LIVING IN LARAPINTA: THE GOOD AND THE BAD . Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Real estate figures show that houses in Larapinta are maintaining their value, countering the belief by some residents that their houses are devaluing because of anti-social behaviour in the area.
The average selling price of a house in Larapinta West (the Albrecht Drive, Lyndavale Drive area) for the six months ending May 2006 was $252,397, an increase from the previous six months' average of $247,604, according to L J Hooker's Doug Fraser.
Thirty houses were sold during the period, while 29 sold in the preceding six months.
This may give comfort to some residents who are worried that their real estate isn't attractive to buyers.
Three years of living in Larapinta between Saltwell Street and Larapinta Drive (an area of concentrated government housing) nearly drove Ann Wood to a nervous breakdown, she says.
"Someone was stabbed and died in Saltwell Street. We've had countless assaults on the footpath outside, three homes have been burnt to the ground and before Christmas we were woken up about four times a week with people banging on the door at 3am or shouting and punching each other outside," says Ms Wood.
"At one point a drug dealer moved in opposite and there were about 40 cars coming and going every day. Parts of the area look like a pig sty, there are children of school age wandering the street all day, people are drunk and there have been at times up to 30 people living in two bedroom units and houses.
"This is not a racial complaint, it's simply bad behaviour," says Ms Wood.
Ms Wood has sent dozens of emails to Territory Housing about the problems, and her husband met twice with the former housing minister, John Ah Kitt, and once with the current minister, Elliot McAdam.
"We helped organise a meeting of residents two years ago at Larapinta School, we've been to the Community Justice Centre. But nothing has been done," says Ms Wood.
"Last year we had our house on the market for five months but didn't have a hope of selling. We only had one serious offer, and when the couple heard what the area was like, they changed their minds."
Rob Rolfe is expecting the value of his house to have dropped by $20,000 from what he had hoped it was worth, when he puts it on the market after doing improvements.
He says many of his neighbours want to leave the area but aren't able to.
"They say they have got to put up with it. This is their first house and they can't move."
He's determined to sell up.
"Since just before Christmas [the problems have] got much worse.
"There's been three cars stolen last week and two of the three set on fire.
"It's because of people coming in and staying with family.
"The real estate people might say it's all right but it's not," says Mr Rolfe.
Fiona Dawson has lived in the area for 10 years, currently in a rented government house. Over the last year she's had security doors and a fence put around her house.
"It used to be a nice, quiet and pleasant area. I'm black myself but it's the bush people who have changed things. They come to visit the house opposite and come across using our phones, asking to use our car.
"They seem to be on the street more, and their kids too."
While she was in hospital earlier this year, Ms Dawson's home was broken into and jewellery, CDs and sentimental items were taken. A single mother with three children aged between 17 and three, she says her family would move if given the opportunity.
"I don't let the kids play outside too late now. Come 5pm, it's time to lock the door and stay home.
"I'd love to have a nice home, and one I would own myself."
But some Larapinta residents the Alice News spoke to feel much more positive about their area.
A builder with ProBuild, Paul Graham has recently extensively renovated his family's house.
"I firmly believe our street is highly desirable and we wanted to make our house more comfortable for our family. I may have over capitalised, but we're happy.
"I empathise with the people who think the area isn't desirable but remember that this is Alice Springs and these groups exist throughout town.
"It's all relative to how much money you want to spend.
"The sale of the government housing is the first step to improving Larapinta. I heard there were five up for auction last week on Lyndavale Drive.
"The new subdivision will be great for Larapinta and I do hope it brings more desirable homes with modern architecture into the area."
Scott Thompson was born in Alice Springs and has enjoyed living in Larapinta for four years. He's had his house on the market for two months but says he has been unable to sell because of what he believes are false perceptions about the area.
"This area is full of young couples trying to get a head start and unfortunately we can't because every time something happens out here, it gets reported on in the media.
"Apart from a couple of young kids out to 11pm running up and down the street, the worst we've ever had is someone stealing our ashtrays from the front porch.
