ALICE SPRINGS NEWS


March 8, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.



GUARDIAN ANGELS STREET PATROLS AS YOUTHS RUN AMOK. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

Advance Alice is establishing a citizens' force trained in security and military procedures and modelled on New York's Guardian Angels.
Outspoken alderman Murray Stewart says he will examine the town council's options, under its own bylaws, for bringing in a form of youth curfew rejected by the NT Government.
And the owner of a rural block says he will take legal action against a man who used a baseball bat in a confrontation with Aboriginal tenants whose rowdy behaviour made life hell for neighbours for more than a month.
And after a rampage of hundreds of young people throughout the town, new police chief Sean Parnell is saying it's time the parents were held accountable for their children's behaviour.
Police say the names of several young people were taken with the view of family welfare authorities impressing on parents that they must look after their children.
Steve Brown, who heads up Advance Alice, says "vicious retaliation", which must be avoided, is now just a step away as racial tensions in the town have taken another turn for the worse.
Members of the citizens' force – which is not about retaliation but rather assistance – will start patrols at night in a van donated by a supporter.
The aim is to observe and report criminal behaviour, but Mr Brown doesn't rule out physical action: "We will help someone being bashed," he says.
"We won't be just standing there."
Ald Stewart says: "If our council bylaws could give the police force extra teeth, then I would gun for it big time. However, I am buggered if I am going to let the NT Government once again cost shift on this one."
Ald Stewart says he intends to move on Monday for the council to express "a lack of confidence in the NT Government's handling of the town's security issues, and that the government should immediately implement the Alice Springs Town Council's Nightime Youth Strategy which includes a night curfew for youth".
A member of Advance Alice, Rex Neindorf, owner of the Reptile Centre, is calling for the immediate introduction of a youth curfew after witnessing broad scale disturbances by young Aboriginal people on Friday night.
Mr Neindorf, a work colleague, Justin Rutherford, and friends were at a restaurant in Todd Mall on Friday night when small groups of youths appeared outside, smashing shopping trolleys into buildings and trees, and harassing guests leaving the restaurant.
Some of them were elderly tourists who were visibly shaken by the experience.
At about 13.30pm, larger groups formed, roaming the BiLo and Anzac Hill car parks.
Mr Neindorf says when his party went to leave they discovered that $4000 worth of damage had been done to a friend's car, parked in the Anzac Hill car park, by someone trampling on the bonnet, roof and boot, and smashing the windscreen.
Although police came quickly, Mr Neindorf doubted their presence made a difference to the youths who were unlikely to get more than a slap on the wrist by the courts.
"They are running amok knowing nothing can happen to them," said Mr Neindorf.
"They are invincible."
Meanwhile art dealer Adam Knight says he gave Ningura Napurrula, the "number one Aboriginal artist in the country", temporary residence on his rural block at Ilparpa, to relieve her from the squalor of her life in a town camp.
Mr Knight says the arrangement was for a small number of relatives to stay with her, but matters clearly got out of hand when large numbers of visitors arrived, stealing the artist's money and staging rowdy drinking parties.
However, he will be taking legal action for criminal damage against a neighbour who allegedly entered his property with a baseball bat, smashing windows and damaging walls.
Mr Knight says police and the town council intervened, and while there was some rubbish on his land, the block of the baseball-wielding neighbour is even worse, and the council should prosecute him.
BLARING Other neighbours have told the Alice News that for about four weeks, up to 10 cars had been on Mr Knight's block, music blaring at all hours, rubbish blowing across the fence and heavy drinking.
One woman said drunk people were trying to sell paintings in the neighbourhood, refusing to leave when asked.
Police are saying they were called to more than 10 disturbances involving juveniles over the weekend.
"In one incident just before 11.30pm on Friday night, residents of Crann Street reported to police that large groups of juveniles were fighting,  throwing bottles, running into yards and kicking fences," says a police media release.
"When police arrived they found up to 150 juveniles, the majority of whom were intoxicated and fighting. Bottles were thrown as police tried to disperse the crowd.
"In other incidents on Friday night police received reports of juveniles causing a disturbance in  the vicinity of Bacon and Spencer Street,  about 80 juveniles drinking on the Flynn Drive Oval, approximately 35 juveniles causing a disturbance and running through yards in Roberts Crescent,  about 15 juvenile gatecrashers at a party in Bradshaw drive, and juveniles running around the golf course greens following a party at a Range Crescent  residence.
"Juveniles were also reported fighting at the Memorial Club Carpark in the early hours of Saturday morning, vandalising cars at the Anzac Hill oval and causing damage to a vehicle driving down Gregory Terrace by throwing a beer bottle at the back window of the vehicle and smashing it."
Says Superintendent Parnell: "There is absolutely no excuse for children as young as this roaming the streets with no adult supervision at this time of night.
"The community has to start taking responsibility for this problem and parents have to be made accountable."
Meanwhile the West Australian government is spending $21.6 million to set up safe housing for children at risk in the troubled northern WA town of Halls Creek.
The National Indigenous Times reports the move comes almost a year after the town's Aboriginal elders called for children to be taken away from abusive parents amid reports some children as young as three had sexually transmitted diseases.
"Judith Butters, chief of the Yura Yungi Aboriginal medical service at the Halls Creek community - 2,963km north of Perth - had said a boarding house for children was needed to let them break out of an alcohol-induced cycle of abuse in families," reports the paper.
"State Indigenous Affairs Minister Michelle Roberts said the Halls Creek housing initiative had been developed in consultation with the local community, the shire and state government agencies."


