WILL MINISTER LISTEN. REPORT BY KIERAN FINNANE.
Any dramatic change to the way Alice's state junior high schools do business was resoundingly rejected by a passionate meeting of the schools' communities on Monday night.
The theatrette at Centralian Senior Secondary College was packed by parents, students, teachers and supporters, women and men, boys and girls, black and white - a cross section of the local population, united and articulate, that is generally only dreamt about.
The meeting unanimously supported a motion put by Anzac Hill High principal John Cooper to "shore up what we've got".
This would see an agreement between Anzac, Alice Springs High School (ASHS) and Centralian, formalising the arrangement that allows Year 10 students to do VET courses and Stage One (Year 11) NTCE subjects at Centralian, while still based at the junior high schools.
The students are doing this at present, achieving "a staged transition to senior years" which parents hailed for its success, but the arrangement depends on the "goodwill" of the parties, said Mr Cooper. A "service model agreement" would see the Year 10s counted as part of the senior student population. This figure would be used for the allocation of staff, ensuring that there were enough teachers at Centralian to cover the demand from Year 10s.
The agreement would also put in place formal arrangements for transporting the students between the three campuses. At present, many Anzac students take themselves by bike, while parents are helping out with the ASHS students.
This arrangement would reflect the principles of the government's decision on middle schooling policy, said Mr Cooper, without causing disruption to the "pioneering" achievements of the local high schools.
An education consultant, Sheila O'Sullivan, ran the meeting and reminded those there that the government's decision on middle schooling is firm: henceforth, Years Seven to Nine will make up middle schools "with an integrated curriculum and specialist studies", while Years 10 to 12 will be the senior years.
She said the detail of how the policy would be implemented was still up for discussion, but it had to reflect already determined criteria.
She reported that teachers and principals had put forward additional criteria for Alice Springs. These were: choice in both location and subjects; a good mix of Indigenous and non Indigenous students to reflect the make-up of the community; and student well being (academic, social and emotional).
These criteria were warmly supported by the meeting.
Ms O'Sullivan said her job was to report back the community's views to the Education Minister, Syd Stirling. He is nonetheless committed to making a decision by the end of April.
There was anger that the Minister was not present at the meeting and cynicism and doubt over whether he would actually listen to what people are saying.
The example of his intransigence on the fate of the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre was pointed to with some bitterness.
The Minister's criticism of Alice schools' results in the media was an insult, said more than one speaker, to general clapping and cheering.
The Minister was invited last November to visit Anzac and has not done so.
There has been no infrastructure investment at the school for 12 years, said a member of Anzac's school council.
Was cost saving driving the Minister's decision, asked more than one speaker.
Parents were adamant that Year 10 students were not ready to go full time to Centralian, and equally teachers and students from Centralian were concerned about the college's ability to cope with Year 10s full time and the impact such a move would have on their facilities and more adult ways of doing business.
An Indigenous parent emphasised the importance of Year 10 for developing leadership qualities, arguing that Year Nine students are not yet mature enough for the role.
It would be jeopardised by moving the Year 10s to Centralian, where they would be "little fish again".
Ms O'Sullivan closed the meeting with thanks for "the clarity" of its advice.
MIDDLE SCHOOLING? HELLO, WE'RE ALREADY DOING IT. REPORT BY ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
In Alice both state junior high schools have been delivering "middle schooling" for years, say their school councils.
But in any case, the government is missing the point about education in our town, they argue.
Says Stephanie Mackie-Schneider, chair of the school council at Anzac:
"The government seems to be mainly worried about Year 12 results. Have they seen where these kids are from?
"What about TAFE? What about employment? Where's the research they've done on what's happening to our students? We certainly haven't seen it.
"If you want to see some of the tragedy in this town turn around, you need to get a healthy, strong, confident generation coming through. That's what we're working on.
"They're saying 'middle school' is the solution. Hello, we've been doing middle school for the last 10 years.
"Years seven to nine are our focus and Year 10 is structured as a transition year to the senior years or to employment.
"For too many students life is too chaotic for them to bother with anything that's going to be disappointing and hard."
Trish Holman, chair of the school council at ASHS, expresses similar views:
"We do middle schooling, have done for years. It's nothing new in Alice Springs. It's bizarre, we don't understand what the government wants.
"We've got a good program in place for our Year 10s. They learn to appreciate what is over at Centralian and then they can come back to the safety and security of our learning environment.
