ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
February 2, 2005.


GOVT. LUKE WARM IN FIGHT AGAINST HUGE LAND PRICES. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The NT Government will not use its native title land deals to reverse the skyrocketing of real estate prices in Alice Springs.
Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne says the government's objective is to "stabilize prices, and achieve some downward pressure".
Although current prices are some of the highest in Australia, Mr Toyne says the government should not "cause a dramatic shift, because you need to take into the account the people who have already invested in land.
"We need to avoid a drastic decrease in value and achieve a stable situation.
"The answer is not to create a short term distortion, but to release land until the demand is met with an appropriate supply."
Dr Toyne says the policy has been formulated in close consultation with the real estate industry.
The government is likely to make a $4m profit, or $90,000 a block, from the sale of 45 residential blocks in western Larapinta.
The project is the result of an agreement with the local native title body Lhere Artepe, which in turn gained the right to develop and sell about 40 blocks.
Lhere Artepe's consent to extinguish native title was at the heart of the deal.
"It's a stock standard market situation," Dr Toyne says about the former Crown Land.
"We'll be selling it like any other real estate, for what the market dictates".
Lhere Artepe last year sold its development rights to the Hannon Group which is now marketing blocks for more than $120,000 a piece.
Dr Toyne says the government will make no concessions to first home buyers because there is no evidence of demand from them in that area, which is at the "upper end of market".
He says of the 26 blocks sold by the Hannon Group so far, none had gone to first home buyers.
In any case, the NT has the "best first home package in Australia, worth $20,000 in total, and including help with the purchase price up to $7000," says Dr Toyne.
There is a broad uptake of that scheme in Alice Springs.
Because of the protracted and dramatic shortage of residential land in Alice Springs, prices are now about five times the development cost.
It was about $20,000 per block seven years ago, when the last major subdivisions were built, according to Will Cormack, senior engineer for Acer Forester Consulting Engineers (Alice News, March 26, 2003).
A four per cent annual CPI increase would put the current cost at about $26,000.
Mr Cormack says he calculated the average development costs by analyzing six subdivisions, built between 1994 and 1998, and ranging from 20 to 50 lots.
The $20,000 cost per block was for "infill" developments in relatively flat country.
There is likely to be an extra cost for the Larapinta land because the new blocks will be on hilly terrain.
Mr Cormack said in his survey the construction costs for services – roads, drainage, water, power and sewerage – varied from $10,000 to $30,000 per block.
The headworks (water, power and sewerage mains) already go to the edge of the Larapinta development, and their provision is usually a government responsibility.
Dr Toyne says land prices in Alice Springs will come under a "downward pressure" when further blocks become available.
He says about 100 blocks in the Mount Johns Valley, adjoining the existing Vista subdivision in Stephens Road, have now been fully surveyed and would soon be the subject of fresh native title negotiations with Lhere Artepe.
An accurate survey plan of the 100 blocks has been completed; a drainage consultancy is under way for the whole of the 600 to 700 proposed blocks in the valley; and a budget allocation for headworks is in place, says Dr Toyne.
He says he expects negotiations for the new land "not to be as protracted" as at Larapinta, which took some three years to be resolved.
"We've all been through the process now," says Dr Toyne.
Meanwhile he says all the paperwork is ready to call tenders for the government's half of the Larapinta development.
The agreement with Lhere Artepe secured it a head start of six months with the selling of blocks, and that ends in May.




"I was captured by wild Aborigines." MEMOIR by ALEC KRUGER.
Alone on the soaks of Loves CreekMEMOIR by ALEC KRUGERForeword:
When you look at the rubbishy school system, still not having any high schools out bush, kids locked up in detention centre, men locked up in jails, people dying at an incredible rate and the governments still saying it is the Aboriginal communities fault, it is easy to think not a lot has really moved forward.
Why are Aboriginal men committing suicide at record levels? Why do our kids not go to badly structured and basically racist schools? Why do we have one house per ten adults across most of our communities? Why are Aboriginal people dying of diabetes, renal failure, heart disease and preventative illnesses at rates unthinkable in the rest of the Australian community?
John Howard and others of his ilk might blame corruption in ATSIC. They might blame the Aboriginal community itself. But the real reasons are found in our history of oppression. It has to be given a real hearing. We need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission like in South Africa. We experienced a racist, apartheid system that in the 19th and early 20th century was just as bad as South Africa.
You could exaggerate how much better it has really got in my lifetime. – ALEC KRUGER

