$7M BUILDING FOR UNIVERSITY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Construction work has begun at the Alice campus of Charles Darwin University on a $7m facility for higher education students.
The facility incorporates flexible teaching space, information technology labs, a science laboratory and postgraduate facilities.
It will provide state of the art accommodation for about 40 staff and up to 120 students at any one time.
Local construction company Sitzler Bros was the successful contractor for the building work.
The design of the facility is by Darwin-based Jackman Gooden Architects with Alice-based Susan Dugdale. Work is expected to be completed in the second half of 2006.
CDU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Helen Garnett, says the new building will bring greater range of higher education opportunities to Central Australians. Examples include the Bachelor of Visual Arts (a different qualification to the formerly offered Bachelor of Fine Arts) and Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Development, which students will be able to study through the Alice Springs campus for the first time next year.
Meanwhile Alice-based Pro Vice-Chancellor Don Zoellner says Scotland's University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) demonstrates the possibilities of video conferencing for delivering higher education courses.
"We think we're pretty good in delivering vocational education to remote communities," says Mr Zoellner, "but we've got things to learn about the rolling out of higher education courses at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels."
Mr Zoellner visited the UHI in October.
Surprisingly the region it serves has a similar economic and operating environment to the Territory's, says Mr Zoellner, with the lowest set of economic and social indicators in the European Union.
While distances may not be as great, the highlands' and islands' small scattered communities are considered genuinely remote.
UHI has 14 partner campuses and 100 learning centres dotted across the region.
This is comparable to the sort of infrastructure that is sitting in many communities in the Territory, owned by Batchelor Institute and the Territory Government, says Mr Zoellner.
What may be quite different is of course the basic educational standard of the population.
However, Mr Zoellner says looking at this was not part his task.
He also says that CDU is actively working to meet the higher education needs of not only Indigenous people but also the non-Indigenous population in remote communities, including teachers, nurses, police officers and residents of pastoral leases.
He says a constant issue for CDU is to get economic-sized groups subscribing to different courses. Video conferencing may offer the answer, allowing groups to be formed from students geographically remote from one another.
He says UHI does more video conferencing in one day than the rest of the UK's higher education sector.
He says the next steps over the coming six months are to gauge what level of IT and support staff investment would be necessary, and to talk to students and potential students.
Mr Zoellner also visited Ohio in the United States to look at its vocational high school as a model for the Commonwealth-funded technical college to be established in Darwin in partnership with CDU.
This will offer fulltime technical education as distinct from existing school-based apprenticeships, traineeships and fulltime apprenticeships. Its program will be driven by five key industry groups.
Mr Zoellner says it is not clear whether the Commonwealth will consider funding a comparable facility in Alice Springs, given the existing successful School Based New Apprenticeship scheme. On recent staff changes at the university Mr Zoellner says they have largely arisen because of the elimination of overlaps that occurred during the transition phase of the amalgamation.
There are also realignments necessary from time to time as course offerings change. This happens "sometimes because you've done all the training in an area that you can do", says Mr Zoellner, and sometimes to respond to new needs and/or changes in government funding. For example, he says Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment was formerly a heavily subscribed course that is no longer funded by the government and is no longer offered at CDU as a government supported course. However, higher education offerings in Alice have only increased.
"Prior to the amalgamation we only offered the business degree and the first year of the nursing degree. "Now the business degree remains, and you can do your full degree in nursing and in education, as well as a whole suite of science and IT subjects, all through the Alice campus."
Higher education students in Alice have increased from 80 in 2003, to 250 in 2005.
There were no "research active" staff in 2003; now there are seven, mostly associated with the Desert Knowledge CRC.
Total staff in Alice Springs have gone from 115 in September 2003, to 127 in 2005. Mr Zoellner denies that there have been any other than the normal number of resignations for the normal range of reasons.
DESERT ARTISTS HOT! Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
From the tiny western desert communities of Kintore and Kiwirrkurra, total population about 700, comes an exhibition of work by 30 artists, over half of whom are represented in state and national gallery collections.
It's doubtful that a comparable sized group of people anywhere else in the world has produced such a crop of highly successful artists.
The annual Pintupi Show opens at the Papunya Tula Gallery in Todd Mall this Friday, assembling 80 mostly small to medium works, although there is an outstanding large work by Patrick Tjungarrayi.
The show is directed at local collectors and includes the "best of the best" in the small to medium range, says gallery director Paul Sweeney.
"We want locals to know that not all of the best work goes out of town. There are people here who have been collecting for 30 years, who are very well educated in this area, and they will find work to excite them in this show.
"Small works will also allow people to start or add to their collection without selling their car," he says.
All 80 works, bar one which is on hold for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, will be on sale on Friday night. Only after the opening will the gallery begin to send out images of what is available to collectors and galleries interstate. However some interstate interests are expected to be present on Friday, including senior curator of Indigenous art for the National Gallery of Victoria, Judith Ryan, who is opening the show.
This is a much bigger show than the mixed exhibitions which Papunya Tula send interstate, which have no more than 25 paintings.
"I like to think of this gallery as Papunya Tula's premier exhibition space," says Mr Sweeney.
The work on hold is the dynamic canvas by Naata Nungurrayi, pictured above. This is a painting to spend time with so much is going on across its complex surface.
Its iconography remains largely mysterious, but you can grasp and marvel at what's happening with the colour.
