ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
May 17, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Mal Brough: Crunch time for town
camps tomorrow. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
The 18 independent leaseholders of town camps in Alice Springs will
have till 5pm tomorrow to either accept or reject an offer from Federal
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough, for up to $70m in housing
Mr Brough met with the lease holders and Tangentyere Council as their
representative, on Tuesday.
He said after the meeting that the requirement for the housing to be
managed by the NT Government was “non-negotiable”, along with a 99 year
lease to the NT Government over those areas in the camps to be used for
Mr Brough said: “That’s on the table and no-one has asked for any
change from that.”
Asked why a decision had to be made by Friday Mr Brough said: “It’s now
been 14, 15 months since we’ve first been asked to assist here.
“In Hope Vale, Queensland, we went from zero to a complete agreement to
make fundamental reforms in welfare, housing and land tenure in three
Mr Brough says the Tiwi Islands are “ready to move”.
Wadeye had reached an agreement “in a much shorter time” and has people
owning their own homes.
“There is a lot of need in this country.
“We are now going to inject over the next four years $1.6 billion into
remote housing. This is a phenomenal sum of money, much larger than has
ever been put into remote housing.
“There are a lot of communities in desperate need. I can’t in good
faith sit for another six months, 12 months, however long, on such a
large sum of money, knowing that it could be helping somewhere
Tangentyere chairman Geoff Shaw says the council will have another
meeting with the lease holders of the camps, and announce a decision on
The Housing Associations will increase rents to a “public housing”
level of 25% of income; will allow private home ownership; agreed to
rates, although not legally required; agreed to easements and transfers
to the NT Government for essential services.
Tangentyere does not hold the leases. It operates as an advisory body.
Indigenous education: Bush
results in decline. By
Achievements of primary school children in remote Central
Australia, after some improvement, are again declining despite a major
overhaul since the Collins Review in 1999 described the “long-term
systemic failure” to address the crisis in Indigenous education.
And, while Indigenous students in town are doing much better, the gap
between them and non-Indigenous pupils is widening.
Attendance remains a critical factor in under-achievement.
Indigenous students are now in the majority in the region’s student
body, with 55% of all enrolments in Central Australia, government
and non-government, being Indigenous, up from 39% in 1986.
In government schools in the Centre, there are now 1728 more Indigenous
than non-Indigenous students enrolled: 3905 compared with 2177. This is
not the case in Alice Springs government schools, but Indigenous
enrolment is climbing slowly while non-Indigenous enrolment is
In 2001 there were 2428 non-Indigenous students, dropping this year to
1762 (a drop of 666). Indigenous enrolments increased from 1083
to 1241(an increase of 158).
In remote areas Indigenous enrolments declined over this period from
2969 to 2664 (a drop of 305).
Attendance at school by Indigenous students in urban centres students
is described as “reasonable” by the general manager of schools in
Central Australia, Paul Newman.
“It’s much better than in remote areas,” he says.
In Alice Springs it was 76% in 2001, and at 77% this year showing
little improvement by.
This compares to non-Indigenous attendance of 90% and 89% for the same
In 2001 Indigenous attendance in remote areas stood at 63%, up to 69%
A minimum attendance rate of 80% is linked to students reaching
literacy and numeracy benchmarks.
A system-wide program focussing on improved attendance is being
redesigned by Student Services in Darwin, but meanwhile schools like
Braitling Primary (see Alice News, May 3) are coming up with their own
All of the town primary schools now have transition units, which
operate as “stepping stones” for those Indigenous students who are
uncomfortable about going into the mainstream.
And all now need to identify which Aboriginal children are living in
their feeder area. Those children don’t have to attend the school
in their feeder area, but there is a new obligation on schools to
Ross Park Primary has achieved an average attendance by Indigenous
students of 87%, close to its whole school average of 90%.
“The school has not done it on their own, we have to acknowledge the
parents’ contribution,” says Mr Newman.
“But also the kids are enjoying coming to school.”
One measure of progress in literacy and numeracy for all students is
the Multi-level Assessment Program (MAP), conducted in Years 3, 5 and
There was some improvement in Indigenous achievement during the period
but there was a greater improvement amongst non-Indigenous students.
These are global results. Some schools are apparently doing better but
“others have work to do”, says Mr Newman.
Why the variation?
“We have had a full turnover of primary school principals.
“We’ve got a good crop at the moment, and believe that in two years’
time the gap will be significantly reduced.”
The statistics in remote areas are going backwards: MAP results show
numeracy declining from 33.5% achieving the benchmarks in 2002 to 23.1%
Reading went from 24.1% to 16.55% over the same period; and writing,
from 7.4% to 6.1%.
Again these are global results; there is a “marked improvement” in some
schools, according to Mr Newman.
One structural change that should lead to gains in remote areas is
relieving the remote school principals of administrative tasks.
The remote schools in the Centre are now in four group school
arrangements, Tanami, Sandover, Lasseter and Barkly.
Three of them have their administrations housed at Alice Springs High
This frees up the principals to concentrate on teaching practice, “to
sharpen their focus on learning, become pedagogical leaders”, says Mr
He also says the department is becoming “very strategic” in their
recruitment for remote schools, for instance by recruiting teachers
trained in the “accelerated literacy” approach.
On the secondary education front, 23 Indigenous students out of a total
of 104 students in Central Australia received their NTCE (Year 12) last
year, two more than in 2003.
The government system has yet to produce a remote student in the Centre
with an NTCE.
This should change next year with some students at Yuendumu graduating.
Yuendumu is the only “collaborative trial site” in the Centre for “face
to face” senior secondary education.
The others are at Borolloola (now managed out of Darwin), Ramingining
“Central Australia has had to fight for that,” says Mr Newman.
The Yuendumu Community Education Centre has been offering Years 7-9 for
20 odd years, and at present has close to 30 students in their
There are eight Stage 1 (Year 11) students enrolled this year; the
expectation is that three to five of them will graduate in 2008.
Other remote government schools in the Centre – for instance at
Laramba, Ti Tree, Ntaria – have secondary programs supported
through the NT Open Education Centre.
And numbers of students from remote communities are attending boarding
school. For example, some 20 students from Ali Curung are boarding in
“There are many pathways,” says Mr Newman.
