TOWN COUNCIL FIRM ON PARKS HANDOVER. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Seven out of 10 Alice aldermen have vigorously challenged Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone about her role in the Territory Government's plan to transfer ownership of national parks to Aborigines.
Senator Vanstone said in a letter to the council she had been told by the Territory Government that "there was extensive consultation" before the legislation enabling the handover was passed in the Territory's Legislative Assembly.
But the majority of aldermen say there has been inadequate consultation or none at all.
And Ald Melanie van Haaren, who in late September spearheaded a council demand for the handover process to be halted, says the NT Government had only this week provided answers to questions she asked.
She says she will prepare a comment on these answers.
[The Alice News had asked similar questions in mid-August, and whilst having had no response from the government, has received from the council a copy of the answers given to Ald van Haaren. The Alice News will report on them in detail next week.]
Senator Vanstone now appears inclined to meet demands from the NT Government for a change in the Commonwealth's land rights act, enabling the ownership of the parks to be transferred, followed by a lease-back to the NT Government.
But the majority of aldermen say Senator Vanstone has been misled.
They say the parks should stay in public hands, which would not preclude some form of joint management with Aborigines.
Several aldermen say the situation at Uluru (Ayers Rock) is an example of Aboriginal parks ownership failing to provide benefits to visitors and Aborigines alike.
Ald van Haaren says she is "very disappointed" by Senator Vanstone's reply.
"I don't believe that Senator Vanstone took our concerns seriously," says Ald van Haaren.
"I have no confidence that the Senator has even been briefed.
"The letter was obviously written by someone else.
"It wasn't even signed. It was a fob off letter, a Dear John letter.
"It is full of untruths. It's deceitful in the presentation of the facts.
"There has not been the right level of consultation."
Ald van Haaren says she would welcome joint management of parks but says ownership should remain with the public.
"Senator Vanstone is indifferent, naive, and not paying attention to the concerns of Alice Springs," she says.
Several other aldermen were also critical of Senator Vanstone:-
Ald SAMIH HABIB: There has been no consultation about the parks issues: "Where did she get that information from?
"She is 100 per cent wrong."
The council didn't even know about the issues. Aldermen believe the parks belong to Territorians. What the NT Government is proposing is not acceptable.
Ald DAVID KOCH: It's not a particularly smart idea. "Let's pass the buck" seems to be the message. "I was aware of [the parks proposal] some years back, but there was no consultation at all."
He doesn't think the public know what is going on. There's been good public consultation about the nuclear dump, but not on parks. It's an issue that affects all Territorians.
Ald ROBYN LAMBLEY: "I dispute the [assertion] that sufficient community consultation was done. I don't think there was.
"Senator Vanstone should halt the process and backtrack and do some proper consultation.
"The issues need to be debated by the public in the interest of all Territorians.
"I have the impression it's a done deal, it's almost too late."
Ald Lambley says she believes there are instructions from powers that be that the handover will be activated from early next year, and the parks authorities have already commenced the process to jointly manage.
"Is this what the broader community wants?
"There is concern about the Uluru scenario where traditional owners get money from the gate takings but this has done nothing to benefit the community.
"Petrol sniffing is worse. A broader perspective needs to be taken.
"We need to send a very loud message to Senator Vanstone."
Ald GEOFF BELL says he's worried about "ending up with another Uluru situation".
He says he's "all for Aboriginal employment" but despite NT Government assurances that there will be no fees and no permits says people should not have to pay to enter parks.
"There are not many places go.
"You can only go to the movies and cafes so many times.
"Leave things as they are. It's working well. At least we know where we are.
"It will be like the nuclear dump.
"If they make a decision we don't have a say."
Ald ERNIE NICHOLLS: "I don't go along with it.
"When was the consultation with the council? I'm unaware of any.
"Senator Vanstone should take her foot out of her mouth."
He says amending the land rights act would be tantamount to "giving more and more to Aborigines.
"We'll be paying to get into our own parks, and that's just not on."
Ald MURRAY STEWART says: "To suggest there have been consultations is absurd."
Even if there are no admission charges there will be a string of other fees.
"Most indigenous owned projects are held together by whitefellas.
"Fat white lawyers involved will see the easiest way to raise funds. Create licenses.
"Go in there free but if you want to do anything there will be licence arrangements."
Ald Stewart says economic prosperity for Aborigines doesn't follow park ownership "as we've seen at the Rock".
"Uluru is a no go zone as far as locals are concerned, unless you have deep pockets.
"How will prosperity be gained? At the expense of the locals?"
Ald Stewart says the handover would be to the detriment of Territorians' lifestyle and the town.
"Parks are the one thing we have to attract people to this town.
"You remove the beach from Cairns, who's going to go there?
"You remove the bush from Alice Springs, who will come here?"
Mayor Fran Kilgariff, and aldermen Marguerite Baptiste-Rooke, Jane Mure and Meredith Campbell did not respond to invitations for comment.
Ms Kilgariff, a Labor candidate in the Territory election in June, is on the public record as being in favour of the handover. Ald Mure voted against Ald van Haaren's motion in September.
ABORIGINAL PAINTERS: BIG BUCKS, BIG BANG. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The foundation of the Papunya Tula art movement over 34 years ago was the "big bang" for Aboriginal art and its recent upsurge in popularity is gaining its leading artists top earnings.
