ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
March 13, 2008. This page contains all
What we will do to stop the
mayhem. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
In the field of eight candidates for mayor, Melanie van Haaren and
David Koch are putting forward the most robust and specific strategies
for dealing with anti-social behavior.
Ald van Haaren wants to substantially expand the town council’s role
through by-laws and far more rigorous enforcement.
Ald Koch says recalcitrant offenders should face sanctions culminating
in custodial work camps providing rehabilitation through such
activities as cleaning up rubbish and fighting buffel and weeds.
Other candidates put their money on strategies including education,
relaxing alcohol restrictions and stemming the urban drift by making
bush communities more appealing.
Ald van Haaren says: “Some people come to town to drink, creating
“Many get stranded here.”
She says the town council should bring in measures including these:-
• Forbid camping in the river and designated areas.
• Give council rangers the power to move people on and to confiscate
alcohol, with back-up from police if necessary.
• Maintain current restrictions if it is proven they have reduced
alcohol consumption in problem drinkers.
• Lobby for the new shire headquarters to be located in the shires and
not in Alice.
She says: “Hermannsburg and Ti Tree should become prosperous.
“The more these centers grow and become attractive alternatives to
Alice, the fewer people will come to town for the wrong reasons.”
• Work more closely with Tangentyere on “return to country”.
“We need a hostel for people who need a bed overnight on their way out
• Support activity that helps Aboriginal people to take action. We need
an “elder force” here in Alice, says Ald van Haaren.
Ald Koch is running on 12 years of experience as an alderman and
periods as Deputy Mayor, as well as his commercial experience gained by
long-term directorship and management in hospitality companies with
roughly the same staff numbers and budget as the town council’s.
Ald Koch, standing only for mayor this time, says the public booing of
Chief Minister nearly a year ago was a defining moment for Alice
Springs: the town and its council became assertive and demanding, and
started to be listened to by the NT Government.
“Anti social behavior is squarely an NT Government issue,” he says.
“But the council has lobbied for, and got, mounted police, motorbike
police, push bike patrols, and helped get surveillance cameras.
“Our continual nagging got police up to what’s regarded as the correct
“But we still need more.”
High profile candidate Murray Stewart says: “I’m betting that part of
the problem is that Indigenous Central Australians in town camps and
communities are not entitled, under the Federal Government’s
approach, to drink in their own homes.
“This is one part of the legislation which needs to be quickly
“We need to have tough laws that discriminate only against the
“Every Australian should be entitled to have a quiet relaxer at home.”
Mr Stewart says “chronic alcoholics should be removed from the bottle
and the streets and byways and placed in a strong, long term remote
rehabilitation program for as long as necessary”.
New candidate Angus McIvor is an architect with many years of work in
Central Australia and the Top End, and an ALP member.
He says: “Urban drift is killing tourism [but] how am I going to stop
“You don’t go into an election with solutions. We first have to
acknowledge the problem.
“People coming into town for medical treatment may bring another 20
people with them.
“And some people are moving into town to die, from alcohol.”
Mr McIvor says income management under the intervention provides people
with store cards which means they “can travel anywhere.”
Jane Clark, one of three Greens in the council elections, says: “I will
be negotiating for more bus services to communities at peak times like
“Bush Bus is not enough.
“Short term hostel style accommodation has worked well in Alice and we
should focus on working with the NT Government and shires to increase
hostels in preference to adding more camps.
“More meaningful work on communities would greatly assist in stemming
“Communications with communities are vital as they become incorporated
into shires, so that we can find out where people engaged in
anti-social conduct and long term itinerants and alcoholics are coming
“We need an alcohol free day, more appropriate drying out facilities
and better living conditions on town camps,” says Ald Clark.
Damien Ryan says anti-social behavior “is a problem endemic throughout
“More legislation and rules are not the answer.
“The answer lies in providing gainful objectives in outstations and
communities, with structured travel to and from Alice Springs and
education of visitors in our community pride.
“Alice Springs is a town for everyone.
“We also need development of hostel style accommodation for young
working people seeking to gain employment in our town.”
Ald Meredith Campbell, who is also standing only for mayor, says: “We
need to harness the lobbying power which moved the NT Government to
commit $10m to support Darwin’s homeless, provide resources to return
people to bush communities, and effectively prosecute public drinking,
littering and illegal camping infringements.”
She says Tangentyere and Waltja need to commit to the “return to
“Lhere Artepe must play a role in behaviour management on Arrernte
“We need accommodation for bush people who are legitimately in town.
“We saw it in Port Augusta, providing security and an alcohol-free
environment,” says Ald Campbell.
New candidate Miguel Ociones, a trade union organiser, says while the
council doesn’t have the money to build temporary accommodation for
bush visitors, it can do much more than it has in the past.
For example, the council could do the ground work, including consulting
with the community and picking the two locations.
He says last year’s initiative for two transient camps collapsed
because there was no agreement on the locations.
The governments need to be lobbied energetically: “Make them see the
cost of not fixing the problem,” says Mr Ociones.
As a member of the Labor Party he has “opportunities to talk to the
governments in power”.
He sees the current urban drift as being caused in part by difficulties
still surrounding the intervention.
Some bush stores are not cooperating with the income management
“And CDEP has to be fixed,” he says.
While he supports plans to get people into jobs with “real wages, super
and normal benefits” he says this must be done quickly and efficiently.
He says the new Federal government claims it will change the
intervention for the better “but at the moment they are mum”.
Since the introduction of dry town measures in Port Augusta
“Pitjantjatjara people are coming up here to drink”.
Mills backs call for work camps.
By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Opposition Leader Terry Mills says he supports the proposal of work
camps for offenders, including troublesome drunks requiring mandatory
rehabilitation, as suggested by mayoral candidate David Koch (Alice
News, February 21).
Mr Mills says in the war against alcohol abuse there needs to be an
“attitude shift, not just creating an impression but creating change”.
He says inadequate measures and resourcing have created “confusion and
“There needs to be a harder course taken, which may be unpopular in
some quarters. The work camp type of arrangement does have some merit
provided we have the courage to run those ideas right through to their
Would this be a custodial arrangement?
“It would need to be,” says Mr Mills.
Alcoholism “is a hard thing to break.
“Broad, general social solutions that annoy the majority but have
little impact on the core problem are naive, dangerous and a waste of
“We’re dreaming if we think that there won’t be resistance.”
Should a court be given the power to order a confinement to such a work
camp for a period if time?
“It would have to be, otherwise we are whistling in the wind, we’re
going through the motions, we’re creating an impression but not a
“The purpose is not just punishment but it is rehabilitation.”
Mr Mills says there is no overarching strategy to deal with alcohol
“Everything is ad hoc. Living With Alcohol, recognized nationally as
the most successful initiative of its kind, provided a sensible
framework over the whole community.
“It was uniform across the Territory, while now the rules in Nightcliff
may well differ from those in The Alice.
“The central notion was that we have to learn to live with alcohol.
“You don’t eradicate it, you learn to live with it.
“You provide the principles that inform all of our actions which
However, the change in the taxation rule, eliminating the cask wine
levy, pulled the rug out from under the program, and the necessary and
planned escalation of the measures could not take place.
Mr Mills is a member of the bipartisan Parliamentary Substance Abuse
Man hurt, car burned in attack by
youth gang. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
A Head Street resident,
Leerson, a club and stones were use by six or seven
teenagers “of Aboriginal appearance” when they attacked the flat in
Head Street of Charlie Ah Fat, 59, on Monday night. Mr Leerson and
another neighbor, musician Craig Tilmouth, intervened to stop the
He received a head injury. Mr Ah Fat's car was destroyed by fire and
his flat damaged extensively.
