ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
April 3, 2008. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Numbers of police
"fudged". KIERAN FINNANE reports.
An inside source says the real increase in police numbers in Alice
Springs is in the single digits, that is fewer than 10.
The source says an apparent increase of some 30 was achieved by
restructuring of local commands in 2004. Contrary to NT Government
propaganda this did not yield more police officers for the town.
Officers already here were simply added to the “establishment” numbers,
previously well below the target.
Several aldermen campaigned extensively in the run-up to Saturday’s
election on what they said was a boost to the police force in response
to their lobbying.
Retiring Deputy Mayor David Koch says he did not know the 30 officers
supposedly increasing numbers had been in town all along.
He said this week “I would have felt quite offended” had he known.
“We were under the impression these were new police delivered to the
“We could not understand why significant law and order issues
“There did not appear to be any more police on the beat.
“It was clearly political fudging.”
Police Minister Paul Henderson declined to answer questions on the
The Territory force is structured in three commands – Human Resources,
Crime Command and Operations Command.
Formerly officers in Crime Command, mostly detectives, living and
working in Alice Springs, were not counted as part of Alice Springs
“establishment” numbers as they answered to Darwin-based commanders.
They numbered some 30.
In restructuring, says the source, they were reallocated to the
locally-based Operations Command, mostly uniformed police, which gave
Alice an “on paper” increase, while Crime Command had an on paper
This is not denied by Commander Bert Hofer of the Alice Springs Police.
“The net effect of the restructure was zero,” he says.
However, Cdr Hofer says there has been a real increase of about 25 to
The inside source says new allocations, such as an increase of nine
traffic police, do not necessarily mean that there are nine more
officers out and about in the town. Four of the nine, while they
live in Alice, are on regional highway and area patrol.
Cdr Hofer acknowledges this. He also adds that four of the 25 are
allocated to duties in Kintore, Warakurna and Yulara.
One is seconded to the Australian Crime Commission; two to the dog
unit; two to the substance abuse intelligence desk.
“But the bulk of them are in Alice Springs.”
This being said, CDR Hofer says he has also been allowed by the
Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner to keep five positions “above
Establishment is at present 192, with “pretty close” to all positions
“I always carry some vacancies,” says CDR Hofer. “That’s true for
anywhere in the Territory.”
At the same time the Alice command has had to allocate six officers to
the new Intervention police stations, but has not been able to replace
those positions in town (Katherine and Darwin commands also allocated
six officers to the Intervention).
The source says NSW Police publish monthly updates of establishment
numbers and filled positions on their website, and asks why the
Territory force cannot be similarly transparent.
Vince Kelly, president of the NT Police Association, says there is no
doubt that there are more police in the NT and in Alice Springs as the
association’s membership has grown by more than 100 over the last few
But, says Mr Kelly, establishment does not grow in pace with the new
demands put on the force, such as the allocation of 18 officers to the
“There are not 18 new officers to do this.
“Where are staff coming from? They are coming from front line general
“Police numbers needs to be examined by an independent authority.
“The association has been caling for the development and implemenation
of a scientific resource allocation model.
“At the moment resource allocation is subject to political pressure.”
Mr Kelly also says the NT Police Force is too small a force for the
number of specialised units that have been created, such as the
domestic violence personal protection unit, dog units, mounted police
“This kind of structure is based on that of much larger forces,” he
Cdr Hofer declined to respond of Mr Kelly’s comments, nor to the
source’s cal for greater transparency about resource allocation: “These
are matters for the Commissioner and the Minister.”
The Alice News asked for a comment on the restructure from the Police
Minister, Paul Henderson.
This was declined as it’s an “operational matter”, said Mr Henderson’s
Diversion for juvenile offenders flops.
By KIERAN FINNANE
A business owner, victim of one of a series of break-ins in the CBD in
May last year, says five out of the six offenders involved have failed
their juvenile diversion process – designed to keep young offenders out
of court by getting them to making amends for their behaviour.
What happened to the six in the course of their diversion was followed
by the Alice News in a series of articles last year – on May 10, June
7, August 9 and October 11.
The business owner, who declined to be named, was told in a letter
received last Friday that the five will now be appearing before the
She says the five failures out of six “prove that juvenile diversion
She says she and other victims agreed that the young people be placed
on nightly curfew, 7pm to 7am; be required to attend school; and to do
100 hours of community service.
She personally saw some of them breaking curfew and not attending
school on a number of occasions, which she reported to the juvenile
diversion unit (JDU), run by the Alice Springs police.
“It’s not the police’s fault,” she says of the failures.
“But the kids know that in Court they’ll get a slap on the wrist and
get sent home again.
