreement for the area recently expired, and the newly signed agreement will run for a further 21 years.
Both agreements were negotiated under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
The new agreement will include sacred site protection, increased employment opportunity for the traditional owners, and enterprise development along the Mereenie Loop Road.
Santos is a major Australian energy company with assets of over $5 billion and annual production of 57.3 million barrels of oil equivalent.
The company's business is oil and gas exploration and production with interests in every major Australian petroleum province.
Santos is the largest producer of gas for the Australian market supplying gas to all mainland Australian States and Territories and also sells oil and liquids to a number of domestic and international customers.
Source: University of Melbourne's agreements database.]



NO CANE BUT REFORM FOR EDUCATION OFFICIALS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

The NT government will take no action against senior public servants in the Central Australian Office of the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET), guilty of "a range of poor practices and behaviours", at times "unacceptable".
And the people on the receiving end, mainly teachers working in remote schools, will receive no compensation, although some are still "grieving" about the events, have no respect for official processes and have been unable to achieve "closure".
The Alice Springs News asked the department what has happened to individuals identified by position but not named in Marli Wallace's review (Alice News, Oct 13) which calls for a system-wide change to DEET "culture".
We inquired whether any of the "incumbents" of the four senior management positions within the Central Australian Office (CAO), singled out for analysis by the review, are still employed by DEET or the Northern Territory Public Service?
Neither DEET nor the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment (OCPE) would answer this question, other than to say the two most senior positions had been restructured, advertised and filled, and two new senior positions had been allocated to the CAO.
We asked "if [the incumbents] are [still] employed, in what position are they employed?"
DEET: The report did not target individuals.
News: Was any kind of action – such as termination of employment or demotion – taken vis a vis the incumbents in relation to the review or the issues prompting the review or arising from the review?
DEET: The report found no unlawful or grossly inappropriate actions by individuals. There will not be a disciplinary action.
News: Why not?
DEET: Answered above.
News: Why has the review not named these people, when it wasn't just talking about "structures", "roles" etc, but rather "behavioural styles"?
DEET: Again, the review has not targeted individuals. The overall objective of the report was to assess and analyse existing management systems, human resource management procedures and systems with the aim of identifying any systematic problems and develop strategies to enhance organizational effectiveness.
This response leaves the News wondering if DEET has read the many comments in the review about "people" – relationships, behaviours, leadership styles, values – and its recommendation to bring "the ‘people part' of DEET into sharper focus".
Keeping the emphasis – in statements to the media – on systems and procedures protects everyone, of course, because CEO Peter Plummer himself is identified by position, together with others, as involved in "a number of examples of very poor human resource management practice … especially in the area of industrial relations, entitlements, worker's compensation and rehabilitation matters".
GRIEVANCELikewise the OCPE, headed up by John Kirwan, hardly covered itself in glory, rarely meeting its own performance standard of "around three months" to resolve a grievance, taking on average, of the samples reviewed, 205 days to do so.
The review found that "OCPE should have exercised intervention at the highest level to demand higher quality reporting in cases where reports were obviously below standard".
The review also found that "when OCPE recommended that DEET undertake specific action to improve procedures … there was no follow-up mechanism to establish whether these actions took place.
"This provided DEET employees with little comfort in the ability of the OCPE to really effect improvements on human resource management policies and practices."
The review examines in greater detail the individual practices and "behaviours" of the "incumbents" of three positions.
The most senior was General Manager Central Australia, held during the period under review by Ralph Wiese, about whose work the review concludes: "There seems to be no flavour of collaboration with the Central Australian region associated with the role."
And: "The review was unable to discern consistent, timely and effective interventions in protracted grievances, for example, or in performance management and issues of poor public perception of the CAO."
The review describes an "excessive workload" for the second most senior role, General Manager Schools, held by Russell Totham in the period under review.
This workload was shared to some extent by Group Principal arrangements, which however left significant, larger remote schools without "the depth of leadership support needed".
These schools are Papunya, Borroloola, Yuendumu, Alekarenge, Elliott and Yulara. Papunya and Borroloola were the subject of a significant number of submissions to the review.
"Coverage of business" was "one of the areas of greatest weakness within the CAO", says the review.
However, the review also found a "closed and defensive style of senior management in the CAO".
In relation to the handling of grievances, the review found "evidence of breaches of confidentiality and closing of ranks by senior management".
And the review was "unable to find evidence to suggest that the senior positions had effective influence over the culture of schools to ensure that all principals and staff, especially those in leadership roles, adhere to the Public Sector Principles and Code of Conduct, especially those elements relating to personal and professional behaviours".
The Assistant Director Human Resource Services was the third CAO position closely scrutinized.
In the period under review it was held by Jennifer Kerr, wife of Mr Wiese.
The review refers to their marital relationship as influencing a perception among DEET staff "whether or not justified, that matters may not remain confidential or decisions might be biased".
The review also refers to the "lack of breadth and depth of human resource management background and experience of the incumbent"; to "time delays and document transmission problems"; to "the lack of positive engagement of the incumbent, until relatively recently, with the local OCPE Human Resource Managers' Group – a useful means for networking and information exchange"; and to "the need to develop higher levels of understanding, as well as provide infrastructure and skills to deal with specialist ... needs of Indigenous staff".
The review also found "a level of suspicion in the region as to the personal records that are retained within the CAO, relating to individual staff, especially those engaged in grievances or complaints or on rehabilitation or compensation".
The News understands that Mr Totham retired from DEET late last year. However, Mr Wiese and Ms Kerr appear to be still in the employ of DEET.
Consultant Marli Wallace was obviously struck by the personal experiences of a number of DEET staff and former DEET staff in Central Australia.
She refers to the "existence of a small, but hard core of teaching staff that has experienced the grievance processes at DEET and OCPE levels who retain no respect for the processes and have no closure on the issues – some of these people are still employed by DEET, some have resigned but continue to ‘grieve'".
She also says: "The long-standing grievance cases are looking to the review to vindicate themselves and restore lost self-esteem: this is a serious issue and an inevitable consequence of the mixed performance by the CAO, DEET Darwin and the OCPE."The News asked, "Has any kind of action been taken to resolve outstanding grievances?"
APPEALDEET: Promotions Appeal Board and Grievance Resolution (PAB/GR) has additional resources to deal with outstanding grievances. Monitoring and follow-up systems have also been put in place.
OCPE: In respect to the past it is exactly that – the past. It was the past that informed the reason for the review, it is now time to focus on implementation and moving forward.
News: Will there be any kind of compensation to the people identified in the review as having "no closure on the issues", some of whom are still employed by DEET, some of whom have resigned "but continue to ‘grieve'"?OCPE: Unfortunately people cannot be financially compensated for not getting "closure" from a grievance. The lack of "closure" people may feel is an intangible emotional factor that is difficult to quantify and so the government is not in a position to compensate this."



