N-DUMP WRANGLE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion says he will "do whatever is necessary" to influence government decisions about a nuclear waste dump in the Territory, in accordance with the wishes of the majority of his constituents.
He does not rule out crossing the floor although he declines to say whether that will be his course of action.
He says when he told the Alice News in June a dump would not be built in the NT "on my watch" he had "assurances that it would absolutely not happen".
He says he will represent to the government "the will and the feelings of Territorians".
Sen Scullion says he will now attend meetings, speak to people and take on board the hundreds of emails and other messages on the subject, and conduct surveys to gauge public opinion.
"It's not an easy thing but I've done it before," says Sen Scullion, "on issues like the stem cells debate.
"We have been monumentally failed by several governments."
Sen Scullion says the government's present plans are for storage of low and intermediate level nuclear waste.
There appears to be little public concern with low level waste, such as gloves and other garments used by medical personnel during cancer treatment.
There would initially be about 3600 cubic meters of low level waste.
The only intermediate level waste to be stored is around 400 cubic metres, about the size of a small house.
This will include about 50 cubic meters of waste left after the processing of reactor rods from the Australian nuclear laboratory at Lucas Heights in Sydney, produced before 1996.
That waste is currently stored in two countries.
One lot is in Dounreay, Scotland, where 27 cubic meters of waste is stored in a cylinder some 13 meters long and three meters in diameter.
Under an agreement that material must be returned to Australia by 2011, says Sen Scullion, and it will come back as "cemented waste in robust steel casks".
A second batch, in a number of containers, is currently being processed in Cap La Hague, France.
Intermediate level waste has a radioactive half life of about 10,000 years.
There is no other intermediate level waste proposed to be stored in the NT, neither from Australia nor from any other country. However, asked whether current legislation prohibited the storage of other waste, Sen Scullion said: "It is not guaranteed.
"A clarifying Act would be useful."
All spent rods generated at Lucas Heights from US origin fuel since 1996 are taken to the US where they are stripped of their fissile material and then put into the "US national repository".
Sen Scullion says this is an ongoing arrangement.
However, it is not clear whether Lucas Heights is using fuel from sources other than the United States, and what will happen with the waste from that fuel.
Will it be added to the waste proposed to be stored in the Territory dump?
Sen Scullion says he will clarify that question.
He says the waste proposed to be stored in the NT would be transformed into a glass-like substance.
It is encased in stainless steel, and packed into a container with steel walls 150 mm thick.
These containers are built to withstand the impact of a railway engine travelling at 80 kmh.
Sen Scullion says the proposed facility in the NT, scheduled for completion in 2011, would cost between $30m and $40m.
It would have two parts: underground storage would be for low level waste.
The structures housing it "would be maintained until the material has decayed to harmless levels," he says.
"Much" of that material has a half life of less than 10 years.
Some of it, uranium contaminated soil, is now stored at Woomera taken there in the controversial "Keating's Convoy" in 1994 and includes soil from the Rum Jungle uranium mine in the Northern Territory.
Intermediate level waste would be stored above ground so that the facilities housing it can be replaced from time to time, "pending decisions on the long term management," over the thousands of years that waste will remain radioactive.
For example, if a building last 50 years, 200 buildings will be needed.
Sen Scullion says the Australian waste brought back from overseas will travel on a ship especially set aside for that purpose, and possibly discharge its cargo in Darwin from where road transport will complete the journey.
Sen Scullion says worldwide there have been "many millions of transports" of radioactive waste over three billion kilometers, without any release of nuclear contamination.
He says the entire process is subject to codes of practice of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and under the control of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.
Under international rules only governments are allowed to store nuclear waste. Private storage is not an option, says Sen Scullion.
BULLY CANBERRA INSTEAD, SAYS ALEC.
John Brisbin, coordinator of the Arid Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs, says Senator Scullion raises more questions than he answers.
Mr Brisbin says Sen Scullion may not have a chance of crossing the floor as there may be no need for new legislation to be voted on in Parliament.
If Lucas Heights is safe, why isn't waste stored there permanently? If it's not safe, how come there's a nuclear reactor in that location?
Why are we generating this nuclear waste in the first place? There are alternatives to medical isotopes. If the government had chosen to invest in non-reactor production of isotopes, Australia could be a world leader.
(Sen Scullion counters that less than 20 per cent of the isotopes used in cancer treatment can be produced by non-nuclear means.)
Lucas Heights is not a research reactor it's a commercial production reactor: 15 per cent of all the world's "doped" silicon used in computer chips is treated at Lucas Heights.
It is an expensive process to set up storage for hazardous waste: once the investment has been made, we'll become the toxic dumping ground of the whole country.
There is the issue of Territorians' rights: we're deprived of a chance for debate amongst ourselves before a decision is made.
"If they want to bully a territory, there's a much better candidate: It's called the ACT," says Mr Brisbin.
THE WEST MACDONNELL NATIONAL PARK: WORLD CLASS BUT AT RISK. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The West MacDonnell National Park is the Centre's top spot for biological value, in front of King's Canyon and well in front of The Rock, says expert ecologist, Peter Latz, author of Bushfires and Bushtucker.
From this point of view the park merits World Heritage Listing but the listing could also bring with it a threat: "The park could be loved to death."
Its biological importance is due to the dozen or more plant species that occur in the ranges and nowhere else in the world; the endangered rock rats that similarly occur nowhere else; and the permanent waterholes which allow the 10 species of fish in the Finke River to survive.
Indeed the West Macs give rise to the Finke, the world's oldest river.
The plants unique to the ranges include the flannel flower growing in the cliffs at Standley Chasm; and hakea Standleyensis, a red-flowering shrub, also found at Standley Chasm as the name implies, but as well in any of the gorges through to Ormiston, says Mr Latz.
There are also relic plants, like the ferns growing around the waterholes, that occur elsewhere but are fascinating for having survived in pockets here from a time when the Centre had a different, wetter climate.
The extraordinary unfolding in the ranges of one magnificent landform after another outdoes The Rock, he believes, and for accessibility, the park leaves the Tasmanian world heritage areas for dead. "You can only see them if you are young and fit," says Mr Latz, "and stupid enough to walk for days through rain and mud.
"People in wheelchairs can see our most beautiful spots yet they still present plenty of challenge for adventurers.
"They are also home to a living Aboriginal culture and Tasmania has little of that. "
Although tourism needs to be carefully managed in order to protect "the poor old animals and plants", Mr Latz says the greatest threat to the West Macs comes from fire: "There's a helluva lot of spinifex out there and it doesn't go away."