"Then when they go there for Year 11, it's not a big upheaval for them.
"They say middle schooling is for kids aged 11 to 14. Some of our kids in Year 10 are 14 up to the middle of the year. It's a growing year for so many, you see them at the start and they're still kids, and over the year you see them grow up, they start to become responsible for their own learning."
Both chairs are concerned about tension likely to arise from mixing all Indigenous families in the one school.
Said Ms Mackie-Schneider: "There are family feuds that would make mixing Anzac and ASHS difficult.
"Even more non-Indigenous people might choose to send their kids to private schools.
"We'd end up with an Aboriginal high school and nobody wants that, least of all the Aboriginal families. School is about preparing their children for mainstream society, that is a mixed society and it's important that the mix be part of their school experience."
Ms Holman said: "Different families go to the different high schools, that's been the beauty of having two schools in Alice.
"Mixing some families could lead to real drama. They will get kids dropping out if they do this."
Parents of Anzac students who spoke to the Alice News gave a big thumbs up to their school.
Chippy Miller, father of Louis in Year Nine:- "I went through settling my son in at Anzac over the last two years. He wasn't keen on learning, getting into trouble with other kids.
"I went to a lot of meetings with my son's teachers. He's going pretty well now. He doesn't want to go to any other school. If I have to uproot him now, I might as well pull him out of school and get him a job."
Alan Caust, father of Dale in year 10 and Alison in Year Seven; elected onto the school council last week:- "In the last two years my son has absolutely blossomed as a young man, as a direct result of the caring of his teachers.
"He came from a big school in a regional centre in Queensland. He was lost in the system.
I would never have expected him to reach the position of student leader, which he has. And now his grades are fantastic."
Faith White, mother of Luke Bathern in Year 10 and Megan Bathern in Year Seven; deputy chair, school council:
"Kids do better in a small school.
"Kids with issues with learning, they are on to them straight away.
"Luke has only just turned 15. He's already going across to CDU for two VET subjects.
"He'll go there full-time next year and he'll be ready.
"We're happy with this pathway."
Matthew Guggisberg, father of Sandor in Year Eight, and Kelly Mackie in Year Seven:
"I love the multi-cultural nature of the school. I'm a white parent and that's why I send my kids here. It reflects the people who are going to be in Alice Springs in the long term.
"The Minister is talking about Year 12 results, it is ridiculous to benchmark our achievements against other places, they don't have a 50 per cent Indigenous population."
BIGGER EXPO, MIXED VIEWS ON ECONOMY. REPORT BY ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Strong participation, more than twice last year's, made for a vibrant Expo last week and opinions on the state of the local economy were fairly upbeat.
Staffing, social issues, bureaucracy, were concerns; but land releases, property values and fewer competitors were plusses for the businesses the Alice News spoke to. And some people are doing very nicely, indeed. "There is a lot of money in a small group of people here. People have done well out of this town," said Matthew Baker of Baker Young Stockbrokers, based in Darwin. These people are more likely to invest in stocks and shares than ever before, he said. Alice only accounts for about five per cent of his business, but this a tripled in five years.
"Three years ago I had about 50 enquires at Expo. Last year it was 100, this year I'm expecting 150," said Mr Baker. Usually 10 per cent of enquires turn into customers.
"Historically, there was no need for us to supply a service here: now potentially the town is big enough for us to have an office here."
He says the transient population make it difficult for people to forge relations with brokers but he forecasts the town will grow steadily: "Alice Springs is becoming self-sufficient: it will always have to import some things but people are even growing lettuces here now.
"The sea change which happened five years ago of people moving to the coast has turned into a tree change: people moving to the mountains in country areas. Regional places like this are becoming more attractive."
He says one reason is because property is so affordable here compared with cities. "You can afford to buy a place here and live in it without going bankrupt. And if you move, there's no problem renting it out. Rents are high: you'll pay the same for your mortgage as you would renting it out."
Roy Weston, the estate agent, expanded its business to cover the rentals market in January. It's early days but properties are being snapped up as soon as they're on the market, said Gerry McDonald, a sales consultant.
And prices of houses in Alice Springs rose by 4.5 per cent in December last year after a 2.5 per cent fall in the July to September period compared with the same period in the previous year, she said, attributing the rise to "confidence in the market".
There's been a shift in buying and selling patterns: "Normally we get busy from September but this year it was more towards October and we are still busy mid-March when usually it has dropped off."
