COUNCIL BID MAY BRING SKILLED STAFF. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The skills shortage in Central Australia may be eased if the town council becomes part of a new scheme to attract skilled migrants.
The federal government has created a special class of visa for skilled overseas workers to encourage them to move to regional Australia and fill urgent vacancies, such as in nursing.
Alice Springs mayor Fran Kilgariff has been approached by the Commonwealth Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs to help promote and administer the new visa.
In order to do this, the council would have to become a Regional Certifying Body and fulfil certain criteria. The council would have to prove that Alice Springs can support migrant workers, and provide sufficient housing, education, health care and counselling.
There are currently 49 Regional Certifying Bodies across Australia Ð but only one in the Northern Territory.
Alderman Melanie van Haaren found out about the scheme after reading an advert in a newspaper.
"Becoming a Regional Certifying Body would mean a great future for this region and I am 100 per cent behind the scheme," she says.
"It would benefit the whole community of Alice Springs by providing better and more services. Population growth is negative in Alice Springs and we need to be looking at innovative programs like this to redress this problem."
If the council became a Regional Certifying Body it would work with the Australian government to match the skills deficit in Alice Springs with migrants with those skills wanting to live in Australia. The project would involve about 20 families a year.
Ald van Haaren says the health sector is one area that would particularly benefit. Having worked in health and education for 30 years, she is currently policy officer for the Department of Health and Community Services in Alice Springs and knows the problems of recruitment.
"Nurses from abroad do come to Alice Springs on visas but there's not always the support and housing available to them," she explains.
"If the council and the health authority combined forces Alice Springs will be a far more viable and attractive place for nurses."
The Chamber of Commerce for Alice Springs is all too aware of the skills shortage in Central Australia. Bronte Evans is on the executive committee, and is the office managing partner for the accountancy firm Deloitte Ð one of the largest employers of professional services in Central Australia.
"It is exceptionally difficult to recruit and retain people in Central Australia," says Mr Evans.
"We have no choice but to employ people from elsewhere in Australia and the world and it's difficult and costly.
"I know engineering firms have similar problems with recruitment.
"Thanks to Charles Darwin University we're starting to see some great local graduates but they're not meeting the demand.
"Companies have to run short staffed, and during the last six months our accountants have had to pull long hours at work."
The council is launching a full investigation into the scheme including cost, viability of Alice to support migrants and how much assistance the Commonwealth and government would offer. The information will then be brought to the council in January and a decision put to a vote.
In a report to the council, Rex Mooney, the council's chief executive officer, says that: "The cost to council of fulfilling the functions of a Regional Certifying Body might outweigh perceived benefits" but that "the council would receive income from certification and endorsement fees". He says investigation into costs of administering the scheme and promoting the region to skilled potential migrants will be looked at.
At this stage no particular countries were being targeted, and the scheme wouldn't include active recruitment of refugees, he says.
But not all aldermen support the move.
"Immigration is a minefield we shouldn't get involved with," says Deputy Mayor David Koch.
"I don't believe we have the experience or the personnel.
"There are no other councils in Australia taking on this role."
But Ald van Haaren says that's one reason for Alice Springs to support the motion.
"The fact that no council has ever done it makes me want to do it even more. I don't believe there is another body in Alice Springs which could take it on like we could.
"We can't sit back and not do anything, and it would be a big disappointment for me if we missed out on this opportunity."
Despite being a migrant himself, having moved to Australia from Lebanon 30 years ago, Alderman Samih Habib disagrees with the scheme.
"The council doesn't have the resources for this. We can't do it. It's not a council job, it's a federal government issue and I don't support it," he says.
SNOB HILL BATTLEGROUND AGAIN: DEVELOPER OFFERS NEW PROPOSAL. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Samih Habib's proposal for 33 Cavanagh Crescent is now a detailed application for an "exceptional development permit" rather than a re-zoning application with a view to subdivide but it continues to draw fire from the Eastside Residents' Association (ERA).
In a flyer urging residents to object to the proposal, ERA, with a membership of over 350 people, says the proposal:
¥ has no public benefit;
¥ is a ridgetop development;
¥ increases traffic on inadequate infrastructure;
¥ will degrade the surrounding bushland;
¥ is inconsistent with the Land Use Structure Plan; and
¥ "gets around" the Town Plan.
The Alice Springs Rural Area Residents Association has now come to the party, urging its membership to also object, as any variance to the current rural zoning of the site (requiring a minimum size of five acres) "will contribute to undermining the integrity of the zoning in the Rural Area south of the Gap".
Mr Habib has engaged architect Susan Dugdale to develop his application.
According to Ms Dugdale the proposal has taken into account all of the objections.
She says the rural (RL2 Ð dispersed settlement) zoning of the Cavanagh Crescent site is an anomaly in the context.
There are only three such zonings north of the Gap (the other two are El Serrito, off Undoolya Road, and Gerry Baddock's block, next to Basso's Farm).
Ms Dugdale argues that each is distinct in character and context, and a change to any one would not set a precedent for the extensive rural residential areas south of the Gap.
She says rezoning of 33 Cavanagh Crescent should now be considered on the merit of the detailed scheme Mr Habib is putting forward, which provides certainty about how the site would be developed and used.
Indeed the site needs an appropriate zoning and use, she argues, as under the current rural zoning Mr Habib would be within his rights to build a 10 metre high galvanised iron shed, hardly a desirable outcome.