Fire control is difficult for a number of reasons:
o there's not enough land within the park to make it a controllable unit;
o there are not enough resources available to do extensive control when it's needed; and
o control needs to be done during times of peak visitation.
On the last, Mr Latz says park authorities should just "bite the sour apple" but the first two need a government response.
Ferals, both animals and plants, need control.
Mr Latz says couch grass is a worse problem in the West Macs than buffel. They both need biological control, he says, but pastoralists want to preserve buffel as a pasture grass: "We are caught in a bind."
The park's rare plants aren't particularly endangered, though one or two may be: "We don't know enough to be sure. A lot more research needs to be done."
Mr Latz also raises concern about future joint management of the park, whether or not it gains its World Heritage Listing.
"Uluru-Kata Tjuta is listed but the tourist village at Yulara is in as good ecological shape as the park, because, for example, you've got Aborigines bush bashing and shooting kangaroos.
"That is not a good way to look after a park.
"You would have to hope that this doesn't happen in the West Macs but if you've got people with hungry kids they will shot the last emu left standing.
"This is not an issue that can be resolved easily."
The Alice News asked Minister for Environment and Heritage Marion Scrymgour, a number of questions in relation to the government's pre-election promise of World Heritage Listing, including what time frame they are working to; what resources they are intending to apply to the process; and what in particular they are doing about buffel grass control (following on from our article on buffel research in last week's News).
The Minister made only a general statement in reply:
"In order to get the West MacDonnell Ranges World Heritage Listed, the Department of Natural Resources, Environment and Arts will undertake a thorough assessment of the resources required to obtain such a recognition for this national park.
"This will involve discussion and consultation with Traditional Owners, as well as with the local community.
"If we are successful in obtaining World Heritage Listing for this park, it will be a lengthy process, but one that the NT would be proud of with only 16 properties in Australia on the world heritage list."
RED TAPE TIES UP SMELLY PROBLEM. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The Power and Water Corporation has no chance of meeting its deadline of December this year for stopping the discharge, during dry weather, of effluent from its sewage plant into the Ilparpa swamp.
From there effluent flows into St Mary's Creek, creating ponds near the Stuart Highway, St Mary's Children's Village and the Congress Alukera birthing facility.
The remedy using the overflow for horticulture on government land south of town, taken there in a $2.3m pipeline already in place is clearly more than four months away.
The scheme was an election promise of the Martin Government four years ago, and it was the new government that announced the discharge license would be withdrawn in December 2005.
Yet a string of government instrumentalities are responsible for the delays.
And an announcement by the NT Office of Environment and Heritage that the project will be subject not only to initial, but also to ongoing assessment, is a concern to the only potential user of the reclaimed water negotiating with the government at present.
John Biggs, of Matilda Maid, a fruit and wine producer in NSW and Queensland, says: "That they can change the goal posts at any time is a difficult concept when making an investment.
"This may change the viability of the project."
Mr Biggs says he had "a brief look" through the crucial environmental report released only two months ago.
"It is more involved than we had hoped but there is nothing that will stop the project," he says. "But the more regulations there are, the more diffucult it is to carry on business."
Phil Anning, of the Department of Primary Industries, says he hopes to have an agreement with Mr Biggs "before Christmas".
Mr Biggs says "the ball is in their park" and there will be progress "when they get all their ducks lined up".
And there are quite a few ducks still out of line:
€ The Office of Environment and Heritage is requiring changes to the Environmental Management Plans but has given qualified approval for the scheme.
€ This means Power and Water can now proceed with the construction of a treatment plant at Ilparpa, near the sewage ponds, and install pumps for the underground storage at the other end.
€ The Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority has still not announced any requirements it may have.
The project will be subject to initial as well as to ongoing approvals and monitoring by a string of instrumentalities, including the Controller of Water Resources, the Office of Environment and Heritage, the Department of Health and Community Services, the Medical Entomology Branch of the Department of Health, the Parks and Wildlife Herbarium, Conservation and Natural Resources and the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.
The report from the Office of Environment and Heritage has 29 "recommendations", many of them requiring further approvals.
Power and Water project manager Mark Skinner says approval of funds for the treatment plant will now be sought from the Power and Water board, followed by the prescribed tender process.
Construction is expected to take a further six months.
Mr Skinner says approval has been obtained by the Office of Environment and Heritage for underground storage of the effluent at the site of the proposed plantation.
Power and Water has decided against using surface storage ponds, to which nearby residents objected.
The treated effluent will be poured on the surface and will seep through the sandy soil to the water table, from where it will be pumped back to the surface.
As the effluent passes through the soil it will be further cleaned.
Mr Skinner says there is ample storage space under ground, which will "drought proof" users from horticultural to other uses by the community.
He says Power and Water will not be able to charge for the water: "Once it goes under ground the water becomes the property of the Crown.
"The contractor will pump it out of the ground."
Mr Biggs says his company will "start small", possibly on 20 hectares, and expand depending on the viability, market forces "and how much paperwork it takes".
He says: "I can't make a commitment without knowing the full ramifications of the project."
Mr Anning says the "agreement in principle" with Matilda Maid relates to 100 hectares, with a further 200 hectares available for another user.
When the project is further advanced "we will go back to the market and call for more expressions of interest," he says.
POLLIES' HOLY GRAILS: AN ALP ALICE SEAT, DARWIN CLP BOSS. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.
There are two holy grails in Territory politics.
The first is Labor's ambition to win an Alice Springs urban electorate; the second, the CLP's need to re-establish its presence in Darwin.
These objectives are inter-related.
For the CLP it is critical to begin winning back electorates in Darwin because history shows that it is virtually impossible to run a political party successfully from anywhere else in the Northern Territory.
The major reason for this is the demand on available time for a party leader to devote to that position while juggling the needs of constituents from his or her electorate.
Essentially this requires a party leader to fulfil these functions simultaneously, and this can only be done satisfactorily from an electoral base in Darwin or Palmerston.
This first became evident in 1977, when the CLP lost five sitting members including the leader, Dr Goff Letts, who represented the regional seat of Victoria River.
The CLP also lost its deputy leader, Grant Tambling (of Darwin), in that election but the party's new leader, Paul Everingham, the Member for Jingili, was also a resident of Darwin (after having moved there from Alice Springs in 1973).
Everingham firmly entrenched the CLP in government, leading the party to a 19 seat victory in 1983, but he resigned as Chief Minister in 1984 to successfully contest the seat of the Northern Territory in the federal elections late that year.
The mantle of leadership fell upon the shoulders of Ian Tuxworth, the Member for Barkly based in Tennant Creek.
Tuxworth had a tall act to follow, and it quickly became an onerous task; he responded to this by moving his family to Darwin but continued as the Member for Barkly.
