BLACK CHILDREN NEED 'TIME OUT'. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Aboriginal children need time out from a culture "where the law does not change, where the asking of questions is discouraged, where you must wait to be told".
They need to be given more opportunities to become part of culture in an urban setting, to be able to live in two worlds, not one.
Better political representation will not remedy the serious medical, social, and cultural issues of their communities, while this different "child socialisation" would.
So argued anthropologist Peter Sutton before the 1100 delegates at the National Rural Health Conference held in Alice Springs last week, in a paper titled, The Politicisation of Disease and the Disease of Politicisation.
Dr Sutton has worked with Aboriginal communities for the past 35 years, including on some 50 land claims.
Better health won't be achieved through the education of adults, he said. Suggestions by Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson, that children should get some of their education away from their home communities, have some "strong possibilities".
While Mr Pearson's proposals would be expensive, the greater problem they would probably face would be politicisation of the issue, "built upon symbolism rather than outcomes".
Dr Sutton told the Alice News time out for Aboriginal children had to occur early: "Adolescence would be too late."
He said the time should not be spent "in an Aboriginal ghetto", nor in an institution. Ideally the children would be "spread around different families". Time out had "worked so well" for Noel Pearson himself, and for others, such as Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Cathy Freeman, Lionel Rose, the Dodson brothers.
"I don't see them complaining," said Dr Sutton.
He called on the health professionals working with Aboriginal people to be "honest" about the issues, to say "what they know to be the truth".
A speaker from the conference floor expressed concern about Dr Sutton's assertion of the necessity of change in Aboriginal culture.
"Why doesn't the culture of the colonisers also need to change?" asked the speaker.
Dr Sutton responded that the colonisers' culture was one of "reform and self-reform", although its reforms "may lag behind ideals".
He gave the example of land rights legislation: "If that's not a change, I don't know what is."
Another speaker from the floor, who had worked as a GP in a remote community on Cape York, was concerned that some of Dr Sutton's views "would allow people like ourselves to feel comfortable that there was little that could be done" about the state of Indigenous health.
The speaker challenged Dr Sutton's assertion that scabies (a skin infection which leads to streptococcal infections which are statistically associated with end stage renal disease) is not a social justice issue.
She described living conditions on the community where she had worked: on average there were 17 people to a household; if a washing machine broke down, people could not necessarily afford to get it repaired. (Washing bed linen is an important way of preventing scabies.)
She also pointed to difficulties of access to primary health care and to "huge gaps" between actual per capita health spending and the level recommended by the Commonwealth Government's own Primary Health Care Access Program.
"This is a social justice issue," said the speaker, urging the delegates to use their collective power to do something about it.
But Dr Sutton clearly thinks that's not the main game: "My view is we have got to move on and face up to what is out there, what needs to be dealt with," he said.
This includes confronting "culturally embedded behaviours which have a direct impact on health" such as "domestic sanitation and personal hygiene, housing density, diet, the care of children and the elderly, gender relationships, alcohol and drug use, conflict resolution, the social acceptability of violence, cultural norms to do with expression of the emotions, attitudes to learning new information, and attitudes to making changes in behaviour.
"If the answer to this criticism is that indigenous self-government will deliver improvements in all these areas, there is an obvious reply.
"Conditions in remote Aboriginal communities, especially, but also in urban ghettoes like Redfern in Sydney, have generally become worse, not better, since the transfer of local power from church and government to locally elected bodies in the 1970s."
Dr Sutton acknowledged issues of equal access to health care but he also said that on some communities 40 per cent of cash income goes on alcohol.
"You've got to ask, where do their priorities lie?"
SHARE OUR TALL STORY? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Alice Springs will be promoted as a tourist destination in its own right instead of being lumped in with the hugely more successful Ayers Rock Resort.
Significantly, the NT Tourist Commission (NTTC) now defines Alice Springs by how far it is from Ayers Rock – no longer the other way 'round: "Start a journey into the real outback at Alice Springs, 450 kilometres from Uluru (Ayers Rock)," it says on the commission's website.
The Alice is currently getting a campaign worth $1.2m (Alice News, March 9) one of several initiatives for the region to be funded from a $27.5m special allocation Territory wide.
It is being spent between December 2003 and June 2006, and is supplementing the commission's normal annual budget of around $30m a year.
[The tourist commission of Queensland, population 3.6 million, gets $43m. Given the NT's population of 200,000, the NTTC's funding, per head of population, is nearly 13 times greater than Queensland's, namely $11.90 per head for Queensland and $150 per head for the NT.]Six Territory destinations are now being marketed instead of the former two (symbolized by crocodiles for the Top End and camels down here).
Eleven population "segments" have been identified, for example the "young and restless ... travel is about freedom and travel with friends" or "new lease on life ... travel provides the opportunity to grow, expand and learn."
Only five of these segments were found to be worth appealing to.
