ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
February 16, 2005.


New life for Old Ghan? Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Members of the Old Ghan Preservation Society, encouraged by 50 new members, want the historic train to run again but are facing opposition from a faction favouring a static display.
As the disagreement rages engines are being vandalised, carriages plundered for their historic fittings and the track is falling into disrepair.
The faction wanting to rekindle interest from volunteer workers is clashing with the group's president, Warren Serone, who favours handing over the attraction to paid staff.
Prior to the society's annual general meeting on 24 February, some members claim that their rights to vote and be consulted on issues concerning the museum are being breached, and that they are being actively discouraged from volunteering.
"The Old Ghan is basically dead in the water and it breaks my heart," says Laurie Elkington who has worked and volunteered at the museum for 17 years.
"When it first opened there was a big wave of enthusiasm – we thought the museum would be huge. It was the only rail preservation society in the Territory.
"During the ‘nineties I was driving four steam trains a week, going as far as Ewaninga 25k down the line. It was fulfilling.
"But I resigned in 1996 because of infighting and politics and now I'm on a committee where's there's not that much to do.
"We're not running trains or restoring any of the locomotives. It's so sad."
Vern Ellis has volunteered at the Old Ghan with his wife Christel for the last three years and says: "Alice Springs probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the Old Ghan but no one seems to care about it now.
"We've approached the local council and politicians to ask for support but nothing is being done."
Problems with the Old Ghan began around 1995 when the museum got into financial difficulty because of debtors, and at the same time severed ties with the adjacent Road Transport Hall of Fame and lost many volunteers.
The Old Ghan steam and diesel train journeys were eventually stopped in 2001.
"There weren't a lot of options," says Warren Serone, who was president of the Society at the time of the decision and remains in the role today. "When I looked into the insurance premium for public liability to run trains, one quote was a 50 to 70 per cent increase on the premium the year before.
"And even today we don't have enough volunteers to run a reliable service.
"If we had to pay someone to do it, it would be totally prohibitive."
But according to Society members, issues of public liability, funding and insurance "are not insurmountable – they are excuses".
They claim that Mr Serone had the chance to apply for regular government grants (which had previously supported the organisation).
Mr Serone responds that "Government grants are for things like refurbishing displays – we needed money to employ people".
He says the Old Ghan applies for and receives regional museum grants.
Society members also claim Mr Serone "pushed away" enthusiasts willing to volunteer their time for free in favour of paying contractors to operate the museum.
"Nonsense" says Mr Serone.
There are currently four volunteers at the Old Ghan, but the supervisors of the museum and shop are local contractors, Managerial Solutions, also under attack from the volunteers' faction. (The Alice News will report on their activities next week.)
"Six or seven years ago, members were given the pros and cons of different options to run the museum," says Mr Serone.
"Meetings went on for a couple of months. Eventually we decided to hire a concessionaire.
"It wasn't the preferred option but it was the most logical."
Mr Serone says a caretaker has been employed for six months to stop theft from the museum and "pilfering has quietened down".
But volunteers report as recently as six weeks ago a brake handle was stolen from a DH locomotive cab, a vital piece of equipment for running the train.
Mr Serone, who admits he is not a train enthusiast, was asked to join the committee eight years ago, to help sort out the society's financial and administrative affairs, which had not been kept up to date.
"The place was virtually in debt", says Mr Serone. "It took 12 months for the committee and I to sort out residual debts and admin issues.
"It's now paying its way and has no debt."
Charlie Poole, who was an original steering committee member for the Old Ghan when it was set up in 1979, was employed as maintenance supervisor of the rolling stock when Mr Serone was elected.
Both his grandfathers worked for the original Old Ghan in 1929.
"As an employee I had legally accumulated long service leave - but no provision was available for me to take that.
"In defence of the president he turned the terrible financial situation around which meant I was able to take what I was entitled to."
But members of the Old Ghan Preservation Society believe that the current financial practices are not beneficial to the museum.
They claim that over recent months more than 50 new members have signed up, keen to "get a new and vibrant community motivated" which can run the Old Ghan without employing a contractor.
They argue this would mean any profit made from the café or shop would be ploughed back into the museum – rather than go into the pockets of the contractor.
But Mr Serone is suspicious of this new wave of interest.
"New members to the society are welcome.
"But during the last two months there has been a significant increase in membership and I believe this is a real branch stacking operation.
"I received a letter signed from ‘concerned Ghan citizens' about new membership.
"It was obsessed with arguing the issue of allowing proxy votes for issues to be discussed at the upcoming AGM, which we don't accept because the museum is orientated towards local people.
"I'm not sure what their agenda is. It will be interesting to find out at the AGM.
"There's no point in having 500 new members of the Society if only 50 live in Alice Springs."
When asked about his vision for the museum, Mr Serone admits it's "a very different place today than it was" but believes it's serving its purpose.
"It displays the history of the Old Ghan with artefacts, stories and information.
"To do anything more with a museum these days you need tens of thousands of dollars.
"A group called Action Aerobatics from the Hunter Valley has expressed interest in running the steam train but we've made it clear that we couldn't support [them] financially."
He denied a rumour that another group of wealthy train enthusiasts keen to support the steam train had approached him several times but had been ignored.
"If we had a benefactor who was prepared to put up $40,000 then we could think about running the trains again.
"But we can't do this on donations or new members. People who say we can are dreamers – or have hidden agendas."
But for people like Laurie Elkington their commitment to restoring the Old Ghan museum remains resolutely passionate.
"We need new people with new ideas, management skills and a vision to go forward, not one step forward and one step back," says Mr Elkington.
"The Old Ghan is an Australian icon. It's worth preserving."
Those interested in attending the Old Ghan AGM should contact the museum 89 555047.