Introduction

Alec Kruger has and continues to live a busy life. He has survived and developed as a story-teller. Perhaps this is a product of growing up in a hard and racist world. From an early age he has had to rely on his wits and charm. He is good at the ‘keep smiling, keep moving' philosophy of life.
As a boy such an approach was essential to avoid the attention of supervising staff. Later it was equally useful for dealing with the ‘bully boys' and government men.
These days Alec chaperones tourists around Alice Springs and the Bungalows. He tells the old stories to new staff at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. Alec tells a great story. He judges his audience well. Can milk a scene for pathos and humour. Good with small groups. A bit of a lady's man, even now he's eighty.
Alec Kruger was born in Katherine on Christmas Day 1924. His mother, Yrambul Nungarai, or Polly, was a Mudpurra woman from Wave Hill. She married Frank Kruger, the son of German and Irish immigrants. As a child of mixed Aboriginal descent Alec was subject to the Aboriginal Ordinances of 1911. With his sister, Gladys, he was taken into institutional care at the age of two.
Snatched from his mother in Katherine, he went first to Darwin and the Kahlin Compound. Later he was moved to a new boys home in Pine Creek. At the age of eight the government moved him from the Top End down to Alice Springs and the Bungalows.
As a young boy of ten he worked on Loves Creek cattle station east of Alice Springs. He spent the next seven and a half years working his way up to being a stockman. Wages that were supposed to go into a trust fund were never paid.
He joined the army and served in the Top End during World War Two. After the war he worked and travelled extensively across the NT and Northern Qld. He has worked as a drover, stockman, pearler, council worker, prospector, driver, and tour guide. He lived the fast life of a travelling man.
He settled down and married late, growing up his large family in Alice Springs. With his wife Anita he provided an open house for many families in Central Australia. He was involved in the land rights movement, the establishment of Aboriginal community controlled organisations and more recently the stolen generation debates. He was a participant in many of the great changes that have shaped the Northern Territory and Central Australian communities over the past eighty years.
Alec has established a reputation for a kind heart and a generosity of spirit. For being there not just for his kids and grand kids but for others as well. Looking after other people is what gives his life connection and meaning.
When Alec told the old men that he had decided to leave Atnarpa and Loves Creek to join the army they assured him he would come back and he did.Alec is never out of a job for long, even at eighty. He is a jack-of-all-trades, putting up his hand for things if it meant the difference between working or not. As a result he has been a stockman, horse breaker, drover's cook, driver and many other things if nothing better was available. He was never one to have other people to do things for him if he could do them himself. He has a need to keep busy. A restlessness born out of his early experiences. It keeps the demons away. Reduces the power of the bullyboys to take over his life.
I hope you enjoy reading this part of Alec's story as much as I have enjoyed helping him sort through it. His complete memoir will be published soon by IAD Press. – GERARD WATERFORD
We were all lined up when the white cattlemen came looking for workers. I puffed out my chest and was selected. It was a scary moment. Getting picked out of the line at the Bungalows Institution near Alice Springs meant heading off into the adult world of Loves Creek Station. It was in the middle of 1935. I was ten years old. Schooling wasn't happening for me. Now I was being taken to Loves Creek Station with another older Aboriginal teenager.
All of us kids had all been to the movies. I had this picture of myself riding around on a big white stallion, the king of all I surveyed. My hat held high in the air, as I gave a little wave to the cheering crowds. It was to be a beautiful thing. I could see myself riding back into the Bungalows being admired by the younger kids, giving them money and telling them of the real world.In my world, men on horses were the kings. They got to play the big parts of the story. My boss at the Bungalows used to be a stockman. He had been droving with my father and spoke of his glorious life. I talk like that sometimes to my own grandkids. So at the age of ten I was out of the classroom and became a stockman. Unfortunately working for old Louis Bloomfield and his son Harry was not at all like in the movies.
Throughout the year the senior stockmen would go out on patrols to check on waterholes and soaks. In dry times these soaks were essential to extend the areas of grass available to the cattle. Looking after the water supply was a responsibility of us Aboriginal staff.
Harry Bloomfield would get us to load up horses and packs to have a look at the water along the Hale River where the cattle all were. If a particular soak was dry we were left there to dig it out and keep it flowing. There was always underground water.
For much of the summer most of us stockmen would be out in a solo camp keeping water happening for the cattle. This meant keeping troughs made from old river red gums filled with water bucketed up from the soaks. There were about three to four hundred cattle using each of the soaks during the dry times.
We could be out on our own sometimes as long as three months at a time. It would depend on when or if the rains came. Rations were a few strips of salted beef, tea and flour in a pack-bag. The Bloomfields didn't provide sugar. And there was no such thing as self-raising flour in those days. So you had to mix the flour with cream of tartar and soda. Get too much in the mix and the damper was yellow and bitter. Get too little and it was flat and hard.
The salted beef was so dry that you had to soak it for hours and then put it on the boil. There was nothing else as food except what bush tucker you could find. No tomatoes, potatoes or onions. No jam or golden syrup. No pepper or sauces. No matches. No rifle or axe. No horse. Just you, the pack-bag, the cattle and the riverbed, miles from anywhere.

The first time I was dropped off alone at a soak I had a wretched time of it. It was a little after Christmas 1935. I must have been just turned eleven. Not that we had birthdays in those days. I was still trying hard to play the big man and impress the Bloomfields.
When we got to what was to be my soak, they stopped long enough to get a fire started. Then I was on my own next to a few old troughs. I was terrified. I was just a skinny kid in all that space. But I was expected to stay camped there until rain came. Anything could happen. Anyone could come and get you. It was so silent you started to imagine all sorts of things.
Today I still dread being left alone. I get terrible panic attacks where I can scarcely breathe. I look around at my own grandkids. Imagine what would happen to them.
It was a tough cruel world and the Bloomfields were amongst the hardest of the white bosses. My previous time on the country was as part of the muster gang. But I had no experience of being on my own. I suppose I was expected as an Aboriginal to just know how to live off the land. But I had been in institutions all my life surrounded by a mob of other kids.

The first night alone, when the dingos started howling and coming closer, I blocked off one end of an old upturned trough, and crawled inside. It was a close fit. Lucky I was so small. I hid away terrified of the noises of animals coming in for a drink during the night. I thought of the stories of Kaditja men creeping up to finish me off.
It was pitch black. I tried to sleep as best I could. And I must have dosed off at some time because when I woke the fire had gone out. I had slipped up and the fire was dead. I tried poking bits of grass around the warmest spot and blowing but this didn't work. The fire was too cold.
Rubbing sticks together looks good in the movies but you need to know how this works. I was taught later on how to get a stick of soft wood with a split in it. How to pack the split with dried rabbit shit. How you get a hardwood stick and rub it back and forth across a groove until you get enough heat for the rabbit shit to smoulder. But as an eleven-year-old kid from the institutions, I didn't have a clue.
When nothing worked and I had stopped panicking a bit, I had to think about living without a fire. I had nowhere to go. I couldn't have walked back to the homestead because I would have got hopelessly lost. And I would get a hiding if I did manage to get back. The humiliation and laughter would have been just as bad.
Robinson Crusoe I was not. But he wasn't eleven. Without fire I had no food beyond the dried strips of meat. I could make a paste with the flour but not much more. I wasn't much good at catching lizards and bush tucker. After eating all the salted meat I started to slowly starve. I just had to hope that someone would come back to check up on me before I passed away from starving.