And it was concluded that those would respond better to internet canvassing and magazine blurbs rather than advertising on commercial TV.
The new slogan "Share our story" isn't all that new – remember "This is part of the story of the Northern Territory ..."
Although the new "strap line" is the heart of the campaign, it is possibly its most doubtful element.
"Sharing our story" is portrayed as a lot more than having a casual yarn: according to NTTC publicity and the destination campaign's manager, Mark Crummy, coming here is meant to be part of a process of personal growth and transformation, meeting psychological challenges and engaging in personal development.
Visiting the Territory isn't just "fly and flop", says Mr Crummy.
The campaign wants the visitor to be "sharing a unique story ... an invigorating personal journey ... [having] contact with a vibrant indigenous culture ... a tale that resonates with the traveller [a] long time after their trip is over."
The promotion being "rolled out" this month raises pretty powerful expectations.
The question is, can we meet them, bearing in mind that nearly half of Central Australia is leased to pastoralists, and most of the rest is Aboriginal land.
A handful of cattle station lessees are dabbling in tourism, but the majority would point the sharp end of a 12 gauge, at least metaphorically speaking, at anyone dropping in to "share a story".
The half of the country owned by Aborigines has onerous access restrictions, and a land council overtly hostile to business ventures.
With few exceptions, sharing stories isn't a priority out bush.
That leaves the national parks, The Alice and a handful of roadhouses.
So, who in Alice Springs, for example, will be telling the "story"?"I don't want to nominate these people yet but when those campaigns hit the market you'll see the story lines will be attributed to locals," says Mr Crummy.
"None of it is manufactured, none of it is made up."
He says local tour operators were told "if you've got stories out there please feed them back to us so we can use them."
Tourists will see the stories "in our campaign activity before they come here."
So far so good, but what about when they actually get here? Who will be talking to them? Who's going to make the dream come true?
"The story of Alice Springs will unfold as it does naturally, with local people," says Mr Crummy.
"They may be well known or they may not be well known.
"You're taking it too literally.
"We're inviting people to come to the Territory and share the story of the Northern Territory.
"The story unfolds through interaction with local people, whether it would be indigenous people or people like you, out on the streets.
"When they arrive here the sense of sharing the story will be interwoven into the various journeys they take.
"It's more the broader thing, the experience of being here.
"In the Territory you live the story, the mulga walk around the Rock, or Jack taking you through the Telegraph Station, getting lunch, buying a newspaper."
A NTTC video has a voice-over by an Aboriginal woman, saying the country was "sung into existence ... it lives through our people ... this is our story" – words, Mr Crummy says, that were spoken by the woman's now deceased grandfather. Powerful stuff.
It's the kind of metaphysical experience which visitors, fed on a rich diet of promotion of "the world's oldest living culture", have been seeking in Central Australia for decades.
What they have been finding, far too often, is anti-social behaviour in the streets, a surrogate experience of Aboriginal culture through souvenir shops in the Mall, and bus drivers fresh out of a crash course on local history – in some unfortunate cases woven in with an embarrassing dose of racism.
The NTTC has found, not in the least surprisingly, a yearning by the "spirited traveller" for the mystique of Central Australia, and is now telling visitors we not only have it, but we can give meaningful access to it.
"This is what out target audience expects when they come to the NT for a holiday," says Mr Crummy.
"They want to have a physical or psychological challenge.
"Nature, culture or adventure, they want to understand the environment they are travelling in."
Mr Crummy says the tourism industry has agreed to this pitch and now must "deliver on this promise".
That could be a dangerous case of putting the horse before the cart.
But Mr Crummy takes an upbeat view: "We find now that people who do come to Alice Springs are changed, are transformed.
"We hear it constantly from operators whose tour clients say, if I'd only known that there is this much to do in Alice Springs I would have stayed longer."
It's clearly a message the NTTC, in its various incarnations, hasn't been able to get across in the last three decades.
The organisation is reluctant to disclose detailed expenditure figures.
For example, Mr Crummy could give no details about the spending in the current financial year (eight and a half months), but undertook to provide them to the Alice Springs News.
Only general figures are available in the NTTC's 2003-04 annual report about the first $7.5m spent out of the $27.5m special allocation.
Example: $1.2m for "indigenous culture and nature based development. A Destination Development model was developed which identifies the types and priority destinations to be developed over the 3 year period".
And that "model" cost more than a million dollars?
Mr Crummy says 85 per cent of the budget goes on marketing. But that also includes such things as research.
He says in the destination campaign's first year, $6m of the $7m was spent on marketing: This took in $1.5m for a TV "brand campaign" and $2.25m for destination marketing, but also setting up a new four-person unit – three in Darwin and one in The Alice.
"That's also an operational spend, that's marketing dollars," says Mr Crummy.
How the commission spends its money is of more than passing interest to a group of Alice businessmen.