LETTER: Reconciliation?

Sir,– A brief personal response to the tabling of the review Marli Wallace of the Central Australian Office of the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET).
Firstly thanks to Alice Springs News for running the stories last November and the Minister for identifying the need for this review.
I am still digesting the detail, however I believe it to be a very informed thorough and professional assessment of the facts. Within the limitations of the terms of reference it provides recommendations that clearly address the shortfalls of processes and procedures that have long been blocking progress in educational outcomes in the region.
We now need to learn from this report and develop a plan of action that will not only provide restoration and resolution for the employees, Indigenous leaders and educators and students who have been deprived natural justice and basic human rights, but also bring some health and capacity back into an ailing system.
I believe there is now an urgency to learn, reconcile differences and develop a plan of action that incorporates the shared values that DEET has identified – "Transparency, Integrity, Accountability, Leadership, Social Responsibility, Commitment and Integration".
I am not looking for closure but some resolution. We cannot leave these findings so they become just another report like the Senate Inquiry 2000 and the Alice Springs HEROC meeting recommendations in 2001.
I believe we all have a responsibility to work together and contribute to some productive resolution for all. I believe the NT Government and DEET are well positioned now to lead the way in setting up a conciliatory process something along the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation models where all parties are represented, are given a voice and allowed to bring issues and resolution to the table so that some trust, respect and healing can be restored. The other pathway is to follow up on findings from this review by calling for further investigations that identify why there are such entrenched problems, what are other contributing factors, such as policies and political agendas that are impeding positive outcomes locally.
Both of these pathways would need the appropriate legal framework to ensure changes and healing becomes systematic and sustainable and part of recognised policy.
We need the courage to commit to a different way of thinking and working. I would welcome any feedback on these suggestions.
Diane deVere
Melbourne
ddevere@ozemail.com.au
[ED – Ms deVere was principal at Papunya School for nine years to 2001. The News published a detailed account of her experience at the school in its issue of November 12, 2003, which readers can find on our website.
The article prompted other DEET staff to come forward, and their experience also became the subject of articles. The series finally prompted the Minister's commissioning of the review by Marli Wallace.]



RANGERS POISON HISTORIC PALMS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The NT parks service has been poisoning date palms at Glen Helen which a traditional owner, Marilyn Armstrong, says have played a significant role for many years.
She says Aboriginal children were given the dates to combat scurvy and the former owner of Glen Helen, Bryan Bowman, survived droughts and floods with the fruit believed to have been imported by Afghan camel drivers.
But District Ranger Chris Day says the introduced palms are threatening to displace the famous Palm Valley species which dates back millions of years to when the region had a tropical climate.
Seedlings from the Glen Helen date palms have been making their way down the Finke River.
He says the service has resorted to poisoning when species continued to spread despite the picking of thousands of seedlings each year.
Mr Day says the date palms are unlikely to move from the Finke upstream into the Palm Creek.
But there are stands of the native palm further downstream in the Finke, and those are under threat from the spread of date palms.
Mr Day says two palms are being left at Glen Helen because of the trees' historic significance, but those too are causing concern.
One control measure was to remove male plants, but pollination was still occurring, suggesting that some plants were undergoing a sex change.
LIMITEDAsked why the parks service was focussing on the date palms while allowing buffel grass to take over much of the West MacDonnell national park, Mr Day says his resources to fight buffel are limited.
He says the introduced grass is being controlled "in areas of high biological value and where buffel is not well established, such as in Watarrka (King's Canyon) National Park".
"Where it is too strongly established we don't have the methods to effectively control buffel," says Mr Day.
"There is some talk that there is a pathogen attacking buffel grass in Queensland."
The problem needs a "multi-disciplinary approach.
"Something may come out of Desert Knowledge, but there is nothing substantial at the moment."



"Sista" by LENI SHILTON. 3rd prize, sponsored by Asprint, in the Alice Springs News inaugural short story competition.

WARNING: This story contains language that may offend some readers.

