CLAMP-DOWN ON BUSH COUNCILS? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The NT Government is considering removing the spending power from some local governments in Central Australia.
It is proposed to amalgamate the Papunya and Haasts Bluff councils, and possibly other adjoining councils.
The new council's CEO would be based in Alice Springs, removed from the "humbugging" for money.
He would have the power to sign cheques while the concillors would be relegated to an advisory role.
This follows a tide of allegations of irregularities at Papunya, the latest of which were given to the Alice Springs News on the weekend.
Both the Papunya Community Council and the NT Government are stonewalling inquiries about claims that the Papunya body has been rorting road funds, illegally transferred the ownership of a house from the council to the store without the consent of the Local Government Minister, and is channeling money from the store to the council for the improper benefit of individuals.
(The Alice News is investigating the claims and expects to report on them next week.)
Meanwhile the ruling Labor Party is acting like a headless chook over earlier allegations against Labor candidate for MacDonnell, Alison Anderson.
The party's catch cry is "CLP dirty tricks" – but that just isn't working.
The most damaging material to date was contained in a report by accountants Deloitte, seriously critical of the financial affairs of the Papunya council, and leaked to the Alice Springs News.
Ms Anderson's husband Steve Hanley was the council's CEO at the time in question, and much of the money came from ATSIC whose regional commissioner was Ms Anderson.
It was a national scoop for the Alice News when we published the material, in the newspaper and on our web site, on April 27.
The story was quickly taken up by Territory and national media, including a front page story in Melbourne's Sunday Age, a blistering editorial in the same publication castigating Ms Martin for her silence a week later, and is now the basis for an inquiry ordered by Federal Employment Minister Kevin Andrews (see report this edition).
His probe focuses on the management by the Papunya council of its CDEP "jobs for the dole" scheme, and other issues.
The CLP didn't have any of the leaked material until the Alice News showed it to MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, with an invitation to comment.
We did that at the same time as we offered Ms Anderson and Mr Hanley a right of reply.
Neither exercised it but Papunya accountant and current acting CEO, Peter Vroom, responded later (Alice News, May 11).
How all this can be beaten up by the Chief Minister, on the ABC, into a "smear campaign" defies logic.
Labor Party secretary Brett Walker, while parroting the "dirty tricks" line, says he is not suggesting the Alice Springs News is implicated in any wrongdoing.
He claims "Alison is still the best candidate for MacDonnell" but declines to say how she was pre-selected.
"It is party policy not to disclose anything" about the pre-selection process – an odd policy for an organization tirelessly touting its commitment to transparency.
Mr Walker says the party's returning officer officiated and the pre-selection was done in accordance with the rules. Who is the returning officer? Mr Walker won't say.
Neither will he disclose how many members the MacDonnell branch of the Labor party has, but conceded that because of the large size of the Territory, and its sparse population, there are some bush seats whose branches have a small membership.
However, the Alice News has been able to obtain information from an insider.
Only three of the approximately 10 members on the panel pre-selecting Ms Anderson were Central Australians – tour operator Charlie Carter, Office of Central Australia staffer Bob Durnan and a non-Aboriginal man in Docker River.
The others were all Top-Enders, including a woman lawyer, a woman owning a trendy café, Deputy ALP Leader Syd Stirling and a union organizer.
Ms Martin apparently normally attends but was absent. Our informant was unsure of who the remaining members of the panel were.
There were two candidates, Ms Anderson, and Des Rogers. He is a high-profile Aboriginal businessman, former Alice Town Council alderman (he resigned this week because he has moved to Wallace Rockhole, where he is contesting the community council election); and a former ATSIC regional chairman.
Both were reportedly members of the party for less than a full year, normally a requirement for pre-selection. (Greatorex candidate Fran Kilgariff is on the record as having only joined the Labor Party in early 2005.)
This wasn't the only breach of the rules: the ALP's "college" pre-selecting candidates normally has 10 members, including five from the electorate's branch.
But, alas, MacDonnell only has one member – a detail Mr Walker would neither confirm nor deny.
By contrast, the pre-selection process of the CLP – in the past hardly a shining example of openness – is much more transparent, has stringent rules for participation and is normally controlled by locals.
All Central Australian branches combine to form the panel choosing the candidates for the two rural and three urban seats in The Centre.People serving on the pre-selection panel – 10 to 15 strong – must have attended at least 60 per cent of the 11 or 12 CLP branch meetings held in the preceding 12 months.
Politicians, people working for politicians, their wives and children are not allowed to serve on the panel.
The decision requires ratification from the party's Central Council which is usually a matter of routine. It wasn't in 2001 – the night of the long knives – when the Central Council knocked back the pre-selections for Araluen, Braitling and MacDonnell.
The consequences were dire: the powerful Central Australian branches – reported to have a membership of more than 100 – flexed their muscles.
Leader Denis Burke was sent into the wilderness and allowed back only when the power brokers in The Centre gave the green light.
Meanwhile Mr Burke says Mr Andrews' investigation into the Papunya allegations "must be paralleled by an independent investigation of the use of Territory taxpayers' money.
"Clare Martin should act and stand [Ms Anderson] aside" while allegations are investigated, says Mr Burke.
NEW BROOM FOR DOLE SCHEME. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A new broom will be sweeping through the CDEP "jobs for the dole" scheme – more than 30 years old and broadly regarded as frequently rorted and mostly useless.
Its main beneficiaries were all the governments which used the scheme to take long term unemployed out of the jobless statistics, while relegating them to a dead end so far as income and careers are concerned.
The impact of CDEP is especially significant in Lingiari, the Federal seat taking in all of the Northern Territory except Darwin.
The sitting Member is Warren Snowdon, one of the founders of CDEP.
The official unemployment rate in Lingiari is about eight per cent.
If the CDEP participants were regarded as unemployed – which many of them if not most in fact are – the jobless rate would skyrocket to 25 per cent, making us the basket case of the nation. But with the demise of ATSIC and "mainstreaming" of its various functions, Federal Employment Minister Kevin Andrews says there will be sweeping changes.
Mr Andrews last week also ordered an inquiry into the Papunya Community Council, following allegations in a leaked report made public by the Alice Springs News.