Another neighbor, footballer Clinton
Pepperill, says he thinks one of the attackers was armed with a sword.
Mr Leerson, says the fire brigade was on the scene "in five minutes"
but it took police more than an hour to arrive.
Sean Parnell says the delay appears to have been the result of a human
error in the police force and said he would be making a full enquiry.
Alice Springs needs to play
catch-up to tell her story. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Outback Queensland is leaving Alice Springs for dead when it comes to
interpreting their heritage, and it’s town and shire councils who are
driving their communities’ sophisticated promotions.
So says film-maker and heritage campaigner David Nixon after returning
from a road trip across the Queensland backblocks.
“The grey nomads who come through Queensland to Alice must find next to
nothing to see here in comparison with towns like Winton, Longreach,
Cloncurry and Mt Isa,” says Mr Nixon.
The Queenslanders have not only done their research, collected their
oral histories, pored over their visual and sound archives, they’ve
used the latest story-telling technologies to produce engaging
“In Alice we occupy a unique position in the psyche of the nation and
yet we are so far behind in being able to share our stories with
“We have to give them the level of presentation that they are getting
In town, there’s talk among “stakeholders” about the need for a bigger
and better visitor centre in Alice.
And mayoral candidate Damien Ryan has joined the fray, by promising
that a Town Council with him at the helm would take a leading role in
revitalising the CBD.
Among the proposals Mr Ryan supports is “a central visitor information
centre located next to the Flynn Church”, that would also include “a
detailed display of the new Western MacDonnell tourism development”.
However, Mr Nixon cautions against an immediate bricks and mortar
He says if the town’s interpretive focus and investment goes into a
single big centre it will kill off the already fragile heritage sector,
including the historic attractions along the walkway that is being
developed to take passengers off the Ghan through the centre of town to
the Todd River (see last week’s lead story).
These attractions are the Old Stuart Town Gaol, the Old Courthouse, The
Residency, Hartley Street School and Adelaide House.
Mr Nixon gives an example: if a single big visitor centre included a
display or short film about the Queen’s visit to Central Australia in
1963, how many visitors would then bother to go and experience for
themselves the atmosphere of The Residency where Queen and Prince
Mr Nixon says energy should first be devoted to developing The
Residency’s own interpretive material, or story-telling content as he
prefers to call it, a taster of which could be offered at the visitor
He says if this could be done for all of Alice’s heritage attractions
it could turn 10 minute visits into two hour experiences, and turn one
or two day stays in Alice into five days.
And the town would fulfill its tourist promotion promise of “sharing
our story” – weaving a tapestry of a thousand stories about our
fascinating and complex community.
Enter another tireless heritage campaigner, Domenico Pecorari,
president of Heritage Alice Springs (HAS), a volunteer heritage lobby
If the town is going to develop a walkway leading to historic
attractions, let alone interpretive material for them, then the doors
to the attractions have to be kept open, says Mr Pecorari.
HAS have been given custodianship of The Residency – with no
All their fundraising efforts and most of their time goes into simply
keeping The Residency doors open, for limited hours. Closed over the
summer, the building reopened this week, and will remain so until
December, hopefully for four hours a day, five days a week.
And The Residency is the lucky exception. The other heritage
attractions in the CBD are either closed or open sporadically. All are
dependent on the efforts of volunteers.
By handing over responsibility to volunteers government has saved
itself the salaries of one and a half positions, says Mr Pecorari.
“We approached Museums and Art Galleries of the NT to give us back half
a salary to employ a part-time coordinator for volunteers, but they
Mr Pecorari also criticises the National Trust (NT) for not investing
in keeping its heritage properties open, especially as three of their
properties return rent to the organisation.
The heritage cause could be better served by the Territory Government
funding groups in the smaller centres – Alice, Pine Creek, Borroloola
– rather than concentrating resources on the National Trust,
suggests Mr Pecorari.
The issue affects the whole town, he says. If visitors can find out
more about the town’s story by reading a book than they can by actually
being here, because everything is closed, they will stay away with the
obvious economic impacts.
“We will have shat in our own nest one time too many – that’s a story
no one wants to share,” says Mr Pecorari.
Over the last 12 months Mr Nixon has exhaustively put his “share our
story” proposal, in the form of a striking powerpoint presentation, to
the powers that be – to former Chief Minister Clare Martin, former
Tourism Minister Paul Henderson, former (and present) Arts Minister
Marion Scrymgour, to the former CATIA (now Tourism Central Australia),
and a range of other agencies and forums in the tourism, heritage and
While everyone has appeared to be enthusiastic not a cent of
investment, other than limited sponsorship of the StoryWall, has flowed
into taking up the ideas.
There is excitement in the sectors about the development of technology
that allows the delivery of “site specific on demand digital content
delivery” via the 3G telephone network.
But again, where is the content being produced to take advantage of the
technology? asks Mr Nixon.
It requires investment now, but it could ultimately be recouped from
consumers as they stand, for instance, at the Telegraph Station and pay
for their download of the story of the Bradshaw family or the Bungalow
While Mr Nixon, together with collaborator Craig Mathewson, asked
government and agencies for funding to develop content around the 30
most time critical stories – time critical because those who can tell
them are nearing the end of their lives – he says a lot of the content
can be generated by ordinary Central Australians.
Digital story telling workshops are now a well tested approach in the
social justice area: people work their personal stories up into one a
half minute digital presentations – using film, photographs and
narration – with a particular focus.
Mr Nixon’s innovation is to apply the approach to tourism- and
heritage-related story-telling, with film industry professionals
bringing their technical expertise to the final product.
He says a wealth of material is already in the hands of local people,
many of whom come to him to digitise their old Super-8 footage.
One such was Peter Symonds, whose footage contained such treasures as
the first Ghan along the Tarcoola line, the last Ansett Fokker through
the airport, bogged road builders along the Ross River Highway and
1970s family life in the Araluen subdivision.
“And that’s just one person with barely 30 minutes of film!” says Mr
“Its up to the Government to support the vision – the talent is here
and eager to redefine the experience of living and visiting in Alice.
“If three to four locations around town had attractive, sophisticated
presentations of this kind of material, Alice could have an
international reputation in the field.
“It would be an easy, satisfying way, with a sound economic base, of
redefining our town’s image.”
Meanwhile, the Heritage Tourism Implementation Group has reconvened as
an informal network of heritage tourism operators and enthusiasts.
Colleen O’Malley, curator at the Olive Pink Botanical Garden, says a
recent meeting identified shared concerns and interest areas, one of
which is the recognition of linkages between places in remote areas and
places in town.
These are not always chronological or based on transport or
communications; they can be people-based – such as who married who and
what arose out of that connection.
People within the group are “thinking outside the box” on ways of
bringing these links to visitors’ attention.
Like HAS, the group is aware of the need to coordinate the energy of
On this Ms O’Malley welcomed the presence of Volunteering NT who have
just opened an office in Todd Mall.
An issue for the group, currently without solution, is the protection
of heritage places in remote areas. Listing does not bring proactive
protection and places like Alice Well, on Aboriginal freehold land, are
deteriorating badly, the group heard.
Is ban on town camps boozing
unenforced or unenforceable? By KIERAN FINNANE.
It’s the morning after the night before.
In Charles Creek, a stone’s throw from the Alice CBD, visitors from
Nyirripi are gathered under the scanty shade of a small river gum, with
relatives and friends from the two town camps along the banks.
The visitors came into town for the exhibition match between AFL sides
Carlton and West Coast Eagles.