“They need to be made accountable, their parents need to be made
“Parents of 13 and 14 year olds should know where their children are at
five in the morning.
“More needs to be done to solve this problem than what’s being done now.
“I don’t think the community service the offenders do is hard enough,
we need something tougher, like a boot camp.”
Acting Sergeant Paul Dixon of the JDU says diversion offers victims a
number of opportunities that the courts don’t: opportunities to meet
the offender; to hear the offender explain what happened and why it
happened; to explain to the offender how their behaviour has impacted
on them; and to have the offender do something to repair the harm the
behaviour has caused.
“I think victims get something out of diversion – it is not a waste of
time,” he says.
“Some victims, who may want offenders staked to ant hills and covered
in honey, will never be satisfied with diversion or with Court, as
neither can or will provide these types of punitive outcomes.
“Restorative justice [the model for juvenile diversion] is not about
punishment; it’s about effecting positive behavioural change.”
Offenders, after assessment for suitability, participate
voluntarily and can pull out at any time. Pulling out will mostly
result in the matter being referred to Court, as will failure to
complete the diversion requirements.
Says Sgt Dixon of this specific case: “Diversion did not fail in this
case; the youth failed diversion.
“This is a very important distinction to make.
“Youth diversion is an open and transparent process that involves
offenders, offenders’ families, and victims working together with
community organisations, government and non-government agencies, and
any other person or persons that have been identified as being able to
assist in developing positive behavioural change with our young
Meanwhile, the business owner says she has had no trouble at her
premises since the break-in last May.
She took out trespass notices against all involved.
“I don’t have the problems I used to, maybe because I stood up to them
and I don’t let groups in.”
She is leaving town after more than three decades.
This is not the only reason to leave but it is “just one more reason”.
Ryan looks safe for Mayor. By
KIERAN FINNANE and ALEX NELSON.
It looks like voters in Alice Springs have given new boy on the block
Damien Ryan the town’s top job.
Mr Ryan had 39.7% of the primary vote for mayor, only 8.7% behind the
combined vote of his three nearest rivals.
They were Murray Stewart (19.5%), Jane Clark (15%), and David Koch
All three were sitting aldermen on the last council. Voters were not
frightened off by Ald Clark’s Greens endorsement – this is a far
healthier proportion of the vote than the Greens’ prior electoral
performances here (more than twice the proportion they got in Lingiari
in the Federal Election).
There also looks likely to be plenty of fresh aldermanic blood on the
new council of eight, as opposed to the former 10, plus the mayor.
Alds Stewart and Clark benefited from the exposure of their mayoral
campaigns, gaining 15.7% and 12.1 % of the primary aldermanic vote. Ald
Koch did not run for alderman.
They were followed into the first eight by, in order, Brendan Heenan,
Barbara Shaw, Steve Brown, John Rawnsley, Samih Habib (incumbent) and
Incumbent Melanie van Haaren, who was also in the mayoral race, polled
poorly to come in at in 10th place in the aldermanic contest (seventh
in the mayoral).
History shows that the exhaustive preferential system can knock out a
candidate who has a strong primary vote.
An example that may not augur well for Barbara Shaw – who gained 5.9%
of the vote, putting her in fourth place in the aldermanic count – is
her father’s contest in the 1996 council election.
Geoff Shaw, president of Tangentyere Council and formerly its general
manager, ran for both mayor and alderman.
Ms Shaw’s candidacy was also strongly associated with Tangentyere (see
last week’s issue).
In 1996 Andy McNeill easily won as mayor but Mr Shaw polled strongly in
the aldermanic count, coming in third behind Geoff Miers and Fran
Erlich (Kilgariff) with first preference votes.
The final count of distribution of preferences saw, with each
distribution, Mr Shaw’s position drop by one – by the time the
tenth aldermanic position was determined Mr Shaw had dropped to 11th.
Queries on town council
pre-polling in Alice Springs.
It is “best practice” and a “better look” for voters to be able to put
their ballots into the ballot box themselves, says Returning Officer
for the NT Electoral Commission, Bill Shepheard.
The Alice News had asked Mr Shepheard why ballot boxes used during
pre-polling at the Alice office of NTEC were behind the counter, in
full view but not within reach of voters.
Voters were handing their folded ballot papers to staff who were then
placing them in the boxes.
Mr Shepheard said staff had been concerned about security of the ballot
boxes given the “cramped premises” and high number of people casting
their ballots before Saturday – twice as many as usual, he said.
He said once the issue had been brought to the NTEC’s attention, staff
moved the ballot boxes to where voters could deposit their votes
Minister Burns will not comment
on racism fiasco. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Is Health Minister Chris Burns responsible for a department where
inspectors turn a blind eye to the filth in the town camps, while
nitpicking over minor problems in local businesses?