The jostling and hubbub on opening night of the Pintupi Artists show at Papunya Tula last Friday couldn't shake the calm satisfaction of Patrick Tjungurrayi Oloodoodi, whose large, warmly colourful work dominates the back wall of the gallery.
On a rare visit to Alice Springs with his wife Miriam Napanangka, also an artist, Patrick Tjungurrayi relished his pride of place, and not surprisingly the $55,000 price tag on his painting.
He grew up walking the country west of Jupiter Well with his family. He was a young man but "no whiskers" when they walked into the mission at Balgo, in Western Australia.
The family would collect rations there wheat, which they would grind themselves, rice, sugar and tea and return to the bush.
He has spent his life since moving between Balgo and Kiwirrkura. Born around 1935, he began painting in Balgo in 1986.
His artistic gift is shared with his family: his brother Brandy Tjungurrayi has also painted for Papunya Tula and continues to paint in Balgo, while his sister Elizabeth Nyumi is a star among the Balgo (Warlayirti) artists.
His painting stands out in the Pintupi show for its bright, fresh colour of many hues. He uses "a little bit" of white, and pointing to the purple bands, top and bottom, said he could have used more of this colour.
He paints "my country too much mulga trees, no sandhills".
The typical geometric pattern is "the dreaming" of his country, associated, he said, with a creek flowing underground.
Opening the show, Judith Ryan, senior curator of Indigenous art for the National Gallery of Victoria, spoke of the unity of the Pintupi artists and the country they paint: "Pintupi artists are the land they paint: their paintings express their identity in the land."
This makes their art "profoundly political" and it now "underscores the way we perceive Australia".
Its success has had "a big bang effect on other forms of Indigenous art made in widely different contexts, moving it from the periphery to the forefront of contemporary art practice, as affirmed by its acceptance on an international stage". She suggested that it may be "time to radically rethink the way we look at Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal art history, in such a way that world art history would be rewritten in relation to current Aboriginal art practice.
"Australian art would be seen from this perspective as one stage in the history of Aboriginal art that long predates it, rather than appearing as a tokenistic and marginalised inclusion within ŚAustralian art'."
She hailed the Papunya Tula company an "independent business" which has operated "without the need for government handouts" and the art it promotes which "has constantly re-invented itself, re-invigorated by the contributions of great senior artists and rising stars so that the language remains alive and dynamic".
MINISTER WAS IN COVER-UP: LATEST PAPUNYA ALLEGATION. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne was involved in a cover-up of alleged financial mismanagement in Papunya, according to the community's former clerk, Steven Hanley.
Mr Hanley is the estranged husband of Alison Anderson, who was implicated in the allegations, currently the subject of Federal investigations.
A Labor party colleague of Dr Toyne's, she was elected to the seat of MacDonnell in the June election.
Ms Anderson was formerly the clerk of the Papunya Council, and a commissioner of ATSIC which supplied funds to the council.
Mr Hanley says Dr Toyne visited him at Papunya shortly before the election, urging him not to respond to enquiries from the Alice Springs News, which had been the first medium to report on a leaked document dealing with missing public funds.
Dr Toyne has not responded to a request from the Alice News to be interviewed about the issues. Mr Hanley says Dr Toyne also told him not to reply to questions from other media, which had followed up the story.
Mr Hanley last week claimed Dr Toyne had urged him to "just ride it out, keep it quiet, don't respond to them, even though you feel like it because that's what they want you to do".
The Alice News asked Mr Hanley: "Who is they?"
Mr Hanley replied: "You guys, the newspapers."
Did Dr Toyne say that himself or did someone else?
Mr Hanley: "No, he said it himself."
Mr Hanley said he had told Dr Toyne: "That's my family name they are messing with, and that's when he said, Śthey did that to my father when I went for politics'.
"I said to him if you and Alison Anderson want to strip down to your underwear and jump into the cesspool that stands for Territory politics, then that's [up to] you, but I've decided not to do that."
Dr Toyne's visit, says Mr Hanley, followed a letter Mr Hanley had sent to the Office of Local Government in Alice Springs, defending himself against the allegations.
Mr Hanley says he had intended to send a copy of that letter to the Alice Springs News.
On independent witness corroborates that Dr Toyne visited Papunya and sought to speak with Mr Hanley.
Some time after the Territory elections, allegations emerged that Ms Anderson had given white goods to prominent Papunya people, in an apparent attempt to influence their vote.
This was disclosed by Mr Hanley in media reports and in a statutory declaration to the police, saying he had distributed the gifts under instructions from Ms Anderson. This was followed, Mr Hanley says, by a flurry of activity to make him change his story, namely that he had re-sold the goods, and not given them as gifts.
A key figure in those efforts was an officer in the Department of Justice, for which Dr Toyne has ministerial responsibility.
Mr Hanley says the officer, Allan van Zyl, drafted a letter for him to sign, saying "these items were sold on behalf of the Papunya Social Club".
Mr Hanley says he never intended to sign the letter, and never did. However, he obtained an assurance from Mr van Zyl that if he signed the letter, the matter would be at an end.
Mr van Zyl obliged, hand-writing the following at the bottom of the draft letter: "Mr Hanley, received at 1130 1/9/05 with thanks. This fully answers my query. No further action required on this matter."
The note is signed by Mr van Zyl.