LITTER A COUNCIL RESPONSIBILITY. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Preventing health hazards from rubbish on private land – including Aboriginal town lease areas – is a responsibility of the Alice Springs Town Council.
This was revealed when the Alice Springs News made inquiries about piles of litter on land between St Philip's College and the Charles Creek town camp.
In June last year, when the News published a photograph of a rubbish strewn area at the northern end of the camp, Mayor Fran Kilgariff said the town council was powerless to deal with the problem.
She said: "Tangen-tyere Council has service responsibilities for anything associated with town camps.
"The town council has no way of providing services inside town camps as they are private property.
PROPERTY"The council's Environmental Health Unit is not responsible for the conditions on private property."
This week, however, council CEO Rex Mooney said the council's Environmental Health Manager "can become involved".
And a spokesperson for Health Minister Peter Toyne says the control of litter is a council responsibility.
However, the agreement under which the council is taking care of environmental health in the town under contract from the NT Government, is likely to come to an end on July 1.
Mr Mooney says the litter issue "does need a sustainable outcome".
If Tangentyere doesn't clean up the litter "the Environmental Health Unit can become involved but it hasn't come to that stage yet".



BUILDING FAITH. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
What if, miraculously, the NT Government were to develop a courageous policy about housing land prices, now that it "has its hands on the levers", as Paul Keating once put it?
It's a small start, but the 45 blocks the government will be developing and selling, following a deal with Aboriginal native title holders, offer the opportunity of making a confidence-inspiring statement. But the only one we've had so far is that the land will be sold at ruling market values. Yet what if the Labor government were to sell those blocks for or close to the cost of development?
That's expected to be $26,000 according to a local engineer (Alice News, February 2), or $45,000 according to a real estate source.
No prizes for guessing that buyers would be delighted. So who would be disappointed? Fewer people than most think, it seems. The real estate industry is frequently blamed for pushing the prices up. In fact they don't create market pressures; they work within them.
Real estate agencies get around four per cent of the sale price. Half goes to the agency, half to the sales person. For a $300,000 home that four per cent comes to $12,000. Not bad.
However, getting four per cent on one $300,000 home isn't nearly as good as getting four per cent on two $260,000 homes. It's volume, not price, that real estate agents are looking for. At the moment there is very little new "stock" and the trade benefits mainly from the fact that every house in Alice Springs gets sold on average every seven years.
Most other properties coming onto the market are larger blocks that have been chopped up into smaller ones. Blocks of 400 square metres are not uncommon now, a sad indictment of the way this desert town has been managed in the past 20 years.
A government figure said to me, most disingenuously, that we're still better off than Sydney. Wow. Sydney is surrounded by satellite and ribbon development. We are surrounded by land.
So who would suffer if the government, rather than making an estimated $4m profit from the 45 blocks, were just happy to break even at western Larapinta? A senior real estate source tells me it would make no difference to land prices in the Golf Course Area, the Farm Area and Old Eastside, for example. That's land for a very different type of buyer.
In Larapinta land prices have recently been hammered by antisocial behavior – so a drop in value isn't new. Chances are, says the source, that land comparable to the new blocks at the western outskirts, say at Sadadeen or Gillen, may drop by $30,000 or $40,000. That may be a shock to people there who want to sell or raise a mortgage. But they would need to admit that the current windfall price levels are the result of an entirely artificial situation, created mainly – for better or for worse – by the relatively recent legislated native title rights blocking land development. If housing values drop, people are likely to buy rather than rent, or buy a house rather than a flat or unit.