I lay up in my burrow sleeping a lot. I was feeling very sad and hungry. When you are really hungry you start to imagine things. You lay around in a daze thinking of food. All sorts of weird thoughts start going through your head. By this time the cattle were having to fend for themselves. I wasn't bucketing out any water from the soak. Then after nearly a week, as I sat near my burrow, I looked up and they were there. Wild Aborigines walking through the trees. Naked as the day they were born. None of the trappings of civilisation as I knew it.
For a moment I couldn't move. Then I dived into my burrow trying to take up as small a space as possible, hiding myself away as far into the hollow as I could get. Starving was one thing. Being captured by the wild Aboriginals was something too fearful to bear thinking about. I knew what a mouse felt like with a snake following him down a hole. I could hear them jabbering away closer and closer. I knew I was done for.
They must have seen my tracks for a fair way as I had roamed aimlessly about trying to hunt down lizards, and anything that might have been edible. They could read the country so they must have been a bit surprised at my stupidity. Three old traditional men and one had his wife with him. Of course they walked straight up to my camp, ignoring me hidden under the wooden trough. They started up the fire again. Then started cooking.
All the time I could hear them talking among themselves and occasionally to me. They had little smatters of English. I could smell them cooking, making a cup of tea and cooking some damper.
What could I do? My fear of being captured was overwhelmed by my hunger. I crawled out bum first, as they laughed quietly, pretending they couldn't see me. Giving me what little dignity I could manage under the circumstances.Then it all got too much and the old men were laughing their heads off. The old woman made a bit of a fuss of me, sitting me down and pealing off a bit of the goanna roasting on the fire. Telling off the men in language.
After I had swallowed a bite one of the men squatted down, bum in the air, making out that he was crawling out of a hole and they all started howling with laughter again.
Even the woman couldn't stop smiling and chuckling as she was telling him to stop. After a bit even I joined in. It was great joke. This was a very funny man. A great mimic. I had nearly pissed myself I was so shaken up. Scared and laughing almost hysterically. The old woman was patting my back and eventually I stopped laughing and calmed down enough to eat a bit more. I was starving and they had plenty of tucker.

We had little language between us, but they were lovely gentle people, happy to stick around and help me out. They taught me how to set up a fire with ironwood so it didn't go out quickly, and how to track native animals and gather bush tucker to add to my rations. The three men were Tom Ingkakngerre called Big Foot Tom, Jerry, Tim Akwulparenye and Tom's wife Rosie. They travelled the country in traditional patterns looking after the sacred sites in the time honoured way.

I found out later that they occasionally came around to the Aboriginal camp at the Loves Creek outstation at Atnarpa. Peter Uwyerra and his wife Maggie, who lived permanently at Atnarpa with their big mob of goats, were the old people's point of contact. They would be on their way to the store at Claraville, where they traded dingo scalps for rations. But for the rest of the year they would roam the country right out into the Simpson Desert. These were ceremony men and rain-makers for the area.

Later when the rain had come and the water holes had a bit of water they headed off east. I was very sad and scared to see them go. But they assured me that a horseman was coming and not much later Harry Bloomfield appeared leading a quiet old horse for me. I was back at the homestead the next day. They were well known around Loves Creek but I hadn't known them before. Perhaps old Mr Bloomfield, or more likely some of the Aboriginal staff, had sent a message for them to check up on me.
For them I must have presented as a pretty pitiful sight. A young boy alone in the bush without even a fire and obviously with no idea about how to survive. Hiding under an old trough. Couple of more days and the dingos would have had me. These old men and women were the last caretakers and song men for that part of country and out into the Simpson Desert. Strehlow writes of talking to them in the early ‘thirties.
For the rest of the time I was at Loves Creek they caught up with me at ceremony time. I was taught more bush skills, how to care for the land, the dreaming songs and all the sacred sites in the area. I became an initiated man during this time and was adopted into the tribe.

The next time I had to go out to care for the wells and soaks I at least knew what to expect. I could keep a fire going. I could track and hunt enough to supplement rations with goanna, rabbit or something else that might turn up. I knew some more of the local bush tucker and where to find it. I had some ability to survive alone in the bush.
I was a very happy fellow to be back at Loves Creek after the rain came. No one seemed much interested in how it had been. There was no one for me to talk to about what had happened or about the old Aboriginal people. I had survived and it was another initiation in coping with my new world.
It was mostly a silent world of men and horses. You didn't want to appear as a talkative girl, someone perhaps not tough enough in a crisis. Real men got gored by bulls, got chucked off horses, had terrible injuries and just got up, brushed themselves down and kept on going. It was just another potential or real tragedy in a busy life.
You had a bit of a laugh if you could and pretended you weren't hurt. You could never admit to being afraid. Not even to your close mates. Luckily I had the institutional training to fit right into it. The bullyboys had never entirely got on top of me.
But the hardness and silence of Loves Creek made me miss my mates. Someone to share stuff with. I was terribly lonely. Tim who had come with me was much older and moving away from me. He had developed his own friendships within the community. He had his own language and had got his head more around Eastern Arrernte. He would spend time down in the Aboriginal camp and hang around.
I had been banned by the Bloomfields from hanging around the Aboriginal camp. But after the time alone, I made more of an effort to pick up language. I started to find myself down there at night looking in. It helped me cope with feeling so alone.
There was a Mrs Wallace who looked out for me and seemed pleased to see me hanging around more. Even if I was around the edges. Over time I was invited closer to the fire and life of the community. I got to know the routines of the Bloomfield bosses so it was safe enough to spend time away during the nights. I gave up trying to be the Bloomfields' ‘best boy'.
I got my sense of humour from this time. You needed to be able to make people laugh a bit. Be able to play the clown a bit. It made you acceptable and someone people wanted to be around. Everyone was safer if you could make a joke of what was going down. Then you would hide together as a group if you were a bit scared.
It was a jokey jokey sort of culture. You exaggerated things, pulled faces, played practical jokes, elaborately fell off horses or walked into things, and worked hard to keep the devil of fear off your back. It was a way of keeping real emotions hidden away so they couldn't get stolen. It was a world where you avoided at all costs standing alone.
As I got older, tougher and hung around more with the Aboriginal mob I learnt to copy the ‘yes boss, no boss, how high did you want me to jump' approach to dealing with the Bloomfields. Kept out of the way when they were looking for a slave. It was the institution all over again, but in a much bigger paddock.
I suppose it was a bit of a turning point being alone on the soaks and meeting the old people. I felt better about being black and spending time in the bush. But I still longed for a friend who was mine. I still felt very alone and often scared out there, particularly at night.
When I left to join the army, the fear of being alone again was the hardest thing. When I told the old men they took me to a cave out to the east of the station. Big Foot Tom stuck a spear in the ground of the ceremonial cave. They told me the spear would go with me and protect me. It would act to draw me back to country. The spear is still there. I check from time to time.
I can't understand how I got treated so badly. I look at my young grandkids and think I was their age when left alone at the soaks. It is unbelievable. It just wouldn't happen today.
By 1936 the Government had banned sending kids under fourteen out bush. But they forgot about me. I had to stay there until I managed to escape into the army in 1941.
The Bloomfields never gave us anything more than the bare minimum. No boots or hats. We had hand-me-down rubbish clothes. We slept outside in lean-tos with old thin blankets and rubbish food. We never had guns or even got any matches. The Bloomfields controlled all that.
I never got paid for my seven years at Loves Creek. The government said they lost my file somewhere. It was up to the government to set up a contract for me to get paid into a trust fund. The Bloomfields were supposed to pay into it. The contract could never be found and no money was paid. It makes me sad and angry still today.