Will the real leaders please
stand up? By ERWIN CHLANDA.
“I’m leaving town” is widely replaced with “I’m staying. This is my
The pressing question is now, who is going to lead this new resolve to
put The Alice back on the rails?
Opposition Whip Richard Lim and MLA for Greatorex is rumored to be
quitting politics at the next election.
He’s neither confirming nor denying this, saying he’ll make up his mind
closer to the poll, more than two years away.
And Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney says: “Have we issued a precise
policy to specifically fix the problems in Alice Springs? No.
“Do we intend to? Yes.”
Ms Carney says the government should fix the problems because it has
the resources to do so.
“As we get close to the election we will provide our alternative,” she
There will certainly be a new Member in the conservative seat of
Braitling, furious over the Government’s handling of the dongas issue
and experiencing unexpected fallout from the alcohol restrictions.
Sitting independent Loraine Braham won’t stand again.
And then there is the wild card, Advance Alice, headed up Steve Brown,
a member of a big pioneering family, and in nobody’s pocket.
Chief Minister Clare Martin and her government clearly got the shock of
their lives when they popped into town for sittings of Parliament here
They were relentlessly booed by hundreds of locals running small
businesses – the people who make Alice tick.
Advance Alice inspired this protest and, unashamedly, put the need to
fix the town’s woes into the national spotlight on the Seven TV
Now the group is eying off seats on the town council and in Parliament,
and is even talking about forming a new party.
During the sittings and again on televison, Ms Martin put her hand on
her heart and said she’s the Minister for Major Projects, and Alice is
one of them – presumably just behind the wave pool in Darwin, as one
wit at the protest observed.
But an extra 15 police officers suddenly materialized, and so did
government funding for security cameras in the mall, previously denied.
Now that Ms Martin and her Cabinet are again safely behind the Berrimah
Line, it’s anybody’s guess how long this generosity will last.
So who will lead the rehabilitation of Alice?
The town council, the driving force in most communities, is for all
intents and purposes dysfunctional: It fumbled the dongas issue, is
doing nothing practical in the areas of litter, public drinking, safety
of public places and care for children at risk, although under the
Local Government Act the council can pass bylaws on all these issues
and enforce them.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff’s response to the public outcry over violence was
as predictable as it was useless: she called a secret meeting,held in
the same week as the protest and while the Chief Minister was still in
town, kept out the public and the media, and came up with nothing
original nor constructive.
Although the Opposition has half its Parliamentary members in Alice
Springs, including its Leader, the CLP is going through the motions
rather than coming up with that knockout strategy to fix the “problems”
– urban drift and its fallout, in particular misconduct by Aborigines,
some of it extreme, and much of it fueled by alcohol and other
On the one hand that’s not a surprise because the CLP, for a quarter of
a century, has been unwilling or unable to come up with solutions (see,
for example, the Letter to the Editor by Alex Nelson in this issue).
On the other hand the CLP’s inaction is surprising, because the
resolute handling by Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough of
indigenous issues may have encouraged conservatives in The Centre to
help with the fine tuning of the Canberra’s initiatives worth hundreds
of millions of dollars.
Ms Carney says the Opposition she’s leading has put out a raft of
policies, probably more than any Opposition every before in the NT.
But they deal with detail, not an all-encompassing initiative:-
• Drunks picked up three times should be taken before a court which can
make a range of orders. (The Government has started an alcohol court).
• Support for CCTV cameras, including urging the council to instal them
in the Mall. (This came about when a noisy group of business people
made itself heard during a council meeting.)
• Mounted police to come back to Alice Springs.
• A police substation at Larapinta.
• The level of police establishment numbers has to be increased: “We
have in the NT a high number of police per head of population because
we need them, and we need more in Alice Springs.”
But four people in a 25 seat Legislative Assembly have limited clout,
especially when in our system it’s routine to oppose most things the
Opposition puts forward.
So it was no surprise that the trigger for government support of the
CCTV cameras wasn’t the Opposition’s long term campaign for them, but a
two hour demonstration by people in small business last month.
In January, says Ms Carney, the Police Minister claimed anti social
behavior in the Mall is “sporadic in nature, which was just rubbish, of
“There was no doubt he was completely opposed to CCTVs.”
So what made the government flip?
Ms Carney: “They respond to public pressure and it doesn’t really
matter who it comes from.
“The Opposition does what it can. Individuals in Alice Springs do what
“Had the Parliament not been sitting in Alice Springs I don’t think we
would have seen a backflip on security cameras.
“They were desperate to be seen to be doing something.”
And that brings us to Advance Alice, and its plans for yet more clout.
Mr Brown says contesting council seats is a “natural extension” to what
the group is doing now, and Assembly seats may also be targeted.
“The council not showing leadership.
“We’re planning to put our tick alongside candidates, or put up our
own, good quality candidates coming from the community.
“In the last few months people have been standing up who have not
“People are putting up their hands.”
Mr Brown says he’s likely to contest a council seat.
Tyre dealer Dave Douglas “is hedging his bets and may stand for the
Sitting alderman Murray Stuart is an Advance Alice member.
Forming a new party would “make it interesting,” says Mr Brown.
“But I’d better not go there right now.
“We’re looking at everything that could move Alice ahead.
“We’ll do what it takes.”
Mr Brown says cameras in the mall and more police in the streets are
early successes but “the focus on Alice has not yet been achieved”.
He says he spoke with Ms Martin for first time last week.
He gained the impression she is “a nice enough person, but she gave no
“She told me they’re working on lots of things without saying what they
“There was no what and where and when.
“She doesn’t really say anything.”
Mr Brown says she gave no commitments for “tough love” centres for
youths, nor a prison farm.
The notion of a recreation dam is “too contentious”, Mr Brown quotes Ms
Matin as saying.
“She’s doing what they’ve always done, governing for minorities, for
noisy little minority groups.
“She doesn’t want to tackle the hard stuff.
“No vision, just a bureaucrat.”
About Ms Carney Mr Brown says: “She works damn hard.”
What are her main objectives?
Mr Brown: “She probably has a list of bits and pieces but I don’t know
what they are.”
Does Ms Carney have a vision?