And consider this: Fred Bloggs may be a chippy or a sparky. Because of new land releases – and the first 100 of some 600 blocks in Mt Johns Valley are going to be next – he may lose $30,000 or $40,000 from the value of his house. However, because of the resurgence of the building industry he'll gain contracts worth $300,000. And his apprentice, who before had had no chance of buying a house, will now sign up for a much more reasonably priced one.
What's more, Fred and his apprentice, many of whose colleagues have left town, will abolish any thought of leaving themselves. And suddenly we've started an upswing, a cycle of economic and social progress and confidence.
And then, at long last, we can start thinking about the future in positive terms. We'll realise that Alice has the stuff that allows development, principally in tourism – "product" is the ghastly word – that has no discernible limit. The demand around the world for experience of our landscape's beauty, the ancient Indigenous culture and unhassled lifestyle is boundless – just look at the Ayers Rock Resort. But we can do much better.
Even without recycling we have plenty of water. We have more space than almost anyone in the world, a secure political system and more sunshine than you can poke a stick at. So what's keeping us back is our own incompetence in managing these priceless assets. Given the town's inherent wealth, its stagnation over the past 10 years, indeed its recession in key areas, are the consequence of poor leadership, by Labor and CLP governments, local government and business. We do badly in the way we deal with land; our human relationships are poor. Governments are investing in projects with a poor rate of return, while obvious opportunities are missed.
Sadly, the current timidity and lack of vision in dealing with the new residential land, so desperately needed for so long, doesn't suggest we're going to get it right some day soon.



DARWIN RAIL: BACK TO ROAD? Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Just a year after completion of the Adelaide to Darwin railway, some freight companies in Alice Springs are considering a return to the roads.
A freight price "restructure", with rises of up to 80 per cent in costs for some types of freight, was initiated by operators FreightLink in October last year (see Alice News, Sept 22 & 29, 2004).Another review is to be held in October this year (although a promise has been made that costs won't rise by more than five per cent).
An earlier rate review was due in April this year but this has since been cancelled.
Northline, one of the NT's best-known freight handlers, admits to late last year looking into the cost of going back to using the road.
It refused to comment on an industry rumour that it was re-equipping for the road with nine prime movers and 45 trailers.
"Investigating the viability of road versus rail is partly a money issue and partly a service issue," says a spokesperson for the company.
"I don't want to comment on the service issue.
"We have been continuing to assess our road options but changing from rail didn't come up this time. If after continual assessing, road works out to be more profitable than rail, then we'll consider it.
"There are costs for rail over and above using the line, like the loading of equipment, bringing units to and from the railway and the cost of containers are higher than road ones."
"We have been affected by rising costs," admits Trevor Marslen, general manager of Northern Territory Freight Services (NTFS). But although it's quicker to transport goods like fruit, vegetables and milk from Alice to Darwin using roads, NTFS will keep using rail while it remains competitive.
Like Northline though, he says the situation is under "constant review".
John Fullerton, the chief executive of FreightLink, was not available for interview but said through a spokesperson that "no customers have switched back to road" since the price rises in October.
Last week FreightLink announced it was having to invest a further $30m in the service and change its original business plan before profit could be reached.
The Adelaide to Darwin railway cost $1.3b, and the NT government contributed $800m to the project.