The Alice News asked the question but didn’t get an answer.
Hiding behind minders is the NT Government’s preferred way of doing
business, and Dr Burns (pictured) has elevated it to an art form.
He and his minders do their best to conceal uncomfortable truths,
remaining complacent in the face of multiple health hazards in putrid
town camps in the middle of Alice Springs, while the department, via
its environmental health officers, pursue a hard working small
businessman next door over pathetic issues such as a single cracked
tile in a motel room.
The Minister and his staff have become experts in obfuscation.
It’s practiced by tying up journalists’ time with futile emails,
raising expectations of granting a requested interview, not granting
it, and in the end, refusing to provide the answers in a manner that’s
reasonable and in accordance with information practices in democracies.
For years now the Alice News (and other journalists) have been
explaining to the NT Government that in line with proper journalistic
standards we insist on talking to the organ grinder, not the monkey.
It’s not acceptable to base reports on hearsay, on second-hand
We need to get it from the horse’s mouth.
We have explained dozens of times that any answer is likely to beg
another question, and that we have neither the time nor the obligation
to engage in a drawn-out email exchange to gather information that it
would take only minutes to obtain in a conversation.
All to no avail.
The following chronology shows how the current Territory Government
runs its media policy:-
We sought comment, before going to press, on our lead story last week,
“The agony of running Alice accommodation”, and more than that, we
emailed Dr Burns a draft of the report, a privilege very few
journalists would afford their political contacts.
The report contained serious matters falling in Dr Burns’ portfolios
which include health and alcohol policy: matters of hygiene and proper
conduct which, on the one hand, could lead to a commercial
accommodation operator refusing entry to potential guests, and on the
other, should surely attract some official attention in the interest of
public health and well-being.
We had interviewed the manager of the Swagman’s Rest apartments in Gap
Road, Rob Watling, and also the lessee of the Whitegums apartments
nearby, Steve Smedley, who both say that they sometimes have to refuse
entry to potential clients because of hygiene and conduct issues, but
it’s never on the basis of race.
Mr Watling also pointed to the absurdity of his being required by
environmental health officers to repair things like a cracked tile,
while mounds of rubbish pile up in the town camp next door, the ban on
drinking grog is constantly flouted, illegal campfires are lit, and
there was even an instance of two dead dogs being left in the
open for days.
Our draft was sent to Dr Burns at 11.21 am on Tuesday last week.
Tuesday 2.37 pm, Andrea Adlam, the Minister’s minder, replied:- Hi
Erwin, Just trying to get a handle on whether the Minister is
going to be able to provide a comprehensive answer re the health
queries or whether someone from Environmental Health may be more across
the day-to-day operating issues ... do you have an idea what you want /
where you’re going?
Tuesday 3.12 pm, News to Adlam: Hi Andrea, Yes, I do. I want to talk to
the Minister about the health issues raised in the story.
Tuesday 3.27 pm, Adlam to News: Hi Erwin, I’m not trying to be
obstructionist ... I want to ensure you get a good interview and
no-one’s time gets wasted ... it’s no use talking to the Minister if
you want to ask operational questions such as what is the Department
doing / can do in terms of the issues raised. Similarly, it’s no use
talking to a departmental person if you want to ask about government’s
attitude to the issues. If you can give me some direction on this, it
will be beneficial to everyone.
Tuesday 5.11 pm, News to Adlam: Hi Andrea, No worries: Firstly, on one
side of the fence the Minister’s staff is nitpicking about minor flaws.
On its other side they are ignoring rampant, major health hazards.
Secondly, are there rules about the hygiene and behavior of guests of
accommodation establishments, rules which, if broken, entitles the
establishment to refuse access to would-be guests? And if there are no
such rules, why not? To me both of these issues require an answer from
the Minister, as they relate to policy. If they are operational matters
(in other words, policy is not followed), one can only conclude that
the staff isn’t doing its job which makes it a Ministerial
responsibility as well. Hope this helps. Of course the response is now
too late for the current edition but we’ll follow it up next week.
Wednesday 8:37 am, Adlam to News: Thanks Erwin.
Thursday 7.44 am, News to Adlam: Hi Andrea ... please advise me by noon
today when the Minister is available for the interview. Cheers, Erwin.
Thursday 2.10 pm, Adlam to News: Hi Erwin, Sorry for the delay in
getting back to you. I’m in SA at a Ministerial Conference and have
only just managed to log on. I’m told the Minister has spoken to you
and told you that he is happy to answer any written questions you may
have, and similarly to answer any follow-ups questions. So if you want
to shoot the questions across, I’ll pass them on.
