TERRIFIC LARAPINTA TRAIL. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Larapinta Trail got the thumbs-up from six alpine sports enthusiasts who flew half way around the world to traverse the West MacDonnell Ranges on foot.
The three women and three men from Austria, in their thirties and forties, have for many years walked, skied, cycled or paraglided in the mountains of Europe and Africa.
At the end of their adventure last weekend they were enthusiastic about the trail, comparing it to the best they've experienced.
They also made suggestions about improvements still needed.
When rain forced a three day break to their walk they visited Ayers Rock, amazed by the what nature provided but unimpressed by the man-made features (see box page 6).
All six are professional people, with middle to high incomes the profile of people tourism promoters are seeking to attract to The Centre.
Georg Bichler, and married couple Karin and Werner Baumann are engineers working for an oil company.
Georg's sister, Elisabeth Gross, is a physiotherapist, and Doris Binder a police officer.
Alfred Pruckner, a frequent visitor to Central Australia (sometimes twice a year), is an optometrist.
They walked about 180 kilometres in nine days: the first eight sections of the trail from Alice to Serpentine Gorge, then skipping the next three because of rain, and climbed Mt Sonder Section 12 on Friday last week as the "grand finale".
"We did it luxury style," they say, with Alfred meeting them at the end of each day in a four wheel drive with fresh supplies and sleeping gear.
All they had to carry during the day were a snack for lunchtime, water for the day and of course their cameras.
Georg, on his second visit to The Centre, was attracted by "the idea of being in the outback for 10 days, far away from civilisation, yet still in touch with it, able to easily get provisions".
Says Elisabeth: "I walk, ski and like riding my mountain bike.
"I'm fascinated with landscapes and like getting to know them by walking through them.
"I don't like going to places on a bus, get out, have a look and go home again.
"I probably wouldn't have come to Australia for any other reason than the Larapinta Trail.
"Our group of like-minded people offered an opportunity.
"It was an adventure, sleeping in the open every night.
"It was certainly my kind of fun."
"For me it was the far horizons," says Werner.
"From a mountain top you have a horizon of 100, 150 kilometres away, 360 degrees.
"Us Europeans aren't used to this.
"Here you can savour nature, camping out in the open, away from civilisation, something you can't do back home.
"Over our nearly 200 kilometres on the trail we were trekking for 10 days but every hour the landscape changed.
"It's only a small area but with a huge variety, the colours of the rocks, the vegetation, the style of the trail, it's all fascinating."
Doris is another repeat visitor: "I was in Australia two years ago.
"I liked it and I loved the outback.
"In the night the silence, you hear nothing. And the star studded sky.
"We don't have that.
"The people here are laid back, in contrast to the Europeans.
"I love walking, at home, too, and I liked seeing the variety of the trail here. Beautiful."
Says Karin: "I loved the trail, especially when compared to our kind of trekking at home.
"The landscape here is unique. The Dolomites are also unique but in a very different way.
"We see the Alps often, and have more opportunity of going there.
"And like Elisabeth, I would have never come here with a run-of-the-mill guided tour.
"It wouldn't have been tailored to our needs, because it would have catered more for the soft shoe tourists.
"It was a step into the unknown, and you can spend a lot of time behind a desk when you're 60!
"The degrees of difficulties of the trek is absolutely comparable to Austria.
"We first took a trip in a light plane and from above the place looks fairly flat.
"But on the ground we walked sections of the trail, for example number four, which was similar to the high Alpine country in Austria, not in terms of absolute heights but in terms of the rocky terrain and steep rises."
Why does Alfred come twice a year to Alice Springs? "To re-charge my battery," he says.
"To escape Europe. Alice Springs is a town that has everything the big cities have, yet you jump in the car and five minutes later you're in the bush where you see no-one.
"That's great. That's pleasant.
"When you're in touch with people they are relaxed, not embittered as they are in Europe.
"You can recuperate. At least I think so. That's why I come here, time and again."
Werner says information about the Larapinta Trail needs to be more detailed: "You get an idea from the web site about the alignment and the lengths of the sections, but the vertical distances are missing, as well as a description of the various types of track.
"In section five, for example, Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge, we unexpectedly walked on a very inhospitable trail, at one point making it doubtful that we'd continue.
"We walked through rugged terrain and over sharp stones. This can lead to serious miscalculations in the planning of the time required."
Says Georg, the tour planner, now nicknamed Redbank George: "The printed materials and maps we had were very skimpy.
"There are estimates of time required for each section. But it isn't spelt out why sections of the same length are requiring double the time.
"You can't relate the strengths and weaknesses of your group to the actual conditions.
"The height profiles and distances are not enough.
"You can't get lost, because the trail is well marked, but accurate timing is difficult.
"You walk a lot in riverbeds and if there's water in them you may need much more time.
"You need to know that in advance. Is it a rocky track? Is it constructed?
"That's not really made clear."
While the trail was certainly not overcrowded the Austrians encountered an average of two to three groups a day the camping grounds certainly were.
Says Georg: "Ellery Creek was chock a block.
"The camp sites at the end of the sections aren't optimally located for groups relying on a support vehicle."
Explains Alfred: "At Serpentine Gorge, for example, they have a great camp spot even with a shed where you could store gear but you can't get the vehicle there.
"You have to carry the gear some 300 metres through a creek bed.