The track to the clinic is a ribbon of red sand which winds its way between the spinifex from my house, up the hill to the temporary building which has been there for more than ten years. Doreen is sitting on the step waiting.
"You're late," she says.
"I'm sorry Doreen," I say with a weary smile, "the baby cried all night, I didn't sleep too well."
"How you gonna do on call with that baby?" Doreen stood and stretched her back.
"My mum's here to look after the kids, so she'll help."
"Palya," says Doreen as she walks into the clinic, ending the conversation.
A wide valley sweeps down the hill from the clinic. The yellow spinifex catchs the early morning sun and shines golden. Red sandy tracks criss-cross in a chaotic pattern through thick tufts of Spinifex, leading to a sprawling group of houses. The day is just beginning for most people.
Thin white lines of smoke meander up from the campfires signalling breakfast. Conversations waft up the hill to the clinic. People yell at the dogs. The recent rain has greened the hills which stand out in lush contrast to the bare dirt yards of the houses in the foreground.
The clinic is a long thin room with a stretcher at one end and a storeroom at the other. The air conditioner stays on in the storeroom twenty-four hours a day, the generator willing, to keep the medicines from going off through the desert summer. The rest of the clinic is stifling hot by nine in the morning.
Doreen is busy tidying the dressing trolley. Cutting up strips of elastaplast into one inch lengths, refilling the bottle of savlon with concentrate and tap water. The same morning preparation ritual is happening in clinics all over the country, I think with a smile as my gaze falls on the cement brick propping up one corner of the rusty metal trolley – except for one or two differences.
This preparation is for the rush which will come at ten or so as the houses out there heat up too much for comfort. During the day it seems, we are kept busy seeing to minor ailments; infected scabies, boils, cuts, headaches and at night is when the serious stuff happens.

Two nights ago Doreen picked me up to attend a stabbing. Neither of us wanting to go alone.
"Drunk'n mob," Doreen had said on the phone after I'd finally woke from sleep, my heart pounding, "wild one there fighting."
I sat clutching the emergency kit, in a daze as Doreen drove the clinic Toyota into the inky blackness, the headlights shining dull yellow light over the sandy track. I had no idea where we were going – a bush drinking camp Doreen had said, god knows where.
I'd heard that Francis was back in the community after getting out of jail – he had killed his wife with an axe in a drunken fight. He'd been away for four years. Maybe he was celebrating.
Doreen stopped the Toyota and shone the headlights over the scene of strewn Coolabah containers and rubbish, smouldering campfire and piles of bedding. It all looked quiet enough until Doreen found someone asleep under the blankets.
"Pakani! Get up!" Doreen yelled, "Wankaringanyi! Wake up!"
"She's asleep!" I was amazed, then I started wondering where everyone else was. Peered off into the blackness that circled the camp outside the cocoon of light from the Toyota. I started feeling anxious about being out in the open with a mad man around.
"She's drunk!" said Doreen, "it's Mary – Francis' other wife – hey! there's big mob of blood! We gotta get her up."
We lifted, carried, dragged her to the back of the Toyota and by torchlight found a deep head wound. I tried to stop the bleeding while Doreen drove full pelt for the clinic.
After we'd cleaned the wound and stitched her up, Mary woke up.
"You pucken cunt!" she yelled, "I wanna sleep!" so we let her go. As the dawn broke with cracks of orange light low over the eastern hills, Mary wove a wobbly path through the rubbish and spinifex to old Mrs Wheeler's house.
I went home to rest for a few hours but I couldn't sleep at all for thinking about the half hourly head injury checks I should have been doing on Mary.
Later that day when we visited Mary, she was sitting by the campfire, cooking damper. I checked out the wound – not bad stitching for the middle of the night.
"Kata pika?" I asked Mary, trying out a few words in language, "you got headache?"
"Wiya, kata palya, my head is fine." Mary kept her eyes averted, concentrating on the damper.
"Who did this to you, Mary?" I asked.
The rumours were already flying that it wasn't Francis at all but a jealous fight between Mary and Sonya, Mary's aunty.
Mary shrugged her shoulders. "Wampa, I don't know."
"Do you want to talk to the policeman?"
"Wiya!" Mary moved so her back was towards me.
I stood up.
"Can you come to the clinic tomorrow so we can check your head?"
"Uwa," Mary mumbled. Time to go!
Doreen frowned at me, back at the Toyota. "You don't wanna ask all those questions. It's family business."
I had been told.

Mary is due to come back today. Doreen could talk to her, Mary doesn't seem to want to talk to me. Doreen has been a health worker for many years. She knows everyone and everything that goes on around here and she can stitch up wounds like a surgeon. She tells me to write in the charts because she reckons even after all these years of working she still can't write properly – doesn't know what words to write down. She's seen countless nurses come and go from this place. I am yet another, only here while the other nurse is on holiday. I would need to be here for years to really understand what was going on.
I'm only here for two months and each day I feel I am slowly finding my way a little more, then something happens – like saying the name of a dead person, then watching as everyone in the room closes up like clams, leaving me feeling like a complete idiot. Or those old ladies sitting on the ground outside the clinic, bubbling with laughter when I say a word the wrong way, then we all laugh until the tears ran down our faces. When we can talk again, the old women say they will teach me to talk language, "proper way".

I'd been here a couple of days and felt lost in the clinic so I thought I would do some cleaning. The place certainly needed it – red dust and cobwebs, equipment in the wrong place. I cleaned and tidied until I realized that I hadn't seen Doreen for a while. At lunchtime I went looking and I found her at the store.
"Hey Doreen!" I called from the Toyota window. Doreen didn't seem to hear me. The store smelt of cooked chicken and all the mob outside were digging in for lunch – kids, dogs, cats. The rancid smell of oil was making me feel sick.
Behind the cans of bully beef, I found Doreen looking through a pile of second hand clothes, which had just come in on the mail plane from St. Vinnie's in town.
"Hey, Sharon, these'd look good on you!" Doreen says laughing and holding up a pair of very small cut off jeans.
"I don't think they're me. Hey, are you coming back to the clinic today?"
Her smile fades, "You finished cleanin'?" More a statement than a question, then she looked straight at me, "You mob always clean everything, so I stay away." She shrugs and goes back to her bag of clothes.
Offended, I drove back to the clinic. Doreen didn't come back that day, I felt frustrated, I needed to talk to her but she wasn't there.