"We've never been broken into, unlike my mum who lives in the golf course [estate].
"I've really enjoyed myself on this side of town."
Dave Baldwin has lived on Lyndavale Drive for 20 years and says that the area has actually improved over the last 12 months.
"They've kicked a lot of the troublemakers out. Newcomers may think it is worse than ever but that's not true. They never saw the bloody worst and if they had they wouldn't have stayed.
"It was terrifying to live out here: rocks being thrown at our roof, people fighting outside, bad language. I wouldn't leave my wife alone at night here."
Mien Blom says that she feels safe in her part of Larapinta.
"We have no problem in our street at all.
"We heard from our neighbours last April that there had been a few cars broken into but it's a really good place to live.
"In 1999 we got together with the neighbours and lobbied the council to make a park in the block opposite our house. It's a beautiful park and a lot of Aboriginal children are playing there. They wave to us and we wave back. That helps to keep the peace."
Trish van Dijk has lived in Larapinta for 12 years.
"It would be foolish to say there aren't problems here, and on one occasion we have been witness to that ourselves: we lived opposite a family who were very difficult to live with.
"But I feel the problems have been grossly exaggerated.
"People are not willing to find out why this behaviour is happening.
"This is a very beautiful part of the town and we are to live in this area.
"But I'm one of the lucky ones: I have enough to eat and enough to have a life to enjoy."
Mr Fraser says there is no evidence that Larapinta real estate prices have been seriously affected by recent reports of anti-social behaviour.
"There are problems in some areas of Larapinta West but people are acknowledging the problems and still buying there," says Mr Fraser.
In the six months ending November 2004, 29 sales were made in the area at an average price of $233,879. For the six months ending May 2005, 23 houses were sold at $257,609. There is no significant downturn.
Mr Fraser says Larapinta West had the third highest number of sales in Alice for the past 12 months: 59 houses and 32 units sold between May 2005 and May 2006.
The Bradshaw and Gillen area had 104 houses and 66 units sold; and Braitling, 69 houses and 38 units.
The Old Racecourse area was significantly behind Larapinta West, with 44 houses and two units sold.
House prices are lower in Larapinta, but this isn't necessarily a negative thing, according to Mr Fraser: "We call it a low entry real estate area, attractive to first time buyers."
He says that the new Stirling Heights development further west will improve the area over the next few years but he is unable to predict by how much.
"Some very substantial homes are being built there, and we expect them to be up around the $600,000 mark which will add to the overall ambience of the area."
Trevor Espeland of Raine & Horne says the areas of anti social behaviour aren't new.
"There are certain pockets east of Albrecht Drive that need to be addressed but they have been there for a long time, for years.
"Homes east of Albrecht Drive have always been slower sellers but there have been no real differences in the numbers of those sold of late according to our figures. And, relatively
adjusted, prices of houses out there have risen at the same rate as the rest of Larapinta."
The Alice News contacted Territory Housing about its tenants. Director of housing services, Julie Rannard, says they have taken a "very proactive stance to reduce incidences of antisocial behaviour".
A free call security patrol telephone line for residents, introduced in November 2004, "has resulted in a general decline in issues of antisocial behaviour in this vicinity", says Ms Rannard.
"Where complaints continue, these are being addressed."
IT'S COOL TO BE AN ABORIGINAL KID LIVING IN A TOWN CAMP . Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A rally of town camp residents on Tuesday dealt passionately with issues of alcohol and violence in Aboriginal society, given much prominence recently in national and international media.
About 200 Aboriginal people, and non-indigenous people (mostly workers for organizations and public servants) listened to a string of speakers, calling for remedies to the problems based as much on the strength of traditional authority as on government spending.
Much of the arguments were far from new, a fact several speakers alluded to.
But none made the case more clearly than 10-year old Adrian Shaw, who lives with his grandparents, Eileen Hooson and former Tangentyere director Geoff Shaw, in Mt Nancy camp.
He wrote his speech himself, and addressed the crowd and big media contingent with astonishing confidence for someone so young.
