FESTIVAL RUDDERLESS AGAIN. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The Alice Desert Festival, renamed to take advantage of the International Year of the Desert in 2006, is once again rudderless.
Artistic director Craig Mathewson has resigned, as have general-manager Bryony O'Callaghan and administration assistant Isabelle Kirkbride.
This is despite the overall success and obvious growth of the five-year-old festival and the "passionate commitment" of all three to its future and to local arts, according to Mr Mathewson.
There is money for the on-going employment of two full-time staffers for the festival, and Mr Mathewson entered the fray in April with a keen eye on repositioning the festival to make a significant contribution to next year's international focus on deserts.
So what has gone wrong? There are a few problems but the most urgent and, one would think, readily rectifiable is infrastructure. This year's 10 day program of events, with 10 activities running each day, was organised out of a three by five metre office in the RedHOT Arts Space opposite Billygoat Hill.
That office was shared with another arts organisation, Music NT, which had its own smaller festival running in August, linking into opening of the Alice festival in the first week of September.
"There's no storage in the office," says Mr Mathewson, "which means our archives are strewn all over the place.
"There's no confidentiality or privacy when there are eight to 12 people in the office at any time.
"There's no festival meeting room.
"We often had meetings surrounded by four or five people on the phone. "And this is an improvement on past festival infrastructure. "There is also no adequate rehearsal space, at all, anywhere in Alice.
"The festival has grown exponentially.
"You cannot run the event in a professional manner, and you can't sustain this rate of growth, without a professional working environment and rehearsal space.
"Arts NT, as the major funding body of the festival, is aware of the infrastructure inadequacies."
Mr Mathewson says a 10 year development plan for the festival should be put in place immediately and alternative infrastructure found.
He suggests that the RedHOT building be sold and the money used to refurbish the Old Gaol.
"The gaol has an eclectic variety of spaces, including four different open air spaces.
"It is very secure!
"The offices could be in the old gaoler's cottage at the entrance.
"The potential is great. The site could be used for administration, workshops, rehearsal space and artists' studios, as you find old gaols used throughout Europe, particularly in the East."
This could not happen overnight, but then neither is the suggestion new. Lack of foresight means that once again we will face next year a missed opportunity.
Mr Mathewson is philosophical. He suggests the festival be managed as best it can for next year, under new recruits, but then take a break for a year and focus on a major effort in 2008 when Alice Springs will host the Regional Arts Australia Conference, attracting 1000 arts delegates from around the country.
Whether for 2006 or 2008, there needs to be a rethink of the programming structure of the festival. At present it is an "all in" event, run on expressions of interest, all of which are accepted. In other words there is no artistic direction.
Mr Mathewson says his only opportunity for artistic direction came with Wearable Arts, where he was able to draw on his considerable experience in film and theatre to help shape the event into its most sophisticated presentation yet.
An artistic director has to have some funds at their disposal in order to commission original work, which puts its stamp on the festival for that year.
This is the case for all arts festivals attracting national and international interest. Community arts festivals are worthwhile, of course, in their own terms but will not command this different order of attention.
This year's Alice Desert Festival had little funding to support programming let alone commission new work. It was up to individual projects to attract funding from bodies including Arts NT, which they did to varying degrees.
Some projects, such as Bek Mifsud's exhibition "traces: desires, and presentiments" were entirely self-funded. All, including the creation of the HUB-space, relied substantially on unpaid input from artists and supporters.
Ironically, this failure to support basic infrastructure and adequate development of programming comes in the context of a substantial injection of funds into arts marketing.
The initiative known as RedHOT Arts, has attracted $147,445 for one year from the Australia Council and Arts NT.
Unlike the festival, which grew out of community desire and effort, this push to market the arts was instigated by funding bodies the Australia Council in partnership with Arts NT and seems a strange case of putting the cart before the horse.
Mr Mathewson says the Territory Tourist Commission is very supportive of a strong festival to celebrate the International Year of the Desert, but it would have taken the appointment of someone earlier this year to pave the way.
"The 2005 festival took all my time and there was no money for anyone to do anything about next year.
"It may now be too late to attract significant funding."
Of course, the forward thinking of individual artists and arts organisations may yet see some interesting, high quality work develop.
Mr Mathewson suggests that one way to pull off a high calibre event in the present circumstances is for the festival to focus on just three days of activity under an artistic director, with adequate support for programming.
INTEREST This could then by followed by a week of events based on expressions of interest, for which the festival could act as a coordinating and marketing body without taking artistic responsibility.
What about the festival committee in all this could they not have been driving the development of the 2006 festival from behind the scenes?
Like him, says Mr Mathewson, committee members were fully taken up with supporting this year's event.
The committee includes "some very good people who have my enthusiastic support" but it is heavily weighted towards the arts, much weaker in financial, legal, marketing and administrative experience.
What's the solution?
Lobby people with the required skills to get on board, suggests Mr Mathewson, and at least pay the executive committee sitting fees.
"But the community-based committee is almost an impossible concept for running something that is growing as fast as the festival is this year roughly 100 activities.
"In relation to staff the committee is effectively an employer. That's a professional role but there's not really a professional framework for carrying out that role.
"I have thought about the possibility of a new body to run the festival, made up of representatives of organisations like the tourist commission, Desert Knowledge Australia, Araluen and a number of the arts bodies like Watch This Space as well as Arts NT.
"This, and other options, should be the subject of urgent discussion and decision."
CANBERRA'S SELF-HELP PLAN TO END ABORIGINAL MISERY. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
An end to the CDEP "work for the dole" scheme as we know it, trading work for welfare services, and much more stringent work tests for unemployment benefit recipients are in a raft of measures to improve the poor state of indigenous people, says Federal Minister for Family and Community Services, Joe Hockey.
After a five-day trip across northern Australia, to the Thursday Islands, Weipa, Tiwi Island, and communities outside Darwin and Alice Springs, Mr Hockey said: "Some and I must stress, some of the Alice communities, and the camps, as they are called, were more distressing than anything else.
"We need to have a situation where people take responsibility for their own destiny.
"While the government can supply all the welfare support that on the face of it may be required, at the end of the day it's fairly meaningless unless the people in the communities are prepared to take responsibility for their own actions.