Thursday 3.21 pm, News to Adlam: The Minister has not spoken to me. My
request for an interview stands.
Thursday, after the email above, although time stamp shows 2.50 pm,
Adlam to News: I’m told the Minister spoke to you personally some time
ago. If you want to send the written questions across, he’ll be happy
to send you a written reply.
Does anyone get the impression that the Minister actually wants to
communicate with the public on this one? I doubt it.
He has not spoken to me personally in these terms, and they are not
terms that I accept: the Alice News endeavours to supply meaningful,
relevant information to its readers, not the massaged “lines” rendered
all but meaningless by political minders.
My request for an interview stands: his lips to my ear or I have to
conclude that the Minister is unwilling to answer the question.
Call for conduct rules for both
accommodation houses and guests. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
A charter of responsibilities for accommodation operators as well as
for guests is being drawn up by Tourism Central Australia (TCA), the
This comes in the wake of international condemnation of the local Haven
backpackers’ resort over alleged racist treatment of Aboriginal guests,
and the dramatic disclosures by Swagman’s Rest manager Rob Watling
about the abuse, vandalism and misconduct by some Indigenous guests
(Alice News, March 27).
TCA chairman Steve Rattray (pictured) says: “It is a regrettable
situation when an incident [such as the one involving Haven] has had
such far reaching detrimental effect on the tourist industry.
“TCA is currently working with Tourism NT on an agreement addressing
the various options for recognition of tourist operators, including
membership of a regional tourist organisation.
“It will also clearly identify responsibilities of tourist operators as
well as the responsibilities of guests and passengers.
“Media reports of recent events unfortunately may not have addressed
all of the true facts, and as the establishment in question was not a
member of TCA it was difficult for the association to take any positive
action,” says Mr Rattray.
“TCA is committed to developing Indigenous tourism experiential options
to enhance the attraction of Central Australia to all visitors and does
not in any way endorse discrimination of any person by colour, race or
“The association is aware of the problems accommodation houses face in
regard to the behaviour of guests being booked into rooms.
“The damage caused and the unlawful occupation by additional guests is
being addressed in our discussions with Tourism NT.
“TCA is currently looking at the requirements of NT Legislation covered
in the Public Health Boarding House, Hostels and Hotels regulations and
the Accommodation Providers Act and where we believe there should be
amendments, recommendations will be made to the NT Government.”
Welcome to Abbott's Camp. By ERWIN
A pile of rubbish next to a partly burned kids’ playground, a dead car:
Welcome to Abbott’s Camp on South Terrace which shares a back fence
with the Swagman’s Rest resort in Gap Road. The hundreds of empty VB
cans are making a mockery of the camp’s “dry” status.
The drinkers are “mainly visitors” says Kevin Wirri, a tireless
campaigner for banning alcohol from his camp.
He succeeded some years ago. Now, of course, all camps have been
declared dry as part of the intervention, a ruling recklessly ignored
by the temporary and permanent residents.
Mr Wirri, president of the camp’s association until earlier this year,
is visibly embarrasses about the filth – paper, nappies, garbage bags,
food scraps, dog feces – but he doesn’t know what do to. “Sometime
we’re short of plastic bags,” he says.
But can’t he can buy a packet of them for $5?
There’s a CDEP worker in charge of cleaning.
“We need to have more meetings, talk about it,” says Mr Wirri.
Have Department of Health inspectors been to the camp? “No. No-one
Heritage concerns oveer Adelaide House.
By KIERAN FINNANE.
Adelaide House, closed over summer and subject to several incidents of
vandalism, will be reopened but with substantially changed functions.
The heritage-listed stone building, Central Australia’s first hospital
opened in 1926, was designed by the Rev John Flynn, founder of the
Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).
Its own history and its holdings tell the compelling story of the
development of Flynn’s “mantle of safety” in the Centre, which had
profound implications for both the black and white populations.
The building is the property of the Uniting Church and the church
council last week decided that the parish office, formerly in the
building now occupied by Aboriginal Employment Strategy, will be
relocated to Adelaide House, while the three rooms at the front will be
leased out to community groups.
A coalition of mother and baby health and wellbeing services are the
preferred lessees, in keeping with the original role of Adelaide House,
says Rev Tracy Spencer, who job-shares the local Uniting Church
ministry and has coordinated the development of a “business plan” for
Visitors will have access to, free of charge, the back verandah,
an audio-visual room as well as the stairwell and Traeger hut.
These arrangements will remain in place for at least two years, while
further work is done to explore the feasibility of the future
development of the whole site as a museum.
A draft masterplan for this, developed by Phillip Drake of the
Brisbane-based Atomiq Design Group, already exists, donated by Great
Southern Rail to the church.