This is due to an Australian-wide issue: "I think people were waiting to see what was going to happen to interest rates," said Ms McDonald.
The retail market in Alice Springs bucked the national trend for February, according to Dean Rackley, the floor manager at Murray Neck Betta Electrical. Nationally, sales for February were soft: 15 per cent down from 2005. But Mr Rackley said business at Murray Neck matched that of last year.
"We've been fairly steady since Christmas," he says. "Christmas wasn't quite as busy as the previous year: I think fuel prices affected it. And a lot of other businesses had sales. They wanted to shift stock and that affected us."
"We're 30 per cent up on this time last year," says Ian Johnson, the manager of Top Gear Car and Four Wheel Drive Centre. "Our competitors have closed and there now aren't many businesses offering what we do."
He said petrol prices dented business by about 10 per cent. Tourism makes up 40 per cent of the company's business during the holiday season (Easter to October) and he says he's noticed a change in the type of customers: "Last year there were a lot more Australians holidaying in Australia rather than going overseas."
Mr Johnson says a major issue affecting the business is the negative perception of Alice Springs that other Australians have: "The town's got a bad image, of drunks and layabouts. I know many families have left because of it. I would like to see the public drinking ban enforced here. No more surveys, we need a strong reinforcement of it."
"Getting and keeping staff is the biggest issue we face," says Mark Ling, the co-owner of Murray Pest Control. "We've got a good crew at the moment which we've had for three years which is unusual. But anyone will tell you it's a problem, from plumbers to builders."
Mr Ling said the business has had an "exceptional" season so far thanks to the weather conditions which have encouraged redback spiders and termites into town. Disposable income and release of land has boosted sales for Stratco over the past nine months, said Josh Schofield of the company.
"The building industry is getting busier with the new releases of land which have recently happened.
"Compared to nine months ago we're getting orders for about 30 per cent more verandahs.
"I think it's because property value is increasing so people have got more money to spend on their houses."
He said a big issue affecting the industry is complicated certification. "It's more difficult to get buildings certified in the Northern Territory than anywhere else in Australia because of the state laws regarding cyclones."
Although constructions in Central Australia don't have to be built to withstand cyclones, the certification for paperwork is complicated because of state laws regarding the issue.
"We're ahead compared with last year's figures," said Paul Lelliott, the sales manager at Alice Springs Camera Centre. He wouldn't say by how much exactly but said it was more than 10 per cent.
"It's because of the introduction of new products. We're stocking printers which don't need a computer and digital cameras are improving in quality and reducing in price so they're more attractive for more people."
The business introduced three more digital printing booths in 2005. "We're targeting our advertising at women as we're finding its housewives who are printing out the digital pictures."
This year's Expo had double the number of companies booking stalls compared to last year: 120 as opposed to last year's 50.
DEBATE ON OPEN,WELCOMING COUNCIL UNDERMINED. REPORT BY ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
A debate on a more open town council was undermined on Monday night by injudicious statements and provocative chairing.
Most of council's business is debated in open but some is not. Alderman Murray Stewart wanted members of the public to be able to ask for matters listed in confidential business to be debated openly.
His motion was rejected. The mayor, Fran Kilgariff, argued: "This council more than any other council is open."
Ald Stewart argued, "Most of the controversy to do with this council is because the public found out about something too late. Like the civic centre, the tip shop, the swimming pool.
People don't like their business discussed behind their back."
But he provoked fury when he stated: "Throughout the world politicians are ranked very low.
"In the public's opinion local government is floating one above paedophiles."
"I take extreme offence at Alderman Stewart's view of council," said Ms Kilgariff.
"You make derogatory remarks about aldermen which are entirely unearned.
Aldermen put the community of Alice Springs first and devote a lot of their time which they could otherwise devote to family or other business.
"I've bitten my tongue a number of times, Alderman Stewart, but not tonight.
"If anyone thinks council ranks one above paedophiles it's because of your comments which have brought council into disrepute."
Ald Stewart said his comment wasn't referring to individual aldermen but was based "on fact" of the public's perception of local government across Australia.
Chair of the committee meeting, Ald David Koch, was bullish in his handling of the motion and others during the meeting, often speaking over aldermen and stating his opinion (as chair he was surely meant to conduct the debate impartially).
Ald Koch quoted the Local Government Act on members of the public not taking part in a council meeting and certain issues being discussed in private.