"In some parts of Central Australia there has been a fundamental break-down in communities.
"When you go to places where there is rubbish everywhere, and it looks more like a tip than a home, you can't help but think that there has been a complete melt-down in any sense of community responsibility.
"And we need to rebuild those foundations, and a cheque from the government every fortnight is not going to do that.
"What will do it is some form of obligation so that people begin to take pride in what they do, rather than have absolute disregard for themselves and, more significantly, for everyone else."
Mr Hockey says the Australia-wide Work for the Dole scheme as distinct from the local CDEP (Community Development Employment Program) variety focussed on Aborigines has been "a tremendous success in breaking the cycle of generation after generation of never having a job".
So why don't we have it here instead of CDEP?
"CDEP is the indigenous equivalent but it doesn't have the same obligations as Work for the Dole.
"If you've been on the dole for a certain amount of time, in order to continue to receive the dole you have to do some work, and the work programs are run by certain groups.
"And it involves real work. It could be tree planting or volunteering for Meals on Wheels."
Mr Hockey says CDEP is frequently seen "as paid employment rather than a stepping stone to employment.
"We have to make it clearer that welfare is not a substitute for full, independent and paid employment.
There is a "compelling argument" for regarding CDEP participants as unemployed (they currently don't show up in the unemployment statistics).
"For all intents and purposes, rather than having long standing, continuing CDEP employees it would be better to give the money directly to the councils and they could independently employ those people.
"That's from my perspective."
Isn't it true that all governments benefited from CDEP by concealing the true level of unemployment?
Says Mr Hockey: "That's right, but we're taking a tougher stand, and we have announced that already.
"CDEP is meant to be a stepping stone to real work, not a substitute."
Why is the dole work test not applied to people living in, or next to, a labor market, such as Alice Springs and Ayers Rock Resort?
"In my previous role as tourism minister I saw that," says Mr Hockey.
"Voyages [Resorts] expresses to me long standing frustration out at the Rock."
Why doesn't his department apply the work test there?
"It's something that needs to be considered," says Mr Hockey.
"The indigenous community out at the Rock has significant other sources of income."
Do they get the dole?
"Oh, well, they must, some must, yes.
"We have work for the dole, mutual obligation commitments that exist already.
"I couldn't give you box and dice on what's in place at the moment out at Uluru.
"What I can say is that there are compelling reasons to increase the requirements of people on welfare to participate in the workforce, especially where there are jobs.
"I know in the hospitality industry there has a surplus of available jobs, and I'll be speaking this week to [Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations] Kevin Andrews about that, and [Minister for Workforce Participation] Peter Dutton, about a more rigourous application of the rules."
Mr Hockey says on this and earlier trips to The Centre he had found "significant demand for employees and an over-reliance on backpackers, who have only a very limited capacity to work.
"A lot of the businesses in rural and remote Australia rely on a transient workforce which is a very expensive way of employing people. You have a very high turnover."
Mr Hockey says: "We have to link welfare to certain obligations", and the Welfare to Work scheme, starting on July 1 next year, will be a "message that those who can work need to work".
"From the Centrelink perspective, we are endeavouring to link welfare payments to contribution.
"We saw good examples on the trip of that."
For example, on the Tiwi Islands "we pioneered a program" deducting $25 a fortnight from welfare payments, giving it to the schools which provide breakfast, morning tea and lunch, "nutritious meals," says Mr Hockey.
"School attendances have increased 15 per cent since that program started.
"I'd like to see that extended right across Australia, and it obviously has particular benefits [in the area of] of Alice Springs."
But doesn't that leave people still locked into welfare dependency?
"It's an interim measure until such time as people can take control of their own destiny."
Mr Hockey says another "pilot" provides for the postponement or cancellation of Abstudy payments to parents of children not going to school.
"This has had a massive impact on attendance at school," he says.
Is there is a greater readiness in the Top End than in The Centre to embrace job initiatives?
Says Mr Hockey: "In the Thursday Islands group is by far the biggest commitment."
He says in the mining town of Weipa employers saw much initial interest in jobs "but they found they could train people, put them in jobs and they would turn up for two days and then disappear".
ENVIRONMENT: HOPE AND FEAR FOR ALICE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
An Alice crowd of 150 quizzed internationally noted environmental scientist Tim Flannery about climate change last week.
While the author of The Weather Makers predicted a big impact from global warming on Alice, he also said climate change offered The Centre "enormous opportunities".
If he lived here, Dr Flannery would be most worried by the prospect of days of "extreme heat".
While average global warming in the 20th century stands at .6 of a degree, preliminary studies are suggesting that Central Australia might have had an even higher rate.
However, said Dr Flannery, "If and when Australia goes forward into a new energy economy, the Central Australian region is very rich in renewable energy sources", particularly our "extraordinary sunshine".
But the solar industry desperately needs "decent federal government policy", he said.
Last year the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target Scheme was reviewed by a panel of experts, who called on the government to extend its target.
"The federal government ignored its own expert advice," said Dr Flannery.
As in his book, Dr Flannery strongly promoted personal action.
When a member of the audience was skeptical about how great an impact personal action could have, Dr Flannery argued his point. By using solar energy to heat water, by buying smaller cars, for example, individuals can end a "strong signal to marketplace", allowing industry to invest in more sustainable technology.
If enough people do this, renewable energy technologies will become cheaper, and with development in China and India taking off, price is critical: "They will buy the cheapest form of power production available. If it's coal, they'll buy coal."
Coal is the big baddy when it comes to global warming. Good quality coal is 92 per cent carbon. When it's burnt, the carbon atom bonds with two larger oxygen atoms, producing a large waste stream of carbon dioxide (CO2). Burning one ton of coal pumps 3.7 tons of CO2 into the finite receptacle of our atmosphere.
Dr Flannery was particularly eloquent in describing the sensitivity of the atmosphere, our "great aerial ocean".
If it were compressed into liquid form the volume of the atmosphere would be equal to just one five hundredth of the earth's oceans: "That's a very small organ to be pouring vast amounts of pollution into."
In 1956, when Dr Flannery was born, CO2 was present in the atmosphere at 310 parts per million, its maximum level for at least five million years. It is now present at 380 parts per million, well above the maximum. At current rates of use of CO2-emitting fossil fuels, it will reach the critical 450 parts per million in 2040. By then, unless there's immediate preventative action, the earth will have experienced a further two degrees of warming and its climate will be "seriously destabilised".