"There is a locked gate. We had a roof tent on the vehicle, so of course we needed it in the camp.
"In the car park itself you're not allowed to camp.
"It's not a logical end point for a section.
"You could go on to the Ochre Pits but you're not allowed to camp there either."
Says Georg: "Some sections are recommended to be walked over two days, but there seem to be no camp sites half-way, let alone vehicle access."
"There's also a problem with feral cattle, especially in the 10th and 11th sections when I was here last time, in summer," says Alfred.
"There are signs everywhere saying 'no pets' and then you're confronted by an 800 kg bull."
Other irritations were the lack of shopping facilities, garbage disposal and when it rained of ways to get clothes and sleeping gear dry.
These are issues needing attention if tourism promoters want visitors to spend more time in the region, especially in the West Macs.
Werner says garbage is not a problem but disposal is.
"The entire trail is meticulously clean.
"My experience in other countries is that when garbage bins are provided they often overflow and with a bit of wind the place starts to look awful."
Georg says his group had an advantage because it had a vehicle. Garbage disposal would be much harder for people carrying all supplies over days: "We had a vehicle bringing supplies every day and taking the rubbish away.
"It's different for the backpackers, carrying a tent and all supplies.
"They have to cart their rubbish with them. I think they have a real problem. I don't know how they solve it."
Alfred says it's clear that the parks management should be placing big skip-style bins, with strong lids, at all the overnight camps.
"To carry the garbage for a couple of days isn't so bad but you can't do it for 10 days or two weeks.
"A lot of garbage is generated because you need to buy most supplies in sturdy packaging. "We only saw garbage bins in Simpson Gap and Ormiston Gorge.
"Ellery Creek Bighole was crowded but there's no garbage disposal."
Says Karin: "Another problem is when it is raining and you get wet, there are no facilities to get dry.
"Of course, the question is, how often does it rain? Is it worth providing these facilities?
"All it would take is a place to hang up clothes and sleeping gear under cover."
Alfred, who did the almost daily shopping runs into Alice Springs, says: "There is no place you can buy supplies in the West Macs.
"The kiosk at Ormiston Gorge is of little use because it's open only between 10am and 4pm.
"Trekkers would get there after 4pm.
"Another handicap is the 2pm opening times of the bottle shops in town it's far too late."
AYERS ROCK: RULES, RIP-OFFS AND LOTS OF SIGNS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Austrian trekkers' detour to Ayers Rock, caused mainly by three days of rain, provoked unanimous fondness for the natural icon and disappointment with the man-made assets.
Says Karin: "You see the Rock on postcards and in books and you know when you're in Central Australia you have to see it.
"You approach it by car and see it in the distance and all is as described.
"But then you get to Ayers Rock Resort and you get a culture shock.
"It's an artificial world that somehow doesn't fit into the landscape.
"They try hard to process masses of tourists but somehow you're glad when you get out of the place again.
"The Rock itself is impressive, the play of colours is gigantic, I've never see anything like it in my life.
"Rain stopped us from climbing but we walked around the Rock, it wasn't bad.
"But what disturbed me are the hundred thousand signs about all that's forbidden, nothing seems to be allowed, you can't go anywhere, you can't photograph anything, you're under threat of some maximum penalties.
"It's all very strange. You wonder if all this is in the interest of Aborigines or is it just making money. You feel ripped off.
"The resort itself, well, they're trying hard, but it's just not getting there.
"You can eat at a place where you do your own grilling, but you still pay through the nose. "The breakfast bar was no better. Well, I guess that's how it goes."
Says Werner: "Fair enough, you've got to see the Rock, it's impressive and very well marketed, but Ayers Rock Resort is a place I'd would rather not have to go to.
"It's all about money, no question."
Elisabeth agreed: "I liked seeing the Rock but I was glad to retreat into the outback again."
For Georg Ayers Rock was "a magical place which holds a strong fascination for me.
"You know it from books and pictures, you know what to expect, but when you get there you're still amazed. It's a very special fascination.
"But the Ayers Rock Resort, I guess, is a place difficult to manage because you have to channel through it so many people.
"On the other hand, there are many places around the world facing that kind of challenge.
"There are good examples and bad ones. Ayers Rock Resort is relatively new, some 20 years. I don't understand is why the planners didn't have a good look around the world and copy a good example.
"For the low budget tourist Ayers Rock Resort is a ghetto. The town centre is dead, nothing happens there.
"There are shops, fast food and an expensive restaurant, nothing else.
"A good restaurant with reasonable prices, like the Overlander Steakhouse in Alice Springs, is sadly missing.
"There isn't the atmosphere you expect, that would do justice to Ayers Rock.
"You have no idea that a few kilometres away is that Rock. It's a pity."
Doris calls the Ayers Rock Resort "an ugly test-tube town, a bit like Disneyland.
"They even waste water in the middle of the town, in a fountain.
"Surely, things don't need to be washed down quite so much, but perhaps that's for the golden slipper tourists.
"I think Ayers Rock and the Olgas are OK, the Valley of the Winds walk is very beautiful.
"The stroll around the Rock wasn't too bad but all these signs everywhere, sacred places for men, sacred places for women, you can't take pictures let alone enter, that's pretty bad."
Alfred says the ambience is missing at Ayers Rock Resort: "There's no pub, like you have in most Australian towns.