Mr Brown: “I’ve never actually sat down with her and talked to her
Ms Carney says she facilitated a group called Alice In Five.
When Advance Alice started she suggested the two groups should merge,
which they did.
Says Ms Carney: “I deliberately stepped away then because I did not
want to see the group as being political in any way, nor did I want to
So far the directness of Mr Brown’s language has a lot of traction in
this troubled community.
So do his “born and bred” knowledge of the place and – especially – his
non-racist but merit based stance on indigenous issues.
He was here when “visionaries” like Eddie Connellan, the aviation
pioneer, pastoralist and pilot Damien Miller and decorated World War II
flying ace Sam Calder formed the Country Liberal Party, over rum or two
around Mr Connellan’s pool at Araluen, as the story goes. History might
Black college sinking ship? By
The hapless Aboriginal secondary school based at Yulara, the resort
town at The Rock, has lost its acting principal after little more than
Nyangatjatjara College, established in 1997 by the Nyangatjatjara
Aboriginal Corporation, had an administrator appointed last year by the
Office of the Registrar of Aboriginal Corporations (ORAC). The
administration is being contested in court.
An ORAC spokesperson says the acting principal, Bob Vincent, resigned.
Mr Vincent was the ninth person in the principal’s job in the past 10
years (problems besetting the college certainly predate the
The Alice News had heard that five out of six teachers had also
resigned and asked, “Can the college still function?”
The spokesperson says “there has been some teacher turnover for various
“There are now three teachers employed, one for each campus.”
In late April 57 students were enrolled.
Says the spokesperson: “The college is continuing to work to
further boost student numbers over the next few months.”
According to the spokesperson, “DEST, the Commonwealth funding
body, continues its support of the college and
funding is being allocated for the academic year.
“It also supports community consultation regarding the
directions of the college over the rest of this year.”
The Alice News reported on March 1 that the boarding facility at
Yulara, costing $2.5m and opened to fanfare some 18 months ago, was
closed, apparently due to non-compliance with fire regulations.
The spokesperson now says: “The fire engineer will produce his final
report about the situation with the dormatories shortly, which
should enable a decision about how the fire standards required for
the boarding facility can be met asap.”
The spokesperson did not answer a question about the college’s chain of
The Alice News has sighted a resignation letter from a former teacher
expressing concern on this subject.
The News asked: If teachers or other staff are unhappy with the
handling of affairs by the acting principal, to whom do they turn
within the current structure? I believe the administrator only deals
with finances, so who deals with other management and educational
The News also asked:
• Have boarding staff been kept on full time despite the boarding
facility being closed?
• What duties have they been engaged in?
• Are the out-station campuses [at Imampa and Docker River] adequately
equipped, that is, with fax, email, internet, phone, photocopier,
• Have they got fully functioning air-conditioning?
• Are cars adequately equipped with safety gear, including
communications systems in all vehicles?
No answer. And repeated contacts by the Alice News were stone-walled
Spending money. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Despite yet another Territory Budget allocation for the Mereenie Loop
Road to King’s Canyon, now called the Red Centre Way, it is still not
clear when the major part of the work will be able to proceed.
Some three years after negotiations began, there is still no agreement
between the government and the Central Land Council about access to
gravel pits and water along the route.
Frustrated tourism industry sources say this dispute over native title
issues is yet another indication of the Territory government’s
indifference towards the interests of Alice Springs.
The government took on in court, successfully, claimants of the Ayers
Rock Resort and Darwin.
And the government is now resolutely fighting a native title claim over
the tidal zone in the Top End.
But, say the sources, the government is hesitating to compulsorily
acquire the small amounts of land needed for the crucial tourist road,
and fight the matter in court if necessary.
Meanwhile Alice Springs’ two major lobbies, CATIA and the Chamber of
Commerce, are pleased with the Territory Budget handed down on May 3.
CATIA’s Craig Catchlove says extra money for Tourism NT, the former
Tourist Commission, seems to have become a permanent fixture, boosting
its budget from around $27m to $38.3m.
He says this will mean more marketing dollars for The Centre, such as
the $2.3m just spent.
However, says Mr Catchlove, “we shot ourselves in the foot with that
Today Tonight stuff, and from being quietly optimistic I’m now now
quitely pessimistic about the season”.
He says the current affairs show labeling Alice as the murder capital
of Australia will affect “Australian traffic, and have quite a bit of
traction throughout New Zealand as well”.
Beth Mildred, manager for Central Australia of the Chamber of Commerce,
says the NT Budget “looks quite good as a whole”.
The emphasis on health and community services means additional
infrastructure for the hospital, and a good boost for education
resulting in more skills and jobs.
Business incentives for employers include cash to take on apprentices.
“That’s positive for business,” says Ms Mildred.
Craig O’Halloran, general manager of the Territory Construction
Association, says the tax free payment of $1000 and $500 vouchers for
first and second year apprentices will help young apprentices through
the critical early years of the apprenticeship.
“The announced tax cuts and family friendly measures will provide
relief in particular to low and middle income families who are still
trying to cope with last year’s interest rate hikes as well as rising
rents and child care costs.
“It should help to shore up confidence in the housing market.”
There are “two very good pieces of news” in the Federal Budget,
according to Mr Catchlove.
One is $15m to complete the sunrise viewing area at Ayers Rock, of
which $5m has already been spent.
The other is the continuation of the Australia Tourism Development
Program Fund, earlier tipped to be axed.
He says in Alice, for example, the Reptile Centre had received a grant
from the fund, Desert Knowledge had applied for about $500,000, and
CATIA for $493,000 for signs on the Outback Way, the east west highway
that is making little progress.
When completed the Way will link Longreach in Queensland with
Kalgoorlie in WA and be a major tourist and trade route.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion says the Way will get $10m to upgrade
He says other NT projects in the Budget, in addition to major funding
for indigenous projects, mainly housing (Alice News, May 10), will be:-
• $4m to widen and rehabilitate old and narrow sections of the Stuart,
Victoria and Barkly highways (total package $20 million).
• $4m to help maintain and upgrade “unincorporated” roads – these are
roads outside local government areas.
• $12.6m in untied local road grants.
The GST revenue for the NT will be $2.124 billion.