"Once two degrees of warming happen there'll be no hope for the north polar environment. It will be gone and will never recover. In all likelihood, it will instigate the melting of the Greenland Ice Cap as well."
There will be a marked change in rainfall and more extreme weather events hurricanes, heat waves, prolonged droughts. More rain for Central Australia sounds like a good thing, but Dr Flannery warned that there will be much higher evaporation.
Australia broadly is losing rainfall. The southern rainfall zone has retracted southwards, particularly since 1976.
Perth has experienced a 10 per cent loss in rainfall, which has translated into a 50 percent loss of flow into catchment, because rain has fallen less heavily and more in summer, less in winter. The eastern rainfall zone has also retracted since 1988, with the disruption of the El Nino cycle.
"There is not a major city on the south or east coast not suffering a water deficit. In some cases it is at crisis point."
At the same time there is increased rainfall in north-west Australia. This year there was winter rain in the Kimberley "quite extraordinary" and evidence of the tropical zone extending southwards, said Dr Flannery.
In the global scenario, Australia's actions are "disproportionately important", says Dr Flannery. Concerted international action, following the signing of the Montreal Protocol and the banning from 1989 of destructive CFCs, halted the growth of the hole in the ozone layer, the earth's sunscreen.
The Kyoto Protocol is designed to similarly combat CO2 emissions. Only the United States, Australia and the tiny European states of Monaco and Lichtenstein stand outside the Kyoto Protocol.
"If Australia decided to go green it would make a difference, leaving effectively only one country standing against Kyoto," said Dr Flannery. "We have a huge opportunity but we're coming from a far back position."
He was highly critical of the current government's "policy on the run" in relation to climate change, blaming the "disproportionate influence" of "very large industry groups" . He said it is very difficult to gain the ear of government on this issue, but "politicians do listen to the electorate making yourself heard is all important".
Dr Flannery rated climate change as the planet's pre-eminent environmental challenge, saying he was "shamefaced" at having taken so long to understand its importance. We can have no hope that ancient climatic cycles will kick in to cool the earth, he said. These Melankovich cycles, that governed the 50 ice ages the earth has known over the last three million years, "have lost control of the climate human intervention has taken over."
On the contribution that nuclear energy could make to reducing CO2 emissions, Dr Flannery quoted International Energy Agency projections that it would be "quite small", at around seven per cent of what is needed "to stay within carbon budget".
The lion's share, 60 per cent, will come from efficiency gains, including reduced demand. Renewable energy sources will contribute 20 per cent. He went on to criticise the federal government's position on nuclear power.
"I've heard Minister Macfarlane talk about development the industry. He says it will make a fortune, we should go ahead and develop it, and he also says we will take all responsibility to make sure we don't have unintended consequences ... Can we take him on his word?
"We already have one very large energy industry vehicle, coal, that's having a lot of unintended consequences in the world, it's warming the planet. There is a mechanism existing designed to compensate for those unintended consequences, that's called the Kyoto Protocol. There we have a Minister who's got a pre-existing industry, he's got international obligations that he is taking no notice of.
"When we get down to nuclear, he says, 'Trust us, we'll get the Atomic Energy Agency to look after all this on our behalf'. How much support has Australia shown to the UN where the Atomic Energy Agency resides?
"Do you think this is 'all care and responsibility' or not? I'm worried, quite frankly. I would hope the government would show its bona fides before we embarked on an enlargement of Australia's nuclear industry."
ALICE DRYING UP.
How long Alice's water supplies will last will determine how long Alice Springs will be inhabitable as we know it.
The Alice Springs Water Resource Strategy, to be released for public comment this Saturday, the water resources available in the region, and how water used for different purposes could be regulated in the future.
The choices are stark, potentially limiting economic growth and development, or shortening the "life" of Alice by allowing high water consumption.
Says senior planning officer with the Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Jonathan Vea: "Alice Springs current drinking supply is not renewable.
"We don't have dams that are refilled every few years by rains.
"Alice Springs water supplies were deposited in nearby underground reservoirs (aquifers) many thousands of years ago."
Rain and river flow refills the aquifers very slowly, with residents using the water at a rate far greater than the rate of recharge.
The level of water in bores at Roe Creek has dropped by around 50 metres since 1964 and continues to drop at between one and two metres per year.
If Alice Springs' water consumption grows at the same rate as forecast population growth, our good quality drinking water could run out in under 100 years.
Despite various government and community water saving initiatives, the water consumption rate in Alice Springs is still amongst the highest in the world.
At around 1000 litres per person per day, this is far in excess of the national average of about 630 litres per person per day.
Unlike many other plans for water management, the strategy being proposed has real grunt as a legislated component of the NT Water Act.
Mr Vea says the strategy will determine how water may be used in Alice Springs through the declaration of "Beneficial Uses".
"If agriculture for example is declared as a beneficial use, then water may be provided for agriculture, otherwise water use for agriculture would not be allowed," Mr Vea says.
"The volume of water available will be determined through 'Water Allocation.'
"This sets limits on the volume of water available for various uses." The community is invited to an open forum about the draft strategy on Saturday, October 22, from 1.30pm at Witchetty's in the Araluen Centre.
WHAT A WAY TO "KEEP" AN ELECTION PROMISE. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
When the NT Government says it's allowing "limited" third party appeals to town planning decisions, it sure as hell means limited.
It's another example of the wide gulf between what the government promises and what promises it keeps.
The "third party" is basically you: someone wants to build or subdivide something near your patch, the Development Consent Authority gives its green light, and you don't like it.
In the bad old days that's under the CLP governments only the applicant had the right of appeal. You didn't.
Well, by and large, you still don't.
In all the big recent and current town planning controversies the Martin Government's amendments are perfectly useless: you're not allowed to appeal against subdivisions.
Schemes such as the notorious Hornsby subdivision (I declare an interest in that as an objector, quite a few years ago), Ron Sterry's Emily Hills, recently approved, and the current Emily Valley project are inexplicably shielded from third party appeals.
So is every single dwelling attached or detached unless it is more than two storeys high.