Here is the text in full:
Hello everyone, my name is Adrian Shaw, but my friends and family call me Adie.
I am the fifth generation town camper. I live at Mt Nancy Camp.
I like living on my camp because that is where my grandpa grew up and now I am growing up there too.
The things I like to do on my camp are playing rugby on the lawn, playing basketball on our basketball court, climbing the hill and riding my bike.
I do all these things with my brothers, sisters and cousins who are also members of our fifth generation, and live at Mt Nancy Camp.
We get to go hunting, we play playstation games, we do cooking together, we get to sleep over, we watch videos and DVDs and we always have something to do.
My favorite idol is the man Anthony Mundine.
Because he is a great boxer, and most of all he is Aboriginal. He doesn't smoke or drink and he loves his Aboriginal family just like I love my family.
I have asked my Nanna if I could speak today because I think every Aboriginal kid like myself should grow up safe and happy and go to school.
All Aboriginal kids should be taught to look after themselves, like we learn at school about stranger danger.
We have got to know what is right and what is wrong.
It is right to resepct and love your family and help your brothers and sisters.
It is right to go to school and play sport and listen to old people.
It is wrong to fight and bully other kids.
It is wrong to steal.
When I grow up and have my own family I want to watch them grow up and I want to grow old watching my grandchilden grow up, just like my grandpa.
I want to do this on my town camp. It's cool to be an Aboriginal kid living in Mt Nancy Town Camp, Alice Springs.
'ALICE NOW MUCH HARDER TO SELL' . Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The tourism lobby CATIA is demanding immediate and decisive action against the "in your face" problem drinkers.
The organization is pushing the Tourist Commission for a campaign to restore the town's image after the pummeling in the national and international media over drunken violence.
And Chief Minister Clare Martin is under fire for failing to take decisive action on behalf of Alice Springs.
CATIA general manager Craig Catchlove says too much time has been wasted with trials and strategies that don't work, but then puts forward new ones that are hardly different.
He says largely replacing take-away facilities with a system of selective home deliveries, as put up for discussion by Alderman David Koch, is not an option: "Are you going to have 23,000 people ringing up at 7pm on Friday asking for a bottle of wine?
"It's just unworkable," says Mr Catchlove.
But he says a drinking license that can be revoked in the event of abuse is favored by CATIA's membership, despite the obvious option of getting a mate to buy your grog if you lose your license.
While opposing early closing of bottle shops, at 7pm instead of 9pm, as proposed by the Liquor Commission, Mr Catchlove rules out a revival of the traditional "bona fide traveller" system under which visitors can be served around the clock.
Several roadside inns in the NT, including Curtin Springs, have such a license, for on-premises consumption.
The Liquor Commission is empowered to extend that to take-aways, and to establishments in the town.
This is clearly something CATIA members could organize and lobby for.
But they won't, says Mr Catchlove: "If the general population cannot buy alcohol, the bottle shops are not going to open up just because someone happens to come by.
"The economics aren't there. It's the bottom line.
"You've got to make money."
Mr Catchlove makes it clear the issue for the lobby is not about general public health but "specifically about public drinking, the anti-social behavior, criminal activities attached to the excess consumption of alcohol.
"That is what we need to be working on at this moment.
"If people have a problem with high general consumption of alcohol across the board, they should bring it out in another forum, but not muddy the two issues at this point.
"We can have that discussion later."
He says activists should not put forward their "personal agendas".
Under the higher price strategy "the people who are the problem aren't being targeted," says Mr Cachlove.
"It's a shotgun approach. There will be all of us running around with buckshot up our backsides in the hope that a couple of pellets will hit those people at whom the measures should be aimed."
Mr Catchlove says enforcing the long established Two Kilometer Law (prohibiting drinking in public within two kilometers of licensed premises) could be every bit as effective as the proposed dry areas legislation which is "unnecessary and a bit of a stunt": all that's needed is rigorous enforcement, and giving the Two Kilometer Law teeth in the form of substantial penalties.