Ms Kilgariff said these issues included personal matters, the hardship of a resident, commercial information, revealing a trade secret, purchase of land or issues subject to legal prejudice.
Ald Meredith Campbell said: "[This motion is indicating] somehow our dealings are shameful and need to be covered up. I don't think that's what the public think."
Ald Melanie van Haaren was the only councillor who agreed with Ald Stewart's motion.
"The intention of these motions tonight were to aim for more accountability and transparency.
"I do believe items have been discussed in confidential that shouldn't be.
"I don't mind questioning or showing my lack of knowledge in front of the public."
Council CEO Rex Mooney said: "Local government is the most transparent form of government. "Occasionally we have to use our discretion.
As a professional councillor I take the 'secret society' accusation very seriously.
"The Local Government Act is quite specific. It is not for the public to dictate what goes into and out of confidentiality."
Ald Stewart's motion that reports to be discussed at council meetings should be posted on the Town Council's website no later than by Friday evening was unanimously carried.
NO PROOF OF URBAN DRIFT BUT BERRIMAH LINE STILL THERE. REPORT BY KIERAN FINNANE.
KIERAN FINNANE speaks to our federal member, MHR for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, about the issues on everyone's lips in Alice.
Alice News: There's no end to the good news stories about the Darwin economy but nothing to compare coming out of Alice. There seems to be a widening gap between Darwin and the rest of the Territory. Snowdon: I don't think there's any proof of any of that. There's no doubt that the [Alice] economy always goes through these cycles, of people coming and going.
There's a lot of work currently in the building industry. It's a fact that people looking for a tradesperson are finding it difficult to get someone.
News: That could be explained by a lot of tradespeople having left town. Snowdon: We shouldn't be surprised about the mobility of the labour force. I know of a young electrician offered a job on east coat in Queensland, for $70,000 to $80,000 a year. The wages here couldn't compete, he upped and left. There's a skills shortage right around Australia, it's happening elsewhere too. People are leaving town for economic reasons.
News: That's still bad news for Central Australia, isn't it?
Snowdon: It may or may not be bad news, I think the economy is still strong here. I speak to people on a regular basis, things aren't as dire as people would like to make out.
The economy will wax and wane, we don't have an industry base here apart from the hospitality industry, and we don't have a large enough population to sustain people through the ups and downs. We just have to hope that the population will increase over time.
News: There's a perception that urban drift from the bush is occurring on a substantial scale? Do you agree?
Snowdon: No, I don't. It's certainly true that people move in and out of town and that may be happening more regularly or irregularly, I don't know, but I don't think there's any baseline data. There is a need for one thing, and that's for someone do a decent and up to date demographic study of town, to try to ascertain the true population mobility and then make policy decisions based on that.
News: You travel around the bush. Are you aware of people leaving communities on a permanent or semi-permanent basis?
Snowdon: People move for different reasons, some in, some out. I don't think the assertions that are being made are based on fact and won't be until we can get some decent baseline information about population mobility.
News: What's happening with economic development in the bush?
Snowdon: There's obviously a massive amount of work around the Tanami, and an increasingly large number of Aboriginal people employed in the mine. In other places people are involved in the tourism industry.In many places, because of the nature of the communities, their isolation, there's no really sustainable economic growth. People are reliant on work schemes, CDEP for one, but if CDEP doesn't exist, they don't have that option.
There are all sorts of opportunities in land management. A lot more could be done in Central Australia to do with land management.
News: What do you think about the lifting of the activity test exemption for dole recipients in remote communities (see last week's issue)?
Snowdon: I think it's a stupid idea for obvious reasons. Say, for example, Kintore. What are the options for employment? There's a school, a police station, a council office, a health service, a store, they are the only options for employment. There may be some from time to time in the building industry. [Mr Snowdon did not mention art; Kintore is home to some of Australia's most sought after artists.] It's stupid to make the activity test apply in those places where you clearly don't have a sustainable local economy.
News: It only applies when communities agree and there are work and training opportunities available.
Snowdon: Let's see where they are. I'd like to see the evidence of where there are substantial work and training opportunities. We know this federal government has not been resourcing training.
If there are communities where there are opportunities, then that's terrific. But I must admit, in terms of my knowledge of the southern part of the Territory, I can't see too many communities where that is an option. News: Isn't the potential largely unexplored, in for instance, tourism and horticulture, to name the most obvious examples? Snowdon: People are engaged in some of these activities, but the bottom line is not that. The bottom line is that it is the responsibility of government to provide the capital and infrastructure to make the communities survive, to provide for the longevity of those communities. That includes educational services. Previous CLP administrations took a conscious decision not to provide sufficient and adequate education resources to communities across the Territory.
