ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
June 8, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.



Push for new grog trial. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

The community group pushing for a price-based initiative to combat alcohol related mayhem in Central Australia says it would not oppose also trialling a strategy restricting availability of grog, currently consumed here at a rate more than twice the national average.
"If that was the only way we could get a price based trial I think we'd probably say, so be it," says Donna Ah Chee, speaking for the People's Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC).
The group is calling for a three month experiment when grog, measured as pure alcohol, is sold for no less than beer.
This would mean a sharp price increase for cheap wines, usually sold in casks, while not affecting the cost of spirits, "coolers" and wines sold in bottles for more than $7.50 (white) and $8.50 (red).
Cheap alcohol affected by the proposal is sold chiefly to people "drinking to get drunk," says PAAC spokesman John Boffa.
The second initiative, put up for discussion by Alderman David Koch (Alice News, May 18) is proposing home deliveries, restricting bottle shop sales to one day a week (at the end of the social services pay cycle), but round-the-clock access to take-away liquor for tourists normally living outside a 1500 km radius from Alice Springs.
Like locals, they now can't get take-away liquor until 2pm weekdays.
And for locals, Ald Koch has suggested a license for take-away purchases which can be canceled or suspended if the carrier causes trouble or breaks the law.
PAAC wants a broad "public health" initiative which is for the "common good" of the entire population while Ald Koch is focussing on dealing with the rampant anti-social behavior in public, leaving decisions about drinking in private to the people concerned.
Ms Ah Chee and Dr Boffa work for the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, a health service.
They blame the Liquor Commission and the NT Government's director, Office of Alcohol Policy, Ian Crundall, for the failure of the last alcohol trial in Alice Springs, which was down to not taking take measures responding to "traders' and consumers' swift and opportunistic switch to port wine".
Instead of continuing to tackle the problems until a solution is found, we're "sitting on our hands while people are dying," says Ms Ah Chee.
"Dr Crundall personally did not want to act against the port.
"He didn't see that as a problem," says Dr Boffa.
He claims Dr Crundall, who The News understands is heading, together with Chief Minister Clare Martin, the new alcohol task force, should be asked to resign or sacked "if he still takes the view that it is possible to significantly reduce alcohol caused harm in Alice Springs without reducing per capita consumption".
This consumption is currently about 17 liters of pure alcohol a year per person.
"If there are still people of that view advising this government they need to be moved on," says Dr Boffa.
"The tragedy of the last trial was that it wasn't allowed to work. The public could well be browned of. They've been through one trial and it didn't work because it was deliberately undermined."
Says Ms Ah Chee: "We predicted there would be a shift to port.
"The Liquor Commissioner guaranteed us he would do something about it and he didn't. The Liquor Commission abdicated its responsibility to continue the trial until we had success.
"We should have immediately moved into another 12 months' trial with port included. They didn't. When it didn't work they just walked away, leaving us with the problem again."
Dr Boffa says the explanation was the absence of a request from the Evaluation Reference Group (ERG) chaired by Dr Crundall.
Congress, which had a seat on the ERG, asked for new measures but "others, particularly the chair, were totally opposed to doing anything about port."
Dr Boffa says Dr Crundall had a "very marginal view, which would not be a credible in any scientific forum.
"He seems to have a significant influence on the Minister, Syd Stirling.
"If you don't have senior advisors who provide evidence based policy options, and are unable to change their view in response to new evidence, then you have to consider their employment."
Both PAAC members say alcohol education has been "a complete failure.
"We don't live in a world where having the knowledge necessarily changes our behavior.
"People know that eating fast foods, smoking and drinking too much is bad for them.
"Yet they still don't follow that knowledge in their own behavior."
Ms Ah Chee says fears that more family income will be diverted to grog if prices are raised are ill founded: "There is no evidence to suggest that there is that major elasticity in the problem drinkers' income.
"The heaviest drinkers are already humbugging as much as they can for money," she says.
In the evaluation of the Tennant Creek liquor trial, supermarkets reported no reduction in food sales although the cost of grog had gone up sharply.
Dr Boffa says the Tennant trial is wrongly labeled as a failure.
There was a 20% reduction in consumption, a big reduction in harm, and a three-fold decline in presentations to the hospital by Aboriginal women for injuries inflicted by others.
There is much evidence of exorbitant prices charged by grog runners out bush, but, says Dr Boffa, "the homicide rate and the harm in Alice Springs is much higher than in a remote community.
"The price is too high to afford the quantities of pure alcohol that are causing such havoc in Alice Springs."
Both PAAC representatives says they have reservations about Ald Koch's proposal although it could complement the group's price based scheme which World Health Organization reports describe as the "single most effective".
Ms Ah Chee and Dr Boffa say home deliveries would be "selectively reducing take-away for some sections of the community and not others".
They say heavy drinkers are living throughout the community, in suburban homes, not just in creeks and town camps.
The broad community is likely to agree to "minor inconvenience" if people could be saved from alcohol harm, and measures should focus not just on what's happening in public: homicide and sexual abuse generally happen inside, says Dr Boffa.
"Whether people are killed in public or in private, they are still dead."
He says there should not be a "strategy of shifting the problem.
"We don't want to stuff the community around this time with a poorly designed trial that's not going to work."
Says Ms Ah Chee: "We've got to get it right.
"The community is not going to tolerate another ineffective strategy, and they shouldn't."