The morning is gathering pace in the clinic. Doreen and I work side by side on dressings and handing out headache tablets. We give out two panadol at a time to make the supplies last until the next mail plane.
"Cuppa tea?" yells Doreen when the flow of people slows. We sit together on the clinic step, drinking strong white sweet tea, cool air from the air conditioner blowing past us.
"Those petrol sniffers are getting cheeky again," says Doreen, "they broke into the store last night. Took a big mob of food."
"How did they get in?"
"Through the roof," says Doreen, "they will try anything when they are hungry."
I realize I still feel very nervous of petrol sniffers.

Two days after I had arrived, I had driven around the other side of the hills to another small community to open the clinic there. Just as I was cleaning up a bit, two women rushed into the clinic.
"Sista! Sista! Lock the door! Waarpunganganyi! Quick one! Petrol sniffer coming! Mad one!"
As I looked out the door I saw a guy with a steel bar. I didn't need any more encouragement – I slammed the door shut and locked it. My hands were shaking and I felt sick.
"What about everyone else out there?" I demanded. "No worries about them, Sista, they pamily to him. That's Raymond, he's gettin' angry to white fellas when he's sniffin' petrol."
Raymond had been a sniffer since he was a kid, he's twenty-four now. He gets charged for break and enter then gets sent off to jail, goes off the petrol, does a bit of study while he's there. Comes back fit and strong after regular meals and pulling weights in the gym. He gets back into sniffing and can be pretty mean. The leader of a ragged band of sniffers who hang out in the abandoned house near the power station.
"How long do we wait here?" I asked the women who looked quite relaxed now. The clinic has perspex windows which were so scratched we couldn't see out."Don't worry, Sista, he'll go soon."
After an hour had passed we ventured out. The women said they'd go first because Raymond knows them.
"Quickly!" they said. "Drive quickly home, don't come back today, he'll be betta tomorrow."
I didn't need to be told twice, I was out of there revving the guts out of the Toyota. I thought I was going well until I saw him walking down the middle of the road towards me, steel bar in hand. I turned off to the right and headed down the road to the main community. I was breathing hard and shaking, trying to keep the car on the road.
The next day Doreen told me that Raymond does that to newcomers.
"Sort of like a test?" I asked.
"Uwa," said Doreen, "sorta like a test – he wasn't gonna hurt anyone."
I think I just failed that test.

It's over 40C as I walk back to the colorbond house for lunch. Mum's got the kettle on and the table is set. The kids run to greet me, pleased for the distraction, it's a long, hot day for them stuck inside until the evening cool comes.
"How's it going, Mum?" I ask, anxious for it be OK..
"Well Daniel has had a sleep, and Tom has done some paintings and has been practicing his letters."
"Mum he's only three!" I protest, laughing.
"Oh, well, he seems to enjoy it. And we've collected the eggs, fed the chooks, watered the garden and cooked up some custard."
"Oh Mum, you're so organized!"
"I have to keep busy, it's just how I like to go about things," Mum said. "And how's work?"
Where to start? Baby Daniel climbs into my lap looking for a breast.
"It's OK I suppose, it's still so new and different, I feel like I'm wandering around making a fool of myself, I don't know anyone, can't find their charts if I do know their names, then there's the challenge of knowing what's wrong with people. Poor Doreen, I've asked her a million questions this morning."
"It's early days," says Mum reasonably, as she pours water into the teapot.

Last week I was woken at three in the morning to see to old George Margia. He was sitting by his tiny campfire, his back straight up against a sapling for support. Around him slept his family in an assortment of swags and metal-framed beds. As I approached, the dogs woke growling, then rushed towards me, barking. A few well aimed rocks from old George sent them yelping off into the darkness. The family slept on, expect for George's young granddaughter, who had come to get me.
"Thanks George," I stammered, heart pounding, as I stepped into his flickering circle of firelight. "George! Are you alright?"
He looked grey in the faint light and he was taking rapid shallow breaths, his chest rumbling with fluid. I could see just by the look of him that he needed oxygen.
Later when I thought about it I still couldn't remember how we got him to the clinic: Lilly and me. The rest of the family stayed tightly in the world of sleep, even the dogs – so terrifyingly fierce earlier – had crept back from the blackness to sleep on warm swags and did not so much as move a whisker as we struggled and staggered with George to the car.Together we sat and watched him until morning. We had few words to say; we were too busy as the Guardians of the Breath. In the still, cold light of dawn, I made hot sweet tea to stave off the shakes from hunger and tiredness. George woke up with the sun, his breathing quiet and calm. As the warmth of the day came in the clinic he sat up, took the plastic mask off his face and wandered off to breakfast, Lilly walking behind him.

After lunch, Doreen asks, "You wanna come to an inma?"
"What's an inma?" I say, stacking the bandages on the shelf.
"A women's dance – you know, dancing and singing." She wiggles her pelvis at me.
We both laugh.
"I'd love to," and we arrange a time – "Mungartji-mangartji," she said waving her hand back and forth, "late afternoon when the sun is low."
We spend the rest of the day checking those who where sick in the night. A visit to a one week old baby who returned on the mail plane yesterday with her mum. They're living in a house with thirty people, no running water and a blocked septic system. I have an argument with the office secretary who reckons I won't give her son penicillin because he's white. I try to explain that penicillin won't help. By five thirty my head is spinning and my breasts are painfully tight, milk leaking onto my shirt.
"Doreen, let's go home," I call out.
"Uwa!" comes the reply from the storeroom.
"Hey Doreen," I say as we lock up, "I'm really sorry about doing all that cleaning when I first got here without talking to you about it. It's a nurse thing – when we don't know what else to do, we clean. We were taught that from the beginning of our training – ‘Stay busy and keep the place clean!!'"
Doreen laughed, "Poor things you nurses, you wanna learn how to sit and listen to people, not rush around all the time!"
We both laugh as we leave the clinic.
"See you later, Doreen."
I'm in a dilemma as I head home – walk quickly to see family and relieve the pain in my breasts, or walk slowly savouring the stillness and watch the hills across the valley glow orange in late afternoon.