Across the nation there are major allocations to combat indigenous
problems, including “$815.7m in new and extended funding over five
years as part of its $3.5 billion total spend in 2007-08 on indigenous
• Australian Remote Indigenous Accommodation Program ($293.6m).
• A major reform strategy aimed at reducing overcrowding in remote
• Training for adults in remote communities ($21.4m).
• Support for existing Indigenous primary health cares services
• Addressing misuse of alcohol and other drugs including Indigenous
specific treatment guidelines ($38.2m).
• New funds for Indigenous education and training mobility program
• $97.2m to create 825 jobs through the conversion of CDEP positions
into real jobs in government services delivery.
• $50.7m to provide additional places in the CDEP program that provide
activities to prevent family violence and substance misue problems in
Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon says the Budget is a “disappointment
for the Territory ... an election budget pure and simple.
“There’s a lot of money in welcome tax cuts and one-off payments to
carers and aged pensioners.
“There are moves in education and child care – particularly Indigenous
education – but nothing that sets us up for the future.
“But there’s not a lot of joy for the Territory as a whole.
“And we can’t glean anything specific that will benefit Central
Australia,” says Mr Snowdon.
“There’s no investment in Broadband, no grand initiatives for climate
“Clearly the $748 million announced for Indigenous health, education
and housing programs is welcome and very long overdue.
“But how and where it will be spent is unclear, so what it means for
Central Australia is also unclear.”
Mr Snowdon says the “grand announcement about turning 800 CDEP
positions into so-called real jobs is disappointing, given that there
are 35,000 people around Australia on CDEP, and again we don’t know
where the jobs will be and who will benefit.
“It’s very disappointing that there’s no money for employment-based
NT Treasurer Syd Stirling has welcomed the tax
cuts and one off support for families in this years’ Federal Budget but
believes that it fails to address the short and long term development
needs of the Territory.
“There should have been more support for vital infrastructure, better
targeted programs that respond to our particular needs, especially in
education and health, and investment in our long term future.
“While I welcome the overall investment in child care, the Territory
needs additional places particularly for 0-2 year olds.
“This Budget does not provide for those places, leaving waiting lists
as long as ever.
“The additional investment in higher education is also welcomed, though
no real details are available for what this will mean for the
Charles Darwin University and institutions such as the
Batchelor Institute. These smaller regional institutions do have
higher costs and this has not been recognised in this Budget.
“The $5 billion endowment will provide some long term growth funding
for capital works and research.
“Indigenous education could benefit from programs to support the
establishment of hostels and boarding facilities but once again detail
is scant and I am hopeful that this will not be tied up in the red tape
of other proposals.”
Shadow Treasurer Terry Mills says the NT Opposition has welcomed the
tax cuts, increased support for child care and education spending
initiatives contained in the Federal Budget.
He says between the 2001-02 budget and this year’s, GST revenue and
Specific Purpose Payments have increased by more than a billion dollars.
Abandoned public housing flat
ignored by authorites. By KIERAN FINNANE.
On Monday morning the Alice News visited a flat owned by Territory
Housing in the Larapinta area.
We were told by a neighbour that the flat had been apparently abandoned
two to three weeks ago and was still unlocked and filthy.
We found the glass of the front door smashed, the door unlatched, and
the security grille unlocked.
There was a note on the security grille from Territory Housing’s
maintenance contractor left on May 8, asking for access.
The neighbour says he had advised Territory Housing that the front door
had been smashed well before that date (Tuesday last week): he says he
made the call on a Monday two to three weeks ago, after the door was
smashed in the early hours of the preceding Saturday.
Wayne Hoban, acting regional director of the Department of Local
Government, Housing and Sport, says normally such circumstances are
dealt with quickly.
But in this instance, Territory Housing was waiting for information
from the tenant.
The tenancy is still current, according to Mr Hoban.
This does not necessarily imply that rent has been fully paid.
He would not comment on matters relating to the specific tenancy.
He acknowledges that Territory Housing should have acted more quickly
and says immediate action was taken on Monday, subsequent to our
inquiries, to secure the flat.
Mr Hoban says “procedures will be revisited” to avoid “a repeat
He says action is routinely taken to recover unpaid rent, with an
emphasis on people being able to maintain their tenancy. Agreements can
be made to repay a debt in increments.
He says if a tenancy ceases and a person subsequently reapplies for
housing, their previous tenancy is assessed, including payment of rent,
state of the property when it was left, and any complaints received
about the tenant’s behaviour.
If a new tenancy is refused, the person is not eligible to apply for
Territory Housing for another two years.
The waiting list for a similar flat for a pensioner or senior at
present is 10 months; for younger singles or those not on a pension it
is 37 months.
Local tunes on CD and myspace. By
Local bands always seem to have an EP or demo on sale at gigs. But it
can be pretty risky forking out anywhere between $10 and $30 just to be
supportive of local music.
So I’m here to give you a brief round-up of what’s available from who,
and if it’s any good.
• Alphabetically first up is ‘B’ for Ben Slip, who “was a bush
kid, a Territory kid …”.
“Today with melodies and lyrics, Ben Slip holds the Centre in his heart
and in his songs, living for the Territory big sky, drawing from his
He has got a new six track EP, Temptation, following his first EP, Time
The heavy power chords which open the first track, “Oceans Blue”, might
lead you to think that Ben Slip is a heavier, grungier act, but it
quickly becomes clear he is your regular emotional pop rock act.
With the light tinkle of piano and the occasional moan, Ben Slip
clearly draws a lot of inspiration from melodramatic pop rockers U2.
The rest of the album follows relatively the same formula but the song
which stands out most is title track “Temptation”.
It’s hard to call Ben Slip “rock” when your average rock is quite
coarse and heavy.
This music is soft around the edges. You can buy the EP from
Chatterbox, MusicWorld and online at www.benslip.com
• Local rock prodigy, The Moxie are the only band (as far as I know) to
have their own DVD.
The DVD was recorded on the night of their gig at the Hilltop Hoods
concert last year in a three camera shoot and was professionally edited
at WelcomeTV. It’s a got all The Moxie ‘hits’ and the boys put on a
However, I would have liked to have seen some subtitles so I could sing
along at home if I wanted to.