Mr Catchlove says decriminalizing alcohol abuse was "brought in because we couldn't handle the people caught under that law.
"Aspects of drunken behavior should have sanctions attached to it.
"We also need more rehabilitation resources and diversionary programs," he says.
CATIA has had "very frank meetings with the Chief Minister" before Easter and since.
"We are not happy with the outcome but because the message was rammed home so thoroughly by all organizations when she was down here, the message has certainly gone through."
The town had suffered huge damage through the two week media coverage triggered by prosecutor Nanette Rogers' revelations on the ABC about Aboriginal violence.
"The town is now infinitely harder to sell.
"We are meeting with Tourism NT Marketing this week as a start of where will we go from here.
"We need something special. We will be very vociferous, out there, shaking that tree."
Asked if CATIA would demand a multi million dollar campaign to rescue the town's reputation Mr Catchlove says: "I live in the real world.
"What we have now is zilch.
"There is no campaign in place. One is being formulated. There is a new photo shoot."
WILL ENTERPRISE ON BLACK LAND BE MORE FEASIBLE? Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough's proposed reforms of the Land Rights Act are likely to pass through parliament today, or "rammed through" as Territory Senator Trish Crossin would have it, after the government refused to allow a "short sharp Senate inquiry into the detail of the bill".
KIERAN FINNANE looks at some of the key changes and the reasons for them.
Someone in the Federal Government must have been listening to Bob Beadman back in 2004 when he published his paper, "Do Indigenous Youth Have Dream?": there are strong echoes of many of his ideas in the government's recent pronouncements on Indigenous policy, including on the reform of the Land Rights Act.
The basic argument of the veteran senior public servant (now retired) is that well-intentioned policies concerning Indigenous people have had unintended negative consequences. He rates the worst of these as welfare dependency, which was the subject of previous articles (June 1 and 15), but among others he also takes aim at the overly restrictive protection of Aboriginal title.
The creation of inalienable freehold communal title had the best of intentions - to secure their traditional lands for future generations of Aborigines - but has inhibited both the provision of services and the development of enterprise, he argues.
"The NT Government does not even have the power to acquire a simple easement for an essential public purpose, like a power line, or a sewer pipeline, for example, the title is so tightly wrapped up."
A glaring example of this appear to be the delays with the sealing of the Mereenie loop road. According to a well informed source, the Central Land Council (CLC) had refused access to water and gravel needed for the construction unless the NT Government made significant concessions. It seems it has now buckled under.
According to the source, the government conceded to the CLC the right to carry out sacred sites clearances in national parks, to be removed from public ownership if the Federal Government sanctions a deal made by Chief Minister Clare Martin.
Clearances are currently the responsibility of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, an NT Government instrumentality.
Ms Martin is also reported to have agreed to fund a tourism development officer for the CLC.
Mr Beadman says further about the effect of Aboriginal land rights: "Certainly no land has been sold off, or lost to mortgagors since, but arguably not much else is happening either."
His example of the obstacles encountered in trying to make something happen is worth quoting in full: "Imagine the difficulties for some bright person in the middle of Arnhemland wanting to begin, say, an exotic tropical fruit orchard on a shared equity arrangement with their old trading partners from Sulawesi.
"The entire area of Arnhemland comprising 89,872 square kilometres, and the offshore islands comprising another 5,956 square kilometres, is held by one Aboriginal Land Trust.
"The function of the Land Trust is to hold title to the land, and act on a direction from the Land Council (the Land Trust has no power to act on its own accord).
"The functions of the Land Council are to have regard to the interests of, and [to] consult with, the traditional Aboriginal owners (if any) of the land, and any other Aboriginals interested in the land.
"In other words the Land Council, not the traditional owners, decides.
"So the person wanting to start the orchard on part of the land would require the grant of a lease from the Land Trust, acting on a direction from the Land Council, after consultation with the traditional owners and others, and the Commonwealth Minister's consent has been obtained.
"Now that is secure title!"
Reforms recently announced by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, claim to address, at least in part, this built-in discouragement to enterprise.