"As the Minister responsible for [CDEP] I am aware that the Papunya CDEP has suffered from poor leadership for many years, including poor leadership displayed by [ATSIC]."
Before the Future Directions paper was published this year, ATSIC had not been reviewed since the Spicer study in 1997 – eight years ago.
A spokesman for Mr Andrews says the Office of Evaluation and Audit "has been around for some time and it would have been responsible for evaluating and auditing any Indigenous specific programme funded by the Commonwealth.
"It is run from the Department of Finance and Administration.
"There was a 1996 evaluation of CDEP by the office upon which the Spicer Review relied.
"Very few recommendations of the Spicer Review were implemented.
"Many of the ideas of the current reforms are built on the Spicer Review recommendations."
There are over 37,000 CDEP participants nationally in about 240 individual programs. In the last Federal Budget, another 5900 places were allocated.
The fortnightly wages rate for CDEP is $446 for remote and $402 for non-remote programs.
For the Newstart Allowance the rate for singles with no children is $389.20.
As with Newstart, CDEP participants may earn additional income.
Some participants do so by working additional hours on CDEP activities.
CDEP organisations can pay additional wages, commonly referred to as Top-Up Wages.
"There has always been a ‘no work, no pay' rule," says the spokesman. "This has not always been enforced uniformly and is something the government is keen to address.
"CDEP organisations are responsible for establishing and implementing internal arrangements in line with the CDEP Guidelines about work rules and absences.
"CDEPs must make work rules available to all participants and must monitor work activities.
"It is general practice for organisations to require participants to complete timesheets."
The objective of CDEP is for "the whole community [to] benefit from better essential services, healthier and safer community environments, a local workforce that is better trained.
"CDEPs can restore pride through cultural maintenance activities and in the improvements to community infrastructure. Another benefit should be more job ready individuals who can access better incomes for their families."
How many complaints of rorting have been received during ATSIC's management of CDEP, and in what regions?
The spokesman replied: "Specific questions or cases of interest during ATSIC's administration should be directed to the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination."
Mr Andrews says reforms to CDEP will seek a "new funding model which sets a fair management fee".
The reforms will seek "better outcomes for CDEP participants, particularly young people, with a requirement for 15 to 17 year-old participants to complete accredited training to improve their employability".
CIVIC CENTRE VIEWS RANGE FROM "WASTED MONEY" TO "THE OLD ONE WAS TACKY". Survey by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Now that's it's a done deal and a quarter complete, the Alice News asks local residents what they think about the town council's new Civic Centre and whether the money could have been better spent?
"I think it's a good thing. It's a good use of money and I think Fran Kilgariff has made the right decision to spend it on the buildings. She's doing a good job." Bill McKell .
"If the council thinks it's going to be good for the town, it's a positive thing." Sandra Lennox.
"When you hit potholes in the road with a brand new car, there are other things the money could be spent on. The council worries about building new this and new that, but it could have been spent on really important things like young people and supporting families." Ricky Coltard.
"The fact that they're incorporating public art into the building is a good thing. It's a great incentive for local artists. I'd love to see the council employ a local arts officer as well." Davina Edwards.
"They would have been better spending money in the mall – it looks tired and needs a facelift. I haven't seen many tourists down there lately." Ronda Nayda.
"It's a waste of money, what we had was perfectly good enough. It's a bit premature for the council to spend money they don't have and have to borrow it. There are other things we should spend the money on first, like roads and anti-litter campaigns." Gary Jesser.
"It's a good thing. The old one was tacky looking. Having new offices will give a better impression of the town." Kym White.
"It's a waste of time. What was wrong with the old one? The council isn't in business so they don't have to make money, they can waste it instead." George Gameson.
"I think the money should be going towards schools or something for kids. There's nothing for teenagers to do here. That's why kids turn to drugs." Jessica Walker and Jai Gibbons.
"We do need money spent on cleaning up toilets [the civic centre will have an ablution block] but it would be more valuable if the money was spent on the hospital or around town clearing up, and more lighting and cameras on the mall." Greg Lang.
"I thought it was fine as it was. They should spend the money on clearing the town up and for things for kids in town – there's not much for us to do here." Kassie and Sherryle Anderson.
As many people answered the News' questions with "I don't know anything about it" or "I don't really care".
REPRIEVE FOR RIEFF BUILDING? Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Is the Yeperenye Board having second thoughts about bulldozing the Rieff Buildings?
In an "Information memorandum for Lessees", leaked to the Alice News, board chairman Danny Masters, says: "Although the Minister [Marian Scrymgour] has approved the redevelopment, the board recognises that a number of Alice Springs residents strongly believe that the property is of heritage significance.
"We are taking into our planning as many as possible of the points raised both in general submissions to Council [presumably the Heritage Advisory Council] but also directly to ourselves.
"Our architects are working very closely with the planners both from the DCA [Development Consent Authority] and Council and also ourselves.
"We believe that the completed building will be totally appropriate to the aspirations and wishes of the people of Alice Springs and successfully reflect both the past and the future."
Mr Masters then sets out the stages of the redevelopment.
Four new shops will be built at the Hartley Street frontage of the present Yeperenye carpark as well as a new entrance to the carpark from Gregory Terrace.
This will be followed by "a new building incorporating the site of the existing Cliffords Corner [the Rieff Buildings] together with vacant land to the rear".
The language is vague and allows for several possibilities: the imaginative incorporation in the new building of the intact existing building, designed by the highly regarded architect Beni Burnett (see Alice News, Dec 1, 2004); the incorporation of only the faćade, a compromise unlikely to satisfy heritage lobbyists nor internationally recognised heritage preservation criteria; or, a design mimicking or interpreting aspects of the Burnett faćade, which would miss the point altogether.
Mr Masters, who wrote the memorandum on April 7, says "we expect a timetable to be available with the next two months", and once that is finalised, the first stage of the works would be completed within the next 12 months.
At the time of writing the transfer of shares from ATSIC to "a body not yet publicly identified" – Centrecorp, no doubt – was still being processed.
However, Mr Masters says that irrespective of the share ownership, the board had been advised that day to day operation of Yeperenye Pty Ltd and the makeup of the existing board would remain unchanged.
Yeperenye owns not only the Yeperenye Shopping Centre and Cliffords Corner, but also Springs Plaza, the ANZ Bank, Woolworths Petrol, the Centrelink Building and Leichtodd Plaza.