The artist does not necessarily clean her dotting stick as she changes pigment, so there are lovely transitional areas where pigments are mixed.
But in other areas, such as in the minimal application of lilac contrasting with the dominant earthy tones, she makes a rigorous separation.
Less graphically complex but equally inventive are works from a group of younger women artists painting together in Kiwirrkurra. The rising star of the group is Yukultji Napangati, who was recently selected as one of nine artists under the age of 35 to exhibit in the Primavera show at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. She works with two dotting sticks using subtly contrasting hues, changing from one to the other in an even rhythm across her canvas. This creates a compelling, seemingly shifting surface.
Her fellow artists Takariya Napaltjarri, Doreen Reid Nakamarra and Kim Napurrula are also working with fine linear design.
Their works together with those by Martin Tjampitjinpa, son of the great Uta Uta Tjangala, and Ngilyari Tjapangati, son of Pinta Pinta Tjapanangka, demonstrate that the Papunya Tula succession is assured.
Martin Tjampitjinpa is painting traditional men's motifs in a style reminiscent of early Papunya Tula work and has shot to prominence, from participating in one show in 2002 to eight shows this year.
Nyilyari Tjapangati has stripped away the repetitive geometry of an antecedent like Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, to allow a single tracing of the major design to stand out on an apparently uniform ground. However when you look closer the repetitive geometry is still there, in white, like a ghost.
Older renowned artists, such as Ningura Napurrula (whose work has been commissioned to form part of the architectural fabric in the new Musee du Quai Branly in Paris), the ever popular Makinti Napanangka, and the two Walangkura Napanangkas, will also be represented.
ALISON ANDERSON DODGES QUESTIONS ABOUT $1M PROJECT FLOP. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Member for MacDonnell Alison Anderson is evading questions about the alleged waste of about $300,000 contributed by ATSIC to a "juvenile diversion" program run by the NT Police with Federal funds.
The money was paid while Ms Anderson, who lives at Papunya, was ATSIC's central zone commissioner.
It now appears that the program in the Haasts Bluff and Papunya areas, which failed to yield any substantial results, has cost the taxpayer not $650,000, but about $1m.
A whistle blower came forward after a report in the Alice News on November 2, claiming an estimated $300,000 was spent by ATSIC, saying Ms Anderson was a key player in the program.
But Ms Anderson is now making the astonishing claim that she had absented herself from the decision making about the project.
She said in a statement issued through a Territory Government media officer: "I had nothing to do with these sort of funding decisions during my time as ATSIC Central Zone Commissioner. I excused myself on principle, and as required under the Act, from discussions involving funding of programs at Papunya community."
Ms Anderson appears to be wiping her hands of the matter, despite her clear responsibility to ensure the organisation she was heading was spending public money properly.
The media officer said Ms Anderson refused to be interviewed about the issue.
The whistle blower is from the region, and had broad access to information about the program which ended in June this year.
The informant says in addition to the $650,000 from the Department of the Prime Minister, Ms Anderson paid from ATSIC funds $57,000 a year for two years to employ a former staffer of World Vision.
That person's brief was to set up the program.
The Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji) council was in control of the initiative, including its Papunya component.
There has been no professional evaluation of the Papunya program.
The informant says it ran into difficulty almost immediately.
The Haasts Bluff council, under CEO Scott McConnell, employed a program coordinator without training in youth or social work.
The people that person worked with, as the team leader, had more qualifications than the coordinator, and this apparently led to a string of conflicts.
It was clear that petrol sniffers needed to be a major focus for the initiative.
At the time, one way of dealing with them was to stage public floggings.
The police responds that they "certainly have no information regarding public floggings.
"Any such reports would be investigated by police."
The informant says despite the lack of direction and management skills within the program group, it was decided to upgrade an outstation, Town Bore, at considerable costs, to care for sniffers.
The informant says ATSIC under Ms Anderson's direction spent about $200,000 to refurbish vandalised houses, and a further $50,000 for repairs to water and electricity supplies.
However, in the end the outstation was never or rarely used for youth work, and instead became a venue for parties of mainly white staff, where alcohol was used.
This rendered Town Bore unfit for any youth work.
As reported on November 2, the program costs included improvements to community centres in Papunya ($102,000) and Haasts Bluff ("on a smaller scale"), the purchase of a vehicle and repairs to two others, and the employment of a youth worker for six months instead of two years.
Sniffers were not admitted to these centres, but were usually pursuing their habit outside.
The Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) Council, which had carriage of the program, had reportedly five CEOs in one year, and Papunya, four.
The police ran the Territory-wide juvenile diversion program with a total budget of $18.6m, plus funding for the Aboriginal Interpreter Service which brought the total to $24m.
The program aims at finding alternatives to the court and prison systems for young offenders.
Mr McConnell did not respond to a request for comment from the Alice Springs News.
BUDGET STARVED ARALUEN FORCED TO CLOSE SUNDAYS! Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The Araluen Centre, indeed the entire arts and culture precinct except for Territory Craft, will be closed on Sundays as from January 15 next year.
It will also be closed from December 24 to January 9. Sunday night film screenings will not be affected, nor any theatrical performances scheduled for Sundays.
The closures are among a number of ways of making ends meet in face of static funding for the precinct over the last four years, says precinct director Suzette Watkins.
The theatrical season has also been cut, from 12 productions last year to six this year, with the possibility yet of another two, courtesy of a couple of independent producers.
The exhibition program has already dwindled from 20 shows four years ago to around 14 now.
