September 6, 2007. This page contains all major
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

NT will be nation’s jobless basket case. By ERWIN CHLANDA.

The Northern Territory’s unemployment rate is set to more than double, exceeding 10%, as the Federal intervention in the wake of the Little Children are Sacred report dismantles the widely discredited Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP). 
The Territory has by far the nation’s highest participation rate in the program, involving some 8000 people who, despite the scheme’s limited value, are regarded as being employed.
The Federal Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA), whose minister is Mal Brough, says it expects “real jobs” will be found for 2000 current CDEP participants in the NT.
But 6000 people will be added to the Territory’s dole queue of 5100, pushing the total to 11,100, or 10.4% of the workforce.
They will be regarded as unemployed, become part of the jobless statistics, and be offered a range of programs such as Work for the Dole and Income Support.
The current official unemployment rate in the NT is 4.8%.
After the changes the Territory will become, by far, the jobless basket case of the nation whose current unemployment rate is 4.1%.
The states’ figures are NSW 4.7%, Vic 4.4%, Queensland 3.6%, SA 4.9%, WA 3.3% and Tasmania 4.8%.
CDEP, more than 30 years old, widely rorted, regarded by many as a dead end for people participating in it, has long been criticized for concealing the true unemployment level.
The Alice News published several comment pieces attacking the CLP regime for its policies on CDEP.
One of the notable critics was the current Territory Treasurer, Syd Stirling, who during his time in Opposition castigated the CLP for failing to come clean on CDEP.
However, when Labor came to power in 2001, it cynically took over the CLP’s propaganda on jobless levels.
Mr Stirling has consistently refused to be interviewed on the subject, and at one time literally ran away when a reporter of this newspaper confronted him (Silent Syd Scurries, Alice News, May 5, 2004). This week again Mr Stirling declined the request for an interview.
What’s more, the Territory government has widely been using CDEP workers, paid for by Canberra, to staff services for which the Territory has responsibility, including schools and health clinics.
Sharman Stone, Federal Minister for Workforce Participation, makes it clear this will stop.
She says: “CDEP activities which have contributed to essential services and the ongoing economic viability of a community will continue, as those jobs will be transferred to the agencies who normally employ such workers, for example, the NT Education Department or the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.”
CLP candidate for Lingiari Adam Giles says the “real jobs” to be created will be “mostly NT Government positions which should have properly been paid by the NT Government”.
Mr Giles claims sitting Member in Lingiari, Labor’s Warren Snowdon “has been promoting that Labor will bring back CDEP.
“This is after he voted for legislative reforms without so much as a whimper.
“He has been handing out pamphlets advising people that Labor didn’t support the legislation, saying they fought for changes,” says Mr Giles.
“The truth is he rolled over on Aboriginal people. He didn’t fight for any changes.
“The current Member is nothing but a patsy to the past, a spent force in Australian politics.”
Mr Snowdon answered our request for comment just after deadline and will make a statement in next week’s edition.
Meanwhile a large contingent of Centrelink and other government officials has descended on Titjikala, 120 kms south of Alice Springs, one of the four or five communities in the vanguard of the Brough reforms.
The Federal Government has taken over the township for five years, and the full range of new policies will be implemented.
Titjikala is a lively place so far as jobs are concerned.
People are working in the council office, on construction, roads, rubbish, in the ranger force, child care, school, clinic, women’s centre, aged care, housing, maintenance, night patrol, training, sport and recreation, after school care, civil works and in enterprises. 
About 105 people are on CDEP or CDEP Top Up where people earn $15 to $20 an hour on top of the dole.
In Top Up people work more than the minimum 16 hours a week under the basic CDEP regime, right up to full time.
The Titjikala Council’s annual wages bill is $1.1m for CDEP and $900,000 for other jobs.
Of that white staff are getting about $450,000.
The community seems to be working some miracles, for example, running a 25 place child care centre on a grant, supplied by FaCSIA, of just $140,000 a year.
The majority of the staff are employed under CDEP or CDEP Top Up.
In Titjikala the administration of the CDEP rules is rigorous.
“If you don’t show up for work, you don’t get paid,” says a manager.
“You go on a drinking binge and don’t do your 16 hours a week, you get no money.”
It’s one thing for a small council to bolster its workforce with CDEP.
But it’s a bit rich when facilities for which the lavishly funded NT Government has responsibility, such as schools and clinics, also rely in part on staff paid under CDEP.
It costs the Titjikala community $30,000 a year taking people to Alice Springs for medical appointments. The driver is on CDEP.
The NT Government gets, by a factor of about five, the most money, per head of population, from Canberra in order for it to provide services in remote areas.
This does not include the GST windfall.
Yet it’s been double-dipping, by using Canberra paid CDEP workers rather than relying entirely on its own public service.
Many CDEP participants in Titjikala have received excellent training and are ready to go into mainstream employment.
Whether they will get that chance is the big question.
Enter Mr Brough, exit CDEP.
People who are not “transitioned” to “real jobs” must make themselves available for Work for the Dole or “meet their mutual obligation by other means, such as training or other job search activities,” says Philip Knox, of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
“While they do that they receive income support.
“If they decline to meet their mutual obligation they risk losing benefits.”
Mr Knox says the jobs offered must “meet proper pay and conditions and must be reasonable”.
People who are not able of engaging in Work for the Dole or training, or if these are not available, will receive Income Support.
All payments can be “quarantined” which means half the money goes direct to the providers of food, accommodation, electricity and other essentials.
The rest is paid in cash to the recipient.
When the Alice News visited Titjikala on Monday it was unclear what would happen with the many jobs now done under CDEP.
It is clear some will not be able to be converted to “real work”.
Some people said they would carry on working anyway, unpaid if necessary.
“We’ve got to look after our old people,” said one carer.
Kenneth Gilligan, a member of the community’s construction team, was confident something would be sorted out.
His team is just putting the finishing touches to the third Besserblock house they built from the ground up.
The town of Titjikala, preparing for the opening of its art centre, clearly shares Mr Gilligan’s hope that things will be clearer by the end of the week.