HIS LIFE ON "JOBS FOR THE DOLE". Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
When Alex Nelson was six months on the CDEP "jobs for the dole" scheme he never supplied a weekly time sheet except when he was first signed on, not once was his work checked by a supervisor, and when he reported the scheme's glaring faults and exposure to rorting to the Federal Police, they didn't want to know.
The freelance writer and expert in Central Australian politics at first had an informal arrangement with the Gloria Lee Environmental Learning Centre, to work as a labourer and lecturer.
The centre is 30 kms west of Alice Springs, along the Larapinta Drive, an area colloquially known as the Golden Mile.
The Centre's owner, Aboriginal identity Olive Veverbrants, in October 1997 suggested Mr Nelson should become a CDEP participant whilst working at the centre.
This came as a surprise to him because he is white and believed the scheme was only for Indigenous people.
However, Mr Nelson learned from ATSIC that a non-Aboriginal person could be enlisted so long as he was married or living with an Aboriginal person, or if a request was made by the relevant Aboriginal person.
Ms Veverbrants made application to the Arrernte Council, which has since gone down the gurgler to the tune of $4m.
Mr Nelson says the application was approved the following day.
He was paid $150 a week. The money went straight into his bank account, and would have done so, he speculates, whether or not he was doing any work, as no-one ever checked on him.
To his surprise the payments continued when he stopped working at the centre in March 1998.
Still being in receipt of pay Mr Nelson thought he'd better put in an appearance at the Arrernte Council's Alice Springs depot.
After a great deal of waiting around he was finally sent off to clean up the back yards of residences around the town.
He discovered these homes were occupied by employees of publicly funded Aboriginal organisations.
Mr Nelson resigned and the payments stopped.
He tried to get to the bottom of the sloppy management of his position and contacted the tax department.
It referred him to Centrelink which in turn referred him to ATSIC.
Its acting regional manager, Kevin Kerrin, told Mr Nelson in 2001 that ATSIC staff went to the Arrernte Council and "sighted pay detail history records in the name of Alexander Joseph Nelson.
"The information on those records agreed to the dates and amounts supplied by you."
Mr Kerrin rejected Mr Nelson's claim that there was no "genuine scrutiny".
Mr Kerrin said: "All Aboriginal organisations operating a CDEP are subject to CDEP specific reviews, carried out by independent consultants.
"These reviews cover all aspects of the CDEP operation.
"Arrernte Council being one of the larger organisations are targeted at least every two years, their last review was completed in February 2000.
"ATSIC staff ‘spot check' organisation records and activity outputs."
Mr Kerrin did not explain why Mr Nelson's job had not been monitored, why his time sheets were allowed to be missing, and his pay continued when he'd stopped working.
Mr Nelson got equally little joy from the Federal Police.
He says he sent several documents to an officer in Darwin, who never conducted a formal interview with Mr Nelson, nor replied to him in writing.
The officer ultimately told Mr Nelson he just wasn't interested in his complaint.
DESERTED BY EVERY BEAST OF THE FIELD, AND EVERY FOWL OF THE AIR. Historical feature by DICK KIMBER. Part 2.
Part Two of 'The Heavens Have Turned to Bone', an historical perspective on drought in the Centre.
Warnings from the earliest written records, 1845-1866.
The first travelling group of European descent to approach the Centre consisted of 16 men, with 11 horses, 30 bullocks, 200 sheep, six dogs, drays, a cart, a whale-boat and other equipment, plus supplies of flour, sugar, tea, bacon, salt meat, dried fruit and a limited number of luxuries. Their leader, Captain Charles Sturt, recorded:
"[We] pitched our tents …[beside] a fine long waterhole ... At this time our consumption of water was at the rate of 1000 to 1100 gallons a day ..."
This is one of the very few accounts that gives an idea of water consumption, though every explorer, pastoralist and stockman of the era knew how much was needed. Six gallons of water was a bare minimum required for each horse (though 25-30 gallons was drunk when water was plentiful), 10 gallons for each bullock, half a gallon for each man, three gallons for every sheep, and much smaller amounts for the dogs.
Of course the amounts varied depending on the size of each animal, daily temperatures and the availability of water, but even the smallest exploration parties required more water than equivalent small groups of Aborigines because of the horses or, when they later became available, camels.
As this waterhole was too small for long-term needs, the party moved on to Depot Glen, where the three metre deep supply was estimated as being sufficient for a year. This became the main camp on January 27, 1845 and, based on their experiences in southern South Australia, it was obviously assumed that sufficient rain would fall to replenish the water.
However, the few rains that fell were but brief showers, and after four months the situation was as now described:
"It appeared as if the flood gates of Heaven were closed upon us for ever. We now began to feel the effects of disappointment, and watched the sky with deep anxiety, insomuch that the least cloud raised all our hopes. The men were employed in various ways to keep them in health. We planted seeds in the bed of the creek, but the sun burnt them to cinders the moment they appeared above ground …"[We] had not had rain for nearly four months, and … had never experienced a dew. The ground was thoroughly heated to the depth of three to four feet, and the tremendous heat that prevailed had parched vegetation and drawn moisture from everything.
"The mean of the thermometer for the months of December, January, and February, had been 101degrees, 104 degrees, and 101 degrees respectively in the shade. Under its effects every screw in our boxes had been drawn, and the horn handles of our instruments, as well as our combs, were split into fine laminae.
"The lead dropped out of our pencils, our signal rockets were entirely spoiled; our hair, as well as the wool on the sheep, ceased to grow, and our nails became as brittle as glass. "The flour lost more than eight per cent of its original weight, and the other provisions in a still greater proportion. The bran in which our bacon had been packed, was perfectly saturated, and weighed almost as heavy as the meat; we were obliged to bury our wax candles; a bottle of citric acid … became fluid … and we found it difficult to write or draw, so rapidly did the fluid dry in our pens and brushes."
Close study of Sturt's journals indicates that this was not a drought, but a hot, dry spell, somewhat similar to the last two summers in Alice Springs – but we have air conditioned houses, refrigerators, clean water at the turn of a tap, and supermarkets with good quality meats, fruits and vegetables.
