ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
This page contains the major reports in the 2005-2006 Summer Editions.



IT'S HARD NOT TO BE NOISY. Report By ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


Shhhh. Don't tell anyone but local rock'n'roll revellers Nokturnl have gone all quiet on us. But it's taking Damien Armstrong and Craig T a lot of willpower to keep a bit of hush.
"Our objective has always been to reach a wider audience," says Craig. "Our new acoustic performance will be more in the groove with remote community festivals.
"People want to dance, reflect and listen. Playing acoustic without all the high tech equipment is more appropriate for those kinds of festivals.
"We're still a modern rock act but with slightly less equipment.
"But it's really difficult to be quiet - the hardest thing ever to keep it down."
Luckily the lads won't have to throw away their amps permanently - the aim is to mostly perform as a four piece rock band (with rhythm sections ready to go on three continents) but to play acoustically when the chance arises.
Last August was the first time the boys unplugged, when they were invited to play at the Australian consulate in Brazil with two Brazilian rhythm musicians.
"Acoustic wasn't really our forte. To rearrange some of the songs and compose this acoustic set of ours took quite a lot of work," says Damien.
The band replaced the drum and bass soul of their sound with fresh sound effects and technology to make it contemporary and not a folk experience. They say it's created a new generation of Nokturnl lovers.
"When we're playing acoustically, people listen more to the lyrics and the messages. It's allowed us to play to an audience who wouldn't come to our rock shows."
One new audience was found all the way in Norway, at the Riddu Riddu festival in the Arctic Circle where they performed with some dancers from Arnhem Land.
"Nokturnl was an ironic headline band because it didn't really get dark there," laughs Damien.
"I didn't realise they still had Indigenous people living there, the Sami people. It was a really enlightening experience to talk to other Indigenous people."
The group returned home to the Alice to play at the festival in September, and revealed their new (quieter) selves before metamorphosing into their other incarnation- Nokturnl as the loudest rock band, when they played at the Pulse festival in Sydney and Melbourne, their first rock appearance in Australia for several years.
"Playing acoustic does have its merits but this way we had the volume and a reaction from the audience from that."
Damien says the band's music continues to voice the opinions of many Indigenous Central Australians - issues familiar to local people but fascinating to city audiences.
"When we play in remote communities, our conversation is about musicianship. Most of the time I talk about the guitar work and the sound - more of a technical discussion.
"Outside the Territory it's about the politics. If you live in the city politics is fashion. But on communities, they want to know about the strings and scales.
"We're not telling the guys there anything new with the lyrics. I reckon the things we say are commonly known amongst our own crowd. They write about the same stuff but in country or reggae." Despite their success of the past few years - touring with Spiderbait, becoming triple band of the year winners at the Indigenous Music Awards, recording a Channel V special and touring in Germany - it's important the band remain in Central Australia.
"It helps to keep a level head. To live in the real world here and observe events and narrate them in the lyrics is important to us.
"If we lived in the city, we'd be writing what everyone writes."
And Damien claims that the commute to work is no biggie. The logistics of getting from Alice Springs to Melbourne is no more difficult than Alice Springs to Frankfurt. It's all travel.
"Many acts base themselves in nice environments and then travel to perform - it's no problem. You'd be surprised that very popular artists live in obscure locations. "It's an easy environment for creativity here.
"Plus it's a good place to have a break and take a rest."
And a rest is probably exactly what the boys need after their creative outburst of 2005. Fans of their most famous tracks - Neva Mend, No Respect and New Era - will be given a treat when their first two records are re-released by an independent label, Shock (following their split with Sony/ATV Publishing).
Time Flies (first released in July 2003, receiving four stars in Rolling Stone) will come out in the new year with bonus tracks, DVD clips from their singles videos and previously unreleased material. And Unveiled is also due for a re-sale, here and in Brazil.
Damien and Craig will return to Germany to finish writing their third album which they started earlier in 2005.
"We like to let these things mature," says Damien. Something to look forward to.


RED CENTRE'S EARLY BIOLOGIST REMEMBERED AT LAST. Report By ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


The Museum of Central Australia and the Strehlow Research Centre are the first institutions in the world to display the vital work a biologist of last century did in Central Australia.
Hedley Finlayson is one of the most important scientists to visit Alice Springs and the surrounding area.
He was the only scientist to have studied our ecology using modern research methods before a wave of extinctions occurred thanks to introduced foxes and cats - and the only one to have seen at least two species of animals before they became extinct.
Importantly too, he was the first scientist to recognise and record the knowledge local Aboriginal people had of the wildlife of Central Australia.
The museum and the Strehlow Research Centre (SRC) launched the new exhibition displaying the work of Finlayson last year.
For SRC director Scott Mitchell it is the culmination of 18 months of work.
"Finlayson really was an extraordinary man and his contribution to our understanding of Central Australia is critical," he said at the opening.
"If he hadn't risked his life for science, we wouldn't know about a whole range of animals before they became extinct or endangered.
"To acknowledge him today is very exciting."
Hedley Finlayson was a chemistry professor at the University of Adelaide, but came to Central Australia in 1933 as a biologist specialising in mammals. It was the first of a number of trips between that year and 1935.
He funded the trips himself as there was no money available for research at that time, and had to visit during the university summer holidays - the hottest time in the Central Australian outback.
"The world he saw then is nearly impossible to imagine now," says Dr Mitchell.
Finlayson arrived here just before a severe wave of extinction of native animals caused by foxes and cats. He recorded seeing what he described as a rabbit-sized kangaroo, which dug the ground and built a roof over its head - and chased one for 20 km on horseback. Later named the desert rat kangaroo (Caloprymnus), he was the only scientist ever to see the creature alive. He was also the only scientist to see the lesser bilby which also became extinct shortly after, and noted seeing them in the thousands.
Finlayson collected 2900 mammal specimens including the western quoll, burrowing bettong, rufous hare wallaby (mala), golden bandicoot and the numbat - all of which are not found in Central Australia anymore, and rarely found anywhere in the country. But what were more incredible were his meticulous notes about each species, and careful photographic documentation which was unusual for the day.
On one trip, he risked his life for his study. He was 500 km from Alice Springs in the Wallace Ranges. His guide abandoned him, leaving him with a string of camels and two boxes with survival necessities. Finlayson was quite critically disabled, with only one eye and part of one hand after a hand grenade exploded when he was carrying out an experiment on weapons during the First World War. But he overcame his difficulties and survived - then came back the next year for further study.
When Finlayson made his final trip to the area in 1956, all the native animals he had recorded had disappeared, after being hunted by the introduced fox and cat.
He wrote 60 scientific papers as a result of his work, five of which were published in the prestigious journal, Nature.
His work was important in changing the public perception of Central Australia as the ‘dead centre' or ‘dead heart' of Australia - something like the equivalent of the Sahara Desert. He introduced the term Red Centre and was very active in drawing the public's attention to the rich environment in his book, The Red Centre, which he wrote in 1935.
recognised Through his work, Finlayson is recognised as one of Australia's first conservationists. He called for areas of Central Australia to be recognised as national parks - and governments would do well to take note of his comments on the abuse of the environment at the time which remain pertinent today: "The old Australia is passing… if the devastation which is worked to the flora and fauna could be assessed in terms of the value which future generations will put upon them, it might be found that our wool-clips and beef and timber trades have been dearly bought."
Another important first for Finlayson was his acknowledgement of Aboriginal understanding of animals and his public documentation of this. He built important relationships with local Indigenous people - they taught him about the native animals, their behaviour and where they lived. He also understood the negative impact that Europeans were having on Aboriginal people - not a popular concept in the 1930s.
Finlayson took thousands of pictures of the Aborigines he met, and meticulously documented them with names.
"This was highly unusual for the time," says Dr Mitchell. "To have the photographs to accompany the genealogy which was written up by other scientists is quite something." Vincent Forrester, a local Aboriginal man, was presented with several of Finlayson's prints at the opening of the exhibition.
His family were from the Angas Palms country, near Uluru, and photographed by Finlayson in the 1930s.
"Our family tree has been known to us but to see pictures of them is exciting for me. My grandmother died when my mother was 10 so I never saw her.
"It is a treasure to show these pictures to my grandchildren.
"He didn't take the pictures of the noble savage, he named them personally. That's exciting for me. It's a bit of a spin out."
Forrester says he is using the photographs as evidence to gain native title rights for land around Yulara.
Another man who was touched by Finlayson was also at the opening of the exhibition.
Ken Johnson is a biologist who has been working in Central Australia since the 1970s. He met Finlayson in 1991 five years before he died. It was through their friendship that Finlayson donated his photographs and research to the Strehlow Research Centre.
"When I became interested in studying the biology of Central Australia I heard about Finlayson. I was told I should write to him as he was a very proper gentleman and that was how I could get an appointment with him," said Dr Johnson.
"He was regarded as a recluse but when I met him he was very happy to talk and share his experiences. He was a very interesting character.
"When I turned up at his house in Adelaide there was a big sign on the front door with ‘rap loudly' written on it. He was quite deaf.
"It was fascinating to meet the man who overcame remarkable disabilities to record extraordinary things here. When I visited him he never had a phone or television or motorcar.
"His work was of extraordinary importance. He provided an extraordinary contribution to the understanding of this landscape."
Finlayson died at age 96, sadly before the century he hoped to gain and receive a telegram from the Queen.
Hedley Finlayson: adventurer, scientist, visionary, is now a permanent exhibition at the Strehlow Research Centre, on the corner of Larapinta Drive and Memorial Avenue.