The proposed amendments would reduce red tape, taking ministerial approval out of the picture on lease terms of less than 40 years and on contracts with land councils and land trusts worth under $1m.
Raising the lease term threshold was not a land council idea but apparently they support it; raising the contract value threshold was part of the joint submission made by the Territory government and the land councils on the reforms to the Act.
The amendments also provide for delegation of decision-making powers, including decisions about exploration and mining, from land councils to regional groups.
The land councils supported delegation to their regional sub-committees, but the amendments also provide for delegation to incorporated bodies, "adding more flexibility".
What is "quite powerful", according to a spokesperson for the Minister, will be the ability of an incorporated body to appeal to the Minister if the land council declines to delegate to them.
The Minister could examine the land council decision and potentially overrule it, if the group had the capacity to carry out whatever they were hoping to do - whether it was to form a new land council for their region or to carry out a particular project - and if the project "made sense".
In his 2004 paper Mr Beadman goes on to discuss how provisions of the Land Rights Act have denied Aborigines living on traditional lands "the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home".
Like many in the debate, he sees ownership as a way of fostering "pride in one's house and contents" which would reduce publicly funded repairs and maintenance expenditure, as well as allowing people "to get ahead".
Again, Mr Brough's proposed reforms seek to address this issue.
Amendments to the Act would see the Northern Territory Government establishing its own legislation to administer a township leasing scheme and an entity to talk with the traditional owners and the land council of a particular town area to obtain 99-year head-leases over township areas.
The entity would issue long-term sub-leases to town users without the need to negotiate case by case with traditional owners and land councils.
However, the terms of the head-lease would be negotiated with the traditional owners and land councils, except for a statutory ceiling (five per cent of the land's value) on the annual rent payable to the traditional owners.
A spokesperson for Mr Brough confirmed that this is an entirely voluntary scheme, but pointed to the interest in it on the Tiwi Islands.
"We already have an agreement to negotiate an arrangement in the township of Nguiu.
"We are not going to force this as an issue for communities to proceed at a particular pace but in Nguiu they are aiming to complete their negotiations by the end of this year."
Central Land Council director David Ross sees the head-lease arrangement as "unnecessary, expensive and flawed".
"Rent will come from the Aboriginal Benefit Account (estimated at $15 million over five years) to pay traditional owners and this could cause significant tensions in the communities affected," says Mr Ross.
"Leasing the entire community could also deprive the traditional owners of the benefits of commercial development in the future and runs the risk that commercial leases will be granted to businesses that the traditional owners do not want in their community.
"There are also no guarantees that this amendment will improve the Northern Territory Government's service delivery record."
He says the land council generally supports delegating decision-making to more local groups but "we do have concerns that devolving decisions about mining and commercial enterprises could encourage corruption".
"It is easy to coerce poverty stricken people into making decisions when a bit of cash is splashed around and somebody says 'sign on the dotted line'. It happens and this amendment opens the way for that to happen more often."
The proposed reforms also change the way land councils will be funded: their guaranteed 40 per cent from the Aboriginal Benefit Account has been by funding funding on the basis of their workload and outcomes in carrying out their functions.
"This won't change things overnight but hopefully it will drive better performance," says a ministerial spokesperson.
Mr Ross says the CLC have been "moving towards performance based funding for some time and that doesn't present a problem for us" but they "do not support the new funding arrangements which put's the land council's funding at government whim".
MOXIE MADNESS SPREADS THROUGH ALICE. Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
Since playing their first gig at Jamnesia a couple of months ago, The Moxie have exploded onto the local music scene and now even have fans in America. A regular act at Jamnesia, The Moxie have been featured on ABC radio and are currently recording their first album after the success of their demo, "Feast or Famine".
And the energy that bounces off the four of them makes it obvious that Jack Talbot (16), drums, Tom Snowdon (16) vocals and acoustic guitar, Declan Furber Gillick (15) lead guitar and Bill Guerin (17) bass guitar are loving it.
Their original music is a mix of mellow tunes and laidback lyrics, like "Don't let it", with angrier, edgy sounds. Their influences include Living End and the Foo Fighters.