This proved to be his undoing as Chief Minister, because in early 1986 it was revealed that he had claimed travelling allowance of $10,000 on the basis of continued residency in Tennant Creek, which he admitted was "morally wrong".
Although the money was repaid, the damage was done the scandal became the straw that broke the camel's back for the CLP's membership, leading to Tuxworth's resignation as Chief Minister in May 1986.
From that time on until Jodeen Carney recently took charge, all of the CLP's leaders have lived in Darwin or Palmerston.
Ian Tuxworth continued as a political leader, however, of the rival conservative party, the NT Nationals, which he led from his electoral base of Barkly.
He barely managed to retain Barkly in the elections of March 1987 in an extremely close contest with independent candidate Maggie Hickey (who in turn had run on a platform opposing the proposal for a low-level nuclear waste repository near Phillip Creek Station just north of Tennant Creek).
Tuxworth sought to relocate his electoral base near Darwin by running for the seat of Goyder in the elections of October 1990 but was defeated; meanwhile, Maggie Hickey successfully won Barkly for the ALP.
Up until 1990 all of Labor's leaders had been based in the Top End (they were Jon Isaacs Millner; Bob Collins Arafura; and Terry Smith also Millner) but after the defeat in October that year Brian Ede, Member for Stuart, became the new Opposition Leader.
Stuart is probably the most difficult electorate in the NT from which to run a political party, and it became a marginal seat in 1994 while Brian Ede attempted to conduct Labor's election campaign.
Ede retired from politics in 1996, and the member for the neighbouring electorate of Barkly, Maggie Hickey, became the new Opposition Leader.
Hickey found the task of being a party leader based in Tennant Creek no less onerous than her electoral predecessor Ian Tuxworth; and like Brian Ede in 1994, she also met with failure as ALP leader in the elections of August 1997.
Interestingly, all of Labor's most disastrous election results since 1977 occurred under leaders from regional electorates Bob Collins (Arafura) in 1983, Brian Ede (Stuart) in 1994, and Maggie Hickey (Barkly) in 1997.
Hickey resigned as leader in February 1999, and the baton passed to Clare Martin, based in Darwin as the Member for Fannie Bay and who has subsequently led the ALP to two election victories.
Ms Martin is the second member for Fannie Bay to be Chief Minister the first was her electoral predecessor, the CLP's Marshall Perron, who still holds the record as the NT's longest-serving political leader.
This record may be surpassed by Martin during the current term of office.
Martin won Fannie Bay in a by-election in 1995 after Perron retired from politics; by-elections represent the best chance for the CLP to increase its numbers in the Legislative Assembly any time soon, as they present opportunities for voters to protest against the government of the day.
Unfortunately for the CLP there is no prospect of a by-election occurring in Darwin or Palmerston during the current term, and the member best placed by location for leadership Terry Mills, Member for Blain (in Palmerston) by his own admission is not up to the job.
This means that Jodeen Carney must continue to perform the role of Opposition Leader from Central Australia for the foreseeable future, which is a real danger for her long-term electoral prospects; by the same token this presents Labor with an opportunity to take an urban seat in Alice Springs in the next general elections.
Another opportunity for Labor lies with the eventual retirement of Loraine Braham of Braitling, which means that there will be no incumbency factor for that electorate (if it still exists).
A remote possibility lies with Dr Richard Lim of Greatorex. Speculation will inevitably increase over time as to how much longer he will seek to stay in politics, especially as the CLP faces the prospect of at least another two terms in opposition.
The irony for Labor is that it has no need to win any seats in the Alice, especially if it succeeds in retaining all or most of the 19 electorates it currently holds, as to win any more will be considered undesirable for democracy.
POLICE: AYERS ROCK TOWN GOES IT ALONE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Mutitjulu, the Aboriginal community at the base of The Rock, is to get a police post despite there being a police station at Yulara, just 17 kilometres away.
The post will be built by the federal government at a cost of almost $2m and will be staffed by two Aboriginal Community Police Officers (ACPOs) recruited by the NT government.
The NT will meet the post's recurrent costs, house the ACPOs (other communities have had to supply housing for ACPOs) and provide for adequate policing support from Yulara.
Strong action has already been taken in relation to petrol sniffers, with about 20 recently removed from the community.
"Some have come back and in the last couple of days we have been working with police to give them trespass notices," says Graham Calma, a member of the community council and formerly its chairman.
That still leaves about 10 to 15 "of our own kids" who are sniffing.
Some have been sent to Alice Springs for detox, and Mr Calma says some will be sent to spend time away from the community on an outstation.
"We are trying to bring peace to our old people.
"The sniffers would go to the old people's disability center, overpower them, pinch their money.
"They were being mean and bad.
"Now we are taking this stand.
"Hopefully at the outstation old people will be able to give them guidance and get them into traditional skills. "One of the main skills they need to learn is to listen to the elders. "That was crucial in the past, young people listening to learn about country. "Now the old people don't want to pass on what they know because the young people are not in a good state.
"Slowly we are trying to address all this.
"We've got two buildings for the old people, one for men, one for women.
"We want to keep them in close proximity to the child care center and the school young people close to elders."
All these moves are part of the Mutitjulu Working Together (Tjungu Waakaripayi) Project.
It's a "whole-of-government, whole-of-community" approach to what have seemed to be intractable problems at Mutitjulu.
It involves collaboration by four layers of government the community council, the Central Land Council, as well as the NT and federal governments with participation by the Ayers Rock Resort and the NPY Women's Council.
Despite its familiar ring the project is taking a new tack.
The coordinator of the work is Gregory Andrews, who has a background in international development work and is on leave from AusAID.
He brings to the project "international best practice" in relation to "difficult development partnerships".
These are basically with countries where, despite serious aid effort over a long period of time, poverty has not been reduced.
Mr Andrews says examples are Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Among several factors these countries share with a community like Mutitjulu is dependency.
Mr Andrews: "Countries like PNG and the Solomon Islands are highly dependent on aid around one third of PNG's budget comes directly from Australian government aid.
"This means that these states do not need to tax their people, and as a result there is no strong social contract between the people and the state.
"Similarly, in remote Aboriginal Australia, people are dependent on passive welfare.
"And the market economy is very limited or quite narrow if there is a significant market economy it is usually in mining or tourism.
"In these situations, people can also be dependent on royalties or earnings from a few narrow economic activities that are also highly vulnerable to external shocks, such as falls in world commodity prices, terrorism, the SARS virus and so on."
So, Working Together is not about simply throwing more money at the problems.