"Zoning changes should not happen easily Ð zonings are there for a good reason Ð but when you consider what could happen under the current zoning, what Mr Habib is proposing is a lot better."
In its submission to the Development Consent Authority (DCA), ERA acknowledges that "a small number of design-related grounds for previous objections have been sensibly addressed" in the current application.
However, it remains opposed to "the overall concept of placing any more than one dwelling onto this Lot" and says "in addition the new proposal raises even more grounds for objection which we have outlined in this submission".
ERA argues that it was clearly the intention of the 1992 Town Plan that this block not be developed and that "the current residents of Cavanagh Crescent and adjoining streets, in particular residents of Giles Street, have purchased properties and lived there under the well-founded assumption any future development of the Lot would be consistent with its current RL2 zoning".
It says: "Planning case law certainly supports the concept that if the rezoning application is not in accordance with the legitimate expectations of the nearby residents, then it is more than legitimate to reject the application on these grounds."
Ms Dugdale says she probably shares the concerns of ERA for the sensitivity of the site and that any development of it "should be appropriate".
She too is against ridgetop developments and says this is not one.
Proof is contained in a site survey commissioned by Mr Habib Ð an expensive exercise, says Ms Dugdale, and not usually undertaken at this stage of an application.
She says the survey, together with contour information from the Department of Lands, shows that the southern end of the site could be considered a ridge but the northern half is not.
This led to a decision to confine the building footprint to the northern half, leaving the southern half undisturbed.
The northern half has existing buildings and some degradation from previous uses.
The application contains section views that show how un-intrusive the proposed development would be.
From surrounding streets it would be either not visible at all or scarcely visible. It would be visible from the highest hills to the north in the Telegraph Station Reserve.
The buildings would be set back from the edges of the site by 15 to 20 metres, so they would not overlook dwellings in Burke Street.
The common recreation area is, however, within about five metres of the boundary.
The trade-off for minimising the footprint of the buildings has been to go to a second half-storey, covering from a third to a half of the ground floor area of each unit.
The maximum height above ground level is six metres, although roofs are generally lower than six metres.
This is higher by a metre than the more general proposal for dwellings attached to Mr Habib's last application. In response to that proposal the DCA advised that only single storey development should be allowed to a maximum height of 4.5 metres, but it did not specify a confined footprint for the buildings.
ERA has characterised the proposed dwellings as "12 substantial houses". However Ms Dugdale says they are units and that the density, if considered over the whole lot, is less than the density elsewhere in Eastside.
ERA says the three-bedroom dwellings imply "that up to 72 people could move into this estate" and expresses concern particularly about noise.
ERA has also highlighted the fact that each dwelling has a double garage plus room for two additional cars. Ms Dugdale considers this a plus for the development, reducing the visual impact of a lot of cars parked in the common access areas to the units.
The units will be strata-titled. This entails the creation of a body corporate for which the application proposes a set of rules. She says the DCA could make the adoption of the rules a condition of approval.
The rules include preservation of existing landforms, soil and native species; control of weeds, feral animals and rubbish in the common areas; native-style gardens throughout; no pets other than birds or fish and no pools in individual yards.
Ms Dugdale says in this way the body corporate becomes a tool for future control.
However, under the NT's Unit Titles Act, a body corporate "may, by special resolution, alter its articles".
ERA says, "Any attempt to control the introduction of exotic species by way of specific conditions placed on any development proposal has largely proved futile in most cases in Alice Springs".
Ms Dugdale says another reason for strata-titling is to have land in common and thus concentrate impact on the land that would come from development of multiple dwellings over larger individual lots.
She acknowledges the inevitable increase in traffic but says the existing access road is within Alice Springs Town Council guidelines. This is vigorously disputed by ERA in their submission.
The only proposed change is a slip lane so that traffic can turn off to the site without blocking traffic to other lots on Cavanagh Crescent.
ERA's submission expresses concern particularly about the impact of increased traffic on Giles Street, already a "a major thoroughfare due to the causeway to Schwartz Crescent".
In the past ERA has expressed concern about how a higher density development would deal with sewage.
Mr Habib commissioned a study of on-site effluent management by Glenn Marshall of the Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns. Mr Marshall found that no on-site disposal systems are suitable due to the size of the lot and quality of the land.
The application proposes a gravity sewer, to which all Cavanagh Crescent residents will be able to connect.
This, together with improved water pressure from a new booster pump station, allowing fire flow supply to the area for the first time, are distinct public benefits from the proposed private development, says Ms Dugdale.
ERA says these are not public benefits, only benefits to those five houses already on the ridge.
Ms Dugdale says at her initiative she made a detailed presentation about the application to ERA but, while those present listened, they did not invite her to discuss or negotiate on any point.This is regrettable, she says, as they thus "haven't been able to influence the process"."The proposal might have been improved if they'd been involved."
The DCA will consider the proposal on November 18.
'THERE IS MORE TO ABORIGINAL LIFE THAN WHAT YOU SEE IN THE STREET AND RIVER.' Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Former policeman turned art collector and dealer, Tim Jennings, realised a long-held dream on Saturday night when Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill opened the new-look Mbantua Gallery.
Why the Defence Minister? It was a question many were bound to ask, so Mr Jennings obliged with an explanation: it turns out that Senator Hill has visited the gallery privately on more than one occasion, visited a Mbantua exhibition in Sydney and subscribes to the Mbantua newsletter, and apart from Opposition leader and arts spokesperson Terry Mills, is the only politician at any level to have done so.