CDEP assets likely to go to IBA trust. By KIERAN FINNANE.

As CDEP is dismantled over the next nine months, the fate of the various programs’ assets, worth many millions, is still up in the air.
A spokesperson for Sharman Stone, Minister for Workforce Participation, says the assets of each CDEP organisation will be looked at on a case by case basis.
An option is that the assets may be transferred to a trust managed by Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), a Commonwealth statutory body with an increasingly important role in the Federal Government’s Indigenous affairs policies. 
Says Ms Stone’s spokesperson: “Where the Commonwealth has an equitable interest in an asset and it is no longer being used, the asset may be transferred to an IBA Trust.”
Assets that are being used and “which have been bought with grant funds” could also be transferred to the IBA trust “to protect and utilise existing assets for the benefit of Indigenous communities”.
Again these arrangements have yet to be finalised.
“Consideration will be given to whether the assets could be used to support other DEWR [Department of Employment and Workplace Relations] employment services like STEP and Work for the Dole in communities,” says the spokesperson. 
The arrangements would appear to exclude, at this stage, assets acquired through or produced by the commercial activity of a CDEP. Who will own those once CDEP folds is unclear.
The transfer of CDEP assets to an IBA trust – the Indigenous Economic Development Trust –  is not a brand new idea, according to CLP candidate  for Lingiari, Adam Giles, formerly a manager with DEWR in  Alice Springs. (He is currently on leave without pay but will resign as soon as the election is called.)
Mr Giles says the idea of an IBA trust owning assets and then leasing them to communities as required was to get better economies of scale for delivering services. For example, a community might own a tractor, acquired with a government grant, but only need it for part of the year.
It would be more efficient, says Mr Giles, if the trust owned the tractor and was able to lease it to communities as required. 
“We recognised that many companies wouldn’t lease equipment to Aboriginal communities,” says Mr Giles. “So the idea was to set up a trust to support the communities and also to save them money.”
Such a trust would achieve better management of publicly funded assets and better provide for their maintenance, he says. 
It would also avoid confusion over ownership and responsibility: 
“There are a lot of assets out there that no one owns,” says Mr Giles.
Assets could be in limbo when, for example, an organisation folded.
Neither the Minister’s spokesperson nor IBA answered the Alice Springs News’ questions about whether other Indigenous organisations’ assets would potentially be acquired by the IBA trust.
This was suggested in an article on last week, which labelled the move as “Stuart Highway robbery”.
Up for potential seizure, according to the article, are properties owned by IAD, Tangentyere Council, Arrernte Council and Congress, as well as assets owned by the land councils and other Indigenous organisations up and down the Stuart Highway.
Mr Giles said he had no knowledge of, nor could he see a reason for, such a move.