"Maybe they should have incorporated a pub like Curtin Springs [80 km to the east] in the resort so that it has at least a bit of an outback atmosphere.
"But it is missing totally. You could be in California. The Ayers Rock Resort has nothing to do with the country around it.
"If you come by car it's not so bad, because you drive through the outback.
"But people flying in could think they're anywhere in the world.
"Like the Hilton Hotels Š you wouldn't know where you are.
"OK, you're in a resort and Ayers Rock happens to be standing next to it."
Georg says in the West MacDonnells the park rangers, in the more frequented places like Ormiston Gorge, make an effort to convey information about the locations' plants and animals, in campfire talks.
"That's missing in Ayers Rock Resort.
"I don't understand that the Cultural Centre [at the base of the Rock] isn't at the resort so that you can go there in the evening, and get an idea about the culture and the background.
"That the Cultural Centre is so far away is a bad mistake."
Werner says the connection, "obviously desired by the resort operators and the visitors, with the calm of the country, its cultural significance, and the people of the region, just isn't working."
UNEQUAL OUTLOOK FOR NT BABIES. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
There is an ongoing "large gap" between Indigenous people and the rest of the population in "all of the headline indicators", according to the second report in the series Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage, commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments.
The gap persists even in the areas that show some improvement, such as employment, post-secondary education, retention to year 12, and achievement against the Year 3 writing benchmark.
Many of the indicators show little or no movement, while some outcomes are worse, such as victim rates for crime and imprisonment rates for both men and women.
Life expectancy is the indicator most commonly cited in the media. It is on average 17 years lower for Indigenous people than for the rest of the Australian population. Don't jump to the conclusion that this is an improvement on the 20 years cited last time you heard, as the Australian Bureau of Statistics has changed the way they make the estimate. The new figures indicate life expectancy at 59 years for Indigenous men, compared with 77 years in the total population; and 65 years for Indigenous women compared with 82 years in the total population.
Figures for the NT are 57.6 years for Indigenous men; 65.2 years for Indigenous women.
The Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report says a low infant mortality rate is "a major contributor to increased life expectancy for a population".
The Indigenous rates for states and territories where data are available show a recent slight improvement. In NSW, for example, the figure has moved from 11.8 deaths per 1000 births in 1998-2000, to 8.6 in 2001-2003. In the NT, it has moved from 21.5 to 14.8.
This compares with a total population figure in 1998-2000 of 5.3, and in 2001-2003, 5.0.
Birthweight is a key indicator of health status. Babies with lower birthweights are more likely to die or have problems early in life.
Nationally the low birthweight figure (less than 2500g) for 1999-2001 was 6.7 per cent. For births to Indigenous mothers it was 13.4 per cent.
In the NT, data from the last three years, cited in a recent report (September 2004) by the health service Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, shows that Indigenous babies in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek are doing better than that national Indigenous figure, at 8.5 and 8.7 per cent respectively, compared to 12.3 per cent in Katherine and 16.1 per cent in Darwin.
"The reasons for this significant variation are not clear," says the Congress report.
However, the report also quotes the Child and Youth Safety Strategy for Alice Springs as saying "an NT Aboriginal post neonate (four weeks to 12 months) is about seven times more likely to be admitted to hospital than a non-Aboriginal post neonate".
And these babies have an average of 2.7 conditions per hospital admission, compared to 1.7 for NT non-Aboriginal babies.
The Congress report is focussed on identifying gaps in service delivery and points to some confounding gaps for mothers and babies.
Its states, for example, that local practice is for the Community Health Centre to offer at least one home visit to all new mothers. However, they do not visit new mothers in town camps due to Occupational Health & Safety reasons.
Similarly, according to the report, the domiciliary midwife working from the hospital will not visit the camps.
Up until recently Congress Alukera was only doing post-natal follow up for their clients, but they have now agreed to cover women in the camps "within their existing staffing levels".
However, the report states Congress' concern that they do not receive the discharge summaries from the hospital for the women they expect to follow-up. These are town camp women and women who have used Alukera for ante-natal care but who have birthed at the hospital. They could also be women from remote communities who have birthed in town but who may be "hard to locate" after discharge.
The reasons put forward for why they were not receiving the discharge summaries included poor organisation and lack of awareness of discharge pathways or local services by hospital staff.
But there were also more complex reasons including clients discharging themselves and consent issues.
The report calls for an agreement between the Department of Health and Congress to ensure (surely not too soon) post-natal follow up of all new babies.
The department has confirmed that it is examining joint planning options between the department and all non-government service providers to clarify how to ensure the needs of the entire community are met.
These planning sessions will occur within the next two months.
A spokesperson says discharge summaries are sent by Alice Springs Hospital to the mother's nominated health care provider, which includes Congress or Congress Alukura. If they are from a remote community, the discharge summary is sent to the community's health centre. Immunisation of Indigenous infants is one health strategy that has broadly taken hold.
Indeed, according to Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage 2005, at two years of age Indigenous children have higher immunisation rates for most vaccines, although at one year the rates are significantly lower, which may be a factor in higher rates of some diseases in children under two years.
One of the outcomes shown to be worsening in the 2005 report is substantiated child protection notifications (matters that have been notified and investigated). For Indigenous children these have increased significantly in most jurisdictions, including the NT.