THE LIFE OF JUGS. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
Whether it's a jug, a mountain or a tree, Neridah Stockley, currently showing paintings and drawings at Araluen, is interested primarily in its form.
Her vision unites these things that may seem disparate, by emphasising the way that they are themselves and not striving for any other state.
Her way with paint, at its best, suits her concern: the forms take shape lightly, with simplicity.
In some paintings she brings more than one object into the frame so that you also see them in relation to one another, but in each instance they retain a completeness, a quiet solidity.
Even her skies seem to compete with mountains for solidity.
She chooses a warm but muted palette, so that colour doesn't assert itself – except in the case of applied decoration – over the form.
It's hard, though, for her approach to be sustained with the human head, which she renders in silhouette, usually topped by a hat. With heads we have such strong urges to see eyes, nose, mouth – expression. Instead of having a sense of completeness, as her other subjects do, with the heads there is a distracting sense of what's missing.
Trained at the National Art School in Sydney, Stockley has lived and worked in the Territory for the last eight years. This is her first solo show. You can catch it at Araluen until April 3.



MOSTLY METAL.
Local youth bands gave a rocking night of live music at the Alice Springs Youth Centre last Saturday.The five-member Sandy Creek Band from Yirara College opened, with a couple of their own songs, Smash Up and There's a Message on the Wall, as well as the classic Stand By Me.
They were followed by the night's only female performer, Laura White with folky vocals and keyboard.
Lucas Castle then gave a laid back alternative solo performance, before the fire twirlers, Callum Fewster and Salvatore Mure, got the crowd on the edge of their seats.
There was a particularly scary moment when Fewster had his friend lying on the ground, spinning fire above his head. They were an exciting opening for the heavy metal band, Blistered.
Blistered group got a great reaction from the crowd, drawing the first lot of head bangers (head banging's a strange form of dancing which involves mainly throwing your head around – other parts of the body are generally not required.)
They also had two pairs of girl undies thrown at them – praise indeed!
Next came Creche, a band of many genres. They played soft rock, metal, punk and at special request did a cover of ACDC's T.N.T.
Zenith then calmed everyone down with, as one fan called it, "chiller music".
They are known fans of the John Butler Trio and amongst their originals did a cover of one of JBT's hits, Better Man.
Nightsplague followed. A high pressure metal outfit, they've recently released a CD of three of their songs. The crowd loved them, except for one smart-ass who was soon put in his place by a fan.
Bloodskin and Monstrom wrapped up the night with more of this town's favourite style of music, heavy metal.
I'm looking forward to more nights like this one, though perhaps next time the producers can mix the styles more. There seems no reason to have most of the softer music towards the start.
It might also be worth having fewer bands or shorter sets so that people don't leave before the last act, which unfortunately they did.
And, hey, what about a greater female presence on the stage next time!
Talking about female, have you head that Amira, performing in Alice for much of last year and promising to return, has a hit on the Triple J Net 50 at the moment? To vote for her go to www.abc.net.au/triplej. - MISS MUSICA



MINOR PREMIERS MAY MISS MATCH PLAY. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Federal cricketers had good reason to rejoice on Saturday night when they celebrated an outright victory over Rovers. The win has given them this season's minor premiership and automatic entry into the grand final.
Now their opponents must defeat them in order to claim the flag, and should a final be washed by rain, the minor premier benefits.
However, this year it's not going all the minor premier's way. Between now and grand final day Federal could well be deprived of match play. This weekend two-day games will be played on Saturday and Sunday. Then in the last weekend of the month there will be no association matches due to the Imparja Cup. Following the Indigenous festival, a round of one day matches will complete the minor round.
Federal will then have to watch from the boundary on the following weekend as the second and third placed sides battle it out for a grand final spot. Hence in a month of cricket the minor premiers could face restricted opportunities to play.
Despite this quirk in the current season's calendar, it is a definite plus to being sitting at the top of the premiership ladder.
On Saturday Feds produced an ideal result, and this with the absence of key players including Mick Clarke and Jarrad Wapper. By stumps on the first day, Rovers had been dismissed for a meagre 89. In response the Blues snared the wickets of BJ O'Dwyer for a duck, and then Brendan Martin for 27, before Blain Cornford took control and had registered 86 not out.
In the first hour of play this week the not out batsman carted Rovers all over the field to race to 2/244 at the declaration. Cornford cruised to 130 and Tom Clements to 75, thus setting up a lead of155.
Curtis Marriott and Mick Fennell broke through the opening pair, Peter Kleinig and Nick Clapp, putting Rovers right on the ropes at 2/7. From that point the spin attack of Cornford and Allan Rowe became the focal point. They took three wickets each.
The resistance was limited, with mainstay Matt Pyle putting together a creditable 36. Darrell Lowe made 15 and Justin Dowson 22 not out.
However Rovers were no match for their opposition and they fell short of their target by being dismissed for 147.
In the clash between West and RSL Works, a rare first innings tie was recorded. It kept the chase for second and third position well and truly alive. West had disappointed in their first dig by scoring 154 and at stumps on the first day RSL were 1/47.
On day two the honours went to Peter Tabart. The born and bred Wests spinner returned 6/54, shattering the opposition hopes.
Resistance in Works came through the late efforts of Jeff Whitmore. The former captain had spent the week on the sick list and came to the crease only as a matter of necessity. His appearance as number 11 batsman saw 31 runs registered. An RSL victory was denied however when they were dismissed on 154.
The two sides will meet again in the last game of the season, a one day affair, which could well settle the minor positions.
Meanwhile, in other cricket news SACA curator Les Burdett is in town this week to ensure Traeger Park is in fine fettle for both the Imparja Cup and the AFL's Wizard Cup fixtures.
By the look of Traeger Park on Saturday it seems a "number one haircut" should be the first item on the menu.
This should nullify the invasion of galahs, who have been having a real feast on the playing surface.
It will also allow for regrowth, transforming Traeger from a patchy quilt of brown and green to the surface required for the conduct of elite sport.