Gallery new string to Titjikala’s bow. By KIERAN FINNANE.

It was not nine o’clock on Monday morning and already there were several women outside  Titjikala Arts waiting for the doors to open.
It’s a big week for the art and craft centre – not only are they exhibiting in the Desert Mob Show, which opens on Sunday, and selling work at the Desert Mob MarketPlace on Saturday, but next Monday they will host the official opening of their brand new art gallery, launching at the same time their website and new logo.
Monday was earmarked for cleaning and organising at the art centre but as soon as the doors were open Cora Meruntju (pictured) made a beeline for the studio and set to work on decorating a ceramic bowl.  This is a revived medium for the artist, responding to a current artist-in-residency focus on clay by two Indigenous arts workers, Chrissy Houston and Daisybell Virgin.
Ms Meruntju is also an adept painter and carves wooden animals and does raffia work. 
On another table young Gillian Renner picked up her brushes to keep working on a medium sized canvas. The work is confident, meticulously executed. She’s 18 years old and started painting last year.
Beside her, her mother Helen Katatuna began painting a small work on paper. She also specialises in decorating seeds to make bush beads.
Coordinator of the centre, Ali Cobby Eckermann, says several Titjikala families have two and three generations of artists working at the art centre.
A little later one of the centre’s stars, Marie Shilling, arrives. She’s made a name since 2002 with her naive-style landscapes, often featuring family life as part of, yet not dominating the scene. They’ve mostly been done on a horizontal format but Ms Cobby Eckermann has recently encouraged her to try a vertical format. Ms Shilling shows the Alice News an example, a landscape populated by wild donkeys. The animals were more prevalent in the past than now, says Harold Furber, who works alongside Ms Eckermann, in particular to encourage work by men.
One of them is 25 year old Alwyn Brokus. He paints and also works as an assistant in the centre – stretching and priming canvasses, and is beginning to use the computer.
He was continuing work on quite a large canvas, showing two perentis in their nesting ground – a well-organised symmetrical composition, confident and carefully done, a recent breakthrough for the artist in the wake of sales of some smaller works.
The leading male artists of the centre work sculpturally. Johnny Young’s birds (pictured) fashioned from recycled wire and metal scrap are increasingly sought after, while David Wallace continues to make his delightful bush toys, mostly tiny cowboys on horseback. The use of recycled materials grows out of a bush tradition, says Mr Furber, indicating some original bush toys on show in the gallery –  “steam rollers” made from old food tins and long wire handles.
A new generation of young male artists is coming through, with Shaun Young, 14, Larry “Junior” Dollan, 13, and Tony Briscoe, 12, making hand-decorated model cars out of recycled oil sumps. Their work showed recently in a Darwin gallery in an exhibition coinciding with the Telstra Aboriginal Art Awards.
Mr Furber took the three for a visit to the capital, allowing Tony his first glimpse of the sea.
In June Ms Cobby Eckermann took four artists – Nora Campbell and Mavis Wari with their grand-daughters Stephanie Campbell and Rose Wilyuka – on a two-day cross-cultural visit to Seymour College in Adelaide.
“We were given the red carpet treatment,” says Ms Cobby Eckermann. “There was so much friendship and learning and the artists opened their hearts to people. Many of the students’ parents and grandparents were meeting Aboriginal people for the first time.”
Ms Cobby Eckermann sees experiences such as these as part of the artists’ training, getting used to talking to people about their work and culture.
“We want a visit to our gallery to be a living experience for anyone who walks through,” she says.
To this end, there’s a roster of artists who work on a table set up in the gallery, while those not rostered on can withdraw to privacy of the studio.
“We want to develop the people as much as the art centre and the industry,” says Mr Furber.
“And we also want to see this place as part of a regional experience for visitors, along with the national parks and historic attractions like the Old Ghan siding,” he says.
The art centre is open for visitors from Monday to Thursday and benefits from the 4WD traffic en route to Chambers Pillar – “There are more of them than I would have expected”, says Mr Furber. 
And of course it is part of the experience offered to the clients of Gunya Titjikala, the luxury tented resort in the community, run as a joint venture with Gunya Tourism.
The visitors’ book is full of good wishes from visitors from around Australia and the globe, especially Europe.
“Inspiring”  and “lovely” are the most frequent comments.
The centre was established five years ago, growing, like some of its important forebears, out of the women’s centre.
It forms part of a little precinct in the community, together with the women’s centre and the child care centre, all grouped around an outdoor meeting area.
A wall was knocked out of the existing studio building to add the gallery extension. 
Chief Minister Clare Martin will officially open the gallery. All are welcome to the celebration at 2pm, Monday, September 10. The footy team will be cooking the barbecue; there’ll be gospel singing, a guest appearance by Mornington island dancers and a church service in the evening.
“It’s going to be a special day, supported by all different parts of the community,” says Ms Cobby Eckermann.
Titjikala is 120 kms down the old South Road. No permit is required. Alcohol is strictly forbidden. 