Later I drive with Mum and the kids, food and water and find Doreen with her sister Lydia and her young niece Rebecca in the creek down by the hills. In the creek bed we sit in the sand, still warm from the day and watch as Lydia paints long white sweeping curves on Doreen's breasts.The inma is like a portal – a point at which I might begin to understand some small something about Anangu. I feel very honoured to have been asked, but still don't know what it all means. I probably never will. The women sing and dance in lines up and back, up and back. Fine red dust from the sand rises around their feet turning them red.
It is a moment so very far from the clinic, from knowing how to read and write in English, from signing forms and dishing out drugs. So far from patching up ill people day after day. But in a strange way, linked to all that too. This was a literacy Doreen was showing me, a different literacy. Knowledge I couldn't understand. We shake hands to say thank you, as we pack into the cars to go home.
In the cool of the evening, I walk with the children, holding hands with the three year old as the baby squirms on my hip. We walk towards the darkening hills. They are purple hued now and touched by thick, dark cloud. The air feels heavier with the promise of more rain.



INSTITUTE OF ABORIGINAL DEVELOPMENT BOSS: EDUCATION IS A CUT THROAT BUSINESS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) chairman Richard Hayes describes the provision of Indigenous education as a "cutthroat business" but says nonetheless that partnerships with other providers may be revisited in the future.
IAD opened Stage One of its campus redevelopment on October 8, hoping that it will attract increased enrolments next year.
Total current enrolments stand at 517, up on the average 387 for the period 2000 to 2003.
The majority of students are at re-entry and bridging level, in which IAD claims particular expertise.
It has argued strenuously against the recent emphasis by the NT and Federal governments on higher certificate level courses, regarded by policy makers as the pathway into employment, to the detriment of basic literacy and numeracy training. Nonetheless it has 39 students enrolled in certificate four in Assessment and Workplace Training.
The greatest concentration of students – apart from in driver education with 265 students – is in business studies, with 93 enrolled in certificates one and two, and five in certificate three.
Thirteen students are enrolled in certificates one and two in General Education for Adults, with seven doing certificate three.
ENGLISHSix are doing Preliminary Spoken and Written English, while another 16 are doing certificates one and two.
Community Services has two strands, community work and youth work. Total enrolments are 53, with 15 in certificate three and seven in certificate four.
There are 21 remote area students doing certificate one in horticulture, and five are doing certificate two.
The Family Well-being Training Program has 54 enrolments.
Specific information about graduations and entry into the workforce was not available, except with respect to the eight new interpreters in Central Australian languages trained this year.
Five have gained employment with organizations including the hospital, Congress and the Aboriginal Interpreter Service, while the remaining three are pursuing further studies.
The future of all these programs is a matter of applications and negotiations every three to four years, says Mr Hayes.
There are no guarantees that Stages Two and Three of the planned redevelopment will be funded, nor that IAD will continue to get recurrent operational funding.
"We have to be competitive in selling our product as an education provider.
"There are seven or eight key indicator outcomes, targets we have to meet, including literacy and numeracy outcomes, preparing return to work programs, but also getting staff trained up to take management positions."
At the end of 2002 IAD turned its back on going into a consortium with Batchelor Institute and the Centre for Appropriate Technology to form the Desert People's Centre (DPC), which has strong Territory Government backing.
Now it must go head to head with the DPC for Territory and Commonwealth buckets of money that are not getting any bigger.How confident is IAD of being able to compete with DPC, which, with its rationalisation of resources, appears to be the preferred model?
"It's for us to get better and also for us to be more experienced in what we do best.
"We always have to look for improvement within ourselves," says Mr Hayes.
Does the IAD board still think withdrawing from the DPC was a good idea? Mr Hayes certainly isn't going out of his way to defend it."That was from a previous board so I wouldn't know what the issues were behind it. I was out of it at that time.
COMMUNITY"Everybody has got their reasons.
"IAD had their history of 35 years to maintain and continue delivering a community-controlled organisation.
"There may be opportunities down the track to revisit other partnerships.
"By all means when partnerships come up we need to look at them and see where we can work with one another."
Does this mean there are on-going talks?
"Not at this stage, but we will always speak with other providers.
"It's a cutthroat business, we are all trying to ensure that we maintain what we are currently doing.
"We also look at the opportunities of what we can do with other providers, where we can assist and what they can do to assist us.
"There's an underlying partnership still there but it's not what we would call a partnership like the DPC, it's just a partnership between different organisations and localised delivery of programs."
Is IAD being careful not to duplicate offerings, especially with its return to remote area delivery?
"In our delivery it is people's choice," says Mr Hayes.
"If a community contacts us and requests us to deliver a program, we are happy to assist.
"Remote communities are asking for driver education, that's a need in the community and so we are trying to deliver it."
In fact, IAD is being a lot more active than that in recruiting enrolments: a recently appointed regional coordinator is responsible "for identifying training needs in communities and negotiating resources for training delivery".
Are current enrolments at a viable level?
"It's viable at this stage," says Mr Hayes, "but we always have to look at improvements."



BUDDIES IN LOVE AND CRIME. Review by JULIA WINTERFLOOD.