One of them, Neil Aitken, of Redback Productions, has set up a comprehensive website but it is getting no recognition from the NTTC: "I believe The Alice website – www.thealice.com.au – is the most informative website about Alice Springs as a holiday destination," says Mr Aitken.
"So why won't the NTTC use it as the town's information platform until such time that the NTTC has a more informative website?
"Share Our Story but not our initiatives?"
HEALTHY SCHOOL LUNCHES: HEADWAY. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
As new Northern Territory School Canteen Guidelines were issued last week, the Alice News reported on how students at Alice Springs High School are refusing healthy lunches from their canteen.
At St Philip's College, the decision to remove all chocolate, chips and fizzy drinks has been unpopular with students – but after initial problems, the system seems to be working.
Brett Richards, chef at the canteen at St Philip' College suggested the change after comments from teachers: "We were getting a lot of complaints about how drinks from the vending machines were causing some children to be disruptive in the class: "The menu is now more nutritionally-balanced. We've done away with most of the processed food like frozen pizzas and cook meals from scratch, although we still do some pies. A meal like our ploughmans pack, which contains chicken, beef, garden salad and cheese, is high protein which will keep the kids feeling full for longer.
"We try to give kids a range of food and widen their taste, like lamb souvlaki. We also sell a fresh fruit salad cup with blueberries, and have vegetarian options like salad wraps and spinach and ricotta rolls.
"There's a lunch ordering service so kids can order something that's not on the menu."
A major factor in stopping schools from offering healthy choices is perceived effects to profit, according to Alison McLay, the Department of Health's acting coordinator of nutrition and physical activity in Central Australia. Says Ms McLay: "The difficulty is that many schools see the canteen as one of their major fundraisers. But there are many examples of how tuck shops can be healthy and successful money-wise. Fruit is still less expensive than a Mars bar. But it's people's perceptions of what they'll pay for something that matters.
"People expect to pay less for fruit but will pay more for a chocolate bar. And often in shops, water is almost the same price as a soft drink which doesn't encourage people to buy it. Pies also require less preparation than sandwiches – just throw them in the pie warmer. A common complaint is that there just isn't enough canteen staff to prepare food.
"There is also wastage associated with fruit – canteen managers may be worried that it's only good for a few days and after that it will have to be thrown out. You can keep a box of chocolate bars for weeks.
"Maybe canteen managers need to look at ways of selling fruit – just whole pieces are a bit boring but it can be chopped up into a fruit salad or made into smoothies. There are some generally healthy pre-prepared foods on sale at reasonable prices accredited by the Federation of Canteens in Schools, like lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise and stuffed bread."
Mr Richards of St Philip's agrees: "You have to structure it so that the kids aren't given a choice – if we did offer Mars bars, we would only sell those and not muesli bars: "And I think that you have to give it time. A few of the grade 10 and 11 teenagers had a whinge when we changed the menu. Kids have to get used to the changes – a new product always takes a few days to get going but it eventually snowballs.
"I must admit when we first put fruit salads out I didn't think they would go but it sells out. Girls particularly buy them."
Chris Leesong, deputy head at St Philip's, says the changes they've made to the school menu haven't been easy. "This has not been without controversy.
"There were certainly less things being sold in October when we first made the change.
"Students do prefer junk food. Initially when we removed things that were popular, some students weren't happy about it. The parents generally are."
Mr Leesong couldn't say whether the canteen was more expensive now, but said that "there have been some changes in prices". He said that a canteen committee has been set up to investigate this.
HEAVY DAYS FOR HERITAGE, SAYS HONOURED CAMPAIGNER. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
"I still feel passionate about the gaol and the Rieff Building and the lack of recognition of what is heritage," says Dave Leonard, honoured last Saturday for his dedicated volunteer work for heritage preservation.
Presented with a Life Membership Award by the National Trust of Australia (Northern Territory), Dave was described as someone "you should always talk to when you want something done".
"He will do it and do it with good cheer," said director of the National Trust (NT), Elizabeth Close.
It's a quality we need a lot more of, said Pat Miller, Deputy Administrator of the NT, who presented him with the award."I'm going to put him on my list," said Mrs Miller.
Dave has served the National Trust in many ways, including being a member of the MacDouall Stuart branch committee and of the trust council.
He can also usually be found in the guise of smithy at the Old Telegraph Station's blacksmith's shop during Heritage Week, which will get rolling this year on April 19.
At the weekend's meeting, the council discussed, among other issues, the Heritage and Environment Minister's action regarding the Rieff Building (see Alice News, Nov 17, 2004), with concern that another Alice Springs building with historical significance will be demolished.
"This reminds me of the heavy days when we marched to the Alice Springs gaol on Stuart Terrace, set up a tent, and maintained a vigil," Dave told the Alice News.
"I led the march. Age is not necessarily the criteria for determining what makes something part of one's heritage.
"Rather it is the social and historical value of a site to one's culture which determines its value.
"Heritage is continual; history makes significant steps constantly which should be recognised as such as should significant sites which reflect that heritage."
