SHADES OF GUANTANAMO BAY. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The NT Government is apparently abusing legal processes to conceal the identity of a senior Health Department employee charged with being in possession of child pornography.
The 56 year old Alice Springs man was charged by police with 35 counts on October 21.
But police won't be putting the matter before the Magistrates Court until January 4, 2005, when it is set down for a "mention", well over two months after the police charges were laid in Darwin.
Police spokesman Andrew Cummins says January 4 was the first available date.
When asked whether it was the first available date for the police or for the court Mr Cummins said "the court".
However, Jennifer Minns, the Darwin Magistrates Court's Principal Registrar, says the court is available for "mentions" at practically any time, "Monday to Friday".
When the Alice News put this to Mr Cummins he said he would make no further comment.
Ms Minns says the first court appearance is always a "mention" and the police set the date for that first appearance.
When it takes place the matter becomes an issue for the court which decides, on the evidence presented, whether and when to order further hearings.
It is a fundamental right that allegations are put before the courts without improper delay.
Matters are usually heard in open court, which means the charges, the identity of the accused and anything else mentioned in court become public information.
The government has imposed an information blackout on all people charged as a result of the recent child pornography campaign.
The government justifies its silence by reference to its own Information Act which it passed last year.
Mr Cummins says the Act prohibits police from disclosing the names of people charged before they first appear in court.
The police now clearly have a handy device to keep the public in the dark for as long as they like.
Police can apparently defer at will putting before a court of law people it has charged, a situation not unlike the legal scandals surrounding the United States' Guantanamo Bay prison.
Meanwhile the Health Department has put the 56 year old man on special leave at full pay for three months.
He was heading up an important section of the department (in fact he is the eighth head of that section in three years).
The man asked the Alice Springs News not to print his name (it appeared in a Darwin publication last week).
We asked him if he was afraid.
"Of course I am afraid," the man told the Alice News, "because of uninformed public attitudes.
"I am aware of six suicides around the country [connected with a national police initiative on child pornography].
"This tells me that although there is no jurisdiction in Australia that proscribes the death penalty for these crimes, there are six people who have died effectively because of this process.
"They would have feared uninformed public attitudes and the treatment they may receive in custody."
It appears police are, with the aid of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, still sifting through evidence to assess whether it falls into the category of child pornography.
A media release on September 30 said: "Seven Territorians have been arrested and charged for possessing child pornography as part of a national crackdown.
"The seven men – from 31 to 60 years old – were arrested and charged during the past two weeks after 14 search warrants on Territory homes were executed by NT and federal police.
"To date, more than 10,000 images have been detected and 31 computer hard drives seized in the NT. The men face charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.
"The exact number and type of charges is still unclear as police are still classifying the pornography material."
There was no mention of images in the short police announcement concerning the 56 year old man, issued more than three weeks later.
LABOR AND CLP: SAME, SAME, SAYS HERITAGE LOBBY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Heritage campaigners will appeal to the shareholders of the Yeperenye Shopping Centre to be "good corporate citizens" and retain the Rieff Building – now Sultan's Kebabs on one of the main intersections of the Alice CBD – even though it has been rejected for heritage listing by Heritage and Environment Minister Marion Scrymgour.
They will also petition the Territory Government to overturn Ms Scrymgour's decision, made despite two recommendations from the Heritage Advisory Council to list the building.
The Alice News asked the Minister how she defined the economic benefit to the town of the Yeperenye upgrade? Could she put figures on it: what would be the return to Yeperenye, the employment opportunities and so on?
On what advice had she decided that these benefits could not be achieved while incorporating the Rieff Building into the upgrade plans?
Why did the Minister not promote such a compromise approach, given the recommendation she received twice from her Heritage Advisory Council?
Would the Minister be happy to take a fresh look at the decision if broad popular support to retain the building could be demonstrated?
Ms Scrymgour did not respond to the request for comment.
The executive of lobby group Heritage Alice Springs Inc (HAS), who nominated the building for listing, met on Sunday to plan their campaign.
Chair Domenico Pecorari said Ms Scrymgour had had this chance to show that a Labor Government was different to its CLP predecessors in its attitude to heritage conservation.
He says the buildings the Labor Government has listed to date have all been "safe" – either government-owned or out of the way. The Rieff Building represented the first real test of their commitment and the Minister had "failed the test".
"Her performance can only be marked ‘F minus – could do better'," says Mr Pecorari, an architect specialising in heritage conservation.
HAS member Brendan Meney, another prominent local architect, says to his knowledge this is the first time a Minister has rejected the advice of the Heritage Advisory Council (HAC).