Sturt and his men were suffering from scurvy, boredom and depression, and plagues of flies, as well as constant dry heat and occasional dust-storms that no white people in Australia had ever previously experienced.
For the first time Europeans found that they had no visible perspiration, for it dried rapidly on their skin as their bodies attempted to remain cool. Their backs blistered when first they experienced fierce heat, and the bullocks pawed at the ground, trying to get to cooler soil beneath the hot surface, for they too had been born and raised in cooler country.
On May 7 an old Aboriginal man came to the camp, stayed for ten days enjoying the mutton and crows that the men shot, observing all, and letting Sturt know that the waters had all dried up on the extensive surrounding plain, but confirming two other recent Aboriginal visitors' comments that there were two waters to the south, and others far to the north.
When he departed after ten days, Sturt and his men became even more depressed, for he was able to come and go where, because of the fixed idea of travelling by compass to reach the centre of Australia, Sturt was not.
"With him all our hopes vanished, for even the presence of that savage was soothing to us, and so long as he remained, we indulged in anticipations as to the future. From the time of his departure a gloomy silence pervaded the camp … every thing combined to depress our spirits and exhaust our patience.
"We had gradually been deserted by every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air. We had witnessed migration after migration of the feathered tribes, to that point to which we were so anxious to push our way.
"Flights of cockatoos, of parrots, of pigeons, and of bitterns, birds also whose notes had cheered us in the wilderness, all had taken the same high road to a better and more hospitable region.
"The vegetable kingdom was at a stand, and there was nothing to engage the attention or attract the eye. Our animals had laid the ground bare for miles around the camp, and never came towards it but to drink.
"The axe had made a broad gap in the line of gum-trees which ornamented the creek, and had destroyed its appearance. We had to witness the gradual and fearful diminution of the water, on the possession of which our lives depended; day after day we saw it sink lower and lower, dissipated alike by the sun and the winds."
There is much of interest in Sturt's journals, including the first reasonably long-term (18 months) outsider understandings of Australia's stony and sandy deserts, and the first record of the impact of a sizeable group of people and European stock on the vegetation and water supplies.
His second-in-command was to die of scurvy, and Sturt did reach the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert, east of the Alice, where the red sand "ridges extended … in parallel lines beyond the range of vision, and appeared as if interminable".
One has to be careful about his account, though, for he was writing for an audience that had British Empire expectations of an explorer, and to maintain his own reputation. He must be seen to suffer, like Eyre in his walk about the Great Australian Bight. If he did not succeed or die in the attempt, to "summer out" was the next best thing, and after Sturt's time it became a mark of an explorer's heroic merit, rather than lack of common sense.
If they had learnt nothing else, however, from a reading of Sturt's journals, all other inland explorers now knew that a whale-boat was not an essential item of equipment.
Stuart, who had been with Sturt and learnt from the experiences, travelled light and fast in comparison, with a small party unencumbered by bullocks and sheep. His experiences of 1858-1862 resulted in Central Australia becoming known to European-descent Australians for the first time, recommended for pastoral development, and hinted at as having mineral potential.
Stuart also recommended his route as substantially that for the proposed Overland Telegraph Line. Waterhouse, the naturalist who accompanied him on his last successful journey, was the first to understand the geography and postulate the correct weather patterns. And although he initially thought that the Finke and Hugh Rivers might be permanent, by the end of his travels Stuart realised that they were not, and had also commented on the significance of reliable "fall-back" waters for the Aborigines.
Whatever these and other explorers' accounts told them, the governments of the day interpreted them in the rosiest terms, and the paradise waterholes of the good seasons captured the attention of readers rather than the arid descriptions.
Indeed, as late as1885 a map of the Territory shows every single bit of land as a pastoral lease or claim, including the entirety of the Simpson and Tanami Deserts, and readers' comments suggest that hundreds of thousands of people could settle in the Centre, and millions in the Top End. The reality was a bit different.
One of many accounts that could be quoted about the first arid-land drought for which there are written records illustrates well the situation that often prevailed.
It is by no means an unusual story of the 1863-1866 drought, as study of the formal government enquiry into it clearly indicates.
The account is a verbatim one by W. M. Paterson, an experienced pastoralist, and in being of an attempt to establish a station near Hergott Springs (Marree), relates to one of the northern-most pastoral ventures of the era.
In 1862 Paterson travelled to the area for the first time, and recorded:
"The sheet of water was about a mile long and three quarters of a mile wide at the widest part. It was encircled by reeds and black with wildfowl." He had a station surveyed, with the lake as the centre, and was "confident our fortunes were made".
Eighteen thousand sheep were purchased and walked towards the station. Paterson went on ahead of the rest of the party, travelling into the night to reach the approximate location of the lake. He slept with the horse's reins tied to his arm so that he could get an early start, and awoke to find himself on the edge of a large, dry, claypan – his lake!
He rode back towards the travelling sheep, his horse dying on the way.
Back at the camp his father decided to go ahead and start boring for water, while his brother and other bush workers stayed on to help with the sheep, build a temporary homestead and yards over a kilometre from the main water so that they would be safe from flood-waters, and generally establish the station.
Paterson travelled south to attend to other family business, and to purchase a dray-load of flour, tea and sugar.
He arrived back just in time to have the twelve bullocks of the dray-team die, and to find 5,000 sheep dead.
He immediately returned to Port Augusta, the nearest point for rations for the next thirty years, and while he was procuring them, this is what transpired:
"The others hung on, waiting for rain, and meantime the flock was reduced from 18,000 to 3,000. Then came the final smash. My brother was in the hut one night, when it commenced to rain. The water soon rose to the floor of the hut, which was a mile away from the bed of the creek. Then they thought of the sheep, and went out to find them swimming in their yard.
"Those in the hut collected a blanket and piece of damper and made for the high land. In the morning they could just see the eaves of the hut, which … [was] carried away before night.
"The woolshed and wool [from 5,000 sheep] had all gone too. Of the 3,000 sheep, 27 alone were saved. The rations had been swept down the [creek], and everything left was abandoned. The people were starving, and flour was worth 20 [pounds] a ton [a year's salary for a young worker].
"My brother had a chest in which he kept his clothes.