They have also increased for non-indigenous children, except in NT and WA where they decreased and in Victoria where they remained similar.
The report says no credible data exist on actual levels of abuse. although Congress quotes Julian Pocock's conclusion in State of Denial that the NT has the highest levels of unrecorded child abuse and neglect in Australia and that the NT child protection system fails in its responsibility to protect Aboriginal children. The Congress quotes Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on key causes of removal of children from their families: higher rates of poverty; inadequate housing; intergenerational effects of previous separations from family and culture; cultural differences in child rearing practices; and, a lack of access to services.
Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage 2005 quotes a new report by UNICEF as identifying the prevalence of alcohol and other substance abuse among some Indigenous adults as one of many factors having harmful implications for Indigenous children.
ALICE SPRINGS CONFUSED OVER STATEHOOD. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
More than half (55 per cent) of people in Alice Springs are confused about what it would mean if the Northern Territory becomes a state.
This was revealed in a survey conducted by the Statehood Steering Committee at the Alice Show. Questionnaires were completed by 342 people.
Nearly half (44 per cent) say they want more information before they make a decision .
Many want addressed such issues as funding and financial arrangements, tax and representation in the federal parliament.
More than two thirds (85 per cent) admit they do not know how many politicians represent the Northern Territory in Canberra.
The majority of people knew that we currently don't have the same rights as a state, although 60 per cent weren't aware that the NT doesn't have a constitution written by the people who live here.
Many people (44.5 per cent) aren't sure if the NT would be better or worse off financially if we were granted statehood, with 20 per cent believing we wouldn't achieve any financial gain, and 35 per cent saying we would be better off.
The vast majority (90 per cent) believe the NT should change its name if it does become a state.
GREATOREX LESSONS BODE ILL FOR ALP. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.
The recent tantalising result for Labor in Greatorex will not provide a base upon which to build towards victory in the next general elections; instead, it will likely slip further out of reach in future (assuming that Greatorex still exists in its current form after the next electoral boundary redistribution).
The strong campaign by Labor candidate Fran Kilgariff to wrest Greatorex from the CLP's Richard Lim proved to be a close-run affair but ended up being remarkably similar to the campaign of June 1994.
At that time Greatorex was held by conservative independent Denis Collins but both the CLP and Labor perceived that his tenure had run its course; the ALP launched an intensive effort with candidate Kerrie Nelson in an attempt to win their first urban seat in the Alice.
Ms Nelson was well known through her work in education and the community, and conducted a thorough campaign effort leading up to June 4.
Her opponent claimed at the time (and made a formal complaint to the Electoral Commission) that several Labor supporters relocated to the old Eastside and re-enrolled on the electoral register to bolster numerical voter support, and then-Opposition Leader Brian Ede offered to swap preferences with the CLP.
All this effort led to a swing to the ALP of about eight per cent, virtually identical to the seven per cent swing that Fran Kilgariff achieved recently and on both occasions the result was determined by distribution of preferences leading to the election of Richard Lim. Lim's victory in 1994 finally brought to an end the political career of Denis Collins, and coincided with the first election of Loraine Braham as the new CLP member for Braitling. SIMILAR The milestones of Collins and Braham's political careers are remarkably similar. Mr Collins' preselection for the seat of Alice Springs in 1980 was unexpected and controversial.
Ms Braham was also very much an outside chance for preselection in 1994 within the context of an intense internal party struggle.
Collins established himself as a popular local member, easily winning the new seat of Sadadeen in 1983 and serving two terms as a member of the CLP.
Loraine Braham likewise quickly achieved popularity as a local member, retaining Braitling in 1997 with ease and also served two terms as a CLP member.
Collins lost CLP preselection to then-local lawyer Shane Stone in 1987, and so ran as an independent candidate and retained Sadadeen after the distribution of preferences from the NT Nationals and the CLP, ultimately winning almost 70 per cent of the votes.
Braham lost CLP preselection in November 2000 and, again, a local lawyer Jodeen Carney was a key figure in the turmoil although not directly in competition with her.
However, the CLP candidate for Braitling in 2001, businessman Peter Harvey, had initially been chosen for Araluen before Ms Carney was given the nod for that electorate.
Mrs Braham ran as an independent candidate and retained Braitling after the distribution of preferences from Labor, with 55.5 per cent of the votes.
In 1990 the CLP preselected Bob Kennedy, a prominent town council alderman, real estate identity and active party member, to contest the new electorate of Greatorex against Denis Collins.
Mr Kennedy achieved almost 40 per cent of the primary vote against Collins' 32 per cent but three-quarters of Labor's preferences enabled the sitting MLA to win the seat with 52.5 per cent of the vote.
For 2005 the CLP preselected former alderman, real estate identity and active party member Michael Jones to challenge Loraine Braham; after campaigning for 18 months, Mr Jones stormed ahead in the primary vote only to fall short after distribution of Labor's preferences.
Labor's candidate, Sue West, ran the quietest and lowest-profile campaign of all the ALP's hopefuls in Central Australia, obviously to bolster Mrs Braham's chances of retaining Braitling, and in achieving this objective can claim a victory of sorts in an Alice urban seat.
Ironically, the Labor government can now dispense with the support of the independents in the Legislative Assembly.
Both Mr Collins and Mrs Braham recorded sequentially lower primary votes in two elections as independents but for quite opposite reasons.