Ms Watkins says she has been told the funding situation will probably not improve next year.
A "hugely disappointed" Friends of Araluen president, Morag McGrath, says Minister for the Arts, Marion Scrymgour, "responded to one issue on our list of concerns, but did not address the bigger picture of static funding".
"The money required to reverse the situation is a manageable amount," says Ms McGrath.
"You would have to question the government's commitment to the arts in Alice Springs."
LETTERS: More questions about college at The Rock.
Sir, Thanks for publishing my letter ("High school's fight", Nov 2). I felt that the story you ran was unbalanced, but I agree the college has been in strife for many years, there is nothing new about that.
I think the problems run deeper than any particular management especially given that management at the college seems to change at least yearly.
I note from reports from time to time, eg from Aden Ridgeway that there is a very odd relationship with the corporation that runs the college which probably makes most of the important decisions.
Aden Ridgeway questioned whether the corporation funds the college or the other way around. I never saw an answer to that question and I was surprised that it wasn't denied by Mr Scollay, the corporation CEO.
If any taxpayers' money or any other benefit does go from the college to the corporation that is plain wrong. Surely it is the corporation which should be funding the college given that the corporation web site claims it is helping communities in that region. What do the ex-staff you are in contact with say about that? And if the review looked at that I for one would like to know what it said.
The Alice News offered Clive Scollay, CEO of Nyangatjatjara Corportaion the right of reply. He writes as follows:- Nyangatjatjara College has just been through a thorough review conducted by external experts for the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training who examined all aspects of the governance, finances and educational standards of the College.
While the department will not release the review until agreement is reached on timelines for the implementation of its recommendations, I can report that there were no adverse findings, especially in respect to the relationship between the corporation and the college.
Indeed, the review supports the continuance of this connection and makes recommendations for the smoother running of some aspects of that relationship.
Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation was created as a result of a 1992 ATSIC review which examined the relative disadvantage of the Pitjantjatjara people in the southwest of the Northern Territory.
NAC is a not-for-profit organisation owned by the communities of Imanpa, Mutitjulu and Docker River. Its purpose was to provide education, employment and enterprise development.
It was the earliest vision of the elders who set up the organisation that they should provide secondary education for their young people in the absence of any government run school in the region. It was their initiative that established the college in 1997. After eight years, they continue to run the college with diligence and hard work.
Whilst every other independent educational institution in the NT answers to a board of directors usually appointed by a Church organisation Nyangatjatjara College reports to the community-controlled board of the corporation. It defies the imagination to understand why these elders should not have the right to manage their own affairs, notwithstanding the wishes of a group of disaffected staff who think otherwise.
Sir, The following is a letter I sent to Minister for Education Syd Stirling:-
Prior to my leaving Alice Springs in June 2003 to take up an appointment with Save the Children as a senior education adviser in China, there was a gathering to celebrate education and educators in Central Australia. It was to recognise creative and appropriate initiatives addressing the complexities and challenges of educating children in Alice.
One of the finest examples of brave, thoughtful, relevant quality education in my opinion was the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre, offering education that is holistic, positioned within Aboriginal family life and an extension of student's real cultural experience. Education that is as much about building pride, identity and livelihoods as about immediate gains in numeracy and literacy.
The irony for me, is that when my own middle class children were attending primary school in Alice, it was almost impossible to get the results of national benchmark tests.
They were "hidden", and only released after repeated requests. Finally, the school reluctantly divulged the outcomes and our students' results were found to be below average by both local and national standards.
But did the NT close a school where mainstream, middle class students were failing to compete? No! Such action would have been pointless especially when the school was achieving against many other important criteria including IT skills, science, music development, leadership and social and community skills; such criteria are quintessential to a comprehensive education platform and teachers strive to deliver these outcomes in all their programming.
In our case, instead of making these poor core subject results public, the outcomes were "swept under the carpet". Conversely, in a situation like Irrkerlantye's where the vision and mission of the school is broad and ambitious, numeracy and literacy are used as a one-dimensional measure of failure and a justification to close the school.
As an educator yourself, Minister Stirling, I know you appreciate the importance of education being relevant and compatible with a student's social and cultural context.
You know also that children have many talents and strengths, that when built on a healthy self esteem and personal confidence can be used productively in society in a variety of ways.
To further marginalise students in educational situations that are not designed to meet their needs is not just a disgrace, but in direct opposition to the current NT Labor Education Platform, adding both contradiction and hypocrisy to the Irrkerlantye decision.
How also does this action to close the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre reflect on present and future prospects of Batchelor, Nyangatjatjara College, Desert People's Centre, Yipirinya or any other education provider, when the word of the Minister and the commitment of the government appears to be without substance?
The only way the appalling rate of disintegration of Aboriginal society can be arrested is through long-term visionary projects such as Irrkerlantye which put faith in the potential of youth to grow into strong and accepted citizens I have heard you make such declarations yourself and this is why I have been an active supporter of Labor's perspective.
As an educator with 25 years experience in Aboriginal education I strongly urge you to review this decision to close Irrkerlantye.
Save the Children
Kunming, PR China
(former principal, Batchelor Institute, Alice Springs).
LEANING CENTRE STEAMROLLED, TEACHERS TOLD NOT TO SPEAK OUT. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Education Minister Syd Stirling does not seem to be quite sure why he's closing the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre except he says it's got nothing to do with cost cutting.