LETTER: Kruger story sparks appeal to Aborigines: Take charge of your destiny, says one of their own.
Sir,- I refer to the story by Alec Kruger, Alone on the soaks of Loves Creek (Alice News, Jan 26).
I remember growing up in Alice Springs, living in the Gap Cottages from the late 50s, early 60s with great people like Alec Kruger and my mother Emmie Wehr, and other families who lived in town such as the McCormacks, Liddles, Bloomfields, Abbotts, Coles, DuBoises, Perkinses, Kilgariffs, Harrises, Hockings, Wrights, Deluccas, Golottas and Dianos, to name a few.
In those days, Alice Springs was a small knit multicultural society of less than 3000 people and everyone knew everyone. Everyone worked hard, particularly the migrant families who ran large vegetable farms; the Kilgariffs had a chook farm; Milton Liddle had a wood yard; Mr DuBois had his own taxi cab; Uncle Dick Foster worked at the railways along with the Sabadins; and the Dianos ran a cleaning business.
Father Long and the CWA Hall brought us (Aboriginal and white kids) another form of Christianity along with the Catholic and Anglican Churches. A lot of us went to Sunday school. I went to church because I originally boarded at St Mary's Aboriginal Children's Village for a couple of years until mum and dad came up to live in Alice from New Crown Station. I went to church because I loved the smell of the parchment paper in the Bibles.
Then we moved to the old racecourse. Father Long came, and we held service in the Charles Creek riverbed at the back of Uncle Milton's wood yard. The Palmers lived at Basso's farm and we all joined in together. Father Long made it fun, we used to go everywhere with him, picking up other kids all over town and dropping them off each Sunday.
In those days, everyone in Alice Springs did what he or she was good at. There was no talk of oppression. There was no one to blame. Everyone took responsibility for themselves and their families, including their extended family. Town folk from all walks of life took care of each other too.
I remember plenty of "book-up" at the local store but we all paid our debts the very next payday. There was very little, in fact I don't remember anything, in the form of financial handouts or benefits paid to people who did not work.
My mother Emmie raised us single-handedly as a family of eight girls from 1970 onwards. Life was tough, but thanks to the assistance, kindness and generosity of people such as Bernie and Aileen Kilgariff, and Mrs Rene Ballagh, we survived and more importantly, because of my mother, we were educated and went to school everyday without fail. Mum had a great way of coercing us to go to school. If we didn't go to school, we worked like dogs. Simple as that, you were never ever sick.
Whilst I may not necessarily agree with everything he has said, Alec raises some good points in his story. It is also true that Indigenous people suffer lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, renal failure and heart disease. It is true, that there is overcrowding in houses and some other people live in abject poverty. It is true, that there is an inordinate number of Indigenous people incarcerated in our criminal system. It is true that there are record numbers of suicide within our society, but it is not true that this is only among Indigenous men.
By way of balance, it is true that Indigenous people now have more rights, as do white men, women and children. It is true that Indigenous people now have more land. It is true that there are a lot more welfare benefits available to everyone. It is true, that there is a lot more services in communities and towns. It is true that there are primary schools on most communities.
It is true that education is far more accessible now than it ever was through the old School of the Air. It is true that we live in a free and democratic society.
It is not true that there are no high schools out bush. The Ngaanyatjarra College at Uluru is an example. They cater for students from the communities of Multijulu, Imanpa and Docker River. Unfortunately, because of cultural constraints, boys and girls attend separately for only six months of the year each.
The Ngaanyatjarra Community College at Warburton is a Registered Training Organisation, funded by Commonwealth and State Education organisations.
It provides courses in a wide range of areas, including adult literacy / numeracy, business courses, computing skills and horticulture and land management.
It is true that there are many CECs on communities. It is also true that specialist colleges operate solely for Indigenous students such as Yirara, Kormilda and St John's, all showing good attendance figures.
There are also Indigenous student hostels in Katherine and Tennant Creek, boarding colleges such as St Philip's, Emmanuel, St Mary's and other educational institutions who offer extremely good and culturally appropriate facilities and services where Aboriginal people feel very comfortable. They have waiting lists too.
It is true that Indigenous people have been provided with numerous opportunities to become educated and there are now more Indigenous teachers and teaching assistants employed in schools.
It is true that more Indigenous people chose to live in town for the convenience of services. It is true that Indigenous people are now more mobile. It is true that there are more cultural festivals and sporting events held each year. In fact, when I worked at the Office of Aboriginal Development, Kenny Lechleitner and I counted 53 school days that were missed just because of these reasons. How much does that equate to? Exactly ten weeks and three days. That is a full school term. Not to put too fine a point on it or to be cynical, but this calculation did not take into account sick days on Mondays, shopping days on pension day Thursdays, Fridays or days off because of ceremonial reasons.
So why is it true that there are less Indigenous children who have attended school over the past 30 years since self-determination and self-management? Is it a lack of willpower? Unfortunately it is true that our society has gained perhaps two generations of people who have not attended any educational institution on a regular basis over this last 30-year period.
Dare I ask, are the school attendance records true or are they just rubbery figures? It is after all very difficult competing for limited government dollars and every seat filled counts.
Let us be brutally honest, when are we, yes we collectively, going to start getting real about literacy and numeracy problems, which stem from a lack of regular attendance at school.
When are the parents going to take responsibility for sending their children to school? How do we change the current mindset?
Can Parents in School Partnerships really work?
Alec, you said "Looking after other people is what gives connection and meaning" and that "Old men at Atnarpa and Loves Creek assured [you] that you would come back after the war" and you did, even though the white bosses Louis and Harry Bloomfield were tough.
You said you were "given responsibility at a very early age, if the fire went out you faced the possibility of starving." You also said, Alec, that you were "never out of a job for long, even at eighty". You were a Jack-of-all-trades: stockman, horse breaker, drover's cook, driver and many other things if nothing better was available. You also said you were always "putting your hand up for things if it meant the difference between working or not."
Alec, that is all true, because that is how everyone was back in those days.
Let me now pose some other questions, Alec. Is it true that there are less people taking responsibility for their families, including their extended family? Is it true that there was no talk of oppression because there was no one to blame back then?
Is it true that everyone did what they were good at and put their hand up for everything because they knew without it they and their families would not survive?
In fact, isn't it true, Alec, that parents including yourself and my mother sent their kids to school and you knew through your own circumstances and experiences, that it would not be possible to get ahead otherwise?
So tell me, Alec, is putting high schools in communities going to solve the problem? I think not. Not at least, until everyone stops making excuses or blaming others and Aboriginal people start taking a whole lot more responsibility for them selves.
And that doesn't mean through some bureaucratic organization such as ATSIC or any other organization doing it for them.
Sandy Taylor
Alice Springs