ARE FOOTBALL'S VIKINGS INVINCIBLE? Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Vikings rule supreme in terms of Seven a Side Football, and the question on everyone's lips is how long they can go before being beaten.
In last week's round they continued on their merry way with a 5-1 win over Starbucks in the A Grade competition.
Starbucks in fact opened in a flurry, when new signing Benny Love netted successfully. Alas this advantage was soon nullified when top shots Rory Hood and Richard Farrell recorded a brace each to have the score at 4-1 by the twenty fifth minute.
Cameron Finlay who played a blinder was then rewarded with a goal in the thirty second minute to seal the game for the premiership favourites.
In opposition skipper Mark Harvey put in an enormous effort to lift his side's performance, but it was all to no avail against the best side in the competition.
The Neata Glass Scorpions had their eye on moving into second spot on the ladder when they ran on against Federals. They placed Michael Curtis back in goals and celebrated at the 20-minute mark when defender Lee Morgan successfully slotted a goal.
Just as it looked as though things were going to happen Feds rallied and lifted their performance which resulted in an equalising goal at the 30 minute mark from the boot of Luke Bosie. Four minutes later Simon Danby netted Feds second goal and the lead. In going on to win 2-0 Federal now hold second spot to Vikings.
From the outset of the match between Cunning Ones and Central Falcons there was no love lost. Adam Taylor recorded his second red card for the season and the same outcome resulted for Kenny Braun. It was an unfortunate incident but once this outburst of emotion was dealt with, the game settled down. The Falcons were able to put the side issue behind them and go on to score two unanswered goals.
Hamish McDonald scored at the eighteenth minute followed by another from Russell Graham just 60 seconds later.
In the last minute of play McDonald further sealed the result with a goal and a 3-0 scoreline.
In B Grade intrigue continued. The Thorny Devils, who were winless in the pre-Christmas period, again returned a win, while bottom side Federal lifted to the occasion to draw with Neata Glass Scorpions.
The Scorpions ran on without key players, Urs Marzhol and Matt Gridley. The absence of the mid fielders left their line up vulnerable and Federal, who are the competition cellar dwellers, responded wel,l holding Scorpions to a nil all draw.
The Thorny Devils claimed victory, with goals to Andy Vitner, Tim Collins and Peter Clarke. This win further enhanced their chances to feature in the finals.
The Buckleys game against ASSA ended with a 1-0 win to the Buckleys, but it was far from a one-sided match. The young ASSA side, which is drawn from the ranks of rising junior stars, had several chances to score, and if the game were replayed the result may have differed.
The C Grade round saw two of the top teams Stormbirds and Dragons fight out a 2-0 win to the Dragons. They showed they have the potential to be right in the finals play off, with Mark Von Blankensee netting two goals.
The game between Alice Power and RSL showed that the Razzle are on the improve. It was Zac Harvey who slotted a goal to give Alice Power a 1-0 win over RSL.
The remaining game was one the Old Farts will cherish. Although beaten 1-0 on this occasion they had keeper Dave Williams in splendid form and could well have forced a nil all draw.
CLC's Joe Clarke has a big influence on anything he plays, and through good understanding he was able to find the net well. Considering the Old Farts were dished out a 7-0 drubbing the last time these two sides met, the result was a real positive for the more genteel, aged force.