Dads supporting dads. By KIERAN FINNANE.

When Charly Waldorf’s marriage broke up he was left not only single but the dad of three young children in a new country.
He relied heavily on close friends to get him through this “time of despair”.
“If there’d been a 1300 number I could have called or a men’s group where I could have told my story, I would have done so. I would have dearly loved to get this kind of support.”
Seven years ago a Coffs Harbour resident, Tony Miller, who had five children from two marriages which had both failed, set up just such a service, calling it Dads in Distress. Mr Waldorf was living in the area at the time and became involved as a volunteer.
Now the Gestalt therapist, who recently moved to Alice Springs to work as a counsellor with the Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA), wants to set up a branch of Dads in Distress in town.
He’s joined forces with local man Kailas Kerr, recently separated and father of a three year old daughter, to get the group going.
They, like the other 50 or so groups around Australia, meet every Sunday night.
This is because for many they have just had their weekend access visit with their children and can be feeling very low.
Sometimes the access visits are supervised through a contact centre which Mr Waldorf describes as a “humiliation” from the father’s point of view.
Suicide prevention is a key focus of the group. Mr Waldorf quotes the Dads in Distress founder on some worrying statistics: of seven people who suicide every day in Australia, five are men.
He says many men find it very difficult to deal with the aftermath of separation and divorce. By meeting with others they “don’t feel so isolated, they know they are not the only ones suffering”.
The first part of the meeting gives each man the chance to talk.  A rock is passed around. Whoever holds the rock has the right to speak without interruption. 
How does the group guard against it becoming merely the forum for venting anger and resentment?
Mr Waldorf says that a policy of the organisation is that women must be treated with and spoken about with respect. Another is that everyone must take responsibility for his actions.
Group facilitators are fully briefed in the organisation’s policies.
The second part of the meeting can be used for whatever the group wants, including guest speakers and group counselling.
Mr Waldorf volunteers as a professional counsellor and is keen to work with the local group in this capacity.
But not all groups have access to counsellors, though “that’s the ideal”, he says.
The Alice group meets at DASA in Schwarz Crescent on Sundays at 7.30pm. Contact 0413 855 932. The national body can be reached on 1300 853 437.

Alice drying out?

It’s early days but looking good for a new, drier Alice.
In the first month under new dry town legislation, banning public drinking, the number of people under the influence taken into protective custody almost halved, compared to the same month last year.
Superintendent Sean Parnell told the Alice News there were 136 protective custody apprehensions in August 2007, compared to 232 in August 2006.
And police tipped out only 237 litres of alcohol last month, less than a quarter of the 1012 litres tipped out in August last year.
Where have the drinkers gone? Supt Parnell doesn’t know but he says there has not been a massive increase in town camps work.
Town camps are expected to go dry by the middle of this month.

The Screaming VETs. By DARCY DAVIS.