News: Why are you different from other bands in town?
Tom: A lot of Australian bands sound like US bands. We want to stay Australian. And we steer clear of the front man image.
Declan: If we didn't sound Aussie, we'd lose a lot. Being Australian keeps our own style. From the beginning, Tom never sang with an accent.
News: What do you think about the coverage of Australian music nationally and internationally?
Jack: Nationally I think it's pretty strong: Grinspoon, Frenzel Rhomb.
Declan: Internationally? You've got to think of the population: America has so many more people there.
News: What are you up to at the moment?
Bill: We're starting recording a CD this afternoon at Rolling Ball Recordz. We're really good mates with the band Zenith and Jayden McGrath's dad has a studio which we're using. I reckon the CD will be successful. We like to play the music we like listening to.
Jack: We've got 14 tracks to put down. The highlight of the band is that all four of us write songs. It keeps the variety.
News: What do you write about?
Tom: Dreams, thoughts. Sometimes at night when I'm sitting down I think about stuff and write it down. "Don't let it" is about not letting things slide and not missing opportunities. I wrote "Take me home" last week. That's about sticking to your roots and origins, the place where you come from.
Bill: You can listen to it on myspace.com/moxiemadness.
Jack: We've had about 1500 plays of our song on that. 70 in one day!
News: Who are your fans?
Bill: A lot of kids from school. But we've had hits on My Space from America and all over Australia. One guy wrote to us from Wisconsin.
News: Where does your name come from?
Tom: The "moxie" is Australian for guts. It's like having the drive to do something.
News: What's living in Alice like for musicians?
Jack: It's a good starter. We've had help from heaps of local people like Gareth Dawkins from The Shoplifters, Leon Spurling and Vincent Lamberti.
Watch out for The Moxie at the Promised Land and other local venues.
FINKE'S HIDDEN HEROES . Report by ELISABETH ATTWOOD.
The dust may have settled on the Finke track but volunteers are already preparing for next year's race.
The Finke Desert Race Committee met on Monday to discuss plans for Finke 2007.
One of the most remarkable things about the event is that it's run entirely by volunteers: only one person is paid, and that's an office administrator for four months leading up to the event.
"Without volunteers it simply wouldn't exist," says Nina Hargrave, the volunteer coordinator.
"We have the most amazing volunteers. They come from all corners of the town, take their duties seriously, and many come back every year.
"They are very precious."
Hargrave says she "couldn't even begin to guess" how many hours the volunteers put in but says she and the other members of the committee put in 40 hours a week in the lead up to the event.
"You've got to be involved in the Finke to really see it," says Coleen Grave, the ambulance coordinator for the event.
"It's a special sort of madness, a Finke madness. You've got to be involved to see it."
Grave coordinates the 30 paramedics on standby during the race (including three in the air) and is constantly amazed at the toughness of the riders.
"Last year one man crossed the finish line and literally slid off his bike into my arms. He'd raced with a broken arm for 120 km and had been past three ambulances but refused to stop. He wanted to finish so badly.
"Another man had hypothermia after he came off his bike 50m off the track in a ditch and was missed by the sweep vehicles.
"An Aboriginal found him. He had a fractured arm, collarbone and internal injuries."
The name Jol Fleming has become inextricably linked with the Finke. Former president of the Finke Desert Racing Club, and founder of the Alice Springs Off Road Racing Club, he rode in the event twice, in 1980 and 1981. But a car accident later that year confined him to a wheelchair. He's been the race director for 11 years.
"It's a pretty big spectacle," says Fleming.
He sits at the start/finish line, in constant communication all weekend with the checkpoints along the race route, monitoring the riders, keeping a note of every communication.
Like many of the volunteers he's modest about his invaluable contribution.
"What does the Finke mean to me? A big headache." But he says it's only the efforts of volunteers which have kept this hugely attractive tourist event happening.
"In 1995 Finke was nearly stopped. The [then] current committee didn't want to do it any more. But we formed another committee and it went ahead the next year."