RICHARD LIM NO PUSH-OVER. Report by ALEX NELSON.
Is Greatorex MLA, Richard Lim, vulnerable against high profile Labor candidate Fran Kilgariff in the forthcoming NT elections?
It will probably surprise many to learn that the CLP's Richard Lim is the Territory's most experienced politician (including local government) and is now a party elder.
He arrived in the Alice in 1981, and joined the Alice Springs Branch of the CLP in 1983.
In 1984 he polled first in the town council elections, where he served two terms. In 1988 Dr Lim achieved one of the highest results out of a field of 24 candidates for the council elections, and was chosen for the role of deputy mayor.
He was the CLP's second senate candidate for the 1990 federal election where, despite an impossible position, he achieved a remarkably high result.
Behind the scenes in the CLP, Dr Lim showed he was no slouch for he was elected to the party's management committee in 1987 and became vice-president the next year.
CLP management committee positions are elected annually, and Dr Lim served as vice-president from 1988 until 1994, with a break between 1991-92.
He has also led an extraordinarily varied career in business and community affairs.
He established the medical practice Central Clinic in 1981, worked in the Alice Springs Hospital, and was involved in medico-politics for many years.
His community activities included serving as chairman of the former Centralian College council and being a member of committees for (amongst others) the NT University (now Charles Darwin University), NT School Board of Studies, Migrant Resource Centre, NT Council of the Aged, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service Council.
This provided a diverse network of friends and supporters.
Dr Lim retired from local government in 1992 and restricted his activities to party politics, biding his time for the next NT elections.
Playing his cards close to his chest, Dr Lim did not publicly reveal his intention to seek CLP preselection for Greatorex until January 1994 but, in fact, he was a key figure in an intense internal party struggle through 1993 that lasted well into the following year.
The electorates of Braitling and Greatorex attracted keen interest from party hopefuls seeking CLP preselection.
Despite his extensive track record, Dr Lim was seemingly at a disadvantage in a no-holds-barred struggle, and not the least of that was the prevailing attitude amongst several party heavyweights that his Chinese ethnicity would work against him.
However, Dr Lim emerged victorious and promptly hit the ground running for four months of doorknocking in Greatorex.
He drew together a large team of supporters from within and without the CLP, and even managed to attract the assistance of then National Party leader Tim Fischer.
Campaign finances were assisted through highly successful fundraising events, including a riotous debate on the merits of tight Aussie Rules shorts versus the baggy Rugby League version, adjudicated by former senator Bill O'Chee.
The election was called for June 4, 1994 and the campaign went into full swing, with teams doing letter-drops and mass doorknock visits.
The light-hearted slogan "Take your doctor's advice" belied the intensity of the effort.
Dr Lim's supporters claimed the pick of strategic locations leading to the entrance of the polling booth at Centralian College on election day.
The scene was described as resembling "AFL grand final morning at the MCG, with people decked out in party colours and everything but the run-throughs for candidates"(Sunday Territorian, Jun 5, 1994).
Despite fears of overkill, the tactics worked as Dr Lim topped the primary count and swept to victory on preferences from defeated MLA Denis Collins.
The 1994 Greatorex campaign was by far the most effective election effort I have witnessed out of many I have observed or participated in.
Dr Lim has been relatively untroubled in the subsequent elections of 1997 and 2001, winning outright on both occasions. He held a variety of positions and portfolios (including Minister for Central Australia) when the CLP was in office, and is now their deputy leader, only the second local member to perform that role since Ray Hanrahan in 1987-88. (Being second in charge is a strikingly repetitive feature of Dr Lim's political career).
The current phoney campaign in Greatorex is shaping into a "battle of the sexes" but on past evidence this is not as simple as it seems.
In the Legislative Assembly on August 30, 1994, Dr Lim named four individuals out of his support team he considered vital to his successful campaign, of whom three were women (I was the odd one out). The most important was his wife Sharon who is a skilful and meticulous campaign organiser.
THE TWO WORLDS OF JUNGALA KRISS. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
"Aboriginals should be marketing our culture, not Europeans – but we're too scared to try"
Before artist entrepreneur Jungala Kriss sits down to begin our interview, he carefully places his rucksack on the floor and zips it open to reveal a tiny five-week old hairless kangaroo.
"His mother was a road kill but he survived. I couldn't leave him at the side of the road so I'll look after him until I can set him free."
This is typical of a man who has two sides to him – his sensitivity as an artist – and care of animals – indicates a gentle nature, but his determination for his business to succeed is steely.
He says too that he feels divided between both Aboriginal and European cultures.
"I move between the two worlds," Jungala explains. The world famous painter, Clifford Possum, was his uncle. He, too, moved in both worlds.
"I'm always respectful of my culture and elders but when I move into European society I still try to be respectful and understanding.
"I translate the two and make into my own form."
Jungala, born in Narwieetooma Station, was taken away from his family when he was five years old and educated in Victoria at a boarding school.