The Alice News has a copy of that letter. It is reproduced on this page. Mr van Zyl did not respond to a request for comment from the Alice News. Ms Anderson has consistently failed to answer requests for comment from the Alice News on issues relating to her roles at Papunya, both as a recipient and a supplier of public money.
OIL AND GAS ROYALTIES: GET RICH SLOWLY SCHEME. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
If you think you can get rich on Aboriginal mining royalties, think again.
For example, the Power and Water Corporation spends $242m a year on gas, all of which, or at least most of which, comes from the Palm Valley field west of Alice Springs.
The NT Petroleum Act entitles traditional owners to a 10 per cent royalty.
On the face of it that would amount to $24m a year, a nice little earner for the 1000 or so "affected" people in the Hermannsburg region.
In the past 20 years, right up to when presently mooted changes will come into force, these people were entitled to 30 per cent around $7m.
The land council collected 40 per cent and the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account, for national purposes, got the remaining 30 per cent.
There's one little hitch: The royalties are paid on the well head price, which is, roughly speaking, the sale value minus the production costs.
These costs are for getting the gas from the hole in the ground to the edge of the production lease.
There the gas is fed into a pipe which takes it to Darwin and places in between.
That transport is costing Power Water (and, by extension, the Territory public) a further $183m a year.
What's your best guess on the proportion of gas and production costs in the final price?
Half-half you say?
The cost of the gas is just four per cent. The production cost is 96 per cent.
That means the "affected" traditional owners (TOs) in the Hermannsburg region get royalties on just $9m of the $242m total sale price.
According to a well informed source, in 2004-2005 the total royalty payment was $926,000.
You may think that of this relative pittance the TOs, via their organisation, Ngurratjuta, will get their square 30 per cent, amounting to around $278,000, less four per cent tax, leaving $266,000.
The money comes via the Central Land Council (CLC) which last year paid to Ngurratjuta just $173,000: The CLC had syphoned off 40 per cent for administration.
Of course, they had already received 40 per cent of the total royalty sum for you guessed it administration.
Is the current reform of the system overdue? You bet it is.
So how can the consortium producing oil and gas from the Mereenie and Palm Valley field, west of The Alice, get a deal in which product the gas is worth just four per cent of the price, and the production effort, 96 per cent?
Who knows except the CLP Minister who entered into the deal in the mid-nineties with the oil companies headed by Santos, and his current Labor successor.
What's especially grating is the hypocritical secrecy that surrounds all this, supposedly to protect the interests of the TOs who in fact are equally left in the dark.
The CLC: "I think your enquiries might be better directed at the NT Government who receive the royalties."
The NT Government: "The deal with the oil companies is commercial in confidence."
Power and Water: "I advise that information on items 1 and 2 [is] not available in the public domain as they are considered Ścommercial-in-confidence', and therefore not disclosed." This is ridiculously disingenuous because the answer to our question "item 2" the cost of gas bought is on page 22 of Power and Water's 2004-2005 annual report.
Santos replies in a similar vein: "I am sorry but I cannot respond to any of your questions as our arrangements with the Traditional Owners are confidential."
We'd asked, in part, "how much have the Mereenie Partners paid in royalties to Aboriginal interests in each of the years since the agreement was struck in 1984?"
We thank an obliging Deep Throat for the 2004-2005 figure. No doubt the people living in poverty in the Western Arrernte region will be fascinated to find out.
SACRED SITE "APPARENTLY" DAMAGED.
A sacred site near the Olive Pink Botanic Garden has "apparently" been damaged during the construction of the Alice Town Council's walking and cycling path on the banks of the Todd River, according to Paul Barreau, council's manager of project development.
Neither the council nor the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) would give any detail on how the damage occurred, or on the extent or nature of the damage.
Work on the path has been halted while council submit plans to AAPA "to show how we would continue the project", says Mr Barreau. He confirmed that council was aware of the presence of the site before the damage occurred.
AAPA regional manager Andrew Allan says the authority had issued a certificate for works to go ahead and they are now working on reissuing a certificate: "We are working with council to come up with a way to go ahead without damage to any sites."
He said he could not comment on whether sites had or had not been damaged.
"They are matters for Aboriginal custodians to be concerned with."
ALICE BOWLING CLUB TO CLOSE. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The Alice Springs Bowling Club will close on December 31 because of lack of volunteer support.
The club currently has around 40 members and runs a successful night league, with approximately 40 people from local businesses taking part. The club is hired out most weekends for functions like birthday parties, work events (the Desert Park, Deloitte's and local cricket teams recently held events there) and social gatherings.
But at the AGM on Sunday, only one person volunteered to join the committee.
Three years ago the club was in debt by about $50,000, so four senior members of the club voluteered to donate their time and also raise funds by hiring it out for functions. The club recorded a profit this year.
Malcom Cornock has worked most days for three years managing the greens (previously a paid position) and is the licensee of the bar. His wife Margaret is the secretary and treasurer, Geoff Wallace gives his time as bar manager, while Helen Siganto is the executive officer.
They say they've had enough.
"It's really sad that we're losing our bowls club," says Mr Cornock.
"All the effort we've put in over the past three years has bitten us on the bum. We're a successful club and probably financially better off than we've ever been. But there are no members to maintain it."
Mr Cornock is keen not to be seen as a martyr to the club: "It's not about what I've done or what anyone else has or hasn't done for the club. It's sad that it's closing but that's the way it is.