NEW TOWN COUNCIL PURCHASING SCANDAL: NOT HAPPY RATEPAYERS. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Alice Town Council failed to get quotes from local traders for a $50,000 street sweeping machine although at least one Alice-based dealer, Principal Products, could have supplied the same machine – possibly for less.
The firm's owner, Steve O'Burtill, says he became aware of the council's intention to buy a sweeper through a council media release, reprinted in the Centralian Advocate, on February 6.
The piece said the council was "investigating" the purchase of the equipment, indicating that the purchase hadn't been made yet.
No tenders were called as the purchase was for less than $50,000.
The following day Mr O'Burtill hand delivered brochures of suitable sweepers to Mayor Fran Kilgariff, as well as to aldermen Robyn Lambley, Samih Habib and David Koch.
The Alice News was told the printed material was passed on to the council's Director of Technical Services, Eric Peterson, together with a letter pointing out that Principal Products was able to supply a wide range of equipment.
Mr O'Burtill received no reply from council staff nor from elected members. He became aware that a Minuteman sweeper had been bought from a Sydney company when the machine was shown off to media last week.
The Alice News spoke to several aldermen, including David Koch, who has mayoral ambitions.
He said: "It looks like some council staff are conducting themselves in a manner that will make it impossible for any alderman to be re-elected.
"The aldermen support local enterprise, passionately," says Ald Koch. "We have told the staff that in no uncertain terms after the civic centre furniture fiasco when local traders were excluded from tendering.
"Now they are doing it again. Do we need to limit spending by the senior staff to petty cash?
"What part of ‘you must involve local business whenever possible' don't they understand?
"They appear to be acting as though they are the council and not answerable to the people of Alice Springs through the elected members."
Deputy Mayor Lambley said the CEO, Rex Mooney, had told her that under the council procurement policy "we only need to get three quotes."
It appears that the policy has no requirement for the three quotes, or any of them, to be obtained from local traders.
Mr Peterson was not available to answer questions from the News, saying "at this point a detailed report is being written ... which is to be discussed at the March meeting.
"As this will remain a confidential report until Council meets in March, it is not appropriate to discuss its contents until the Council has first considered this report.
"Despite this, I can say that Council staff have complied with all the requirements of its Procurement Policy in the purchase of this machine."
However, another part of the policy says local suppliers can be 10% dearer than outside ones.
Under "Tender Assessment Criteria" the policy says the "Council has a policy supporting preference to locally manufactured and supplied goods" providing for a "10% preference in favour of local suppliers".
Mr O'Burtill says taking this into account, his firm could have undercut the Sydney provider, and made available full local servicing of the machine.
He says: "We've been in town for 15 years, have seven people on staff, and pay rates on three buildings.
"We're deeply disappointed."


MEETING ON CLIMATE CHANGE DRAWS HEAT. By KIERAN FINNANE.