There will be new interpretive materials to tell the story of Adelaide
House: these include a new series of films by local film-maker David
Nixon about John Flynn; a talking book by local historian Megg Kelham
about the first two nurses at Adelaide House; a replica pedal radio,
created by local businessman Dallas Spiers, that can communicate with
its counterpart at the RFDS visitor centre; and Arrernte oral histories
of Adelaide House researched with traditional owner Elaine Peckham and
Rev Spencer says the church will be implementing recommendations by
local architect Stephen Lumb for restoring the original air cooling
system, recognised as an astute innovation of the building in response
to the rigours of the desert climate.
A working bee will be conducted this weekend and Adelaide House will
reopen as soon as a part-time worker is engaged to oversee the changes
and then continue in a management and administrative capacity, says Rev
The Alice News had contacted Rev Spencer about the future of Adelaide
House after a number of readers expressed concern over the
deterioration and prolonged closure of the building.
They included local resident with a passion for heritage, Russell Guy,
and heritage campaigner, architect and president of the Heritage Alice
Springs, Domenico Pecorari.
Mr Guy raised concerns late last year about the use of the building.
He reported that there were two broken windows at the front of the
building (five more were broken over the Easter weekend just past).
He also said Aboriginal artists had been using the northern verandah
for the past few weeks to paint (this has continued).
He said the verandah was covered in acrylic paint stains, mixed with
sticky drink spills and the smell of urine (this continues to be the
While the artists have permission from the Uniting Church to paint
there, which Mr Guy supports in principle, he believed the negative
impacts of this use arose from the dismantling of the seniors volunteer
roster “which over many years kept a vigil that maintained a level of
respect for the building as well as a presence”.
Mr Pecorari was aware of people late last year getting onto the roof of
the building and trying to break in through the screens on the upper
And he said it will be difficult to clean paint from the masonry.
He said the building had become “shabby” since it lost “the volunteer
base” who were looking after it.
The plans announced by Rev Spencer should answer some of these
For a period last year there was a low key cafe operation, with a
coffee stand and tables on the front verandah.
A self-serve tea and coffee tea hospitality area at the back had been
formerly run by a volunteer group of seniors.
They also collected the $4.50 charge that gave entry to the building
and its collection of memorabilia and archival material, although
visitation was very low – fewer than 5000 a year. This compares poorly
with the average 80,000 each year to the RFDS visitor centre, with a
high of 101,000 in 1999-2000.
Rev Spencer says the church still has a 20-strong volunteer base, with
eight new people having joined since last year. They run the op shop
and “will be invited to continue to exercise hospitality in the
back verandah space, but opening hours will not be restricted to having
a volunteer roster”.
She says “the recent petty vandalism” reflects the closure over summer,
but the church needed time to come up with “such a terrific
multi-purpose community facility concept”.
She says a seven year old boy was recently caught “by other regular
lawn and verandah users after he broke windows on a dare”.
The police have spoken with his family.
“Other break-ins have resulted in cake and biscuits being taken and
eaten, but no other equipment for the museum or for StoryWall has been
She says the removal of Oleander trees along the StoryWall was in
response to complaints about people using the site as a toilet.
“On investigation, we discovered that the new public toilet had been
‘closing’ at 6pm, hence leaving some people no other option in the
centre of town when caught short.
“Since then its hours have extended to 11pm, but it was also recently
out of order for over a week.
“We certainly need more public toilets, available 24 hours, or else
more of the businesses in the mall prepared to let all sectors of the
community use their toilets.”
Rev Spencer says the church council has also decided to apply to come
under the Dry Areas legislation as a private landowner, in response to
community perception of drinking on the Adelaide House site.
The church council is also talking to Peppered Black security, the
Aboriginal Employment Strategy’s Cultural Ambassador program, and the
police “to develop strategies to promote the site as a family-friendly
and safe ‘sanctuary’ in the heart of town for all people”.
She says the police will “park” their police horses beside Adelaide
House – the Town Council is constructing a post and rail fence for the
purpose right now – and continue to patrol the site.
And the Town Council will also improve lighting at the rear of the
However, Mr Guy, who has a Masters Degree in Cross Cultural Psychology,
says the new uses amount to a loss of Adelaide House as a museum.
He says many questions remain.
How will Adelaide House’s integrity as a heritage site – for example,
“the patina of the stairwell, the floorboards, the former nurses
accommodation upstairs” – be preserved?
How are its holdings going to be curated and presented to the public?
These include letters and many personal effects that detail how John
Flynn went about getting the medical, radio and aviation mantle off the
ground – “a legacy still at work” – as well as mementos that are
continuously being donated.