"Most people involved in the club have done their bit over the years but there are other things now and other priorities.
"There's a general malaise towards volunteering it's not just unique to our club."
The Alice Springs Bowling Club is one of the most successful in the Territory since it began in 1966 as an offshoot of the Memorial Bowling Club, members have regularly won Australian titles both in individual events and teams, as well as being Northern Territory champions.
Mr Cornock (who was captain of the NT side for 200 games and 18 years) stopped bowling in May.
He says he hopes members will still be able to continue playing the sport: "Some will move to the Memo club and I hope they do.
"Hopefully the Memo club will welcome any members of the Alice Springs Bowling Club."
Alderman Melanie van Haaren makes the point that entries for Masters Games next year will have to be restricted if the competition is held at the Memorial Club because it only has one green rather than three as the Alice Springs Bowling Club has.
She is hoping to set up a new club: "I certainly appreciate the effort put in by the previous club members and their concerns that it is no longer sustainable and thank them for their long term commitment.
"But I am seeking expressions of interest from people around town who may be interested in being part of a new club.
"We need to act quickly before the end of the year so we have evidence to provide to the NT government [who leases the land] that Alice Springs as a community still wants bowling to be part of its sporting attractions.
"I'm hoping that we may be able to negotiate further long-term lease on that property."
Mrs van Haaren says Alice Springs has a unique bowling opportunity because of the weather the sport can be played all year round.
Other clubs slow down during May to October which is when bowling conditions are best here.
"I will hold a public meeting if I receive expressions of interest and I think that people will come forward.
"I honestly believe there are people out there who are unaware of the dire straits the bowling club is in and will respond to my invitation."
Mrs van Haaren's father, Barry Lord, has been a keen bowler for 30 years.
He has been playing at the Alice Springs Bowling Club for the past 12 months: "I was a bit disappointed about the closure of the club.
"I was one of the few who voted to keep it going.
"The current officer bearers naturally wanted to stand down and they couldn't get anybody to take up the positions required by the constitution.
"It's sad that such an important resource should disappear from town. But I'll bowl with the Memorial Bowling Club instead."
AYERS ROCK RESORT MAY GET RUNWAY UPGRADE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Ayers Rock Resort may get a wider runway at its Connellan Airport, making it suitable for larger aircraft.
Executive General Manager Operations for Voyages NT and WA, Mark Lind, says a feasibility study is currently being undertaken to determine future developments for Connellan Airport. "The study will aim to determine the runway upgrades required to support the wider bodied aircraft being phased in by Qantas airlines and other future needs," he says.
"Once proposed changes have been established, General Property Trust will most likely release a public statement confirming any airport plans."
The airport is owned by the NT Government but has been leased long term to the resort company. Donald McDonald, general manager of the Alice Springs Airport, says Alice Springs receives in the order of twice as many scheduled flights as Ayers Rock.
However, he also points out that the level of passenger activity in Central Australia has been static or declining over the last decade.
BOOZE, LITTER, BEGGING, VIOLENCE: NATIVE TITLE HOLDERS SAY "ENOUGH". Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Littering, gambling in public places, begging, burning trees and treating the Todd River as a toilet and camping ground have reached crisis point, according to Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, which declared at a public meeting last week that it will spearhead a drive to solve the town's anti-social behaviour problems.
About 30 people attended the meeting.
Betty Pearce, deputy chairperson of the native title holders' representative body, said Lhere Artepe is "really, really concerned about things in town".
"There is total disrespect towards country, towards the town and towards women.
"Tourists are scared to go out, and a lot of people don't like to think of retiring here because of the violence.
"The community has negative thoughts about all Aboriginal people."
The corporation laid out a number of practical solutions as part of the Cultural Protocols Project (due to be launched on Harmony Day in March next year) and says it's determined to make the project work, when so many others have failed, by getting the support of elders.
"A lot of people out bush say there's no culture here," said the project's Esther Pearce.
"But Lhere Artepe has to stand up and provide leadership to create respect for country and Central Arrernte people."
The corporation has set up two elders groups, one for men and one for women, inviting all 1500 Lhere Artepe elders. The first meeting has been held, with another planned for December, and Ms Pearce expects the group to have a strong influence within six months' time.
"The cultural protocols need to be passed through them. They have a strong influence.
And it's important elders across Central Australia take responsibility for the people in their community."
It's agreed that the problems are being caused by visitors from outlying bush communities, not local Arrernte people. But Lhere Artepe says blaming others and simply talking about the situation won't move things forward.
Said Betty Pearce: "We desperately need to get this off the ground. There is no use going to meetings and yapping around or blaming everyone all the time without constructive proposals or action.
"We can't do it on our own, we need everybody helping us and each other.
"We need to work together to create a safe and tidy town."
The project has been given $40,000 by the Northern Territory Government and Lhere Artepe is working in partnership with the Alice Springs Town Council and Tangentyere Council. A similar project, called Larrakia Nations, has been successful in Darwin.
"We know Lhere Artepe will get a lot of criticism for what we're doing. But if the mayor can show the town council's support it will give us more strength," said Esther Pearce.
It is planned that executive members of Lhere Artepe and the mayor will travel to bush communities to discuss the visitor protocols with community councils. They will emphasise a message of respect for the land and the owners of the country, as is expected in Aboriginal culture. A media campaign will also be launched with posters to strengthen Arrernte culture and increase awareness of traditional owners' responsibilities. A similar strategy was successful in Darwin.