FROM ALICE TO TIMOR. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


An environmental engineer, who formerly worked at the Centre for Appropriate Technology in Alice Springs, has found surprising parallels between Central Australia and Timor-Leste where she is now based.
Limited water supply is one, and growing dependency arising from reliance on aid is another.
Trish Morrow moved from Alice last April to Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) with Australian Volunteers International.
The Alice Springs News spoke to her as she visited Alice for a holiday.
At the Centre for Appropriate Technology Trish worked for two years researching waste management, stoves and kitchens, appropriate technologies and environmental health in Indigenous communities. She says the skills she learnt there have been useful in her current role:
"I was interested in helping with water and sanitation, and I'm working with a non-government organisation called Loke Dalan.
"Although Timor-Leste gets more rainfall than Central Australia, it is an arid region going through drought at the moment.
We have to walk long distances to find water and there's not enough to bathe every day.
"I think if people in Central Australia keep using water at the current rate, the region will be in danger of ending up like Timor-Leste.
"It's a non-renewable resource. Excessive usage of water for lush green lawns and private swimming pools may be a thing of the past."
It's hard to imagine growing anything on Central Australia's dry, dusty land, but where Trish lives in Timor-Leste - Maumeta Village on the outskirts of Liquica, in the north west - people are forced to rely on the land for food.
Conditions are basic:
"I'm very lucky to have electric power," says Trish.
"Only five per cent of the country has it. But it's very unreliable and the voltage goes up and down a lot, damaging electrical appliances.
"Virtually the only source of income is subsistence agriculture.
"They used to grow drought-resistant crops like yams and sweet potato but the people are now growing more corn and rice which require more water.
"But because of the drought, the World Food Program has declared an emergency and is planning to carry out supplementary feeding." Trish's work is very varied, involving projects including agriculture, animal husbandry, appropriate technologies such as stoves and solar energy, community-based disaster management and health promotion.
"It's never boring! We work with community groups like widow and youth groups on income-generating activities and training them to eventually run the projects themselves."
Training has been a key problem in Timor-Leste since the country's independence.
"The Indonesian people had all the responsible positions in government, for example they were the teachers and doctors. When they left, suddenly the Timorese were responsible for power, running education and health clinics - in some cases they didn't know what to do.
"People in their twenties who were barely literate with not much work experience had important roles in the government and society.
"But the positive thing is that training is successful and really making a difference to the standards of literacy and numeracy in the country and to technical skills of government staff and community leaders.
"On the negative side, since independence the economy is really going downhill - apart from oil and gas there is no industry.
"There is a little bit of harvesting of coffee growing wild, which is of good quality because it is organic, but it's not generating a lot of money.
"It's true to say that the whole country is very dependent on aid at the moment."
This reliance could cause long-term problems for the country: "Having worked in other places [like Guatemala, Kenya, Nepal and Montserrat in the West Indies], I wasn't prepared for how different the culture is in Timor-Leste.
"Although I was reminded of the welfare dependency of Central Australian Aboriginal communities, where people have come to rely on services to do the most simple things, like picking up their own rubbish.
"In other countries where people aren't very wealthy, there is more of a work ethic and less of a sense of fatalism.
Since independence there has been a lot of money pouring in for aid projects and some people are becoming reliant on aid work and are not motivated to help themselves." Trish believes that organisations like Australian Volunteers International can change that.
"It's good for the country to work with people from other countries like Australia who can help them to help themselves.
"There are quite a lot of Australians in Timor-Leste doing all sorts of jobs like librarians, physiotherapists, engineers.
"When I signed up with Australian Volunteers International my skills were put on a database and I was matched up with a job according to my experience.
"It's a two year contract.
"The work is rewarding when you can see the results - you realise you can make a difference to people's lives.
I'm helping people acquire new skills, to learn new things, and in the long term they will not be as poor as they were as a result of my work."
For more information go to www.australianvolunteers.com


WITH THE HELP OF OTHER PEOPLE I GRASPED OPPORTUNITIES AND RAN WITH THEM. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