It may not be Bassinthedust. It may not be the John Butler Trio. It’s the first annual VET Music CDU concert, showing off the up and coming local bands that have spawned out of the VET (vocational education and training) music class.
The concert will be a high speed showcase of all that the class has to offer, hosting 11 bands in just one hour. The bands include Sweet Surrender, Through Bullets and Bravery, Misled Remedy and Last Minute Heroes (formerly known as No Limit) as well as some newcomers to the scene, such as Useless Appendage, Audiogrill and a few combinations that haven’t yet settled on a name.
Many local bands have started off as throw-together combinations in music class so it will be interesting to see where this gig leads them.
“I can see stacks of potential,” said Cain Gilmour, music lecturer at Charles Darwin University. 
“The concert is a great chance for the students to have an audience for the music they have worked hard to create.”
When bands are thrown together, musicians who wouldn’t normally play together have a chance to combine styles and flavours.
“There’s been some interesting mixing and matching,” said Useless Appendage singer Amy Leyland, “like hip hop / rock, punk / blues and metal / rap.”
VET Music students attended a workshop with John Butler last Thursday, which focused on all areas of writing, recording, practising and performing music.
“He was a real down to earth bloke,” said Hugh Winterflood from hip hop group, Audiogrill.
Many students gave John a copy of their demo with high hopes of being recruited into his record label. 
The more people who attend the VET show, the more it will give the bands reason to keep at it.
A good turn out would also help to firmly establish it as a yearly event.
Events like this kindle the growth and development of bands in Alice and help the Alice music scene get stronger and stronger.
It’s a free concert on Wednesday, September 12 from 12-1pm in the natural amphitheatre adjacent to CDU… just follow the signs.
It will be the most entertaining event you could possibly attend in your lunch break all week.

ADAM CONNELLY: Joining a brotherhood of blokes.

Thirty seconds on the clock. The scores level. Dummy half passes the ball to the half back. A little switch play to Connelly. Connelly puts his head down, crashes over the line and scores! Bulls win! Bulls win!
OK, that’s the way it was meant to happen. Didn’t quite go according to plan.
The Central Memorial Bulls lost the Central Australian Rugby League grand final to Wests. A huge disappointment to the team.
But sport in any of its forms isn’t just about the win. Sure the win constitutes a percentage of the reason people play, but win or lose, this season has for me been about more than points on a scoreboard.
It was my first season playing competitive sport since my teenage years. To be honest I’m sure that fact was fairly obvious to those who watched me play.
I joined the club on a whim. A friend said I should come along.
I thought it would be a great way of getting fit. Yeah sure, what better way to keep in shape than to run as hard as possible into other big blokes on a weekend?
Had I not thought about Pilates? Surely there’s a better method of weight loss than bashing your body about.
There is, but still every Tuesday and Thursday for training and game day Saturday I wanted to play footy.
I have had non-sporty people ask me why I decided to engage in such torture.
They asked me why any sane person with a modicum of intelligence would want to subject themselves to such abuse.
They have a point too. On the surface the game is particularly ludicrous.
But for all the reasons not to play there was one reason to lace up the boots every weekend. I had a ball.
To be perfectly honest, 2007 hasn’t been the best year for me.
If I was royal and a little less inclined to laugh at juvenile humour, I would call 2007 my annus horribilis.
From relationship break-ups to ill parents I’ve had about a gutful of 2007.
In fact if I saw 2007 at the pub I’d probably pick a fight. Or at least give it a piece of my mind.
None of that matters when you’re playing footy. Without trying to sound all warm and fuzzy about things, the football team provides a brotherhood lacking in even the tightest of friendships.
That’s not to say that the pre existing friendships don’t matter or are in some way inferior to the team.
It’s just a different type of mateship. Non-judgmental and free of the baggage of other relationships.
It doesn’t matter that your life is going through a stinker phase. At the club after the game, you are with mates. 
I love watching the young fit stallions in our team parading in front of the girls, showing off their battle wounds and talking in their Generation Y staccato, while the older war horses, too sore to move from the table, regale each other with exaggerated stories from their lives.
Working in a creative environment like I have done most of my working life is great. But it precludes me from a part of society that is not only brilliant but I think essential to being a man.
In my line of work blokes are few and far between.
There are men, good men too, but few blokes. Rugby League has allowed that blokey part of me to emerge.
A brotherhood of blokes from every walk of life.
We hear of the immoral and stupid exploits of the professional football player every week in the tabloids. It’s not like that with the Bulls.
To a man, each one of the lads on the team has showed me that to play a sport you don’t have to be an idiot pill-popping misogynist.
We may not have won the grand final. My knee and my foot and my shoulder may still require pain relief but we lost and we hurt as a team.
Go the Bulls for 2008. 