Provided you've lodged an objection during the "exhibition period" you can appeal against non-residential use of land provided you live next to it not down the road or "directly opposite" and the road is 18 meters wide or less.
And then you might still not get a say:-
€ Third party appeals cannot be made for reasons of commercial competition.
€ Non-residential uses such as bed and breakfast accommodation, home occupation, childcare centre, medical consulting rooms and caretaker's residence within a residential zone are excluded from third party appeal rights "if the use complies with the provisions of the Planning Scheme and the consent authority has not varied or waived any requirements of the provisions," as a handout declares.
Are you better off than under the developer-friendly CLP governments against which Labor when in Opposition liked to rail? Not a lot.
SNIFFING: ZERO TOLERANCE IS WORKING. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
In July 2002 Amoonguna had 13 petrol sniffers. Now there are none.
Some of the sniffers have moved on to other communities but the majority are now clean thanks to a zero tolerance policy, instigated and enforced by the Amoonguna Community Council and the manager of the health clinic on the community, David Evans, together with cooperation from the whole community.
"I refuse to accept petrol sniffing and I will do whatever the community will support me in doing [to get rid of it]," says Mr Evans.
"The government is saying petrol sniffing is in plague proportions but it's not a plague.
"You're not born a petrol sniffer and you can stop petrol sniffing but it won't happen overnight."
Mr Evans spoke directly with families and asked them to deal with the problem in a cultural way rather than simply accept that their children were sniffers. "I sat down and explained the damage petrol can do from a health perspective petrol fumes and by-products can remain in your body for up to 600 days," he says.
"I gave the families the option of dealing with it in a non-cultural way through petrol sniffing programs, like the one at Tangentyere Council, but once I explained the damage petrol can do the families decided to take the initiative to try and eradicate it themselves."
Mr Evans says he hasn't been privy to the way the families got their youngsters to stop sniffing because it was family business. But he says: "It was a harsh cultural withdrawal.
"Some of the children were sent away.
"The fathers and the uncles were largely responsible for the male adolescents, and the mothers and aunties were responsible for the female adolescents.
"Visitors to the community who were petrol sniffers weren't allowed in and still aren't."
Mr Evans believes Amoonguna's system succeeded where other communities have failed partly because it isn't an endemic problem it was only one generation of adolescents who were sniffing petrol and their elders were able to halt the situation before it went any further.
"Unfortunately it was also successful because of the easy access to alcohol in town," says Mr Evans.
"It allows people an alternative to petrol sniffing. Not all of them have begun drinking but some have, I'm not sure how many.
"I would like to see a reduction in the use of alcohol as well but we have to take one step at a time."
Mr Evans says it's important to reward the community for the achievements it's made and he has arranged discos and concerts, thanks to private sponsorship from local businesses.
The last event was held in March and was talked about for weeks afterwards.
"Ideally I'd like to have one a month," says Mr Evans, "but we've only been able to manage on average three a year because of funds.
"Things like the disco changes the focus of the community, everyone had a good time together as a community. It's something different from the norm."
That's important to break the boredom which can lead to petrol sniffing and other high risk behaviours like drinking, says Mr Evans.
His no-nonsense, proactive approach has also been making headway in other areas of health at Amoonguna.
Figures recording the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases have reduced by at least 20 per cent in the last 12 months. This was achieved by regular screening and easy access to culturally appropriate (gender-based) care.
80 people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory disease, liver disease and cardiac illness are now being treated more effectively with specific care plans and help from regular visits by a specialist physician a new service secured by the clinic.
Amoonguna is also the first community in the country to be connected to the Australian government's Telstra Broadband for Health 2-Way Satellite scheme.
Results on blood tests come through online two hours after they've arrived at the clinic in Adelaide.
"It allows patients to be treated more specifically and more quickly. For a urine infection for example, we can treat it with the right antibiotic sooner," explains Mr Evans.
The more comprehensive health service on the community treated over 6000 cases last year. Other initiatives include visits from a podiatrist and an optometrist, to occur later this month, and regular visits from a paediatrician and psychiatric nurse.
How has this been achieved? In November 2004 the council took over the running of the health centre from Congress. Now, clinic staff are council employees and where possible, the council hires local Amoonguna people.
Out of six staff, three are Aboriginal or part Aboriginal: "There's a huge element of trust in a patient and health professional relationship," says Mr Evans.
"If you know and belong to the land and understand its laws then people will feel more comfortable and trust the health care worker more readily.
"Having people from the community assist in cultural brokerage of non-Indigenous staff has huge benefits for the entire service.
"I've been at the community for three years now so I have a very good relationship with the majority of the people in the community but still rely heavily on our senior Aboriginal health worker who has been in the field for a very long time."
The health service and the community council have not relied solely on recurrent funding from the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) but apply for additional grants.
One of these is being used to purchase new medical equipment and pay for a new clinic to be built, due to open next year.
Mr Evans has also taken advantage of the government's new item 710 initiative, which pays health clinics $190 per Aboriginal person they give a full health check to. This check can be performed every two years and the rebates go directly back into the service.
A market garden, whose fresh fruit and vegetables are given to the community, is another initiative, reinforced by regular visits from a dietician.
An aged care facility feeds and bathes older members of the community and provides a laundry service.
What's different about Amoonguna?
"I don't think the people here are any different but there are more opportunities at Amoonguna than other places," says Mr Evans.
"I am very proactive in my management style. But I work for and am employed by the Amoonguna Community Council. Without their support, no matter how much tenacity I have, we wouldn't have achieved anything.
"But the driving force behind all of the programs has been the community as a whole and not individuals. All the achievements belong to the entire community. "The current community clerk has been employed for nine years. He has got to know the people over the years has built up a good relationship with the traditional owners.
"I believe his aim is to get people from the community to work towards improving their community themselves. This gives many of the community members a sense of well deserved pride when their efforts and dreams have been realised."
Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.
PIT HIT IN CITY. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Audiences at the Melbourne International Arts Festival this week will have a treat when they learn Pitjantjatjara language as part of a play being performed by a group from Alice Springs called Ngapartji Ngapartji.
The show opened yesterday and will run until Saturday tickets sold out last month.