Leanne Liddle hates the idea of being called an Indigenous role model - but it's hard not to see her as an example of Aboriginal achievement.
Born and raised in the Alice, she was the first Aboriginal woman accepted into the South Australian police force. After being assaulted in the line of duty, Leanne spent 18 months in rehabilitation and was forced to give up her job. When she had recovered, she studied to become a lawyer and two degrees later, currently lives in Adelaide, working for the South Australian government.
"I'm not special or exceptional. I'm committed, focused and have a strong family behind me," says Leanne. "I know what disadvantage is and have had to overcome hurdles. Even today I deal with people's ignorance and intolerance but I think it's important that Indigenous people try things.
"I'm where I am today because of my family."
And her family must have done something right - her brother, Jamie, is a senior first officer pilot for Cathay Pacific and lives in Hong Kong. Her twin sister Lynette is a government scientist in Canberra, and her other sister, Kerrynne, is a journalist with her own business.
"Dad [Geoff] was pretty strict but very fair on us kids. He learnt those qualities from our grandfather. His family is passionate and committed to what they do and that's reflected in all us kids.
"Mum [Jean] and dad encouraged us to take the opportunities put in front of us and never discouraged us from doing what we wanted to do. That kind of support is really important. No one can get where they are without people behind them. The people I've had the privilege to meet enabled me to do what I want to do and I'd like to see more positive stories out there about Aboriginal people."
But Leanne also says there were times when she had to go against her family's wishes to achieve her ambitions. She left Alice at 17 after being educated at Alice Springs High to join the police force in Adelaide because "I always wanted to help people". But she says it was one of the most difficult times of her life. "My family weren't happy, they didn't want me to go.
"We had no close relations down there, I had no friends and basically I was starting off all by myself.
"I had been placed into an institution and I wasn't the typical police officer they'd seen before. Suddenly they had to deal with this girl from the bush.
"There were so many things I hadn't experienced - even things like traffic lights when I took a driving test."
But racism was what Leanne says was the hardest thing to cope with.
"I was dealing with it every day from both other officers and the public. It hurt. It was a horrible time.
"I kept going because I thought I could make a difference."
Leanne "kept going" for 11 years, working in the bush and Port Adelaide as well as the city itself - but eventually took the police force to the human rights commission on the grounds of racism.
The situation was resolved in an out of court settlement, but Leanne had also been badly assaulted while she was investigating an incident. It's still too painful for her to talk about the experience and all she'll say is "It wasn't a pleasant experience for me".
The attack resulted in damage to the nerves in her back and after several operations she had to take 18 months off from work. She came home to Alice Springs to live with her family. "I actually don't remember it that well. The memories are difficult," says Leanne. "I became an introverted person.
"But I look at it now as an experience rather than a hindrance. It was a challenge for me to get better."
Being back in Central Australia cleared her head and Leanne decided not to go back to her old job but instead go back to university.
She'd just finished a degree in environmental management and this time she would read law.
"I think it was something I had to do. I had to move on from such a bad experience and not dwell on things.
"The human rights case was a catalyst for me. I'd been exposed to legal issues and having the police background helped as well.
"I still felt an obligation to help people. I think it's been entrenched in me from my parents - if you can help someone, you should do it. My grandfather [Harold Liddle] was a strong, admirable type of person - being fair and having high morals, knowing what's right and what's wrong."
And Leanne's aunt, Lorraine Liddle, was the first Aboriginal barrister in the Northern Territory.
But life at Flinders University was "an uncomfortable experience".
"Coming from Alice Springs and being Indigenous didn't fit the normal mould of what a law graduate should be. I didn't come from a background of lawyers and doctors."
But again she refused to give up. "My parents always said: ‘You can't give up, you can't give up'.
"They're my driving force and made me see things as a challenge rather than simply giving up."
Leanne found she excelled in family and corporate law, and graduated with honours earlier this year.
"When I was admitted to the bar a whole contingency of family came down. We had an afternoon lunch for about 40 people who helped me. That was something that was really important to me."
She now works for the South Australian Department for Heritage and the Environment in Adelaide - but is determined to work as a family lawyer once she's finished her position with the department.
Leanne married her husband Daniel four years ago, but her family in Alice still means "everything to me". She travels here every four weeks to spend the weekend at home.
"Us kids, we all come home all the time. We only work in Adelaide or Hong Kong. Alice is our home.
"We'll be buried here.
"There's a lot of people behind me who have sacrificed a great deal to get where I am. I love home. I love our family."
Leanne says she wouldn't change growing up in Central Australia for anything. "Surrounding yourself with positive people is important.
"We've never thought of ourselves as special. With the help of other people we grasped opportunities and ran with them. I think it's important that Indigenous people try things - and if it doesn't work, try again.
"No one's ever said that what I've wanted to do is impossible. You have to give it a go and see what happens. Most times things have worked out."


Alice Springs sportiest family?. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


Any sports fan in Alice Springs can't fail to have noticed at least one member of the Ford family - the eight members play at least nine sports between them!
Manui (8), Teniwa (12), Baden (15), Lauren (17), Krystal (21) and Tui Junior (23) along with their mother, Sandra, and father, Tui, all play basketball for the Rockets team. Tui Junior is currently playing for Warriors in rugby union, and also plays league for Vikings with his father. Lauren played netball for the Wests team and Manui takes part in gymnastics. And the family also finds time to play softball and tennis socially!
"The family motto I guess is that the family who plays together, stays together," laughs Tui.
And fair play has brought the family a long way - Tui Junior was voted best and fairest last season for rugby union while he was playing in the Sydney sub districts competition for Matraville.
He was invited to trial for the North Queensland Cowboys professional team in 2002 but chose instead to complete a two-year Christian mission in the Philippines. Having represented the NT as a junior, would he like to make a career of the game? "I'll go back to New Zealand for uni and then see what happens," he says.
Lauren currently attends boarding school in New Zealand but when she was 13 she was the youngest girl ever to play in the local A grade basketball competition. Lauren was offered an NTIS scholarship for netball in Darwin but chose to stay with her family in Alice Springs. She was captain of basketball in the NT state team for three years for the under 14 and under 16 age groups.
Brother Baden also attends school with her in Hamilton, before which he too represented the Alice Suns for basketball for two years and captained the Suns in his second year.
And Teniwa has recently returned from the Pacific School Games where she represented the state in basketball, playing point guard. "It keeps the kids active and away from trouble," says Sandra. "They're never idle.
"We've always been so busy helping coach and referee basketball here that they've always been involved in it and played it."
Tui moved from his native Hamilton in New Zealand in 1978 to Sydney, where he met his wife Sandra: "I came all the way to Aussie to meet a Kiwi!" he laughs.
They moved to Uluru in 1991 with Tui's job at Qantas - and revolutionised Yulara's sports scene. "I also worked as a rec officer in Yulara and had to organise the netball, volleyball, touch and softball competitions," he remembers.
In 1994 the Fords settled back in Alice Springs. Sandra says that the town offers children - and adults - golden chances to play sport: "The facilities are awesome here. And the good thing about the town is that everything is so close if you want to play sport.
"There are good opportunities for kids to go on further if they want to. If you're pretty good in Alice, there are good opportunities to be seen. You're competing as just numbers in other states whereas here you'll be looked at.
"While the competitions might not be as good as other places, the numbers and coaching means you can get noticed.
"The Masters Games is a really good standard as well."
But both Tui and Sandra believe that sport is more than simply about competing. "At our club, it's about the attitude, the spirit. It's a real family place," Sandra says. Family is incredibly important to the Fords, as well as their Christian faith as Mormons. Because of their beliefs, they refrain from playing sport on Sundays (something which must require immense discipline considering how much they love it).
"Even though there's a lot of sport on Sundays, it's not a barrier," says Tui. "The coaches have always been real thoughtful towards us."
He says that their beliefs are an important part of the family's sporting success and enjoyment: "We don't drink or smoke which helps us run around a bit longer.
"You can see that we all have a lot of fun - it helps with fair play in sport and life," he laughs.


TOURISTS CAME OUT TWICE A WEEK ON THE BUSES. Report by EDNA BRADLEY .