Centre 'cash cow' for National Trust. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.

NT National Trust heavies Jan Hills (president) and Elizabeth Close (director) refuse to give details about an apparent imbalance between Alice Springs and Darwin in the spending on heritage properties.
One third of the trust's $380,000 annual budget comes from "property income" and the rest is mostly from Territory Government grants and a contribution from the Federal Trust which gets its money from Canberra.
While the trust has four commercial tenants in Alice Springs, there is only one in Darwin.
Dr Hills would not disclose whether the money earned in Alice Springs stays in the town.
And Ms Close says: "We have 18 properties across the Territory and we have five properties that earn income.
"The income is divided across the properties according to need."
However former trust council member Domenico Pecorari, who in 2003 led an exodus of trust members to form Heritage Alice Springs, says the Darwin-dominated organization is using Alice as a cash cow although trust activities in The Centre are at an all time low.
For example, the flagship properties, the Old Hartley Street School and the Stuart Town Gaol (between the courthouse and the police station, the oldest building in town, dating back to 1908) are mostly closed although they could be major tourist attractions.
Neither Dr Hills nor Ms Close would comment on this but an Alice trust source, who asked not to be named, says the Hartley Street School is open five days a week for four hours a day and the gaol for two hours a day, three days a week.
In Darwin two prime properties are occupied by the trust, the Magistrate's House as the main office, and Burnett House for the Larrakeyah Branch "to have their high teas", according to the Alice source.
A third trust property, Audit House, is occupied by Nan Giese, former chancellor of the Charles Darwin University and widow of high ranking public servant Harry Giese.
Ms Giese has a lifetime tenancy of the building. She says the rent is "confidential". The Alice source says the rent is "low".
Meanwhile the Trust has raised to commercial levels the rents it charges for two offices in the Hartley Street School, as well as for Les Hansen House and 86 Hartley Street.
An interview with the Alice News on the weekend, when both Dr Hills and Ms Close were in Alice Springs for a trust meeting, illustrates the attitude of the organization's top brass towards the public.
The two local trust council members, Bill Low and vice-president David Leonard, had to sign an agreement not to speak to the media.
NEWS: What's your annual budget?
HILLS: I don't think we should divulge that. [Although not on the net, the trust annual report is a public document. The 2005 budget is $387,440.] We're trying to develop a nucleus amount of money that we could place on deposit so we'd have some extra funding to look after our properties. NEWS: Where is the money spent that the trust makes in Alice Springs?
HILLS: You don't make money out of heritage properties.
NEWS: You get rent, don't you?
HILLS: We get rent but I can assure you that with the type of properties we own, 99% of that money goes back straight into the properties.
NEWS: So all the rent you get in Alice Springs you spend in Alice Springs?
HILLS: No, I can't absolutely say that.
NEWS: Could you give me the break-down?
HILLS: No, I couldn't do that. I'm not prepared to do that.
NEWS (to Ms Close): Could you?
CLOSE: No, not off the top of my head.
NEWS: Could you let me know later?
CLOSE: No, because the money ... we have 18 properties across the Territory and we have five properties that earn income. The income is divided across the properties according to need.