The production will be performed entirely in Pitjantjatjara language. The audience will be taught some language before seeing the show, and if they're really keen, also via the project website
The show will return in full to Alice Springs next year (Melbourne is just a practice, they say) and has also been invited to perform at the Opera House in Sydney. It has been given $5000 in funding by the town council. I saw a taster of the show when the project was launched in Alice Springs last month and I wish my French lessons at school had been as much fun as learning Pitjantjatjara.
Singing along to "Heads, shoulders, knees and toes" (or rather "Kata, alipiri, muti, tjina"), I learnt words like pina (ear) and puntu (body or life) from local teenagers Alana Kelly, Elton Wirri, Deanne Gillen and Delaine Singer who live at Karnte and Abbotts Camps.
As well as the practical demonstrations, I was helped to remember the words by short video clips of them saying the words and pointing to the appropriate parts of their body.
The Ngapartji Ngapartji project is an initiative of BighART, a national arts organisation.
Trevor Jamieson, the Indigenous actor who has performed in films like Rabbit Proof Fence, had the original idea for the project and worked along with the director, Scott Rankin, and Alex Kelly, BighART's project manager in Alice Springs, to make it a reality.
Jamieson is from Esperence in Western Australia, but his family were moved from their land in Maralinga to Central Australia in the 1950s because of atomic tests which were being carried out in the area by the British. It is this story of displacement which Jamieson tells in the play, with the young people from Alice Springs some of whom he has since found out are his cousins.
Although Central Australia is Arrernte country and not Pitjantjatjara, part of the dispersion that happened in the 1950s means that people were spread between Alice Springs and Kalgoorlie.
"We feel a bit remorse about it," says Jamieson, "but also it's a part of history. We're proud of the story, proud that we've gone back to where we came from."
Before the play, the audience will learn five words integral to the plot like manta (land), puntu (body), waltja (family) and tjukurrpa (story or dreaming).
"When we first started to talk about this project, people said it was too ambitious. But it's sold out already," says Jamieson.
"People say they've never heard of this, a show in language and people learning language. It's gonna be scary but I can't wait. It will give them [the audience] much more understanding of the language and people we talk about kinship, the land, how we are related to it all.
"It's so easily learnt, the Pitjantjatjara language. It's not that hard. People can learn it easily and enjoy it.
"I hope it will give them a greater outlook on Aboriginal people. If not, at least they'll be entertained."
Film clips will introduce the teenage tutors before the play. The clips show them around Alice Springs, where they share knowledge about their families, and their dreams for the future and a lot of joking and giggling.
"It's difficult to teach language, sometimes," says Deanne (who speaks three languages). "They don't understand you, you have to explain."
What was it like seeing herself on the big screen tutoring in language? "Shame job!" she laughs.
Alex Kelly was instrumental in bringing the project to Alice Springs: "It seemed a logical place to run it from, because of IAD and the language resource here.
"The project has mirrored Trevor's story in many ways."
LIVING RELIC OF THE PLANT WORLD. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Alice Springs Nursery is the Centre's link to a rare find in the botanical world. Proprietor Jo Mackenzie has been allocated retail rights for the Wollemi Pine, once thought to be extinct, but from this Friday, with a Sotheby's auction in Sydney attracting bids from around the world, making a spectacular comeback.
The pine, formerly known only from fossil record the oldest being 90 million years old has survived in a remote part of the Wollemi National Park in the Blue Mountains, NSW.
It was discovered in 1994 by park field officer and avid bushwalker David Noble when he and two friends abseiled into a gully in the park. The location of that gully has been kept a tightly guarded secret in order to protect the trees.
At that time botanists thought they had already found all the large tree species in Australia.
As a "magnificent survivor from the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth", the Wollemi Pine is now considered "one of the world's rarest tree species", according to Tim Entwisle, executive director of the Botanic Gardens Trust in Sydney.
With only 100 trees existing in the wild, you may wonder how any can be sold.
Those going to auction are first generation cuttings taken from 15 of the wild trees, with single trees expected to sell for $1500-$2500 and the dearest lot of trees, a collection of 15, likely to fetch $30,000-$50,000.
Dr Entwistle says commercialisation of the trees is part of their conservation plan. "The biggest risks identified by the conservation team Š were over collecting and the possibility of fire or disease entering the site.
"Now everyone who wants to own or see a Wollemi Pine can do so.
"Royalties from sales will be directed to the conservation of this and other threatened plant species in Australia." The pine, which once grew right around Australia, is apparently highly adaptable to many situations and climates, growing in a temperatures ranging from minus five degrees C to 45 degrees C. It may be able to withstand colder temperatures.
Ms Mackenzie says the retail release won't happen until next April.
In the meantime, she and colleagues, one of whom will be attending the Sotheby's auction, have a lot to learn about the care of the trees.
"We understand they will tolerate being planted out in Central Australian gardens, but I don't think they could survive without irrigation," she says.
"They also do well indoors and given that they are so precious that may be where locals will want to keep them."
CAMP DOGS ARE COVERED BY TOWN COUNCIL BY-LAWS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Member for Braitling Loraine Braham is "gobsmacked" to discover that the same by-laws apply to dogs in town camps as do to dogs in other parts of Alice Springs.
Following the recent fatal mauling of a 59-year-old town camp residents, Mrs Braham wrote to Mayor Fran Kilgariff asking about registration of dogs by owners on town camps.
Ms Kilgariff replied: "All dogs (over the age of six months) within the Municipality of Alice Springs are required to be registered under the Alice Springs (Animal Control) By-laws."
Mrs Braham: "Is it similar to the By-law that applies to other residents living in the town?"
Ms Kilgariff: "It is the same By-law for all residents of Alice Springs."
However, the By-law is clearly not enforced in the town camps. Ms Kilgariff told the Alice News in our issue of September 28 that only "a handful" of dogs on camps are registered.
Mrs Braham went on to ask, "Does Tangentyere Council have a policy on the number of dogs permitted on town camps?"
Ms Kilgariff: "Presently the Alice Springs (Animal control) By-law allows for two dogs per premise. If more than two dogs are present, a kennel licence has to be applied for. Each application is investigated on its merit."
Mrs Braham: "How often do the town council and Tangentyere Council Rangers implement this policy?"