Over 8000 people, a mixture of town residents and bush visitors, black
and white, had attended the match. A heavy police presence and action
on drunk driving and illegal public drinking as well as a
temporary added layer of restrictions on grog (no cask wine at all and
no beer in bottles) contributed to the overall success of the event.
But in the creek on the Saturday morning the law was being nonchalantly
The group pass around a few cans of VB between them.
The debris of many drinking sessions – not necessarily theirs –
is scattered across the creek sand.
There are makeshift camps dotted here and there.
The banks of the creek are shining with VB cans, rolled down from
drinking sessions on higher ground.
There is no need to go digging for evidence that the total ban on
drinking in town camps and in public areas of Alice is here either
unenforceable or unenforced.
As you drive into Charles Creek Camp the first sign that announces the
ban on grog and pornography has been totally defaced. The sign
alongside it, which once announced the name of the camp’s housing
association and the necessity of obtaining permission to visit, is
covered in layers of graffiti, the most recent reading “Fuck da
Further on, another sign marks the entry to Hoppy’s / Scrutton Camp.
The grog and porn sign alongside it is untouched.
Down in the creek, Eddie Jackson, a resident of Charles Creek Camp,
says tourists drive in and take photos of the sign and try to get
Aboriginal people in the shot. He doesn’t like that: they should ask,
While everyone at the little gathering in the creek has been and are
still drinking, no one is very drunk. They seem relaxed, happy to talk.
The visitors are heading back home later today in their own Toyota.
They say there should be visitor accommodation in the camps.
They camped with David Wintjana, who is in a wheelchair following an
amputation and lives permanently in town – in a humpy after his
house was largely destroyed by fire.
But if David had a house, the visitors point out, they would all have
camped there and it would have been very crowded.
I ask about them drinking grog in the camp, despite the ban.
The old man from Nyirripi says, “We’re drinking in our home.”
He speaks partly in English to me, partly in language to MLA Alison
Anderson. He refers in English to “the new minister making laws”.
Ms Anderson explains: they don’t like being pushed out of the camp to
She translates for the old man: he wants to drink at home [in the camp]
so that when he’s too drunk to move he can go to sleep there.
She explains: they are concerned about the health of drunk people, if
they’re left behind, outside of the restricted area [the camps and
She translates for the old man: he doesn’t want the drunks to get
Others speak, she translates: they want to make sure people drink and
sleep inside the family circle, so the family can watch them in case
anything happens; they want to get the sober people to watch them; they
don’t want social drinkers, people who only have a couple of cans,
pushed out of the restricted areas, into more dangerous areas.
I ask if they understand the reason behind the grog ban.
Yes, says the old man with Ms Anderson translating, it is to protect
women and children in case they get hit.
Further north into Hoppy’s Camp, I meet visitors from Papunya, Linda
Anderson and Mandy Pegg, who had also come in for the football,
overnighting here with relatives.
Where the men from Nyirripi are gathered the debris of drinking is
scattered everywhere, here it lies in thick carpets.
Across the creek there’s a gang of prisoners picking up rubbish. Soon
they’ll have to knock off: the back of their large lorry is filled to
overflowing with garbags full of rubbish.
Linda says the people in the camp should clean up their own mess: “The
prisoners don’t do the mess.”
“I feel shame,” says Mandy, gesturing around her.
“I like to sleep here but with accommodation better than this.”
They don’t want to go to hotels or motels, it’s too expensive and they
don’t like getting the third degree: where are you from, why are you
here, are you drinking tonight, and so on.
“There are racist people in hotels,” says Linda.
“They don’t like Aboriginal people staying,” says Mandy.
Linda would like a proper camping ground, with shower and toilet
facilities, within the town camp, near to family she likes to visit.
They would be happy to pay: Linda suggests a fee of $10 a night for
outdoor camping; $15 for accommodation.
Since the debacle over the dongas last year, the provision of bush
visitor facilities seems to have dropped off the agenda, but the need
remains as pressing as ever.
The creation of such facilities has overwhelming support from the now
more than 300 respondents to the Alice News survey, What Alice Wants at
ABOVE: The “shameful” rubbish strewn area, on the banks of Charles
Creek and the fringes of Hoppy’s Camp, where visitors from Papunya,
Mandy Pegg and Linda Anderson, unhappily overnighted when they came to
town recently for the AFL game. BELOW LEFT: Graffiti at the entrance to
Charles Creek Camp makes clear the attitude of some camp residents to
federal government measures. BOTTOM: A favourite itinerant camping spot
at the bottom of Billygoat Hill, alongside the Girl Guide Hall. Groups
can be frequently seen here, and often blankets and cooking utensils
are stashed in trees and behind rocks for a return visit. A lack of
toilet facilities means the use of the area is a public health hazard,
a stone’s throw from community facilities and major tourist
Golf club determined to beat
handicap. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The Alice Springs Golf Club has asked the Northern Territory Government
to release to the club the title of a housing block on The Fairway, so
that the club can realise the value of the house it owns on the
Sale of the house could help the club settle part of its debt – “in
excess of $300,000”, according to a member who declined to be
The sale is an option that the club is looking at, says newly appointed
manager Jim Lawrie.
The government would have to either grant the club the land or sell it
to the club at market price before the house could be sold.
Mr Lawrie says the house has been used in the past to accommodate staff
but is no longer needed and is expensive to maintain.
There is a drive to get the club onto a better business footing.
Overheads are very significant: the member who spoke to the Alice News
put the cost of maintaining the 18-hole facility at $500,000.
Mr Lawrie, in his position for just two weeks, says it would be at
least that and probably more; and then there are the costs of
maintaining the clubhouse.
The club is financed by membership fees and green fees.
The member says these have lagged behind CPI increases over the years
and may have to rise.
Currently full membership is at $825, including GST, which can be paid
The course has just been ranked at number 53 in Australia – “an
excellent result”, says Mr Lawrie.
He says membership of clubs on the east coast can be as high as $5000
But rather than raising local fees he would prefer to see “more
activity” at the club and “better marketing” as the way to get out of
He estimates that some 1200 players (including repeat players) are on
the course each week and more people use the clubhouse.
But he agrees with the member that the facility is under-utilised.
His job, together with the new committee that will be elected at the
AGM on March 30, will be to come up with a business plan that responds
to the current concerns.
This could include a revision of bar prices – the bar in the past has
been one of the cheapest in town.
“We cannot keep absorbing the price increases of our suppliers,” says
And the club’s partnership with the Power and Water Corporation could
be looked at.
The club contributes to PWC’s control of salinity in town by using
water from the town basin to irrigate the course.
In return for the water, the club has to bear the costs of maintaining
the bores. The high cost of pump replacements in recent times “make up
a large part of our current deficit,” says Mr Lawrie.
There is no regular government assistance for the club though a grant
of $130,000 for course maintenance was made during the last election.
Mr Lawrie says it will be two to three months before he and the
committee are ready to talk to government about possible further
The member says government should look at any approach from the club in
light of its role in attracting and retaining people – both residents
and tourists – in town.
Bread and circuses: big open air
The NT Government has confirmed via a spokesperson that the
construction of a 1500 seat amphitheatre at the Desert Park is in the
early design and feasibility phase, as reported exclusively by the
Alice Springs News online edition last week.
The Alice News understands that the philanthropic organisation, The
Myer Foundation, is involved.
The spokesperson declined to further comment, saying that it “could
jeopardise the outcome of the project”.
Asked why, the spokesperson repeated that “comment could jeopardise the
outcome of the project”.
CEO of the Myer Foundation, Christine Edwards, also declined tocomment.