"It's about targeting the money," says Mr Andrews, "getting the scope right. "It's about the critical importance of including women in the process 50 years of experience at the World Bank have shown that outcomes are more successful if women are on board.
"And it's about law and order. If people aren't safe, they can't exercise their rights and they can't exercise their responsibilities."
Hence the police post.
But that's not all.
Reopening the community's childcare center was a major priority of the project and its first achievement.
It has now been open for around nine months and Mr Andrews says up to 12 mothers are working at the community store, knowing that their children will be cared for and safe. "Prior to its opening, only one local person was working at the store.
"Some of these young mothers are now also working in the tourist facilities and two young local women are working in the childcare centre and receiving on-going mentoring and training.
"This is a very good example of the interdependent nature of the development process that we are engaged in at Mutitjulu.
"While initially focusing on child development, the re-opening of the childcare center has helped to promote employment and provided people with a practical incentive to choose a path other than passive welfare."
How are the project's achievements going to be measured?
Mr Andrews says systematic evaluation is a critical for good development and has been lacking in government's relationships with Aboriginal communities.
"Often there is little or no evaluation. In other cases, projects or service deliverers are asked to evaluate themselves.
"In our case, experts from the ANU and Reconciliation Australia are working with me, the community and members of the project's working group to conduct a thorough evaluation.
"The process will involve an evaluation of the project to-date, but also (and more importantly) the design of an on-going evaluation program that will include the collection of base-line data and its monitoring."
He cites the participation of the Ayers Rock Resort as a good indicator of the value of the project and its ability to deliver results.
"As a private sector stakeholder, ARR's mandate is to earn a profit for its shareholders.
"Its willingness to engage and commit financial and economic resources is a direct indication of the benefits that the project will accrue."
Mr Calma describes the resort as "fantastic in supporting us".
He says they have engaged an Indigenous employment manager who is in dialogue with the community about creating more on-the-job training opportunities at the resort for the community's young people.
"They can start with small jobs and go on to bigger jobs.
"It's a very positive step. We need this to work," says Mr Calma.
NT Minister for Police Paul Henderson would neither provide information nor comment on the issues.
PROBLEMS WITH POOL DEEPER THAN EXPECTED. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Should the 30 year old town pool be brought up to date for the next three decades, or should planned works be limited to deepening the pool so it complies with national standards.
That is the question faced by the town council.
Its Director of Technical Services, Eric Peterson, says a string of problems surfaced during investigations of ways to deepen the pool.
He rules out combining current works with the construction of a heated indoor pool, with a maximum length of 25 meters and a wading pool, for which Chief Minister Clare Martin has promised $8.5m in the lead-up to the recent elections.
"It has no relationship whatsoever" with the currently planned work, he says. The heated indoor pool proposal is a whole new separate installation comprising building, indoor pool and heating system.
"It's quite separate from the existing pool infrastructure, and is totally in addition to what's there."
Mr Peterson says because the pool will hold 16 per cent more water the number of filters will need to be increased from six to seven.
The inlet and outlet manifolds will need to be redesigned, and the asbestos cement piping, "which becomes more fragile with age", may need to be replaced as well.
Mr Peterson says consultants GH&D were commissioned in May to present options and have now presented preliminary recommendations.
On their basis the council decided to raise the sides of the pool, and carry out a string of other work.
Mr Peterson says the scope of works includes:-
€ Raising the water level by 280mm.
€ Installing two fiberglass platforms at one end of pool for learners, at roughly the current depth, across three lanes and five metres long, leaving two free lanes in the middle for training including diving from starting blocks.
€ Modifying the end wall for new starting blocks and backstroke bars;
€ Dive blocks will be a permanent feature of pool but disabled possibly with cones that can be locked in place for recreational swimming, limiting the use of "dive starts" to competitive swimming and training under supervision.
€ Replacing the wet deck gutters and pipe work.
€ Installing a dipper hoist for lifting disabled people in and out.
While these works will solve immediate problems, they "won't be fixing up this pool for the next 30 years," says Mr Peterson.
He says the costs are "commercial in confidence" and even a best guess "could detrimentally influence our tendering process".
The NT Government has agreed to a grant of $200,000 and additional funding is being requested.
The deepening has become necessary when the council's insurance declined to cover accidents linked to diving from the starting blocks, which have now been removed, because the pool is shallower than required by Swimming Australia guidelines.
The depth at the pool ends is now 1.07 meters and needs to be 1.35 meters for dive starts.
Mr Peterson says Alice Springs will have "one of the very few pools in Australia that will comply".
Swimming and insurance circles are "looking to see what happens in Alice Springs".
He says non-complying pools around Australia will need to limit their activities: "We're trying to give swimmers the full potential to use this pool in the way they would like to.
"The minimum diving depth for recreational standards as per the Royal Australian Life Saving Society is two meters. In the central section of the pool that will be available."
It will be up to the pool manager to suitably control the use of the pool, says Mr Peterson.
ALICE A DRAG IN TELLY LAND. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
In The Alice of tellyland everyone is aged between 25 and 50. They are all single or at least sexually available.
There are children, around six, seven years old, corralled in a classroom; we have no idea who they belong to. There are no babies, no teenagers.
There is one full blood Aboriginal person, an old man looking enigmatic but otherwise purposeless at the airport. Perhaps he is the last of his race.
There's an old white man too local identity Bert Cramer making a cameo appearance, the meaning of which would be lost on anyone outside the real Alice Springs.
There are Aboriginal characters of mixed descent in The Alice, but there is no sense of Aboriginal family or life integral to the place. Two of the four Aboriginal characters appear to be from Queensland. Aboriginal culture dreamtime stories, bush medicine is a good subject for a joke but that's not racist because everyone's life in The Alice is a joke.
Jack wants to set up a bush hotel, but the best he can do is a caravan without a roof.
The bar the infamous Baa Bar, complete with pet sheep is more substantial but Jack's trying to cool it with a dodgy old portable air-conditioner. That's the quaint kind of thing they do in The Alice, where everyone's a customer of the enormous junk shop.
Matt's a doctor. Although he works at the hospital, he also does house calls for gashed knees and stitches them up on the spot.
He's interested in the medicinal properties of a plant and asks a camel to help him find it. The apparently sick camel has been cured by eating the plant but only after Matt has brought him into his house and turned on the air-conditioning to cool his fever.
Matt sends the plant away for analysis; there couldn't possibly be any kind of expertise in The Alice. No Aboriginal expertise worth investigating, only joking about; no scientific expertise.
Helen is an abused wife, who may be accused of murdering her husband. She talks constantly to a ghost; we have no idea why (although maybe we got a clue in the pilot telemovie, which I missed).