Yeperenye's architect, Susan Dugdale, also a member of the HAC (though obviously until now excluded from its consideration of the Rieff Building), has resigned from the project.
"The building has been demonstrated to have substantial heritage values," says Ms Dugdale."It is not in anyone's interest to demolish it.
"It occupies quite a small area of the whole site and is quite usable. It could be successfully incorporated into the Yeperenye redevelopment in a number of ways."
Ms Dugdale says she put this view to Yeperenye general manager David Cloke and asked him to transmit it to the board.
Board member Owen Cole confirmed that Mr Cloke had done so but would not comment further on the issue. Mr Cloke was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
Yeperenye is owned by ATSIC, who is moving to divest the property to a trust, run by Centrecorp. Centrecorp's shareholders are the Central Land Council, Tangentyere Council and Congress, who will become beneficiaries of the trust, as will Lhere Artepe, the native title holders' body corporate. The ATSIC Board of Commissioners has approved the move and the decision is currently with the Federal Government Solicitor.
BEHIND THE BRAWLAsk a local until lately where the Rieff Building is and you'd probably draw a blank.
The name actually describes two Sidney Williams huts erected on the site opposite the Hartley Street School immediately after the Second World War, and a later extension, covering the corner of Gregory Terrace and Bath Street, designed by government architect Beni Burnett.
It's difficult today to perceive the building as a whole because of the different signage and decors of the various users.
However, Heritage Alice Springs (HAS) executive member, Mike Gillam, says the building's "simple elegant form is the only thing that saves the townscape of that intersection".
HAS chair Domenico Pecorari says the Heritage Advisory Council has recognised the building for its built form as well as its historic associations. It thus fulfils more than one criteria for heritage listing.
These relate in part to the presence of the armed forces in Alice Springs during the Second World War.
Mr Pecorari says the Sidney Williams huts they left behind, when elsewhere in Australia there was a real shortage of building materials, helped lay the foundations for Alice's future prosperity.
A number of the huts are still standing in the industrial area but the Rieff Building's are the only two in the CBD.
Simon Alexander Rieff was a Cossack refugee of the 1917 Russian revolution. His career in Central Australia was varied and colourful: according to Jose Petrick, he was one of the first to peg a lease at the Granites Gold Mine; he also explored and prospected in the Simpson Desert before buying land in Alice Springs and doing business here.
Steve Kilgariff erected the Sidney Williams huts for Rieff, who then provided them as a furniture shop for Frank King (father of John and Kevin).
HAS member Alex Nelson sees irony in the fact that private enterprise, in the form of Yeperenye Pty Ltd, is seeking to destroy a building which stands for the freedom of choice and spirit of enterprise exercised by Rieff.
The other strong historic association of the building is with Beni Burnett, the Territory's best known and respected architect, responsible for a number of the heritage-listed houses in Hartley Street, the Riverside Hotel and the Heenan Building.
Mr Pecorari says the Rieff building is one of only a handful of commercial buildings by Burnett and it is also one of the few surviving examples of commercial enterprise in Alice from the late 1940s and mid-1950s.
PUBLIC UNHAPPY WITH HOW TOWN COUNCIL PERFORMS ITS MAIN TASKS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The Alice Town Council has claimed an "overall thumbs up" from the community, based on a recent survey, despite significant dissatisfaction registered for its most important services.
In a comical attempt at spin, a media release from the council claims the public likes it because of such efforts as its civic activities and events, and its stall at the Alice Springs show, which were ranked as important only by one third of people responding to a recent survey.
Meanwhile, the issues uppermost in the minds of more than two thirds of respondents – rubbish and cleanliness – and widely judged as being handled unsatisfactorily, were buried towards the end of the release.
To its credit though the council also released a detailed summary of the findings of the survey, which paints the picture clearly.
A questionnaire was posted at random to some 5000 residents earlier this year; around 1000 responses were received.
The top five services ranked as "of very high importance" were all to do with cleanliness,
but on average they scored only a 22 per cent satisfaction rating.
The worst satisfaction rating went to the service deemed the most important – litter enforcement: 71 per cent of respondents though it "of very high importance", but only five per cent thought it "most satisfactorily delivered".
Street bin and household rubbish collection were ranked next in order of importance (69 and 67 per cent respectively), and did somewhat better with 34 and 46 per cent satisfaction ratings.
Removing rubbish from the Todd and Charles Rivers with the help of Correctional Services was deemed very important by 66 per cent, but only 16 per cent were satisfied with performance.
Sixty-two per cent of respondents thought the cleaning of public conveniences was very important but only seven per cent found the job well done.