Mr Collins was perceived as an increasingly right-wing extremist over time, and it was this factor that led both major parties to regard his seat of Greatorex as vulnerable in 1994 (and ostensibly why Labor offered to swap preferences with the CLP).
Labor's preferences had saved Denis Collins in 1990 but in 1994 it was his preferences that thwarted the ALP's hopes for victory in Greatorex.
Conversely, Loraine Braham was much more accommodating for Labor during its first term of office after 2001, and it is this association that probably damaged her support base in the recent elections.
Like Denis Collins, Loraine Braham's second term as an independent will be her last but it is here that their records diverge as, in all likelihood, she will be able to retire gracefully undefeated at the polls.
Her departure will also probably coincide with the disappearance of the Braitling electorate.
[The Alice News asked Fran Kilgariff whether she intends to run again in a Territory Legislative Assembly election.
Ms Kilgariff, who has resumed her duties as mayor, said: "At this stage I'm not thinking about anything else apart from my role as mayor all the rest is far too distant in the future to even warrant my consideration."]
TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
An NT Government decision with potentially explosive consequences for the Territory's major industry tourism saw the light of day in the most unusual circumstances.
On Tuesday morning last week the Alice News received a tip-off from a well-placed industry source claiming the Tourist Commission will be replaced by a department, losing its autonomy and apparently, its board of experts.
Then on Wednesday the Opposition made a media release that the commission will be "shifted" to the Department of Business, Economic and Regional Development and that this will mean "a loss of identity, a loss of corporate knowledge and most probably a loss of public sector professionals".
We checked with the commission's media spokeswoman who appeared in a state of shock, and confirmed the rumours.
She suggested the idea had been floated about a year ago.
This was news to Craig Catchlove, the head of CATIA, Central Australia's major tourism lobby, who said so far as he knew, there had been no mention of the idea, let alone formal consultation.
Mr Catchlove said on Monday he had been unable to get much sense from the bureaucracy.
All he had been told was that there would be no reduction in funding.
He says he had not spoken to Clare Martin, Chief Minister and Minister for Tourism, who at least till Monday gave no explanations of the issue.
According to Shadow Minister for Tourism Fay Miller, there are many more questions than answers: "Who will have carriage of Tourism?
"The Chief Minister says she will but it will be located in the new Business department.
"I certainly hope that responsibility for Tourism will not be spread over two ministers that will just mean more buck-passing.
"Where will staff be located? Who will they be responsible to?
"How many jobs will be lost? How many extra interstate consultancies is Labor planning to secure?"
The commission says it is operating under a special Act which would need to be repealed.
Ms Martin told the Alice News before the election last month that the commission's campaign "Share Our Story" was successful and appropriate, and gave no indication of dissatisfaction with the commission.
However, a survey by the Alice News prior to the election revealed a "soft May", mixed feelings about the campaign and no reports of sharp increase in business, despite $10m in extra spending on promoting Central Australia.
JOYS AND CHANGES OVER A LIFETIME. Report by DOROTHY GRIMM.
Myrtle Noske was born at Deep Well Station on November 22, 1926, the youngest of seven children born to Gerhardt and Ottilie Johannsen, one of the early pioneer families to settle in Central Australia.
At the end of 1996 Myrtle's husband of 48 years, Bert Noske, died, and her family and friends urged her to record her life story.
The result is Where Ever Thou Goest, a friendly, easy-to-read book which gives the reader a sense of listening to the author tell her story rather than just reading its narrative.
The book is also richly illustrated with Myrtle's own drawings and paintings, which truly bring the story to life.
Myrtle notes that some drawings are from her "old collection", but numerous others have been done "from memory, which may not be completely accurate".
But it is that personal memory, the individual response to day-to-day things as well as to particular events, which makes Myrtle's story so interesting, while at the same time providing an insight into what life was like in Central Australia from 1926 to 1996.
The book starts with Myrtle's childhood years (1926-1940) in Alice Springs especially on Todd Street where her father had a large block of land (which is now called the Todd Mall as Myrtle explains).
Such references to current (at time of writing) Alice Springs places enables at least Central Australian readers to identify what parts of town Myrtle is referring to and adds to the 'listening touch' of the book.
The illustrations also help the reader see items which were part of Myrtle's everyday life as a child, such as a cool safe which enabled families to keep their food fresh at least for a few hours. No electricity and refrigerators in those days.
On the first page Myrtle describes how, as a young child, she understood the word 'bank', a heaped up pile of dirt along the edge of a trench, and her attempt to increase the value of the threepenny piece given to her by a visitor by burying it in the 'bank.'
A later chapter recalls Christmas spent at Hermannsburg when Myrtle was about five years old and running across hot sand in bare feet and then lying down and putting her feet in the air to cool them off. An illustration says it all.
Drought, floods, police, migrants, schools, medical treatment, well-known personalities and all sorts of day-to-day happenings are included.
World War II brought changes: the army came to town, non-essential people were evacuated and sent south.
Myrtle's family went to Strangways in an old Studebaker bus and Bedford truck as Myrtle's father was mining phlogopite mica which Myrtle's describes as being in demand for its high heat tolerance necessary for aircraft spark plugs.