She shows particular skill at being able to climb the cliffs at Rainbow Valley in a tight-fitting dress and strappy heels.
She's torn between staying in The Alice and returning to where she comes from. What tears her? We have no idea. But of course, she stays. We always knew she would.
Just like we knew she hadn't killed her husband and like we know Jack will get around to telling Jess that he's her father and she'll be rapt. But we don't know why it's a big deal for him.
The scriptwriters for The Alice missed those bits about having some surprises in their story-telling and having some motivation for their characters.
Even my kids (aged 14 and 17) knew that. They went to bed half way through.
Amazingly though, given the setting, the producers seemed to have missed the bit about having some action. (Establishing characters and story-lines can be done through action.)
Sunday night's episode could hardly have been more static. Almost every scene took place inside, with progress, such as it was, made by way of a truncated, banal conversation. If there are wide open spaces in Central Australia, the people in The Alice don't get out into them (with the exception of Helen in her little dress).
Even when a scene takes place outside, there is no articulated sense of the space, the landscape.
I'm thinking of Hugh, the copper, crossing the road the dry Todd River is right there but is not shown. Or of Hugh and Ellie talking on top of Anzac Hill a place that offers a fabulous vista, but you'd never know it.
In fact, apart from the aerial landscapes, which can't help but be stunning, there are hardly any wide shots. There is a deliberate effacing of the real place, whether it's the town and its people or the natural environment.
Why would that be?
It's obvious that the producers of the series don't want to be worried by the reality of Alice Springs in all its complexity, difference and excitement. They have their own banal ideas socially it's a place of refuge for the mildly quaint and dysfunctional, and it's got scenery that's good for a bit of window-dressing.
And it's just a story for telly, a platform for the ad breaks really, so who cares?
Trouble is, they've taken the name of a real place, this place, about which many people living here have passionate ideas, where fascinating stories abound and there are amazing things to do, a place of exceptional natural beauty and interest.
It's also a place that trades a lot on its image.
So, what a waste, what a disappointment, what a missed opportunity.
And hardly the "promotional boost like never seen before", touted by Chief Minister Clare Martin, who injected $330,000.
Not unless you believe that any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell the name right.
ON THE MARGINS OF THE MARGINS.
Part Five of 'The Heavens Have Turned To Bone', an historical perspective on drought in the Centre by R.G. (Dick) KIMBER. Droughts from the 1870s to the 1890s.
From 1872-1886 the earliest pastoralists arrived in the Centre, taking up the best-watered and best-grassed country. They did not see themselves as invaders so much as frontier settlers, yet they all knew that they were taking over lands that Aborigines had called home since time immemorial.
Their stations were established along river and creek lines, which were also the great Aboriginal highways, and in the rich country of the various central ranges, with the Overland Telegraph Line running south-north through the centre of the favoured lands.
The old men of the different groups chose the smartest young men, told them to discover what they could about the strange white men and their monstrous water-devouring animals, and report back to them.
Soon young men were working as stockmen and beginning to learn the rudiments of the English language. Some of the strangers who gave food, steel knives and steel tomahawks to the young men, as was only right by the Aboriginal law of reciprocal obligations, were good men, but others were ruthless.
The young men reported back with the food and prized goods, and told the old men that the white people and their cattle, horses, sheep and other strange animals showed no signs of leaving.
For the first time the Aborigines of central Australia realised that, unlike Stuart, Ross and the other Overland Telegraph Line explorers and surveyors, who had left almost as soon as they had arrived, those white men who remained and built their stone and timber station houses, homestead wells and stock-yards, looked upon the land as their land.
Many of the old men were offended, affronted, enraged. The oldest man of the Dingo totem in Alice Springs sang the dingo songs and rubbed the sacred dog (male dingo) stone. He hoped to cause the dingos to become as enraged as was he, and to attack the white people and drive them from his land.
North, up at Barrow Creek, the oldest rain boss observed how dependent the white men were on large quantities of water, and sang the songs that would bring drought, and dry all of the great waters. And when the totemic forces did not work as well as they had expected, other means were attempted.
A form of guerilla warfare was waged, with attacks planned on Charlotte Waters, Alice Springs and Barrow Creek telegraph stations, with that at Barrow Creek successful from the Kaytetye warriors' point of view. Two of the officers were speared to death, another very severely wounded and the rest slightly wounded and fortunate to be able to survive until help came.
Numbers of homesteads and wagons with supplies were attacked, and many of the white men were severely wounded. Some homesteads were burnt to the ground, destroying costly rations and equipment, and the spearing of stock provided dangerously exciting hunting. The mounted police, native police and many of the stockmen retaliated in both officially sanctioned and unofficial patrols.
During this time Hermannsburg Mission, and also to a considerable extent the telegraph stations (Barrow Creek excepted), and the cattle stations in the open country towards Oodnadatta, became sanctuaries for many of the local area Aborigines.
While 44 Aborigines were admitted to being shot at the time, later recorded reminiscences and accounts suggest that hundreds were, possibly as many as 650. Further to this, though, perhaps as many as 900 were killed by introduced diseases, against which the Aborigines had little immunity. Nor did they know how to cure or treat them. A further 200 were killed by inter-group fighting largely independent of the pioneer invader-settlers presence.
The surviving Aborigines decided, as some had from the very start, that accommodation of, and cooperation with, the now permanently established new people was the realistic option. There were, after all, many benefits that were to be had, not least of all effectively permanent food and an unending supply of other goods, as well as an interesting new religion, even if there were also intrusions, and witting and unwitting offences caused by ignorance or rejection of Aboriginal customary laws.
By 1891 the hard white men of the frontier believed that, although the spearing of stock was still occurring in fringe range areas, and that one should ride with bandoliers, revolvers and rifles on any of the "outside" stations, by far the majority of Aborigines in contact with the telegraph stations and pastoral properties had been "pacified".
By now thousands of head of stock had been moved onto the choicest central Australian grazing country. However fast the pastoralists, missionaries, telegraph station workers and other bush workers were learning about the country and the Aborigines, they were still only scratching at the surface of understandings of the weather patterns.
In 1877, the year that the rains allowed the Hermannsburg missionaries and others to move from Dalhousie Springs to the central ranges, 518 mm of rain fell at Alice Springs Telegraph Station. The next two years saw annual rainfall of 276 and 694 mm. What on earth was the average rainfall? The Alice Springs Telegraph Station records were only available for 1874 and thereafter, and suggested a range of 159 to 694 mm, with an average of 385mm. One hundred and thirty years later we know that it is closer to 260mm, and that averages are fairly meaningless in any case.