While Opposition education spokesperson Terry Mills asserted last week that it was part of the government's solution to a $28m blowout in the education department, Mr Stirling denies this.
"They are good financial managers," he said of his department.
He also said money was not going to be an object in ensuring a smooth transition to the mainstream for students presently attending Irrkerlantye.
He said every cent of the current Irrkerlantye budget would be spent and more if necessary, "but I would expect to get better value".
Mr Stirling's reason for closing the school shifted from initially citing failure by any of the students to reach the national literacy benchmark (MAP test), to poor attendance and poor facilities.
Mr Stirling claims that attendance runs at 18 to 22 out of 48 enrolments or about 50 per cent, at the "bottom end" for Indigenous education throughout the Territory.
Irrkerlantye claims that 61 students out of 70 enrolled attended over 50 per cent of the time, and that 43 attended more than 70 per cent of the time.
On the literacy failure, the News had asked for MAP test results for government-run primary schools in Central Australia, in order to have a point of comparison for Irrkerlantye.
A spokesperson for Mr Stirling said, "It's a long-held rule that DEET doesn't release details of individual schools."
It was a rule Mr Stirling had been happy to overlook in the case of Irrkerlantye, announcing its MAP results in the media.
However, on the available figures government schools in remote communities are not doing well in the MAP test either. (Although Irrkerlantye is in an urban area its students are all first language Arrernte-speakers.)
Mr Stirling referred to a small school where six Indigenous students with English as a second language all exceeded the benchmark "by a long way".
But, the 2004-05 annual report of the department of education shows that only 20 per cent of remote Indigenous students passed the Year Three test. As this is an average figure across the whole of the Territory it is likely that some schools' results were much poorer than this. At least, though, it is an improvement on the nine per cent figure for the preceding year.
In the case of the Irrkerlantye students it is only after the abrupt announcement of the closure that there is going to be attention paid as to why they are "failing".
Mr Stirling says he has spoken to his staff about "the real need for DEET to come to grips with a very intimate understanding of each of these students as individuals, their family backgrounds, their circumstances, their previous experience with government schools and why that wasn't as successful as one might have hoped, how they came on their passage to finish at the learning centre and to ensure that the department doesn't repeat the sorts of mistakes that occurred in the past".
Asked why this process did not occur before the announcement, Mr Stirling said: "Whatever level of consultation would not take away from the fact that you've got less than ideal physical surroundings, pretty run down sort of circumstances."
In short, he didn't answer the question.
"This government prides itself in negotiating with Aboriginal people, so why aren't they negotiating with us?" asks Irrkerlantye manager Deborah Maidment.
In fact, she says, when she and Marilyn Cavanagh, the learning centre's community development officer, went to a scheduled meeting with senior department bureaucrats on November 1, Melbourne Cup Day, they were expecting to discuss plans for increasing government support for the centre in a whole-of-government approach.
She says the bureaucrats, including general manager south Rita Henry, seemed quite unprepared for the decision they were announcing. They asked her and Ms Cavanagh not to say anything to staff until they had spoken to them.
When she and Ms Cavanagh suggested that staff would be upset, they said they would contact Congress Social and Emotional to arrange counselling.
"They didn't seem to take into account that Congress might be too busy to drop everything and come over, but in fact they were," says Ms Cavanagh.
The bureaucrats said they would come down and talk to the teachers.
"We asked had they arranged for relief teachers to take the teachers' places in the classrooms," says Ms Cavanagh.
"In the end the assistant principal of Group Schools East, a complete stranger to the teachers and the kids, said he would stay and watch the kids while Paul Newman [general manager schools] spoke with the staff."
After this first shock visit, the teachers received another the next day. This time the bureaucrats presented them with copies of the department's code of conduct, reminding them that they are not allowed to speak to the media.
All this is part of a picture of the "unfair treatment" which Ms Maidment says Darwin-based law firm Sean Bowden and Associates has offered to look at on behalf of the learning centre.
Ms Maidment is still confounded, for example, that the learning centre has not received, neither prior to the announcement nor since, any kind of written report on the department's areas of concern and its plans for the education of the Irrkerlantye children. Everything seems to be being decided on the run.
Ms Maidment has also contacted Mr Mills and asked him to liaise on behalf of the school with the federal government: "With the way Senator Vanstone is thinking about Indigenous affairs, maybe we can develop a partnership agreement to help fund the centre.
"That would be a real shame job for the Territory Government."
But Ms Maidment also recognized that the learning centre would be up against it with only four weeks to go till the end of the school year.
Meanwhile, parents the Alice News spoke to were far from optimistic about the mainstream alternative being offered their children.
"She won't last," said Annette Doolan of the prospect of her 12 year old daughter going to mainstream school.
"She tried it before but she said it was too hard and she didn't fit in. Here she's happy to come without me forcing her to because we all come too."
Annette speaks from experience: "None of my sons made it to Year 12, or even to Year 10.
"My eldest son went to ASHS for one year and then dropped out. He was 13 or 14. "
Asked what she thought her daughter might do in the future, what kind of job she might work at, Annette said: "You don't hear Aboriginal kids talk about their future. They don't know what it is yet. They focus on day to day things."
The News spoke to one of Annette's sons, Patrick who works on the Irrkerlantye CDEP program and is now a young father. He too went to ASHS for a while. What happened? "I'm coloured, right. White kids might call me names. I get angry and strike them and I get expelled."