There is also the diesel generator shed (which Mr Guy says served as a
morgue) behind the main building where radio engineer Alf Traeger and
Flynn experimented with the pedal wireless sets which were then donated
to outlying homesteads.
He believes an original wooden aerial, in front of the “Radio Shack”,
was involved in the first message from Hermannsburg to Adelaide House
received in the early 1920s.
And he says the Radio Shack is full of exhibits not yet fully
interpreted: “The church doesn’t know know what they’ve got or its
history – I can vouch for that from my own research.”
He asks, where will the holdings that at present occupy the front three
rooms be stored?
Says Mr Guy: “The Flynn Centre in Cloncurry would give their eye teeth
for the contents of Adelaide House. There’s an old desk from the
Beltana Manse where Flynn wrote many of his letters to get the
Australian Inland Mission into a position where the Flying Doctor took
off from Cloncurry.
“Do the contents have to go to Cloncurry for safekeeping?
“Adelaide House is the place to tell the priceless core story about the
RFDS, with the RFDS visitor centre offering an additional
Rev Spencer says the church does not have the Beltana desk. She says
some of the current holdings are not relevant to the story of Adelaide
House and will go into storage. These include the a collection of
artifacts from an Australian Inland Mission hostel in Menindi in
She says key elements of the John Flynn display – including his cloak,
sewing kit and camera – will be presented in the room off the back
verandah, together with the new audio-visual material.
She says the church is seeking the advice of curators on how to best
present the material: “We want to present the storyline better than we
were doing before.”
Mr Pecorari says he doesn’t believe that visitor “experience” can be
replicated on high tech audio-visual interpretive display equipment.
He says tourism authorities “tell us all the time that visitors want
The limited access will be a “very different experience to what it was
before, being able to go into every room, to see the old beds, to be in
“It seems to be yet another step in this town’s seemingly inevitable
march towards mediocrity.
“With so few of our heritage places open to the visiting public these
days, our ‘stories’ will be all that we will be able to share with
visitors to our town before too long.
“With so little to offer, we still wonder why tourist numbers continue
“Numerous studies point to the financial benefits which the ‘character’
of a place, most visible through its heritage, can bring to a town or
city. We have destroyed so much of our town’s character, in the
pursuit of short-term corporate profits, that I feel we may have sown
the seeds for a very bleak future indeed!”
Mr Pecorari says the NT Government and the Alice Springs Town Council
share part of the blame for “providing so little support to owners of
heritage places and the volunteer-based groups that keep them open for
the public’s appreciation”.
However, Rev Spencer says significant government funds are going into
the preservation and future development of Adelaide House – an
allocation from Museums and Art Galleries of the NT, and history and
Mr Guy dreads the “traffic” that will be created by the new uses and
that “will continue to expand into every nook and cranny”.
He says any use should remain in sympathy with the building and its
original functions and not become part of “a garish and noisy trend
towards interpretative virtual reality”.
“They’ll turn Adelaide House into an office slum. It’ll lose its
patina and soul.
“This is dereliction of duty by default.
“It’s a barrow load of apples delivered to our doorstep that we didn’t
But Adelaide House is Uniting Church private property, isn’t it?
Mr Guy says its heritage status, including the fact that it was built
from funds raised by public subscription, gives it a public character
and that the public should be consulted over the proposed changes.
He says senior citizens of Alice Springs, long-time residents of the
town, are the “custodians of the history of the building” and in
particular deserve to be consulted.
“This Uniting Church plan is insensitive and ill-informed, executed in
secret and palmed off as a fait accompli. Rev Spencer is so vociferous
about community use, yet she has rejected community feeling and enquiry
for 12 months until she was ready to drop this bomb.”
He is calling for a public meeting over the future of Adelaide House:
“It’s central to this town and in some respects, to our national
character,” he says.
Rev Spencer says there has been significant consulation, starting from
halfway through 2006, with people from the heritage sector, tourism
industry, the church community and others, such as the volunteers.
Nonetheless she would welcome a public meeting.
Alice Palace? Bring it on. By
Does this town need an Alice Palace – an ideal music venue? Where would
it be? What might it look like?
I asked people from the Alice Springs music and art scenes what they
think of current (or in the case of Melanka’s, recent) venues and
“I generally try to steer clear of Bojangles and Melanka’s,” said Jack
Talbot, drummer for The Moxie.
“Todd Tavern has had some good all age events, but it’s not the best
environment for a gig, with the drunks and pokie machines sounding
loudly next door.”
Singer Jacinta Castle said the performance space at Melanka’s in the
Beer Garden wasn’t ideal “because you’ve got your back to the noise of
the street and there are people wandering in and out, as well as having
to compete with the ‘doof doof’ music inside”.