For such a creative soul, it's impressive that Jungala has a clear mind for business. His innovation and entrepreneurial skills set up Jungala Enterprises last year and since then, he has built up a network of clients across Australia and the world.
His diverse creative skills and ability to spot gaps in the market has led him to not just paint on canvas, but decorate a car, bikes, T shirts, crockery, postcards – and even people.
"We have to do something different with art if we want to move forward," Jungala says.
"Because I've worked in galleries, I've seen the other side of being an artist. Most artists paint and then sell to galleries. With myself, I see the opportunity to make more money without the middle man.
"Others may see it but don't have the knowledge to expand. In my head I see how I have to expand and I also see other avenues of product lines.
"People don't always have enough money to buy a painting. That's when the marketing comes in – selling T shirts and postcards as well as art is capturing the other side of the market.
"Normally tourists take a pile of postcards and this also gets my company logo into the public arena – when I wear a T shirt I don't see any point in wearing plain one, I may as well wear one with my designs on! Lots of people ask me where I got them from."
Jungala also guides cultural tours at the Aboriginal Australia Art and Cultural Centre in Todd Street, where he has worked for six years now.
"Australia is based on aboriginal culture and it should be aboriginals marketing their culture, not Europeans.
"For 30 years European galleries have focused on aboriginal art and now aboriginal people are seeing they can get good money from doing the same thing.
"But we haven't had the vision or marketing skills or money behind us to expand it. Aboriginal people are a little bit scared to do something out of the normal. It's quite competitive out there.
"But I think that's changing."
Jungala (pictured) has succeeded in his own way, using communication skills and personality. "It's the easiest thing to talk about your own culture. It's like talking about yourself.
"When you meet a potential buyer it's like meeting a new friend. They'll always buy from you if you treat them like that. I'll ring people who have bought paintings from me in the past and catch up with them – like when I was in Melbourne I had coffee with a lady who has bought my work before.
"Another lady I met was working here as a nurse. When she moved back to Victoria she told all her workmates about me and I now sell them paintings.
"I'm not pushy but just giving people the opportunity.
"It's hard work setting up your own business but when the gap in the market is so obvious you just have to do it.
"Working in the cultural centre and the art gallery there has been my training. I learnt all sorts of skills like management and marketing techniques, tour guiding, retail and gallery work. Going to trade shows gave me more knowledge and experience of dealing with international markets, I was speaking with Italians, French and German people."
Becoming a creator of art rather than selling it seemed a logical career progression for Jungala. "I've always been a good drawer. It's been around me, in me. I've always been able to do it but learning the stories of my country before I painted was important to me.
"One of my elders, Ted Egan, teaches me the stories I missed out on when I was younger.
"I had tribal midwives at my birth. I grew up as this feral little thing running around the bush. I had art surrounding me – many of my family members paint and Clifford Possum is my uncle. I look up to him.
"He's brilliant in his style. He was a character and that made the man."
But Jungala was taken away from his homeland when he was five years old and taken to live at St Mary's. Shortly after he was sent away to Melbourne to live with his older sister Bessie with a foster family. Of this time he says: "I always felt like I was standing on the outside of the family looking in, watching, like I was invisible – a bit like a ghost.
"You don't have the same bonding as you do with your real family."
Because of his background his foster parents encouraged him to draw but he says "I always told them I couldn't paint. I gave away all the paints they gave me."
After primary school Jungala won a sports scholarship to Ballarat College, and he believes these schooldays served him well for life: "Boarding school teaches you discipline and the communication skills to be around different people from different backgrounds and nationalities."
He came back to Alice Springs when he was 17 but didn't start painting "for a long time". He travelled across the country, playing AFL and working part-time in casinos and for a security firm. "Every life skill I learnt working in those industries pushed me forward to understand how to deal with people.
"But one day I got sick of it and wanted to try something new. I came back to Alice Springs because it was always home and I was offered a job at the Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
But it wasn't until went overseas in 2000 for three years and lived in Europe that Jungala began to seriously start to paint. While away, he learnt to speak Dutch and French.
"I went away because I wanted to know why people were coming to Central Australia. I learnt that a lot of European countries have lost their tribal cultures and are hungry for them. They come here because we have the oldest traditional living culture in the world.
"By chance I met a man who I'd sold a Clifford Possum painting to while I was at Cultural Centre in Alice Springs.
"He arranged for me to lecture on Aboriginal culture in schools in Belgium. Everyone expected an Aboriginal to paint, so I started to more regularly."
Two Dutchmen commissioned Jungala to paint a car and 20 bikes for a cycling race they were involved in.
"It was a Smart Car, made by Mercedes. I'd never done anything like that before. But I took it into my head and said I could do it.
"The car was dismantled and I painted one door at first, then the other, then the panels and so on. I painted the stories that my elder had taught me but used different colours than traditional ones.