Mbantua is by far the biggest Aboriginal art gallery in the town, now occupying two floors.The invitation to the event had hinted at an educational dimension to the gallery but few expected that the entire second storey of the heritage-listed Heenan Building would be turned over to a museum-style display.
Senator Hill, drawing on his experience as former Minister for Environment and Heritage, spoke with enthusiasm about the contribution to understanding that the display would make.
In its first rooms, it offers a basic introduction to the way Aboriginal people in this region lived before European settlement, as hunter-gatherers and custodians of a rich spiritual tradition bound to the land, and a brief history of how their circumstances and culture have changed since contact with the outside world.
This includes a section on the commercialisation of art.
Mr Jennings, flanked by his "good friends" artists Barbara Weir and Lindsay Bird (whom he also described as a "mentor"), told the opening crowd of several hundred that he wanted to provide such a display so that visitors can learn that there is more to Aboriginal life than what they might see in the streets.
Subsequent rooms of the second storey are hung with Mr Jennings' private collection, amassed over the last 20 years.
It includes Hermanns-burg school water-colours, together with a wall dedicated to the Eastern Arrernte artist Gabriella Wallace, whom Mr Jennings described as "the best landscape painter in Australia", wood carvings from the Pitjantjat-jara lands, and scores of acrylics from artists of the Utopia region.
Among the latter are a significant number of interesting figurative works, including representations of mission camp scenes, as well as feuding and massacre scenes.
In the absence of a major public institution devoted to an exploration of Aboriginal history and culture, this extension to Mbantua Gallery is helping fill an important gap.
It was given the warm endorsement of Lindsay Bird and Barbara Weir, who said Mr Jennings is her "best friend" and "Utopia people have no problem with Tim", a comment underlined by the Utopia women who did a traditional dance as a finale to the evening.
MINDERS GEARING UP FOR TERRITORY ELECTION IN 2005. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
No sooner are we getting over the Australian and US elections than the first shots are being fired in the Territory campaign.
The poll is due in mid-October next year but the Opposition Leader's chief media adviser, Gary Shipway, quoting his boss, claims the date will be much sooner, "before the next Budget Estimates, preventing any further questioning of the Government's books.
"The next Budget Estimates are in June next year."
Says Mr Shipway: "The Chief Minister recently sent [her new chief of staff Adele] Young to America to study the Democrats' campaign of presidential candidate John Kerry and on her return she had charge of the campaign of Labor's Federal candidate Jim Davidson.
"This appointment is about gearing up for a Territory election."
This would seem to be a claim that the NT taxpayer coughed up for Ms Young's trip.
Nothing's further from the truth, claims Ms Martin's media adviser Craig Rowston.
He says Ms Young made the trip as guest of the Australian Political Exchange Council, open to staffers from all political parties.
This is a Federally funded initiative that's been going for 21 years.
Further, says Mr Rowston, Ms Young didn't run Mr Davidson's (failed) campaign: "The ALP has a full time party secretary, Brett Walker," says Mr Rowston.
The number of ministerial and other minders on the "Fifth Floor" of Parliament House has grown from 75 to 95, CLP Parliamentarian John Elferink claims.
Mr Rowston doesn't dispute that "but Ð and that's a big but Ð we have 10 departmental liaison officers and they haven't counted the seven they had.
"They also had at least two people working on contract that they didn't count ... that makes the difference about three people."
This arithmetic is out: 75 plus seven equals 82 plus two equals 84. That's 11 more, not "about three".
"We are saying we have the appropriate level of staffing to get the job done," says Mr Rowston.
Mr Shipways says his information is simply from phone listings Ð the CLP's prior to change of government, as compared to the current NT Government directory.
He says: "The Chief Minister has set up a separate communications and marketing unit in her own office, separate from the pool of media advisers.
"We never had that unit. Ms Martin promised to cut back on that sort of staff. She hasn't.
"There are so many staff on the Fifth Floor now they had to convert waiting areas into office space."
The Opposition also claims the Government cut back its operational budget.
Not so, says Mr Rowston: "In 2000-01 when Clare Martin was Opposition Leader the budget was $665,000.
"In 2004-05 the budget for the Terry Mills Opposition is $820,000.
"Where is this cutback?
"Former CLP Minister Mick Palmer spent over $100,000 on lunches in two years, soit's a bit cute to see the Opposition complain about us."
But Mr Shipways says: "We never locked the Labor Opposition into a budget.
"Between January and September 2001 Ms Martin's Opposition spent $800,000, putting her well on track of spending $1m in 12 months."
LETTERS: 'Territory government advertising arrogance.'
Sir,Ð Territorians are not getting their money's worth in parliament from the Martin government, and the chief minister's own advertising provides the proof.
The chief minister's In Your Parliament Ð October 2004 Sittings (Northern Territory News October 23), is instructive in showing how little this government is actually doing.
The October Sittings lasted six days and cost a lot of money.
Ministerial Reports Ð little more than a press release read out by the minister Ð are completed in five minutes and the opposition is only given one and a half minutes to respond.
This technique was introduced when Labor came to government. 24 reports were read out by the ministers and all over in three hours.
In six days only four ministers gave a ministerial statement. In other words, four of the eight ministers had nothing to tell the parliament about their responsibilities.