NEWS: Is there some money that's earned down here and goes to Darwin and stays there?
HILLS: No money goes to Darwin and stays there. For instance Les Hansen House [in Stott Terrace, Alice Springs] is taking an awful lot of money and continues to demand money being spent on it.
Ms Close said negotiations are under way with Hartley Street School tenants. Ms Close said the trust was "awaiting their advice".
NEWS: Does that mean they're entitled to stay?
CLOSE: They're welcome to talk to us.
NEWS: One of them told me they would be made to leave. Is that true?
CLOSE: One of them has a lease that terminates in - I think - September.
NEWS: Will you renew it?
CLOSE: I don't know yet. I can't answer that.
NEWS: What's the general intention with the Hartley Street School?
CLOSE: That is a discussion which the council will have today.
NEWS: I'll ask you that question this evening.
HILLS: We won't be finishing our discussions today.
NEWS: When would you say?
HILLS: Well, it depends whether council decides to divulge the information to you and I'll be only able to know that after the conclusion of the meeting. We may not be prepared to release our plans but we do have factors under consideration.
NEWS: What's the point of not releasing your plans to the public when you're dealing with public property.
HILLS: It's not public property.
NEWS: Whose property is it? Is it your property?
HILLS: It's not our property in the sense that we don't have title. We have the management at the moment.
NEWS: You're entrusted with the management of public property. Is that a fair way to put it?
HILLS: No, I don't think this is a fair way of putting it.
NEWS: How would you put it?
HILLS: We're managing that property, yes.
NEWS: And you're not telling the public, which owns that property, what you're going to do with it.
CLOSE: At this point the reasonable thing for you to report is that we have no plans for its future other than the way it's going at the moment, and improving the standard of the museum. It's accessible to the public. They can visit the museum. From time to time the building is open as well.
NEWS: The Hartley Street School isn't open all that often to the public.
CLOSE: We run with volunteers.
NEWS: How many members does the Alice Springs branch of the trust have?
CLOSE: I think, 21.
NEWS: And you don't have enough volunteers?
CLOSE: No. Absolutely not. We'd love some genuine, enthusiastic volunteers to come forward so we can extend the opening hours.
NEWS: Have you thought of collaborating with Heritage Alice Springs which says it has some 120 members?
CLOSE: I can't answer that.
NEWS: Have you been approached? Have you approached them?
HILLS: That's not the point. We're the National Trust and we have the management of the property at the moment. It's up to the people of Alice Springs to come forward. If they care about the property it's up to the people of Alice Springs to put themselves forward as volunteers to us. We have not made an approach to the other group and we have no intention of doing so. It's not a matter for dual management. It's our management and we'll do the best we can.
CLOSE: We must go.
HILLS: As far as I am concerned, I am the president of the National Trust in the Northern Territory, for the Northern Territory. It is a misconception among the people of Alice Springs that they stand here divided from Darwin. They have a president [her] who, if they like to think about it properly, is concerned for the National Trust heritage in the Northern Territory.
NEWS: One last questions, where is all the documentation for the heritage properties in Alice Springs?
CLOSE: In the office of the National Trust.
ALICE SPRINGS: In Darwin?
CLOSE: Yes.
NEWS: Will they be sent back?
Answer inaudible as Ms Hills and Ms Close head back to their meeting.