"I wanted to be different – to be bolder, brighter and use colours that create more strength, more passion and play on the senses. Different colours affect the mind in different ways – I used reds and yellows to create that 'wow' factor so that people would want to buy my work.
"It makes me into an individual.
"The story I painted was called Fire Dreaming. All the place names in my painting are real. So even though it's a creation or dream time story, it actually happened. It's a story my uncle, Clifford, often painted.
"You have to give yourself the input to succeed. Relying on welfare isn't the answer. To progress, you need to be game to try."
CYCLING'S DESERT STORM. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Competitors from Europe, Asia and far-flung parts of Australia have rolled their wheels into Alice Springs this week for the Central Australian Bike Challenge.
80 riders are registered for the seven stages.
To date they have ventured as far east as Ross River in their tour of the desert and over the next two days decisive stages will be conducted.
Tomorrow morning racing begins at 6.30am from Anzac Hill. The riders will venture in a northerly direction to Wigley's Waterhole. From this strategic point in the Todd catchment area the trail will journey east coming out on Kurrajong Drive and meander back to Anzac Hill.
On Friday the challenge will be concluded with a time trial, starting at Flynn's Grave at 8am and charging along the bike track to Simpson's Gap.
For Jack Oldfield, John Dermody and the major events team it signals yet another success story in the annals of Centralian sport.
At the prologue event on Saturday afternoon, Minister for Central Australia, Peter Toyne, handed over the keys to seven cars which the government leant organisers for the event.
The cars will be used to transport race officials across the course.
Meanwhile at the local level cycling has reignited at track level for yet another season.
The velodrome has been humming for the last two Wednesday nights. Last week saw the return of Tony Fitzpatrick, after a long break from the game. Fitzpatrick was the man to beat all night, winning two of his three rides. But the emerging Daniel Herrick forced the issue with Fitzpatrick. The first event resulted in a half wheel victory to Fitzpatrick, after Herrick tracked him all the way in the heart starter.
However, it was a different matter in the 2000m pursuit where Fitzpatrick was awesome.
He blitzed the field to come home 17 seconds faster than the second placed Luke Gould.
More meritorious was the fact that Fitzpatrick achieved this in a solo effort without competition on the other side of the track trying to chase him down.
The final ride showed just how much effort Fitzpatrick had put into the 2000m as he was unable to catch the lead bunch in the 1000m handicap.
Herrick had the benefit of a 30m start on the scratch man, and worked the bunch well to surge on the last bend and take the win ahead of John Hansen who had started off eighty metres.
A fortnight ago the Alice Springs Cycling Club's AGM reflected the sound footing of the sport in the desert when 25 riders turned out.
The previous executive was retained with "super" boss Paul Herrick again at the helm, backed by Daniel Davis as vice president, Peter Gould as secretary and Stu MacDonnel in charge of the books.
At committee level sub groups have been established to administer different aspects of the sport including road racing, track programmes, and social events.
CHAMPIONSHIPThe club is again taking care of the NT Track Championships which will be conducted over Easter.
In May, the now traditional Kings Canyon Cruise will be open to all who are interested in a weekend in the saddle.
Then in July the Tennant Creek two-day tour will attract teams from Mt Isa and Darwin as well as Central Australia.
Interspersed with these features will be the regular track, road and mountain bike meets.
As a means of attracting new members to the sport, new road racing bikes are available for lease, so negating steep up front expenses for novices.
CRICKET: WESTS & FEDERAL IN FINAL. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Finals time now knocks on the door for cricketers, after a season that has been tight and competitive.
Rain has not interrupted play, although some may argue that artificial precipitation at inopportune times has cost them. In all however the 2004 – 2005 cricket season has come down to a battle between two strong clubs.
Both West and Federal are vying for premiership honours in A and B Grades. West have the chance to prove themselves in C Grade and Colts finals as well, while Federal (knocked out of C Grade) are confident of taking the honours at the junior level.
The elimination final at Albrecht on the weekend however was not a beer and skittles affair for West.
On Saturday RSL Works performed particularly well to compile 213 off 66 overs when consideration is given to the absence of several gun players.
Luke Southam couldn't play due to injury, Jeff Whitmore has moved to greener pastures, Cameron Robertson had "fast car" commitments and Matt Forster, as he has been for half the season, was sadly missed.
Despite this RSL opened with Graham Schmidt and Wayne Egglinton, unfortunately losing Schmidt for 3 when the score was 17. Tom Scollay partnered Egglinton and pushed the score on to a respectable 81, when Egglinton was judged to be out LBW off a Rory Hood delivery, for 41. Hood then had Scott Robertson trapped LBW for a duck, and continued to prove a menace by dismissing Scollay, bowled for 30.
The dependable Jamie Smith then stepped up and compiled 34 before being run out.