LETTERS: A Joanne - Lindy park?

Sir,- I have prepared the following motions for the town council but would first like to get comprehensive feedback from the public.
They must be the judge and jury and I will be guided by their response.
• The Alice Springs Town Council invite both Lindy Chamberlain and Joanne Lees to a community function to express the town’s sympathy and support.
• The Alice Springs Town Council dialogue with both women in order to establish an appropriate monument that would best reflect the town’s ongoing emotional support to both women and their families.
You don’t need me to tell you that both the Chamberlain and Falconio tragedies will be forever written into Central Australia’s history, however the page that hasn’t been written is the one where Central Australians illustrate, in a unique manner, their sorrow for what occurred. 
In both events, there were many affected parties. However these women in particular suffered immense legal and media scrutiny through which they showed incredible strength. 
Let’s show the world that we care about their pain and let’s also create an iconic feature that will act as a focus for the world’s sincerity.
In my private discussions, some of the questions that have come up are these:-
Why Alice Springs?
It must be remembered that in Lindy’s case, all the coronial hearings were heard here in Alice from August 1980 to February 1982.
Also Joanna Lees and Peter Falconio, from July 2001 were visitors to our town attending the annual Camel Cup.
All of the subsequent police and media interviews were staged in this town.  I also contend, we are after all, the capital of the outback.
Wouldn’t Joanna and Lindy say no to such overtures?
Very often the answers you receive are based on the manner of the invite, besides which, both Joanna and Lindy would be quite within their rights to reject our town’s generosity.
However that does not necessarily diminish the sincerity of the offer.
Could this press further damage our town’s reputation? 
These real-life crime stories have attracted massive international publicity and I have no doubt there will be more books and perhaps more television series based on these cases. 
This would be our chance to balance the past, present and possible future negative fallout with an ultra positive gesture which would present the real face of Central Australians.
I would perceive that any event celebrating the strength of both of these women would be carefully crafted, perhaps a sports and concert-like extravaganza which would show off this town’s artistic and recreational prowess and be the perfect platform for both our Indigenous and non-Indigenous folk to extend the hand of friendship and sincerity in a truly unique Central Australian manner. 
I must stress however, these are only my thoughts and they could easily vanish if the citizens of this town give it the big no.
Murray Stewart

Sir,- I read with great interest the article which rightfully made front page and enlightlened many of us on the possible workings of Centrecorp.
What amazes me is the answers that Mr Smith gave to many of your questions.
As a chairman, director and member of many  indigenous associations including CAAMA, Imparja and the Northern Land Council I would have expected a person in such a high profile position to be a bit more versed on the intricacies of these companies and associations.
Unless Mr Smith has the absolute knowledge of the actual financial structure of Centrecorp, he probably shouldn’t allow himself to be questioned or make comment.
Many of his answers bordered on the ‘”haven’t got a clue” attitude, and answers such as “I’d imagine,” “I’ve heard” and the classic “I don’t think there is sunset clause” are the answers we expect Clare Martin to give or that which any layman off the street could conjure up.
The overall knowledge that a chairman, director or even general manager of a multi-million dollar corporation and other tax payer funded indigenous associations should have, should be 100% correct at all time if he wants to get paid for these jobs.
Or does he sit on all these positions free of any charges and perks such as accommodation, travel, etc – I think not.
Maybe this is the reason why there is such a mess and so much discontent within the Indigenous community at where and how the money from royalties [goes], which appears only a few “fat cats” get their hands on.
The many  Indigenous families out there who really want to lead a decent normal life, complete with employment, holidays and even home ownership, even without all the trappings of the “good life” that many of these directors have, must feel totally abandoned by their  well off brothers and sisters who hold these high profile jobs.
Keep up the great work bringing Centralians the much needed information on just how the money, which we, as non-Indigenous Australians, and non-recipients of royalties, but contributors by way of tax, give to allow a select few to drive the latest top model cars, utilities and 4WDs, and keep their own Indigenous people in limbo.
It’s just a shame that your opposition paper doesn’t get more involved with actual Central Australian issues and bring the real truths that the Clare Martin government somehow keeps avoiding.
S. Watling
Alice Springs