Clare Martin's government was left with people who are severely under-resourced and under-skilled, they don't have the basic educational qualifications. And now the federal government is making demands upon these very same people, who are victims because of where they live, that they are responsible for their own plight. That is simply not the case.
We are talking of successive governments, both federal and Territory.
News: What do you think about shared responsibility agreements (SRAs, which are negotiated between the Commonwealth Government and communities, exchanging funds for a social outcome, such as support for "no pool, no school" schemes and, more controversially, a petrol bowser in exchange for children's face-washing)? Snowdon: Having agreed outcomes for agreed programs is a good idea. SRAs that are in fact only a way for government to siphon off its responsibilities are a hideous idea. It would not be tolerated in Alice Springs.
The agreements have to be made on an equal basis, not the government, which is all powerful, asserting what the agreement will contain and then providing resources only on the outcomes set by government. They've got to come from the community, done in partnership.
News: Is there a question mark over the viability of some communities in the bush?
Snowdon: This debate can only take place in context of discussion with Indigenous communities. I know of many communities who will say, their priority is not our priority. Our priority is to sustain ourselves, our cultural identity, our land and our obligations to one another. The government may have different objectives. News: But doesn't cultural maintenance go hand in hand with an ability, to a substantial degree, to look after yourself and your dependents? Snowdon: I'll go back to my earlier point about successive failures by past governments. News: Is the current Territory government getting policy right in the bush?
Snowdon: More than any other government has ever done. There's no question about their desire to sit down with Indigenous people to get better outcomes, given the limited resources available.
News: There's a perception here that resources are focussed in Darwin.
Snowdon: The Berrimah Line still exists, there's no question about that in my view. We've still got a job to do to break that down.
Regional members of the Territory Government are occupied directly in breaking it down. It affects not only Alice but the rest of the Territory.
The grandstand at Traeger Park is evidence of a change in attitude. It was something people had been asking the CLP for for decades. It took Labor only four years.
BIRTH OF AN ART CENTRE. REPORT BY KIERAN FINNANE.
Four months ago, Tangentyere Artists was still a plan in the making. On Friday, it earn its art centre credentials with the opening of its first exhibition, at Araluen, of over 100 works by 61 artists.
As the name suggests, this is an art centre for the town camps of Alice Springs: 12 of the 19 are home to artists contributing to the show.
The centre's aim is to get artists to "recognise that it is better to come to an established and ethical art centre, that is operating for them, not for profit", says coordinator Liesl Rockchild.
"They will be better supported by us and art centres like Ngurratjuta and Irrkerlantye.
"Artists are quite free to go between the three but we want to encourage them to move away from the private dealers.
"They don't offer long term support for the artists' careers, they pick up artists up and drop them.
"They don't offer a planned exhibition schedule.
"There's no relationship to public institutions like public art galleries and museums who won't deal with them.
"Unscrupulous dealers will sell work for five, ten, 100 times what artists get paid." So why do artists go to them?
"The attraction is usually an upfront payment," says Ms Rockchild, "and their family might get lunch. Of course, there's an advantage in getting money up front.
"But we tell artists your painting is worth more than $300, it's worth $1000 but you have to wait until it sells.
"After this show, artists will see it adds up in the end.
"And from us they will get industry advice and exposure, codes of conduct, workshops, seminars, and exchange with other art centres."
Ms Rockchild began work 10 months ago. She and Margaret Kemarre Turner visited the camps with a book collection about Aboriginal art and other contemporary Australian art.
"It was an education about what else is out there so people weren't stuck in the idea that you have to do bush tucker paintings, or neat dots, or that classic composition of motifs in the four corners of the canvas, linked by lines to a central motif.
"We talked about the leading Aboriginal artists, past and present, people like Dorothy Napangardi, Eubena Nampitjin, Clifford Possum, Albert Namatjira." Assistant coordinator Cheryl Wilson, also an artist, says this worked well. "A lot of artists haven't got their confidence up. I didn't. And even now some are taking their time."
Says Ms Rockchild: "We work closely with each artist, to develop their style and see that they get a good return for their work.