She performed at The Rock Bar recently and enjoyed it “although at
times I felt squashed and a bit claustrophobic.
“The advantage of the Rock Bar is that if people want to listen to
music on the stereo inside they can, and it doesn’t interfere with the
live music out the back,” she said.
Jamil Stone, who works in the art industry, agreed, saying “we need a
venue where music isn’t just about getting drunk and having a big party
but something cultural and appealing to a cross-section of the
Scott Large has been the organizer of the Bush Bands Bash for the past
two Alice Desert Festivals.
While he thought Melanka’s didn’t cater well for local talent and their
audiences, The Lane, which does, is limited by its size: “It can fit
100 people in OK, but any more than that, it gets extremely difficult
He’ll be interested to see how The Rock Bar turns out but “it’s pretty
limited with size, capacity and flexibility, and would only be suitable
for particular types of bands and events”.
So, what are their dreams of an ideal venue?
“It’d be great to have somewhere outdoors, because it’s a very
outdoorsy type of town,” said Jacinta.
Maybe the amphitheatre at the Desert Park will fit the bill? The Alice
News broke the story last month but the government has stayed
“From a performer’s point of view it’s good to have an intimate feel in
the venue, but it needs a big enough stage to cater for larger bands as
“It would also need a good PA. A quality PA would be one of the most
important aspects of a good venue, as it can determine the success of a
gig – the performer can be in good shape but if the sound is crap it
lets down the whole performance.”
Lucas Castle, a regular performer at The Rock Bar, imagines a venue
“with a good stage and PA, with people’s artwork up on the walls and
food for sale. A place that would attract the alternative and artistic
community and could operate as a music and art cooperative”.
To avoid noise complaints, Scott says the ideal venue “would need to be
in an industrial area or be soundproof – it would need the ability to
be fully locked and cater for a wide range of events and age groups.
“There would have to be experienced managers who understand the need
for a variety of community events and fund raiser gigs.”
Jack sees the solution in a Promised Land-type venue.
The Promised Land was an old house on Stuart Terrace, converted into a
music venue. You could watch performances inside where there was room
for dancing and seating, but you could also go out to the large back
yard with a fire and plenty of comfortable seating from where you could
still hear the music.
It had a BYO licence and charged an entry fee of $5 to $10 dollars,
depending on how many bands were playing. Most of the money went to the
The atmosphere was relaxed and not too daunting for young bands playing
their first gigs.
Unfortunately, after the venue was rented out as a party space one
night, things got out of hand and police were forced to intervene,
revealing the flaws of the management and liquor licensing problems,
forcing the venue to shut down indefinitely.
“The Moxie’s very first gig was at the Promised Land and this was our
main venue for the first year and a half.
“We were more than appreciative of having it as a place to play.
“Since Promised Land has shut down we’ve played a lot less.
“Something similar to that is really what Alice needs again – but
better organized and managed.
“It would need a nice big stage, and a bar would be good with an
outdoor area, plenty of seating, and a good dance floor in front of the
Catering for both young and old was seen as important:
“a place where not only over age could go but where the doors could
always be open for kids as well”, suggested Jack.
“Those over 30 generally don’t like going to noisy bars and places
where everyone is getting smashed. This would attract a cross section
of people from the community,” added Jamil.
Would the ideal venue necessarily be licensed?
Most wanted flexibility with licensing.
“I struggle to see how a venue that isn’t licensed, unless it was
government funded, would be able to survive,” said Scott.
“What I’d like to see is flexibility within the venue to adapt their
licensing according to different gigs and charge a fee on the door so
there wouldn’t need to be as much dependence on revenue from the bar.
“Having underage gigs would then be sustainable.”
“Certainly being a licensed venue would be part of the whole atmosphere
and is how the venue would make their revenue,” said Jacinta.
“If we had somewhere like Happy Yess [in Darwin] that would just be
awesome,” said Jack.
“Happy Yess is a licensed venue but they also do underage gigs and
charge $5 on the door.”
Lucas wanted the ideal venue to cater for everyone and have a licence
which allowed for “young and old to come and appreciate the town’s
A cover charge was seen as necessary for a successful music venue.
“This town doesn’t provide heaps of entertainment so if it was at a
reasonable price and I knew that I was going to get my money’s worth, a
small fee wouldn’t matter much,” said Jacinta.
“I’d much rather pay to see a band than pay to go into Melanka’s or
line up at Bo’s for 50 minutes,” said Jack.
“I think that if it was a reasonable price, $10 dollars or less,
the majority of people would pay to go to a venue that was well run.”