Reality struck, for those early white pioneers, from 1878-1884, when 167, 169, 271, 146 and 137 mm were recorded. It was the first real drought after the stock had arrived in the Centre. As a writer based at Charlotte Waters commented, "It can rain, but it won't."
Many of the supposedly good waters, from the Musgrave Ranges of the NT-SA border area through to the Queensland border, and throughout the Centre, dried up altogether, and others dried up on the surface. This resulted in much digging down into the shallow soakages, erection of whip wells, exploration by the pastoralists to locate previously unused permanent and semi-permanent waters, and rapid adjustment to the localised nature of rainfall.
They found that storms might dump rain on one part of a property and leave another part in drought, so they learnt to move with the storms as the Aborigines had for aeons.
The Hermannsburg missionaries moved stock west to Gilbert Springs and to the east made use of a new well dug in the Ellery Creek; and at Glen Helen the original homestead on Ormiston Creek resulted in such a rapid eating out of the Ormiston to Glen Helen Gorge country that a new homestead was built to the west on Crawford Creek to allow a greater spread of cattle.
And at the time of the establishment of Anna's Reservoir station, the pressure on the water and grasses was so great that hundreds of head of cattle and horses were shifted to waters west, and hundreds more to Simpson's Gap.
All over the Centre this occurred, so that initially the drought conditions were sensibly avoided rather than otherwise dealt with. However those who were in the process of stocking station country were often 'caught out'. C. B. Fisher, for instance, who arranged in 1879-1883 for the droving of 27,000 head from the south to the VRD country, lost 9000 head.
One of the great observers of all of these aspects between 1880-1884 was explorer-geologist, foundation Tempe Downs station partner, linguist, camel team owner, ethnographer, and mining pioneer, Charles Chewings. This remarkable man, who always managed to have friendly personal relationships with Aborigines, traversed the entirety of the river and range country west of the Overland Telegraph line from Charlotte Waters and Alice Springs to where Papunya, Haasts Bluff, Mount Liebig and Areyonga communities are now established.
He additionally recorded the drop in rainfall from north to south; the greater growth of palatable grasses near the ranges; the summer heat which soon dried up "the grass and herbage"; and the winds which blew the dry tussocks away.
Further to this he suggested the possibility of dams (fortunately his idea of one at Redbank Gorge did not eventuate!), and described the Centre as a South Australian "jewel" as yet under-developed "as a grazing country". As he also stated, it was a "jewel" isolated from its political and economic centres because there was not a developed stock-route, equipped with regularly placed wells, and because freight costs were extremely high.
Thus while the stock were still in low enough numbers to be managed without suffering great losses in the Centre, none of them could be walked south to markets to be sold!
Chewings also recorded the first signs of changes. Implicit is that, because of the eating out of the country about any main water, and the trampling down of the banks, erosion was occurring after any heavy bursts of rain. He noticed that some of the good water-holes recorded by the earliest explorers had been filled with sand.
And as he travelled south to the station country of northern South Australia, where the stations had only been established for between 15 and 25 years, he also recorded further realities.
"It is a sorry sight ... dead cattle by scores and hundreds surround the springs and scent the air for miles. In many places where the salt bush used to be is a mound of sand, and the grass has long disappeared. Scores of miles one can travel and see no more for a horse than is to be found in King William Street." At the same time, as a result of the experiences of the farmers and pastoralists in both the mid-1860s and now the early 1880s droughts, it was recognised that the Flinders Ranges country was as the title of D. W. Meinig's classic study indicates "On The Margins Of The Good Earth". If the Flinders Ranges was "on the margins", then central Australia in the mid-1880s was on the very distant "margin of the margins."
However the Centre's pastoralists' seeming ability to drought-proof their stations by moving stock to newly discovered waterholes and areas of grass, and the promise of better things to come, created a feeling of optimism. The station owners and managers took the exceptional and widespread rains of 1885 (Alice Springs Telegraph Station recorded 437mm) as an opportunity to establish new stations and flood the land with stock. By 1886, and excluding the Barkly Tablelands and Lake Nash stations from consideration, there were 11 stations, Hermannsburg Mission and the four telegraph stations of the Centre carrying in all about 43,000 cattle, probably 4500 horses and 1000 goats, and 7000 sheep.
By 1890, with all but the western-most Aborigines substantially adapting to the changed circumstances, and often becoming stockmen and domestic helps; and with a new line of wells from the central ranges to the new railhead at Oodnadatta, all appeared rosy. It was an illusion.
An intense drought set in throughout inland Australia during 1888-1893, varying so much from locality to locality that excellent above-average rains fell in some places and none at all in others.
Compounding matters, South Australia suffered a severe economic depression during 1890-1891, and pleurisy became a problem in large numbers of cattle. Those who managed sales up to 1889 often did well, but others suffered. Stock died in huge numbers.
Epitomising what happened, on Eringa, after most of the stock had been sold, the waters dried up and the men moved the remaining hundreds of head of stock to waterholes far distant on the Alberga Creek.
The men suffered from heat-stress and sun-stroke, and exhausted themselves working day and night to dig soakage-wells one to two metres deep. They worked in relays, 48 hours at a time on the shovels and other well-sinking equipment, or ringing the cattle, which almost went mad from thirst.
Although they saved them then, it was but for a short time. While one of the owner brothers went south to arrange for agistment or sales, the other brother watched the cattle and horses die.
Eventually he saddled one of the two last surviving strong horses and, leading another, began riding towards Oodnadatta. The heat was fearful, and the first, then second, riding horse dropped.
It was old Bob Gregory, born at Oodnadatta, and whom many will remember as a neat odd-jobs man at Alice Springs Highschool in the early 1970s, who told me the following tale.
At the newly established pub in Oodnadatta, the drinkers outside saw a mirage. It was of a rider on horses or a horse, and they were enormously distorted. They shimmered and appeared and disappeared, and stretched and shimmered again. Then they saw a man staggering towards them, and ran to help. For nearly a century after the time, the 1890s story of "the Man in the Mirage" was a legendary one in the Oodnadatta country. Select References: Duncan 1967, Kimber 1997, Meinig 1970, Vamplew (Ed.) 1987.
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LETTER: How I miss The Alice!
Sir, I read with interest the Alice Springs News weekly on line. It puts 16 years of my life into perspective and makes me wonder why the hell we ever left The Alice. It also stimulates the yearning I have for the red dirt, the blue skies and climate.
I can particularly relate to Steve Fisher's column of July 6 that touches on life in the metropolises of this great land of ours. When I talk to people from the "mainland" (a Tasmanian term for Australia outside Tasmania) they talk of Tasmania as being of a pace far removed from where they come from. Obviously, none of them come from the Territory, specifically Alice Springs.