THE RIVER AN ASSET, AND HILLS FOR LIVING PLEASURE. REPORT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Do Alice Springs and Brisbane have significant things in common? Yes and no.
Yes, because both places have a river as their main natural attraction, and both are grappling with issues of residential developments on hilltops and sides.
No, because Brisbane has a handle on these issues while Alice Springs still doesn't (see opposite page).
The Brisbane River has been cleaned up and a new $14m boardwalk is a major attraction for locals and visitors, while in the Todd much of the "anti social behaviour" in Alice Springs continues to unfold, and the town still turns its back on its river.
Brisbane has a comprehensive policy for using its many hills as living as well as public recreation areas.
In The Alice that issue remains the domain of vocal minorities mounting their soapbox whenever there is a development application.
But neither the government nor the council has a clear policy, and the opinions of the broader community remain unexplored.
Deputy Mayor David Hinchliffe of the Brisbane Council (annual budget $1.5b) is playing a prominent role in both issues.
First elected in 1988 he leads the dominant Labor faction (17 councillors; the Libs have nine and there are no independents). The fact that the Lord Mayor is a Liberal adds to the curious makeup for the city's powerful government.
"Until 10 years ago Brisbane River was a sewer, a drain and a mine," says Cr Hinchliffe.
"Raw sewage ran into the river. Stormwater washed street garbage into it, and there was extraction of sand and gravel.
"This changed the ecology of river, changed its composition, muddied it.
"Mangroves came upstream much further than when John Oxley charted the river almost 200 years ago, when it was much shallower.
"At low tide the early settlers could walk across the bed of the river."
Dredging was banned only five years ago, after 100 years.
Stormwater outflows were fitted with garbage traps.
Sewage is now treated to tertiary level before being released into the river, although the 100 year old network of sewage pipes is leaking and needs upgrading.
There are ambitious plans for recycling sewage: the most expensive is a $1b State and Federal proposal to pipe recycled water upstream to Lockyer Valley, up to the Darling Downs, to replenish falling water levels there.
But Cr Hinchliffe says it may make more sense to use recycled water in or closer to the city.
The push for cleaner water has sparked "a keen proprietorial interest" in the community, he says.
"Volunteers are helping cleaning storm water traps, removing rubbish.
"It's very effective."
Brisbanites' new love for their river has triggered benefits well beyond conservationist goals.
Cr Hinchliffe says: "People no longer turn their backs on the river.
"It is no longer a physical and cultural divide between north and south, rich and poor."
Downstream from the Storey Bridge, the brightly lit centrepiece of the city view, designed by the same engineer as the Sydney Harbour bridge, is the most spectacular tribute to the Brisbane River, a boardwalk along the bank where apartments cost up to $1m and houses a lot more.
The broad, floating $17m structure, with its chromed railings, now takes the public, on foot or bicycle, into the erstwhile domain of the rich.
Cr Hinchliffe says "sadly" Brisbane had no city plan until the mid sixties.
By then the river bank was 95 per cent privately owned, right down to the high water mark.
It became a high priority for the Labor councillor to open up to the general public this "essential part of Brisbane's identity, to embrace the river, to give the opportunity to experience the river environment".
He says many of the properties along the river are owned by judges and barristers, and trying to acquire a part of their land "would have tied us up in in the courts for 20 years".
A boardwalk on floating pontoons was the answer, rising and falling up to 2.71 metres during a king tide, affording spectacular views of the river winding its way through the heart of the modern city.
Early lack of appropriate town planning also led to a hodge podge of housing on the flanks and tops of Brisbane's many hills.
Some pretty spectacular mansions sprang up on Mounts Coot-tha, Gravatt and Belmont.
Prominent among the buyers was the Catholic Church.
"It's a standing joke," says Cr Hinchliffe.
"The church managed to acquire the tops of hills.
"With its current decline that land is now being snapped up by property speculators."
The council embarked on a systematic scheme to buy back some of that land, aiming for a balanced split of residential developments and public parks.
"We wanted a city in a park and a park in a city," says Cr Hinchliffe, "with residential developments that flow around the base of hills, travel some distance up, but with hilltops retained for the public."
In 1990 a bushland acquisition levy of $32 a year was introduced and since then the council has spent $60m to buy 2000 hectares.
With 400,000 ratepayers in Brisbane, this works out to about $150 per ratepayer.
In addition to purchasing bush land the council brought in compulsory acquisition, justified by the need to protect the city's flora.
This, at first, had the real estate industry in uproar but Cr Hinchliffe says the new Vegetation Protection Orders (VPOs) were consistent with state law.
Land developers buying bushland were required to transfer a substantial portion to the council, sometimes at no charge.
At times 15 to 20 per cent of the land was required to be set aside for public use.
On a recent visit I enjoyed some of the fruits of this move: a maze of well-planned and used walking trails on Mount Coot-tha, coexisting with, indeed enhancing residential areas.
Cr Hinchliffe says he pushed through the VPOs in 1991 "against huge opposition".
The issue didn't go to court, but was fought with "enormous political pressure".
However, Cr Hinchliffe survived the storm and says that today "bushland is a selling feature.
"Now we get calls for more bushland" – including from the real estate industry.