In his time at the crease he partnered Tom Dutton, who made 13 before being claimed by Hood, and then set up a sound partnership with Matt Sulzberger. They put together a 52 run partnership. Sulzberger seized the day to an extent in that he remained at the crease to score 75 being the last man dismissed off a Matt Bramley delivery.
In fact Bramley proved invaluable in snaring 3/9 off 6.1 overs and destroying the RSL tail.
Hood returned 4/45 off 15 overs and Jeremy Bigg chipped in with 2/34 off 13.
The task of bettering 213 demanded application from West and on Sunday they settled down to the job.
A 100 run partnership by the openers Peter Tabart and Simon Vaughn set the scene. Scollay had Vaughn caught on 27 and then Tabart lost his wicket to Schmidt when on 49 and the team tally still 100.
Hood and Bigg however took control of a somewhat depleted RSL bowling line-up to add another 89 before Schmidt had Bigg caught for 46.
Daniel Cook then came to the crease and took the West score to 204 before he fell for 11, leaving Kevin Mezzone the responsibility to partner Hood in making the required number of runs.West declared victory with the score at 4/222 with Hood not out on 46.
Schmidt proved to be the best of the RSL bowlers with 2/44 off 19 overs, while 40 extras were entered into the scorebook.
The clash between West and Federal should be a pearler this weekend.
Both sides have batting depth and both are capable of producing a strong bowling attack.
A grand final weekend on the hill at Albrecht Oval free of charge sounds like attracting a fair crowd.
Not desperate for a housewife. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
If Desperate Housewives, currently "Australia's favourite television drama", was set in Alice Springs, it would be different from the original version.
For a start, it wouldn't only be the housewives that were desperate. The rest of the population would be too. We'd be desperate for the summer to be over and anxious for the footy season to start. We'd be dying for a wet weekend and crying out for a few days' away. Personally, I'd be desperate for my mulch to just stay still for a single day.
Desperate Housewives features four women with private dramas and hidden needs who play out their lives against a backdrop of men who look like they don't spend enough time slumped in front of the telly with a takeaway pizza. But in our variant of Desperate Housewives, the gardener would not be an olive-skinned Latino with perfect hair and a selection of vests that fit where they touch every millimetre of his torso. In Alice Springs, the gardener would be an honest bloke in a rusty ute with receding gums and extravagant facial hair.
He would wield one of those leaf blowers and would churn up a mini-dust storm through the windows of the neighbour's granny flat.
The street in Desperate Housewives is called Wisteria Lane. The perfect houses of Wisteria Lane hide complex secrets. In our version, the only secret is that the yards have been unfinished for not two, but 20 years. I'm still working on it, say the residents, gazing forlornly at the pile of cracker dust and the crispy native shrubs.
Instead of neat white picket fences, we'd have 900mm post and chain link. The Alice housewives, in their ill-fitting clothing ordered the wrong size over the Internet from Supré, would try to look alluring as they chat over the green colourbond steel sheets with bent edges.
Come to think of it, our housewives wouldn't be housewives at all. The word belongs to another generation and we're not that far behind the times.
No, our housewives would be either stressed-out working women or stressed-out non-working women. They'd be stressed out if they have kids and the same if they don't. They'd be far too strung out to even contemplate the sexuality and suspense of Wisteria Lane.
Like all successful drama series, Desperate Housewives leaves you wanting to know what happens next and then spreads this sensation over 14 episodes.
In our version, this wouldn't happen because we live in a stereotypical Outback town and we always know what happens next. It will be hot, it will be dusty and a public holiday is never far away.
If there's a royal visit to the Alice, an alderman will use it to advertise his pub, prominent professionals will dress up as cartoon royalty and nobody in a leadership position will seem to care how we
appear to the
We would look even more unhinged than the housewives themselves. And, of course, absolutely desperate for a beer at someone else's bucks' night.
It may be a guilty pleasure, but at least Desperate Housewives is a program about mothers and children.
The lead characters are how you might remember your own mum; strong-willed, coping, speaking common sense and running the family's life.
Wisteria Lane is a street where the locals break into each others homes with gay abandon, but ours would have neighbourhood watch. Wisteria Lane might be a hotbed of infidelity and insanity but ours is… well, you tell me. The character who narrates Desperate Housewives happens to have passed away in the first episode.
So at least Alice Springs can claim supremacy in one department. We don't need a dead person telling us what to do, we have plenty of live ones doing that.
Having a brainlock. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
Sometimes I dry up and have nothing more to give.
My ideas vanish and my well of inspiration and imagination appears completely empty.
It is not that I take my creativity for granted. I either think I can be creative or that I can't. But then at times I seem to be able to influence the creative flow with interesting reading, sleep and good food.
If I don't push myself to the limit all the time the trickle at the bottom of the well seems to keep coming. If I don't deplete my mental and physical resources I seem to be able to produce even when the water level is low.
But it is not until I almost reach crisis level that I might realise what I'm doing and take steps to change things. I don't value my ability to sprout ideas until I can't come up with anything. It is the way we are with the familiar and readily available. We might say that we are happy to have access to something, but as long as it is there it is not that important to us. We take a lot of precious things for granted.