In six days there were seven pieces of legislation passed. One bill per day is indicative of a lazy government with no ideas.
The chief minister's refusal to include the parliamentary business of the opposition or independents' in the advertisement is arrogance.
If this advertising is a genuine attempt to inform the public about what is happening in their parliament the chief minister would have no problem including the business of the independents and opposition.
Chief minister Clare Martin claimed her government would be open, honest, and transparent and cut wasteful self-promotion. Labor has deceived Territorians in every respect. A deceit that now extends to the parliament itself.
CLP Leader of Parliamentary Business
Sir,Ð I wish to express my dismay that responsible home birthing may soon be unavailable in the Northern Territory. Intending parents are rightly concerned at this important erosion of their personal choices. Indemnity insurance for midwives must be made realistically affordable so that this important service can continue (as it does in every other state and territory).
Dr Brian Nolan
Home Birthing Support Network
Todd across the Atlantic
Sir,Ð I am an American living in Phoenix, Arizona now, but I used to live in the Alice back in 1972. I am interested in corresponding with people in the Alice about anything and everything.
Is there a website or list of people who would be interested in corresponding with me? You can reach me at email@example.com.
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
COUNCIL LIBRARY ON BACK BURNER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A reliable NT Government source says it's most unlikely that the Alice Town Council will get the $6m subsidy it has asked for to build a new $12m library.
That means having emptied its coffers on the $10m plus refurbishment of the civic centre Ð principally accommodation for its bureaucrats Ð the council's public library will have to wait for "quite a few years", says the source.
At the going costs for constructing homes Ð $1000 a square metre Ð the new council building should cover more than one hectare, that's 10,000 square metres.
Instead, for their money the ratepayers will of course get far less, some new and the refurbishment of sections of the old building.
The NT Government is likely to put its money, in the run-up to the Territory election next year, into the swimming pool complex, and moving the YMCA to the pool.
It is tipped that the council will get $8m for that purpose.
NEW LAWS MAY KILL BATTERY TRADE. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The Bowerbird Tip Shop is sending car and truck batteries to Adelaide where the lead is retrieved and used, but would have to stop if new legislation is passed requiring expensive safety palates to transport batteries.
The requirement is only hearsay at the moment but "if it is passed, we wouldn't be able to afford the palates so we couldn't recycle," says manager Terri Di Salvo.
Bowerbird doesn't make any money from recycling the batteries because of transport costs to Adelaide, but they do it rather than have the batteries add to the landfill.
Terri has been manager of the shop next to the landfill for four years.
The now well-organised, industrious operation, run by eight staff, is "breaking even" but the goal is "to make money to put back into the business".Selling scrap metal is profitable.
"A lot of Japanese businesses buy scrap metal to use to build cars and bikes. So someone's old Coke can is probably being ridden around Tokyo at the moment," laughs Terri. "It's a funny old market."Funny, and steadily growing.
Bowerbird now attracts some 60 customers a day and takes about $10,000 a month.
"Alice Springs has turned a corner on recycling", says Terri."The public are more aware of how important it is to reuse things instead of just throwing stuff mindlessly on the landfill site. And we're getting so many clothes donated to the shop, it's amazing."
A schools program means that local children are being taught the benefits of reusing and recycling rubbish, and the shop has several sculptures made by classes from old forks, toys, metal coathangers - and even underwear.
"You see, even if something doesn't have a practical use, it can have an artistic one!" laughs Terri.
"We encourage the kids to see things differently."
Innovation is one of the things Bowerbird is proud of, and Terri believes there's more capacity for recycling in the Alice: "Alice Springs is so far from anywhere it would be great to have a smelter here and recycle scrap metal to put back into the community Ð though we're looking at a fortune for machinery and labour.
"At the moment the community is recycling cans but in the future it would be great for other small companies to set up which would transform materials like glass and concrete so it could be used for things such as building roads in Alice. It's all possible."
Terri says she thoroughly enjoys her job. "I like the interaction with the customers Ð you get all sorts of characters here. The Aboriginal mob have been a constant supporter ever since we opened the doors, and lots of artists are interested in the stuff we sell."
"I come here nearly every day," says Tony Gribble, a musician. "I love the philosophy and the staff like what they're doing which is important. It's very organised and I can always find what I need.
"Today I'm buying electrical wiring, and the other week I bought a frame for a painting I've finished. It gives me inspiration to recycle."
Ali Walsh comes to the counter clutching a picture, an old camera and a backgammon set.
"I'm buying props for a film," she explains. "This place always comes in handy for set dressing and also for renovating my house. My best buy was five massive boxes of fake flowers."
The most popular buys from Bowerbird are building materials and mattresses ("we can't keep up with the demand") and the most common item that's salvaged from the tip is clothing, given to Little Sisters Aboriginal camp once the shelves are bursting.
Terri and her team try to salvage treasures from the tip for five or six hours a day.
"There's no such thing as rubbish. The surprises you find are extraordinary, you never know what you'll find.
"In the early days we found a Rolex watch worth about $2000 Ð and sold it to a lady for a dollar.
"The amount of memorabilia we dig up is incredible, especially old photos and hand tools. We've sold caravans, and even empty commercial solar panel boxes."
The strangest thing she's ever found? "A Fox Terrier dog. She must have jumped out of the car when her owner was at the tip, and she managed to find us a few days later. She was pretty rattled by the time we got hold of her.