MEANWHILE ... IN THE ALICE.

The Alice Springs Town Council has land management responsibilities for both rivers, the Todd and the Charles, inside the municipality.
Initiatives are guided by a sub-committee of Alice In Ten, chaired by the NT government's Regional Manager for Lands, Peter McDonald.
The sub-committee is taking its cues from the Todd and Charles masterplan, which is remarkable mainly for how little of it has been implemented since it was drawn up 10 years ago. Minor recommendations in the plan have been followed.
But the objective of turning the rivers from a haven for illegal drinkers and campers into a playground for all of the town's people, and a venue for picnics as well as private and public social functions, organized or impromptu, is far from realized.
The riverbank nearest to the CBD, which could be the town's most desirable real estate, has been turned into a vast car park, pandering to ongoing pressure from a section of the business community oblivious to the river's value to the tourist industry.
Most parts of the rivers remain no-go areas, especially at night, because of the anti-social behavior and aggressive conduct of illegal drinkers.
There is intensive littering on the bank of the Charles from opposite the Hearne Place shops to the boundary of St Philip's College, blithely tolerated by the Town Council, with the excuse that cleaning up is really Tangentyere Council's responsibility.
Says Mr McDonald: "Our focus has been on the Todd but we should be looking at the Charles as well."
The masterplan, formulated in August 1994, claims that the eight kilometers of the rivers in the town area "are under severe pressure from the impacts of urbanization.
"Under the existing conditions, the health of the rivers and the natural systems they support, will continue to degrade and a valuable resource would be lost.
"There is a clear concern, shared by all members of the community, that the rivers are important to the town." That concern is hardly borne out by actions of the community nor its governments.
So far, much of what the plan is calling for has not been implemented at all, or only half-heartedly:-
• Remove a number of causeways and replace them with bridges, if appropriate. Of course, the Telegraph Station, Charles Creek, St Philip's, RSL, Wills Terrace, Golf Course and Casino causeways, and the one south of The Gap, are all still there.
• Remove carparks on the river banks and convert Leichhardt Terrace between Wills and Stott terraces to right angle parking. While informal parking on the bank has been stopped, major new car parks have been built between Leichhardt Terrace and the river, from the footbridge to Stott Terrace, creating perhaps double the number of parking spaces envisaged by the plan.
This use of the river bank is also failing to provide the kind of amenities people enjoying the river would be looking for: cafes, drink stalls, restaurants, entertainment, and so on.
Chair of the Alice In Ten Built Environment Committee, Mark Skinner, told the Alice News last year these carparks should not be seen as a permanent obstacle to the development of other uses – "Removing them wouldn't be difficult". (May 12, 2004.)
Mr McDonald says the current number of car parking spaces in Leichhardt Terrace "is not inconsistent with plan.
"However, we would like to see more development that takes advantage of the river landscape, most particularly in the CBD."
• Re-site the overhead power lines across the river. Mr McDonald says some of them have been put under ground, for example, from the end of Gregory Terrace and Schwarz Crescent, in each case removing the poles from the middle of the river.
He says the Power and Water Corporation has promised it will continue its undergrounding program.
• Reconstruct the stormwater drainage outlets that "result in fragmentation of the river banks". Mr McDonald says some have been "reshaped to a less erodable type, merging into the river banks.
"They are much easier to maintain and less likely to hinder fire fighting vehicles".
• Remove or ameliorate negative impacts contributing to River Red Gum dieback. Mr McDonald says this is being attempted by better fire management, reducing damage to mature gum trees by reducing fire load around them.
The Town Council, Greening Australia, prisoners and Conservation Volunteers are collaborating in this "enormous and ongoing workload", says Mr McDonald.
• Control extent and vigor of couch grass and other introduced species. Mr McDonald says: "Complete removal is impossible.
"There's too much couch grass in the rivers' catchment areas. "The big challenge are very wet years, such as 2000 and 2001.
"Most of the weeds are gone now because it's dry but they could re-grow."
Mr McDonald says introduced trees are also a problem. A recent arrival is the thistle Mexican Poppy.
Greening Australia in Alice Springs had Federal grants to protect and enhance remnant natural vegetation, by fighting weeds, which caused frequent and intense fires.
Part of the initiative was getting rid of Himalayan rain trees, white cedars, pepper trees and giant reeds. That money ran out last year.
Greening Australia, with the Ilparpa Landcare Group and the Lower Todd Landcare Group and the Eastside Residents Association are now seeking money from the Envirofund Grants, also Federal, or from EnvironmeNT, a Territory initiative.
• "Reduce the incidence of river camping and associated problems".
Mr McDonald says there is "much less of it than in previous years" but offers no statistics.
Ten years ago the plan said several things "will" be done near the footbridge – but there are no sign of these so far.
"Improvement of the pedestrian links to the central business district and the closure of the take-away liquor outlet at the Todd Tavern will be critical to improving access to the area and excluding the conflicting use of the river by drinking parties," says the plan.
"Re-profiling of the [Snow Kenna, Anzac Oval] park and river banks to provide a ‘natural' amphitheatre comprising low grassed terraces, will be accompanied by the provision of other visitor facilities to cater for picnics and larger concert events."
The report says access to both rivers "will be encouraged".
"The provision of dual-use [bicycles and walking] pathways, other short loop and detour paths, and cross links to areas adjacent to the river corridors will be developed in concert with [an] interpretative system."
There will be "picnic facilities, paths, small shade structures, signage and drinking fountains" as well as a number of playgrounds, seats and vandal proof lighting.
There are now paths along the Todd for walkers and bicycle riders between the Old Timers, south of The Gap, and the Overland Telegraph Station (on the western bank), and along Barrett Drive (on the eastern bank).
Says Mr McDonald: "The more use people make of the river corridor, particularly for recreation purposes, the less likely we are to have anti social behaviour such as littering and fire, and the safer the rivers will be.
"The major problem with the river will always be lack of resources.
"They are a large and dynamic area.
"In the last four years government has provided funding for a variety of projects – footpaths ($1m), weed management ($250,000) and channel rehabilitation ($400,000).
But for all the other facilities the masterplan is calling for, the town is still holding its breath.