One of the most courageous volunteers has to be Neil Anderson. Two years ago he was unable to race after being diagnosed with cancer, so now he puts all his energy into being a volunteer.
"I helped at scrutineering and drive the recovery vehicle during the prologue. Why do I want to be involved? The Finke is probably the toughest race in the country but it's a real community thing and a family sport. It's hard not to get involved."
An employee at the jail, he also built the Fugly, the buggy that Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne navigated, with the help of inmates. He was working, like many of the volunteers, until 1am on Saturday, back on the track again at 7am on Sunday.
"It's a huge challenge but great fun," he says with a warm smile. He hopes to race for the first time since his diagnosis in a local off road racing club competition in July.
For the last two years, the Finke Hero award has been given to a volunteer who has made an outstanding contribution to the race. This year it went to Allan Page, who has been a volunteer at every Finke race (that's 31 of them!).
"He's one of those volunteers who puts their whole heart and soul into Finke.
"He's not in the glory end of the race, but he puts his shoulder to the wheel every year," says Damien Ryan, vice president of the Finke Desert Race Inc.
Allan is the sweep vehicle driver, who trails along the Finke track and picks up the riders and vehicles who break down.
"Without Allan it would be a cold and lonely night in the desert," says Damien.
"He's the smiling face of the race."
WRITING THE BOOK ON BEING AUSSIE . COLUMN by ADAM CONNELLY.
A couple of columns ago I wrote about the Finke Desert Race: whilst I love the fact that Alice Springs has such a nationally respected yet quintessentially Centralian event to call its own, I wrote that it's really not my thing.
I was at Milner Road Foodtown after the column was published and a man I vaguely know stopped me in the canned goods aisle and said, " Adam, loved the radio show this morning, but that columnHow could you not love Finke? That's Un Australian!"
Un Australian! That's a bit harsh, don't you think? Had I written a column saying we should boycott Anzac Day, then the man may have had a point. That would probably be a bit Un Australian.
If I'd advocated French as the national language, or suggested we adopt hurling as the national sport then he might have had cause for the call of Un Australian.
One of the biggest social crimes in Australia is acting in a manner Un Australian. Especially here in Alice Springs which might be just the most Aussie place in the cosmos.
We hear the term Un Australian thrown about with gay abandon (incidentally - gay abandon, Un Australian). By politicians mostly. Beazley doesn't like what Howard says, he's Un Australian. I've noticed Queensland's Premier Peter Beattie is a bandit for pulling out the term when he doesn't like something, which happens to be quite often.
These instances of the claim barely raise an eyebrow.
But when one Australian looks another in the eye and calls them Un Australian, it's different, it's personal. In a town like Alice it's almost as harsh an insult as questioning your parents' marital legitimacy.
The Territory and Alice in particular is very Australian: harsh, barren, blokey and bawdy. Ted Egan is our administrator, for crying out loud. The only way to get more Australian is to next pick either Rodney Rude or David Boon for the job.
So being Un Australian is like being a Kiwi and not liking Rugby, or being German and having a sense of humour. It just won't work!
So it got me thinking. Just how Australian am I?
I love watching sport. Tick. I want to be the Australian Cricket Captain. Tick. Secretly I think I'm still in with a shot if Ricky Ponting retires. Tick. Vegemite on toast equals the breakfast of Kings. Tick. I have a firm grasp on self-deprecating humour, irony and sarcasm. Tick tick tick. On the other hand I don't like camping. Cross. I'd rather not actually play cricket on Albrecht Oval in the middle of summer. Cross. And I don't have the biggest wraps on that Queensland beer named after a precious metal. Big Cross.
Weighing the ticks against the crosses on the imaginary scale in my mind just confused the issue. Am I pulling my nationalistic weight? Am I fair dinkum enough to live in a town like Alice Springs?
Hang on! What had happened? A comment from a bloke whose name may possibly start with a B, had thrown me headlong into an identity crisis. It was driving me crazy.