Ms Kilgariff: "Firstly, Tangentyere Council does not have dog rangers.
"The Tangentyere Environment Health Officer is our contact person. 'Jackie' is currently actively involved in the reduction of dogs in Town Camps.
"Jackie is also working at 'two dogs per household'. This program is in its infancy and will take some time to have full compliance from the camps." Mrs Braham: "I am aware the 'Dr Bob' [a vet who sterilises and treats dogs as well as putting down unwanted dogs] visits occur every three months and have been successful in treating dogs in a number of camps.
"However, not all camps are covered or could possibly be covered in one day.
Ms Kilgariff: "The 'Dr Bob' program is ongoing. The program is planned and has specific outcomes. Sometimes, because of the amount of success that we have at some of the camps, Dr Bob runs out of time, however the details are noted and covered by his next visit."
Mrs Braham says she visited a number of camps in the lead-up to the last election. "I didn't think that the same By-laws applied.
"I thought that the council had forfeited its responsibilities under the Memorandum of Understanding with Tangentyere Council.
"What astonishes me is that the program is 'in its infancy'.
"What has been going on for the last umpteen years?
"Why has it taken this terrible incident [the fatal mauling] to highlight the fact that the council is not enforcing its own by-laws?
"The problem is not just with aggressive dogs. The dogs also pose a health hazard.
"Tangentyere Council should get back to its core responsibilities, attending to the living standards on town camps.
"They have diversified too much.
"People on town camps need good living standards, decent health and pride in where they live.
"Both Tangentyere and the town council have dropped the ball on this."
Mrs Braham is also concerned by lack of enforcement of By-laws concerning camping in public areas and littering.
"Recently the mess at Trucking Yards when a lot of people came to town for a funeral and camped there, was awful.
"It took a week to be cleaned up.
"People leaving town on the train could see it.
"What do they say when that's the last thing they see when leaving Alice Springs?"
Tangentyere's manager of social services Jane Vadiveloo made the following comment:
"Enforcement of By-laws is not a Tangentyere responsibility. However, we are happy to assist the town council where possible.
"The visits from the vet were instituted by Tangentyere nearly two years ago without dedicated funding for this program due to need.
"The vet has visited all town camps, comes routinely, and there are follow ups between the vet visits to maintain the program. "Tangentyere and the town council work well together on this program.
"There are many visiting dogs to town camps that are public roaming dogs or owned by residents within Alice Springs.
"It is rare to have a dog attack on a town camp. "We have a policy of two dogs per house.
"Our core business is the well being of town camps and continues to be this we have not diversified." On the state of Trucking Yards camp commented on by Mrs Braham, Ms Vadiveloo said: "It would be good for people to recognise the generosity and strengths within our communities and that camps like Trucking Yard will provide support at times in need and will at the same time keep their camp managed well.
"If there was rubbish it would have been a short term issue. It is always much easier to address the negatives than to look at the many strengths in our communities."
Ms Kilgariff declined to comment any further.
ALICE HOSPITAL: 48 HOURS ON A TROLLEY. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
A woman with a suspected heart attack was kept on a trolley in the emergency department of the Alice Springs Hospital for 48 hours because of a shortage of beds.
Janette Allen woke at 6.30am on Tuesday September 27 with chest pains and went straight to hospital. She was seen by a heart specialist and given an ECG and a blood test immediately.
Ms Allen was put onto a heart rate monitor and given drugs for suspected angina.
Her blood pressure was 147/98 much higher than her regular 127/90.
"I was put on a trolley, not a hospital bed, and there I stayed," Ms Allen says.
"On Wednesday evening a lady came to me and said she was the person who allocates beds to patients. She apologised and said there were no beds upstairs and I would have to stay in the emergency department until they could find a bed for me.
"I was having intermittent chest pains but on Thursday morning I had a massive headache. No pain relief that the nurses gave to me would relieve it. I believe it was caused by being under fluorescent lights for so long."
That morning, Ms Allen was taken to what she believes was an overflow ward and finally given a bed.
She was given morphine for her headache.
She said she was diagnosed with a type of heart disease caused by not enough oxygen getting to the heart.
Ms Allen stayed on the ward until she was discharged the following Tuesday afternoon but travelled to a hospital in Adelaide yesterday for tests.
Depending on the outcome of the tests, Ms Allen may need a heart bypass.
"The attention I got from the doctors and nurses was absolutely fantastic. They did their job to the best of their ability," says Ms Allen.
"But staying in the emergency department for 48 hours on a trolley was horrific.
"The emergency department is being treated like another ward, not a place for people to be assessed and then moved on.
"I spoke to a gentleman who said he'd been in there for 32 hours. It's absolutely ridiculous.
"I think the Alice community deserves better than that this.
"The Labor government needs to look at things seriously and stop putting their head in the sand."
According to a spokesman, Health Minister Peter Toyne declined to be interviewed about these and related issues. General-manger of the hospital, Vicki Taylor, did not respond to an invitation to comment.
SPEEDWAY BLOKES LOOK OUT: WOMAN DRIVER! Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The 2005 speedway season proper starts on Saturday and promises to be an exciting one but this year, Lucinda Owen is the only woman from Alice Springs who is competing.
"When I started in 1998 there were quite a few girls," Owen explains.
"We even had our own competition but these days there's not enough so I jumped in with the men.
"There are quite a few junior girls though which is good hopefully they'll stay in it for the future."
One of them is her daughter, Gemma, who is 16. "We hope she'll start racing with us this season sometime."
Owen, who races her Ford XF Falcon in the streetstock division, has vowed to continue racing for her husband, Max Owen, who has been forced to retire from the sport after a serious accident to his neck.
"It's been a big thing to happen to us but I felt I had to keep going.
"It's a buzz, the adrenalin kicks in like nothing else when you race.
"And I love all the people here."
So what's it like being the only woman in a racetrack full of men?
"They're great. We've all got respect for each other.
"I think sometimes I don't have enough testosterone, I'm not angry enough.
"The boys have a tendency to hold [the accelerator] flat from the flag.
"But I'm more cautious I guess."
Last year, Owen came second in her class overall but she won't say any more about her hopes for her eighth season this year other than she "hopes to do well".
"The hardest thing is actually getting out here," says Owen.