As the saying goes, "you don't know what you've got until it's gone". It's so true in my case. How I miss the Territory. People ask why? It's the lifestyle!
Sure there are major social issues that need addressing but what centre doesn't have them? The difference with The Alice is that the problems are not hidden or ignored. One day perhaps many will be fixed, but in the meantime locals deal with them and learn to live in harmony with them.
Life in Tasmania is vastly different to the Alice. I spend 30 minutes daily one way to work. Park my car for free on the Domain, which leaves me with a 20 minute walk to the office. Exercise is apparently good so I don't mind the walk.
Drivers here are rude, impatient and intent on going through you if you don't do the speed limit, and if you have interstate plates like I did for 12 months, you're fair game!
During the winter months (haven't quite figured out which ones they are yet) the sun comes up at 0730hrs and sets at 1630hrs. I leave for work at 0650hrs and return home at 1630hrs so don't see much daylight.
My sons play soccer, which accounts for Saturday. One works full time as an apprentice chef, meaning odd hours and broken shifts, and without a licence and no public transport available, many hours of running back and forward to the city are necessary.
My other son works after school two days a week, which again means a late evening pick up. So many hours spent getting to and from activities and commitments that people in Alice Springs aren't subjected too.
Tasmania is full of National Parks (with huge admittance fees), beaches that a rarely used because it is too cold, wilderness areas that are restricted to public access, and great pride is taken in the clear felling of the island's great forests because it is good for the economy? The education system is light years behind the rest of the country (we still have three terms), the health system is lacking infrastructure and purpose, and the locals don't like any reference to catching up with the rest of the world (which isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as the community and society in general isn't disadvantaged) or suggestions on how it could be done better, more efficiently or more democratically.
Tasmanians appear to accept without much question whatever the elected government members impose on them. So insular!
In short, yes, Alice Springs is a wonderful place. The lifestyle is ideal if you don't want to rush everywhere all the time, and the facilities aren't as lacking as you might expect they would be in a town 1500 kilometres from the nearest capital city.
I think the most important asset of Alice Springs and the Territory is the people. It is the people that I miss the most!
We returned to our native Tasmania for a reason, Fiona's health. This alone has proven to be in our favour but one day we/I will return to the country I have adopted as my home and will continue to call home warts and all!
Tassie's still the same place we left over 20 years ago nothing much has changed. We've had a taste of the Territory and liked what we got.
Just thought I'd share this with you for no other reason than Steve Fisher's column tugged at my heart.
Steve, take care and keep up the column it's good reading and certainly stimulates thought and emails!
Alice not confused
Sir, Your choice of headline "Alice Springs confused over statehood" (July 20) is disappointing. An indication that Territorians do not know something is very different from being confused.
The Statehood Steering Committee welcomes people honestly telling us they do not know what statehood is. It is our job to change that.
Your readers may like to visit
Some of your readers may be alarmed by what appears to be a typographical error. The report that 90 per cent of Territorians support a change of name is incorrect.
In fact 90 per cent of Alice Springs residents surveyed do NOT support a change of name for the Northern Territory when statehood is achieved.
Co Chair Statehood Steering Committee
SOAKED THROUGH TO THE SKIN. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Living in remote places promotes self-improvement.
The lack of a long commute and our dislocation from family members turns arrivals from elsewhere into devotees of physical development.
Body-building is popular in the Pacific Islands. We have an island mentality too.
I have learned that it is possible to reach the limit of self-improvement. Like a sponge, you soak up all the pep-talks and modest academic attainment and half-baked sports training that you possibly can. After that, any more just ends up as a puddle on the floor.
My eyes were opened to the possibility that I may be getting saturated after a modest session in the gym. Following the principle that 35 minutes of exercise at an elevated heart rate is worth having, I have developed into a minor gym-junkie. There is no evidence that it does me any good, but I go anyway, which is one definition of addiction.
Anyway, the final stretch of the fateful gym session involved rowing exercises on an ancient contraption mounted low on the floor. Having done about 30 pulls I tried to stand up. The 31st pull, of my backside off the floor, was a pull too far.
Falling over in a gymnasium is not a good look when surrounded by people who resemble adverts for porcelain statuettes. At least I avoided catching sight of myself in one of those full-length mirrors. I must have looked like a character in a silent movie that gets stuck in the same position when he bends down to pick a daisy.
Come to think of it, why do gyms have mirrors in the first place? If you like what you see in the bathroom in the morning, why would you be at the gym? To have a similar reflection extended over a larger area and with better lighting is enough to send any reasonable person scurrying back to the changing room to hide. Thankfully, changing rooms always feature a forlorn man reluctantly getting changed in the knowledge that he is losing the struggle for self-improvement more rapidly than you are. At least this is some encouragement.
Mirrors are for body-worshippers and there are plenty of those to be found on their way to or from the local gyms in Alice Springs. The word gymnasium comes from the Greek word gumnos, meaning 'naked'. This is apparently the state in which many ancient Greeks practised wrestling, boxing and running in their gymnasia. Fortunately only the word has endured because I wouldn't want to do naked sports with that bloke in the changing room.
Getting stuck on the 31st pull was a timely indication that that I had reached my limits. It was a pivotal moment in which my knees failed to pivot. Yet it seems only yesterday that I scored a goal in amateur soccer that involved carrying the ball the length of the field and evading several firm tackles. I dined out on that goal for weeks. Then I remembered that it wasn't yesterday, it was 1989.
So I have been thinking about giving my physical side a rest and feeding my grey matter instead. Gym attendance may be good for the body, but it hasn't done much for my mind except make me more familiar with FM radio and teach me the collected works of Destiny's Child and the Black Eyed Peas. Working out is painful and boring. Then some days I walk out of there feeling better than when I went in, which is one reason why I go back again.
Of course, any elevated mood is strictly temporary since I live with teenagers who keep reminding me that I look awful. That's okay. I'm always ready for some more self-improvement tomorrow, or at least until the sponge is full.
Have a picnic. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
One should count one's blessings, especially when there is little or no money in the bank and too many chores and deadlines to live up to.
On our recent car trip I noticed that it was easier to stay awake and interested when the road was snaking up and down hills and there were things to look at or animals to look out for. At higher speeds on straight highways the journey became less exciting and much more tiring.
I easily get caught up in the daily race 'to get there'. I chase the kids out of bed in the morning, rush them through breakfast and getting dressed for school and hurry them out of the door to get them to school on time.
Then I attend to the rest of the musts of the day. But like a hamster in a wheel I never arrive, I just keep running, and I think that if I just become more efficient, focused and faster I will get somewhere and I will be entitled to a rest or maybe even a holiday.