"The blacks had rifled this, and had taken everything but a crumpled up cheque for 25 pounds, the value of which they had no notion. That was the only thing saved.
"Our dreams of fortune had ended, the 18,000 pounds had been swamped, and that is how I got my first experience of the Australian droughts."
Everyone who came to Central Australia after this time, whether Overland Telegraph Line workers, pastoralists and pastoral workers, missionaries, miners, teamsters cameleers or, eventually, townspeople, knew very well what to expect.
They knew that a distant colonial government supported them in spirit, but could do little to protect them.
They knew they were entering lands that had, from time immemorial, been the homes of Indigenous peoples, but the government (and they too) considered that legal title now belonged to them, though none of them had even seen it before.
They knew that the MacDonnell Ranges and other Central Australian ranges had some permanent waters, and that other potential pastoral country existed beyond the ranges. They knew that, although good seasons were the normal thing, dry seasons and droughts also occurred. They knew how much water they required, and they also knew that they would be likely to suffer from scurvy and might perish.
They had a limited understanding, but an understanding nonetheless, that the weather changed from one of winter rains in the south to a monsoonal influence in the summer months in the Centre.
They also knew that the costs of cartage of all necessary materials and rations increased with distance.
They knew that they might be speared to death or, that if wounded, injured or ill, it was 1500 kilometres to the nearest reliable doctor. And they also knew that, if the country of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia was, as Meinig titled his book about the area, "On The Margins Of The Good Earth", they were going to be on "the margins of the margins".
None of this deterred the boldest of the gamblers. They left sweethearts, wives, families, friends and the comforts of the cities and towns to try their luck in the Centre. However tough they were in body, it was their toughness of mind, and a belief in their God or in Fate or both, that was their real strength.
Select references. Meinig 1962, Runs Inquiry Commission 1867, Sturt 1849, Stuart 1860.
BELT TIGHTENING FOR ARALUEN. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The Araluen Centre has had to make radical cuts to next year's program of theatrical offerings as well as drop the community musical "Hello Dolly" from this year's in order to make financial ends meet.This, according to a well-informed source, is because the centre's funding from the NT Government has been static over the last few years, while costs have been rising.
With the loss of "Hello Dolly", the 2005 theatre season has gone from 13 offerings to 12, already a significant drop on last year's 18, although that was exceptional to celebrate the centre's 20th birthday.
The 22nd birthday, however, will see a sad decline to only six offerings, or possibly seven including a children's show.
In the current pre-election climate interested parties are cautious about speaking out on the shrinking program.
However, the Alice News understands that the community support body, the Friends of Araluen, has written to Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne with their concerns and requested a meeting.
Araluen director Suzette Watkins was unavailable for comment as the News went to press.
LOCAL CRAFTS UP WITH LEADERS. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
Out of six works acquired in Territory Craft's annual Alice Craft Acquisition (ACA), three are from the NT and another is by a former resident.
Debra Boyd-Goggin, now living in the ACT, attended the then Sadadeen Secondary College in Alice Springs. A piece she made in Year 12 in 1991 was chosen to represent the NT in the Australian Education Council Secretariat in Melbourne.
Now her ceramic piece, Gap, has joined the ACA's permanent collection."Some see the Northern Territory as harsh but Debra was able to capture the spirit of the place without the harshness," said acquisition advisor, Gillian McCracken.
Ms McCracken did not look at artists' names or place of residence when she made her recommendations.
Other acquired pieces are:
• Transcending the Block by Philomena Hali (NT), a wall hanging in de-gummed silk organza, with acid dyes and metallic pigments."This piece is quite different; it literally leaps off the wall; the piece moves beautifully in space," said Ms McCracken.
• Fuze by Adrienne Alice Kneebone (NT), "a sophisticated piece of fibre" with "crispness and defining form".
• Kookaburra by Lindy Rontji (NT), in the foreground of the photo, a decorated terracotta clay pot with hand molded lid is "an important contemporary piece which shows how the Hermannsburg potters have taken a traditional medium and used it to create a circular canvas." .• Stored Memories by Suzie Cheel (NSW), hand-painted and stitched wool crepe."An indigo piece different from her previous works; the textile has been used to tell personal stories."• Ascending Chaos Hill by Andrew Mackie (WA), four fine silver vessels and four rusted steel vessels."The artist has expressed the balance between bright, new and the values of contemporary society against the rusty and decaying remnants of the past and how history is conveyed."
In all 170 works by 115 artists from all over Australia are on display at Araluen.In making her recommendations, Ms McCracken looked at the technical and traditional merit of the pieces; how they would complement those already in the permanent collection; and, what they ‘said' about today's society and its values, the landscape and, in a number of instances, the Northern Territory."Many of the objects say a lot about who we are as Australians and about society's values," she said."Many traditional art forms have a contemporary voice; many people talk to contemporary society through their arts and crafts work."Many use traditional methods to express contemporary themes."People generally recognise that Indigenous objects carry a sense of spirit and meaning of their own culture."For example the artists of Hermannsburg Potters learned the technique of coiling to make the pots and then turned them into a round canvas to express their landscape.SPIRIT"Non-indigenous objects also show the spirit of their culture."Just look at some of the titles in this exhibition; they are talking about the culture of which you and I are part.
"For example, one work is entitled Self Portrait of Breast [by Emily Bullock, NSW], made from beads, feathers, fabric and mixed media.
"One cannot get more personal than a portrait of your own boobs.
"That's definitely a work close to one's heart."
Waiting for the Rain by Margery Goodall (WA), made from cut and stitched commercial cloth with handpainting and drawing, also expresses contemporary themes.
"In this work one gets a glimpse of what the earth is like as it waits for rain which may never come," Ms McCracken said."Through this work, one also sees a story of staying alive and a promise of what is to come."Desert Alive by Kylie Jones (NSW) uses the Elizabethan raised embroidery technique for a uniquely an Australian motif, the Sturt Desert Pea."The artist has used earth colours and an old traditional technique to beautifully express an Australian motif in a rather bizarre way," said Ms McCracken.The advisor also suggested that the ACA permanent collection should become "more visual nationally".
"If sponsorship could be found, a curated touring exhibition could be taken to other states."With a Masters Degree in Art History and Theory from the University of NSW, Ms McCracken has served as curator and consultant throughout Australia as well as on numerous boards and committees and written for a variety of publications.