Annette's sister, respected artist Gloria Doolan, also spoke of her negative experience of mainstream education: "My oldest daughter and niece and nephew all went to mainstream primary school. It took them years to learn to read and write."
She feels her two children who go to Irrkerlantye have made better progress from year to year.
She also spoke of bullying and racism from "white kids".
"Our kids ended up bashing those kids because they were picked on all the time.
"They got into trouble but no one did anything about those white kids. And they didn't give our kids a chance to say anything."
Gloria also values the opportunity at Irrkerlantye for her children to learn art: "They have had some of their work shown in Sydney and at Araluen."
Both sisters are also very worried about the drinking and sniffing they see in the streets of Alice Springs but say of Irrkerlantye, "This is a clean environment where kids are safe from those things."
A relative of the families attending the inter-generational learning centre had dropped in to show them her support. She wanted to speak with the News but said we must refer to her as "Miss X" because of her "government job".
RACING STRIP DEBATE DARGS ON. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The government has given the green light for a new drag strip to be built at the start and finish line of the Finke Desert Race but Power and Water continues to insist more investigation is needed to prove the safety of the site.
The area manager for Power and Water, Alan Whtye, says he's sticking to his proposal of over a month ago that "further investigatio and a risk assessment of the various sites occur."
The corporation is concerned that fuels and other chemicals used in drag racing might contaminate the underground aquifer, a source of Alice's drinking water.
Brewer Estate has been suggested as an alternative venue but Peter Toyne, the Minister for Central Australia handling the issue, will hold a meeting this week to discuss the start of work on the drag strip at the Finke Desert Race site.
The meeting, which Mr Whyte will attend, together with Guy Watts, the president of the Central Australian Drag Racing Association (CADRA), is a fortnight overdue.
On October 5 the Alice News reported that Dr Toyne was keen to hold what he called a "lock down meeting" within four weeks to resolve the issues.
Mr Whyte says: "Power and Water is involved with ongoing discussions with all stakeholders. We will participate in a scheduled meeting next week, where various options will be discussed. This includes Power and Water's previous proposal."
Mr Watts says he was unaware of the continuing complications: "As far as we know the government water department has signed off for us to race there [at the Finke start and finish line].
"We've said all along we're happy to go drag racing wherever the government puts us."
He says that there are five restrictions which have been issued by the government's water safety department which will be discussed at the meeting. He's happy to accept four of them, but says more discussion is needed about banning the substance, toluene, used on the wheels of track bikes to help them stay on the strip. Government scientists are concerned that the poisonous substance may contaminate drinking water 150m below the proposed track.
Mr Watts says the use of an alternative substance to toluene will be discussed at the meeting.
HE'S A NORTHEN TERRITORY "THING". Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Alice born and bred, singer and songwriter Luc Floreani (described as a cross between George Michael and Michael Hutchence) may be about to break the London music scene.
But his new dance single released yesterday, Taboo, proves he hasn't forgotten his Central Australian roots.
Alice News: You're in London finishing off your second album, A Northern Territory Thing. How is your musical style influenced by Central Australia?
Luc Floreani: A Northern Territory Thing is our motto in the studio: I'm from the NT, normal rules don't apply, it's a Territory thing. There's a certain spirit you have to have to live in Alice, it's like no where else in the world I've lived.
My first album had a real indie rock vibe to it, which I guess was the music I had grown up with in Alice The Eagles, Eric Clapton and Queen.
I remember the first band I ever saw was the Hoodoogurus at the indoor basketball stadium in Alice. That was when I decided I was going to be a musician."
News: Was Alice Springs a hindrance or a help for your musical career?"
Floreani: Alice is such an inspirational place. I think it's pretty remote but you learn not to give up and I think that is the secret in the music industry.
My first vocal coach was in Alice, and my piano teacher. Learning the fundamentals of music is where it really starts.
I think there are opportunities everywhere. With the internet now, you can make music anywhere, like with my new single. It was recorded in London, mastered in New York and sampled in Ibiza.
News: What reaction do you get from people when you tell them you're from here?
Floreani: It's funny, people are fascinated. Lots of people have travelled through Alice. People that haven't, ask questions like what sort of houses do you live in, do you have kangaroos in your front yard and the most common is, "Can you see Ayers Rock from your house?". Lots of people ask about snakes and spiders.
It is great coming from Alice. There aren't many of us so I think that makes us special!
News: From Alice to London what is life like for you now?
Floreani: "Well, it's crazy here, at the moment I think I haven't been home except to sleep for about three weeks. The pace is fast, it always seems like there is 10 places to be.
It was hard coming to London Ścause people weren't as friendly initially. Being in Alice you could always walk down the street and know someone, but here you could walk the streets for months and not speak to anyone.
Alice also has space, I often tell people my old flat in Notting Hill would easily have fit in the garage of our house in Alice.
When I was back in Alice at Christmas the heat and sun was also something I really miss. There are so many people here, like the other week we did a gig in Hyde Park and there were 25,000 people there, that's nearly the whole of Alice Springs!
News: How has living in London helped your career?
Floreani: It has been great. I have met some amazing people. Like singing this duet with Angie Brown [on his latest single] is amazing, she has worked with everyone Rolling Stones, Beverley Knight, the Stereophonics. It's amazing. I still ring home and say to mum and dad, "You won't believe who I met tonight!"