It came as a shock to my family and friends when I left the city to work in a remote camp at Ayers Rock. No one could understand my reasoning - but they hadn't experienced what I had the year before; when I went with a ‘women only' tour arranged by Len Tuit and Trans Australia Airlines to promote tourism to the Rock. So captivated, I felt I had to return. Life in the Outback was for me. Stories I had read about women living in the Territory made me think I could be just like them.
I must say doubts did creep in as I travelled to Alice Springs on the Ghan alone, but I soon overcame those feelings by the time I stepped off the train - family and friends were the last thing on my mind.
At home, an only child, living and working with my parents, I had led a sheltered life and had no idea of the real world. I am happy to say this new world treated me well, so while I was discovering myself, I was also learning about human nature.
In the next few months I became an expert at serving meals, setting tables and making up camp beds with white sheets and grey blankets. Working from before dawn until late in the night, meeting people, travelling on buses, pushing buses out of bulldust holes, leading the singing around the campfire, and learning what I was capable of, was the best thing I ever did.
My favourite person was Bill Harney, the storyteller of Ayers Rock. With his white hair standing on end and his light blue eyes twinkling, I thought he was magic. Many a tale was told on the nights we sat around the table with the kerosene lamp at the Rock camp.
The camel that got its neck caught in the Hills Hoist clothesline and went round and round like a merry-go-round was the one I enjoyed the most. Every now and then Bill would burst forth with one of his poems, just to add to whatever story he was telling.
I was a sucker for everyone's sense of humour and believed all their stories, even being very impressed with the fellow who told me he had chased and caught a kangaroo. My naivety kept everyone amused and they laughed when I spoke of Mummy and Daddy.
Through all this, just about everyone I met was very kind to me; in fact I was spoilt and ate so much the cook even said he would put me in an eating contest. I was sure to be the winner.
I say just about everyone treated me well, not so the boss's son. He enjoyed finding fault with me constantly, saying, "Once a tourist, always a tourist." His favourite trick was to creep into my tent and pull out the centre pole while I was asleep, then stand laughing as I struggled to get out from under all the canvas. I soon knew to be wary of him, as I didn't appreciate his so-called sense of humour.
The staff at the only Chalet at the Rock consisted mostly of men. They were Leo, the manager, two cooks, Jack and Jim (who always wore white and was never without a cigarette in his mouth), and the two yardmen Musty and George. While working all day and every day with these people much older than myself they soon became dear to me and were always happy to help out if I was busy or tired.
The only other girl was Bernie, who was my mate. We shared a tent and the work. We loved the outdoors so much that we turned our tent away from the camp to look out at the blue sky and the red soil with the mulga trees.
Sometimes we walked around the base of the Rock and had it all to ourselves - very few people came out then. A couple of times Bill came with us, but he wouldn't climb the Rock as he said heights made him feel like conking out. The only variation to our days was the tourists who came out twice a week on the buses. There were two tours each week, one arrived on Sunday night and stayed until Friday morning, taking in two days at the Olgas, the other arrived Thursday night and left Sunday morning. This itinerary made double the numbers on Thursday nights and Friday mornings. Sunday was free of tourists, giving us time to remake all the beds and sweep out the tents.
Every Wednesday we went over to the Olgas to stay overnight. Inches of dust on the tables in the large permanent tent had to be swept off, and then we set up camp by pitching the tents and making the beds. There was little rest for the staff on those two days.
The kitchen was outdoors and everyone helped with the washing up in the two tin baby baths, guests as well. The dunekin had a tree for one side and a hessian bag for the door. Tucked into the round domes of the Olgas we seemed to be protected in our picturesque little camp with the flowering acacia trees and yellow spinifex.
On Friday when the tour left the Rock camp for Alice Springs we had two sittings for breakfast, sometimes for up to 90 people - one for the departing guests and the other for those who arrived the night before. Because we had to return the sheets to the laundry in Alice Springs, Bernie and I would dash from tent to tent in the dark, stripping the beds before the buses left. This was done after serving the first sitting.
Then when the drivers had already packed the luggage on top of the buses, we would join in the high-spirited farewell before preparing for the second sitting.
It was my job to cook the toast on an open fire outside the kitchen door each morning, while Bernie finalised the breakfast things. It was so cold so I wore a coat, beanie and gloves.
Communication was by pedal radio and everyone in the Territory had special ‘call-in times'. If there was an emergency, as we had when Ian, one of the drivers, had a poisoned leg, you could call on a special frequency and the Flying Doctor would come to the rescue. When it rained the Traeger two-way radio was abuzz with messages from stranded tourists. Roads became quagmires and travelling came to a halt.
As a result, some tourists had to sleep on the bogged buses and others were stuck at the Chalet, while the train travellers often didn't even reach Alice Springs - they were held up on the Ghan somewhere along the track.
The pedal radio was also an important communication for Tuit's, as the whereabouts of the buses and other messages were relayed through Curtin Springs Cattle Station to the Rock camp and back to the main Alice Springs office.
Peter and Dawn Severin, who turned their tin sheds into an oasis for the few weary travellers that braved the dusty roads to the Rock, also told us when private cars were coming through - no one arrived unannounced in those days.
The value of flying to the Rock with Connellan's, the local airline, therefore saving time, was impressed upon all, especially as the roads weren't in good order. So it wasn't surprising when one night we went over to the shed set beside the airstrip to celebrate the first tourist's arrival by air.
Everyone said this could be a goer, but then travelling to the Rock by air would take the fun out of driving by bus and who would want to miss that adventure!
Tuit's also had a camp at Palm Valley, nestled at the foot of the Western MacDonnell Ranges. This setting with its rare prehistoric cabbage tree palms, was totally different from the arid Rock area. Known as the ‘Garden of Eden' in Central Australia, the greenery was a delight to behold.
The camp could only be reached by driving along the dry Finke River bed, the oldest watercourse in the world. But when it rained, it became a torrent and was inaccessible. Tours couldn't get in or out, stranding many a tourist, once mid stream, where they had to paddle to safety.
While working there I met Ellen and she became a dear friend. With smaller numbers of tourists I was able to go on the day tours as well as working in the kitchen and dining room.
In between working at both Ayers Rock and Palm Valley Chalets, I spent some time in Tuit's main office in Todd Street and at their Mount Gillen Chalet beside the railway line. I enjoyed being in the dining room, as the cook there was also happy to indulge my love of food.
There was much to learn about the history of this beautiful town surrounded by the picturesque MacDonnell Ranges. John Stuart first explored the area in the 1860s, but it wasn't until Charles Todd came through with the Overland Telegraph a decade later, that life in the centre began to develop. By the 1950s the population had grown to 10,000 throughout the Territory and surprisingly, for its size, no one was a stranger.
My social life picked up whilst in town. I went to dances and the open-air picture theatre. Friday night at the Memorial Club - the social hub of Alice Springs - was not to be missed. I made a lot of friends and enjoyed the extra company.
Upon my return to the Rock for the final ‘Petticoat Safari' tour of the year, I realised that I was more suited to a bit of the action and that maybe I wasn't made of the stuff so admired in the pioneer women. When the buses left and the camp went quiet I felt a deep loneliness, especially after so much hilarity.
Even though there were changes happening around the Rock, and there was talk of a second Chalet being built, the remoteness was getting to me. If only I could have walked up the main street, and gone shopping, gone to the pictures or visited friends, I wouldn't have felt so isolated.
Sadly, this sense of isolation forced me to make the decision to leave. It was time to say goodbye to the people who had been such an important part of my life and I wondered at that time, if I would ever see the sun rise on Ayers Rock again.