The boys are off to Darwin for BASSINTHEGRASS on May 26, alongside the
likes of Tzu, Behind Crimson Eyes, Lowrider, Jet and Eskimo Joe.
When they get back in the dust, The Moxie are heading into RedaZZ
Studio to record a five track EP. The video of their song “Chasing
Shadows’ from the DVD is currently on their myspace
(www.myspace.com/moxiemadness) to view, along with four live audio
tracks of songs from the same concert.
The DVD is available through Murray Neck Music World and
• Nights Plague, formed in 2004, are a five piece Alice Springs
metalcore band. Last year they released their six track debut EP, Sine
The album opens with the gentle, classical sounding, minor
progressional finger-picking of lead guitarist Adrian Rooke, in the
introductory track “Idiot Dog in Reign”.
The stark contrast of “Inferno” follows, teeming with fury and intense
power chords and pure double kick drum energy.
The band have clearly spent a lot of time on the arrangement of the
No riff is ever let to stagnate and any one song can be made up of as
many as eight different sections (as opposed to straight verse, chorus,
The roaring, scream-like verses are broken up with melodic choruses and
flat-out guitar solos.
What can I say, if you like thrash metal you will love this, and even
if you don’t, you will certainly appreciate it.
The line-up has changed since the album was recorded, but from what
I’ve heard, they are harder, faster and louder than before and have
begun writing new material.
Sine Die is available from Chatterbox and MusicWorld and will soon be
available on their myspace: “http://www.myspace.com/nightsplague”
• Local Punk Rockers Sweet Surrender also have a six track demo which
they were handing out at the Small Day In.
From what I know, this is a taster, with a mix of tracks from their
first demo and various songs they have recorded since.
Sweet Surrender have developed quite a strong fan base in the couple of
years that they have been together, and this demo should keep them
happy until they have finished writing and recording their new album,
To Kill a Sunrise.
The stand out tracks are “Before Long”, a heart felt, bittersweet
acoustic punk song, and “The Pirate Song”, a fast-paced joke track
about pirates: “What did the pirate pay for his peg-leg and hook? An
arm and a leg!”
Four tracks are available for free download on their myspace
“http://www.myspace.com/sweetsurrenderalicesprings” or for a copy of
the demo, contact David Drummond on 0408526017.
Walter Walloon on a circular
journey. REVIEW by KIERAN FINNANE.
The trouble with Walter Walloon Beckett as a character – the only
character in the one and a half hour long play, Not Like Beckett – is
that he utterly self-absorbed.
In his predicament, imminent death, that is quite understandable, but
it creates big challenges for his writer, actor, and director.
How is his looking into the mirror going to engage his audience?
Alice-based playwright Michael Watts has all sorts of strategies –
jokes, from the corny to the crass, vaudeville, pathos, violence and
Walter Walloon is a descendant of a pre-eminent rabbit family, the
first to make its way in the Territory: the allusion to colonial
depredation in virgin lands is clear, even before Walter recounts his
serial abuse of the bilby, Booboo.
The matters are grave and their treatment imaginative, but Watts
doesn’t seem to take them anywhere.
Walter wrestles with his sense of himself (not wanting to be like
Beckett) to the end, but it’s a circular journey.
His guilt effaces Booboo; we have no sense of her other than through
the lenses of his fantasies and his guilt, so there’s no contrasting
“other” to give dynamism to the story.
As I write this I’m conscious of the notable success of the play
elsewhere, both on the page, and as a production by Malthouse Theatre
It is possible that the flatness I experienced, and that I felt amongst
a large part of the audience, was down in part to qualities of the
production, a joint effort by Darwin Theatre Company and the local Red
Actor Damien A. Pree (pictured) gave a sustained, professional
performance – moved well, delivered his lines well – but he didn’t
reach into me.
The direction, in the hands of Nicola Fearn, took a less is more
approach, one that I generally appreciate, but it didn’t
have much register.
In particular, it failed to make use of the space of the stage. The
action all took place forward on the stage with the black velvet
curtain immediately behind the set (a rocky outcrop), cutting off what
must have been two thirds of the space available.
Yet, as the script makes clear, Walter, trapped on top of a hill in the
Central Australian desert, has a view across a vast landscape.
I felt the need for a physical sense of this, and also of relief from
the harsh, flat lighting, which, in contrast with absorbed light of the
black velvet curtain, was very taxing on the eyes.
But these matters aside, I think an Alice Springs audience was always
going to be more resistant to Watts’ play.
The local audience has a more complex experience of the fallout of
colonisation than a Melbourne audience, asking different questions,
needing different answers and above all needing to dynamically engage,
however difficult that may prove to be, with Indigenous people.
Watts’ play is strongly conscious of Indigenous people, but – quite
deliberately and pointedly – does not engage with them.
A special way of seeing. REVIEW
by KIERAN FINNANE.
Photographer Mike Gillam has made a triumphant return to exhibiting
with his part in the Shifting Ground show at Araluen.
Curated by by Shifting Ground producer Kieren Sanderson and artist Dan
Murphy, this show brings together work by local Indigenous and
non-Indigenous artists “looking at their place”.
Gillam looks with exceptional acuity; “eyes peeled” makes more than
usual sense when considering his approach to his work. For some of his
subjects are ones that have probably come within our field of vision
and we simply haven’t stopped to take notice.
In “High Tide” we see common native birds of Alice riding a wave of
rubbish at the dump; one of them appears to be in distress, screeching
and wings raised without taking flight. Part of Gillam’s
brilliance is to capture these fleeting moments, not only a matter of
seeing, but of watching and waiting and finding the perspective that
will communicate to maximum effect.
In an entirely different mood is “Cicada Peak Near Spencer Hill (Nov
2005)”: here there is fascination with light, colour, design, coming
together with the kind of perfection only nature can achieve, from the
transparency of the cicada wings to the subtle pattern and colouring of
the bark heightened by the warmth of the light.
This photo, like “Native Landscape”, featuring in particular a field of
ptilotus flowers, green and pink, is also a homage to using the camera
as a way of seeing.