I had someone come up to me at a gig the other night from Tennant Creek, now that was cool. I'm keen to do a tour in Australia soon and I've always wanted to sing at the Christmas carols, a cold Christmas is just not right. So we will see.
I am putting together a world music project with a friend which I want to record in Alice like One Giant Leap did with their first album. I really want to promote Alice.
News: What's next?
A charity single out in February. It's a song I wrote called Superheroes, sung by Alex Prior for the charity Saving the Amazon Rainforest.org. Then the album, A Northern Territory Thing, out in March. Luc's single was released by The Orchard yesterday and distributed by Telstra BigPond, Sanity, Chaos music, HMV and NineMSN.
WIZARD AND OZ START A REVOLUTION. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
There's a quiet revolution going on in Alice Springs being led by two men with guitars. Shaun Nancarrow and Christopher Osborne (Oz), are The Wizard and Oz, a local cover band which over the past year has created something of a community phenomenon.
Every Sunday a group of up to 80 locals known as the Alice Springs Choir takes the Yellow Brick Road to Bojangles to watch the Wizards weave their magic at their 3.30pm gig.
"The atmosphere is extraordinary," says Nancarrow.
"It started as a group of one or two friends, then more people came down and it's got bigger and bigger.
"The banter and carry on is wonderful. It's become an event it's us on the stage leading it but individuals are not as important as a group."
One of the band's big fans, Bek Spencer, lives and works out bush but loves coming into town regularly to see them: "I go to great lengths to come on Sundays I could be anywhere tonight but I want to come here," she said last Sunday afternoon.
"There are so many individuals living in Alice Springs without family but this brings everyone together.
"The Sunday session at Bo's makes it feel like home a local get together, a real community thing.
"You get a few locals blowing in but it's a great crowd."
Angela Brown is another fan.
"I'm British," she says, "and I've only been living here six months but I know could come in here on my own and have friends.
"They're the best relaxed with sexy voices. It's a great comedown from a big weekend." Live music is undergoing something of a resurgence in Alice Springs the Todd Tavern started up its jam sessions on a Monday evening earlier this year, the Firkin has bands on a Friday and Saturday night, and the beer garden at Melanka is also hosting singers and musicians, not to forget the varied program of live music and entertainment offered by The Lane.
As Nancarrow says, "no one wants to go to the pub and listen to a CD player" and music in a town of Alice's size is important in bringing the community together, giving tourists a memorable night out and also providing creative opportunities for youth.
"A couple of years ago Bojangles had bands playing every night of the week," remembers Nancarrow who was a member of the Little Todd River Band before they split up.
"I don't know if it will ever get like that again it's hard to get consistent standards of bands seven days a week but it's great that all different venues are getting behind live music and it's really nice for live music to be appreciated.
"Alice Springs has had a reputation of playing music just for tourists ŚHome among the gum trees' type bands.
"I love folk music but we made a conscious decision to steer away from it. We will play it but people appreciate the real deal - we don't go out there wearing hats and saying g'day mate."
Although Nancarrow is an accomplished guitarist, vocalist and composer (he was a full-time musician in Adelaide for 21 years), he says cover songs are what draw the crowds in Alice. "What's amazing is that we get people to do what they wouldn't normally do they swear they don't know the words to songs but they get up there singing and dancing after a few beers.
"We play the stuff we were listening to as kids and people can identify with that."
The Wizard and Oz formed after Nancarrow saw Oz playing as a solo artist in Alice: "I watched Oz for an afternoon and when I saw him I thought, yes, he's the man. He's not full of himself and he's got a wonderful sense of humour." And humour is an essential ingredient of the band they have a repertoire of around 100 songs, from Britney Spears to the Wiggles to the Lion King.
The Wizards wittily weave their magic to change words of the songs "so that one that might be taken seriously isn't anymore," explains Oz.
"It's fun, so much fun. Because of the type of music we play we're not up there trying to impress."
The most requested tunes? Eternal Flame, anything by Whitney Houston and the Bright Side of Life.
"It's the part of the week I wait for. It's my favourite day," says Oz.
The Wizard and Oz play every Sunday evening at Bojangles, from 3.30pm.
AUSSIE RULES: SHOULD SOUTHS BE BANNED FROM FOOTY? Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The tribunal of Tom and Terry Braun, the Souths spectators who were involved in the violent brawl after the grand final in September, will be held today. The length of the penalty will be announced on Friday at the earliest, says Tim Baker, the general manager of the AFL CA.
The disgraceful behaviour of Souths spectators and players after the match have called into question their future in the competition and whether they should be banned from Traeger Park next season. The News asked umpires and the presidents of the five AFL clubs what they think.
Danny Fraser: "A year of hard work recruiting new umpires has been lost in a day"
Danny Fraser, the senior umpire for the A grade grand final game, was locked in the changing rooms for safety after the A grade grand final.
Last week he announced his retirement as an umpire.
He believes Souths should be banned from the competition but doesn't believe the AFLCA will enforce it. "We respect the board's decision. But as umpires, we're strongly for the strongest penalty, and an incident like this shouldn't be treated lightly.
"Umpires have said they will consider boycotting South games in future.
"We were locked behind doors after the grand final. We missed the presentation and didn't get awarded our medals until afterwards. That was the disappointing part, not made to feel a part of it at the very end of the season.
"That's not what football is about.
"We've communicated all year with Rob [Fleming, president of South] and the club, and Souths' behaviour and attitude on the field has been exceptional this year.