LETTERS: Warumpi - Let's forget the money.
Sir,– I have read with interest your articles regarding management of the Papunya Community. But despite your earnest concern for these goings-on, which are very unclear and as dubious as your reporting of the issues at Papunya, I think the greatest concern is the affect that the closing of Warumpi Arts has had on the artists, their families and the Papunya Community.
From being hailed as the starting point of the Central Australian Indigenous contemporary art movement of traditional story telling and the pride that grew from that, to the dissolution of their only source of livelihood, I would ask:
• What consultation took place with the senior artists and the younger artists that saw their past, present and future in their contemporary art?
• What control did these artists have over their business which generated income for Papunya Council? (Many other art centres in Central Australia are incorporated and under the control of the artists.)
• Why was money not re-invested to expand the livelihood of arts and the development of arts activities for Papunya residents?
• How do the people who have made thousands of dollars out of on-selling these artists' paintings feel now that the gallery has closed?
The pride the artists and their families felt when visiting Warumpi Arts Gallery was immeasurable. The old people were proud to use this medium to continue their traditional culture in contemporary terms. They continued to tell stories through their art to their youth. They supported their families with the money they earned from their art.Tourists were more than honoured to meet the families, children and some of original artists of the Papunya movement.
With pride the families showed visitors the Papunya book and their fathers', uncles' and husbands' work. Lovingly they touched the faces in the book of the memorable men.
The women of Papunya had proudly taken up the cause and had begun to produce new works.
Young people were keen to paint and work for Warumpi and see the benefits of this livelihood.
So let's forget about the money spent, lost, mismanaged and unaccounted for. That money is gone, as money does go. But the affect of mismanagement, lack of consultation and real concern for the very lives of Indigenous people who given Australia so much in terms of the art and culture should be addressed. Who will take up the task?
ED – Ms Graham is invited to articulate what she considers "dubious" about our reporting. We broke a national story, which was followed up by print and electronic media across Australia, and is now the trigger for an investigation ordered by Federal Employment Minister Kevin Andrews into the affairs at Papunya. We have done a great service to the taxpaying public, and to the rightful recipients of government funds, who seemed to have missed out on what was due to them.
Don't destroy 'my sacred trees'
Sir,– Gum trees by the roadway and gum trees in the river and willows by the creeks, please don't destroy or mutilate them.
I congratulate Doctor Richard Lim and the Northern Territory CLP for making the decision to put the overhead power lines beneath the ground, first on the older section of the Eastside of town and at a later date in other areas. This is a very wise and sensible decision.
The CLP will most certainly get my vote and [that of] many old and new Territorians in the coming election. The cost of $3.6 million to do this section of the town is very small compared to the 100 million dollars which Clare Martin and Doctor Peter Toyne tell us that they are going to spend on a new convention centre on the waterfront in Darwin.
Undoubtedly the Clare Martin and Doctor Toyne Government will gain lots of votes for their spending of big dollars of the NT taxpayers' money in and around Darwin and the Top End, but will lose a lot of votes which will go to the CLP down here in the Centre.
I have, like many other older Territorians, very clear islands of memories of the big 10-year drought that raged across the inland from 1956 to 1966. Power lines were brought down often during those terrible dust and sand storms which raged at times both day and night.The power often went off because of tree branches coming down on over head power lines.
Will the NT Government pay compensation to us for the loss of perishable foodstuffs in our freezers and in the supermarkets, hotels and restaurants etc, when the power goes off? I think not, but there could be loss of life as well when power lines are brought down.One Aboriginal man, walking in the inky blackness of the inland night, stepped on a downed power line on the North Stuart Highway. This was just one death then, but today we have lots of Aboriginals walking around during the night and sleeping and drinking out in the open spaces and under power lines.
What about their protection from death when they could step on a downed power line in the middle of the night?
I am a taxi driver, and taxi drivers talk to a lot of people. This is an election year and if you want our votes then you had better spend more taxpayers' dollars down here in the Centre.
Spend just some of the GST money you receive on putting all power lines around town underground and save our trees.
We are told frequently on the ABC radio by their journalists that trees already on blocks of land which are Aboriginal sacred sites are to be protected, even the ones which are almost dead for white ants or full of borers, a danger to life and property.
One of many of the trees Clare Martin and Doctor Toyne should take a look at is in front of a large block of flats at 137 Burke Street.
[They should] have it removed before it comes down on children playing beneath it or falling on a number of cars in the carpark.
If these trees are very important sacred sites, then I ask why the gum trees in the Todd River bed are not seen as sacred sites?
Through the winter months of every year Todd River bed campers set a number of these trees on fire, some of which could be around 500 years old and where stories of the Aboriginal Dream-time would have been told to the young Aboriginals of long ago.
TOWN VS COUNTRY: STARS SHINE BIGHT! Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The Town side won in the hitout with Country Aussie Rules players on the weekend, but there were stars on both sides.
Representative sport is the means by which emerging talent can be identified, and the culture of a competition can be enhanced.
In Alice Springs Australian Rules players have not enjoyed the opportunity to step up and compete at a higher level on a regular basis.
We have had a visit from the Cairns League back in the fiftieth anniversary year of the game in Alice.
Then the CAFL made a trip to Pt Augusta. Both games were successful but alas no reciprocal trips ever eventuated, leaving our elite players starved of representative experience.
In the Territory the emergence of the Desert Tigers gave those players from the bush a chance to play in Darwin against the Tiwi, and the islanders have braved the cold for long enough to play on Traeger Park.
This year a Central Australian side will again be invited north to challenge the Tiwi, this time as a curtain raiser to the AFL game scheduled in the capital next month.
Hence the importance of the Town versus Country games that were contested last week end. The hit out at top level allowed selectors to sum up potential for the trip north. And in conducting the game the AFL-CA have now established a tradition that hopefully will be continued.
The league game was worth watching with scores all tied up at half time, 7.3 (45) each. At three quarter time only a point separated the teams with the Town team then able to cement a victory with 3.4 in the last term to the Country's 0.2.
The result evened the score card as the game played last year went the way of the Country.
It was of more value, however, to analyse the performances of individual players.