Sir,- What’s more important, land, permits or children?
This government-on-government interference can be turned into a plus for Indigenous people if we don’t allow ourselves to be bogged down in political points scoring.
Communities should be prepared to influence and reinforce just what they need to make their lives ‘normal’ again.
But political activists can detract from the main issues by concentrating on political matters rather than the grassroots programs.
No matter who you are or where you stand, you should not forget the intent of the exercise.
It is for the safety and well-being of the children, the future generation.
Does the NT Government really need another committee to tell it what to do?
Will the new bureaucracy the Chief Minister is establishing really make a difference?
Loraine Braham
Independent Member for Braitling

Sir,- The Martin Government has trampled over the people of the Territory and their Parliament by jamming through legislation to enable the amalgamation of Local Governments.
With the Cattleman’s Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Minerals Council, Territory Construction Association, the Australian Trucking Industry Association, the Chair of the NT Business Council and the Northern Land Council lined up against the amalgamations you’d think the Minister would have twigged something is wrong.
There has been a string of hostile public meetings at which ordinary Territorians have expressed their dismay.
I firmly believe that it is the Martin Government’s failure to engage in meaningful public consultation that is fuelling the outrage at the proposed changes across the Territory.
The Martin Government seems to be oblivious to fact its bungled handling of the amalgamations threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the amalgamated Councils.
The Opposition recognises the need for reform but when you want to change a level of government, you need to take the people with you.
Matt Conlan
Shadow Minister for Local Government

Sir,- I was surprised to read, under the headline “No action on killer floods” (Alice News, August 9) an interesting paragraph which says:
“After more than a decade of stalemate on flood mitigation, locals could take courage by the resolute approach to unresolved issues by Mr Brough ... currently masterminding a taskforce seeking to stamp out child abuse in Aboriginal communities.”
Please tell me as clearly as you can what resolving flood mitigation has to do with child abuse? 
Do you have inside information that the public has not been privy to? 
Can we continue to be assured that the government is not going to use this current intervention as a land grab?
M. Hodder
Alice Springs
[ED – We didn’t suggest flood mitigation has anything to do with child abuse. We did allude to Mr Brough’s inclination towards resolute action where other politicians tend to fiddle timidly and endlessly.]

Sir, - The Alice Springs News’s focus on Aboriginal organizations, their finances and their operations (Tangentyere Council, Centrecorp, Central Land Council etc.) might have obscured an interesting and magnanimous gesture on the part of the all powerful Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, in approving $4 million of Aboriginal money to go towards building the Alice Springs indoor aquatic centre.
Note that this was NOT taxpayers’ money but royalties from mining on Aboriginal land. How come this wasn’t banner headlines?
Perhaps Mr Brough didn’t want too much scrutiny of what else he does with this money considering he also approved similar funding last year to help the Dreaming Festival in his own electorate.
I hope the Australian Government’s major advertising in the Alice Springs News isn’t influencing what is published, having in mind the banner which appears at the top of your editions: “The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has even been able to provide”.
I hope the government cheques aren’t influencing checks on the government.
M. Church
Alice Springs
[ED - The writer is drawing into question the integrity of the Alice Springs News without substantiation and any research, something we journalists are not at liberty to do.
We now invite M. Church to peruse the four million odd words on our web archive of 10 years, and tell us which reports appear to have been written, in conflict with the journalistic code of ethics, to corruptly gain advertising revenue.
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Sir,- Sending truants out on emu parades supervised by police until they are visibly tired, as is apparently planned for Yuendumu, is of no educational and social value.
Getting kids to school is an objective we can all support and the Territory community will support positive action.
But not through an archaic punitive response that offers no support for the school, the parents or the kids themselves. 
It’s too silly for words.
This is not an adequate solution to the problems of non-attendance at remote community schools.
Warren Snowdon
Labor Member for Lingiari

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