"All the preparation and hard work that goes into the car before the race I wouldn't be out here but for the blokes."
CRICKET HITS OFF. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
A beautifully cool weekend in Alice Springs marked the start of the 2005 cricket season.
Playing on hard wickets at Rhonda Diano Park (while Traeger Park's pitch gets some tender loving care after the AFL season) made for a different style of play, weakening the effectiveness of bowlers, but boosting batsmen.
The first match of the season saw RSL Works defeat Rovers, 8/246 versus 8/224.
Bottom-placed in 2004, Rovers started the season strongly with several impressive batsmen one of whom, Colin Cattell, scored the most runs of the whole weekend, making 79.
Also impressive was Geoff Abduller who made 49.
Although Mike McPherson bowled well for Rovers taking three wickets, the side's bowlers looked weaker than RSL's, bowling 21 wides.
Rovers controlled the game during the middle part of their innings but RSL came through positively at the end of the match, with 18-year-old Tom Dutton making 35 not out and all-rounder Graeme Smitdt making 24 runs.
Both men also took two wickets apiece.
Tom Scollay, the captain of RSL, said after the match: "I'm happy with the win we came together well at the end.
"I think Rovers benefited from playing on hard wickets but in two weeks when we go back to turf that will benefit us."
Rovers captain Brendan Smith said he was also pleased with how his side played: "It was a positive result for us.
"A lot of people had written us off for the season.
"But we stuck with it all day, even when RSL started getting away. And we feel we can do much better our bowling needs to be tightened up."
The Robertson brothers, Scott and Cameron, are also due to make a return to the game, which should boost the side. Scott will be out for six weeks with a tendon problem, but Cameron plans to be back this week after a hand injury.
In the other match of the weekend, Federals scored an impressive 2/153, easily defeating Wests' 8/149.
Wests won the toss but impressive bowling from Feds' captain Tom Clements saw him take five wickets, helped by Marcus Becker who got one. And two run outs by Curtis Marriott and Daniel Gardiner helped speed the game along.
After the break, the premiers of the last two years knew the tally was achievable but didn't reckon on getting their old rivals out for two.
The first pair of batsmen far from set the pitch on fire, with David Overall only making 17 runs and Brandon Markham taking four.
But the partnership of Daniel Garoni and Tom Clements proved unbeatable, with Garoni making 50 runs not out, boosted by Clements' 46.
After the match Clements commented: "We were a bit surprised to get them out for two.
"We took consistent wickets in regular succession which was probably the key to bowling them out.
"And we really focused on our fielding to restrict them to as many runs as possible."
Jeremy Bigg, a senior player for Wests, said his side wasn't going to dwell on the first match of the season: "We've lost a few players throughout the year and we were undermanned on Sunday.
Four of our senior players were unavailable including Peter Tabart, Ryan Thompson and Wayne Todman.
"We bowled too many wides and no balls.
"We're not going to read into this loss. It's only the first match of the season."
Washed up in Winnellie. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
A trip to Darwin involves some effort. Getting there is only half of it.
Once arrived, you have to find accommodation, work out the public transport, avoid getting sicked upon by a European backpacker in Mitchell Street and decide whether you actually need to go to Casuarina Square.
Of course, you never need to go there, but somehow Rebel Sport and the retail delights of the Territory's most expansive mall are seductive. And the buses leave every few minutes, which is the clincher.
There's a newish complex in the CBD itself now. It is tall with a single wide mall down the middle and hardly any shoppers. I wandered through and angled towards the tourist information counter hoping to collect some interesting leaflets while avoiding an uninteresting conversation with the person behind the counter.
I used to work in a tourist information office. Believe me, it is easy to become boring. This is why I groped for the leaflets while making no eye contact and trying to look like someone with no English.
My efforts were wasted. Without prelude, the lady behind the counter described the trouble with Darwin. "There's nowhere to meet anyone," she grimly explained. "That's why we all go to Casuarina Square and sit in the cafés. And that's nothing to write home about."
I nodded inanely. This seemed to be a prepared answer to the question, "Why is Darwin crap?" except that I didn't ask it because I like the place. I just wanted a bus timetable and a glossy leaflet about local history to read in the hotel when the television commercials are on.
If only she had told me that Darwin closes for the weekend at around three-o'clock on a Friday. I had an exam scheduled at a centre in the suburbs.
Reaching Winnellie was like a journey to the dark side of the Moon. When I eventually stepped off the bus in an industrial district with no sign of industry, the bus doors closed with the kind of finality usually reserved for Stephen King novels.
I did my exam, left the centre and emerged squinting back into a Winnellie that had well and truly wound down for the week. The bus timetable said that one was due, but it didn't come.
So I sat on the tropical nature strip and marvelled at the kind of leafy grass that I had forgotten existed.
My thoughts turned to the questions in the exam that I had answered incorrectly. The sun was intense.
The bus stop had no shelter. In my mind, the number of failed exam questions grew.
I contemplated returning to the centre to ask for a second go, but an old Holden roared from the empty car park carrying the only staff member as she waved and raced off for her weekend.
By this time I needed a full shower and a change of shirt.
Now I know why people say that the heat in the Alice is clean. The heat in Darwin is very dirty and so became my trousers as the perspiration ran down my legs.
I called a taxi but was put on hold for 20 minutes. During this time, I listened to a complete bulletin of ABC Darwin news interrupted every 30 seconds by a voice that told me that all the operators were busy.
I had guessed that, but wasn't everyone in Darwin at home with their feet up by now?
The taxi eventually arrived. The driver engaged in a prolonged slanging match with his operator over the radio system while he took my directions and whinged about the weather.
I tried to make intelligent conversation but like the exam, the bus, the whole trip and Darwin too, it all came out wrong.
SPOONFULS OF SUGAR. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
Although I'm cold, I don't miss the flies. From where I'm writing this in my native Sweden I can see and hear one desperate fly in the window.
It is not interested in me. It just wants to get away. Earlier I saw a legless lizard sunning itself in the last warmth of the year only to disappear under the rocks as it became aware of me.
People I meet ask me about Alice Springs. How many inhabitants, why I like it, political issues, social issues. I hear myself defending, promoting and explaining.
It sounds like I'm working for the tourist commission. What scares me is how foreign it seems from a great distance, like a dream or memory of something I experienced long ago, and I've only been away for a week.