LEAGUE FINANCE DESPERATE BUT SAVIOUR MATCH BLOWN! Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
In the red for a fifth consecutive year AFL Central Australia were banking on a return of $30,000 from the cancelled AFL game at Traeger Park.
Now the league could well be looking for Harry Houdini to come to town and save them.
At their AGM a little over a month ago the auditor made clear the league could face curtain time if their financial performance did not improve.Being fully aware that urgent action is necessary, the board has looked for and to date has been successful in generating generous sponsorship from local business. General manager Garry Learmonth has taken to the streets in the quest.
However besides local business input, the solution for the AFLCA was always going to rely heavily on the success of the AFL Wizard Cup fixture scheduled for March.
Integral to the conduct of this match, of course, was the commitment of the Government. Games such as this, and those played in Darwin, simply do not happen without major sponsorship, and the efforts of Jack Ah Kit and his department in this regard have already been well documented.
As a result of poor communication, and using the excuse of "lack of suitable accommodation", the game was called off.
More interestingly the AFL, who have in recent years stepped into NTFL and CAFL administrative affairs, have been noticable for their absence in smoothing the waters.
To Centralians the bearer of the bad news had to be the Minister and major sponsor Mr Ah Kit. From the AFL point of view the brunt of the hard work in facing the public has been dropped on Learmonth's youthful shoulders.Will the AFL or AFL NT be around to assist in dealing with the fallout from this cancellation, something that could be a big nail in the coffin of Australian Rules in the Centre?
More significantly, the ramification of the last minute cancellation, "because five star accommodation is unavailable", surely deserves some consideration. A large proportion of those planning to attend the Traeger Park game sleep where the only stars are in the sky. Many would have planned to travel for a longer time and in much tougher circumstances to pay for the privelege of attending an AFL match.
Our game, Australian Rules, evolved from the support of the working class. For a hundred years families in the city and the country alike have invested their hard earned on making sure that a day out at the footy has been affordable. Footy has been much more than just 18 blokes booting a ball around the park. It has been integral to family and culture, through times of war, depression and prosperity.In recent years the AFL seem to have taken the game to a new level of (un)affordability, forgetting, maybe even ignoring, the grass roots in pursuit of big business dreams. Can the younger generation smell the linament while perched on the pickets at Docklands?
Were the youngsters of the bush considered when the Traeger Park game was called off?Let us hope this neglect of the true believers, and their oncoming generations, does not come back to haunt the decision makers of the Australian Game.As a saving grace for football devotees, Garry Learmoth and his mates introduced Recfooty at Ross Park last Friday evening. This is a format of the game that will appeal to families, friends and community groups, who love the game but may not be in a position to pull on the boots in the big league.
Teams of eight play in a modified situation cover three zones on the field in a similar pattern to netball. The ball can be kicked or handballed, but once it makes contact with the ground a turnover results. Only the forward zone players can score in the game that is played across an oval and consists of two 20-minute halves.
Last week some 60 players of all ages, both male and female, gave the game a go. Already extra teams have registered their interest for Friday.
In contrast to the decision of the AFL to cancel the March 4 Wizard Cup fixture, Recfooty has the interests of the fans at heart, is most affordable, and another positive move by the AFLCA to keep the game alive in our part of the country. Like Auskick and junior footy in the Centre, it's a winner!



CRICKET: JANUARY GAMES WEAKEN FEDERAL. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The value of making every post a winner in the pre-Christmas period has again been proven in A Grade cricket circles.
When the pads were packed away for the festive season, Federal were already sitting comfortably at the top of the table from Westies and RSL Works, with Rovers in fourth place.
The January games, however, have put paid to Federal dominance, with West now within striking distance.
The holiday period invariably puts pressure on clubs to dig deep into their player banks. This year was no exception but West have been able to capitalise by retaining more key players and so picking up points in both one and two day encounters.
This was borne out in the recent two day match when Rory Hood took six wickets in the first innings demise of Federal who were dismissed for 80. Hood then built on his 25 not out on day one to complete a century and contribute significantly to Westies' total of 4/248.
Assisting Hood was Jeremy Bigg who offered fine bowling support although only claiming one wicket and then partnered Hood to finally be 60 not at the declaration.
In the challenge to record an outright win, Federal was able to withstand the West attack in which Bigg took five wickets, leaving Federal at 5/90 at stumps. West went home with first innings points, particularly satisfied.
In the other game RSL Works were able to cement their finals chances by recording an outright victory over Rovers. The Blues went into the game sadly depleted. The absence of key performers led to a first innings collapse with only 77 runs on the board. This was never enough and at stumps on the first day Jamie Smith with 31 had provided the impetus for RSL to take first innings points at 7/93.
On day two they carried the score onto 120, and then proceeded to restrict Rovers to 99 in their second dig. Darrel Lowe topped Rovers scoring on 29, but with only 57 runs required, RSL were able to cruise to outright victory. Openers Tom Scollay and Graham Schmidt with 29 and 24 respectively ensured the win without loss.
The run into the cricket finals will now be of interest. The minor premier enjoys the benefit of automatic entry to the grand final, and the need to be beaten to lose the flag. The second and third placed sides play out an elimination final, while the fourth place side pack their kit early. With Federal and West now locked in a battle for top spot and RSL well clear of the threat of not qualifying, the battle for automatic entry to the grand final is now really on.