It’s not just the Mayor. By
“You don’t need to be mayor – it’s a good council that makes the
Steve Brown puts the less glamorous aldermanic race into perspective.
He joins 17 other candidates, four of whom are sitting aldermen, and
six of whom are also running for mayor.
Given his profile as chairman of the lobby group, Advance Alice, many
may have expected Mr Brown to run for mayor. But, apart from seeing it
as unnecessary to achieve his goals, he also says his commitments to
his electrician’s business wouldn’t allow it. He has obligations to an
apprentice who is also his son, and the father of seven says he has
other children interested in joining him.
He is running in order to influence planning for the future growth of
the town and “the way we live in it”. He sees all the major issues as
In doing electrical work for the public housing authority he sees “the
kids who don’t go to school, sleep all day, and then are on the streets
at night, people who sit in their units, doing nothing, the ghettoes we
have created from one end of town to the other”.
“We have the answer to our staff shortages here in town,” he
“But we’ve never dealt with the thousands of young lives going to
Land shortage has seen the “density of the town go up, there’ve been no
new parks, there’s nowhere for kids to play and this leads to
“The town needs more land to live on.”
Mr Brown is pleased with the crop of candidates who have come forward.
While he’s not “excluding anyone” he sees incumbents Murray Stewart and
Melanie van Haaren, as well as Damien Ryan, Sandy Taylor, Marie
Harrison, Liz Martin, and Brendan Heenan as all people he could work
If that looks like a bit of a block, then there’s another that’s
presenting itself, under the NT Greens banner.
A Greens-endorsed mayoral candidate, sitting alderman Jane Clark, is
also running in the aldermanic race and has now been joined by two
other Green candidates, Lisa Hall and Lenny Aronsten.
Mr Aronsten, a physiotherapist, was working out bush when the Alice
News was researching this report.
However we caught up with Ms Hall, a teacher, before she too headed
bush early Monday morning.
She put kerbside recycling and transport at the top of her list of
issues for a new council to address.
The cost of a kerbside recycling scheme should factor in the
contribution the scheme could make to extending the life of the
landfill, says Ms Hall.
The transport issue relates particularly to visitors from the bush
getting stuck in town.
“That’s one of the flow-on impacts of Alice being a service hub for the
region,” says Ms Hall. Council could work with the new shire councils
and existing services with limited coverage to create an accessible
regional transport service with much greater coverage.
On her Greens membership Ms Hall says it’s a matter of being “up front
and honest with voters about who I am”.
The Greens do not dictate, at any level of government, how a member
should vote: “If I were elected there would be no issue on which I
couldn’t vote as I wanted to,” says Ms Hall.
She says the three Greens candidates, if elected, would not form a
voting block: each would assess the issues and information and vote
Ms Hall says she would also want to work cooperatively with all other
She says the Greens are more than just an environmental party; they are
also about grassroots democracy, peace and disarmament, social justice
and economic equity.
“I think people are beginning to understand that, and our support is
Two prominent tourism sector identities, Brendan Heenan, owner of the
MacDonnell Range Holiday Park, and Liz Martin, head of the National
Road Transport Hall of Fame, have thrown their hats in the ring.
Greater support from council for their industry, the town’s biggest
private sector employer, tops their concerns.
Mr Heenan wants council’s budget allocation to support tourism to go
back to $50,000, as it was a few years ago.
He says it’s down to $20,000 now. The fund would be to support
initiatives put forward by the industry.
“Our drive market is dropping, and people flying in are down 8% on last
year. Alice Springs is suffering,” he says.
To counteract the effects of bad publicity, he has worked to get
Discover Down Under to produce a program showcasing Alice’s attractions
for a seven day itinerary.
He enlisted the support of Ald Murray Stewart and made a presentation
to council, asking for a $20,000 contribution to help bring the program
“We got $10,000.”
But Tourism NT, Tourism Central Australia and the NT Caravan Parks
Association between them came up with the rest of the $45,000 needed.
The program will go to air in July on Imparja (Channel 9 elsewhere) and
will be packaged as a give-away DVD for Caravan World magazine’s
February issue next year.
More broadly, Mr Heenan says council must put pressure on the NT
Government to release more land in town, to encourage young people to
settle here and retirees to stay.
“We are losing the history and experience of people who have lived and
worked here for 20 and 30 years when they move away to retire,” he
says, calling for a retirement village to be built.
The list of other candidates he feels he could readily work with is
similar to Steve Brown’s, with Samih Habib thrown in for good measure,
as well as John Rawnsley, “a nice young feller”.
“Youth issues are important,” says Mr Heenan.
Ms Martin wants council to do more to support the small tourism-related
organisations around town, many of them run partly or wholly by
volunteers.They could do with help on things like writing submissions
and developing business plans, she says.
And a pet project is the establishment of a “resource bank”, making
available on loan photocopiers, tables and chairs and so on, for
organisations who can’t afford their own.
“We could also do a lot better on the inter-connectivity of our
attractions,” says Ms Martin, “the man-made, the natural, Aboriginal
culture, explorer and pioneer history, and the roles the mining,
pastoral and transport industries have played.”
She has just returned from a visit to Wagga Wagga and was impressed by
the council-funded museum there, which had its own display on the
history of the town but also pointed to what else there was to see in
On infrastructure more broadly she says there isn’t enough forethought
and planning: “We build roundabouts that road trains have to drive over
to get round them.”
Better infrastructure catering to the needs of locals and visitors in
the CBD and along the river is essential, ablution blocks included.
She is against takeaway grog restrictions in their present form, though
she does think there are too many alcohol outlets in town, and council
should press government to buy back licences.
But she says restrictions act only at the “top layer”: “People sniff,
drink, do drugs to get away from their wretched and unfortunate lives.
“We have to deal with the grassroots issues and also have strong
resources to help people who can’t handle alcohol.”
Ms Martin says she has pulled back from a number of her inter-state
commitments in order to play a greater role locally: “I did 17 trips
away last year; this year I’ll only do four.”
She says she’ll look forward to working with like-minded people,
especially those with a local history, investment and long-terms plans
to stay in town.
Sandy Taylor has certainly got the “local” credentials, born and bred
here, the eldest of the eight daughters of well-known Aboriginal
racehorse-trainer, Emmie Wehr.
She emphasises her extensive work history as preparing her well to
serve the town: some 25 years in the Commonwealth and Territory public
services, as well as jobs in tourism, retail of Aboriginal arts and
crafts, and now in education. She has been an Indigenous Education
Worker at St Philip’s College since 2000.
She wants to restore pride, integrity and commitment to the community,
badly eroded by anti-social behaviour.
“You get used to it as a local but it shocks visitors – the humbugging,
the brawling, the shouting.”
She is perplexed by the apparent need of Aboriginal people to “sing out
loudly to one another”: “When we were growing up with my mother
everyone used hand signals.
“Perhaps the yelling now is born out of Aboriginal people’s sheer
frustration with their relatives.”
Councils need to be proactive to address these behaviours, she says,
working with other agencies, like the Licensing Commission and police,
and with native title holders – enforcing laws and standards, rewarding
And they need to work with Tangentyere Council to clean up the camps:
“That is something that can be fixed straight away.”
She says simple solutions, including dialogue, are often the way to
deal with problems.
She would work to improve council’s communication with ratepayers: a 10
day turnaround on dealing with correspondence and “then continue to
keep them updated”.
“As an alderman I would certainly want to know what everyone employed
by council is doing, and would have a look at making the corporate side
Anti-social behaviour also looms large for Sally Luchich, a former
teacher, now manager of the town pool.