"We eventually worked out whose dog she was and the owner came to collect her."
Whether she's recycling animals or plastic lunchboxes, Terri's passion for the business is obvious: "We need to look after our world and Bowerbird is doing that at a basic level."
She looks over the McDonnell Ranges as a kite bird flies over and picks up a beakful of bones, depositing them on the roof of the shop. Her dedication to reusing and recycling is infectious it seems.
OWNING IMAGES: IT'S NOT BLACK AND WHITE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
It's a twist on a story that has dogged the Aboriginal art industry Ð the appropriation of imagery Ð but this time a white artist is contesting claims of "ownership" by a black one.
Further, only Aboriginal artists have been credited with a major piece of public art in Alice Springs that celebrates "reconciliation", although the work of the white artist, Cait Wait, is clearly in evidence.
Her name is missing from the plaque at the bottom of the Walking Together mural in the foyer of the Alice hospital.
The mural, commissioned by the hospital board "in the spirit of reconciliation and Central Australian history", expresses an uplifting vision of life in Central Australia that many dream of: a fruitful co-existence of two traditions of health and healing.
There's a bouncing black baby and a bouncing white baby; there's Aboriginal traditional healing and there's treatment in hospital, of black and white patients; there are people living off the animals and fruits of the land, and there's a train of camels led by an Afghan cameleer; all this in the setting of a vast light-drenched desert landscape.
The dominant style is a lyrical realism, charming, very accessible Ð and very recognisably the style long practised by Cait, shared with Indigenous artists in the recently completed church murals at Santa Teresa as well as here.
But the radiant centre of the mural is a mandala-like form, a captivating and beautifully executed piece of painting by Eastern Arrernte artists working with Irrkerlantye Arts.
The "spirit figures" it depicts as elongated, human-like forms with slender, wavering limbs, arms extended above their heads, are the subject of the "ownership" controversy.
A small sign below the mural says the "spirit figure images É belong to Kathleen Wallace and were painted by her family members with her permission".
"Belongs" would mean that Kathleen Wallace, the most renowned of the Keringke artists from Ltentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) was the originator of these spirit figure images, which have come to strongly feature in her work.
This is contested by Cait Wait, who has nurtured and worked alongside Eastern Arrernte artists for almost 20 years.
Cait, the founding coordinator of Keringke Arts which grew out of a 15-week course she ran there in 1987, says the first "spirit figures" depicted at the art centre were by her, after a trip to the Top End in 1989, when she spent a month living off the land with her Aboriginal hosts.
In 1990 she painted the images first on silk, and later used them in a linocut, owned since then by Nicole Traves.
Cait says the images were taken up by the artists at Keringke with her support.
"The first one I recall seeing was by Denise Doolan [Mrs Wallace's daughter].
"Then I started to see them applied in various ways, including on t-shirts.
"And Mrs Wallace started to do them in her own wonderful way, flowing down large silks."
This was in 1998, five years after Cait had left Keringke, and other coordinators were supporting the artists' development.
Cait says that in the early days "when Keringke was really starting to move, we were all in there together.
"I worked alongside the artists, on every linoprint, every silk painting. I would demonstrate, they would watch and copy, developing as they went.
"It was the only way I knew how to teach them."
Cait would also show her work alongside theirs.
Early on, all the work was signed "Keringke Arts", then later the artists started to add their names.
The linocut showing the spirit figures is signed "Keringke Arts Cait".
Cait says that some people would take her to task for this, but she would retort: "That's the way we work."
I asked Gloria what she thought about the sign saying the figures belong to Mrs Wallace. Gloria began painting at Keringke and has made her name in recent years as a leading artist with Irrkerlantye Arts.
"I don't agree," said Gloria.
"Those figures come from the Top End, they are like Mimi figures, everybody knows that.
"[Top End artists] have their own style and tradition. Their ancestors drew figures.
"This was a new style for Arrernte people.
"That style of painting is going to be there from now on.
"This type of painting has no ownership.
"Cait never said she owned those figures.
"All I know is it started between Cait and Mrs Wallace Ð a partnership, learning, new ideas.
"Cait had this idea and it stuck with my cousin.
"Mrs Wallace got all these ideas of how to put these spirit figures into the stories from the land, our ancestral stories.
"She had the ideas and wanted to teach people, pass it on to her families."
Unfortunately, I have not been able to speak to Mrs Wallace, who has been absent from the art centre due to ill health.
There is no doubt that she has pursued the spirit figure motif in her painting with a singular passion and grace.
I remember clearly her intricate design that became the icon for the 1997 Desert Mob, and spirit figures were among the striking features of her solo show at Araluen in 2001.
However, the figures have also been consistently featuring over a number of years in work by the Doolan family of artists, particularly Gloria, Jane and Denise.
The design for the mural's mandala "came from me," says Gloria.
" Jane did the most painting and we followed the type of figure Denise had done."
It shows "healing spirits and witch doctors healing babies".
"There are healing hands, and five women and a couple of witch doctors around a child or baby that has lost its spirit from things like a loud noise.
"The baby gets frightened and its spirit runs away. You get the witch doctor to place the spirit back into the body."
Gloria herself has "healing hands".
She describes the gift as being "like an insight into another person".
"You place your hands on them and you can see it like with your eyes, an insight."
To have the gift "gives you an open mind [towards] other people's feelings".