In 1944 Myrtle joined the Women's Royal Australian Air Force and was sent to Melbourne, Victoria. After the war she decided to do an arts course at the Melbourne Technical College and then, upon finishing her studies, returned to Central Australia where she met and married road train driver Bert Noske in 1948. Their only child, Virginia, was born in November 1949.
Life as a young wife with a small child in Barrow Creek, Hatches Creek, Harts Range, Plenty River, Jervois, Bonya Copper Mine, and back in Alice Springs is recollected, with Bert working to support his family and Myrtle looking after the home.
Back in Alice Springs the Noskes had a poultry farm and Virginia attended Hartley Street School and then Anzac Hill High School.
With Virginia grown and married and southern supermarkets opening stores in Alice Springs, the Noskes retired from the poultry business and Bert became a public servant.
Retirement brought travelling and fishing; Bert even built a boat in his Alice Springs' backyard, which he called 'Alice' and the couple took it to Queensland to launch.
Myrtle's descriptions include the small details often overlooked when describing 'the big picture.'
For example on a Ghan trip to Adelaide and back in the 1930s heavy rain washed away the rail line and special permission was given to take food from the goods in the freight cars to feed the passengers.
She's immaculate and I am fast deteriorating. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
When I first moved to Central Australia, I noticed that Teg Egan was everywhere.
He was on posters, he was in the newspaper, he spoke on the radio, he performed songs and he made speeches at public meetings like the one for the Last Camel Train. Perhaps you remember it?
People cherished Ted's every utterance. It took me a while to work out who Ted Egan was, because the locals implied that I ought to know him in the same way that I should recognise Britney Spears or the Pope. Then Ted Egan took a job with the government and I haven't heard much about him since then. Somewhere there must be a moral in this.
The current national equivalent of Ted Egan is Deborah Hutton. I know it sounds implausible, but please stick with me. Deborah Hutton pops up everywhere. She's in Women's Weekly, she renovates houses, she explains how to keep fit and she tells people that she loves the Holden Monaro. This last fact is coincidental to her working for Holden as "one of Australia's most stylish fashion ambassadors", according to the blurb.
Not only that, but watching Deborah Hutton is now compulsory for everyone who flies with Qantas because she also works as representative for the airline and presents the in-flight video guide. For me, the sensation of wearing my seatbelt low and tight and stowing my tray table is made even more forbidding by the prospect of watching Deborah gliding effortlessly past a range of stunning landscapes while she explains how to get more out of life.
I thought I knew how to get more out of life. It involves arriving at a bookshop that has sofas or sitting in a pub that has international soccer on a big screen made from bodily fluids like plasma. Getting more out of life does not require a flight to New York or a bowl of celery soup. Deborah is starting to confuse me in a way that Ted never did. This is why, the next time that I need to go somewhere, I am taking the Ghan instead of Qantas.
Another place to escape from the onslaught of Deborah Hutton ought to be Kmart. So I went there last weekend and loitered in the Manchester department. To my horror, the shelves were stacked with Living with Deborah Hutton, Deborah's "personally branded complete homewares range, spanning everything from bedroom to bathroom, tableware to kitchen as well as home furnishings". This is how I learned that in the bedding aisles, nobody can hear you scream. I would have a go at living with Deborah Hutton, but I'd have to tidy up first. It is hard to believe, but she and I were born within a few weeks of each other. She's immaculate and I am fast deteriorating in the way that a pile of sand responds to the incoming tide. Bits of me are collapsing and others are sagging. My grains are being washed out to sea.
As so often happens, I found relief from my inadequacies in the pages of one of those glossy music magazines for old folks. There I found an article about my favourite band, New Order. The writer casually pointed out that the band members will be 50 next year and that their new album is a big disappointment. I felt better straightaway.
Watching Live8, I expected Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys to look ancient, but not synth and guitar groups from the 'eighties. The accompanying publicity shot of the band looked like an audition for Steptoe and Son.
So there's a happy ending in the knowledge that not everyone grows old and stays perfect. I can stop hiding in haberdashery.
In sickness & in health. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
We have just come back from my brother's wedding and a 6000 kilometre round trip to Brisbane.
Driving into the Alice from the north late one afternoon as the shadows were getting longer and the hills glowed against the blue winter sky it felt wonderful to be home.
The children were delighted that everything looked the same. The long drive, the many rainy days and all that city traffic soon seemed like an unpleasant dream you quite happily wake up from.
But having been away I've suddenly noticed things I did not notice or worry about before. Like living costs. First it was the petrol price along the way increasing the further away from the coast we got.
Then medical costs. I was pleasantly surprised when I only had to pay two thirds of what I pay to see my GP in Alice for a visit to a GP in Toowoomba, and the medication I was prescribed was half of what I normally pay.
I have previously accepted that the distance, which is great, is going to make food and other things a bit more expensive in Alice. About 15 per cent more is what I have been told in the past. But with increasing petrol prices our "Territory lifestyle" is going to get more and more expensive.
The Territory government is again restructuring its departments. Shuffling the deck for another game of poker. They are striving for higher efficiency and lower administrative costs. I wonder if anyone ever calculates the real costs of these exercises. And who are the winners? It is not a game to us who want this to be home. It is said "there is no such thing as a free lunch" and it seems neither is there such a thing as a place where you can find peace and quiet under endless blue skies without having to pay a higher price. Not any more.