The pool itself is not heavily exposed to the problem, she says, though
there have been some break-ins and vandalism.
She says it is undeniable that a major part of the town’s litter
problem is related to the consumption of alcohol, but some offending
behaviour has other causes: in a recent break-in at the pool it was
clear the offenders were after food.
“We need to offer affected youth direction, things in their life so
they don’t get dragged down,” she says.
To get them away from alcohol and violence “give them somewhere to go,
day and night.”
She proposes a well-structured shopfront environment in the mall where
they could develop and sell their skills – in arts and crafts, in IT.
“It could be a stepping stone to employment.”
Council wouldn’t have to fund and run the facility on its own, but
rather work with other agencies and a pool of volunteers.
“If we build on the positives with youth it will have a ripple out
effect for their families.
“Everyone needs to feel more ownership, more pride in the town.”
Litter and anti-social behaviour hotspots like Billygoat Hill and Todd
Mall should have lighting, seating, interpretive material to “attract
people with good intent”.
Their presence will “deter people with negative intent”.
Council has to “be persistent,” she urges, “move people on until they
She also says that it is not only public drinkers responsible for
litter: pool guards pick up rubbish all day left behind by otherwise
“People need to think about their behaviour, not drop the thing in the
first place. How do you get through to people – maybe an advertising
John Rawnsley at 27 is the youngest candidate in the field (Ms Hall is
33, the average age of Alice Springs citizens, and has also emphasised
youth and energy in her campaign).
This is Mr Rawnsley’s second local government campaign: he was
runner-up in the by-election that returned Meredith Campbell to council
in September 2005.
Since then he has been an active member of the Labor Party and
currently works as electoral officer for MLA Alison Anderson.
He is running a careful campaign, releasing policy ideas as he goes
They include finding ways to offer incentives to youth, especially
those who have grown up here, to settle here.
Often local young people have left town to further their education.
He proposes that council work in partnership with business and other
levels of government to offer free flights to Alice to those who can
demonstrate that they are taking up a work opportunity and have a
“commitment to stay”.
“Council could go a long way through partnerships,” he says.
As another example, he suggest a partnership approach for improving the
town’s parks and gardens: with the Federal Government to provide
horticulture training for young people (a la Green Corps), and with
local residents keen to help maintain their local parks and gardens.
He acknowledges anti-social behaviour, specifically public drinking and
littering, as a core issue for the people he has talked to and intends
to put forward a plan “integrated across agencies” to address it.
He would not be drawn on details but says, “We need to build a social
and cultural intolerance of anti-social behaviour.”
He declined to “endorse” any other candidate but looked forward to
working with anyone who provides “leadership, passion, intelligence and
Passion is something that certainly fuels David Chewings. He has been a
thorn in the current council’s side with his unorthodox, dogged
campaign on littering, especially as it affects the “out of sight, out
of mind” areas around Alice – Crown land, areas around town camps.
And in recent times he has used his ute and trailer as a mobile
billboard alleging council corruption (a non-specific “looking after
His campaign for this election is focussed on a single issue: “Reform
of the Coles taxi rank”.
The part of the rank in Bath Street allocated to mini-bus operators, of
whom he is one, is far too limited in length, he argues, for the demand
on their services.
In a survey of use of the 50m rank, conducted on January 7, from 7am to
5pm, he found that mini-busses conveyed 262 passengers and made 69
drop-offs at the rank.
This compared to 165 passengers in taxis, with 35 drop-offs, and 45
passengers in taxi-busses, with 22 drop-offs.
He has made some in-roads on the issue, with council lengthening the
rank from six metres to 18m, as a trial measure.
He says the mini-bus drivers and their customers, most of whom are
Indigenous, deserve a full 25 metres of the rank.
In future reports the Alice News will look at the record of incumbent
aldermen seeking re-election – and the candidates, other than mayoral,
not covered in this report – Barbara Shaw, Marie Harrison, and Lenny
Blocks, preferences, tactics. By
Most candidates for Mayor say they are in favor of conscience votes
while some of them, if not all, will be handing out how to vote cards.
“I never vote with blocks,” says Angus McIvor.
“I am opposed to any suggestion that you tie yourself to a system that
prevents free thought.
“If people want to vote with me on certain issues I’ll be very happy to
see them do that.
“You get the horse trading, the wife swapping, and all the things that
ruin a council.
“It totally excludes the public.”
Jane Clark says: “I will be issuing a how to vote card as an option,
but I urge the public to work out their own preferences.
“Elected Greens members are entitled to make a conscience vote every
time they vote. Voting as a bloc is not desirable,” says Ald Clark.
Damien Ryan says: “Elected members must not stoop to the politics of
voting by block but must vote on the merit of each issue as they see
“I have not yet made any firm decision about suggesting preferences but
I will make my intentions clear well before polling day.”
David Koch stood down as the chairman of the local CLP branch.
“For me council comes before party politics,” he says.
“I’ll be making my decision on preferences later.
“I’m not part of a voting block. I have not yet had the those
“The public should be able to make the choices.
“We should not set up the public to make the choices the block
operators want,” says Ald Koch.
“It doesn’t get things done: We’d end up with a Queensland style party
“Elected members should exercise conscience votes in the interest of
Ald Meredith Campbell, who is standing only for Mayor, not for
alderman, says: “As Mayor, I would not participate in voting as a
“Other councils, like the doomed Wollongong City Council, have come to
grief, in part, through the practice known as caucusing.
Miguel Ociones says he is not currently in discussion with anyone about
preferences: “I guess I will think about it in the next few days.”
He says he nominated last Friday, just before the deadline: “I could
not sleep, I thought I’d kick myself if I didn’t do it.”
He says Ald Koch is “closest to my position”.
He and Ald Campbell deserved support because of their experience in
Murray Stewart says: “What a shame we have to consider preference
“They are an unfortunate byproduct of a grossly undemocratic and
outdated exhaustive preferential system.
“My premier preference deal is with the people of Alice Springs.
“Come March 29, if anyone sees a how to vote card with my name at or
near the bottom, you’ll know something crooked is on.”
Ald Stewart says given his record, even if voters prefer another
candidate “then maybe placing me as your second or third preference
would be far more reflectant of the true picture”.
Melanie van Haaren said “no comment” when asked about her intentions
with respect to preferences and voting with a block.
Cultural showpiece for council
corner. By KIERAN FINNANE.
A “gathering garden” featuring seating in the form of upturned
coolamons cast in bronze and a central water feature, also in the form
of a coolamon, within colourful and shady native-species landscaping,
will become a feature of the Civic Centre block if council’s allocation
of $150,000 is matched by the NT Government.
The concept is the work of Melbourne-based sculptor Julie Squires and
Central Arrernte / Warlpiri artists Marie Elena Ellis and Roseanne
The artists are sisters and the daughters of renowned Papunya painter
Michael Jagamarra Nelson, who created the design for the forecourt
mosaic at Parliament House in Canberra.
His daughters’ involvement in this first public art project at the seat
of local government in Alice Springs adds significance to this long
overdue recognition within the CBD of the major contribution of
Aboriginal art to this region’s cultural life, identity and prosperity.
Artists of the region, through nine art centres identified by the Ellis
sisters and Desart, will create surface designs for the bronze coolamon
seats, each two metres long, making for a cultural site of considerable
scope and depth.
Other collaborators on the project are horticulturist Geoff Miers who
has done the landscape design, and Arrernte consultant Margaret Kemarre
Cross cultural consultants David and Bess Price contributed to the
development of the concept and also provide a Central Australian family
link and “education” for Ms Squires, who is Mr Price’s niece.