The town council is looking for initiatives it can undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at the same time as it is making no progress on implementing its own local action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
On Thursday last week council held a public forum, having advertised it just two days earlier.
Contrary to the expectations of some who attended the forum, the local action plan, which council had paid the Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns (CSAT) to develop, was not the subject of the forum.
Instead it was back to the drawing board.
The rationale: to help prepare Mayor Fran Kilgariff for the Australasian Mayors Council on Climate Protection Initiative, which will be holding a conference titled ‘Accelerating Now' in Melbourne on May 2-5.
Unfortunately Alice Springs, having made an early start in the climate protection race, far from accelerating, appears to be slowing down.
Back in 1998 the town council was one of the first Australian local governments to sign up to Cities for Climate Protection (CCP), an international campaign to involve local government in greenhouse gas emission reduction.
The campaign sets out five milestones towards reduction, providing a simple, standardized means of calculating emissions, establishing reduction targets, and of monitoring, measuring and reporting performance.
Alice is currently at milestone three, the development of a local action plan, and there it seems to have stopped.
Says David De Vries, current director of CSAT:
"The town council will tell you they are a model CCP town.  However, comparisons with other cities and towns shows the council is the slowest in the country, at only milestone three.
"Other towns at this level typically started CCP in 2003 or 2004. 
"Of 28 local governments in WA, all have progressed further.  Why are we lagging? 
"Why are we doing the first steps of public consultation again rather than acting on the council's local action plan?"
Says Mandy Webb, a member of the local Climate Action Group (CAG): "The whole thing appears to be stalling around the Solar City bid but a lot of people at the meeting were saying, ‘Don't wait, get on with it'.
"Power and Water are now talking about buying a third generator.
"If Alice had done what it was supposed to do and become more energy efficient, we shouldn't be having to buy a third generator.
"Or if we must generate more energy, it's surely the perfect time to get a solar array."
Ms Kilgariff says the meeting was initially planned for invitees only but was opened to the public at the last minute, in the hope of having a "wider discussion" and it did attract some people new to town or new to the issue.
One of them was Holly Clark who has lived in Alice for the last nine years but has only become concerned about climate change since seeing Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth.
Ms Clark was "pleasantly surprised" to learn at the forum that a local action plan exists and that is deemed "excellent" by the experts – "now we do need to put it into action".
She also appreciated the inclusiveness of the forum: "I'm no expert, I'm just a concerned citizen and Fran wanted to hear from everybody.
"What I pushed at the meeting is the need to educate people about what they are facing.
"When they know, they'll have the motivation to push government to get action."
INPUT Ms Kilgariff says the meeting was not about the local action plan but to get local input to a discussion of initiatives and possible barriers to reduction across Australia.
As such, the meeting had been "useful".
Another meeting will be held in the near future on the local action plan.
Ms Kilgariff says the local action plan has not been implemented because council does not have an environment officer. Such a position was previously part-funded by the Territory Government but it lapsed when the funding stopped.
New funding for the position will be considered in the next budget process.
The Climate Action Group has recently employed a project officer and are offering council her services to assist with the implementation of the action plan, part of which entails conducting energy audits, seminars and workshops on energy efficiency in private homes as well as in commercial and industrial settings.
Dr de Vries says that many councils have their mayor or general manager as "their Cities for Climate Protection driving force".
"It is about about engendering a culture in every job description, not in one." He suggests that the action plan may have been sidelined because Alice Springs "is now set to miserably fail to meet the 2010 goal of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emission". 
At present, with the council's and Territory Government's "business as usual" approach, emissions are set to rise, says Dr de Vries. He questions not only the purchase of an additional generator but the "continued construction of poorly insulated and designed buildings from dongas to ‘executive' apartments".
He also points out other strategies drawing on extensive community consultations back in 2005, that are being "ignored by the governments that solicited the information".
These are the Roadmap to a desertSMART Town and the Alice Springs Water Resources Strategy. 
Says Dr de Vries: "2010 probably felt like a distant date early in the CCP program. 
"Possibly other events will overtake disappointment at the wasted opportunity.  "Increasing temperatures locally and across Northern Australia promise many changes as the populace moves to cooler climates.  "Regardless of who is still toughing it out in 2010, we need to prepare for the consequences of our changing climate and demand some leadership from all levels of government."
Note: The Greenhouse Local Action Plan can be found on the town council's website (go to Council, then Council Publications).


LETTERS: Devastation on Todd River Downs massive, says CLC.