It fixes, for our contemplation, an infinity of marks that we simply
wouldn’t be able to absorb in situ. This is particularly the case for
“Native Landscape”: there are so many beautifully articulated visual
points in this photograph.
The photograph titled “Shifting Ground” is an aerial view; the “being
there” quality of many of the works is exchanged for a vast sweeping of
The shadows are long and colours, particularly of the earth, deep in
the late light, and all seem to unite in an easterly flow.
Yet here and there fascinating details assert themselves: a cluster of
bright spinifex clumps, then scatterings of them and here and there a
single clump, pricking the burnt orange surface with green; and here
and there again, the whispy white flowerings of the bare branches.
A magnificent meditation on the sublime qualities of the desert.
Although his work stands quite on its own, Gillam’s captions deserves
The full title of “Native Landscape”, for instance, is “Native
Landscape Scheduled for ‘Improvement’ with Buffel Grass (Africa), Couch
Grass (Africa) and Rosy Dock (Afghanistan)”.
He writes: “Our continual reliance on introduced plant species
threatens vast de facto wilderness areas, national parks and pastoral
leases and governments sit on the fence.”
In “Backyard of Alice Springs” he shows a group of euros on the slopes
of one of the hills around town.
He writes of what he is showing: “Wildlife refuge, sacred site, resting
place of caterpillar and dingo ancestors.
“Native title land, land-use zoning 03, un-managed crown land,
weed-infested, tree-less outcrop of the future.”
In appreciating Gillam’s work, viewers should also heed his call to
arms. Before it’s too late.
All that talk about booze is
putting us off our beer. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The seemingly endless debate about alcohol in Alice Springs appears to
be having an impact on drinking and on attitudes to drinking.
In a survey released last week of the urban centres of the Territory,
conducted by consultants SOCOM on behalf of the Department of Justice,
Alice drinkers report different results to the Territory as a whole.
Fewer drinkers in Alice were drinking at risk levels for chronic harm.
This was mainly due to fewer females in the risky and high risk
category for long term harm.
In Alice 8.2% of women fell into this category, compared to the
Territory figure of 18.1%.
That 18.1% put Territory women ahead of Territory men by 3.2 percentage
Of Aboriginal drinkers (male and female) 22% fell into the risky and
high risk categories.
For total drinkers the figure was 15.6%.
In terms of short term harms, one third of Alice drinkers as a whole
fell into the risky and high risk categories, a figure similar to the
Territory as a whole.
But again, there were substantially fewer Alice women in these
categories when compared to the Territory as a whole.
In Alice the figure was 50.7% compared to the Territory figure of
64.9%, a difference of 14.2 percentage points.
For Alice men, the figure was also lower, 52.6 compared to 62.9, a
difference of 10.3 percentage points.
In Alice average weekly consumption was also reported as lower, 18.75
standard drinks, compared to the Territory’s average of 24.5 standard
The type of drink Alice drinkers consume is also different (the survey
was done before the latest alcohol restrictions).
Alice men drink more beer than their Territory brothers (75.89% of
local men drink beer compared to 69.56%); Alice women drink much less
beer than their Territory sisters (21.96% compared to 48.24%) but drink
far more spirits (45.47% compared to 21.47%).
Perhaps more important differences, in terms of the future development
of the town’s local alcohol plan, are the differences in attitudes of
Nearly half (48.5%) of those surveyed said there were too many liquor
outlets in the NT, compared to 34.7% for the Territory as a whole.
Of these, 84.2% wanted fewer outlets at corner stores (compared to
Far fewer than their Territory counterparts identified hotels / bars
and restaurants as a problem.
More Alice respondents than their Territory counterparts identify
Aboriginal drinking the bigger part of the NT’s alcohol problems: 63.3%
compared to 47%.
On the other hand, more Alice respondents thought that factors other
than driving needed to be considered when drinking: 51.6% compared to
And more agree with the closure of take-away liquor outlets one day a
week: 45.8% compared to 40%.
The survey did not go into town camps or remote areas.
One reason, according to Dr Ian Crundall, the government’s
principal advisor on alcohol, was cost “due to the cultural and access
considerations”, as well as the “need for different methodologies”.
A separate survey for the camps and remote areas is intended. The
tender for this work has been advertised.
The Aboriginal sample for Alice Springs, at 8.3% seemed very low.
The Alice News asked whether the low sample skewed the results.
Said Dr Crundall: “From what I know, the last figures that are
available from the Census for Alice Springs town (2001) showed
Aboriginal people to be about 17% of the population.
“Estimates put the number in the suburbs (not town camps) at about 60%
although there is considerable debate due to transition between both
and visitors from outside etc.
“On this basis, one might expect about 10% of the population to have
been Aboriginal and this is not wildly different from what was obtained.
“In this context, the results may be accepted as indicative.”
LETTERS: The problem with crime
is the endless failure to stop it.
Sir,– In light of the recent controversy concerning alcohol abuse,
anti-social behaviour and youth crime in Alice Springs, the following
select quotes may help to put the current debate in perspective:
“In recent months my government has been concerned about increasing
levels of crime and violence in Alice Springs. Much of this criminal
and anti-social behaviour is alcohol-related.
“The law and order issue came to a head in recent months with an
upsurge in the numbers of Aboriginals camping in the Todd River … in a
short space of time, windows were kicked in in mindless acts of
vandalism in the mall, the incidence of general harassment of
passers-by by drunken people increased, and so did crimes of violence
such as assault, robbery and sexual offences. Among the victims were
three police officers injured in the line of duty.
“Some say if the government cuts back on liquor licences and trading
hours, this will put a stop to the anti-social behaviour fuelled by
alcohol. It won’t …
“Some say that saturation policing and hard line confrontation on the
streets and in the courts will solve the problem. It won’t …
“In recent years, approximately 11,000 people per year are taken into
protective custody in Alice Springs alone …
The numbers suggest that half of Alice Springs’ population is found
drunk on the streets at least once per year.
“The fact is that figures from the Alice Springs sobering up shelter
show that 97% of those admitted … were Aboriginals: three quarters were
male with an average age of 32 years … 129 people were each admitted 10
times or more during the course of the year: and one individual spent
123 nights in protective custody during the same year.
“Those figures sound pretty horrifying, but they increased 35% in the
first four months of this calendar year … with 5,438 protective custody
cases logged up to the end of April.