A woman from Melbourne who was doing research for an encyclopaedia rang me up the other day to get info about an organisation I'm involved with. When I couldn't answer her questions right away she wondered if I could not ask someone else in the office! I informed her that it was not possible because I was at home and our organisation is run by volunteers. We work for nothing, for the greater good and for love, like women have done for thousands of years in their marriages.
When my husband and I got married a good friend of my mother's held a speech which she ended with the lines, "Love me best when I deserve it the least because that is when I need it the most", cautioning us that things would not always be as rosy as on our wedding day. In holiday brochures and political propaganda there is seldom a footnote warning us of mosquitoes, earthquakes or increased taxes. But life teaches us otherwise.
My Alice is still the friendliest place I've ever lived and her natural beauty in a class of its own, but will I be able to afford living here in the future.
Is love enough when it comes to a place?
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LETTERS: Radioactive waste - Some of it is ours!
Sir, This is an open letter to MHR Warren Snowdon. Dear Warren, It was with some relief and full support that I saw your outrage over the proposed uranium waste depot.
It looks like this uranium business is starting to impact on our lives here in the Centre.
But we mine it (or are we still just looking for it?) and use it and sell it.
The nations we sell it to use it for their own works, and we both create waste.
Perhaps some of that can rightfully be said to be ours.
I believe depleted uranium (DU) is what we are talking about here, as well as a few hospital gowns and related objects.
So what do we do with it? We could follow the American and British example and paint it onto our war munitions.
Then we too could spread uranium waste all through the Middle East and Afghanistan. Why no outrage there? Do the Australian soldiers serving under orders in those hot spots not merit a bit of outrage?
And do you know if DU has been spread around the Top End during the War Games we host? All ordinance needs proving.
Has a thorough and independent environmental test ever been done?
But to focus on where you are engaged, wouldn't the Granites be a better storage depot than Harts Range, or Mt Everard, just 30 kms out of town?
Not only is that a lot closer to the 'middle of nowhere', but we could finally get the road paved across to Broome.
Sir, I respond to two articles and an advertisement in the issue of July 13: the column by Mandy Webb on the need for alternative energy; the article by Kieran Finnane titled 'Big Focus on a little water' and the third an Australian Government ad on page five.
I am astounded that governments (both federal and state) do no actively back alternative energy proposals. They may set up programs and research centres but their being actively planning for our future energy and water needs I strongly doubt. By actively I mean financially supporting potential and new sustainable energy industries.
I see the reverse happening. The NT Government is funding our use of unsustainable power to the tune of $40m as pointed out by Mandy Webb. They give us cheap water too. This is happening at the same time that the Federal Government states that we have helped to build a stronger economy. Our real wages have increased by 14.7 per cent over the past nine years.
If we are such a wealthy country, why are we not seriously putting money into alternative energy? Why do we have to prove ourselves to become a solar city? It should be a fait accompli. In Alice Springs why are there no water restrictions? If we have such a good body of groundwater to tap into, why do we use it as if there is no end? Is this responsible governance?
Why does the NT Government subsidise power and water use without actively convincing the community of our long term need to have a more sustainable energy supply? This is an opportunity for Central Australians to say that the time is ripe.
Let's look at converting more of our energy supply to solar. Let's look at both small and large models. Let's forget about the current subsidies and feel the real cost of these valuable resources. We don't need short sighted vote winning grabs by politicians to keep them in power pardon the pun!
Yes, there is a cost which we initially must incur, but in the long term our children will thank those who stood up in our generation, took some initial sacrifice, and formed a long term plan for our energy needs. I don't want to leave my children with a huge energy and water gulf that their generation needs to fill. We are beginning to feel that gulf with rising oil prices. These prices increases will continue as demand outstrips supply.
The time is ripe for developing new sustainable industries for energy production. Financial incentives must be given to both small and large proposals. The planning must start now or we will have to deal with the ramifications in decades to come.
I urge those in government to actively encourage and work with the community to develop an alternative energy industry. Yes, the initial cost may seem astronomical to our society but there needs to be change. We need to change our attitude and our priorities. We need to stand up for our future and lobby those in all governments for a better deal. We need to be actively supporting innovative models and start up industries that promote a sustainable future. We need action. Any government worth their crust would take the steps toward energy and water sustainability
We have great potential as a community and nation to become a leader in both energy and water use. There should be some good economic spin offs for taking a lead. Let's see the change.
Sir, Firstly, thank you for the article on The Alice website (July 13). Secondly, the same day as your publication came out I received a Passport request from New Zealand, for a visitor travelling the next day, directly in response to the article in the Alice Springs News[all major articles in the Alice News each Wednesday are also published on our website].
See what happens when we are all working together.
From the mouths of babes
Sir, I am a 10 year old concerned about the way that the council can give David Chewings a fine.
It is not right, it's wrong. The council should pull their socks up.
David Chewings picks up other people's rubbish that the council should take care of and good on David if he does not pay the fine.
It's people like David Chewings that should be rewarded and yet the council want to build a big office, while there is still not a pathway in every street.
I know a boy who has been in a wheelchair all his life and he has to struggle to get any place in his street.
Card scam strikes
Sir, By understanding how the following credit card scam works, you'll be better prepared to protect yourself.
My spouse was called on Wednesday from "VISA", and I was called on Thursday from "MasterCard". The scam works like this:
Person calling says, "This is
"This would be on your VISA card which was issued by
When you say "No", the caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?"