Sir,– Re "Kevin's fight for his home on the range" (last week's issue).
Since 2002 the Central Land Council (CLC) has repeatedly asked Mr Pick to reduce his stock numbers or adopt better management practices as it was evident that his operation on the Pmere Myente Land Trust was contributing to severe land degradation.
The devastation of the property and the herd is on a massive scale. When the photos given to the Alice Springs News were taken by a Northern Territory Government officer in May 2005, government officers estimated 500 to 600 cattle and 500 horses had died from starvation and lack of water within two kilometres of the only water source then on the Land Trust.
Mr Pick was dragging animals from the trough into a heap which contained hundreds of dead animals and some dying animals.
106 cattle were saved during a muster by the CLC, Loves Creek Station, Numery, Ringwood and the NT Government  that month. These cattle were in an appalling condition and were fed at the CLC's expense until they were strong enough to be trucked off the property. The cattle were sold and the proceeds put into Mr Pick's account at the stock agent.
The remaining animals which were too weak to move were culled by the NT Government. The marksmen from NT Parks and Wildlife spent 20 hours flying and shot 590 camels, 575 horses and 115 cattle.
This action was a desperate move to finally halt this environmental disaster and chronic neglect. This was an extremely serious animal welfare problem.
Earlier estimates had numbered some 800 cattle and 1000 horses on the property. At the most generous estimates of stock capacity, Mr Pick was running the operation four times over the stocking capacity for the country.   Mr Pick has lived on the Land Trust all of his life and the CLC has no issue with him continuing to live there. However, Mr Pick is not a traditional owner and the CLC is not obliged to assist him with his pastoral activities.
Nonetheless, the CLC has asked Mr Pick on many occasions to present a management proposal for the property which he consistently refused to do. He continued to mismanage the area he occupies. Finally the CLC requested that his brand be withdrawn due to chronic mismanagement.
The Land Trust is very marginal country as it is on the edge of the Simpson Desert and all pastoralists in the vicinity have had difficulties during the drought. Mr Pick's problems pre-dated the drought. The CLC encourages pastoral inspectors to access Aboriginal Land Trusts.
David Ross
Director
Central Land Council

Respect and mercy

Sir,– I would like to speak to the question of Kevin Pick at Todd River Downs.
I first met Kevin in 1979. For the next dozen years of my life reaching his camp on the edge of the Simpson Desert was always akin to getting home free.
Camels were our common bond, and over the years I bought maybe 12 or 15 of them.
Always we put Kevin's brand on them, the same large stock brand I now learn he is no longer allowed to use. Can that really be true?
Whenever I showed up at Kevin's front gate I found a warm welcome, good stories and a meal not from my fire. If I needed another camel, we found one. If my gear was in disrepair, we fixed it. If a trip into Alice was necessary, the drive of four hours each way was organized.
And not once in all those visits over all those years did Kevin ever ask to see my permit.
Now it seems that not only has he been de-stocked but that he might be getting hunted off the land where he has camped for half a century or so.
The de-stocking has been a bitter pill a long time in the coming. Kevin's block is situated where the Todd River makes its final bend before disappearing into the Simpson Desert. It is very marginal grazing country.
Escaped stock wandering down stream from other stations eventually fetched up at Todd River Downs. Most of these were strangers and not Kevin's responsibility.
Likewise, during dry times, camels would drift up out of the sand hills to find water at one of the only bores I know of that was always open to the desert. Again, most of these were strangers and not Kevin's responsibility.
The goats and horses were a different matter, and I often used to wish Kevin would do a massive cull. But no matter where the blame lies, it seems the de-stocking has now taken place. Can it be left at that?
A fair amount of Central Australia's heritage is attached to Kevin.
From just the little bit I do know, one uncle, Walter Smith, is the Man from Arltunga in R.G. Kimber's book of that name. And the Taffy Pick Crossing linking South Terrace to the casino is named after Kevin's father.
I suggest the CLC wants to pull its head in here and show some respect and some mercy.
Please do not play the corporate bully and push this elderly desert man off his camp. He has earned his right to stay there.
Hal Duell
Alice Springs
Desert town