“I stress at this point that those being taken into protective custody
are not, in the great majority of cases, the same offenders indulging
in vandalism, violence and general criminal behaviour, although alcohol
often fuels the pattern of behaviour in both cases.
“… I am led to believe much of the vandalism and violence can be
sheeted home to Alice Springs residents, often wandering in loose gangs
around late night drinking spots …
“Whilst the mall area has been targeted in recent times … it would be
wrong to concentrate on the mall at the expense of law and order in
Alice Springs generally … government initiatives either now in place or
on the drawing board include:
• Extra police … from time-to-time from an as-required basis as with
the recent April 10 contingent of 10 extra police ex-Darwin.
• Additional and more intense lighting in the Todd Mall and identified
• The Northern Territory Government is considering reducing the trading
hours of existing take-away liquor outlets in Alice Springs …
• Consideration of tighter legislation/ enforcement of the two
kilometre drinking law …
• The [NT Government] should initiate pressure on the federal
government to bring in more work programs in both the Alice Springs
town area and on bush communities. Tighter conditions regarding persons
opting out of such work programs should exist …
• The Commonwealth is to be approached with a proposal that recipients
of social security payments be compelled to collect their cheques on
their home communities …
• A fight crime committee has been established in Alice Springs to
consider and offer suggestions on the current problem.
Many prominent Alice Springs identities are represented on this
• The government has moved to crack down on liquor related offences …
• The Alice Springs Town Council has been asked to enforce camping
by-laws on council or crown land and to remove personal effects which
are abandoned in similar places.
“… there is disagreement on what should be done to alleviate the
problems in Alice Springs …”
These quotes are from a ministerial statement on law and order issues
in Alice Springs made by Chief Minister Marshall Perron in the
Legislative Assembly on May 8, 1990 – exactly 17 years ago.
In those times the current Chief Minister, Clare Martin, was reporting
on such issues for the ABC.
It was later that year I was a victim of an unprovoked assault on the
Wills Terrace footbridge, a type of incident so common-place at the
time that nobody thought it was unusual.
For those who claim the present situation is the worst it has ever been
in Alice Springs, the facts show that it is not; nothing has changed
except the accuracy of people’s memories.
The current situation is not the main issue – it is that nothing has
changed in over 30 years which is the real scandal.
Sir,– Ho hum. So a new housing program called ARIA (Alice News, May 10)
replaces the CHIP program and here we go again. How will the ARIA
program, Senator Scullion, be any better than the CHIP
program? Will it mean that more reasonably priced housing will be
provided and that the habitual and invariable vandalism that has
afflicted CHIP and other public funded housing be stopped?
Will it mean that instead of building houses like mainstream
Australians live in, government will give the politically correct
ideology the flick and build more culturally appropriate housing
that provides an open, shaded area with a not-so-culturally
appropriate toilet (if the people want it) and water supply? Or is
there some other strategy that will simply knock the socks off the
indigenous housing challenge?
The idea that more and more taxpayers’ money will resolve these issues
is a delusion.
The two issues that need to be addressed first are how to stop the
wanton destruction of anything built on communities and how to provide
a sufficient degree of shelter and comfort to Indigenous people
without trying to force upon them a Western, Caucasian style of living.
When you visit communities and see people lying around on steel bed
frames in the open spaces outside their houses, one has to ask whether
houses are really the best option.
Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Poem digs deep
Sir,– I was a recent visitor to The Alice for four days, working. I
bought your newspaper and I read the poem, ‘I can’t stop
drinking’ by Ali Cobby Eckermann.
I thought the poem to be very thought provoking and very relevant to
today’s society, not only in Alice Springs, but also to the wider
community Australia wide.
It’s a poem that digs deep into one’s conscience as to the
way we tend to view and / or judge a person. Well done, Ali.
Sir,– Local members of the Bahá’í Faith are distressed by
fresh reports that Bahá’í school children in Iran are
being harassed, vilified and held up to abuse.
During a 30-day period from mid-January to mid-February, some 150
incidents of insults, mistreatment and even physical violence against
Bahá’í children were reported in schools in at least 10
cities across Iran.
Worst of all, the abuse is being committed by school teachers and
administrators, in whom children should be able to place their trust.
For example, in the city of Kermanshah, children were called to the
front of the classroom and required to listen to insults against their
Faith, causing them to break down in tears before their classmates.
How could any adult treat a young child that way?
Other children have been insulted, threatened with expulsion or
summarily dismissed from school, and even blindfolded and beaten.
The extent and nature of the attacks have led Bahá’ís to
conclude that it is an organised effort. It brings to mind some
of the horrors experienced by local Bahá’ís in the early
years of the Iranian revolution, some 25 years ago.
This kind of harassment and abuse is not new in Iran and has been part
of the systematic persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran
I came to Australia as a refugee in 1985 after both my parents were
taken to prison purely because of their adherence to the
I can clearly remember being picked on at school and told that I was
unclean and later I was told I could not go to school any more because
I was a Bahá’í.
My two daughters go to school and preschool here and it is such a joy
for me to see them thrive and develop in a tolerant and modern system.
It is very sad that the next generation would have to endure the same
appalling treatment that we experienced.
The Bahá’í Faith is Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious
minority. Since the revolution in 1979, the Iranian
Bahá’í community has been subject to ongoing and
systematic persecution. In the early 1980s more than 200
Bahá’ís were killed, hundreds were imprisoned, and
thousands were deprived of jobs and education, solely because of their
It is time for the rest of the world to bear witness to what is
happening in Iran, and to raise our voices to put an end to the
Otherwise this poison will continue to spread from generation to
Dr Armán Yazdani
Put carpark back!
Sir,– Having been away recently for medical treatment, upon my return I
was amazed to find the disabled parking bay outside Anangu House had
I am disabled and find it very difficult when on my own to use my
wheelchair, so sometimes I have to use crutches.
The relocated disabled parking is some 75 metres up Gregory Terrace.
Now I find that I have to cross a laneway and two entrances to the
Kmart car park to access the services in Anangu House. This is very
dangerous with so many cars driving in and out.