RONA GLYNN: A WOMAN WITH A BIG HEART IN THE HEART OF AUSTRALIA. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


The Rona Glynn Preschool in Eastside celebrated its 40th anniversary in September last year. The preschool was named after Rona Glynn, a pioneering woman who delivered around 2000 babies in the Alice Springs Hospital during the 1960s but sadly died during the birth of her own first child.
Katelyn Hemsley, a local historian, tells the story of Rona Sharber who was born at Woodgreen Station near Alice Springs, the daughter of pioneering parents.
Rona, her younger sister Freda and their mother were evacuated from Alice Springs to Mulgowa in New South Wales during World War II. The girls attended primary school at Mudgee and later in Sydney.
In 1949 they returned home to Alice Springs. Rona was 13, and she went to live at St Marys Hostel where she stayed for five years.
She attended the Alice Springs Higher Primary School (now Anzac Hill High) in 1951. One of her teachers, Brian Davis, recalls in his book, A teacher's memoirs, how he remembers Rona as being a very good student.
"Rona Glynn, one of my senior high school students, had told me that she and her friends were going to the Todd River bed on Saturday to do some water colour painting. Would I care to join them? Of course I would! The girls supplied me with a sheet of water colour paper, a couple of brushes, a small can of water, and a few paints.
"They began painting, sitting on the low, dry bank of the Todd, absorbed in the painting of a ghost gum. My drawing did not flow as theirs did and my colours lacked their own spontaneity and trueness. "
Rona was 16 when she became the first Centralian-born and mixed-race person to be employed as a teacher in the NT. She was appointed by the South Australian Department of Education as junior teacher at the Alice Springs school after gaining her Intermediate Certificate in four subjects and studying for her Leaving subjects. She later took a position as a grade two teacher at Hartley Street Primary School.
But around the middle of 1954, Rona followed her long-term career ambition and began nursing training in Melbourne. She stayed at the hospital there for some time as a tutor sister before coming home for a holiday and being appointed charge sister of the maternity ward at Alice Springs Hospital on January 24, 1962. She stayed there until June 24, 1964 and resigned shortly after she got married to William (Bill) Schaber.
She was popular with the staff, and said to have a good sense of humour, was sympathetic, kind, enthusiastic and capable. She was held in high regard by mothers in the community. It is believed that she delivered over 2000 babies and was loved throughout Alice as Sister Glynn.
A humorous story is told about how Rona used to take grapefruits from the garden of the matron's quarters and give them to the new mothers on the ward. The matron was annoyed that fruit was disappearing, so stormed onto the ward asking whether anyone knew who was the thief. Rona put her finger to her lips in the "shhh" sign to the mothers and once the matron had gone, they started eating the grapefruits.
After helping bring so many new lives into the world, it was a cruel irony that Rona died on January 4, 1965 during the birth of her first baby.
Her funeral was attended by many from the community.
The Eastside Preschool was renamed in Rona's honour, and officially opened on September 18, 1965 by Mrs Dean, the wife of the administrator, with over 100 people there to celebrate. The president of the kindergarten gave a tribute to Rona who had worked so hard to make the centre a reality.


ONE OF THE BEST STUDENTS FOR 10 YEARS. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


Amanda Betters is "one of the most promising students" he's had in 10 years, according to Rod Moss, co-ordinator of the visual arts program at Charles Darwin University campus in Alice Springs.
At 16, Amanda took art as a VET subject while she did year 11.
"Amanda could most definitely make her living from art if she wishes to," says Mr Moss.
"All the characteristics of a strong visual, aesthetic nature are evident in her work, namely poise, grace, good-timing, touch, and editorial discretion. Her work compels other students to take note.
It's inspirational Quietly spoken and almost shy, Amanda says she's been drawing ever since she can remember.
"I don't feel that confident in expressing myself when I talk. But art is a really good way of self-expression," she says. "It's always been my motivation to do art. I do it in my spare time as well as at school, probably for a couple of hours a day. More on weekends.
"What I draw really depends on how I'm feeling. A lot of different things affect me, whatever is going on around me - music is a pretty big influence on the art I do. I like a lot of the 1970s and early 1980s punk.
"I'm also inspired by that movement as well as the music. Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, AFI, Muse, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Cure, Tool, Muse and The Exploited are some of my favourite bands.
"Some movies inspire me as well, things like Fightclub, A Clockwork Orange, Donnie Darko.
"It helps to have an outlet as a teenager when I'm feeling angry or confused.
"My favourite artist is probably Van Gogh. I really like his painting style.
"Actually, I draw a lot of not realism but more abstract things. It's not really any distinct style.
"Usually I do a lot of sketches, only recently I've started to make more pieces for a portfolio for applying to a university."
Amanda prefers drawing, with a pencil or charcoal, although she is studying painting and the history of art at CDU.
"I like the art history but I definitely like the practical side.
"The other subjects I'm doing - psychology, English studies, women's studies, media and drama - I think they're all helpful, in deconstructing other art.
"I've found CDU really good for art-based subjects.
"I think it's pretty interesting, art in Alice Springs. There's a pretty big variety for such a small place
"I see the galleries at Araluen sometimes and I see some of what other people in my VET art classes are doing."
Amanda grew up in Colorado before moving to Alice Springs when she was nine.
"My school in America wasn't that good at encouraging me in art. I think Australia is better at encouraging art subjects. "I've never really thought about whether my art has been affected by being an American.
"I guess I feel more Australian now - basically my teenage years were spent here in this culture. " Amanda says the biggest supporters of her work are her parents.
"I always did art at school and my parents have always encouraged it. They're not arty but they bought me paints and I always ask for things like that for Christmas - when I was little I always asked for colouring books.
"My earliest memory of drawing is probably at home, I remember drawing lots and lots of pictures of cat faces.
"I never really had to work for it, art always comes pretty naturally. "
Amanda wants to make a living from her talent: "I want to go to an arts university and hopefully I can kind of get into the field from there.
"I'd really like to be an artist but I'd probably be happy in pretty much anything in the field."