Mayor Fran Kilgariff announced on Monday that this team had been
selected, on advice from the public art advisory committee chaired by
Alderman Meredith Campbell, to take forward council’s public art
project for the corner of Gregory Terrace and Todd Street.
But execution will depend on the success of council’s application for
an NT Government public art grant, seeking a match of dollar for
If this application is unsuccessful, the project could stall, though Ms
Kilgariff said that it would return to council’s budget process for the
next financial year.
Ms Squires said she was confident of success as the project responds to
a lot of the grants fund’s guidelines.
The result of the apllication won’t be known till the end of June.
The layout of the gathering garden is based on an original painting by
the Ellis sisters, showing tracks converging on a central meeting
With the addition of the landscaping, featuring over 450 local plants
including many flowering species and shade trees (desert kurrajongs),
the site will become a “lush, shady area, a sanctuary” in the heart of
Alice, says Ms Squires.
Sandstone elements engraved with text, on the ground in front of the
coolamons so people can sit while they read, will evoke the heritage of
the site and town, including Afghan and early European settlement, as
well as contemporary local life.
However, the central imagery of the site is overwhelmingly Aboriginal.
The Alice News asked Ms Squires if there would be visual images
associated with the other cultures present in town.
The existing architectural element on the corner of the site,
referencing Afghan heritage through the crescent associated with Islam,
will be retained.
But other visual elements would have created a quite
“compartmentalised” impression, says Ms Squires. She chose rather
to work with a more “unified image” for the whole site.
There will be consultation over the text for the sandstone elements
with the public art advisory committee playing a liaison role with
The site will be lit at night, with floodlights on some of the larger
trees and ground level lighting.
Living history. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The exhibition Colliding Worlds, which opened to a large crowd at
Araluen last Sunday, is sub-titled “First Contact in the Western Desert
It might have been subtitled “Unusual encounters in the Western
Desert”, suggested Jeremy Long, a former patrol officer of the NT
Welfare Branch, who was present at the opening.
“Unusual” because in most first encounters the Europeans were not
“armed with cameras and notebooks”, said Mr Long.
In his floor talk and catalogue essay, curator Philip Batty was at
pains to encourage visitors to the exhibition to make up their own mind
about the nature of the encounters.
Dr Batty expected there would be some negative reaction, for instance,
to the idea of body-casting and said there was quite some debate at
Museum Victoria about whether to include the casts.
There are two on display, with one of particular interest being of
Waripanda, the sister of MLA Alison Anderson’s grandmother. Ms Anderson
was present at the opening, introducing Dr Batty and catching up with
Mr Long. Ms Anderson recalled she was eight years old when Mr Long
“brought in the Pintupi”.
The link of the exhibition with people alive today – “the continuation
of history”, as Dr Batty put it – was keenly felt on Sunday with many
Indigenous visitors, including famed artist Mitjili Napanangka,
identifying themselves, their forebears and their traditional country
in the photographs.
From what I observed, this was done with a lively interest, rather than
And although the apparent cataloguing of people, with genealogical
information cards and numbered frontal and profile photographs, is at
odds with contemporary sensibilities (replaced, at times, by different
forms of intrusive scrutiny), the overall impression of the exhibition
is fairly benign.
Particularly the photographs of Donald Thomson are very engaged with
their subjects – identified individuals self-assured in their country,
observed with evident warmth, fascination and delight.
And unless I’ve overlooked something, there are no photographs (outside
of the Woomera bomb tests) of the crueller face of the frontier.
This makes the painting, First Contact, commissioned for the show from
Watiyawanu artists, all the more interesting.
Five artists collaborated on the work: Wintjiya Napaltjarri Morgan,
Kathleen Whisky Nungarrayi, Colleen Whisky Nampitjinpa, Ngoia
Napaltjarri Pollard and Ulkalara Napaltjarri.
Six large and sinister white figures hover over the scene: these
represent the mythic figure Pungkalangu, who killed and devoured
people, acting as a metaphor for a white man, Kungki, “who was reputed
to have shot and eaten Aboriginals”.
Not surprising then to find in the layer of the painting that
schematises the sweep of first contact – the arrival of men on
horses, camels, a preacher and his church and so on – that there
is a chilling representation of the men chained together at the neck –
a practice when Aboriginals were caught stealing cattle.
There are four lines of chained men represented, involving 38
individual figures – clearly, for the artists, the abominable practice
They make it plain, by including alongside the chained lines of men a
line of camels, tethered to one another by the nose, that these among
their forebears were treated as animals.
However, a strength of the show is to present a range of exhibits and
stories around its themes, and it includes in this section about the
flourishing of the Western Desert art movement, a very striking
painting by Wentja Napaltjarri 2, which makes clear a different story
via its title, Early Days of Living at the mission at Haasts Bluff
where everyone was happy, 2004.
There are many stories in the exhibition about Aboriginal people making
themselves the decision to move into settlements, with drought
conditions and the prospect of more plentiful food being major
“Many groups enjoyed the security of settlement life and remained
there,” writes Dr Batty in the introduction to the catalogue.
“Others never adjusted and moved back and forth between their homelands
and settlements. Some individuals returned to the bush indefinitely.”
The often heated debates around these experiences are “important
sites”, he says, where the moral foundations of “Australian nationhood
are contested and defined”.
LETTERS: CLC way off the mark on
Sir,- Once again the Alice Springs News is deliberately trying to whip
up fear and resentment on the issue of park ownership. And, as
usual, it gives a very one-sided view of the situation.
Last week’s article didn’t contain one word about the 99 year
leases under which all of these parks would be operating. Uluru-Kata
Tjuta National Park operates under this arrangement and appears to
thrive – 400,000 visitors annually and rising.
The Alice Springs News didn’t mention once any of the positive benefits
joint management would deliver to Aboriginal people in Central
Australia in terms of employment and participation.
It forgot to mention that visitors to the parks would have a better,
more diverse and more interesting experience, let alone the
increased tourist dollars to Alice Springs.
And it soundly contradicted itself – after railing against the new
arrangements – by ending its ‘report’ with the conclusion that had the
arrangements not gone ahead all parties would have been subjected to
years of litigation through the courts to settle land claims and if
successful in those claims, traditional owners would have been free to
set whatever limitations or fees on access they chose.
Instead, the compromise of shared management will bring benefits to
all. There won’t be permits to enter the parks, nor any fees.
Anyone with some foresight would recognise the great result of shared
management of our parks.
Director Central Land Council
ED - Mr Ross’ hypocrisy knows no bounds.
To accuse the Alice News of one-sidedness after he, his media staff and
his organisation, have stonewalled dozens of requests for comment and
information from the News is a cynical distortion of the facts.
As our web archive bears testimony, we have reported extensively about
the 99 year lease arrangements.
This includes last week’s report: “The undertaking ‘no fees, no
permits’, and a 99 year lease-back to NT parks authorities, are
meaningless if the great bulk of the parks are closed to the general
public, or if access is made subject to onerous conditions.”
That’s not just “one word” but 40.
We have never rejected proposals for an Aboriginal management advisory
body, nor against Aboriginal involvement in a range of matters. We have
advocated these initiatives.
However, in comment pieces, clearly identified as such, we have been
objecting to a transfer of ownership, as is the vast majority of the
The likelihood of massive litigation isn’t something the News is
Avoiding litigation is the very reason the NT Government – equally
secretive over the issue – gives for transferring ownership.
I take Mr Ross’ statements, no matter how wide of the mark, as a signal
that he will finally end his paranoid silence on the parks issue.