Three classic stories, the Poor Hitchhikers, the Love Triangle and the Highly Illegal Moneymaking Scheme, are all rolled into one in George Pappy's debut film, A Line For Every Occasion.
Although Alice is on the up and up in the world of mainstream cinema, an independent, locally written, directed and produced full-length feature is not a common thing.
So when George decided to throw together some fresh local talent, the ins and outs of Alice Springs, a dodgy uncut opal deal and some equally dodgy Germans, the result was always going to be interesting. And considering the US $10-15 budget, it certainly attained this status, and more.
The film follows Kenny and Neville, two unlikely friends who somehow end up in an Alice hostel, desperately needing dollars.
Kenny, played by Rohan Naismith, is a chauvinistic Casanova who defends his preoccupation with the female species by using the line, "It's just the way I am."
A typical schemer, he is forever constructing outrageous plans to hit the megabucks.
Neville, played by Luke Horsfall, is the classic example of a nerd. He mostly speaks in quiet asides and monologues quoting Shakespeare's sonnets and excerpts from plays.
A chess whiz, Neville just doesn't have what it takes when it comes to the ladies, but then he meets the beautiful Victoria, played by Jess Yates.
By helping out with her Hotmail, Neville develops a connection with Victoria, but it is destroyed when he later walks in on her and Kenny in bed.
Because Kenny and Neville are practically polar opposites their friendship is fairly implausible; one is obsessed with Shakespeare, the other with shaking the spear.
But, in the true style of buddy films, it is their differences that create an hilarious contrast and thus serve as the basis for their friendship.
A Line For Every Occasion is an effective, straightforward story with few subplots. The random appearances of an elderly Aboriginal man also add to the hilarity of the film; Neville is the only one who sees him as he pops up in unexpected places and is accompanied by the same sounds of didge each time.
The action, as you can see from the still, ends in a Western-style shootout.
The soundtrack features a wide variety of local acts, each contributing to the "home grown" feel of the film. Musicians included Greg Bishop, Mark Harris, 3 On a Tree, Sly Dogs and The Way.
It was a thrill to see your hometown on the big screen; the always stunning scenery in and around Alice came up well, although some scenic shots were fairly grainy and sound quality was poor at times.
But considering George Pappy's financial and economical limitations the finished product was extremely impressive. "It's amazing what you can do on your own desktop," he said.
The only disappointment of the film was the somewhat clichéd script, which I felt at times actually marred Rohan's, Luke's and Jess' performances, all accomplished local actors.
I felt all three were having to downscale their performances to accommodate the clichéd dialogue and characters.
This could also have something to do with lack of the overdeveloped production values which today's audiences are used to and the fact that George could only allow one to two takes of each scene, which would obviously limit performances.
And future endeavours for George? He's going to aim for the stars, literally.
"I'd like to get a Hollywood budget behind me… I don't know if I'll make it, but I'm sure as hell going to try."



LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Comments on Land Council hit nail on the head.

Sir,– Your commentary on the Central Land Council (CLC) couldn't be more precise (Alice News, Oct 13).
The way forward for indigenous Australians must be achieved by consigning the CLC to the back blocks of history.
They are a direct exemplification of the "poor bugger me" mentality which, unless direct and immediate action is taken, will welfare out of existence the immense talents of the up and coming Indigenous young.
As a vision impaired Australian I have only ever accepted assistance if I knew I could give twice the value in return.
I have always rejected segregation and I have always known that to achieve and excel you must be unyieldingly hard on yourself.
The CLC charter directly conflicts with this self-determining approach.
The millions upon millions of dollars received in royalties under the Land Rights Act are by any definition "sit down money".
You see, Indigenous Australians have the same human failings as all of us.
Why wouldn't they greedily feast on something for nothing?
This is why mining companies and other corporate enterprises established on Indigenous owned land have miserably failed to attract Indigenous workers.
Why would anyone, I ask, shed their blood, sweat, and tears if financial gains will come their way without any need for effort? The CLC's administration of the Land Rights Act is also segregationist, an apartheid.
It bars people on the basis of colour from entering into, either physically or commercially, vast areas of our country. Isn't this ironical?
If the colour circumstance was reversed, the left wing ideologists who support the CLC's backward approach would hit the streets.
By example of this lunacy let us remember who and which government proclaimed the Land Rights Act.
It was Malcolm Fraser's conservatives. And it was Robert Menzies' conservatives who delivered the non-means tested pension for the vision impaired on the basis that "the poor buggers are unemployable; this is the least we can do."
So I say to the CLC and its supporters: You are upholding outdated and irrelevant conservative approaches that are driving black Australians into pathetic-ness.
You are so far to the left that you are meeting yourselves coming back in the opposite direction.
I believe that – as has been shown throughout the world, the US being a prime example – those lucky enough to be born with black skin can run faster and jump higher than anyone else in the world.
Their music is so easily popularised and their art the most sought after.
I am on the side of exploding this talent forward and with the Alice News and its good grace; my next letter will outline my views on how this can be done.
Murray Stewart
Alderman
Alice Springs Town Council