This kind of intensity, its power is conveyed beautifully in the mandala.
The mural was scheduled for an official launch on September 16. The occasion was postponed at the last minute when the hospital received notification from the Aboriginal art centre advocacy body, Desart, that there was an issue with the design that needed resolution.
Executive officer of Desart, John Oster, says that Keringke Arts had contacted him, saying that they believed there was "an issue".
He says Irrkerlantye Arts is also a Desart member and "they were willing for us to be involved in a mediation capacity".
A meeting was held.
Gloria tells the story: "Mrs Wallace hadn't seen the painting.
"We had to have a meeting, it stopped the opening."We told her our story, how we had been working together.
"The coordinator was saying, 'That's your colours, that's your style of painting.'
"It sounds ridiculous to say that about colours.
"Through it all I felt really embarrassed, for myself, for everyone doing something for the mural that came from our own ideas.
"Mrs Wallace told us, 'There's no need for you to be shame'."
For a while, though, the damage had been done. Says Gloria: "It kind of turned me off Ð I felt like I didn't want to paint anymore."
Cait was not present at the meeting.
"I could have gone there and said those spirit figures are mine, but it was never about that for me, it was always only about the art, about sharing, developing."
However, she says she told Karina Menkhorst, coordinator at Irrerlantye Arts, that she would speak out about the origin of the spirit figure images if anything about the painting was changed.
Cait says Nicole Traves was present at the meeting and showed everyone Cait's linoprint from 1990.
Keringke Arts coordinator Judy Lovell says only that "what occurred was a firm agreement between Aboriginal people that this was something to be sorted out between family.
"That was asked firmly of myself and of Karina Menkhorst."
Phillip Watkins, representing the Central Land Council (CLC), says, "The situation was complex but it was successfully and consensually resolved by a meeting of the Eastern Arrernte families involved."
The content of the sign was negotiated and the opening was rescheduled for October 13.
Despite Cait's profound disagreement with the content of the sign, which basically offers an inaccurate account of the process of the mural painting, the matter may have rested there if it wasn't for a second sign beneath the mural, which acknowledges only the Aboriginal artists' role in its creation.
There is no mention of either Cait Wait or the first facilitator on the project, Carol Ruff.
Both were acknowledged in the launch speech by Margaret Wait (no relation), chair of the hospital board, but the sign remains.
It says, "Walking Together' by Arrernte Artists (artists and production)", followed by a list of 27 names.
Cait says "not to be recognised was the last straw, the worst insult".
She has now written to the hospital board requesting acknowledgement, "on the record in public view" in order to "put into practice their reconciliation ideals".
Mrs Wait says that the acknowledgement is not really up to the board, but rather in the hands of the CLC.
Mr Watkins says, "The issues of acknowledgement of Cait Wait and Carol Ruff have also been addressed" but it is not clear how.
Cait's arguments to the board are cogent: "The 'Walking Together' mural would simply not have been completed without my contribution in the capacity of 'artist', in the mixing of colours, filling in the huge background spaces, completing details, and painting images which the Aboriginal artists desired to produce, but which were beyond their level of skill at this stage of their development.
"This is the truth about a collaborative work of art. All skills are shared, and in the creative process, true reconciliation is experienced because we are sharing a common language. There is great potential in working this way to produce images or 'art' that the community can relate to.
"Perhaps we as Australians are still in the early stages of understanding how to work together, but there must be an end to 'paternalism' and guilt-ridden 'caretaker' attitudes which produce an 'us and them' mentality."
"This separation mentality is showing up in an unhealthy way in regard to Aboriginal art."This art has become so revered and overrated and imbued with 'spiritual meaning and tradition', and therefore value, which is not true in all cases.
"The practice and language of art, and the use of colours and symbols belongs to all peoples, non-Indigenous and Indigenous, or Aboriginal and whitefella."
LEATHER ON WILLOW RESOUNDS IN ALICE. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Cricket in the Alice took on a traditional approach at the weekend with the first of a series of two-day fixtures.
Conditions were extraordinary for the last weekend in October with a pleasant 32 degrees making it seemingly ideal to win the toss and field Ð although both Federal and Rovers opted to bat after winning their respective tosses.
At Albrecht Oval the Blues decision proved to be of little worth as RSL Works dismissed them for a meagre 67. Again it was the clever use of the ball by Matt Forster that carved Rovers into thin slices. Forster snared 6/36 and was responsible for the prize wicket of local development officer Jason Bremner. Bremner came to the crease with the score at 4.14 and could have been excused if he had set about attacking the bowling and playing some adventurous shots.
But Rovers found a pillar of strength in Glen Holberton who remained 27 not out when the last wicket fell. Assisting Forster in the demolition were Matt Salzburger who took 2/11 and Tom Scollay who returned 2/17.
With the game firmly in their control, RSL then proceeded to establish a lead that may well have set them up for outright victory. By stumps they were 8/200 and sitting pretty as Salzburger is still at the crease on 68 not out. Shane Collins, who has reappeared with RSL this year, produced a solid 39 and Scott Robertson again fired with the bat amassing 37. Bowling honours went the way of Rob "Rusty" Wright who claimed 3/22 and Jacob Roth with the figures of 2/42.