The committee that made this decision has not taken into account
residents such as myself who are unable to walk more that few steps at
a time without much difficulty. I would have thought that the
disability services people on this committee would be considerate of
people suffering with disabilities.
Having been a resident of the town for some 40 years, to the best of my
knowledge no one has been involved in an accident at the old disabled
Is it any wonder that the town is in the mess it’s in?
Every time the Town Council has “improved” the car parking in the town
it has resulted in less spaces and is a total stuff up!
How about the Town Council looks after its residents for a change and
puts the disabled car park back where it was.
End welfare ‘rule’
Sir,- “No More Sit Down Money” is my campaign slogan for the Federal
The welfare state that has been supported by Labor in the Northern
Territory has gone on for long enough.
I have spoken to many Aboriginal people living on communities and in
town and they tell me that they are tired of not having real jobs and
living an un-healthy, un-wealthy lifestyle.
Every Territorian wants a real job and a future for their kids.
Labor’s welfare rule has prohibited this. Instead people have
been paid their dole money and allowed or encouraged to do nothing for
Have a look around and tell me if I am wrong.
The removal of responsibility for a person’s health, housing and income
has brought about a life of misery and despair for many Territorians.
We need to turn this welfare cycle on its head and start transitioning
responsibility back to the family or individual.
Above all we have to give these people a purpose in life and a sense of
hope and direction.
We have to assist people to transition off the dole and move into
volunteering, training, CDEP, and ultimately to real employment.
Everybody should be participating in the economy.
Where there are no industries we must create the environment and
encourage investment and industry development.
I know it is not going to be an easy road but the Labor member for
Lingiari has had 18 years and look where we are today.
CLP candidate for Lingiari
Proud of old school
Sir,– I am Alice Springs born, and proud of that fact.
I commenced my education years at Hartley Street School, and proud of
I now live interstate, but have returned several times in the last few
years and have enjoyed visiting the old school and its museum.
I browse diligently through the old photos and roll books looking for
me, my brother and my sister. Yes, I have found some entries but sadly
there are some roll books “missing”.
The one or two volunteers at the school do a magnificent job in trying
to keep the museum’s displays in pristine condition and trying to
collect extra information, photos and memorabilia.
I have contributed a few photos, including one of us marching down
Hartley Street to Anzac Oval for sports day, all school students of the
day forming the Coronation Crown (for our present Queen) on Anzac Oval
at the time of her coronation.
There were also a couple of photos of the youth centre’s performance of
“Alice in Wonderland and down the rabbit hole”’!!!
The majority of visitors to the school are past pupils living
interstate, who come back to Alice for short holidays. The number of
locals who make an effort to visit the school are few and far between.
This is very sad. There must be many, many past pupils of this great
school still living in the Heart.
Come on locals, make an effort and drag out those old school photos,
put pen to paper and write down some events that you can remember!
This museum also needs financial support to expand and return parts of
the school buildings back to their former glory days.
June Blaschek (nee Hudson)
Christie Downs, SA
ADAM CONNELLY: Distance makes the heart grow fonder!
It hits you every now and then, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t take a whole
lot of prompting.
A loved one back home who’s under the weather. Or the mail taking 15
years to get to a major capital. The sense of isolation in a place like
Alice Springs can get to even the biggest Alice fan and it creeps up on
an unsuspecting victim like a cold.
Every now and then I pine for a place that isn’t a day away from other
places. I long for the opportunity to drive to another town for dinner.
I miss my mates from home and I wish was closer to things. Nothing
specific, just things.
But like a cold this feeling soon passes. A vaccination consisting of a
combination of the undying positivity this town produces and the people
who carry that positivity with them.
I guess the positivity that one feels in the town is an essential part
of the town’s survival. When the sense of isolation hits it’s important
to be around those not feeling it.
I’ve noticed that the town has gone through a postitivity surge in the
last couple of weeks. After the success of the parliamentary protests
it seems the town feels that the cries and screams previously unheard
by the powers that be are finally being heeded.
That’s all we asked for really, wasn’t it? We didn’t expect the
problems plaguing the town to instantly vanish. We just needed to let
someone who can do something know that we were suffering.
That sounds a bit “Dr Phil” I know but the change in the town
post-protest has been noticeable. The dark cavern into which Alice
Springs was hurtling headlong is still pretty dark but at least there’s
a torch now to provide some visibility.
The isolation one feels from time to time presents itself in several
different ways. Some can be quite comical.
If I were to ever run for office here in Central Australia, one of my
policies would be to pay for a return flight anywhere in Australia for
every citizen in town.
I reckon the way to best appreciate Alice Springs is to leave it for a
spell. Get out of the house so to speak.
I was enjoying an evening with friends at one of the watering holes in
town and two metres from me, enjoying the same watering hole was
Australian cricketing legend, Darren Lehman.
Now it is my humble opinion that the afore mentioned Mr Lehman is one
of the finest spectacles to ever grace a cricket ground. I love
watching “Boof” bat. He has all the shots and on occasion, when
merited, some sensational brutish dominance of any bowling attack.
So there I am, laughing with my friends and there’s Darren Lehman
laughing with his and a bevy of young lasses enters the establishment.
Old enough to get into a licensed bar and therefore old enough to fully
appreciate the celebrity of one of the finest middle order batsmen ever
to wear the baggy green. They even looked as though they were cricket
fans, if you can look like that.
Yet as they pass the area I hear them whisper to each other in giggly
treble, “Oh my God…that’s Adam from SunFm!”
That’s not right.
I host a little radio show in a small remote town. I’m quite
happy with my standing as the host of a little radio show in a small
remote town. As I mentioned last week, I love my job.
But these girls should have been asking Darren Lehman for his autograph
not giggling about seeing a bloke they’ve probably seen in tracky dacks
down the Yeperenye. I felt a bit embarrassed.
Had these girls been given the opportunity to head out of town, to a
major city for a couple of weeks, the natural order of things would
have been redressed and I wouldn’t have felt like such a pillock.
We live on an island surrounded by sand. Sometimes this becomes all too
apparent. But there’s two ways to fight it.
Either soak up the sun and throw yourself in to island living. Or take
a cruise once and a while and remember what the real world is like.
Back to front page of the the Alice Springs News.