Heading the list was Wests' Mark Bramley who was best on ground and in doing so showed his strength in all facets of the game. Barring injury he should be a warm favourite for the Minahan Medal in 2005.
Kevin Bruce teamed well again with Bramley in giving the Town team a pathway to the goals. However, on many occasion Bruce created leads that were not responded to effectively, reflecting the limited training opportunities for the squad.
Michael Gurney showed he is in his prime, while the Rolls Royce of the game in the Centre, Graeme Smith, again produced a class performance.
The running game of Darryl Lowe was one that caught the eye, as was the performance of Jason Rosenthal.
Gilbert Fishook who opted to play for the Town side produced four goals and was of obvious value to the city slickers. One wonders if the game's result would have altered had Fishook lined up in the Country forward line.
From the Country side's perspective, Martin Patrick, kicking six goals and creating opportunities, will have to be considered for representative selection. Sabie Inkamala and Daryl Ryder both displayed the skills required of players at the elite level, and others warranting consideration included Bradley Turner, Kenny Morton and Leslie Pearce.
The Under Seventeen game also went the way of the Town team, 15.15 (105) to 12.5 (77).
Reece Kernan continued to impress. He kicked seven for the game and shows the flair that is inherent in the family, last seen on Traeger Park in the late ‘eighties.
At the other end of the field Jamahl Hayes and Nikki Ross each booted four goals and were instrumental in the Town side's win.
The potential of Pioneer's Jawoyn Cole Manolis is self evident and he stood out as best player.
Others to do well as Town players were Bradley Campbell, Anthony Lew Fatt, Peter Rolfe and Scott Taylor.
Supporting Kernan well for the Country were Glen McMillan, Baydon Ngalkin and Wayne Scrutton.
A PRETTY PENNY ON 3-YEAR-OLD BARRABA SUN. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The highlight of racing at Pioneer Park at the weekend was the performance by Barraba Sun over 1200 metres in the Committee Class 1 Handicap.
A pretty penny was spent in purchasing the three year old gelding, but the Dick Leech stable was suitably rewarded.
Regal Rose set the pace early but by the turn Barraba Sun took control, and despite carrying 59kg, careered to the line a winner by three and a quarter lengths.
Lyscene ran a nice race to take second place with outsider Desamo filling the minors.
The connections of the winning favourite now no doubt have their eyes set on a Guineas start in Darwin.
The day's racing at Pioneer started with a quinella to veteran trainer Emmie Weir. Brother Henry and Crowne Pilot led early in the Patron's Trobis Maiden Plate over 1400 metres.
Sid's Eagle was nursed into a comfortable third place by Japanese rider Maki Morita who sat off the pace to the turn.
Both leaders gave little and Morita straightened up with the world at his feet.
In the straight, Sid's Eagle made every post a winner and went to the line some nine and a quarter lengths in front.
Do What We Do had camped at the rear of the field early and was able to come home into second place – albeit well after the winner had bolted. The favourite Smyzter's Storm finished in third place.
In the Treasurers Class 3 Handicap over 1400 metres, Spicy Sound lived up to favourite status and led home a Terry Gillett trifecta.
Reminiscent of a performance late last year, Spicy Sound jumped and led and was never headed.
IMPRESSIVEThe four year old gelding enjoyed an eight length win and in doing so recorded an impressive time of 1.23.41.
Star Quest came around the field from last to pick up the cheque for second, and Litigious filled the placings.
The Vice Chairman's Class 4 Handicap over 1100 metres saw the perennial place getter Saratoga Boy break through with a win.
Saratoga has been lightly worked of late and being fresh could've been the ingredient needed to bring on the win. After camping off the pace, Classic Rainbow and Saratoga Boy settled down in the straight to fight it out, with Pseudonaja joining in.
But Saratoga Boy was able to show some kick and went to the line a winner by three quarters of a length from Pseudonaja with Classic Rainbow third.
The card was completed when Coniston Way saluted in the Chairman's Open Handicap over 1200 metres.
The horse had disappointed in the Sprint at Cup time but was back in form this week. As the race began, Scotro set the pace with Coniston Way on his girth and Earth Legend in third place.
But little Scotro again found the distance a crippling factor and by the 1000 meters mark Coniston Way was able to kick, winning eventually by seven and a quarter lengths.
Century's Gift sidled into second spot and Earth Legend disappointed somewhat to only manage third.
The win gave Terry Gillett a training double for the day, while Craig Moon recorded a riding double.
SPINACH EAT VIKINGS. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Desert Spinach forged a brilliant 4-0 win over Vikings in a display of football exceeding the standards of C Grade on Sunday.
Lucy Ewers was again a driving force for the Spinach and her goal was one to be remembered. Others to contribute were Mick Delaney, Jon Walsh and Aaron Chand.
In the other epic match of the day, Stormbirds and Scorpions drew at 2 all. Chris Perry and Phil Hassel put it together for the ‘Birds while Keith Bridgeman and Jordan Zahra were the players who found the net for Scorpions.
The B Graders conducted four fixtures with Buckleys reaffirming their favouritism for finals honours when they accounted for the Busy Bees. The Bees had no answer to the sting of Tom Clements who returned a hat trick for his side.
Vikings also conducted something of a whitewash by downing ASFA 8-2. In this game, it was Joel Goldring and Hamish McDonald who were at their potent best – each slotting a double.
In other matches, Scorpions defeated the Thorny Devils 2-0 and Dragons accounted for Federal 3-0.
The elite level games saw Verdi hit a green patch with a 3-2 win over Vikings.
The Verdi trio of Ben Adami, Paulo Morelli and Gavin Munoz proved too strong for the revered Tom Dutton, Rory Hood and the remainder of the Viking outfit.
Chris Hatzimihail scored a double and joined Neil Rutland and Lucas Jordan in taking Federals to a 4-1 win over Scorpions. The sole scorer for Scorpions was Conan Peterson.
In Under 14s football Memo Red enjoyed a 5-0 outing against Celtic.
It was Isaac Harley Richards who stood out as a key player in this game. Not only did he show his down field skill but he also recorded a hat trick.
The other Under 14 game went to Scorpions, winning 3-0 over Memo White. Elliott McBride, Daniel O'Loughlin and Lachlan Farrquarr showed their skills in this game.