The following services were deemed "of very high importance" by half or more of the respondents:-
• litter reduction promotion;
• tourism and economic development;
• street lighting;
• parks and reserves;
• animal control and management;
• operations – food premises, public advice etc;
• Todd Mall maintenance;
• footpaths and cycle tracks;
• sealed roads;
• shade structures; and
• green waste recycling.
On average, these services scored a 15 per cent satisfaction rating, with parking scoring lowest (six per cent) and the library highest (28 per cent).
The council's media release, seeking to turn these rather dismal results into ‘good news', put the emphasis on questions about courtesy and timeliness of responses to requests for service, which both scored well (90 per cent and 74 per cent respectively) but no indication is given of how important people thought these issues were.
True, satisfaction with overall performance came in at nearly 75 per cent, but none of the services emphasised by the media release where council was deemed to be doing well were ranked as "of very high importance" by half or more of respondents. These included support for the Masters Games and the community website.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff summarised the community's main concerns as excessive litter, anti-social behaviour, lack of parking and toilets in the CBD, and illegal camping in the river."Some of these issues do not fall directly under the jurisdiction of Council," she said, "however we will now look at working with other agencies to try and address these issues.
"Litter collection and enforcement has been identified as one of the main priorities for this Council, and we will be looking at developing new initiatives to improve in this area."
Consultants Collins Anderson Management are more straightforward: "[The survey] indicates that respondents place high importance on town cleanliness, with the top five rating services all being related to rubbish and litter.
"Parking, tourism and economic development promotion, parks and reserves, animal control and operations all also had a large percentage of response as high importance. "The services showing the highest importance to respondents also on average showed the largest differences between the importance to the community, and how well the Council delivers these services.
"This indicates that Council needs to start putting more resources into the particular services which the community perceives as important."
The media release does say that the results of the questionnaire have been used by council as a basis for developing its strategic plan for the next four years.
This will go on public exhibition next month, in draft form, giving the community an opportunity to comment.
KEN AND LESLEY HANSEN: THEIR BASIC TOOL IS COMMITMENT. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Their goal was to translate the Bible into Pintupi, their basic tool was commitment.After nearly forty years of living with the Pintupi, learning their language, devising an alphabet, publishing a dictionary, a grammar, primers and storybooks as well as translating the New Testament and an abridged old Testament, Ken and Lesley Hansen are retiring. They have stayed so long at their task, they have even seen the necessity – because of the way Pintupi has evolved – to update their translation.
The new version is being prepared for publication now.
In 1965 when the couple arrived at Papunya, 250 kilometres west of Alice Springs and in those days a five-hour rough drive, they were English-only speakers but had some training from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL).
This is a faith-based international organization, with a branch in Victoria, that prepares people to do quality linguistic fieldwork, literacy and translation in unwritten languages.
Lesley was a school teacher and had worked at Gunbalunya and Numbulwarr in Arnhem Land; Ken had been working on the rebuilding of a children's home in Darwin. They joined the Australian Aborigines branch of SIL, which then collaborated with the Finke River Mission to have them start work in Papunya.
Their first years were spent on learning and understanding the language and culture of the Pintupi.
With permission, they camped in a caravan close to Pintupi families at Papunya. When a person died, the whole camp would move and the Hansens went with them. In this way they eventually lived in some 20 different places, many to the west of Papunya.
They learned to speak the language as children do, listening, mimicking, remembering, as they shared life around the campfire and walking and hunting.
As they gained ground, they began taping stories about everyday things, which they would transcribe and work on to corroborate their findings to date.
Then they worked on a grammar and dictionary and translated small sections of the Bible, while also developing some reading materials.
Some people were showing an interest in reading their own language, so the Hansens tried out the materials on them.
Later on when the full translation of the New Testament and the abridged Old Testament were available many more people were wanting to read these books. The Hansens taught people where they were, sitting on the ground with them in their family groups – that was their classroom."A lot of the time we were trying to find our way," says Lesley. "We looked at the way people learnt and could see that a class starting at 9am wasn't going to work."
Their work was with adults; they believed adults had to understand literacy before children would learn to read.
Most had only come in to settlements quite recently and had had little or no contact with any kind of European-style learning. Few of their children were going to school.
Lesley describes the situation in Papunya as quite sad. Ken acknowledges that people didn't feel at home, but thinks accounts of the settlement have often been over-dramatised.
Lesley says, " You'd hear people crying and ask them what the matter was. They would say, ‘The Pintupi are all going to die'.
"They were experiencing a big cultural clash and the depression that goes with it."
Did their hosts find the Hansens strange?
"Initially," says Ken."They didn't fully understand why we were there," says Lesley."We did practical things to help them. Ken would put in a tap for them, and go out hunting, I'd sometimes go with the women for goanna."