Births: indemnity

Sir,– Further to your article "Homebirthers expecting to go underground", published on August 25, we would like to express our deep concern that the Northern Territory Nursing and Midwifery Board have restricted the license of Ms Theo Allan.
The reason is because she, like all other independent midwives in Australia, is unable to purchase professional indemnity insurance and the changes to the Health Practitioners Act 2004 requires all health practitioners to have indemnity insurance.)
The Northern Territory government and the board are the first in Australia to outlaw registered homebirth midwives because they have chosen to make the insurance a mandatory requirement.
All other nursing boards in Australia have been able to interpret the law as "should" or "may" have indemnity.
The Childbirth Education Association provides information and support for parents. We believe very strongly that parents are entitled to, and should be provided with, a choice of safe birthing options.
Until now, parents have had the choice to birth at home. Restricting Ms Allan's license effectively removes this option. There are many benefits for families in having a homebirth including the increased comfort of families as they are in familiar surroundings, less routine intervention in the birthing process, higher successful breastfeeding rates and less separation of parents from their baby.
Furthermore, Ms Allan's homebirth practice provides continuity of antenatal care, birth and postnatal care for up to six weeks, all in the parents' home. No other maternity service provides this kind of care in the Territory.As mentioned in your article, the CEA is also very concerned about the implications the deregistration of legal homebirth practitioners. We agree that some mothers may continue to birth at home, despite the lack of a registered homebirth midwife, which could place both mother and baby in great danger.
After the professional indemnity insurance crisis in 2001, the federal government made arrangements to allow all registered medical practitioners to continue to purchase insurance.
The federal government has also set aside $600m over the next four years to subsidise the insurance of doctors. Unfortunately, private midwives are not included.
Instead of posing a threat to homebirth practices, maybe the Nursing and Midwifery Board of the NT should be lobbying to have professional indemnity insurance made available to private midwives.
Christine Trull and the Childbirth Education Association.
Alice Springs.

Friendly welcome?

Sir,– This is a friendly tip to the taxi driver who on his first job of the day collected my friends and I from the Desert Park a couple of Fridays ago.
Most people, young or old, prefer not to listen to high level swearing and political music in a taxi. I usually refer to "f and c" as fish and chips but in this instance that's about as close to the words heard in his choice of political music as I can say in print.
Whether you like it or not, tourists are your bread and butter and when Alice has such friendly, helpful drivers, one would think you would try just a little. This man's obvious disinterest in communicating with us, his loud, offensive music and his whinge about one of his colleagues was just laughable it was so rude.
Bernadette Gioia.
Melbourne

A good news story

Sir,– More than 70 volunteers were recognised for their contribution to the community last week at the Excellence in Volunteering lunch under the sails in Todd Mall.
Representatives from local not-for-profit organisations included St Vincent De Paul, Heritage Alice Springs, Royal Flying Doctors, Make-a-Wish Alice Springs and St John's Ambulance.
There are a huge number of people who volunteer their time and efforts to help make Alice Springs the great place it is. We have a strong community spirit here, and a culture of helping those who are less fortunate.
Volunteers play a very important role in our community, and we want to recognise and celebrate the work that our volunteers do. Many find their work self-rewarding, but I am sure they don't hear the words "thank you" often enough.
The council opened a Volunteer Resource Centre in May this year to match interested volunteers with organisations in need of help [open 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, in the foyer of the Civic Centre].
So far it has placed 55 new volunteers with 16 registered not-for-profit organisations.
It has increased the resources available to our local not-for-profit organisations, enhanced opportunities for individuals, and benefited the community as a whole.
David Koch
Deputy Mayor
Alice Town Council

Tales from the bush

Sir,– My brother Michael and I are currently writing a sequel to our book "Bush Legends — South Australian Country Football Stories".
We would like to include some stories from Alice Springs in "Bush Legends II" and would love to hear from any of your readers who may have colourful stories to tell about Aussie Rules as it is played in the bush, both on and off the field.
We are particularly interested in stories from the old days involving funny incidents, bizarre weather conditions, innovative fund-raising activities, legendary umpiring exploits, unique score lines and unusual characters. We are also seeking heritage photographs (the older the better) that capture the spirit of country footy.
"Bush Legends II", will at this stage will be published in September 2005. Contact us at amadigan@chariot.net.au or phone 0400 154 237.
Anthony Madigan
Balhannah, SA



RACING: THE TRUE BLUE GEIGER GALLOPS TO A HAT TRICK. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.

The smart money was on Geiger Blue last Saturday evening at Nyah as the horse won its third race of the season.
In the 1200 metre Mummify Class 4 Handicap, the Vince Maloney-trained performer dictated proceedings from the start. Although the two and a half length win was not as impressive as his last two, Geiger Blue was never at risk. The only danger in the running was Abra who collected the cheque for second, while a tip from a week previous, Hot Chilli Woman, filled the placings.
The event was bolstered by the patronage of the Masters Games visitors who took advantage of the picturesque country setting and added a colour of their own to the meeting. One stand out group, baseballers under the banner of the Broken Hill Miners, featured in the ring – but may well have found their hard work in the afternoon went unrewarded as their hot tip, Hunglikea, failed to produce. But the five event card had plenty else to offer.
In the Might and Power Class 2 Handicap over 1000 metres, Miss Movie Star, from the John Cornell stable, buttered up from her last win with a half length victory. In the running she was pressured by Classic Rainbow who was on the pace till the 200 metre mark, but faded allowing Miss Movie Star to control the race to the winning post.
Terry Gillett's Conkers was able to run on into second place with Classic rainbow completing the placings.
The major disappointment of the race was the favourite Pseudonaja who just didn't feature and finished at the rear of the field.
The Diatribe Class 6 Handicap over 1600 metres saw Apiary leave the mounting yard a red hot favourite at $1.30. In the running Trailer showed the way with Apiary settling off the pace in third place.
But in the run home it was all Apiary as he went to the line a three length winner, which could well have been much more. The nine year old Our Tanglefoot put in a solid performance to finish second with Trailer a neck behind in third.
Connections to Earth Legend were over the moon after the running of the 1100 metre Sky Heights Handicap. As predicted Scotro headed the field from the jump but the 1100 meters tested the sprinter.
Earth Legend nested into third spot and took the sit until the call came in the straight. In the run to the line the horse proved too strong for the opposition and prevailed by two and a quarter lengths over the pacemaker. Dareby Livewire completed the placings.
The last race of the day, the Wally Huntley Memorial Maiden Trobis Handicap, saw the Terry Gillett stable rewarded.In a good field of ten, Shamoxie settled off the pace in fifth place early. Up front Crown Pilot and Pretty Tubby set the tempo. By the turn however the tune had changed and while the front runners began to struggle, Shamoxie surged.
Once in the straight Shamoxie ran away to win by six lengths. Litigious who had also camped mid field ran on to take second money and Pretty Tubby battled home for third.Do What We Do put in a sound performance to suggest that when fresh, a win is on the cards. However Allspent, the favourite, seemed to live up to its name.