"Artists bring work in, and we look at each canvas and talk with them about how it will hold up in the marketplace, how they can work with their colour palette, their style." Says Ms Wilson: "When Liesl gave me a talk about my work and said I could do better, I didn't think I could."
Yet her progress has been impressive. Not all artists are new to painting. Numbers of them have previously painted for PapunyaTula, Maraku, Warlukurlangu, Ernabella, and Keringke.
Some artists continue to spend half of their time in bush communities and the rest in town.
"It's great that they can be supported in both places by an art centre," says Ms Rockchild. At present, artists paint at home and visit the two coordinators, based at Tangentyere Council, to collect materials or to deliver finished work and talk about it. They buy their materials at cost from the centre, which is different from most art centres.
Says Ms Wilson: "Personally, I think it's a good way.
You take care of the materials better. Because it's yours, you use only a certain amount. "I've noticed other artists putting their paints away."
At this art centre, social goals are explicitly linked to artistic ones.
Providing an alternative to inactivity and substance abuse is a key motivation.
Says Ms Wilson: "One of the artists liked to drink, she was drinking a lot, her kids weren't going to school. "When she started painting, the kids were off to school and she was busy with her art. "Hopefully then other people will see the difference that doing her art has made for one person and it's good for her kids to see. "It will be encouraging for the kids to come and see their parents' paintings hanging at Araluen and they can think, 'If they can, I can'." Painting also provides an all important link to culture and country.
Ms Wilson speaks with feeling on this: "People come in from communities to live in town and they've lost their stories, their country. Through painting, it's not lost, they've still got their place, it belongs to us no matter where we end up."
PROUD OF WHO HE WAS. CASSIDY STOCKMAN JAPALTJARRI,C. 1920 - 2006
Mark Roots is an aeronautical engineer who met Cassidy Stockman Japaltjarri in the mid-90s through Harold and Colleen Raunacher, managers of the shop at Mt Allan, where Cassidy had retired. Since then Mr Roots has been visiting Mt Allan at least once a year, spending most of his two week holiday with Cassidy, looking around his country. He has contributed the following obituary.
From the first day I met Cassidy there was something about him: he was proud of who he was and was proud of his heritage and culture. I warmed to him immediately and used to sit for hours with him in and around the Mt Allan shop and just talk to him. He would tell me about his culture and sacred sites. This was often done in the early days with reference to some of his paintings.
As our friendship developed we used to go around to different sites, sometimes just Cassidy and me, but at other times with some of the other old men and traditional owners of the sites we were to visit.
The following is something of what I learnt from meeting this much loved and respected old man:- Cassidy Stockman Japaltjarri was born around 1920 and was the second born son to Jack Jungarrayi and Ruby Nangala. Jack Jungarrayi had three wives and thus Cassidy was from a large family of five brothers and six sisters all of whom have passed away. Cassidy's famous brother, the artist Clifford Possum, was the second born son to Jack's second wife Rosy.
In his early life Cassidy enjoyed the nomadic ways of his forefathers. This was shortlived as white people were gradually moving into the Territory in search of their fortunes.
In 1928 Cassidy's father took his entire family walkabout to avoid the bloodshed of the Coniston Massacre and they trekked from Coniston to Haasts Bluff, a distance of several hundred kilometres. They then remained in that area for a few years before eventually venturing back to their homelands.
Cassidy became a man through initiation and spent many years then learning his culture and traditions, honing his skills as a craftsman making boomerangs, spears, woomeras and shields. His family taught him the names of the plants and animals and he learnt what was good tucker, what was medicine and what to avoid eating.
He learnt to hunt and to track animals, as well as the location of water holes, soaks and springs.
He was taught about his culture by the old men and by walking between sacred sites and corroboree sites. At the sites and camps the men would teach the young men their stories and culture and draw paintings in the sand to teach them the stories and songs.
All these skills set Cassidy in good stead and he remembered them all for his entire life and was only too eager to let outsiders that he trusted into his world to show them something of what it meant to be Aboriginal.
Cassidy worked as a stockman on Coniston, Napperby and Mt Allan stations and spent his later life at Mt Allan where he retired.
Cassidy married his first wife Casey and they lived at Coniston in the early days. Cassidy then moved for work reasons to Napperby station and his pregnant wife remained at Coniston. After the baby was born Casey had to go to Alice Springs hospital for an operation. She took her baby with her. Apparently social services took the baby from Casey when she was ill and the baby was taken into care or adopted away. Sadly Casey passed away shortly after her trip to Alice Springs and Cassidy never saw his wife or first born child again. Efforts to trace his daughter sadly did not bear fruit before his death.