Education programs within Arrernte communities are also important, says Lhere Artepe: it's important to build Arrernte people, especially men, to provide leadership, through mentoring programs. The issue of drunken behaviour is hoped to be solved by this increased self-respect: "We'd like to see Alice Springs as Śa living with alcohol town'.
"Self-respect and an incentive to make the place better will help this," says Betty Pearce.
Another way to increase the respect for Arrernte culture is to create an Aboriginal hosts and ambassador program in mall to provide information and assistance to tourists: "We hear a lot from tourists who want to meet Aboriginal people but are not sure how to interact with them," says Esther Pearce.
Lhere Artepe says the Todd River is the focus for much of the anti-social behaviour. More signs need to be put up to clearly state to visitors that no camping in the river is allowed. The organisation also suggested the role of homeland rangers be created local Aboriginal people patrolling the river.
Many people camp illegally because motels are too expensive for them, or booked out at busy times, like during the AFL grand finals. Well-managed, temporary accommodation for a maximum of a three week stay will help, says the corporation. Rubbish in the river is what most people in the town are dissatisfied with, says the town council.
"We want to find who is responsible for it and work with them," says Esther Pearce. "Representatives from the native title holders group will travel with Tangentyere's night and day patrols and will talk to people about the disrespect shown to the custodians of Alice Springs.
"The same with those who are burning trees we want to work with town council to enforce by-laws or strengthen them, for example increasing fines."
Begging and "humbugging" (pestering) could also be tackled by introducing by-laws.
And solving the reasons why people are drifting into town to start with is vital, says Lhere Artepe. It will work with the town council and Tangentyere to improve housing and essential services on town camps, and lobby to improve services in the bush like housing, medical services and enterprise development to stop the urban drift.
Kevin Everett, currently acting ranger manager at the council, said the ideas were "fantastic" and more can be achieved. But he also recognised problems: "I've been trying to educate people for the last five years. I spend three days a week talking to people about ripping down trees and starting fires only for them to return a month later with 15 friends and their dogs and do it all again.
"We're losing the war. There are so many people coming from out of town people are leaving Yuendumu in droves because of the lack of services and shops. It's easier and cheaper to live here.
"What you're requiring needs millions of dollars and a staff of 50."
Betty Pearce responded: "I know it's going to be difficult but it's not a quick fix thing so we don't stuff it up and fall over.
"In five years time we will see results."
She is convinced that education is the way: "Once people are educated they can build their self-respect and self-esteem.
"Speaking as an Aboriginal person when we have low self-esteem we don't care what happens. At one point in my life I didn't even care if I got dressed. But I was encouraged and my confidence was built.
"There are some people who won't do it but I believe everyone can pick up self-esteem with education."
Mervin Rubuntja, an Arrernte elder, said that the meeting had raised good ideas: "There is a long way to go. It's not going to be straight. Need to get the elders involved as well. Got to be education first to understand and guide others, that's what it's all about."
Esther Pearce said she hoped that as a result of the meeting people will come forward to form an action group. An update meeting will be held in six months' time.
RICH IN IDEAS AND INVENTION. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
For invention and the sheer range of ideas it would be hard to beat the design exhibition, Solid Speech, by Elliat Rich, showing at Watch This Space.
It combines work undertaken for her design degree, from the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW, with new work developed in her spare time in Alice Springs where Rich is employed by the Centre for Appropriate Technology.
Her creations can't be taken in at a glance. The retro lamps are revealed to be an exercise in flattening out what you expect to be a 3D form. Even the light switch is flat.
The ultra-modern jewellery pieces are the ground for cultural reflection. For example, the Knots series promotes the preservation of the art of knot-tying, elaborated by sailors but on the wane since the rise of their literacy during the 1800s. Rich has incorporated in the pieces a diagrammatic language she developed that explains how to tie the knots.
There's not room to describe here the more complex pieces Rich developed during her studies and which led to her being awarded the university medal. But they share with the more recent work ingenuity, excellence of execution, warmth and humour as well as a great sense of engagement with the ways people live, their roots in the past, the changes wrought over time, the future possibilities.
Shows til this Sunday.
GO THE JAM! Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The sign outside the Todd Tavern says "Bring your nanna" but the Monday night jam sessions are no fruit preserve making activity.
The Tavern brought back its weekly music sessions in July the first time for a decade. I was expecting a pretty quiet Monday night in Alice when I turned up but the music went on well after midnight and there was no shortage of volunteers to entertain the enthusiastic crowd which packed the function room in the pub.
Peter Callary is the new manager of the Todd Tavern and said the jams are satisfying a real need for local live music: "Where can you go and hear five or six live bands and performers for free in town? It just doesn't happen.
"The sessions are providing an outlet for bands outside the mainstream and individuals who might not have a band to play with.
"It's been a real success."
Why Monday nights? "We started it up for the hospitality and nursing industries a lot of people in those industries work weekends so Monday is the night they go out.
"For tourists as well."
Angelique Stainer has been coming every week since July: "It's a happy, relaxed atmosphere. I used to come when it was on 10 years ago.
It's a completely different crowd now. I thought I'd come down and see what's it's like. It's a good old pub, better than a nightclub."
Her friend, Elloise Cooch, agrees: "I've go three kids and a home. I leave them and the other half and this is my night out. It's excellent."