What about me, me, me? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.

After a successful school musical night my children are now walking around singing "What about me, it isn't fair … I want my share, what about me?".
Not that they have to sing that to me to make it perfectly clear that each one of them wants at least as much attention or peaches and cream as the others.
The biggest upsets in our house are about millimetres of cake or grams of dessert.
I even found myself thinking "What about ME?" a few times last week when my husband helped out at his sports club at the weekend when he should be at home helping look after the children.
It is important to have a sense of self worth and to believe that you deserve to be treated well. It is also important to find a balance between the self and others.
Not so long ago we were born into our roles in society and the great majority of us were expected to serve others working long hours with little pay or appreciation for our efforts.
Out of oppression, trade movements and equal rights movements grew and we developed a society that at least in principle defends human rights and equal opportunity.
Our focus is on what we deserve and have a right to as individuals and not what we can contribute to society and do for others. However noble the notion of the rights of the individual is I think the "me first society" is making us feel lonely and disconnected.
We are social creatures and need others to be happy. Modern living separates us from extended family, and commuting and office cubicles separate us from our fellow human beings.
Luckily it is easier to feel part of a community in a small town like Alice Springs, and I think people who live here recognise the importance of feeling that we belong to a context greater than our own nuclear family.
Sport provides an ideal opportunity for this and is very popular in this town despite the relentless summer heat.
It's is not surprising that the Alice Springs Masters games were the first such games in Australia when it all started 20 years ago.
The Friendly Games, as they have come to be known, bring thousands of participants from all over the country as well as from overseas. They also boost our local economy and create good publicity for central Australia.
But most of all they bring people together who share a common interest in sport, in staying active and involved.
I'm not much of an athlete and I don't always feel generous with my time but I do admire the enthusiasm and energy I see our local volunteers put into this event. I'm even willing to give up some of my time over the weekend for the greater good of these games.
In the workplace, at school and in the media we are encouraged to make sure we get at least our share of the pie. It is rare to hear anyone say that it is greater to give than to receive, except possibly in church at Christmas.
Most of us have everything we need and can afford to give and not expect something in return.
In the end it is what we give not what we take that we are remembered for.



Gentle tales about underachievement. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

The best part of any reunion with old friends from work or school or family or some other part of your distant life is to learn what has happened to them in the intervening years.
After a few drinks, you start to hear about their relationship strife, financial disasters and career mishaps.
These stories are sad, but they serve to put your own modest achievements in perspective. Invariably you leave the encounter feeling better than when you arrived.
Despite this guarantee of a feelgood outcome, I have decided not to seek meetings with past-life people.
In any case, they are not exactly clamouring for my company and when the phone stops ringing, don't fight it I say. It's too much of a strain to talk about the weather when you should be exploring the deeper meanings behind the last 20 years of uphill struggle against mortgage repayments and the deterioration of your physical condition.
Maybe I'm just past bothering about the past.
An old student friend once called me to specify the date of a weekend eight months in the future when everyone from the class of 1991 would be getting together for a 10-year reunion. Please could I confirm that I would be there, she asked, as if this was an unmissable event.
The prospect was a lot less appealing to me than having my head shaved with an angle grinder. But given this much notice, it is hard to conjure up a previous engagement that would prevent you attending.
"It's my aunt's birthday and we are going away on a train" or "I expect to be sick on that weekend due to having over-eaten the night before" doesn't cut the mustard. So rather than lie, its best to explain that three hours of talking about the temperatures in Alice Springs with someone with whom you once had table-thumping political debates is just too dispiriting. I can't even imagine wanting to be there, I said. Sorry and see you around.
She accepted my point of view and promptly took me off her Christmas card list.
Look, we live in an electronic age, so let's use the technology. Why can't people you used to know just email you a complete set of their gentle tales of underachievement.
I would send mine in a zip file. Then nobody would have to travel and we could get it over with during the breaks in Blue Heelers.
These stories would describe how we all start something that we don't finish and how we wake up realising that we forgot to be the person we meant to be.
Or they would recite the poignant tale of the woman who married a bloke who turned out to be a non-hairy equivalent of Godzilla. The full set of stories could be published as a heart-warming antidote to biographies of Oz cricketers.
I was thinking about under-achievement the other day when I heard a song. Some pop songs get under your skin, but in a good way. This one was by a band called Fountains of Wayne. It was about a boy who lived in Hackensack.
He secretly loved a girl. She became famous and went into broadcasting. One of the lines goes "I saw you talking/With Christopher Walken/On my TV screen." All the time he follows her career while working with his dad installing floor coverings. The killer line is "If you ever come back to Hackensack, I'll be there for you".
The minor keys in the song made my emotions flow. It reminded me that most people don't make the bar in the high jump and many fall short of the Nobel prize by some distance. But they're still around and making the best of it. That's just the point.
There's richness in modest tales of ordinary struggle. Maybe I should go to more reunions.
steve@afishoutofwater.com


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