Like Rovers, Federal won the toss at Albrecht and decided to bat. Over the years the Traeger track has proven to be a difficult wicket to score from, and the reigning champions found that to be the case against West. Openers Michael Smith and Brendan Martin were both out early with Martin registering a quack and departing with the score of 1/0. Tom Clements joined Smith to find the opener soon after heading towards the pavilion, out for 4. Clements and BJ O'Dwyer then put together a 40-run partnership that gave Feds an element of stability.
Clements however lost his wicket when on 17, leaving O'Dwyer with the job in front of him. The veteran Jarrad Wapper enjoyed a short-lived innings of 1 before Craig Galvin joined O'Dwyer and another healthy partnership emerged.
But the lower order offered little resistance and after Marcus Becker added 15, the rot really set in. Federal proceeded to lose 4/9 and find themselves dismissed for 128.
The Wests side placed themselves in a winning position after Jeremy Biggs claimed 3/21 off 13 overs. He was backed by the in-form Peter Tabart who tweaked 4/13 off 11.3 overs and Ryan Thomson who returned 2/21. Rory Hood managed to claim one scalp, returning 1/18.
Any control the Westies claimed on the game was soon diminished as Federal fought back late in the day, bowling nine overs in quick time and claiming the prize wickets of Kevin Mezzone (0) and Rory Hood (3). At 2/24, West need Peter Tabart to continue his good work with the bat. He finished the day not out for 16 and has Ryan Thomson, not out 3, to support him when play resumes on Saturday. Rick Lovacombe did the damage for Federal taking both wickets.
FUEL TO THE FIRE OF FAST CARS. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Arunga Park will liven up the neighbourhood on Saturday night when drivers from across Australia gather to contest the NT Streetstock Championships.
Adding further fuel to the fire of fast cars on dirt tracks will be the Central Plant Hire Junior Sedan Titles.
Local speedway fans will be trackside to see if Alice Springs can bring back the title to the Centre, at the event sponsored by the Cathedral Motor Company. The Streetstock title will be raced with two fields competing over three heats. The final will then cater for 15 vehicles, racing over 30 laps of Arunga Park.
Heading up the assault will again be Tony White in his Fentech AU Falcon. Pulling 4.1 litres of muscle around the track should be a dream experience for White who has the support of Henry and David Fenton in the pits.
This team seemingly spend their lives under cars and there is hardly a trick that Henry hasn't faced and mastered with his set of spanners.
Likewise son David, since his school days has had a passion for the pits, and now makes up a formidable team.
White is a no-nonsense driver who will thread his way on a direct route to the finish line with those getting in the way having to step aside.
Taking on Fentech will be a range of XF Falcons.
Grant and Peter Harris each have an entry, as have the husband and wife team of Lucinda and Max Owen.
According Max, his good wife has the necessaries to out-gun the male-dominated sport. Giving Lucinda some gender support will be Sharon Hyde, yet another Falcon fan. Meanwhile the exception to the rule will no doubt be Ray Tabeck who will engage his big Valian in the championship.
Adding flavour to the contest will be a contingent of visitors from Darwin including Lisa Weaver and Dennis Menzies, who will also be behind the wheel of Falcons.
Making up the field for the titles at least two other competitors are expected, Darryl Brumfield and Jeremy Weston.
While coming to town under the guise of a racing driver, Brumfield is known to be able to turn a meeting into a real party and will provide entertainment for all.
The Junior Title will be raced over a 10-lap final.
This event has attracted ten cars and so the heats will be conducted with two divisions of five.
The star attraction will be Jason McIvor from Darwin. This rising star competes on the national circuit and should start a warm favourite for the title. Tristram Weston from Mt Gambier and Justin Brumfield from the same patch are already hard paddlers and should keep McIvor honest.
Talking of hard paddlers, Jemma Owen will give plenty of cheek despite her age. Jemma only turned 16 on the weekend, and after a disappointing roll at speedway last Friday night, father Max has the car back in shape and she is back behind the wheel.
Alice Springs based juniors who will be driving it out for the title will include Jemma and Corey Mostram, Aaron Hill, and Caitlin Smith.
So at the weekend folks, why not "get your backside trackside"?
THE SPRINGS' OWN CARNIVAL. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The cream of the nation's horseflesh has again come together in Melbourne for the Spring Carnival and here in the Centre, Pioneer Park celebrated the festival with top competitive racing.
The margin of a short half head in the 1600 metre 76th Anniversary Class 1 Handicap followed by a dead heat for second and third in the next race had all the elements of racing at its best here on our home track.
Rosie's Sunset led the field out of the gates, but the race soon settled into a battle of three with Gold Hawk and Star Quest keeping the leader honest. Seven hundred out Matt Hart took off on Star Quest and caught both Gold Hawk and Rosie's Sunset napping. With an apprentice's weight claim under his belt Hart headed for the finish line, with Gold Hawk having to engage in serious racing and work three wide to make his mark.
The weight advantage may have been enough to get Star Quest across the line but in any race a short half head cannot be considered a comfortable victory. A protest was fired in claiming interference over the last 20 metres Ð although placings stood.
In the next race, the RFDS Class 2 Handicap over 1000 metres, racegoers were treated to another titanic finish when Molakai's Boy dead heated with Classic Rainbow in first place with Stun Gun rattling home a length and a half away third.
The joint winners ran at the front of the field for the entire journey after the favourite Valinch failed to fire after missing the jump. The dead heat was a deserved result for a top performance from both horses. In addition Stun Gun showed an improvement and the Tennant Creek performer Funtegic lived up to its breeding and will improve.