Council acts like nothing's happened. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

An observer of the town council's last meeting could be forgiven for thinking that Alice Springs was not in the middle of a social crisis and that council's "business plan" could do nothing to address it.
The business plan was on the agenda, for confidential discussion.
Alderman Melanie Van Haaren moved that it be brought into the open part of the meeting, as the only opportunity for a public airing before the draft document was finalised. Alds Murray Stewart and Samih Habib were the only aldermen with the democratic reflex to support her - the business plan thus remained in confidential to be launched as a draft two days later.
The public have three weeks to comment now and any feedback will be considered, says the mayor, before the plan's adoption. However, if the plan was the cause for any concern among aldermen, who presumably have more information than most about the detail of council business, the public will never know. Not unexpectedly, the plan provides for an increase in rates and charges of 7%.
Perhaps not unexpectedly also, the plan provides for little that tackles head-on the issues at the forefront of everyone's mind. In fact following a year when there have been repeated calls for tougher enforcement of by-laws this operational allocation has decreased, from $409,161 in 2005-06 to $384,539 in 2006-07.
And last year's business plan estimated that the town would need $421,436 this year for by-law operations. Mayor Fran Kilgariff could not say why this allocation had been reduced.
CEO Rex Mooney says it was "a little bit of cost-cutting but it won't affect the delivery of services". For litter, about which the public generally takes the view that not enough is being done, expenditure has been pegged at last year's level. The same goes for waste collection and waste disposal; and there is no new initiative on recycling (green waste recycling continues).
As for "anti-social behaviour" and the whole complex of issues contributing to it, including urban drift, there is nothing in the plan to reflect a grasp by council of its leadership role in the crisis that threatens to engulf the town. They're putting in $10,000 to improve the roads on town camps: that's no more than they'll spend on the (very dispensable) town crier. $30,000 is going to Bushmob, which offers outdoor education type experiences for Indigenous youth, $20,000 up on last year.
Otherwise, Mr Mooney says council tries to take whatever opportunities it can to employ Indigenous people. For example, they are looking to CDEP programs to recruit people for verge maintenance during the summer.
Council's target is that Indigenous employees would make up 15% of the workforce. Mr Mooney did not have figures to hand to be able to say whether or not they were on target.
At the last council meeting on May 29 PAAC's Donna Ah Chee eloquently presented the litany of our disastrous social statistics: the Territory is the worst in Australia and Alice the worst in the Territory on so many fronts.
Like the premature death rate for Aboriginal men: it has fallen everywhere in the Territory but in Alice it has almost doubled. Suicide is now figuring as one of the significant causes of preventible deaths.
Homicide is the top cause of the premature death of women. And all this, of course, is against a background of drinking grog at a rate almost twice the national average and going up! PAAC is trying to galvanise community support for a price-based trail to reduce alcohol consumption (see story this issue). Ms Ah Chee pointed out to aldermen that consumption reduction measures are the only reforms that will work "at a population level". Only 10 per cent of people respond to rehabilitation, she said, and over 300 independent evaluations have shown that alcohol education has no impact on reducing consumption.
But no amount of science will convince Ald Ernie Nicholls: restriction measures don't work, he says, and "they" (presumably Aboriginal people) should simply "clean up their own backyard". There were a few questions from other aldermen. Ms Kilgariff said nothing; neither did Ald David Koch, despite his recent tough stance in these pages, arguing that consideration must be given to a broad range of restrictive measures, including a six day ban on take-aways. There was no resolution by council to do anything in relation to this most pressing (yet again) of issues.
Ms Kilariff later told the Alice News that she personally supports a three month trial of the PAAC proposal but as mayor she does not want to inhibit community debate by arguing a position one way or the other.
"Let the community have a discussion. People are producing ideas which six months ago they would not have entertained. For council to knock out any measure at this stage might be detrimental to the debate."
In the rest of the council meeting, the mayor had misgivings about charging library users to go the toilet (most aldermen appear to support this idea); the new deputy mayor, Robyn Lambley, made an all but impassioned speech about car parking contributions deterring developers from investing in the town.
The lengthiest debate of the night was over whether council vehicles will use Opal fuel (they will). The Questions Without Notice and Other Business parts of the council meeting are often the occasion for lively debate and the raising of controversial issues or initiatives.
On May 29 there were questions about money for heating the town pool (likely, according to the mayor); about the condition of the Tanami Road (the council will write to the Territory Government).
Perhaps disaster fatigue had set in after two weeks of excoriating national criticism of this part of the country, which came on the heels of six weeks of much the same following national exposure of the tragic death of teenager J. Ryan.
But this is a time when Alice's elected representatives at all levels of government cannot afford to rest.
Together with the community, they need to find or back the measures that work and apply them till success is achieved. How many more times does this need to be said?


Court case gives glimpse into multi million dollar Aboriginal business Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