"The club play a part of responsibility for supporters. But the security guys didn't do their job on the day either. They haven't done it all year." Lester Kerber: "Souths spectators are generally the worst"
Lester Kerber was the field umpire during the B grade grand final and was physically attacked by Nigel Lockyer of Souths. He has been an umpire for six years but won't be umpiring next year as he's moving interstate with his job.
"Souths spectators are generally the worst within the competition. They don't treat it like a game and I think they go overboard in terms of their reaction.
"Football is supposed to be a family sport. I've encountered cases where supporters have come to the ground with their kids and are not willing to come back because of that abuse.
"I'm leaving town at the end of this year. If I was here I would umpire but I would certainly want things to change in regards to not only Souths supporters but players generally.
"I don't think Souths should be banned at the moment but I probably would support a boycott of matches if relevant penalties aren't dished out. There needs to be an enforcement of the code of conduct and if that's broken then appropriate bans should be taken.
"I've got a son who plays AFL in a high division in Adelaide and he often comments about the differences in the games here and there in terms of violence."
President of Pioneer: "Umpires aren't doing their jobs properly"
Ronda Ross is the president of Pioneers. Three seasons ago she was locked in a changing room with her son, Lachy Ross, after being verbally abused by a Souths player and members of their family. The player and spectators involved were subsequently banned, as was her son.
"It is terrifying as a mother to go through that. They were yelling and very angry and wanted to tackle my son. It's happened in the past when whole families have been locked up in dressing rooms for safety.
"In the case of my son I feel umpires were not controlling the game properly. But it doesn't give licence to abuse officials.
"I don't think the whole team should be banned because of spectators. Souths have been more volatile over the years, and more passionate. The ban won't happen because I think the CAFL have an ulterior motive because they will lose dollars at the gate Souths always have more spectators than anyone at that footy.
"Security should be able to go around and nip things in the bud. But they walk around the south side of the ground at the back of the crowd so they don't have to confront people. They [the security company] have got to train their people better. They get paid good money but when the incident happened with my son, security was leaning on a wall, watching the game."
President of Federals: "15 year olds should be banned from A grade"
Rob Rolfe is the president of Federals, and he believes that the AFL CA is inconsistent in calling players and spectators to tribunal.
After the under 17s grand final two A grade Feds players, Henry and Baden Peckham, were reported for abusing the umpire and brought to a tribunal.
Two spectators were also involved in the incident, which Mr Rolfe says members of the AFL CA witnessed but didn't report.
"It left a bad taste in everybody's mouth and made things look biased. They [AFL CA officials] were there during the whole thing but chose to only report the second thing. It's a joke.
"But we need to take our supporters to one side and look at how they control themselves. "The code of conduct for supporters needs to be adhered to and addressed at club level as well as league level. "All of the clubs really need to have a look at themselves and the way we conduct ourselves at the games. And with the squeaky clean sport of AusKick knocking at our door we need to do it very quickly."
Mr Rolfe says allowing junior players to participate in A grade games is part of the problem: "I would prefer to see an age of 16 enforced it's only fair to the competitor and their opponents. I've seen lots of incidents when a grown man gets shouted at from the crowd for being a bully for bumping a younger player.
"It's not fair that a grown man should have to play a younger player and be ridiculed.
"I agreed for my son to play when he was 16 when he'd grown up physically as well as mentally."
President of Souths: "Violence is not just a Souths problem" Rob Fleming is the president of Souths. He says the club cannot be held responsible for the actions of the crowd: "It's the umpires who want the ban but the AFL CA have said the ban is the last thing they want to do.
"We're in discussions with umpires on how players can have a better relationship with them and how they can understand each other.
"But clubs can't be held responsible for the crowd. All you can do is hope an element of understanding is upheld.
"Every club has to look at it [behaviour of players and spectators] every season. It's not just isolated to a couple of players and supporters. People have to realise it's the whole team, the club and the entire league's responsibility.
"We want a dialogue of understanding between the players, supporters, umpires and the league.
"A holistic approach is the only thing that will work.
"Violence has happened in football for years and years. We need to work towards ridding violence from AFL and across the board in soccer and rugby as well."
President of Wests: "There is that much animosity, I don't want to be part of it."
Rob Wenske, the president of Wests, said the situation was too delicate to make a comment: "I don't really want to comment on it.
"Let the league bosses run it the decision is their call. There's that much animosity already I don't want to be part of it."
Wests have had an unofficial policy of cracking down on the behaviour of players and spectators since the 1970s.
Vice-president of Rovers: "Souths out of the comp won't do AFLCA any favours."
Dave Sanders is the vice president of Rovers and was the coach of the B grade side when they faced Souths in the final: "There are only five teams in the comp and Souths out of the comp wouldn't do the AFL CA any favours.
"Souths were great all season and our experience after the B grade final was that the crowd weren't abusive at all.
"While Nigel [Lockyer] was getting in trouble after the game we were doing a lap. Most of the people in the crowd were Souths supporters and they clapped and cheered us all the way.
"It put the hair up on the back of the neck and we didn't know anything about the incident until the Tuesday.
"But the Souths players were undisciplined at the end of the match. And during the semi final and throughout the season I heard people on the Souths bench say things like "Don't take that s**t, go in there and give it to them."
"You can't say that to your players. It is a few individuals ruining it. People who have been stalwarts of the club and supporters for a long time they're wearing their heart on their sleeves too much."