SOCCER BACK FROM CHRISSY BREAK. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Seven a Side soccer has resumed after the Christmas break.
The A Grade matches have seen Federal and Vikings draw 1-1, with Martin Yeoman and Rory Hood scoring for their respective sides. In the top of the table clash the result could well have gone the way of Vikings as Hood's brilliance on two other occasions was thwarted by the ball ricocheting off the woodwork, missing goals by a bee's whisker.
As a result of the draw and Neata Glass Scorpions' 1-0 win over Cunning Stunts, Scorpions moved up the ladder into second place, with Adrian Spiteri being responsible for the goal. Nothing could be taken away, however, from the Stunts' goalkeeper, Jarred Arnold, who produced a stunning exhibition neutralising many assaults on the goal.
In the third fixture Central Falcons enjoyed a 1-0 start to the season over the Starbucks.
The young guns from the ASSA dominated in the B Grade when they came home with a 4-1 win over the Stormbirds . The ‘Birds could not counter the exuberance of the ASSA, with Daniel Erikson slotting two goals and singles going the way of Willie Devlin and James Toyne. Joe Firinu netted the Stormbirds' goal. The win plus a scoreless draw between Buckleys and Neata Glass Scorpions took ASSA to within two points of the premiership ladder leader Buckleys, with Scorpions still well in contention.
At the bottom of the ladder Thorny Devils recorded their second successive win, accounting for Federals, 4-1. Tim Collins proved invaluable with a hat trick and Jeremy Dore scored a single. In the Federal camp it was Lucas Jordan who put the score on the board.



OUR WORRIES ARE SO SMALL. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
I woke up the other morning to find the lavender bush outside my bedroom window completely demolished. A euro had been trying to make a meal out of it but hadn't found it very appetising.
Things like this used to really upset me but I just thought to myself, "I guess I will have to buy another one". Age and experience has brought me to this point.
Tragedies like the Tsunami have helped me to put my hardships into perspective. The summer heat which in the past has driven me nearly to distraction has not worried me like it used to.
For once I've been truly grateful to live in the middle of the driest continent on earth as far away from the sea as one can possibly get.
We don't get mudslides, twisters or tsunamis. We are safe from most of the major natural disasters.
Human civilisation has developed technologies that make it possible to send people into space but we cannot control the forces of nature. In the bigger scheme of things we are still small and insignificant yet when things get really bad the best of human nature is brought out.
People are willing to make sacrifices for those whose lives have been devastated. The size of this disaster was big enough for us to feel the pain and realise how lucky we were to be safe.
But there are no guarantees. In ancient cultures people used to make sacrifices to the gods to keep them happy so that they would look after the mere mortals. If something bad happened you had failed to appease the gods.
I had a phone call from the spina bifida fund raising organisation yesterday and despite hearing about the hardships of the children affected by this terrible disease I did not donate any money.
I felt guilty for not giving and for having healthy children and just a bit worried that I was challenging fate by not giving. What if something were to happen to my children or children I know?
Throughout the world, there are children suffering from disease, abuse and poverty. The UN believes it is possible to eradicate poverty within our life time, but the wealthy countries of the world do not seem too enthusiastic about pitching in for that battle.
When I look around this town I see a lot of tragedy and poverty and disease.
Where did it all come from? Was there an earth quake? Did a meteor hit? What was the tsunami of Central Australia? Did the sufferersof misery here do something wrong? Are they deserving of their plight?
When I was a little girl I wrote in my aunt's guest book that if you were good and did the right thing everything would be alright. The problem was that if something bad happened you must have done something wrong.
It is not like that in the real world. Bad things happen to good people. Just because someone is poor or not coping does not make them deserving of that fate. Of course there may be logical consequences to a person's behaviour but then there are also logical consequences to natural disasters. Is it possible that we are living with the results of such a disaster?
I hope that the compassion and generosity we have shown for the tsunami victims will open hearts to those in our midst who are still feeling the shockwaves of the social and cultural blow that hit them.
Sometimes empathy is the greatest help of all.
While money might appease the gods and ‘spare' us, it's a change in attitude that will save the world.



THE DEMISE OF OUTBACK MAN. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
On the second day of my Christmas holidays I walked into the café of a capital city bookshop. Instead of looking bored and asking me whether I wanted a latte or a cappuccino with skinny or full fat and what size did I want or would I prefer one of the other multiple coffee combinations, the man behind the counter said, "Where are you from?".
I took some offence at this. After all, I am a middle-aged, middle class white bloke. I am not supposed to stand out from the crowd. I should be indistinguishable from anyone else, enabling me to enjoy my drink without anyone noticing. And another thing; I don't need someone asking me personal questions when it is over an hour since my last coffee.
Then again, it was Christmas which for me is not so much the season of goodwill as a time to be slightly less unsociable than usual. So I offered a polite answer and explained that no we don't have a Gloria Jeans coffee shop in Alice Springs even though I was interested to hear that there are 260 branches across Australia.
I could see that he was wondering how we survive without a caffeine franchise in town, but I didn't prolong the conversation. Instead I slunk back to my wife and children, who were still amused at me having to explain where I came from before I could get served.
Why did he ask me that? I couldn't work it out. "Well, look at yourself," said my daughter. "You look like Outback Man." I looked at myself. She was right.
I was wearing my Akubra hat and an old checked shirt like those that the Incredible Hulk wears before he turns into the Incredible Hulk, tearing the sleeves and chest in the process. My trousers were faded and diesel-stained. My shoes were dusty.
I suddenly felt conspicuous among the black- and grey-clad customers of Gloria Jeans with their broadsheet newspapers, little rolled-up umbrellas and modest helpings of vegetable soup.
I couldn't change now. I was far from home with a small suitcase containing variations on the same clothes. So I soldiered on in a self-conscious way until one evening I was walking on my own in the CBD. Towards me came a group of pub-crawlers. Judging by their volume, they were three pubs into the evening.
They were staring at me, but I had no time to cross to the other side of the street. I tried to affect an air of nonchalance spiced with a whiff of menace but that felt stupid. So instead I avoided eye contact by pretending to be window-shopping in Be Me.
My heart rate darted upwards as one of the group peeled away from the others. He marched up to me, leaned into my face and shouted "Howdy pardner" to hoots of hilarity from his mates that were almost as loud as those from my children when I told them the story. "You look like Outback Man," they explained, as if I was a bit slow and still didn't understand.
This tale of woe is strange for one reason; I might look like Outback Man, but I would struggle to tell one end of a cow from the other, being more of a vegetable soup man myself. Clearly, I should have stuck to my cycling tights and fluorescent touring jersey with the extended rear so that it covers your backside as you lean over the handlebars.
Nobody would have said howdy pardner then. I would have gained more respect and would have blended in better.
So here's a word of warning.
If you don't want to attract unwanted attention, take care when leaving the Alice to change your appearance to normal.
steve@afishoutofwater.com

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