An Aboriginal corporation operating in three communities near Ayers Rock has been told the appointment of an administrator will stand until a judicial review later this year, because of the corporation's financial difficulties and because "the relationship between the representatives of the corporation and the [Nyangatjatjara] college [at Yulara] are unsettled".
This decision was made by Federal Court Judge Besanko in Adelaide who published the reasons for his decision last Thursday.
He declined to suspend until the trial the appointment of an administrator to the Nyangatjatjara Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) by the Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations (ORAC).
J. Besanko referred to evidence that NAC and its wholly-owned subsidiary Wana Ungkunykja Pty Ltd had failed to fully declare financial transactions.
The court was told NAC, a public benevolent institution, is part of a complex web of companies run by Glendle Schrader.
It gets substantial funding in grants from governments.
NAC owns Wana Ungkunykja Pty Ltd (WU P/L), of which Mr Schrader is the CEO.
Mr Schrader is also the CEO of associated companies and trusts within "the Wana Ungkunykja Group": Anangu Tours, Anangu Accounting Agency, Anangu Productions, Anangu Real Estate, Uluru Autos, Ninti Corporate Services, Uluru Camel Tours, Spirit of the Night Sky, Outback Tours, Anangu Waai, Wiltja Enterprises and Wangkapai, all Pty Ltd companies.
Ninti Corporate Services is said to have been responsible for NAC's management since April 29.
While NAC owns all the shares of WU P/L, WU P/L owns all the shares of the rest of the companies in the group.
WU P/L is the trustee of the Wana Ungkunykja trust (WU trust), which means it runs the trust.
BENEVOLENT It is said to be a recognised public benevolent institution which has a substantial investment income from a share portfolio and manages the Anangu Job Network, including the Anangu Job Futures Programme and the Anangu Training Division. NAC is a beneficiary of the WU trust.
The other companies in the WU Group are also trustee companies and NAC is a beneficiary of each trust.
Each of the companies in the WU Group conducts a business and in some cases both the business and the assets of the trust are substantial.
Mr Schrader claims WU P/L has "substantial liquid assets of more than $10 million".
It is said that over the last three years total distributions from the trusts have averaged in excess of $500,000 per annum.
The three communities, which founded NAC, and their respective bodies, Kaltukatjara Community Aboriginal Corporation, Mutitjulu Community Inc and Imanpa Development Association Inc, are also beneficiaries under the various trusts.
The practice of the various trustees has been to allocate the income earned by the trusts, 40 per cent to NAC and 20 per cent to each of the three communities.
The communities were required to spend this money for suitable community development purposes.
With NAC's 40 per cent, the practice was for 20 per cent to be loaned back to the trustee company and for the corporation to "forgive" the loan the following year.
Says Judge Besanko: "I will refer to this as 'the loan-back practice'."
Alice Springs accountant Marc Loader, who conducted an audit of NAC for the financial year 2004-05, "was not told of the corporate structure or of the trust distribution and loan-back practice.
Judge Besanko later says: "It does not seem to be disputed by the applicants [NAC etc] that [the loan-back practice] should have been [disclosed in its financial statements]."
He also says: "The evidence suggests that since late 2004 there has been concern within the WU Group about the financial circumstances of [NAC]."
He then details a series of payments, totalling $297,288, made to NAC between July 2005 and May 2006.
OPERATIONAL "These payments were made to meet what were said to be the operational needs of [NAC].
"Despite these matters, Mr Schrader asserts that the corporation is solvent."
Judge Besanko also notes: "According to its financial statements, [NAC] traded at a significant loss over the 15 month period to 30 September 2005."
Members of NAC, which founded and has been running the college, in a prepared statement say they have no confidence in the administrator.
NAC chairperson Phillip Coombs says "we have no confidence in him and the kids are already starting to leave."
However, the problems at the college, even the most recent, clearly pre-date the work of the administrator.
The principal of the college, Ralph Folds, swore an affidavit stating that "the corporation [NAC] or its representatives have not provided the financial information he requires to make proper decisions about the conduct of the affairs of the college".
"This is contested by the applicants [NAC and others]," continues Judge Besanko, "who have put forward evidence to the effect that in fact it is Mr Folds who has not co-operated in providing necessary financial information to the corporation or its representatives."
The court was meanwhile given a glowing report of the college's finances.
J. Besanko says that, according to a qualified accountant employed by WU P/L, "the college is in a strong financial position and generates substantial income aside from the monies it receives by way of grants".
WITHDRAWN A spokesperson for Ninti said she was "informed there were 110 students enrolled at the start of the year.
"However it has been reported that the Mutijulu campus was not open last week; at Imanpa the teacher had been withdrawn, leaving only a teaching aide which had upset the community; and at Docker River eight children had been withdrawn.
"In correspondence with ORAC before the administrator was appointed, Nyangatjatjara expressed concern at what was happening and the administrator was strongly encouraged to safeguard the future of the college during this difficult period.
"The handling of an issue like this is sensitive and NAC was acting at all times with legal advice."
The spokesperson said "steps were being taken to resolve the conflict with Ralph Folds before the administrator was appointed" and "the issue of his employment was being discussed, lawyer to lawyer". The Alice News asked how the college generated income outside of government grants. The Ninti spokesperson said it generates income from various sources "including on-charging to contractors for things like electricity, interest on investments, staff accommodation rent, and others".


Local artist Lofts' love story leaves lots to imagination. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.