At Under 12 level Vikings had a field day, scoring 12 to Scorpions 2. Tom Godwin showed the way with four goals. In the other game, Celtic Green defeated Celtic White 3-2, with Amy Erickson scoring a hat trick.
This week sees soccer in the Centre benefiting from a new training program for youngsters. The Active Factor Top Shots program was launched on Monday night by the local development officer for NT Football, Willie Devlin.
The program is to be run by local team coaches who will carry out three different training levels, each teaching seven different football-related skills including juggling, dribbling and passing.
The program intends to impress on young players that basic skills practise is a vital ingredient to success at the game.
SLUGS, DRUGS, POLITICAL THUGS. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I had no idea slugs were so partial to beer, at least not the garden variety.
A dear friend of mine, whose garden is much greener and better mulched than mine, has had a bit of a problem with snails and slugs.
Growing not only plants but also children and pets in her garden she was reluctant to use snail bait and asked for advice at one of our local nurseries. She was told to try full strength beer.
Although her husband feels it is worse than throwing pearls before swine, the beer has sorted out the pests. Poured onto shallow dishes and dispersed throughout the garden it attracted the snails and slugs who were found hanging over the edges drinking themselves to death.
At least they die happy, my friend commented, but I doubt that alcohol has that same initial effect on slugs and snails as it does on humans.
Apart from studying garden pest behaviour I have recently noticed outrage over attacks on tourists and locals in our community. It is a real shame our good reputation is being tarnished by these attacks, not to mention the actual physical and mental harm suffered by the victims.
However, what I don't hear is a why. Why is this happening? Is it because there isn't enough police presence in the streets? Is it because we don't have curfews in place? Is that why some individuals are so violent and abusive?
Is there not enough punishment being implemented although our jails are overflowing? Are some people just genetically programmed to be more evil than others?The federal government is currently running an anti-drugs campaign in the commercial media. It is showing several young people in scary situations brought on by taking illicit drugs.
The main tactic of the campaign is to discourage young people from trying drugs by scaring them. No doubt it will stop some from trying illicit drugs, but it ignores the problem of looking for fun and pleasure in a chemical substance. A behaviour modelled by the legal use of other drugs like tobacco and alcohol.
We live with alcohol abuse all around us and have to deal with the effects of it daily, yet the cause of these problems seems to be ignored.
TV commercials are allowed to glorify drinking.
They make it out to be something positive that you do with your mates. The dangers of using alcohol are only portrayed as relating to driving or being a minor.
Alcohol is a legal drug that a large part of the adult population likes to enjoy.
We don't want to give up easy access to something that gives us so much pleasure, or even recognise its impact on the broader community.
It is interesting that the government sees it as being so important to discourage young people from taking ‘illegal' drugs while condoning legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco whose known health and social risks are massive.
People are not born evil, abusive drunks with criminal records.
According to Catalyst on ABC TV last week we are born either genetically predisposed to becoming violent or not, but if you have a predisposition to violence you don't automatically become violent. This behaviour has to be triggered by environment.
In households where alcohol is abused, violence is more common and the children in those situations are more likely to become violent adults if they have that genetic predisposition.
It is not enough to condemn violent behaviour and lock up the abusers.
Alcohol is an issue we have to take much more seriously than we do at present.
In order to change attitudes we need to change its safe and positive image by banning advertising promoting any alcohol.
Education and help in the form of rehabilitation and life style changes is also necessary. It is about tackling a disease.
Not even slugs die happy from drinking too much alcohol.
BETTER THAN HEAPS MAD. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
In the same way that meetings expand to fit the time available, so the challenge of understanding Territory language can become an extended exercise that fills the hours between weekend meals in a wholesome and semi-productive way. It's like sweeping under a beech tree on a windy day; feels good but achieves little.
For instance, there are hours to be misspent working out whether it is best to put ‘mate' at the beginning or the end of a sentence. I always believed that overuse of the word ‘mate' shows an unhealthy preoccupation with social class.
Taxi drivers call you mate. Teachers and lawyers do not. But in Australia and even more so in the Territory, the rules are looser. A whole host of people you have never met become instant, but superficial, mates.
Since language has rules, I tried to work them out. Put the mate at the end of a suitable sentence and you'll be fine, I thought. Except that I don't have any mates. But locate the mate at the start of the sentence, and you'll sound like a dork, I told myself, trying to use dork in the right context. Anyway, it doesn't matter. What you say is more important than the way that you say it. That was my conclusion, mate.
Having dealt with this important issue before lunch, I devoted the arvo to collective nouns, starting with the mobs and the swags. I thought I understood how collective nouns worked until I heard a street full of cafes described as a ‘mob of restaurants' and a popular television show praised for having a ‘swag of viewers'.
Somebody must be working behind the scenes to change the rules of Australian grammar and they're doing it without telling the users. Under these circumstances, I decided that it is best to leave collective nouns completely alone.
Then I was riding my recumbent bike the other day and a small boy shouted out that he thought my bike was ‘heaps mad'. For Pete's sake, what is that supposed to mean? I don't have the foggiest idea. All I could say in reply was ‘Er, thanks', not knowing if he had praised or insulted my machine. What if he said the equivalent of ‘your bike is crap' and I had lamely thanked him for it? I'll never know.
For once the problem doesn't just lie with other people's offspring. For instance, gammon is a word in Aboriginal English that means pretend or false. You know this, but I learned it from my children, who speak an increasingly hybrid form of English peppered with rising inflections, clicks and words like budda and bros. It's fun to learn, except that I'm light years behind them.
As a result, I have decided to keep them away from the grandparents. The chances of meaningful communication between elderly people and children in my family are getting less by the day. When bad means good and deadly means very good, the prospects of them accurately discussing whether they like living in Alice Springs are slim.
Language differences between native English-speakers are usually a storm in a teacup. Who cares about the pronunciation of tomato and whether people say sorry or excuse me or pardon in different countries when they mean the same thing? I say spare us the over-analysis of cultures that are basically the same. Then we can concentrate on more important matters.
But in this case, the differences are more significant. If people say mate a lot, then they must have forgotten your name or be too shy to ask for it. If they say gammon too much, they must be worried that someone is not being open with them. If these are two of the most popular local words, then they tell us something about ourselves too.
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