Cassidy had a second wife, Kitty (from Willowra) and she bore him a son, Basil. Basil is married to Lindy Nangala and they live at Napperby with their three children, Bradley, Calvin and Regina. Cassidy doted over his grandchildren and always looked forward to visiting them.
Cassidy lived at Mt Allan as a pensioner for many years until he passed away. During this time he formed a very close bond with Harold and Colleen Raunacher who have managed the shop at Mt Allan for over 15 years. Harold and Colleen cared for him and ensured that he had food and clothes, kept himself warm and saw the sister if he was ill.
Cassidy would sit in the shop every day and talk to all and sundry, laugh and joke, reprimand when necessary and give gifts or money to the children. When Colleen was in the shop alone Cassidy would say he had to stay there to take care of Colleen and to prevent anyone giving her any "humbug".
In later life Harold took Cassidy to visit other parts of Australia such as Perth - Cassidy returned from the trip full of joy and happiness. I recall him telling me about how much water was in the sea and the river in Perth, and how "rubbish" the Todd River was in comparison.
It is not clear when Cassidy started painting, however, he was a prolific artist and painted quite a number of different dreamtime stories which have been readily collected worldwide and I am sure will continue to be in demand for many years to come. After Clifford passed away he changed the stories he painted and began to paint what he called "circle dreaming" and "possum dreaming", taking them over from his brother.
Cassidy was an excellent teacher. He delighted in teaching me new skills and ridiculing me when I could not perform the task as well as he did.
His knowledge of the thousands of square miles that make up Anmatyerre land was second to none. He could take you to sites which he himself had never visited, but he knew the song or story for that site and thus he could navigate there.
For Cassidy the environment was not to be conquered, it was something to care for to ensure its prosperity for our grandchildren. He would say, "In the early days people cared for the land and the land looked happy. Nowadays no one cares and the land looks very sorry!"
Cassidy never blamed white people for what had happened in the past but he would note that our ancestors had done things wrong. He would say that black fellas were there first and then whites - and now that we were both there we had to work together to understand each other for the future of our children.
There is no one that Cassidy met that was not touched by the man. He had a huge presence and was respected by both Aboriginal and white people.
He was disappointed with the Aboriginals that did not hold their culture in high regard or who were drunks. He was very outspoken against this behaviour and would tell anyone that would listen, and for that matter, those that did not want to hear.
He was happy to move with the times but never wanted his culture to cease to exist. I think he did a lot in his life to ensure the culture survives. Cassidy was a respected member of the community and he was chairman of the community council. I will remember his fantastic sense of humour and his wicked laughter, his smile and his warmth. All who had the good fortune to meet Cassidy will always remember him. Those that knew him better have been truly blessed.
LETTERS: TERRITORY HOUSING - ENFORCE EXISTING LAW.
Sir,- The blatant misuse of public housing in Alice Springs is a disgrace. Territory Housing Department staff does not enforce the current Residential Tenancy Act which gives it all the power it needs to fix the anti-social behaviour in public housing, so it certainly won't enforce this new lip service legislation of anti-social behaviour passed at the last sitting of parliament.
The Martin Government has not got the fortitude or the foresight to make a difference. Never has, never will!
Nightly, people movers, packed to the hilt, cruise around the streets looking for beds for the night with often as many as 20 people traipsing into two bedroom units or already overcrowded houses.
They arrive with their swags and sleep either in the house or all over the yards. Bush buses drop off hoards to these same units/houses and taxis drop off drunks late at night. The accompanying rubbish that builds up and the anti-social associated noise are intolerable at times.
The legal tenants of these properties encourage these intruders and often sneak them in under the cover of darkness, which in itself indicates that they know they are not doing the right thing!
I can categorically state that among the public housing which surrounds my home, and there are a lot of them, there are very few that are not being misused in this and many other ways. In fact often when tenants move into these homes, many others just move straight in with them and do not leave.
When residents of the surrounding areas contact Territory Housing they are told that "they are allowed to have visitors". Well, of course they are allowed to have visitors but 20 people living in and outside these properties for weeks on end can by no stretch of anyone's imagination be called visitors! Territory Housing's Good Neighbour Policy is a joke!