What you learn from other people's phone calls. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I learn so much from listening to the conversations of other people that it makes me wonder why I bother investing in my own. Other people's lives seem so much more interesting.
A case in point; I was in a bookshop recently and heard a woman behind me talking anxiously to her mobile phone.
So I manoeuvred my way into a position where I could spend a few fascinating minutes pretending to read a book about wildlife while surreptitiously peering over the top at her. She became more and more agitated as she marched up and down one of the aisles.
Dressed in smart office clothes, the object of my nosiness was describing what her husband does for a living. She spoke in a kind of stage whisper that everyone in the shop could hear.
"He's in the mountain rescue team," she said. "He saves people's lives and stuff."
I wondered what the stuff could be. After saving people, what else could there be? Leftovers? Post-rescue games of charades?
Pot noodles for tea? And why was she so restless? I couldn't understand this, but it was more intriguing than anything I had come up with during the previous week. It was free entertainment in the natural history section at Dymocks.
Then the other day I was on an aeroplane descending into Alice Springs when I overheard the person in the seat behind me explaining her university studies to her neighboring passenger.
This immediately made me reach for the headphones and gaze up at the cabin television monitors on the basis that even Deborah Hutton's visit to tropical Queensland had to be better than someone else's academic aspirations. But I listened a bit longer and the conversation turned out to be worthwhile. "I chose to major in forensic science," said the student. There's only one answer to that, which is "Do you watch CSI?" but thankfully her neighbor on the plane was more creative of conversation than me and led us both on a nice little trek through the branches of science and back to a discussion of gadgets.
By the time we reached miniature solid state camcorders I had forgotten all about Deborah in the Daintree.
Eavesdropping the conversations of others is a spectator sport that is growing in popularity every day.
This phenomenon is caused by the unstinting use of mobile phones in public places and the willingness of everyday folk to tell complete strangers their personal histories, the problems they are having at home and why their inside leg measurement is getting longer every year (in case you're wondering, it's because we hold the end of the tape higher the older we get).
In places like Central Australia, our meager existence is brightened by the knowledge that a busload of people having conversations we haven't heard before is just about to pass through on their way to somewhere else.
For me, a head-turner these days is merely a snippet of conversation that holds promise of something deeper.
"I've had enough of pizza, Rick." "I don't ride a steel horse." "Come here so I can comb your nits." Or "It's too hot for erotic hypnosis" are all enough to make me marvel at the joys of other people's lives.
But not everything happening behind me is good. There is nothing worse than sitting in the Alice Springs Cinema and feeling another person's cough on the back of your neck.
That short sharp exhalation must carry enough germs to infect the population of Adelaide. If it happens one more time I'll take a plastic hood with me every time I go to the flicks.
Now I wonder if anyone overheard me saying that.
A mental diet for all senses. COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
Before I moved to Australia I had read about Australian birds and their calls.
When I woke up early on my first morning in Sydney and heard birds making a peculiar, but beautiful sound, I knew I was hearing Australian magpies. A few weeks later I spent a couple of days in Toowoomba and the whole time I was there I heard a screeching, ringing noise. I thought it must be the noise from a power station or maybe some kind of factory nearby, and I did not bother to ask anyone about it.
Then I came to live in Alice and discovered that the source of the noise was cicadas. I had read novels where the sound of cicadas was mentioned but as I had never heard it or anything like it, the brief descriptions did nothing to prepare me for the real thing.
Now cicadas and the sound they make are, for me, a part of what constitutes summer in Alice, along with the smell of sunscreen, the ant invasions and the flies. They are everywhere at the moment and at my children's school, recess and lunch time is filled with excitement concerning cicadas in their different stages of development. Cicada shells are collected as well as some live, fully-developed cicadas kept as pets or school shirt adornments.
This cicada craze has lead to a huge interest in learning about them. It is amazing what an inspiring teacher mother-nature is. My children will grow up knowing not only what cicadas sound like but what they look like, feel like and how they change through their life-cycle.
To read about something or watch a program on TV can be interesting and entertaining but there are dimensions missing. It is passive rather than active learning and you are a spectator, a student, a subject rather than an involved participant. Our input is minimal and there is not a need, nor an expectation to use all of our senses. Parts of our brain are kept idle or under-stimulated.
There has been a push for healthy eating lately with a promotion of more fruit and vegetables in our diets. As it is difficult to learn or do anything if you haven't got the fuel your body needs, it is a good move to make us all more aware. Perhaps we also need to stop and think about the mental diet we are promoting through our education system and our society.
I was reading an article about different weight-loss diets recently and it was observed that many of them forget to stress the importance of exercise. Although we have sport and arts related subjects in the curriculum, the majority of the learning is focused on reading and writing skills, or learning through reading and writing.
Our society demands that we are literate and values measurable results and productivity.
The message is that we need to embrace the new technology in the form of computers, mobile phones, digital photography and games. No doubt our kids will have no trouble mastering the skills required to keep up with the gadgets, but they might be missing out on something.
The world around us is multi-dimensional. Although visually it is three dimensional, there is also sound, taste, feel and the emotions and memories relating to the experiences created through using our senses.
We are not robots, even though we might sometimes feel like we are. We are part of the world around us and not just a society concerned with figures and text. Learning about the world by studying it closely, by using more than a couple of our senses, we have the opportunity to create an understanding and a relationship with it.
If we are able to do so, we may be able to better relate to and feel compassion for all living things and for this planet we all call home.
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