I'm also asked whether it feels strange to be away from home, visiting my childhood home. While it does in some ways, I know my childhood environment so much better. Every detail is familiar, every sight, smell and sound has memories attached to them. But the colours are brighter and it is more beautiful than I remembered.
I remind myself of the angel, played by John Travolta in the movie "Michael", who really enjoyed visiting Earth, making the most of every moment and who at one point while eating sugar with a tablespoon said, "You can never have too much sugar".
I'm eating lots of chocolate that I cannot get in Alice, and special bread and jam. The water is from a well and is cold, plentiful and delicious. I don't feel guilty when I have a long shower and I don't worry about how much fat and sugar I eat. The time here won't last. Too soon this will be the dream and distant memory.
Why is it so difficult to feel truly alive in our everyday existence? Why do we fail to appreciate things in our familiar environment and why do we take so much for granted? How come we get caught up in routines, timetables and gossip and only look up when we suddenly realise that we might be risking losing our health, family, freedom or life?
Someone recently broke into our house. Apart from a sudden improvement in cash-flow, I imagine they were after the thrill of the kill, or the risk of being caught.
Some might choose stealing, others drugs, fast cars, jumping off a bridge attached to a rubber band or even gambling to feel alive here and now. To have adrenalin pumping through your body and hear your own heart loud and clear in your own ears.
I once read that laughter had developed from the relief of having escaped being killed or hurt. Interestingly laughter has healing properties and when humour is employed in hospitals some patients recover more quickly.
But our approach to feeling alive is seldom funny. We go for the scary and life threatening. We focus on the violence and misery in our society, both in the news media and in entertainment, movies, video games and TV. Escape is not enough to feel good and alive. By celebrating and appreciating the positive aspects of our lives we are not denying the fact that suffering exists and plays a principal role on many occasions. We are letting ourselves heal and recover.
Sometimes as we grow up to become responsible adults we forget to have fun and to marvel at the beetle on the ground.
We make sure we fulfil our responsibilities to our employers, children and society but forget to make time to feel, to notice and to enjoy. I'm convinced that our fear of sugar is exaggerated.
LETTERS: Cask liners and plastic bags are everywhere.
Sir, We have recently spent three days visiting your beautiful town, and want to thank the operators of the Ghan train, tour operators and our accommodation hosts Toddy's Backpackers for offering us hospitality, expertise and friendliness during our stay.
We walked, cycled, quadbiked and rode camel-back to enjoy our outback experience.
One aspect, however was disappointing, and that was the amount of litter everywhere, in the streets and even along the rail tracks. Particularly conspicuous were the ubiquitous silver cask liners and white plastic shopping bags.
Everywhere we looked, these items flapped on fences and spoiled the potentially brilliant view of the outback countryside, and your town.
For many years now, South Australia has had a Keep SA Beautiful campaign. We can be fined for dropping litter, and we also have an excellent recycling program for glass, metals, paper, etc.
A disciplined approach like this means that streets and roadsides look, and are, a lot cleaner. I am wondering why the Alice Springs council or NT government cannot implement programs like this?
Our final comment we live in a beautiful land and surely to respect this land means not to chuck our rubbish just anywhere. This should apply to every Australian.
Barb and Lance Leopold
Minority ownership OK
Sir, Many people are opposing the plan to transfer ownership of national parks to Aborigines.
For example, Richard Lim (Alice News, Oct 5) says that "parks should belong to all Territorians, and not be given away to a minority".
But what are we talking about ‹ not territory parks, not state parks but national parks. That means parks that are for the nation, for all Australians.
So if the Commonwealth Government allows the ownership of a national park, such as Uluru-Kata Tjuta to belong to a territory or a state, it has been "given away to a minority".
I have no problem with minorities, such as states or territories or Aboriginal groups, having ownership of national parks, as long as those minorities recognise that the parks are for all Australians, and the parks are administered competently.
In the case of the Aborigines, they have lost so much to us Europeans who have moved in and claimed the right to "extinguish" their rights over the land, that giving them back ownership of national parks is just a partial recompense to those few Aboriginal nations that are lucky enough to be in a position to benefit from them.
Energy debate needed
Sir, In reply to M. Church (Alice News, letters, Oct 5):
I share your concern about the future use of any uranium waste storage facility. This concern has prompted me to suggest we take a place at the table where the storage details are being decided.
We all heard Bob Hawke call for the world's waste to be stored here. This may be our one chance to insist that only waste generated in Australia is stored in Australia. And in the end we may not have any influence at all, but if we shun the dialogue, we definitely won't.
We also need to remember that storage is needed not only for the hospital and light industrial waste now scattered around the country. Spent research reactor fuel from Lucas Heights is contracted to return to Australia in six years.
Since we can't leave it on the wharf, what will we do with that?
And I question the horror at hosting a waste facility and the silence in the face of a burgeoning uranium industry.
When the Chief Minister was told by the Federal Government to pull her head in, I think we all did.
Twenty five companies were looking for uranium ore a few weeks ago. I have been told that exploration royalties are already being enjoyed by some in the NT.
If mining starts these royalties will become huge. Perhaps this is why no one is asking if a working uranium mine is a greater health hazard than the waste?
How many times a month does an export load of yellow-cake take the Ghan through Alice and on to Darwin? And is that train's load more radioactive than the waste?
I think there are two issues. The first is the storage of our own mess. Nobody but nobody in the country wants it, so we protest on our own. And I do feel that by concentrating a negative focus here, we are being distracted into playing the bye.
The second is the uranium industry. How the world and Australia satisfy their immediate and future energy needs is the debate we're not having.
Just how close are sustainable sources to being viable?
And do we really want to become a major supplier of uranium to the world?
Do we want to become a major supplier of uranium waste, given the dissension our small amount of low grade activity is causing us?
Snowdon for president
Sir,- Warren Snowdon's election as president of the Territory branch of the Australian Labor Party is a sign of Labor's arrogance.
Mr Snowdon has put his Party ahead of the people he was elected to represent.
Instead of doing what he is paid to do, he will now spend much of his time working for the Labor Party.
Just over 12 months ago, he spent three months in New York, supposedly working with the United Nations.
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