At that instant, a calm, rational moment of clarity came over me. It made all the anxiety disappear. Instead of thinking about beer and barbies, the opening lines of our often buggered up national anthem came to mind. "Australians all, let us rejoice, for we are young and free."
Surely we are still young enough as a country to not have finished the book on being Australian. The waves of immigration from all corners of the globe are still adding to the cultural brew.
Surely there's enough room in this big brown land to have a bloke who's not keen on camping.
In my opinion, there are only a few things that are actually Un Australian. I think one of them might be the term Un Australian.
LETTER: PETROL PRICE DOWNER FOR GREY NOMADS .
Sir,- With regard to "Fridge magnet grey nomads' big spend!" (Alice News, June 15), I would like to express my disgust at the statements from Nick Le Souef who is reported as saying that we are "....infested by grey nomads who, if we're lucky, buy a fridge magnet".
If this is a typical attitude, tell us and we will go away!
We are one of this "infestation" of "grey nomads" visiting the Alice.
With the price of petrol, it is getting harder to go anywhere, never mind spend on tourist gimmicks with suspect quality and sameness, and on overpriced trinkets. Not to say about the "Made in China" fridge magnets!
I am surprised that none of the retailers surveyed mentioned high fuel prices as a possible downer.
It has cost us over $1100 in fuel to get here; over $545 for caravan site fees (two weeks here included, a third to be added) and over $150 for "fridge magnet" type mementos.
We have spent over $400 in Alice Springs supermarkets, chemists and fast food outlets; paid entry fees for the tourist venues that we came here to see and have generally enjoyed our visit.
Several of our neighbours have spent cash on car services, van repairs and at least one new 4WD battery.
We are not associated with the national caravanners group that rallied at the oval or any of the other hundreds of travellers that have passed through this and the other van parks over these last two weeks.
They would all have had similar cost out-goings and many local traders have had a share. Don't belittle our small purchases, Mr Le Souef, they all add up!
If Mr Le Souef doesn't want the grey nomads to "infest" Alice Springs, why not put up a notice on the highway and we will keep going. Perhaps Katherine traders will be a bit more welcoming.
(Having said that, most others that we have met here have been quite friendly and very welcoming.)
There may well seem to be fewer people travelling this great country, but from my observations, many are still coming but have to be very practical about what else they can do. For most that we meet, they have been to the Alice before and have already collected their mementos. It's the local service stations that are collecting the bulk of our pension on behalf of governments and big oil companies.
Sorry, but there is little left for buying more souvenirs, gifts or for dining out. Good job the MacDonnell Ranges are still (mostly) free.
O'Halloran Hill, SA
'Tank farm' should go
Sir,- I read with great interest your article on PAWA's possible move to the Brewer Estate (lead, June 15). This is such a good idea.
I can think of no reason for them to keep tinkering with their unacceptable noise level instead of biting the bullet and moving out of town.
Now could the oil companies possibly be persuaded to follow this good example? They don't make much noise, but their visual effect is pretty ordinary, and just what might be leaking from the tanks' bottoms doesn't bear thinking about.
If Shell would forego its corner, we could landscape Anzac Hill from the base up. As it is, residents and visitors alike are invited to walk or drive to the top to enjoy an unimpeded view of the town, the river, the ranges, and a tank farm.
Sir,- People have interesting hobbies. Some spot trains, collect stamps, watch birds or play golf. Today I launch a new interest. Counting government reviews.
My aim is to capture these elusive creatures of government.
Can you help me? You can record successful captures by emailing the full bureacratic title of the review, when it was hatched and some details of its life since it left the nest.
Some "reviews" require special skills to capture as they can be very secretive, that is why I need your help.
The campaign to capture '"reviews" commences today. In time I will publish a consolidated list for the Territory.
Though perhaps for some as interesting as trainspotting, "review spotting" has a serious side.
In the same way that tagging barramundi and catch and release strategies assist
management of the recreational fishing industry, the audit of reviews will provide citizens with a useful tool to measure the effectiveness of government.
Email successful captures to email@example.com
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