An earlier version of Pamela Lofts' installation, which combines the work of photographer, sculptor, and writer, was called Forensic. It was about process: observation , deduction, investigation over time.
Now, several years later, it is called Country Love: the process has given way to story.
The elements were there from the beginning, in the debris spilling out from this abandoned car in bushland just east of Alice Springs.
Lofts thought at first it was a crash site, and the spectre of a crash in any case haunts her series of images. Some kind of crash - of people, circumstances, emotions - led to this quite wild abandonment.
Among the debris are the accessories of intimate, shared life: a herbal toothpaste, medication, tampons, a newspaper opened on the horoscope page, beads, a bottle of scented oil, a condom packet, salt, a travel brochure, a broken decorated didgeridu, clothing (men's and women's) including a hand-knitted red jumper, a tape (Country Love), another (The Dead Kennedys).
This list has thrown you: you assumed, as I did, that this car was abandoned by Aboriginal people but these accessories aren't quite what you'd expect.
Then you're thrown again: there's a pension card bearing an unmistakable Central Australian Aboriginal name. Whatever has gone on here is far more complex than easy assumptions allow.
Lofts stays with the complexity and watches: time slowly obliterates the original chaos, even as it adds its own random elements. But with the red jumper it works on an eloquent emblem : through many seasons the jumper fades, but in a final image, a little heartburst or open mouth, still red and vivid, appears on its sleeve. The memory of what once was.
Showing at Watch This Space, George Crescent, till June 16.


Auricht: Fastest in Finke will be local. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.

After winning the first round of the Australian Off Road Championship in Hyden, WA in April, Danny Auricht is going into this weekend's Finke feeling positive.
"It's given us a lot of confidence," says Auricht.
"Dave [Fellows] or myself will win this year and the race will be a lot quicker than last year if it's us who win.
"We haven't changed anything major on the car since WA and we've got a really good crew."
Auricht won the prologue last year but was besieged by small mechanical problems and broke down 80 kms along the track.
This year he's racing a Toyota V6 powered Jimco Buggy 3000cc and his navigator is Paul Davies, a former Finke bike racer who was forced to pull out this year after he broke his leg in last year's event.
He says he's looking forward to racing Fellows, his Kittles team mate.
"Dave and I, we're both mates and we have been for a long time. We'll help each other out before the race but once the helmets are on, we're serious."
A Finke winner in 2004 and 2001 Fellows sees a win in this weekend's race as vital if he wants to finally take the Australian Off Road Championships title.
"It's been a goal of mine for many years to be Australian number one," he says, after crashing out in the first round of the Australian titles in Hyden, Western Australia after a clutch failure.
"We feel confident that we've fixed that problem.
"But the Finke is one of those races that you just don't know what will happen. Anything can go wrong."
The Finke is the second round of the off road championships, which continue next month in Millicent, South Australia, with two more rounds after that in August and October.
Last year Fellows broke down 100 km down the track with a broken idle pulley.
"We've got a different engine this year, hopefully we'll be fine."
He says this year's Finke will be more competitive than last year's.
"There's a strong field of cars this year: the quality of vehicles in Australia into our sport has really improved. The bar has been lifted. People have sold the older cars they've had for 10 years and upgraded over the past few years and it's really starting to show now."
But he says a faster car doesn't do all the work in a race like Finke.
"In fact, your reaction time needs to be quicker in a faster vehicle."
Fellows will drive a Toyota Chenowth buggy, 3500cc, and his navigator is Andrew Kittle.
He reckons last year's Finke number one and two Shannon Rentsch and Mark Burrows will be the ones to beat again this year, as well as Danny Auricht.
Entries in the Finke this year number 358 bikes and 90 off road cars, including a motorbike and sidecar and a four wheel drive.
Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne will enter for the second year running as navigator in a class one buggy nicknamed Fugly with Rick Scrembri, a prison officer.
"The Fugly can go fast: 200 km an hour on flatter ground but it's the whoops that will slow us down. I'm an absolute incredible optimist so I'm sure we'll get there and back," says Dr Toyne.
The pair have already raced three times this year.



LETTER: 'Whether it be East Timor or Yuendumu, wherever almost the entire population of able bodied men have no jobs, no status, no prospects and nothing to do all day, there are bound to be problems.'