Sir,– I live in the United States, in Southern California, in Rancho Mirage, which is just a few miles east of Palm Springs.
So, I live in an area which is desert, and watching the summer temperatures in your area, they are much like ours.
We usually get over 100 days in which the temperature is over about 38°C (100°F).
In fact, this past summer we had several days where the temperature was almost 50°C! So we are familiar with your climate.
I was reading the recent articles [late 2006] and understand your "crossroads" situation. Our desert area is growing at a tremendous rate and it is creating problems of traffic and crime.
There was the problem of "tourist behavior" in Palm Springs some years back, when students off on "spring break" poured into town, running around in cars and motorcycles, disrupting things, drinking, etc.
Finally, the then mayor, former rock star Sonny Bono (of Sonny & Cher), cracked down on all the troublesome activities and brought an end to the situation. We don't get many students anymore.
Several things were tried which finally discouraged the "Spring Break" college crowd from coming. The city tried an alternative event which wasn't really successful, but did help discourage the college crowd.
Also, they liked to cruise up and down the city's main street, Palm Canyon Drive, and the cruising created a number of problems.
At the time, the street was part of California State Highway 111, so it had to remain open.
The city petitioned the state and was able to get Highway 111 re-routed so that Palm Canyon Drive was now just a local street under local control.
Then, the city was able to block off the main roads leading into downtown, which effectively stopped the cruising, and eventually the college groups went elsewhere, mainly either to the Colorado River area along the Arizona-Nevada state lines, and to Mexico.
People have come back, but it is mainly families and not the rowdy groups.
Alice Springs will need a balance between tourism and protecting the lifestyle of residents.
I doubt you can really stop drinking – the US tried that in the 1920s and it was a dismal failure, resulting mainly in the strengthening of organized crime, and was finally repealed.
The town can, though, impose strict regulations about where drinking can occur, set hours of sale of alcohol, and enforce the regulations with fines and/or jail time.
The town will also, as you've indicated, have to really organize itself and have some strong voices willing to take on territorial and federal governments.
That is really necessary in any democracy. We've certainly had to do that here.
Alice Springs is, as you said, at a crossroads. Try to keep the best of what you have and, using judgment, encourage tourism, but not to the point where it becomes the be-all and end-all of the town's existence, as some tourist places have become.
I can cite the example of the "ghost town" of Virginia City, Nevada, which was a major silver mining town of the old Comstock Lode.
When my wife and I visited the place in 1957, it really gave the feeling of being a ghost town.
The buildings were interesting and there was some of the flavor of the old town.
We re-visited in around 1996 and found the place had become a "tourist trap." There were tour buses, motorized trams carrying tourists around, cookie and popcorn shops, touristy shops selling t-shirts with logos of Virginia City, etc.
The whole flavor of the place has been ruined and we will not be going back there again any time soon. Please be careful that in encouraging tourism, you don't let that happen.
Australia is our "dream trip" and we are hoping to make it to your country before senility and physical limitations set in. As you can understand, such a trip is not an inexpensive one from the U.S.
We have friends in Tasmania (Evandale) and a friend in Brisbane, and that strengthens our desire to visit. We would also hope to make it to Alice Springs, just to try to get some comparison between our desert and the Outback.
We'll just keep our fingers crossed.
My best wishes for the success of Alice Springs. Fight for what you feel is right and don't give up. You don't want to lose what is a unique town in a unique area of the world.
Mark Lees
Rancho Mirage, CA, USA


HOUSE BLOCKS: BLACK FIRM MAY TAKE OVER. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