People-watching induces sleep. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I spend far too much time lolling around in public places eating, drinking and over-analysing others.
For example, sometimes I sit in the Todd Tavern with lots of sad people who turn up on the dot of six o'clock when the food till opens. From here, it is only a short step to becoming institutionalised.
Maybe the pub staff should ring a bell and watch all the regulars form a neat line at the counter with $7.95 neatly counted out and clutched in our sweaty mitts. I keep mine in a jar over the kitchen sink.
The Todd Tavern is one example, but you can sit in any public place in Alice Springs and learn something new. Bill Bryson, the American writer, did this a few years ago. He reported languid and heavily-bandaged Aboriginal people contrasting with shoppers with multiple plastic bags and a spring in their step. The government must do something about this now, he concluded, but I wasn't certain whether this was a call to heal the wounds in people's limbs or to end rampant consumerism. Both would be worth doing.
Of course, Alice Springs also features less conspicuous groups of people. Invariably, there is a tired-looking married couple sitting in a café. The man spends 15 minutes playing with his mobile phone, as if scrolling through the names on the little green screen might conjure up someone more interesting. The woman just looks bored, probably with him.
Then there's always an animated career couple, both women, chatting about a whole list of subjects. It's peculiar how same-sex conversations seem so much better than those with the opposite sex. Nearby, I usually spot someone with the most cringing red sunburn, even in mid-Winter, and you can also always spot a wearer of blue singlets and shorts. And let's not forget the ubiquitous backpacker, striding boldly in one direction, giveaway guidebook just out of sight.
While I watch the people and feel just a bit drowsy, my panorama of Alice Springs is broken by a four-wheel drive vehicle with a boat strapped to the top, as if the driver took a wrong turn at Halls Creek and is still looking for Cable Beach. Where do all these boats come from and where are they going? It's like an April Fool's joke that lasts all year.
Of course, it's wrong to categorise people based on their habits or appearance, but it's fun so I do it anyway. For example, I reckon you can determine someone's generation most easily by asking the name of their favourite movie, book or song. My father's list would feature Nat King Cole, together with that bearded bloke who climbs mountains and also Norman Wisdom.
My own choices would naturally be much more hip and sophisticated. One of my favourite films was Annie Hall. There's a scene in the film where Woody Allen is trying to impress Annie by sitting in a public place and making caustic comments about the people who pass by.
It's a tender falling-in-love moment in which everything he says is clever and funny to her. Later Annie walks out on him and Woody takes up with a new woman who finds nothing he says funny at all. I guess this is why bored couples stay together. It's safer than the risk of nobody laughing at your jokes.
In the same way that watching sheep jumping over a fence can induce sleep, so can too much people-watching. So if you see a weird bloke fighting off the effects of a heavy meal and gazing at others who have far more interesting things to do, take no notice. It's probably me.
steve@afishoutofwater.com



CATERPILLAR TO BUTTERFLY. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
Years ago a visiting friend from Darwin who had known me during my uni days up there asked me if I was hiding in Alice Springs.
I was so different – with a mortgage, husband and kids. Wasn't I running away from something? Feeling as if I'd been found out, I didn't know what to say.I had not looked at it that way, although I did feel I had found a safe haven here where I could get on with living my own life without too much judgement.
For the outsider, the visitor or tourist, we live in the middle of nowhere,Australia being "nowhere" I suppose, at the end of the earth.
Many a visitor is amazed at the level of civilization they find and the number of things they can do here.
Some visitors come back and become locals, others simply stay because what they found was what they were looking for.It is a place where metamorphosis can take place, where you can change identity or let something new emerge.
The open naked landscape can become the empty canvas for the next stage in your life.
A test ground for new ideas, cars in stripes especially, with endless horizons.
In Aboriginal culture this is the site for the caterpillar dreaming.
Children born here are yipirinyas, caterpillars.
The caterpillar eats and eats and turns into a pupa, then becomes seemingly lifeless, as it transforms into a winged creature, a butterfly. The native passionfruit bush is a popular food for the butterfly.
First the caterpillars completely strip the bush, leaving a naked skeleton, then a few days later when the butterflies emerge from their pupae, it is shrouded in white butterflies. Life and death in harmony.
In our busy lives, especially in the urban areas, we are fed impressions, food, expectations and demands, we get fatter and fatter like the caterpillar but we don't get that time to go into hiding, into a pupa where we can transform all that we have taken into something unique and wonderful, something that can take flight.
Sometimes we have to die a little in order to become who we truly are and are meant to be. We need down-time or a pupa stage in our lives in order to develop as human beings.
Development is often talked about as steps and may sometimes be confused with an image of a rising curve. A mountain that needs to be conquered appears before our eyes.Research has shown how important sleep is for learning, yet still we tend to stress activity in our lives. There is so much to do and see, not to mention the importance of physical exercise.
There is a natural pattern in place: sleep, activity, sleep, activity, sleep; or egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly, egg.
Alice may look naked and dead like a munched native passion-fruit vine, but the butterflies flourish.