Last week people from Kiwirrkurra and Kintore (communities further to the west) gathered to say farewell."Four hundred people hugged us and said what they wanted to say," says Ken.
"They said, ‘You helped us, you looked after us'," says Lesley. "They have an expression, ‘You held us in your hands', meaning ‘You cared for us'…
"They said, ‘You let your children play with us and we taught your children to speak Pintupi'. That was important.
"They said, ‘We were ignorant of English and Arrarnta [the church had been using Arrarnta scriptures and liturgy]. You taught us to read in our own language. When we had God's word in our own language we understood'."It was hard work, in much tougher physical conditions than today's, but the Hansens describe it as "a privilege" to have lived and worked with people "who were willing to share their skills".
"We would go hunting. We'd get two goannas and my older brother would give me one," says Ken.
He speaks of his Pintupi family as his "relatives": "You become relatives by living with people."
The experience changed their lives.
"You see things from a different perspective," says Lesley.
"Our society is so taken up with material things," says Ken. "Aboriginal Christians have very little yet are content and willing to trust in God. A lot of people in our society are not open to that."
The Hansens worked to make the literacy process as independent of themselves as possible.
"We put everything into these books so that people could take them with them wherever they went," says Lesley.
"We also wanted people to be able to teach others as they learnt."
They describe their literacy method as "word-building", based on Pintupi syllables.
Their primers demonstrate with illustrations and other methods how the syllables combine to make words.
The alphabet and spelling they devised is completely consistent – each symbol equates with one sound and only one. That's the advantage of a technical approach to writing a language, as opposed to writing that evolved over millennia.
The encouragement they found came from the adults who became literate, some of them training as pastors and now running their own churches in their own communities.
What was it about the story of Christ that spoke to them, in the Hansens' view?
Says Ken: "The story about Christ having power to keep katicha and other bad spirits from harming them made a big impact.
"Learning how to pray and experiencing God's help in very difficult situations increased their faith."
"We didn't believe that they needed a church run by Europeans," says Lesley.
Is it possible that an independent strand of Christianity will develop in this way?
To a degree, yes, says Ken.
The pastors from Pintupi-Luritja areas in the west to Amatjerre and Alyawarrr lands in the east come together as a group and they also meet with Australian Lutheran College lecturers and other white leaders of the Lutheran Church of Australia.
Many of the older Aboriginal pastors don't read or write English, and only a few speak it fluently.
"But there is good communication between them and the Lutheran Church, using interpreters," says Ken.
The younger pastors and religious leaders in their mid-thirties may speak, read and write English, but "don't understand it in depth", says Ken. "They still prefer to learn to read and study the Bible in their own language."
The commitment to using local languages has invigorated the church. Unlike schools, churches have become places where people can communicate in their own language.
Many of the hymns they sing, for example, they have composed themselves.
Not surprisingly Ken and Lesley are strong supporters of at least ‘two-way' learning in Aboriginal schools. ‘Two-way' sees instruction in English from the start of schooling, but with some hours also allocated to local language literacy. It is different from bilingual education, which teaches literacy and a whole range of areas in the vernacular first.
The teacher linguist and literacy worker positions were axed from Kintore and Docker River in the late ‘nineties. Lesley campaigned hard against the cuts for which she could see no reason other than saving money.
"The people want programs in their languages in schools but the department has another agenda," says Lesley.
"Once you take away what people see as important, you damage the schools, people stay away."
Ken scoffs at the idea that instruction in local languages will damage English acquisition in any way: "If English is being taught properly, then five to six hours a week in the local language cannot possibly do any harm – on the contrary. To be able to read in any language you have got to have decoding skills and these can transfer across."
The Hansens raised their three children "out west" – daughters Jenny and Sharon and son Keith, all now in their thirties.
They did school of the air with Lesley in their primary years before she brought them into town for high school.
Lesley says they look back and value their wonderfully free childhoods. They had to make some adjustments when they went to high school – their background was just so different to that of most of their peers – but it wasn't too hard.
Living conditions – at first in a caravan, later in a ‘silver bullet' – were "a bit of a challenge", "part of life, that's all".
The Hansens are certainly not given to over-dramatising.
They paint a basically positive picture of community life. They acknowledge the problems of sniffing and grog, but there's a lot more to it than that.
"People are in the place they want to be, with their relatives around them," says Ken.
"Children are with their extended families, who are very caring and watchful," says Lesley. "There can be abuse, but that can happen anywhere."
Over the years, they would take a one-week break every six weeks, to prevent burnout, and every five or six years would spend six months away.