He can expect a phone call from me this week to make an appointment for
A few glib motherhood statements from him won’t do, especially not now
that a Federal Labor Minister says she is going to comply with the
vastly unpopular requests from a Territory Labor Government
Sir,- In relation to the ongoing discussion over land release for Alice
Springs the Prime Minister’s statements would appear to have our own
Territory Government completely at odds with the rest of the country.
Rather than getting land onto the market as cheaply and rapidly as
possible, as requested by the Prime Minister, the Territory Minister
recently stated her objective as being to “hold up land release” in
order to maintain existing prices, supposedly to protect existing land
owners (I suspect more in the interest of supporting land speculators).
Either way the consequences for our town have been horrific and, unless
attended to urgently, will lead to a complete collapse of our market.
Alice doesn’t need more token land releases – a few blocks here and
there – we need sustained land release, complete with planned and
serviced suburbs set out in advance of requirements. This will give
homeowners, builders and business much needed confidence in the town’s
growth opportunities. Without that confidence, investment goes
Recent articles have spoken of exciting new technological and mining
opportunities for our town. We must be positioned to take advantage of
those opportunities, or we will quite simply miss out.
Companies assessing development in the area must be able to see land
available. Housing blocks in hundreds, not just a token few.
Without that land availability companies will simply resort to flying
their staff in and out, as I believe some already do. The result for
Alice will be to see our minerals mined and our only gain being extra
traffic at the airport and a gigantic hole in the ground.
Our town and our government must throw off the shackles and come
outside the Gap along the Stuart Highway - if necessary, all the way to
the airport. There are already large tracts of government-owned land in
the area which are central to all the services, and as such very cheap
This development must take place with the greatest of urgency!
Should the Territory government insist on continuing its deliberate
suppression of growth, Alice Springs must appeal to the Federal
Government to intervene.
At a time when the Alice struggles to grow its economy, when the
continuing unemployment amongst our Aboriginal population is a national
disgrace, the continued suppression of our growth is quite simply
unacceptable to the vast majority of Australians, I would think.
Chairman Advance Alice
Sir,- The caption under the photograph on page three in last week’s
edition, taken during the opening of the Quest accommodation facility
in South Terrace, stated “the $10 million complex was developed by the
long established Alice Springs Neck Family”.
The complex was not developed by the Neck family but by the long
established Northern Territory business Sitzler Bros, as was announced
at our official opening.
The Neck family acquired the Quest franchise for Alice Springs.
[ED - The Alice Springs News regrets the error.]
Sir,- I sent the following letter to the Alice Springs Town Council:
Today [February 16] at about 4.30pm, two friends and I visited the Tip
Shop, advertised as “open”.
We have all been regular visitors to the “Bower Bird”, but today’s
visit reflects badly on the new contractors. Do we assume that the
gross, rude slob male sitting on a chair in the shade is the manager?
I told him that we were regular tip shop customers, to which he
replied, “Maybe 30 years ago”. I said, “No, present day”, and we got
the same reply. He then made some crack about the “Bower Bird”, and I
told him it was a bad subject.
Naturally, there is little stock in the yard, and we left after a short
inspection – if this man is an indication of the lack of quality and
decent speech that we have been accustomed to with the “Bower Bird”
staff, I hold out little hope of return business.
We are all in our seventies, and find that this rudeness, lack of
presentation, and general lack of any respect is just not acceptable.
Greg Buxton, the town council’s Director of Technical Services,
I am sorry to hear about the undiplomatic behaviour of [Subloo] staff.
I have taken up the issue with the Subloo director and he will
investigate the matter further and act accordingly.
Finally, let me offer my sincere apologies to you and your friends over
this matter, should you have any queries, please feel free to contact
Ed: Subloo has not responded to a request for comment.
Sir,– In response to the story about the approval for exploration of
uranium to go ahead by Paladin Resources (Alice News, Feb 28), I
clearly and categorically want to say uranium isn’t the answer to the
world’s energy problems for global warming or any other reason.
I detest the fact that it has been dangled in front of readers as some
economic cure-all carrot, for us as a community and for Australia.
Not only is it wrong to tout uranium as clean, it will keep supporting
a lifestyle which is not sustainable for the planet anyway.
While Paladin seems to answer the water contamination concerns of
environmentalists in the article, it still has an air of arrogance that
is endorsed by our Chief Minister by saying it is “clean”.
Uranium, and any business associated with it, is a substance so
potentially powerful in a world of unstable politics it is anything but
For one it is a nightmare for waste concerns; and let’s not ignore the
use of depleted uranium used in warheads and ammunition around the
world, let alone the fact that nobody wants waste in their backyard, to
name only a few of the lesser evils.
Presenting uranium mining in terms of economic rationalism is totally
misleading. It ignores the relationship of uranium to many more
My problem is with the sort of thinking of the likes of Chief Minister
Paul Henderson that I cannot trust. How much uranium does one need for
short term energy purposes?
Who is asking that question? What happens to $2.5 billion of uranium
once it is out of the ground? Where does it go? What is its lifetime?
To whom is it entrusted?
Are we expected to trust the leaders of this world to keep it safe?
These fears of mine and others need to be discussed fully in the
discourse of this issue.
There are other much cleaner alternatives to “clean energy solutions”
and I am proud of the burgeoning solar technologies in this town.
I would love our governments, both local and national, to continue
helping us to be more creative to simplify and change our lifestyle in
the mean time. There is enough energy available falling on the surface
of this planet.
Having uranium unleashed onto the Earth is too much energy for good men
to handle. It would be wise to let Angela and Pamela sleep!
Sir,- In the wake of the federal government ‘intervention’ your paper
has reported on the town’s uphill battle with drinking and camping in
public places. I should say from the outset that I know town camp
residents I would genuinely value as neighbours and I know white-fellas
that would lower the tone of the most desperate human settlement.
Naturally we see the loudest or most violent and overlook the masses
quietly getting on with their lives.Unfortunately the spirit of the
Territory Intervention has been de-valued by its strict focus on
indigenous communities. While there is obvious scope for revision in
the detail, intervention should also be applied right across Australia
wherever government welfare is used to support harmful alcohol or drug
Income management could be tiered according to ‘need’ and could easily
include voluntary provisions for modest saving plans – just $20 a week
can grow into an airfare ticket and the saving process becomes an
important life lesson for the whole family. Grog touches most and rules
too many families in this town. Summer binge drinking by some people is
magnified by an influx of visitors that can remain for four or five
months because inexplicably, in a time of great economic opportunity,
they have no jobs to return to.
It’s not surprising that Aboriginal men cited boredom as a major reason
for alcohol consumption in a 1986-7 Territory-wide study! Our society
can’t effectively overcome the grog epidemic without resolving the
obstacles to employment.
A life with purpose must be the Holy Grail for all politicians,
government policy makers and social planners. Education, health and
sobriety are not enough; no-one can hold down a job until basic
life-style stresses such as accommodation are addressed.While the sheer
scale and complexity of the town’s social problems seem daunting, I’m
confident that we can do much better.
Currently our town of 29,000 is losing a war of attrition with perhaps
several hundred full-time drinkers / campers who are pushed from one
public location to another. Placing increased pressure on this hard
core is a necessary stop-gap measure but we must also provide tangible
options for their possible rehabilitation and inclusion within a
In the near absence of support, police have been taking a softly,
softly approach that is understandable but inappropriate for some
Countless verbal warnings and the over-use of trespass orders for
criminal offences have eroded respect for the law in recent years.
There is an urgent need to empower community service orders and put
offenders to work repairing some of the tragic damage to sacred sites
throughout the town.