LETTERS: Alice News turns up heat.
Dear Alice Springs News ... I am SO glad you are back on line!!! I missed you SO much in January.
We had temperatures here in N.W.O., Canada, of minus 40 degrees Celsius for weeks on end and I had nowhere warm to escape to ... no pictures of the Todd River, the desert, or the hills ... a hundred thousand welcomes to you all!!!!
Carole Mackintosh
Canada
carolemack@hotmail.com

Sir,– In reply to Anita and Melly Kruger's letter last week, headed "Oppression was real", I don't disagree with the writers. In fact I agreed with almost everything that their father, Alec Kruger, said (apart from suicide, which is carried out by more than just Indigenous men).
I sincerely apologise to the Kruger family if they saw my response as disrespectful. I can only say that my letter was written in a formal manner not to be disrespectful to anyone, let alone someone with whom I have had many a long conversation and have a deep respect for. I was brought up by my mother in the strictest terms to "be respectful to my elders at all times".
Like many before us, Mum and I did live that life. We were part of the grass roots community; we did experience oppression in the ‘thirties, ‘forties, ‘fifties and ‘sixties and yes, we did live in humble surrounds with a tin shed and a dirt floor, which I might add was kept immaculately by my mum because she had pride.
Yes, she did work under the same oppressive conditions as Anita's and Melly's father, as did many of our people. She also sent me away to St Mary's Aboriginal Children's village in 1959 so that I could get an education that wasn't available in the bush. Yes, I did get homesick, but we made the best of every opportunity, as did Alec Kruger and many others.
Agreed, some new schools have only come into existence in the last decade. However, of the many educational institutions I mentioned where Aboriginal people had the opportunity to further their educational skills, some have been here a long time. St Philip's College celebrated 40 years on 13th February; Kormilda College will celebrate its fortieth birthday in two years' time and Yirara College was founded in 1975.
Batchelor Institute (which began as a residential school for Aboriginal students on the outskirts of Darwin, in the mid-1960s), The Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) and Charles Darwin University (formerly the Community College of Central Australia) all provide Certificate courses in communities and have done so for over 35 years.
The Centre for Appropriate Technology, established in 1980 as part of the then Community College, provides a range of services and training to encourage and help Aboriginal people enhance their quality of life on remote communities.
These are all examples of secondary and tertiary educational facilities that do an extremely good job in catering for the needs of our Indigenous people. I still ask the question, do we really need more high schools on communities?
All I am saying, Anita and Melly, with no disrespect to anyone at all, "where there is a will, there is a way", with thanks to whoever coined the phrase.
Sandy Taylor
Alice Springs

Sir,– The Sola Wilson Group is a consortium establishing a rival national football league to the AFL in 2005.
Teams will be from Tasmania, NSW, Country Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
• There will be two to three female players on each team.
• There will be no on field umpire (an official will preside from the grandstand).
To launch the NT identity we require support from respected community facilities and services.
Now is the time for the NT to be fully recognised as a champion football region.
If support is not forthcoming, then the NT will remain in the back-blocks.
JOIN THE FOOTBALL REVOLUTION.
Monty Person
The Sola Wilson Group

Sir,– I am doing family research on my great grandfather, Billy Briscoe. Can someone help me with info?Rhubee Neale
rhubee_neale764@yahoo.com.au

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