Just like the landscape blurs outside the car window the details of the life around me disappear at higher speeds. But when I slow down from 120km per hour to 60, it seems too slow, pedestrian even.
It takes time to adjust.
Time to reflect over the fact that speed kills, and not just on the national highways.
Faster is not necessarily better.
Fortunately we still have public holidays like Picnic Day. What a wonderful reason for a public holiday. My youngest son will suggest a picnic most days of the week and lately we have had several picnics thanks to school holidays and great weather. We have been to the park, the Telegraph Station and to Simpson's Gap, where our visitors from Ireland were amused and delighted to be having a picnic in the river-bed.
We should do this more often we say to each other, but often it will be months before the next picnic. A generation or two ago it seems picnics were much more common.
My mother went on a picnic every Sunday after church when she was growing up, and the black and white photos in the family album show ancestors on picnic rugs or posing in front of the family car with the picnic basket. It was, and still is, a simple and inexpensive pastime. The children can run around and play with a ball or a kite without the need for modern technology.
Maybe we need to set personal speed limits that force us to slow down and notice the world around us. What is the point of being alive if we might fall asleep at the wheel? Where is it we are all rushing to? The grave?
What we need is a little break from the routines, chores and worries, some time spent enjoying the moment with family and friends, time to ponder that the small ups and downs of our daily lives keep us awake and alive. Enjoy the scenic route. Stop for a cuppa. Have a picnic!
CENTRE'S OWN CYCLING SON. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Alice Springs Cycling Club has the best reputation in the Territory, with three of its top cyclists.
The News spoke to Daniel Herrick, one of the two cyclists in the Northern Territory's Institute of Sport (the other is Daniel Johnston, who also lives here). At only 15 years old, he currently trains 12 times a week, clocking up 300 kms in preparation for the national championships in Queensland in September.
"I've been cycling since I was 10. I had a friend who did it, so one night I went down to the cycling club and saw what it was all about. I was playing baseball for the NT and went down to keep fit for that.
"But within the first 18 months I had to decide between baseball and cycling. Cycling won! I still enjoy teamsports, I play football and baseball. Cycling is a different sport to what other people think is fun but I really like it. I got good quite quickly. I always used to ride my bike to school and stuff like that so that probably helped."
Herrick's first competition was in June 2002 when he was 10, a road race in Adelaide. He says he "didn't know what to expect" but won one of the three stages.
"At the moment I train 12 sessions a week, twice a day except for weekend when it's once a day. I do gym sessions twice a week and mountain biking and road riding. In the velodrome season we train there."
Herrick trains with three other juniors in Alice: Daniel Johnston (the other member of the NT Institute of Sport), his brother David, and Luke Gould. They're coached by John Pyper, the under 23 Australian mountain bike coach who also lives in town.
Herrick competes in road riding (with races up to 75 kms), mountain biking and velodrome racing: "Road riding is what I started on. I'm better at road riding and I prefer it, and my build makes me more suited for it. But mountain bike is like cross training, it breaks it up a bit and makes the road riding not so boring. Velodrome racing is really sprinting. I enjoy it, just because it's something different."
Already this year the group has gone away five times for competitions. Herrick's best performance was at the Arafura Games in March despite suffering from injury.
"I fell off my mountain bike in training a week before and dislocated my shoulder. It was my worst injury so far. I had a bit of trouble with it but it didn't really affect my performance. I thought I'd be up there but second was really good."
His next big race is the national championships in September, in Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast.
"I've been to the nationals three times before but this year I've moved up an age group and I'm one of the youngest in the under 17s. In 2003 I was fifth in the under 15s, so this year we'll have to wait and see. Everyone from down south has stepped up their training and decided that this is their sport, so it will be hard."
The event consists of a time trial over 20 kms against the clock, the criterion and a road race of 75 kms. Is it hard competing in three different events?
"You get used to racing," says Herrick. "Wherever you go, whether you're racing in Alice Springs or not, it's the same routine."
Herrick says being a cyclist living in Central Australia is an advantage not a hindrance "because of the help you get, through coaching and NT Institute of Sport [NTIS]: "There are also fewer riders here.
"The NTIS give you gym memberships and training programs. The gym work helps heaps, for strength. They also supply travel costs."
So how does a 15-year-old lad stay dedicated to a sport that requires so much training with all the distractions of teenage life? "It's hard to be dedicated to a sport, you miss out on heaps social life with mates and stuff like that. I have to be up at 5.20am every morning so I can't go out or do anything like that.
"I got teased at first for shaving my legs for competition. But all my mates got over it. I don't know whether I want to take cycling seriously we'll see what happens in September. If I go all right then I'd like to take it further, I'm not sure."
RULES: SOUTH STILL LEAD. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Souths showed why they're still at the top of local AFL when they beat closest rivals Wests on Saturday at Traeger Park.
The final score was 15-11 (101) to South, beating accurate Wests by a margin 12-12 (84).
Wests led at the first quarter with an impressive 4-4, but had waned by half-time, only managing a 5-6 total compared with South's 8-1.
Wests picked up their act in the second quarter to get up to 9-9 (Souths' score reached 11-9), but the blue and white army kept pushing hard to bring their final total to 15-11, pipping Wests 12-12.
Bradley Brown of South was the top scorer with six goals, and man of the match, Charlie Maher, scored two.
For Wests, Rory Hood made four goals but it was Ian McAdam who was named best player.
The next closest rivals on the AFL ladder also had a chance to duel but despite playing an exciting match against each other last weekend, Federals could only manage a poor game against Pioneer who beat them easily 18-17 (125) versus 6-6 (42).
Last week the Feds beat Pioneer 18-15 (123) versus 14-15 (99).
This week, Pioneer looked to have improved depth, with the scoring shared between 10 players. Vaughn Hampton was the top scorer, getting four goals, and Luke Ross kicked three.
Man of the match was Joe Cole.
For Federals, Thomas Gorey and Tom Dutton could only manage two goals apiece. Rury Liddle was named best player.
In the B grade competition, only two teams played, with South giving Wests a good hammering, 19-4 (118) versus a weak 2-1 (13).
In the one-sided match, James Drover of South sneaked in a fantastic 10 goals to be named best player. Wests' only two goals were scored by Peter Huthin and Clark Petrick.
One game was played in the under 17s league: Wests beat South 13-7 (85) 3-2 (20). Josh Johnny of Wests played well to get four goals and Danny Measures worked particularly hard on the pitch this week to be awarded best player.
For South, it was only Hayden Swan (two goals) and Stuart Scharbar (one) who managed to score. Best player was Dion Forrester.
No country games were played this weekend.
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