Equally our community must help bush visitors make the transition from
illegal camping to managed camp grounds with showers, toilets, water
and other facilities (currently available for $11 per person each
Environmental damage aside, current strategies are costing this town
vastly more in law enforcement and rubbish collection.
We have six months to prepare a range of accommodation options for our
bush visitors – who knows, in time we might welcome them as the
holiday-makers that we could never seem to attract in the height of
Sir,- How terribly wrong have we managed to get the welfare system here
in the NT?
In the Alice Springs hospital a 13 year old indigenous girl gives birth
to a child of her own. She qualifies for the baby bonus.
The child’s father is not charged with carnal knowledge – in all
likelihood he is under the legal age himself and has been acting with
the consent of the girl’s family.
Conventional teaching has it that in tribal times family groups
survived by making binding contracts with other family groups.
Daughters were an accepted form of currency. A son-in-law could be
expected to provide sustenance.
In today’s world a son-in-law promises a baby bonus and access to the
In the larger picture, hunting and gathering is a traditional skill
used to obtain enough food to survive. Many indigenous Territorians now
use that skill to hunt and gather easy money in government departments.
I sometimes wonder if life reduced to a scramble for cash payouts
doesn’t dissolve the glue that binds a culture together. It has
certainly done its bit to dissolve any respect between the conventional
and the traditional on the streets in Alice Springs. I also wonder how
many generations will be needed before a sense of dignity and self
worth can reassert itself and replace the corruption that accompanies a
life reduced to a scramble for those cash payouts.
To paraphrase an old saying, money corrupts and easy money corrupts
We desperately need to upgrade our welfare system. Somehow we have to
short circuit the debilitating notion that easy money is there for the
asking. One way this is being done is through income management.
It’s interesting watching the Brough Intervention gain
acceptance. All it took was enough time for some of the more
visionary ideas to start working, and for the Rudd government to
experience for itself the magnitude of our problem.
Now if our new government can just avoid being hijacked by its own old
guard, we might start seeing some real progress.
Sir,- Recently, in the still silence of an early evening, a dog
suddenly barked several times from just a couple of rural blocks away.
No big deal, I thought, until the animal’s voice rose to a yelp and
then a high-pitched continuous scream.
I was transfixed. Had it been run over? No sound of a vehicle.
Amid the terrified screaming came a persistent thump, thump - over and
over - until I realised the dog was being flogged.
Sounds carry clearly in the bush; I even heard the perpetrator grunt
with his effort, like one hears with some tennis players. After several
more thumps and screams a male voice roared, “Get out!”
Did he sink his boot in, I wondered. Did the dog run or slink away,
shivering in terror and pain, limping and bruised? Is it alive?
Does that near neighbour on Heffernan Road have the guts to write and
explain his actions?
I wonder what dastardly deed the dog might have committed, like dig up
precious plants, chew clothing, or piddle against a car tyre or some
other treasure? Did it really deserve such cruelty?
Man, get your anger under control. Perhaps you should not keep a dog.
Sir,- In the early years of self-government, when a range of powers
were devolved from the Commonwealth to the NTGovernment, electricity
was provided by NTEC - the Northern Territory Electricity Commission,
the precursor to the modern PowerWater Corporation.
Nowadays the initials NTEC refer to another NT Government
instrumentality, the Northern Territory Electoral Commission,
responsible for overseeing the empowerment of enrolled voters in
So there you have it - in one form or another NTEC has always meant
power to the people.
(Some might think we suffer many more blackouts in the operation of
democracy than in our electricity supply ... )
Sir,- I am an American who, for some reason I haven’t yet figured out,
is absolutely fascinated with Alice Springs. It started a couple of
months ago while, on a whim after my wife was complaining about
problems at her school (she’s a teacher), I googled “teaching
positions” and the first result was for a position at a Lutheran school
in Alice Springs.
I had never heard of Alice Springs so I decided to see what I could
find out about your town. The first images I found looked a lot like
the area I grew up in – the Verde Valley in Arizona (near Sedona) –
except for the amount of water in the Verde compared to the Todd (the
Verde River flows year round).
Anyway, since then I have been trying to learn all I can about “The
Alice” (I’ve been an avid reader of the Alice Springs News since I
found the site) and am seriously looking into what it would be like to
live in Alice Springs.
I do have concerns – about finding a good job, housing and moving to a
new country – but there’s something about your town that fascinates me.
I have heard that Australia places great importance on family and
My country seems to have lost this, and I miss it greatly.
Australia also seems to place a high importance on education –
something my country and state have difficulty doing, much to my wife’s
I would really like to learn more about Alice Springs from those who
Glendale, Arizona, USA
ADAM CONNELLY: The circus is
It’s another Saturday morning in the Todd Mall.
People are going about their business. Some are having a cup of coffee
at one of the cafes. They read yesterday’s papers because today’s
haven’t turned up yet.
Some have been jogging. They do this to look good. Ironically the only
time people see them is when they are red, blotchy and unattractively
Others are being asked if they’d like to buy authentic Indigenous art
done with day-glo poster paints on bits of cardboard.
Another Saturday morning in the Todd Mall.
As people sip their lattes and their orange and ginger juices, a ruckus
is noticed from the top of the mall. Heads turn and conversations
A small but growing group of people is noticed gathering outside the
Westpac Bank. This isn’t like a Thursday morning gathering outside the
Westpac Bank, this is different. The now medium sized crowd isn’t
talking. In fact they aren’t doing much at all except looking upwards.
About 60 people now have gathered together, all with their noses
pointing towards the sky. Some people point while others make almost
inaudible gasps and giggles.
Metres above the crowd is the focus of the gathering. There on the
rooftop of the Alice Plaza is a man. Some people in the crowd below
recognise him. He is wearing nothing except for a loincloth to cover
On his back is a silver box with two tubes coming out of the base. It
can’t be a jet pack can it? He can’t be about to fly off the top of the
Alice Plaza can he?
At the same time in the Hartley Street carpark another crowd is
gathering. They are watching a woman on a motorcycle. She’s revving it
hard and through the visor on her helmet you can almost see the steely
determination in her eyes.
In front of her is a large wooden ramp. Behind the ramp, a line of
electric cars. Someone in the audience mutters that there are 27 of
them. Another member of the crowd whispers that there is one electric
car for every year the motorcyclist has been in town. She isn’t really
going to jump them is she?
At Traeger Park the press have converged on another man dressed in a
sheet. One of the journos figures out that the man is dressed as a
swami. That explains the coffee stained skin and the blob of red
lipstick on his forehead.
A yellow or red sheet might have been more appropriate however the pink
floral bed sheet was what was used. The media scrum collectively sighs
and agree to forgive the fashion mistake. The man in the sheet shimmies
up the eastern goal post on the northern end of the park, nearest the
As the photographers flash and the reporters shout questions in the
hope of getting some form of answer, the man stands one footed on top
of the goal post.
He calls out, not to the reporters in particular but to anyone who
might be listening that he intends to stay one legged on the goal post
for three days. Three days without food, water or toilet breaks.
Throughout the rest of the week a woman tries to walk on water at the
aquatic centre. Another woman attempts to surf a sea of green cans down
the Todd River and another man decides to hold a fight against a camel.
Late at night in a lounge room somewhere in Gillen a man is watching
the late news.
He sees all these amazing feats played out before him on the
television. Momentarily stunned by the colour and movement he regains
his mind and thinks to himself: “Remember when the only thing mayoral
candidates campaigned on was cleaning up the rubbish, fixing the
footpaths and turning up to senior citizen morning teas.
What happened to those days?”
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