A company attached to the Alice Springs native title body, Lhere Artepe, may be developing the land which native title holders expect to get from the NT Government in Mt Johns Valley, between the MacDonnell Ranges and the golf course.
It is where the town's next residential development will take place, valued at well over $100m at current prices.
If the precedent set in Larapinta is followed, Lhere Artepe, in exchange for lifting native title rights, will get half of the land.
A prominent native title holder, Betty Pearce, who had a key role in the Larapinta Stage One development, says Lhere Artepe has been ready to go ahead with the project since November last year.
But there had been a hold-up with the NT Government and its Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.
However, Lands Minister Delia Lawrie says: "Both Government and Lhere Artepe want to see development proceed at Mt Johns.
"Government is negotiating the terms of the agreement that will provide compensation for the extinguishment of native title over the land identified for development."
Opening up the land is crucial to bringing down the still sky-high prices of housing blocks.
Rather than selling the native title holders' share of the land to a developer, as was the case at Larapinta, the Lhere Artepe Economic Development Corporation Pty Ltd may be doing the job.
Its leading figures are Darryl Pearce (Mrs Pearce's son, due to move from Sydney to Alice Springs next year); Andrew Ross (the brother of Central Land Council director David Ross); and Pat Miller (chairwoman of the Mbantua section, one of Lhere Artepe's three moiety groups).
Lhere Artepe sold the land it got in the Larapinta deal, which Mrs Pearce brokered, to a Darwin group headed by Hannons for $1.1m in 2003.
The 40 blocks subsequently created in Stirling Heights were sold for a total estimated at $6m.
The other half of the land, Larapinta Stage Two, over which the NT Government has retained ownership, remains undeveloped.
Mrs Pearce says the Government wants $1m for that land but offers so far have fallen well short.
It is understood that this is because of the proximity to the troubled Larapinta suburb, and the requirement for the provision of public housing.
Ms Lawrie says about Mt Johns Valley: "Ongoing discussions took place with the former executive at Lhere Artepe, and we expect to be continuing this good relationship with the new executive.
"Government remains committed to a staged residential development in Mt Johns Valley.
"Headworks for Stage 1 are likely to go to tender later this year."
Ms Lawrie was not available for further comment.
There are concerns that the Larapinta Stage Two fiasco will be repeated at Mt Johns.
Lhere Artepe's new chairman, Frank Ansell, said two weeks ago that the group wants to go ahead with the Mt Johns project without further delay.
But Mrs Pearce says she understands that initially the government wants to develop just 90 blocks.
Mt Johns Valley has room for nearly 700 blocks, she says, but the government's initial offer to the native title holders is for just $2m.
Lhere Artepe has 540 registered members but Mrs Pearce says there are further native title holders not yet registered.
The organisation is made up of three moiety groups, each of which elects 10 members to Lhere Artepe's management committee, able to vote at the annual general meeting.
Mr Ansell heads the Undoolya group.
The former chairman and now one of the two vice-chairmen, Brian Stirling, representing the Mbantua group (generally, the town of Alice Springs).
Mrs Pearce, who speaks frequently at public meetings on behalf of the town's native title holders, belongs to the Irlpme moiety but is not currently one of the 10 representatives serving on Lhrere Artepe.
Meanwhile Mrs Pearce says Mr Ansell has plans of becoming a paid full time chairman, receiving funds set aside for an executive officer.
Mrs Pearce says that would be against Lhere Artepe's constitution, and raises issues of conflict of interest.
Mrs Pearce's daughter Esther was Lhere Artepe's executive officer until her resignation earlier this year.
Mr Ansell could not be contacted for comment before the deadline of this edition.


ALICE SENIORS GET SERIOUS IN NATIONAL LOBBY GROUP. By KIERAN FINNANE.

More seniors seem to be staying in Alice for their retirement but there are no firm figures and scant hard research on their needs.
That's something a local branch of the lobby group National Seniors Association intends to fix.
Members and interested others recently met with staff from the national office to learn more about the group's work and to identify local issues.
Margaret Gaff (pictured) is the Territory representative on the body's national policy group and she also chairs the branch policy group.
"Self interest is a good bit of my motivation," she says.
She and husband Bob have lived in Alice for 36 years. They retired in 2003 and have decided "to stay to the end".
"Right now I can look after myself, I feel safe in my house, I can read what is going on in the streets so I feel safe walking to the shops. But what will be the case in 15 years' time?"
The plusses for Alice Springs are that it's been home for a long time, and family are here, but also that there are considerable conveniences: medical care is "right on hand" as are "a whole lot of services".
The NT Government also offers extra support, for example, half an airfare to a capital city of your choice every two years, as well as discounts on rates, power, motor vehicle registration and driver's licence costs.
But when people start to need extended personal care in their homes they are confronted with a shortage of careworkers.
"I took this to the national meeting last year," says Mrs Gaff. "It's an issue all over the country. Government policy is to support people in their home to the last minute but the local careworkers are not there.
"There are people who love the job, who get on with the elderly, but there's no career path and apparently you can get better pay working at Kmart. "I believe the Federal Government has announced a significant increase in funding, so that should make a huge difference.
"Our job will be to keep an eye on anomalies and particular shortfalls. "In Australia two thirds of retirees are the healthiest, wealthiest and best-educated retirees the world has ever seen, but one third are not among this group. For all sorts of reasons they are at a huge disadvantage." It is not clear how the proportion falls in Alice Springs, pointing again to the need for "thorough-going localised sociological research".
Other issues to go up on the whiteboard last Friday were:
• the quantum of single pensions – "If people are paying commercial rent it's very hard to manage."
• the disincentive for pensioners to work and disadvantages to them personally as well as to society, when there is an aging population and shrinking workforce.
• accommodation, in particular the availability of land for a retirement village with places for self-funded retirees.
• anti-social behaviour, urban drift and demographic changes – "Some people are very frightened. From my own perspective, I know there are some heroic Aboriginal people living with these problems in their own homes."
• social isolation, especially amongst older men – "The second highest suicide level in the country is among men over 70, but locally there is no research on this group."
• lifelong learning opportunities, including IT – "a positive for many seniors".
Says Mrs Gaff: "There's consistency in the issues raised over the years – at the council's seniors talkfest a couple of years back, the feedback we got from members last year and again on Friday."
The task now will be to prioritise and get some movement on the issues, with Mrs Gaff's particular brief being to get a Territory policy group going.
National Seniors has appointed a policy support officer to work with the Territory committee: "He'll help us come up with an action plan."
National Seniors works with the Productive Aging Centre, associated with the University of the Sunshine Coast, which would ultimately guide any research undertaken.
Others on the branch committee are: Penny McConville (president), Morgan Flint, Mary Miles, Vena Oliver and Mary Blaiklock.
Some of these are also involved in the policy group, joined by Susan McQuade of the Alzheimer's Association, Christine Grant, an aged care advocate, Wendy Collits and Margaret Borger.
A mixed blessing for them is difficulty in maintaining hands on deck, due to the high mobility of retirees – "There's always someone going off in their campervan for a few months or taking a trip overseas" – and those who are still working often have other commitments.
There are meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month, 5.30 at the Andy McNeill Room and occasional dinner meetings. Contact Penny McConville 8953 5573.