"You never know what will happen," says Cain Gilmour, of The Little Todd River Band which leads the evening.
"The best thing about it is that the atmosphere is different for every act. You'll see all different styles all night.
"It's a welcome jam we don't have a gong!"
Ben Forte of grunge-punk group Exit Earth says he was part of the original jam sessions 10 years ago: "That's how I started off. I was actually still underage.
"It's good, an enjoyable club atmosphere.
"Friends are always here and it's not hard to get a cheer.
"It's great fun and slowly the jam session is building up its reputation again."
The Little Todd River Band started the evening off playing their well-known rock and roll formula, and also accompanied some of the solo performers including a saxaphonist (Dan Keane), harmonica player (Mick Dawson) and a didgeridoo player.
The music was a good mix of cover tunes and originals, ranging from funky rhythm and blues to harder rock from Frozen Baltic and Exit Earth. "It's good for individual people to bring their own instruments and if they want an accompanying band and we know the song, we'll help out," says Gilmour. "There's good variation here one night it's blues, another night it's acousitc players or solo people.
"We'll give everyone a go."
TERRITORY ARTISTS GIVE DEPTH TO ALICE PRIZE. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Wildly diverse but nonetheless very Australian "you wouldn't see this show anywhere else in the world".
That's what the pre-selecting judges are saying about expectations for next year's Alice Prize.
The judges choose participating artists on the basis of images of three existing works. The work ultimately exhibited may be quite different. Nonetheless the judges expect a wide range of media will be used by the 61 artists selected out of 416 submissions.
Painting is still the predominant media, but photography is catching up: 15 artists were selected on the basis of photographic work, as opposed to 24 for paintings.
Video art and installations are expected, as well as sculpture, drawings and prints.
Pat Hoffie, associate professor at the Queensland College of Art, spoke passionately about the depth of particularly the Northern Territory artists' contribution to the show.
"The work is remarkable, it stands up alongside anything from anywhere else, and the context in which it is produced is remarkable."
Without naming the artists, who did not yet know they had been selected, she spoke of a middle-aged woman documenting her own life "with all the nuance, richness, surrealism of a Mad Max movie"; and another "looking at how the domestic sphere and landscape, traditionally separated, come together in abandoned houses and settlements".
"It's stuff Nick Cave couldn't even dream of," said Dr Hoffie.
She was also deeply moved by the "cultural richness beyond the surface" of work by selected Indigenous artists. "Australian art students don't know about this rich history, it's happening here, right now, it's something they could be researching," she said.
The selection criteria for the prize are brief: the work has to have been produced by an artist working and living in Australia, with no restriction on scale or medium, and must have been completed in the past three years.
In a joint statement the judges said: "Arguably, this competition gives a broader overview of the range of stories and images that make up contemporary Australian life than any other art prize in Australia. Given this breadth of ambition and representation, it is perhaps surprising that the competition has not enjoyed the level of national press attention that is given to metropolitan held events."
The Alice Prize will be exhibited at Araluen in May and June next year.
MORE PUBLIC HOUSING, TOUGHER ON MISCONDUCT. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Housing Minister Elliott McAdam is getting strategies underway to ease tensions where there is a concentration of public housing, especially in the Larapinta area.
He says he will also enlarge the stock of dwellings owned by Territory Housing, with the involvement of the private sector; appoint more life skills trainers working with public housing tenants; and by April next year, have a policy in place for the 19 Aboriginal town leases in Alice Springs.
"That's one of the big issues because there are more and more people coming in from the bush, for short term and long term stays," says Mr McAdam.
"The government has got to get very serious and fair dinkum in terms of addressing some of those issues.
"We can only do that in conjunction with organisations like the Alice Town Council and Tangentyere Council."
He says Stuart Lodge, adjacent to Melanka Lodge, is "progressing" as an option for emergency type accommodation.
Mr McAdam says complaints about disturbances are taken seriously by his department: "We are very committed to ensuring that the noise and nuisance issues are addressed.
"We have arrangements with security firms in Alice Springs.
"They visit the hotspots."
He says tenancy managers, "including the Alice Springs Urban Housing Association, Eric Sultan's team," will be supplemented by "a life skills program to work with tenants on a case by case basis.
"Compared to 12 months ago I would argue that there has been a decrease in anti social behaviour impacting upon other tenants and neighbours.
"We're looking at strategically reducing the concentration of public housing, particularly in the Lyndavale [Drive] area" possibly by selling some properties and developing and spot purchasing elsewhere.
"We have a concentration of nuisance type issues there [in four to five houses].
"We'll relocate people into other existing Territory Housing stock. "It's a matter of mixing and matching."
Mr McAdam says the public housing stock was reduced by the last CLP Government from 1635 dwellings to 1059, a reduction of around 30 per cent, by selling dwellings to tenants, public servants or at public auction.
When Labor came to power in 2001 it inherited 522 houses and 537 flats.
That means currently a little more than 10 per cent of dwellings in The Alice are public housing.
Mr McAdam says he will "look at options to provide more public housing, such as creative options of working with the private sector," including aged care complexes under "joint arrangements".
Mr McAdam says there are no details yet of new developments, "but arrangements will be explored with NGOs to increase support and management of tenants with special needs, such as renal".
NGOs may be hired to provide management.
Mr McAdam says damage caused by tenants is an ongoing problem but it is well under control.