Further testimony to the quality of racing in the Centre came when Abra crossed the line in the EJ Connellan Class 4 Handicap over 1200 metres. Lady Archer led the charge while Abra settled in fourth spot.
In the straight Abra made his run three deep and forged to the lead to record a win by a length and a quarter. More intriguing however was the fact that only three lengths covered the field as they passed the post.
It is racing of this quality that will no doubt bring patrons back to the track.
Heaps of worries, mate. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I was thinking about global economic melt-down from the comfort of a food court chair in the Alice Plaza.
Is recession inevitable and what would be the result, I wondered, until I became distracted by the fast food choices.
I used to enjoy sitting here with an apricot flavour frozen yoghurt from Wendy's. In fact, it was the only product I bought on a regular basis. But then a few months ago, a malaise afflicted the soft serve machine. The yoghurt was not cold enough or it was too watery. Or it wasn't ready. Or it was simply out of order and only available in the Yeperenye. Gradually, the supply slowed down until it stopped.
I found out the truth. The staff explained it to me. The yoghurt machine was going through a steady demise that spread itself over several weeks. Each time, the prognosis was worse until the day arrived when it was incapable of serving even a single spoon of the low fat flavoured stuff. So I sat in the chair anyway and wondered whether this was what economic meltdown felt like.
Does the best performing economy in recent world history, made so by old-style industries that dig minerals out of the ground and grow fruit and vegetables, just carry on booming forever? Or does it gradually grind down over time until it gurgles to a halt and, like a sick soft server, spits out apricot globules that we then try to sell to tourists? Or should we just wait and see what happens to China, the buyers of more commodities from Australia than anyone else? If they sneeze, we get a nasty bug.
These are sobering thoughts, especially after an election plagued by fear about the management of the economy.
It can make you become agitated about the future, but most people don't bother. They just try to keep up with their rents and mortgages and safeguard some superannuation.
I wish I could be more like that, but there has always been a part of me that resembles those characters in cartoons that stand on street corners with a sign that says "The end is nigh". You see, I have a tendency to worry about the future.
I worry about the present too. Come to think of it, I fret about the past as well. I worry about the crack in my bathroom wall and whether my bike puncture will hold up. I worry about my droopy tomatoes. Worrying used to be difficult, but its a lot easier now thanks to the overheating of the housing market, the effects of climate change and steadily rising oil prices.
My worries are based on past experience. After all, everyone carries some historical baggage, mixed up with politics, music, books and movies. One pleasure in life is to meet people that carry the same old loads that you do. I can recognise worriers when I first encounter them. Having grown up through nuclear threats and oil embargoes, they hold themselves in a certain way, as if they forgot to switch off the electric hob before they left home.
Being cautious or even calmly realistic in a country that has just elected a gung-ho government, can make you feel like a bad smell in a sleeping bag.
From my food court lookout, I surveyed the happy-go-lucky shoppers and the multiple snack options and I decided, right there and then, that it's better to live in the present than ponder about the future. I'll worry about global economic meltdown tomorrow. Let's see if the chocolate yoghurt is runny today.
Tricks, treats: the dark side. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
We've just celebrated Halloween, American-style, with lots of sweets, fun costumes and scary movies.
My children have really taken to this holiday, although it is quite new to them, and were counting the weeks and days in anticipation. Back "home" October 31 is traditionally a sombre day, the Eve of All Saints Day, when you visit the graves of family who have passed away, light a candle and maybe put a wreath down honouring the dead. It is a remembrance day, a time to think about those who have gone before you and where you are destined to follow.
Maybe it is symptomatic of our modern culture to focus on the sweet, fun, easily-digested versions of fear, death, dying and the afterlife instead of our own mortality. Maybe it is a way of dealing with our fears in a light, child-friendly manner. But we cannot live on pavlova alone.
As much as I enjoy seeing my children having fun I cannot help wondering if they are missing out on something. They live in a superficial world where they expect entertainment and rewards for showing up in costume. What is important is getting as many sweets and as much attention as possible. A bit like Monopoly.
Will they be prepared for the darker side of life, for pain, loss and suffering, feelings of loneliness and fear of dying? Will they be supportive of laws making assisted suicide a legal option if they feel unwanted, useless or too old or sick to stay alive?
ABC's Stateline did a feature on a new film about euthanasia last Friday night. Euthanasia was legal in the Territory for a short time. The Australian federal government put an end to this law but the right-to-die activists have not given up.
Death is the flipside of the coin that is life and it will happen to everybody. That is a promise, a guarantee. Some people feel we should have a right to choose when and how we die. I cannot help but wonder if we may not be trying to cheat death somehow. But we take our pets to the vet to be put down when they are suffering. Why shouldn't we be able to do that with ourselves? We can of course, but not in a clinical upfront way.
I have known someone close to me ask someone else to help them end their suffering.
A wish that was not granted. It was difficult to see this person's suffering and it might have been easier to help death along.
Maybe part of living is coming to terms with the fact that we cannot control everything. We do not always have the last word and some things will remain mysterious, unexplained and hidden from view.
Approval and support as well as a right to an easy painless death will not change that.
Facing up to our own mortality is hard. The fact that we have so little say in the matter, that we can be here one minute and gone the next is truly terrifying.
Unfortunately it isn't enough to dress up and with a sweet, but wicked smile and ask God whether she wants a trick or a treat. Lest we forget.
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