Sir,- I support Bob Beadman (quoted by Kieran Finnane in Alice News, June 1) saying that 30 years ago many jobs were done by local Aboriginal people.
We have lived in Yuendumu since 1973. At that time it was still run by the Department of Native Affairs. Every local adult was allocated a job. Every white worker had at least one or two local off-siders learning on the job.
Most of these local people had little or no formal education. They still learnt many useful skills such as basic plumbing, building and maintenance, shop work, cleaning, cooking, gardening, stock work, health work, assistant teaching, office work.
Many jobs could be done without the white worker present and many locals could carry on even when the white person was away. We could get things fixed instead of waiting months and months for a white person to come out from Alice Springs and look at the problem.
Then we all accepted the idea that white people in communities would eventually work themselves out of the job; local people would gradually take over and the communities would become self-managing. This idea has gone completely out the window.
There is now no attempt to get local people doing the real jobs. It makes me sad to see the line of mostly Aboriginal people at Centrelink where even the people that I know have good literacy skills, just get their forms filled in for them and there is no attempt to help them get a job.
It is just assumed they don't want one and no-one would want to employ them anyway. Unfortunately this is probably true as low expectations have become so entrenched.
Apart from the Artists' Association (which is the one organization which can't function without locals, the artists), the only consistently employed workers in real jobs with a salary more than a few dollars above welfare, are our Warlpiri teachers who started their training through Batchelor College 20 to 30 years ago. They are now around 50 years old and talking of retiring and there are no local replacements in training. Batchelor now provides teachers for mainstream schools and most local people can't even get into the course.
In most communities there are white people working long hours and local people with long empty days to fill. Whether it be East Timor or Yuendumu, wherever almost the entire population of able bodied men have no jobs, no status, no prospects and nothing to do all day, there are bound to be problems.
I think the only reason that communities haven't all gone into total meltdown is that customary law is still working to some degree and also the young men have given themselves a purpose and that is, getting from one binge drinking session to the next. This unites them in activity, acquiring cars, getting and keeping them running, pooling money and running the gauntlet of police, night patrols, and family. There is one other saving passion and that is football. Alice Springs has stolen our inter- community football competition, which makes the competition just another opportunity for binge drinking. The best thing now are the community sports "weekends" which are now largely organized and run by locals and are attended by families who put all their resources into getting to them.
Many say grog is the problem. I see boredom as the problem. Grog is a solution; not a very good one but I don't see anything better on the horizon. As Bob Beadman suggests, there are ways of improving the situation but it needs up front money and we have a society which would rather spend extraordinary amounts of money just keeping severely damaged people alive, keeping many in jail and many with nothing useful to do. If there are no changes the next generations will just become more and more expensive to keep alive. Not just money is needed. Communities need to be able to be organized differently, with different rules for their own people, for example, different welfare rules, employment rules, priority for local contracts etc.
As long as society refuses to allow communities to be different there will always be white people doing all the work because at present local people can't even get to the bottom mainstream rung.
Communities should be seen as third world pockets where community development with the goal of self-sufficiency is the only moral and effective program.
Wendy Baarda
Yuendumu

ED - Due to pressure on space we cannot run this week the second part of our summary of Mr Beadman's paper, Do Indigenous Youth Have a Dream?.
Stop 'giving' people grog

Sir,- All of the debate since [Crown prosecutor Nanette] Rogers' appearance on Lateline, derailed as it was by the Federal Minister's attempt to upstage Dr Rogers, has completely missed the point.
You can bring in all the demountables from Woomera, the army, extra police and even more expenditure of taxpayers' dollars, but it will all be for nothing while the Commonwealth continues to give people GROG.
OK, welfare payments, if that makes you feel better. But if you are assailed week after week, month after month, year after year, with the fact that in many cases welfare is immediately converted into alcohol, and the mothers and the kids miss out on their share of the benefit, isn't that the same as giving them GROG? The Commonwealth has had a lot to say about cost shifting between tiers of government in recent years.
Doesn't the Commonwealth's expectation that the Northern Territory Government, or the Alice Springs Town Council, mop up this mess make it hypocritical?
Isn't the Territory Government's failure to do something about public drunkenness as promised in the last election campaign, or at least bring into play an old provision in the Liquor Act about habitual drunkards, dumping the problem on local government too?
In the ON THIS DAY section of the Northern Territory News on 23 May 2006 this appeared:
"25 YEARS AGO" The Government today announced sweeping proposals to tackle the NT's massive drinking problems.
RESTRICT They include severely restricting take-away sales, powers to order "habitual drunks" to abstain for up to two years, and plans to curb liquor advertising.
Chief Minister Paul Everingham said the proposed measures did not re-criminalise drunkenness."
What on earth happened to cause governments of both persuasions to shy away?
Bob Beadman
Darwin