He says: "If there is damage done to dwellings owned by Territory Housing we recover those damages.
"We make every effort to ensure that the damage caused is paid for by the tenant.
"In the case of a tenant moving out we pursue them for the repayment."
The same applies for rent debts.
"We pursue them very aggressively."
A spokesman for Mr McAdam says in Alice Springs, since 1992, 173 tenancies have had outstanding rental debt with Territory Housing, with an average debt of $660.
"Territory Housing attempts to re-coup such debt but acknowledges that it is much easier when the tenant attempts to enter into a further tenancy with Territory Housing," says the spokesman.
RE-ENTER "In other words a tenant can only re-enter the system upon payment of outstanding debts."
Since 1992, 289 Alice Springs tenancies have had an outstanding maintenace debt, with an average debt of $2650 [a total of $766,273.46].
The spokesman says there are "long wait times" for three bedroom homes now.
"Older stock needs replacing through upgrade, disposal and construction programs."
The spokesman says key areas of need include:-
€ Supported housing assistance for people with special needs.
€ Life skills programs for tenants to sustain their first public housing tenancy.
Rental accommodation shortage of single bedroom non-pensioner accommodation will be partially addressed by upgrades to the Keith Lawrie complex in Bloomfield Street 32 renovated units to be completed by July 2006.
McMcAdam has ordered a housing needs analysis for Alice, to be completed by March 2006.
Mr McAdam says rumours that ownership of public housing stock has been transferred to outside organisations are not true.
A spokesperson says 70 dwellings 6.5 per cent of the Alice Springs public housing stock are leased to agencies to provide housing management, and support clients with special needs, such as young people, renal patients and expecting mothers.
LETTER: Think big, invest small.
Sir, This week's little-publicized Economic Summit in Darwin could be a turning point for the Territory economy if the government listens to leading Territory industries and businesses.
Four of the key messages to have emerged from regional forums, and to be raised at the summit itself, are that:
€ The government must stop competing with the private sector. It's the opposite of sustainability for a government to be using up taxes to do jobs that would have generated money if they'd been carried out within the private sector. If we want a more sustainable future, we need a smaller government and one that thinks, before it spends a single dollar, "Does this in any way compete with what Territorians are already trying to do?"
€ The government is welcome to think big, but it should invest small. We must get over our hang-ups about "major projects". These are relatively poor investments for the Territory because our money ultimately goes to increase the profits of big non-Territory companies. Small Territory enterprises are the key to a sustainable future.
€ We should invest in Territorians and Territory businesses first. It is a more sustainable use of money to train up people who are here and going to stay here (such as the Indigenous population) than to bring people here who have no long-term commitment to the Territory. Similarly, investing in interstate or overseas-owned companies is not the road to sustainability. We must focus on building up, and listening to the needs of companies that are already here and that are Territory-owned companies that keep the profits, and reinvest them, here.
€ If we're serious about looking 10 years ahead, we need to focus on industries of today and tomorrow and on industries most appropriate to the Territory and to each of its regions. Leading economies and academics alike have recognised that we've moved on from being an industrial society to being a creative society, where things like patents and copyright people's knowledge and creativity, not bricks, mortar and machinery are the most valuable commodities Š and the best investments.
The film and TV industry, as one example, is not an "emerging industry"; it's been here for years. It already provides the Territory with its most successful exporters from the Aboriginal art world to Territory-made, Territory-owned films that are exported to nearly 100 countries. No other industry competes with this, yet this entire sector is completely neglected in traditional, and even in current, government rhetoric (not to mention funding).
The government's radar needs a radical service it's missing out on our greatest success stories.
NO POOL TENDERS. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The Alice Springs Town Council failed to receive any tenders to carry out work on deepening the Town Pool by its deadline of last month.
A radical re-think by the council means that the pool will now be made deeper at the southern end (to 2m) instead of the sides of the entire pool being raised.
This was suggested in the hope of raising interest among tenderers because it is a less specialised job.
"This is a very viable alternative based on anticipated costs and because no responses were received from tender invites," said CEO Rex Mooney. "We hope there will be a lot more interest to undertake the work."
The deadline for tenders is at the end of February. Mr Mooney says this shouldn't affect the closing of the pool, which is due on April 2. Work will begin immediately after.
By only deepening the pool at one end, swimmers still won't be able to dive at the northern end but the council has said they will put touch pads in at both ends of the pool to compensate for this. Mick Dalby of the Alice Springs Swimming Club says it's a small sacrifice to get the job done: "If that's the only way we can get it, we'll have to go that way.
"Hopefully it will mean the job will get done. It will be a good result for all the users the kids' swimming lessons can still happen in the shallow end. We'll miss out on being able to hold 200m relays in the pool but that's a small disadvantage compared to other scenarios that can happen."
FOOTY BAN APPEAL. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Alby Tilmouth has appealed against his one season ban from AFL after taking part in the violence following the grand final in September.
He appealed at a tribunal last Wednesday and the AFL CA board is due to announce whether it will reduce his penalty later this week.
Terry Braun, the Souths supporter also involved in the violence, will finally face the tribunal tonight. His case was due to be heard last Wednesday but had to be adjourned because of the time taken up by discussions on Tilmouth.
The announcement of his penalty is due early next week.
Meanwhile, the board announced last week that Tom Braun, brother of Terry, has been banned from Traeger Park for 24 months for breaking the AFLCA's code of conduct four times, including using offensive language and abuse.