THE ALICE ON TOP - FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS.

Alice Springs, "the murder capital of Australia", is added to a list of the world's deadliest cities in the current Zoo Weekly (March 12).
The magazine claims to be "Australia's biggest selling men's mag".
The top 10 deadly cities include Caracas, Bogota, New Orleans, Mexico City, Kiev.
A local man rang to alert the Alice News to the piece.
The magazine lead its feature on this hook: "Fancy a holiday, but don't want to die? Avoid these places then – they're the most dodgy cities on earth."
Alice Springs, it says, "has the highest incidence of violent crime in Australia and a murder rate that's 10 times the national average. Alcoholism seems to be the worst cause – more than $24m is spent on booze each year – and gang violence is also on the rise.
"Everybody's drunk and desperate – and itching to blow off a little steam."
The man, a resident for 30 years, felt the magazine had got it right and said he is leaving town. And so are his brother and his boss.


JOURNALISTS BEHIND BARS.

Today, on International Women's Day, the Alice News remembers over 60 women writers and journalists who have come under attack for the practice of their right to freedom of expression in the past year.
Among them was Russian author and journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead by an assassin at her home in Moscow on 7 October, 2006.
In January this year, Uzbek journalist and human rights activist, Umida Niyazova was arrested and is still in prison awaiting trial.
Serkalem Fasil, an Ethiopian journalist, is in detention under appalling conditions. She gave birth to a son in prison in June.
In Vietnam, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy lives under constant harassment and threat for her writings.
The Alice Springs News joins in solidarity with International PEN, the world association of writers, in their commemoration of these women.


AIRGUITAR ON GHANDI'S STAFF. By DARCY DAVIS.