That kept them in touch with their own culture and other friends and family. Retired life now on a hobby farm near Moss Vale in New South Wales, close to their families of origin, will present a sharp contrast, but they can always come back to visit again the country and people they made their life's work.
LETTERS: Help for addicts: office hours only.
Sir, – Every newspaper we pick up these days contains a story or report on drugs. We read the police have made arrests and confiscated supplies of illicit drugs of one kind or another.
Whether we acknowledge this fact, or chose to ignore it, there is no doubt we have an addiction problem in our community.
Five years ago I joined a volunteer organization in town which exists primarily as a support group for carers of people affected by addiction. This organization has for the past five years been endeavouring to establish a residential facility to help combat the problems experienced by those affected by addiction.During those five years funds have been raised, submissions have been put to government, both prior and current, politicians have been lobbied; hopes have been raised and dashed.
We have a number of very good agencies in town, both private and government, consisting of very hard working dedicated people. We have had forums, task forces, action groups, and committees etc etc.It was alarming to learn that the Government Agency ADSCA (formerly CAAODS) has reduced its hours and the services available. The reason given is that the service is now consistent with other AOD services nationally and internationally.
This model of service may be appropriate for people who are receiving treatment or are in a programme and are capable or keeping medical appointments etc, but it does not provide for outside office hours when a crisis is more likely to occur.
Patients can go to Accident and Emergency at the hospital but where do they go when they are discharged from A&E?
This service does not extend to assist people who need long-term treatment and rehabilitation. In other States of Australia including Darwin there are choices of other outreach services, providing crisis accommodation and long-term assistance.
Alice Springs does not have the same choices of services or the availability of services as in say, Sydney, London or Darwin.
Why then, was the decision taken to reduce rather than increase these support services in Alice Springs? Perhaps someone in Government can explain.It was recently encouraging to read the comments of Mr. S Dunham MLA in Hansard in relation to drugs and I quote, "It could well be that we invent something here that does not happen in every other state. God knows, we do not have to be an exact replica of what happens elsewhere."It is time to stop talking about the problem and can I please ask the Government to at least stop reducing the already inadequate level of drug addict support that exists in our very isolated town of Alice Springs.
I have no doubt that a long-term residential model of treatment would be applauded and embraced by other A&OD agencies and organizations in our town should we ever be able to create such a facility.
Health service lost
Sir,- I know two Alice Springs mothers who are to be denied homebirths in coming weeks.
And I know of several who have had safe births at home in recent years.
All of them have had the care of homebirth midwife Theo Allan.
Now Theo has been forced by the NT Nurses Board to stop practicing.
Why? Insurance! Gone are the days when the government regulated big insurance corporations to make sure they did Australians some good for the money they took off us.
Why is it such a battle to persuade politicians and health bodies to stand up and fight for homebirth rights? Is it disinterest or self-interest?
Surely they want to help parents give children the very best possible start in life.
Why not entrust some funds to underwriting public liability costs for good homebirth midwives like Theo?
It makes no sense, especially here in remote Central Australia, to lose a good health service and a respected practitioner.
Sir,– I refer to your article "United Nations of Alice Springs" (Sept 22).
While the Wade family may be proud of their heritage, and I have no wish to cast aspersions on their integrity, I need to address a couple of untruths contained in the article.
My grandfather, Richard (Taff) Pick, purchased J. Wade's share of land from him. J. Wade did not give the land to my grandfather, as was stated in the article.
Also, when my grandfather returned from the Second World War, Mrs A. Wade was not as yet residing at the South Terrace address.
These are minor details, but it is very important to my family and I that the untruths be corrected.
No to 130km/h limit
Sir, –The Territory Government should resist attempts by the Bracks Labor Government to restrict speedometers on all new cars in Australia to 130km/h.
Victoria's Transport Minister Peter Batchelor submitted the proposal to the Australian Transport Council, a meeting of state and federal transport ministers, in Brisbane last Friday. Territory drivers can do without the interference by Victoria in what is a matter for the Territory.
States have their laws to govern speed limits within their jurisdictions.
I am calling on the Territory Government to argue against Victoria's draconian attempt to change the Australian Design Rules for motor vehicles (the rules manufacturers must meet to have their cars registered for use on Australian roads).
Sir, – After describing the Martin Labor Government's decision to take the Northern Territory Parliament to Alice Springs in 2003 as a waste of money, Denis Burke has declared Territorians got no value from the recent October Sittings.
What arrogant nonsense on both scores.I point the failed CLP leader to just a few of the pieces of legislation covered in the October Sittings – tough new child pornography laws, and legislation to help protect our children from sexual predators; new regulations to protect Territory home buyers; and strengthening DNA laws for the fight against crime.By dismissing these important pieces of legislation as a waste of money, Denis Burke has again shown the CLP is still the same arrogant party they were before.