ZITA OF ZEAL COMES HOME. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


Zita Wallace was born near Alice Springs but was just eight years old when in 1947 she was taken away from her family in Arltunga to Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands.
She didn't come back to Central Australia or meet her mother and family until she was in her fifties.
Here is her Stolen Generation story. Zita has also made a video (with David Vadiveloo), Beyond Sorry, telling of her experiences.
There were six little girls from our community who were taken away on the same day. The nuns bathed and cleaned us and told us we were going shopping in Alice Springs. Our family had no knowledge of what was going on.
The girls were put in the back of a ute and taken to the Telegraph Station, a holding area for half caste children.
After a couple of weeks they drove to Darwin and were put on a boat.
I'd never seen so much water in my life. We were all clinging to one another because when we walked across the boards we could see water through the cracks and we were so afraid of falling in!
The boat was called the Margaret Mary and the skipper was called Brother Bennet.
How did I feel when I got to the mission? How would you feel if you were taken away from your family, where you knew nobody, you had no contact with your family, your culture, your language? I was stripped away, one minute I was with my family, the next minute with strangers.
We had to live on white man's food, strange food. We weren't allowed to ask questions about families, and we were told that nobody wanted us. We were told to just do as we were told.
But the hardest thing I remember was none of us spoke English. We were all Eastern Arrernte and spoke in our language. But the language was beaten out of us and eventually we stopped speaking it altogether and we just spoke English.
Not all the missionaries were like that, some of them were very kind and loving. But unfortunately in my mind the ones that stood out the most were the cruellest.
Our whole life we were told what to do, told when to eat, sleep, when to do anything. There were times of freedom and we always scampered down to the Tiwi people's camps. We stayed with them as long as we could. They looked after us, taught us to hunt and about bush tucker. They accepted us as adopted people and they were like my second family.
One of the lovely things I remember about the missionaries was that they took us camping and we had a wonderful time.
I was there until I was 19. I learnt basic English and to read and write, but the education wasn't anything great. Any children who were light skinned or fair were adopted out, fostered out or sent to colleges down south for higher education.
The rest of us stayed on the island and learnt how to become domestics. When I got to a certain age if I wasn't married off to a boy on the island, I was going to be sent to Darwin to work for a family.
But when I saw the older girls going away, I made up my mind I didn't want to clean white men's houses, I wanted to make something of myself. Big tough old me wanted to get out and not sit around feeling sorry for myself.
I left the mission and joined Handmaids of the Lord, a native congregation of nuns in New Guinea. It was a wonderful influence in my life. I started from scratch and the nuns educated me all the way through to high school.
I went to the University of Papua New Guinea and studied anthropology. I never got to finish my degree, I came back to Australia. But I learnt enough to trace my family history when I got back to Central Australia and now all that knowledge has come into its own.
I have wonderful memories of the mission [in PNG]. I stayed there for 10 years and gave it 150 per cent to become a missionary but I wasn't cut out to be a nun.
I had a talk with the mother superior and she was very understanding. I came back to Australia with the mission's approval and I've never really lost contact with them.
Zita stayed with friends in Ipswich, Queensland, then with her sister in Darwin till she got a place of her own, working at the Darwin Hospital in the kitchen.
She married and had two daughters, moving to Brisbane where she worked in a small goods factory at night, cleaning.
Her marriage ended after five years, but about a year after her divorce she met her current husband and they added a boy to the family.
They returned to Darwin in 1974, living there for 14 years. Zita worked as a prison officer at Berrimah.
Then in the eighties she came back to Central Australia for a few visits, looking for her family, but she didn't really know who they were.
Some years later I came back to Alice Springs with my husband and son and that was when I finally met my mother. A friend took me down and introduced me. But she said, "No, you're not my daughter, my daughter is dead".
She said I was a spirit child because when we were taken away the nuns told her I'd died.
So I went back to Darwin. It really hurt me badly. I thought, she doesn't want me, I won't worry about her.
It was a really big thing to be rejected by someone who was supposed to be your mother. But I thought about it a lot and about five years later transferred my job from Berrimah Prison to Alice Springs. I gradually learnt to know my mother who lived at Charles Creek.
The first time I met her I got my cousin sister Annette Doolan to come with me and translate. I couldn't remember any language. She told her I was her daughter, that I had grown up and come back.
It was really awkward. I was in my fifties and she was old by that time. She was losing her sight so she could only see my shadow, and drinking in the past had affected her health. But I used to sit down and we'd talk.
The old people would tell her who I was and we gradually got a relationship of mother and daughter. We got quite close but not the bonding of a usual mother and daughter.
But we ended up having a special kind of bond for six years before she died and in the last two years became quite close.
Other families came forward to help me. My auntie, Aggie Abbott, has been absolutely wonderful, she has been the instigator in me connecting with everybody.
And my uncle Paddy Doolan and his wife, Ruby, have been very supportive. After my mother passed on my Auntie Aggie became my mother, I call her Mum Aggie.
As I got to know my mother I started finding out little by little that my family had never stopped looking for me all those years. My brother went to Darwin looking for me and spoke to someone at the presbytery but he told him I was dead.
I didn't go back and live with the family, there's too big a difference in our lives. I've never denied being Aboriginal but I was brought up as a white person, not as an Aboriginal.
I lived in my own house in Alice Springs and now I live on my grandfather's land, on Salt Bore [on Loves Creek Station]. But I go out bush with my family, do women's business with them and am learning my culture and my language.
It's not only me who has done a lot with my life, many of the other children have done wonderful things. Unfortunately others haven't.
A lot of them have gone to their graves with the hurt and the loss they have suffered from their removal as children. It's affected their children and their grandchildren, up to five generations.
For a long time I didn't tell my children about my story but I'm fiercely proud of being Aboriginal. People run us down saying were bludgers and druggies and no hopers. Unfortunately there are a lot of bad things Aboriginal people do, but people don't look at the good side of us.
I have such a huge family now, it's incredible. When I went to New Guinea I thought I was alone in this world. I've been married for almost 30 years, and have eight grandchildren. I've got a wonderful, wonderful family. I've got so much love now.
What really made the difference for me was going back to live on my grandfather's land, that was when the total healing took place. And the topping on the cake was just recently when I went to Strehlow Research Centre and the librarian there looked up my family history. Ted Strehlow had recorded my whole family tree in his diary, including me. Telling Ted about me was the most wonderful gift that my father and grandfather and grandmother left. It proves in black and white that I did exist all that time. I feel totally complete now.
While at the mission, Zita cared for a much younger boy than her,
Kenny Windley, who was a baby when he was taken from Hermannsburg in Western Arrernte country. He now calls her Mum Zita and they're close friends.
"Those who returned to country, we all share a wonderful bond," explains Zita. "We looked after babies like Kenny on the island, we bathed them, changed them, fed them. Through being taken away from our families, this wonderful bond is something good that has come out of this tragedy. "
Kenny describes an experience very different from Zita's.
It was a really good life, I remember.
I was only a piccaninny when they took me and I left when I was 13. We used to eat prawns and seafood, dugongs and crocodiles, stuff I'd never seen before.
We went fishing, camping out. I enjoyed it there, I called it home. But I think I was born to be happy.
It was a beautiful island and I enjoyed the lessons at school. I was treated like a baby king by the nuns! I used to get smacked when I did things wrong though!
When I was old enough to understand, I was sad to have been taken away from my family. When I left the island, when I was 13, I came back to Australia and tried to find my mother but welfare told us she was dead. I thought I was on my own.
In my twenties I came back, first to Tennant Creek and a woman said to me, "Let's go for a drive". I asked her where to and she said Alice Springs, it was meant to be paradise. I've been here ever since.
When I came here I felt happy. I started to know my family but when I asked my Uncle Herbie if I could look for my mother he said she really had died. I went to the cemetery and saw her headstone.
I've been a funeral director at Hermannsburg for 39 years now, and I started CAAMA with some mates of mine.
I can speak language - Western and Eastern Arrernte and Pitjantjatjara, Anmatjere and a bit of Top End language.
I feel proud and happy that we're all here together, all our family.


GOAL: OLYMPICS 2012. Report by ELISABTH ATTWOOD.


For 17-year-old mountain biker Daniel Johnston, 2005 has been his best year ever.
The highlights? Becoming Australian national champion three times, winning his age group (under 19s) in the US in the National Off Road Bicycling Association's (NORBA) national championships, and representing Australia in the world championships in Italy in front of 35,000 spectators. Johnston finished 39th in his age group out of 107 competitors from across the world.
He says he was astounded by the popularity of the sport in Italy: "Cycling is a big sport there. I heard it's got more money in it than soccer.
"In Australia, there's a lack of big corporate sponsors. When they get on board the media follows."
Johnston only began mountain biking three years ago, switching from BMX racing in which he'd been competing since he was four. "I needed to build up a base, build up strength and endurance and it's taken this length of time to do that.
"There's no way to fast track endurance, it takes time. I suppose it might be a slight disadvantage not starting at an earlier age, but BMX helps for sure."
He also had a big growth spurt this year - and although it came at the wrong time (during the world championships which caused his heart rate to increase rapidly and interfered with his racing), growing taller and stronger has enabled him to push his body harder than ever before.
He trains four hours a day, mostly on the road, as there's less chance of injury and it provides a more controlled environment for interval training with his coach, John Pyper.
"I squeeze it in around everything - it's always a bit of a push," says Johnston who is about to go into Year 12 at Centralian College which he'll study over two years.
"I take work away with me to competitions - at first I didn't but then my parents started pushing me to."
He says that the support from the college and his family are invaluable to him: "It's the difference between me going away to compete and not going away. I need support from everyone in the community - my school, family, coach."
Financial support has been a problem for Johnston up until recently when he secured funding from Trek Bicycles which will supply his bike gear, and his major sponsor will be the new bike shop in town, Ultimate Ride.
cost of travel "Last year I couldn't do all the races I wanted to because of the cost of travel.
"One of the hardest challenges has been to find sponsors - bikes cost a lot as well as the travel. A lot of riders I race against and sometimes beat all have been sponsored for a few years."
He says he wrote countless letters to companies asking for their support: "You get good at writing resumes! I think it's easier in the city - if you live near manufacturers. It's hard for me because I'm so remote."
But Johnston says living in the Alice definitely has its advantages: "The profile of mountain biking is pretty good considering the size of the town. If you look at the size and activity of our club it's one of the best around Australia.
"There's nice terrain here and lots of good trails. Nowhere else in the world has terrain like we have here.
"There's a bit of a lack of mountains to train on but the trails are technical - loose and rocky. You can practice descending down hills which counts for a fair bit in competition. It's what a lot of riders say they don't get the chance to work on."
In mountain biking, riders peak around their mid to late twenties, so Johnston is still a youngster in the sport. He got a taste of professional riding when in America for the NORBA event, training with the Australian team.
"My goals in the next couple of years is to make the Australian team and in 2012 make the Olympics," says Johnston who says he'd love to make a career of racing. He has his goal set on the national championships in February and from that hopes to be selected for the Oceania Championships in New Zealand in March.
He says he hasn't ruled out a career in road racing - and trains and competes with the road racing club in town. He says he hopes to make the national team in 2006: "Whether I can compete, I'm not sure - I might have other mountain bike commitments but it's good for the resume.
"There are more career options so I'm keeping an open mind. It's easier to get a contract with a road racing team than mountain biking."