Sir,- I refer to the article by Elisabeth Attwood on the subject of a conference dealing with buffel grass in Central Australia (May 25). The writer only commented on the negative aspects of the conference.
She devoted only a few lines to those who saw buffel as a godsend to the country, but devoted most of her article to the opinion of Rod Cramer.
The main opinion of the conference that buffel has the ability to hybridise is very important. The type of buffel that is doing so well in the Alice Springs area is a product of cross breeding that occurred many years ago on a CSIRO plot on Simpsons Gap Station.
Buffel is very sensitive to its environment and can produce a type that thrives in many climate and soil types, hence we have our local naturalised variety. This ability to adapt is the reason that there are so many different types of buffel.
The public has the view that research organisations were set up originally to justify their salaries by producing procedures that will enhance the economics of the country.
Where pasture improvement is the essence of the discussion, researchers should jump at the opportunity that buffel's ability to hybridise offers for them to develop new types that would be of more benefit. They should not wait for weed types to develop.
Originally many different types were introduced to this area which includes the varieties mentioned in your article. None of these proved successful. The tropical types are not very palatable.
Molopo is an unpalatable species, I introduced it to my property originally, but it has not survived , which is the story associated with most other types.
The naturalised type spread from Simpsons Gap, down the Roe creek and westward through Jay Creek to the Laura and then spread down the Laura into Owen Springs Station.
It is strange that the unpalatable types should be doing so well on Temple Bar. That property is intercepted by two large creeks, the Roe and the Laura.
Upstream from Temple Bar the Laura flats and the country generally, and on Roe Creek, White Gums and Simpson's Gap are all covered with the naturalised type. It is very strange that this type has not flowed down the creeks onto Temple Bar. I would suggest to the research specialists that they should try to determine why this has not occurred. The conference seems to conside buffel a weed because it has caused a particular skink to disappear. If they were to leave their researches on the internet and ook in the right places they would find plenty of those little beasts still about.
Jim Brown
Alice Springs


A marquee man rather than tent. COLUMN by ADAM CONNELLY.

I better confess something straight off the bat. Now it might come as a surprise to those of you that know me but I'm not what you'd call "outdoorsy".
I suppose you could say I'm more marquee than tent. In fact the only tents in which I like to find myself contain a harem of Arabian beauties feeding me grapes (which has happened all too infrequently) or the drinks tent (which has happened a little too frequently).
But for thousands of fellow Centralians the thought of spending a couple of days in the desert in a tent with a fire and a slab brings rapturous excitement. That's what many of you will be doing for the Finke Desert Race.
The Finke: man or woman and machine up against "whoops" the size of ghost gums. (Another confession only a vague idea about what that last sentence means).
A mongrel stretch of terrain between here and a town I only know exists due to the race.
If I was to ride a bike that far along a course that tough in conditions that harsh, I'd expect a spa, a massage and a party thrown in my honour with a dance or two with those Arabian lovelies!
But the only thing that is waiting for the competitors after such an arduous journey that puts life and limb at such risk is a trip back the next day.
And to make matters worse, watching these competitors are a throng of folk with a tinnie or two under their belt.
So God forbid one of the riders should "come a cropper": they'd get bumps and bruises, broken bikes or buggies AND bronx cheers to boot.
For some, watching the Finke Desert Race is a must do. A once a year ritual like putting the lights up at Christmas or changing the battery in the smoke alarm. It's just an essential part of the year.
While I would rather spend the weekend under a roof, in a house with a television on the sports channel and a takeaway, more power to you.
Having said that, some of you will be spending your time along the course in more comfort than I have at home. Four wheel drives packed to the eye teeth with all the creature comforts. Portable showers, microwaves and, the sin of all sins for the hardcore camper, televisions.
No two man canvas, scout style tents either. No no! Polysomthingorother, space age, ergonomically designed by Arctic engineers style jobs. It wouldn't surprise me if some of them came with a reverse cycle split system. While some see this style of temporary accommodation as not in keeping with the spirit of camping, it is rather comfy!
For the purists though, this simply won't do. All the purist requires for an enjoyable weekend is a ute, a swag, some meat to burn and enough beer to keep the mates well lubricated.
You'll know the difference between the two groups on their way back into town.
The purist will stink like a fishmonger and will have inground dirt on their bodies where you didn't imagine you could get inground dirt. They'll also have the biggest grins.
So whether you're planning to rough it or relocate the creature comforts for a couple of days, enjoy the Finke. Have a ball and don't worry.
I'll be in town to keep an eye on the place.



Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.