You say, "Yes". The caller continues, "I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1-800 number listed on the back of your card and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control #." The caller then gives you a six-digit number. "Do you need me to read it again?"
Here's the IMPORTANT part of how the scam works. The caller says, "I need to verify you are in possession of your card". He'll ask you to "turn your card over and look for some numbers. There are seven numbers; the first four are your card number, the next three are the 'Security Numbers' that verify you are in possession of the card. These are the numbers you use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. Read me the three numbers."
After you tell the caller the three numbers, he'll say, "That is correct. I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?"
After you say, "No", the caller then thanks you and states, "Don't hesitate to call back if you do", and hangs up.
You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The real VISA Security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged on our card.
Long story made short, we made a real fraud report and closed the VISA card, and they are reissuing us a new number. What the scammers want is the three-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don't give it to them.
Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or Mastercard direct. The real VISA told us that they would never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card! If you give the scammers your three-digit PIN Number, you think you're receiving a credit.
However, by the time you get your statement, you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then it's almost too late and/or harder to actually file a fraud report.
What makes this more remarkable is that the next day, Thursday, I got a call from a "Jason Richardson of MasterCard" with a word-for-word repeat of the VISA scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up!
We filed a police report, as instructed by VISA. The police said they are taking several of these reports daily! They also urged us to tell everybody we know that this scam is happening.
Please pass this on to all your friends. By informing each other, we protect each other.
Ord Minnett Limited
WESTS AGAIN IN RUGBY LEAGUE. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
It was a replay of last year's grand final in rugby league over the weekend, as Wests and Vikings faced each other once again.
But the score couldn't have been more different, with the Blues only managing 12 against Westies' 46 points.
The match left Vikings still stuck at the bottom of the league, allowing Wests to continue rising to the top of it.
As the game began the teams looked reasonably well-matched. Wests scored nearly immediately after the first whistle but Vikings' new player, Todd Martin, answered almost at once to bring the score to four all.
Martin played dummy first half and looks as if he'll be a useful addition for the Blues in future matches.
Another player who added a lot to the team was Tui Ford junior, back on the field for Vikings after being away.
But Wests' somewhat scrappy and rushed playing tidied up as the game went on, and the team slowly began to dominate the field.
By the end of the first half the score was 22-6 in Wests' favour.
As the second half began powerhouse Jono Schwalger worked hard for Vikings, but it wasn't enough to break Westies' strong defence which only allowed one more try to get through.
By the end of the match, Westies had scored nine tries and five conversions. Top scorers were Shane Kerr, Jethro Campbell and Matt Watts who all scored two tries, with skilful schoolboy Reuben Mack scoring one try, matched by Sean Harre.
Three conversions were achieved by Russell Satour, with Ray Wright and Mitchell Mason each making a kick.
Mason was awarded the Wests' players player.
As a disappointed Vikings team came off the pitch, coach Pete Peterson said: "It's a rebuilding year for Vikings.
"We've practically got a whole new team and it's just good to get numbers on the field."
The second match of the day was more even, with just a single conversion separating United (48) and Memo Central (46).
Both teams scored five goals, and matched each other try for try throughout the match until United scored one more nine to Memo's eight.
Top scorers for Memo were Chris Powell (two tries each half) and Mark Hooper (three conversions).
Malcom Hill had a good game for United, achieving three tries.
The game was anyone's right up until the final whistle.
Towards the end of the match Memo looked as if it would take the match but suffered from being one man down after Kelvin Caspani was held in the sin bin for 10 minutes following a professional foul.
The deal was sealed for United after skilful Levi Callesso achieved the final conversion (his fifth).
RULES: FEDERALS TOP LADDER. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
After a close loss in the B grade, Feds got its own back in the A grade competition, thrashing Rovers.
The scores were 21-15 (141) for Federals, with Rovers trailing 8-10 (58).
Jason Willshire's Feds were well-drilled and disciplined, obviously benefiting from some hard training.
Brenton Forrester played well to score five goals, with Martin and Liam Patrick getting four and three goals respectively.
Player of the match for the side was Darryl Lowe.
Rovers fought back during the second half of the match but accuracy was a downfall. Brendan Smith and Kasper Penal were the top scorers, gaining two goals apiece.
Feds now tie with Wests and South as leaders of the league, proving they're strong enough to face any of the teams for the title.
Pioneers was let down by lack of fitness in the other A grade match, its score of 1-0, 5-0, 6-1, 9-2 (56) losing to Wests' consistent 5-1, 7-2, 12-4, 17-8 (110).
Pioneers were competitive during the first half, but Wests proved too strong after half-time.
Adam Taylor's return to form, after looking sluggish earlier in the year, proved useful for the side he scored four goals and was named best player of the match for his team.
It's known that Pioneer has been struggling to get many senior players to training and it showed on the pitch. Graeme Smith was named best player, after scoring two goals.
In the junior games, last year's winners, Federals, proved strong again against Rovers, winning 8-11 (59) over 3-4 (22).
Lots of players from last season are still turning out consistently good performances, including Bradley McMasters, named best player of the match.
Rovers chose Nikki Ross as its top man.
And in the second under 17 game, Pioneer proved it was back to its best after its forfeit two weeks ago.
West only managed three behinds compared with Pioneer's accurate 19-14 (128) final score.
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