RECLAIMING THE LAND. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.


When Dick and Ann Cadzow took up the lease at Mount Riddock Station in 1986, parts of the property some 200 kms north-east of Alice Springs were a sea of moving sand. Simply no pasture at all. There was little choice but to shut up these areas and begin the back-breaking work of reclamation.
Nearly 20 years later that work last year won them the Rural Press Landcare Primary Producer Award at the Northern Territory Landcare Awards. The judges commended them for "careful planning and execution of their on-ground activities, in conjunction with sustainable grazing management, [which] has resulted in dramatic improvements of inland condition and pastoral productivity on their property."
The carrying capacity of the 2500sqkm property has increased by 25 to 30 per cent and its market value has doubled. A visit to a 150sqkm paddock north of the homestead demonstrates what has been achieved. Back in 1986 the land was "hard and bare and full of rabbits". Dick shut it up and began a $350,000 warren-ripping program.
"We ripped and cross-ripped," he recalls. "Then the men would go out at night shooting any loose rabbits. They'd get 200, 250 in a night. The rippers had broken through the hard crust of the land so that any rain we got soaked in. At that time there were no shrubs in the area, only big trees."
The area was left destocked for seven years. In the meantime, the word on a new approach to rangeland reclamation had gotten out from nearby Woodgreen Station. Pioneered by pastoralist Bob Purvis, the technique involves construction of "ponding-spreader banks" of earth, which slow water flow across the land and improve filtration. The innovation had a profound influence on pastoralists' thinking in the Alice Springs district and throughout the Australian rangelands. In 1995 (as reported by the Alice News at the time) it won for Purvis the prestigious McKell Medal, awarded by the Agricultural and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand.
Dick had done some ponding on Phillip Creek Station, north of Tennant Creek, where he spent his first 25 years in the Territory before being bought out by mining companies. Steven Cadzow, now managing Mount Riddock as Dick moves into semi-retirement, remembers his father as "dabbling for years, trying to reclaim bits of land". He also recalls visiting Woodgreen to look at Purvis' achievements together with his father and a group of local pastoralists.
It was 1988 and they had just formed the Centralian Land Management Association (CLMA) in response to a challenge from Harry Butler as guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association. Butler had asked the pastoralists how they were going to respond to the ‘green' perception that cattle were damaging the country.
CLMA has gone on to be one of Australia's most successful landcare groups and has won two National Landcare Awards. About two thirds of the 80 pastoral properties in Central Australia belong to the association, but more importantly their approach to land management is universally embraced.
"I don't know anybody who is not doing this," says Dick, "you can't afford not to."
Ponding banks are put in wherever there's erosion, whether sheet erosion or washouts, working from higher in the catchment area to lower. There are hundreds across Mount Riddock, some in every paddock, varying in length and shape. They're about one and a half metres high - any lower and they would erode away.
Sown with buffel grass to stabilise the soil, some are designed to hold up to eight inches of water after heavy rain (any more and it wouldn't soak away), while others are designed to simply spread the water across the land.
"We probably need another 5000," says Dick, "the need never ends."
Ponding banks and rabbit control are the key strategies that have improved Mount Riddock, but other practices have played a role. Scarifying scalded ground is one. This is done with a huge piece of equipment called a Crocodile (because of the prominent ridges on its massive wheels), towed behind a bulldozer - another way of getting rain to infiltrate and do its good work.
Annual average rainfall over the last 20 years has been 295 ml. There was "marvelous rain" last October, says Dick, delivered in steady downpours over about 10 days. This followed winter rains in June which broke a spell of very dry weather - the dryest 13 months on record in many parts of the Red Centre. Many properties had to move or sell all their cattle but while the Cadzows sold some, average rainfall received on the eastern part of the property meant they were in a better position than many.
Indeed, this has been a period of expansion, as they recently took up a 10-year lease on the Aboriginal-owned Ooratippra Station neighbouring Mount Riddock to the east.
Other important practices for the Cadzows are conservative stocking rates and rotational grazing. The property carries 6000 head, all Poll Herefords. It is subdivided into 12 main paddocks, each with a watering point (mostly bores, some dams, and some piped water) and a square mile holding paddock.
A quarter of the paddocks are shut up at any one time, usually for a year or two, allowing the land to regenerate. There are 30 to 40 monitoring sites across the property, checked by the Territory department of primary industries every year. "We have a good record," says Dick.
While rotation has long been part of the Cadzows' management regime, they are now moving to put it on a scientific footing in a project undertaken with CLMA. An area has been subdivided into smaller paddocks and grazing is being closely monitored - pasture measured, cattle weighed - to establish "the true carrying capacity of the country". The project is also looking at the response of the spelled paddocks in terms of biodiversity.
"This is a systematic approach," says Steven. "It will produce the independent evidence for what we think we know. We certainly know that you can't just destock and expect the land to bounce back by itself. We had a paddock closed off for five years but it was going backwards. You've got to stir the ground up."
The paddock where Dick began his first ponding on Mount Riddock lies next to a cattle exclosure monitoring effects of destocking since December, 1988. Dick says every report since has revealed "a greater variety of cover outside than in".
There's no doubt that the introduced buffel grass is now the dominant species on Mount Riddock. As perennial pasture "it leaves all the other grasses for dead", says Dick, though he also says if he'd known of the controversy that would arise over the grass he never would have planted it.
The problem is that in some ungrazed parts of the country, such as the area surrounding Alice Springs, the grass is moving towards establishing a monoculture and contributing a high fuel load to country susceptible to wild fire. However, on pastoral land grazing appears to keep buffel in check and native species continue to be present. Dick does not doubt that he could have run a viable cattle enterprise without buffel - Mount Riddock was established in the late 1930s and was viable for three decades with native pasture. The land degradation that was apparent when Dick first arrived was due, he says, to people not being allowed to move cattle during the Brucellosis and Turberculosis Eradication Campaign - "the country got eaten out and the top soil just blew away".
The advantage of buffel grass is that it's more reliable than the seasonal natives. There are, however, plenty of these present in the reclaimed paddock adjacent to the cattle exclosure, where buffel appears to really dominate.
Dick shows us blue grass, oat grass, silky browntop, button grass, heathertop, "all good grasses - they'll grow thickly behind the ponding banks". He is delighted to find verbine, "the best feed - it will grow to shoulder height and last for about two years".
There are also plenty of shrubs, including native passionfruit, as well as the older established trees.
Natives that are less welcome are the kangaroos which Steven says have reached "plague proportions" - six ‘roos to every cow. When Steven first came to the Territory it was "a big event to see a ‘roo". Not any more. They can spell a paddock from cattle but a thousand ‘roos move in.
For the time being that's just something they have to live with.
Dogs and to a lesser extent cats are a problem. Contrary to what might be expected, the real trouble comes not from dingoes but from feral dogs such as Rottweiler and Alsation crosses, which will attack quite large animals. The Cadzows bait twice a year and shoot whenever necessary. During one year Dick and staff shot over 90 dogs. There's a scoreboard in one of the sheds, tallying who gets the most cats and dogs. "It's keenly contested," says Dick.
Fire is another threat but one which Dick has managed to keep at bay, containing a couple of small fires started by lightning strikes and never allowing wildfires burning on other properties to come in. He goes to help his neighbours fight them before they get to his boundaries. This is a remarkable achievement given the vast areas of Central Australia devastated by fires in the early 2000s.
A limiting factor on the enterprise is the condition of the so-called Plenty Highway that runs from the Stuart Highway in the west through to the Queensland border. The single-lane bitumen stops 20 kms short of Mount Riddock and from there the dirt road is of very variable condition and impassable as soon as there's enough rain to bring up the creeks and rivers to the east.
There are better markets in Queensland than in South Australia and the Cadzows send their cattle that way whenever they can. If road conditions force them to use the Barkly Highway to the north, passing through Mount Isa, it adds an extra 700 kms to the trip. Not surprisingly the state of Territory roads and the shortcomings of the federal and territory governments in this regard is a lively topic of conversation at "smoko" time.
At present the station supports nine adults. Apart from Dick and Ann, son Steven and his wife Rebecca, there's Scotty, a "priceless" jack-of-all-trades who's been there as long as the Cadzows, Cody the cook, station hands Tony and Jeff, and Red who looks after bores. There's also Bill and Jean, friends of the Cadzows' from Tennant Creek who have retired on the property and take care of the gardens and homestead area, as well as the poddy calves when Dick and Ann are away.
The Cadzows' daughter Robyn only recently left the property - "after working terribly hard here all her life", says Dick - to take up a position with the department of lands in Alice Springs.
Born in Terowie, in the mid-north of South Australia and raised in Keith on a mixed farm, Dick Cadzow was 30 years old when he headed north in 1963 - for a change and to get away from the cold. Tall and lean, he says you can "never be too hot" in this country where summer days are frequently above 40 degrees centigrade. He'll never leave, though he and wife Ann are now trying to lead a semi-retired life. That's changed little about their daily routine although Ann is pleased to have stopped, just last year, cooking for the staff.
"We're in the happy position to be able to say now, ‘We don't want to do that'," says Ann.
They are also in the happy position to be able to look around a piece of this good earth and know that through their efforts it has been restored and reinvigorated even as it also yielded them, their family and staff a good living. That must be profoundly satisfying.
"It's good to do something with your life," says Dick in his humble way, "and it's good to do what you like doing."