Leader of Government Business
THE CHARMS OF CHINGLISH. By ANN DAVIS (Alice Springs ex-pat in China).
Chinglish is the humorous version of English that results from a translation from the original Chinese.
It is not racist or bigoted, or any slight on the intelligence or linguistic ability of the Chinese. It's a sign of the times – and it's fun.
I first discovered Chinglish when I was flying from Bangkok to Kunming. The in-flight magazine had an article promoting tourism in Yunnan. The article was in Chinese with quotes and headlines in English: "Have you been Yunnaned lately? … A real cultural ablution."
I could hardly wait.
After further flicking, I discovered an invaluable read, "How to pack on your evection".
I just wish I'd read it before leaving home.
It advised: "To pack on evection will let you feel nerve racking. The longer you spend outside the more trouble you will get into, so some doohickey will provided here to get rid of the above annoyance."
Once I arrived in Kunming, I passed through the arrival lounge and noticed a series of magazine racks with materials to browse during those idle moments (now having spent up to 10 hours waiting for delayed flights, I know something about idle moments).
The sign above the magazine rack read, "Please retune after use".
In the taxi from the airport I passed a number of eye-catching stores that I made a mental note to explore later: the Ugly Girl dress shop, Wondesful, Wondesful and The Heroin's Underwear World particularly took my fancy.
The following morning one of my colleagues arrived to take me on a shopping expedition to Carrefour, the European super-sized-got-everything hypermarket.
We armed ourselves with a trolley (a modern equivalent of the suit of armour) and pushed our way through the human gaps.
A sign over the elevator read "Crazy today, crazy tomorrow". My sentiment entirely.
There was still much concern and talk about SARS (at the airport I'd had my temperature taken to ensure I was healthy).
A poster on each floor at Carrefour read "Everything is disinfected with disinfectant. Please shop with disburden".
I could no longer remember what I thought I needed, so I grabbed a few quick items with disburden and followed my colleague to the checkout.
On my way, I passed on the chance to try the Pubic Standup Toilet.
Past the Floggy Flowers shoe shop, Coffee, Music and Luck restaurant and the Chafing Dish of Old Turtle (I'm still not sure what this is) we made our way to the project office.
Great! Home was on the eighth floor and the office on the seventh – both reached only by stairs. China could be my answer to longevity, I thought.
Cannibal Cat was screening at the cinema near the Old Bird and Flower market, but my companion, Rory, and I, on our own now and looking and feeling highly self-conscious, went in search of sustenance.
We found a restaurant called Sea Coast of Golden, painted a magnificent sienna gold and overlooking the Green Lake. We were shown to an outside table with a view. The menu was in both English and Chinese, divided into three courses: Small Foods, Appliers and Main Events.
We could have Thal Chilli Con Carne with chicken, Chilli Beef for the Hombre, Italtan Vagefable Saif or The Banana F….s. (I didn't even like to ask.)
Choice was actually a lucky dip. For the madam, it was a Clud Saudwich. For the bloke, the hamburg with eggplauts dressing.
We ate heartily.
MORE NEXT WEEK.
A chewing gum state of mind. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Is it acceptable to start winding down in preparation for the Christmas break? And is it alright to do this during early November or even late October?
These are important questions that deserve an answer, which has to be ‘no pain, no gain, people – keep your noses to the grindstone if you want to enjoy some semblance of prosperity'.
The trouble is that many folk keep their noses right there but never become prosperous. So maybe it's not so surprising that the whole town is starting to look weary. The atmosphere of Alice Springs resembles an under-inflated beach ball or a fibreboard shelf with building materials stacked up in the middle. You get my drift; the place is sagging a bit.
Apparently, this condition is caused by the hotter weather, the near completion of whatever ‘projects' people are working on and any other excuse we need in order to change down through the gears.
I am convinced that some people are tidying their desks and toolboxes already. At this rate, they'll be fully reclined before we hit the end of November.
By coincidence, I was reading an article about Chris Corrigan, the tycoon who took on the wharfies and their union in 1998. Not one to fawn over every utterance of the industrial elite, I didn't pay much attention.
After all, ‘The Corporation' is about to show at the Araluen, so we bleeding hearts can all practice our moral outrage.
However, I did find one comment that he made to be interesting. Corrigan said that if Australians put as much effort into their work as their sport, the economy would be world-class too.
No comment from me on that one, except that I doubt that the summer sports ever wind down before Christmas. The amateur cricketers are still out there for hours in forty-degree heat, even if they've cleared their desks at the office last week. Work that one out.