"The AFLCA board is determined to make Traeger Park and AFLCA matches a family environment and will not accept any conduct which is detrimental to this goal," said the board.
Not a good Aussie. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
This part of the world has its own local problems, of course, but sometimes Central Australia seems as calm and removed from global issues as a millpond on a still day.
The ice may be melting in Canada and the chickens getting flu in Asia, but we'll keep enjoying our little bush walks, dips in Ellery Bighole and lattés in the mall.
I bring this up now because quite soon I'll be eligible to apply to become a citizen of this fine land. This is a step I cannot imagine taking. I must be less like everyone's idea of a good Australian than most people who have never set foot in the place.
But, all things said and done, the opportunity is there and the government keeps bombarding certain television programs known to be viewed by foreigners with the same cheesy advert encouraging the nine hundred thousand permanent residents to "come and join us". So, I find myself weighing up the benefits.
One test of my commitment is comments made by people I meet when venturing away from Alice Springs, far beyond Erldunda or the place where the bitumen ends on Undoolya Road. On these trips, I am often called to account by uppity professional high-achievers for living in a marginal place like Central Australia. They imply that they've never had, not for one moment, a desire to even visit the place, let alone live here.
"Why do you do it?" they enquire, as if Alice Springs is the habitational equivalent of a diet of prunes or a life without DVDs. "Until I saw a documentary on National Geographic, I didn't realise that Alice had proper facilities," said a man in Perth who really should have known better. "Don't you miss the sea?" asked another from Sydney, forgetting that squawky seagulls, hot chip outlets and long lines of traffic is a combination that doesn't appeal to everyone.
When meeting people in other places, I don't bring up the subject of Central Australia any more. I don't provoke these conversations for fear of becoming a travelling Alice bore. My principle is this: nobody cares where you live. The trouble is that my insistence on not talking about it makes people suspect that I have a dark secret to hide.
"So what is it that keeps you out there in the desert?' asked an Indian engineer, clearly suspecting me of some kind of religious weirdness, like Alice is Waco and when I get home I change into shapeless robes and levitate with my legs crossed.
If only I was that deep. In fact, there is no answer to this particular question that satisfies outsiders, unless I pretend I was born here and have a vast extended family on my doorstep. I have tried "the scenery is nice" and "it's peaceful" and "the people are friendly", but these descriptions sound even more lame when spoken than they do on the page.
This brings me back to citizenship. I would have to practice very hard to pass muster as an Australian citizen. For one thing, I would have to stop throwing objects at the telly when the Waugh brothers come on and I would need to feign interest in patio cooking techniques and the difference between one beer and another.
But I reckon I am not doing too badly as an enthusiast for the Territory. So maybe I should just apply for Territory citizenship. The main benefit is that it is far from the madding crowd and, although fuel prices and shortages hit us hard, the rest of the troubles of the world are far, far away. At least, they are until they arrive.
Too late for what? COLUMN by VIKTORIA CORMACK.
It is coming up for that time of year again when many of us start thinking about what we cannot afford. Suddenly the dollar has to stretch further and cover parties, presents and traditional festive foods.
Then there are cards to be written, arrangements to be made for going away or having visitors.
It is easy to get swept along in the powerful current called holiday spirit and forget about what it all means to you, making it difficult to recognise, let alone to prioritise, what's important to you. Everybody wants a piece of you, your time and your money, and you give because it is the season of giving, and at the end of it all you may find yourself in the red, both financially and emotionally.
It isn't at all surprising that many marriages and relationships come to an end during these, the most joyous of seasons. But how often do we stop and say, "Wait a minute, I don't know if this is really what I want", before we find ourselves depleted?
Because the year is quickly coming to an end we feel we have to fit everything in now, today, before it is too late. Too late for what?
When my children have friends over and don't want them to leave, I tell them that there is a day tomorrow as well. There will be new opportunities for fun and games and we will have recovered by then and renewed our energy supplies. There won't be as many upsets and as many tears.
In our house we are in the process of writing Christmas wish lists. As everyone is aware funds are limited, that has to be taken into consideration.
I would like to be able to say that the sky is the limit for what we can wish for but I'm worried some of us would end up very disappointed. We helped stir the family Christmas pudding and made silent wishes while doing so. The things I wished for are priceless and never presented wrapped in festive paper.
What I want for Christmas is what I want all year round for myself and everybody else.
As I was doing a few laps at the town pool while enjoying the view of the ranges, I was pondering the meaning of swimming one's own race. Sometimes that means swimming against the current, to look inside for what you need rather than scanning the shelves in the shops. To remember the special people in our lives, not just towards the end of the year but through-out the year. With all the threats of sudden personal extinction in the form of terrorism, pandemic bird flu, heart disease and cancer, it is easy to become anxious.
Spending time on your own contemplating your own possible demise may be the last thing you want to do.
It is better to keep running and to throw yourself into the party preparations. But what we are supposedly celebrating is the birth of hope and a belief in tomorrow.
It is the time to be jolly because we, if we belong to those who believe, we're given that hope and promise of a brighter future. How generous you can be does not depend on the status of your bank balance but on how rich you feel inside.
So don't let yourself be pushed around, caught up in a whirly-whirly of shoulds, musts and commitments. Take a moment to think, focus and set your own course. Make plans for tomorrow while enjoying today.
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