SIGNIFICANT FOOTPRINTS FORWARD. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.


Footprints Forward placed 85 Aboriginal people in work over the past 12 months but about half left their jobs after three months and most of the rest after six months.
A local non-government organisation, Footprints Forward helps find work for Aboriginal people, most of them young, and provides information and support for businesses looking to employ them.
It does not require its clients to be registered with a Job Network member or Centrelink - and this non-bureaucratic approach is part of the reason for its success, the organisation believes.
"People can come off the street and say they're interested in a type of job and we canvass employers to help them find it," says manager Marilyn Smith.
"It makes it easier sometimes for people if they don't have to fill in lots of forms."
Ms Smith says that using this approach is also successful when canvassing employers on behalf of the Indigenous job seekers: "A lot of our work is through word of mouth - we'll meet someone from a private enterprise socially and give them a card and we find it's successful that way."
A problem the organisation faces constantly is getting the young people to stay in their positions for more than three months. They are working to encourgae this by regularly mentoring the young people - visiting them at their workplace or with their families once a week or fortnightly.
"Some of them come from families with two or three generations who've never worked," says Geoff Miller, a mentor at the organisation.
"They have no role models and it's hard for them to get the work ethic."
He says motivation rises and falls among young people. They are often influenced by things like the football season which encourages them to come into town and be active, but are also affected negatively by what their peers are doing (or not doing).
Mr Miller is an Aboriginal man who was born and grew up in Alice Springs. He says that motivation is something which was always instilled in him as a young man from his parents: "I didn't have a choice of whether I went out to work or not. Both my parents worked and there was no such thing as the dole."
When he finished Alice Springs High School (now Anzac Hill High) at 13, Mr Miller worked droving cattle in stations around Alice Springs. When he was 19 he came back into town and has never been without work, employed in all sorts of jobs including as a labourer and truck driver. He says he hasn't come up against racism: "Companies will give people a chance if they want to work," he says.
Marilyn Smith has had a similar experience. She has lived in Alice Springs all of her life, and went straight from school to work at the post office typing telegrams, later moving into the exchange. "We had parents that made us work. In those days, parents were part of our motivation.
"My parents both worked - mum had a job which she had to be at 7am. She did it all her life.
"She always made sure we had breakfast and a lunchtime sandwich and food on the table at night.
"That all helped in a way.
"And they made sure they knew where we were at night. That's changed a lot - you don't ask if you can go out now, you just go."
Ms Smith says this discipline is a significant hurdle young people must overcome if they're to be successful in the workplace:
"You talk to kids about apprenticeships and they're keen until you tell them it's four years.
"They love their sport - my son included - and say it's their dream to be a PE teacher. But when they find out they have to study for six years or so, that goes out the window."
Mr Miller agrees - he regularly goes out to schools, talking about options for when students leave: "You're trying to talk to them but they're mucking about and not listening.
"It comes down to the family. Whether they're willing to commit themselves to making sure their kids are going to school and learning."
Ms Smith says attitudes at school carry over into the workplace - and it is a problem for employers: "Private enterprises, they've got a business to run. If a person can cut it and work with them, they'll be considered one of them, no problem.
"But private enterprise can't afford to keep someone on if they're taking days off or not turning up on time.
"It's fair enough.
"That's what we try to instil in the kids - they're part of a team, they have to turn up on time and work hard."
On the subject of recruiting people from overseas to work in a town which has high unemployment, Ms Smith says it's an issue they're well-versed in. "Companies here are looking for skilled, qualified workers. But a lot of kids suffer with literacy and numeracy which means they find it difficult to do trade school."
A tutor is provided while the students are studying, but when they come back into town, say from trade school in Darwin, they find it difficult to keep up with homework without extra help, says Ms Smith. "Finding funding for a tutor outside of trade school is a growing problem, the more people we're placing in apprenticeships."
Low wages are another sticking point, says Geoff Miller. "I talked to a kid who was leaving his position as an apprentice because he said his mate was making a lot more money delivering parts in a van.
"I tried to tell him in a few years time that won't mean anything when he's got qualifications but he didn't see it in the long term.
"If a young apprentice doesn't have the support of his family, to house him and give him food, he can't survive on $5 or $6 an hour - and that's all apprentices, no matter what colour they are. They have to pay for trade school too, and for their tools and safety gear.
"A lot of employers agree - some will up the wages but the government has got to start helping financially."
Footprints Forward is making a difference, steadily. The numbers of people they've placed in employment every year has increased since the organisation was formed in July 2003 - last year 76 people were placed in jobs, this year it was nine more.
Most of the positions are in trades and labouring including plumbers, butchers, air conditioning fitters, gardening and work on the Tanami mines. Office work is popular among girls, who Ms Smith says often do better than the boys: "They're easier to manage. They're more committed to knowing what they want from a job."
Its 12-man advisory board, made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous representatives, is a vital way of moving forward, it says.
Board members include Neil Ross from Ross Engineering and Tony Quatermass from the Aurora Resort as well as Peter Strachan (Strachy) from the Tangentyere Job Shop. They committed themselves for another two years at the recent AGM.
"They're a good source on what skills are lacking and what jobs are available, and also provide pointers on ways to approach employers," says Ms Smith.
"You feel sorry for them in a way - they're crying out for skilled workers but none of our clients have got the qualifications under their belt they need.
"But everything equates to role models. I hope that once we get Aboriginal people in somewhere, others will follow.
"But it's not easy."



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