The double dipping of some of these tenants should result in serious action by Territory Housing; instead they just ignore it, well aware that it is going on. One lot of tenants in units (two bedroom) on Lyndavale Drive, regularly disappear off to their 'country' house for several weeks before returning, most times with six to eight others in tow and continue to live in overcrowded conditions.
Children, some as young as two years old, wander the streets at all hours of the day and night. Many of them don't go to school, they trespass on people's property, rifle through everyone's letterboxes, throw rocks at windows and cars and create general havoc. Where are the parents?
Surely it is time for the Federal Government to send a representative here to see how hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent fixing up these properties when they are eventually vacated only to see them trashed again and again.
When are we as a community going to say enough is enough, use your own money, (there seems to be millions of royalty monies stashed away), to help your own people, instead of looking for handouts all the time. Even Warren Mundine agrees that the current systems are not working and a rethink is inevitable.
Early April fools?
Sir,- Re "Real ghost trains in the Simpson" (Alice News, March 2/3) with the claim of buried "trains" by C. Vaughan, this should have been saved until the beginning of April.
The errors and glib statements in this story are one thing but the assertion that the Commonwealth Railways were unable or unwilling to recover damaged locos and wagons and buried them instead, is close to being too stupid for words and further to that, it is an insult to the people who worked for that organisation.
There are/were at various locations along the line, pieces of abandoned railway equipment that were photographed and noted many years ago by myself and others.
All locomotives that ran on the Central Australia Railway have been accounted for by authoritative railway groups and historical records. There are no buried "trains".
The so called Ghan Preservation Society in its on/off 25 year existence has a record of history fabrication and myths, but this latest piece of hogwash takes the cake.
ED- The Alice News accurately quoted Chris Vaughan, vice-president of the Ghan Preservation Society, in our story. We offered Mr Vaughan a right of reply to Mr Burton's letter. He writes:-
It's good to see that Mr Burton has as much enthusiasm as I do, just a shame it's negative.
The conditions of the time, not the ability of the men who worked the line, dictated the outcome of the locos. In all there were NM, T and C class engines which ran the narrow gauge line to Alice Springs.
I appreciate Mr Burton surveyed the line from a car, and now we have surveyed the line by satellite.
I would love to sit down with Mr Burton in April and share some cake.
GETTING BIG PICTURE. COLUMN BY VIKTORIA CORMACK.
Lately I have been running on autopilot a lot, especially when ferrying the kids to school and back. I have noticed it when I've had extra kids in the car that I'm supposed to be dropping off first, and not thinking have stuck to my usual route, having to stop and turn back. Part of my brain has been busy trying to solve what we are having for dinner while another part has been running the usual program.
My mind follows certain paths that involve the chores of the day and my family's routines. My thoughts centre on these activities. Memories are triggered by the things I come across everyday.
I have the same thoughts and memories in the same places. I remember neighbours who used to live in our street every time I pass their old house. I associate places in town with people I used to meet there, or things I felt or was thinking about in a particular spot at some point.
We are told we are to live in the present, yet the past lingers everywhere. Buildings and people might be long gone yet they are still there in our mind. I used to wonder how my mum could bear to return to the town she grew up in since it had changed so much with ugly modern buildings and busy streets. I now suspect her childhood town is actually still there, intact in her memory, and the changes to it in some ways just superimposed on it. Moving through a place where you have lived even for a short time can be like flicking through a photo album. Each image triggering memories. The longer you stay the thicker the photo album gets. As you leave you cannot take it all with you and some of the memories will die. Or we forget how to remember.
Yet the paths formed by our experiences are still there in our minds and remain a part of who we are. Similarly we have direct genetic links to our past even if we don't know who our ancestors were or what traits we may have inherited. In all my years at school I never once did a school project on family history. I'm currently involved with the forth such project since my children started school in Alice. I know my children's ancestry much better than I know my own. I did a lot of history at school, but it was never personal. My children have done much less history and most of it has been personal so far, relating either to their own family or where they live. Looking at your own place in history can be a way of getting interested in the history of other peoples, nations and the world. Unfortunately we tend to follow our own route and not find the time to study either the bigger picture or sideways links.
It is like a tapestry where we all make up the threads in the weave but we are not interested in what the tapestry portrays, just in a few strands of wool.
Our place in the world and why we are here have preoccupied the human race since the dawn of conscious time. We have been and still are asking ourselves where we come from and where are we going.
But never the less we get caught up in everyday patterns and just keep moving. I imagine our ancestors did pretty much the same.
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