I know what a lot of you are thinking: Why did this lucky youth reporter bastard get to go to the masquerade ball, while I stayed at home on a Saturday night without even football on the tele, because I couldn't afford to fork out $120?  I found it a bit unjust too – there's really a lot to hate about journalists. For the average person, $120 is a lot to pay for a night out, even with a three course meal (from Hunaman's), an open bar, lively company, great entertainment… now I'm just rubbing it in, aren't I!
I rocked up at The Convention Centre at about a quarter past seven, thinking I must've been late because there was no-one there.
I felt like an idiot all dressed up with my mask on, wandering around the deserted building.
So I got back in the car and headed to the Alice News headquarters to have a look at the poster on the door.
Got it, the Alice Springs Turf Club, I didn't even think to check – The Convention Centre just seemed like the obvious venue….and I hadn't actually heard of the Turf Club. I arrived and parked my 2006 silver Mercedes (masquerading as a 1985 red Corolla) next to the other ball-attending cars.
I followed the sounds of Barry White to the entrance where I had arrived just in time for the wearable arts parade, drawing on creations made for the previous wearable arts events run by the festival.
There was some elaborate gear! One outfit consisted of a corset and bustle skirt made from peacock patterned, silk paper. Another dress, made by Jo Nixon, Steph Gaynor and crew, was made entirely of black handbags.
But the highlight was David Opie in a dress inspired by the white gum tree, made by Kael Murray.
He truly captured the characteristics of the white gum with his slow, swaying limbs and root-like dreadlocks. He's pretty tall too.
Johnny Skidd & The Chanfloozies came on next with their selection of golden oldies, serenading the couples on the dance floor. They were as theatrical as they were stylish, red frocks, blonde wigs, like real life jukeboxes – you could almost see the bouncing ball, following the words below them.
Fly 990 followed soon after…and I'm really glad I saw them so I could do them justice. Yes, they rock hard!
From their very first song everybody was hooked and just felt like rocking out to their tunes.
But they weren't just playing your average ‘pub rock' covers, they were playing reggae, funk, even a bit of hip-hop. And they played the cover tunes with a very distinctive, NoKTuRNL feel.
Playing cover songs is a perfect opportunity for them to showcase their musical abilities. They got everyone dancing – Superman, Zorro, even Gandhi was playing air-guitar on his staff.
Perhaps $120 was a little bit steep, but profits went to what is hopefully a good cause – the Alice Desert Festival.
So next time the opportunity arises, get yourself very hungry and very thirsty, make the most of every dollar you spend and have a great time.!
PS. I had been planning to go and see the Rock Wallabies at Uncles Tavern, until I got sidetracked by the ball.
I had a listen to the CD that was kindly given to me by Gary Cannell and Duncan Rae and there are some really good tracks, particularly track four, "Brick in the Wall". T o fully appreciate the music, especially the didgeridoo, listen to it on a quality sound system.
The album, The Man from Ironbark, is available now from The Aboriginal Desert Art Gallery and Murray Neck Musicworld.


ADAM CONNELLY: What have I got myself into?

Many of you remember the first time you set eyes on Alice Springs.
The first time you came through the Gap. The first time you laid eyes on a town nestled between orange rocks and more orange rocks.
For some of you it was like coming home. For some out of towners, Alice Springs is the perfect place and all makes sense.
For others, remembering the first sighting of the Alice is as close to Vietman flashbacks as they'll ever want to get. A strange and alien environment, a sight for which no one can prepare.
Life in this place got better, but at the time they were asking very serious questions about their mental stability.
The most common question was, "What have I got myself into?"
I too have had cause to remember my first day here in town. It was a Sunday in May 2005 and I was a mess.
Having said goodbye to my friends and family I was somewhat emotional. Not just sad but in a Halle Berry wins an Oscar kind of scene, I was not looking my best. But my physical appearance was the farthest thing from my mind.
Stepping off the plane I surveyed all that was before me. Or more to the point all that wasn't before me.
As a city boy I had never imagined putting myself in such a place. I thought that the only time I'd ever see this sort of landscape would be on a Malcolm Douglas documentary on a Saturday afternoon.
That is the first big hurdle for the relocated Centralian. Having to deal with being so far from home in an environment that is so foreign.
There are others of course. Like adapting to the pace of life here in Alice Springs.
When I fly home to see my family I am now shocked at the speed in which life is lead.
How little time everyone seems to have.
Then I remember that I was once one of those people.
Spending hours to get 20 kilometres on an "express" way, constantly worried about being late to the next job, and always having to refer to the diary in order to meet friends.
I remember being this person. I remember liking him but I can't imagine being him again.
I spoke of Territory Time last week. It does not exist outside the borders of this particular territory and its rules are not understood straightaway.
I was grossly offended by a friend who said she'd pick me up at three o'clock and turned up at twenty past.
I now know this was not on time but in fact quite early.
There are other shocks ahead. Small things that are at odds with the life new Centralians left behind.
Climate change of late has been a huge talking point and a serious issue for people globally. We have felt the effects of it here with the hottest February on record following a wet and mild January.
We are all told to do our bit and so the newly-arrived separate their garbage only to find that there is only one bin. Where is the recycling bin? Where's the green waste bin?
And can you imagine the shock on the faces of the newly-arrived when they see litres upon litres of water being used to water gardens, when closer to the coast such activities can get you a stint in Guantanamo Bay.
While all these things seem minor in detail, put together they make adjusting to life in the Centre a little tricky.
So next time you see a newly-arrived person in town looking slightly bewildered, don't think they are feeling the effects of sunstroke or just a little loopy. Give them a bit of time. They'll turn out all right in the end.



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