Water is one of those things. We hear about drought around the country and the world, about salinity problems and extremely low water levels in the big cities, but if we are not directly involved in water conservation we might just feel a twinge of guilt when we put the sprinklers on or pledge to put in a water tank when we've got some spare cash lying around.
There is not a shortage of clean water in this town yet, and perhaps there never will be, but we should not assume that we will always be this fortunate.
A friend of mine observed in conversation the other day how much water is valued in some cultures and that everyday dealings with it like washing your body can have spiritual meaning. The importance of water for life is recognised and ritualised. In Christianity water is of course used in baptism, where I think it may symbolise ever lasting life.
In panic mode when our wells are drying up and our crops are dying we tend to turn to severe water restrictions and moralise about how people use water.
A close relative of mine always says that all we have to do is raise the price of water and we will limit our water consumption.
Just like life is not a right but a gift, water is not something we are entitled to just because we are here.
Whether we use a lot or a little we need to recognise its value, not just how much it costs per cubic metre but how important it is in our lives.
A green lawn might seem an eyesore in central Australia, but it may be a mental lifesaver.
It's not only about how we use water but why and the many roles it plays in our lives. Maybe because we have such easy access to it we forget it's value.
We wouldn't wash our cars in eye drops that cost $25 for 5ml, or flush our toilets with whisky.
Clean water fit for drinking may become rare but as long as the planet survives there will be water. It will just cost more.We need to use it and we need to appreciate it. The potential benefits and opportunities it provides should not be underestimated or wasted.
Water can offer joy, knowledge, sight and sound as the remote communities who have, or are scheduled to get a pool will find out, and where it is hoped that the level of education and health will improve.
Water is not only essential for life but for our experience of it.
LETTERS: Alderman on big ego trip?
Sir,– Murray Stewart never passes up the opportunity for a bit of self- promotion ('The mayor must go', Alice News, Mar 9).
I wonder if the "group of independent businessmen" that wanted Murray to stand for Braitling was the same group that Murray had "signed up to be members of a Business Branch of the Labor Party" when he was a member of the ALP a couple of years ago.
When he was asked by the Branch to name them, he declined.
When the ALP Branch declined to be a vehicle for Murray's ambition he resigned, and is obviously seeking support elsewhere.
Murray goes on to say "You cannot say one thing one minute and then completely reverse your position, in the interest of political opportunism". Well said Murray!
On another issue, Jacqui Chlanda (Passionate belief, Mar 9) would do well to temper her respect for religious passion with a bit of reason, and information.
Passion can be good, and also very bad. Think Hitler's Nuremburg rallies.
It's relatively easy to whip up a bit of passion, especially with music, mood, etc.
"Motivational speakers" do it all the time. The Topp Twinns had the whole of Araluen dancing.
I'm not sure what brand of Christianity Alabaster Box are purveying but I suspect it is one of the fundamentalist ones.
Some of these are pushing US religious right lines: opposing abortion, vilifying homosexuals, single mothers, "evil Islamists" and "others" generally, and pushing for the teaching of religion in the form of "creationism" as science in schools.
I strongly recommend reading God under Howard by Marion Maddox for the full story.
I'm passionate about reason and rationalism.
'Reach high, Fran'
Sir,– I refer to your somewhat unbalanced article regarding our Mayor, Fran Kilgariff (Mar 9).
Fran will still be a fair and reasoned Mayor whom I trust to represent us as Mayor.
She has the support of her council colleagues, and it seems there is only one whining. One wonders what his political agenda is.
Fran has started locally. She comes from a great family, a political family – and this has given her the talent to represent Alice Springs.
It doesn't matter what seat she goes for or even what party she joins – we need people who know the town and believe in the town, and will talk strongly for Alice Springs.
Go for it Fran – reach for the sky. You might only get as far as Darwin, but it will be worth it.
Dog in the manger
Sir,– What a slap in the face for all those people who honoured Ms Kilgariff by giving her their vote for Mayor, and worse still the news that she will condescend to be Mayor again if she fails in her bid for Greatorex.
Such dog in the manger behaviour is only possible because of yet another of the current Northern Territory Government's sly laws.
Perhaps when the CLP regain power they will give urgent thought to a WARD system for Alice Springs. It would save ratepayers a lot of money by adopting the English system of electing 12 alderpersons who choose a chairman among their own number.
And on another matter:
The suppression of the identity of a suspected paedophile by the current Northern Territory Government is not an isolated case.
A paedophile, sentenced to four years by a Queensland judge for his activities against a girl in that state, walks around Alice Springs.
His identity is protected by the decision of the Department of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute in spite of three years work by the Alice Springs police and the release of court transcripts by the Queensland Government, in which he details his molestation of the same girl for four years from the time she was seven years old, in Alice Springs.
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