In a half-hearted attempt at research, I am counting the meetings, bush trips, social engagements and projects that are postponed around now until after the break.
In practice this means late-January or, just to be safe, let's make it February. There's a deep exhalation, almost a snore, as the local economy staggers through to the third week of December.
Not being familiar with any other place in Australia, I wouldn't know if this happens elsewhere in the country, but conventional wisdom is that this is one field in which the Territory is a leader.
Then again, to wind down you have to be wound up to begin with. Wasn't this one of Isaac Newton's Laws of Physics (‘Every reduction in commitment has to be preceded by at least some kind of effort in the first place')? So if you go through the whole year without actually reaching the point where you are fully wound up, does that make the winding down process any different?
These are critical questions, I am sure you'll agree, that go to the very heart of our culture.
It is easy to be in denial about your own year-end malaise. Basically, you walk around on auto-pilot saying how wonderful life is and how much you are going to achieve during November and December whilst secretly counting the days to the Christmas holidays or the next arrival of the Weekend Australian.
Someone should name this as a new condition.
It's the chewing gum state of mind where the only way to keep going is to maintain a basic rhythm with your faculties and hope that nobody notices.
And so the conclusion is, well, that I had planned a big finish for this column. On second thoughts, I'll save it for some time after the break.
Time to get out of the cage? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
A friend of mine described her life here in Alice as living in a golden cage.She is not unhappy with her existence. She is happily married and has healthy happy children and good friends.
It is an easy town to live in, especially while your children are small.
I am ambivalent about caged birds as pets.
Many of them seem perfectly happy but they are winged creatures that have evolved to fly. Seeing them locked up maybe reminds me of aspects of myself that are caged and want to take flight.
When I was a little girl I wanted a pet. We had a family dog but I wanted something of my own like a rabbit or a budgie. My dad did not want to look after a rabbit as well as a dog, and my mum said she could not think of anything worse than a bird in a cage. Birds were supposed to fly free.
When I first came to Central Australia and saw budgies in the wildit was a revelation of freedom. Birds I had only ever known as pets were living free in the wild, flocks of them, flying as one, rolling against the blue sky, flashing colours of green and yellow.
At first the noises zebra finches and budgies make made me think of the pet shops I had visited as a child, but a few years later when I again went into a pet shop in a city the sounds of the finches and the parrots reminded me of the open spaces and the hot sun of Alice.
My first Christmas present from my parents-in-law was "Field guide to the birds of Australia".
When everything was new it was comforting to learn the names of the new birds I saw around me, like our two year old walking around asking "What is that?" and identifying objects around him by name.
The other day a spiny-cheeked honey-eater was trapped inside my daughter's pre-school. It had been rescued in the car park where it was being attacked by other birds.
Once it was brought inside it became an item for show and tell but then managed to escape from its saviours. For most of the day it tried to find its way out but it stayed close to the ceiling and did not see the open doors.
As a bride or a young person encountering a new environment you may experience new freedoms and opportunities.
Sometimes marriage, parenthood, ageing and familiarity change all that. The golden cage materialises around you. In reaching our goals we may think that we have achieved happiness but there is no such destination. It can only be experienced in flight.
Like Burke and Wills we are all explorers and to see and experience new things is essential for our happiness. To be content with what we've got is OK but everything in the universe keeps moving, every atom has particles in motion, the earth is spinning around the sun and the solar system is racing through space. Nothing is permanent.
So when the canary stops singing you know it is time to get out of the cage and mix it with the hawks in the sky again!
NORTON RIDES FOUR WINNERS. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
It's not often that a jockey can let his hair down of a Friday night but for Tim Norton, having perched on four winners in a card of five at the Twilight meeting on Friday, the opportunity could not have been better.
Matching his performance was local trainer Terry "Razor" Gillett who saddled up four winners himself, three in association with Norton.
All races were named after the local cricket clubs, and in association with both the cricketers and Allan Rowe from the XXXX Company a cricketers' sprint was conducted to wind up proceedings.
The foot race in itself proved to be a spectacle with Scott Robertson showing a clear pair of heels over his opposition to take home Gold not once but a hundred times.
Race wise the evening was kicked off with a mile race. These races have not been a regular at the Park in recent times, but may well attract plenty of interest if revisited.
The 1600 metre journey, honouring the RSL Works Club saw the favourite Trafford greet the judge.
Burran led early in the company of Play Again Sam with the eventual winner further back. By the 500 metre mark Play Again Sam had put up the white flag so giving Trafford full command. Trafford ran on to win by a length and a quarter.
Star Quest made an impressive run from the rear of the field to claim second place and Burran held on for the third place cheque.
In the second, the Federal Demon Class 2 over the 1000 metres, Coniston Way the ex Victorian appreciated the Pioneer Park track and produced the desired result.
He led from the jump and travelled well with Classic Rainbow and Molokai's Ladd, giving cheek. In the run home Coniston Way remained honest and scored by a length from the favourite Molokai's Ladd. Steaming home was Captain Snaadee who although never a winner filled third placing.
The 1100 metre Open event celebrating the Cricket Association, saw the favourite Ring Cycle jump to the lead and with Pelt to ensure the pace was on.
However, despite age, and an arthritic condition, It's OUr Time was able to show plenty and in the spirit of a grey push to the line and win by two lengths from Ring Cycle and Pelt.
The 1100 metre Rovers Handicap for Class B horses saw Norton claim his fourth successive winner on Conkers.
The winner led early and then kicked in the straight to go to the post a winner by one and three quarter lengths.
The stable mate, Inka Miss, travelled well throughout to collect second money while Litigious filled the minors.
To complete proceedings the Wests Handicap over 1200 metres for Class 1 competitors saw a quinella repeated but in reverse order.
Back on Derby day Spacatac saluted with Spicy Sound in second place.
On Friday night the placings went the other way with the little battler Hot Chilli Woman filling third spot.
In the running Gumdrop led but found it tough by the five hundred metre mark. Spicy Sound took over and motored home with Craig Moon aboard while the sixty plus kilogram weight on Spacatac told.
RSL IN FIRST INNINGS WIN. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Runs not wickets dictated cricket at Traeger Park, with RSL Works taking a first innings win over Wests.
At Albrecht it was a similar picture with the bat setting the scene, but on this occasion Federal were able to claim an outright victory.
RSL took to the Traeger wicket with confidence as the pitch and outfield were prepared well and looked in shape for run making.
The desired outcome was not long in the waiting.
While opener Graham Schmidt was caught by Kevin Mezzone off Rory Hood when five and the score was thirteen, fellow opener Ton Scollay went on to post 126.
The innings was a triumph for the sixteen year old who has applied himself to NTIS commitments and returned home a more rounded cricketer for the experience.
Scollay's knock was one to remember, as were the contributions of the middle order.
Geoff Whitmore made 22 before falling to a Hood delivery; Scott Robertson fell caught from Peter Tabart for 27; and both Luke Southam with 11 and Matt Salzberger with 15 played their parts. After 78 overs West dismissed RSL for 248.
Peter Ryan returned the figures of 4/28 off 11 overs. Rory Hood again proved himself with 4/69 off 25 overs while Kevin Mezzone and Peter Tabart picked up a wicket each.
On Sunday West were hampered early when skipper Darren Clarke was forced to spend most of the day in the change rooms suffering an illness that later denied him the chance to bat. The heat was on the upper order and openers Tabart and Ryan set the scene without consolidating. They made 13 and 19 respectively before runs were put together. Adam Stockwell showed a glimpse of his form of a year ago with 45; Hood continued to have a good game with 56 before falling to Eglington, caught by Schmidt; and Daniel Cook contributed 34 before being claimed by Matt Forster.At 6/186 Wests were in trouble and between Schmidt and Forster the death knell was sounded seeing West finish the game at 9/194.Forster continued his run of success by taking 4/24 off 19 overs. Schmidt came in late to gather 2/1 off 3 and Eglington's 12 overs registered 2/46.RSL therefore took first innings points, but are now sitting down the table to Federal who came home with an outright win.As with the game at Traeger, a century was recorded at Albrecht oval. Mick Smith in opening for Federal set the scene with 103 before Nick Clapp claimed his wicket, caught Greg Milne. Backing the skipper was Brendan Martin who opened and was able to put together a partnership of 88 before being dismissed for 28 by Gavin Flanagan. Tom Clements compiled a fine 34 before being caught and bowled by Clapp and down the order Jarrad Wapper swung the willow for 19.Feds then finished their day with 251 on the board.
In the Rovers camp Nick Clapp's 5/57 off 19.2 overs stood out while Wayne Partridge did his bit with 3/38.In respect for the boys who toil for the Blue cap the less said about Sunday's encounter is probably for the better.
Rovers were dismissed for 50 in a mere 31.2 overs.
Matt Pyle top scored with 12 and the rest of the story is bleak. With the ball Jarrad Wapper took 5/15 off 8.2 overs, and Marcus Becker returned 2/14 off 7 overs.
Then in a further 32 overs Federal dismissed Rovers again with Darryl Lowe and Jason Bremner being the only high points.
Bremner compiled a succinct half century while Lowe contributed 32 in an otherwise ordinary display of 103 runs.
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