“If you charge something small, between $5 and $10, I don’t see that
many people would have a problem with it,” said Jamil.
While details differed, everyone agreed: we need a venue.
“We would have a jungle of awesome musicians, if only we had a venue
support where they could perform,” said Jack.
“The more options there are, the better it is.”
LETTERS: System of counting our
votes is abhorrent.
Sir,- I write this letter prior to the opening of the Council polls on
March 29, to eliminate any accusations of “sour grapes”.
My opinion will not be changed by whatever the outcome of the election.
Thanks to Alex Nelson for an excellent explanation of the “exhaustive
The current system of counting our votes is abhorrent. I have no
argument with preferential voting but I detest the current system of
Any system that can completely remove anyone’s first preference from
the process under any circumstance, and can then give equal value to
their near least preference with someone else’s first preference (or
vice versa) does not reflect the intent of the voter, is not
democratic, and is in fact obscene.
The preferential system of counting we are subjected to is a
statistical exercise in mediocrity.
Allow me to use an exaggerated hypothetical election of mayor as a
simple example to illustrate the point.
There are three candidates – A, B and C – one position and 3000
electors. “A” gets 1001 first preference votes, “B” gets 1000, and “C”
gets 999. Under the current system of counting, “C” would be
eliminated, and his or her second preferences distributed as “votes” to
elect either “A” or “B”. But what if all, or nearly all, of A and
B’s second preferences were for “C”? How does the result reflect
the intentions of voters? Who should be mayor?
The situation is a bit more complicated for aldermanic elections, but
the same principle applies. (Alex, I believe Ald. Bob Kennedy was
elected on the first count – in 1988, I think – and I’m fairly sure
I’ve seen Bill Shepheard draw a name out of a hat).
In the 1988 Alice Springs Council elections, where 24 candidates stood
for ten positions I observed electors’ 20th, 21st and 22nd preferences
being used to elect aldermen!
To add insult to injury, the aldermen were said to have received the
required number of “votes”. My second preference, let alone my second
last, could never be considered as equal to my first.
How would you feel to see a near last preference on your ballot paper
being used as a “vote” (which it is not) to elect an alderman?
It will happen to many of us in every election!
A similar situation will occur on March 29, with 18 (or 17) candidates
for eight positions.
A far better way to reflect the views of voters to elect aldermen from
a field would be to mark your ballot paper with eight crosses, ticks or
whatever, plus a supplementary to cater for the event of an aldermanic
candidate being elected as mayor.
I find very few people have a reasonable comprehension of the current
Furthermore, on having the system explained to them, no-one in my
experience has found it in any way how they perceived it to be, nor
acceptable; they have generally been horrified.
Given that it is well known that the current system is best placed to
preserve the status quo, particularly where party politics is involved,
it will be very interesting to see who has the courage to make the
But we should not put up with the current system.
Alex Nelson responds: The
method of counting votes that Rod Cramer recommends is a variation of
‘first past the post’, which was the system in use for town council
elections for aldermen during the 1970s.
Voters were only required to number candidates equal to the number of
positions on council, plus choose one more in the event a candidate for
alderman had also been elected as mayor; there was no distribution of
preferences. (There were 30 candidates vying for eight aldermanic
positions in the first town council elections in 1971 – and only 3500
A related system is known as “optional preferential” whereby a voter
chooses to vote only for those candidates he or she wishes to support
(and preferences can only be distributed amongst these) – the rest of
the names on the voting slip are left blank.
This method is used for both state and council elections in Queensland,
and for the lower house of the New South Wales parliament.
A review of this system, conducted by the Queensland Electoral
Commission in 2001, found widespread public acceptance of it.
Former Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie noted approvingly the
next year: “The report says that voters are increasingly endorsing the
reason why optional preferential voting was introduced – that voters
should not be forced into voting for candidates they do not support”.
Sir,- The Camp Quality Ride a Mile for a Smile fundraising event raises
money to help children living with cancer in Central Australia.
Children with cancer get it tough right from the moment of being
diagnosed, throughout treatment interstate and back home.
It is a long stressful illness that may take over two years of
treatment and a further five years of tests – during this time children
and their families spend time away from each other, their friends and
Camp Quality has a holistic approach as we support all the children in
the family. They all need help as each child is living with cancer and
the ramifications of the illness.
They need a lot of support and something bright in their future and
that is why Camp Quality is passionate about bringing fun and happiness
into their lives.
We have an annual eight day Main Camp, and the last Ride a Mile for a
Smile fundraising event in 2006 assisted with sending children and
their companions from Alice Springs to the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth
We had eight days of excitement and thrills, pride in other
Australians, and had lots of fun.
We also fly our local children and their companions to Darwin for
weekend camps each year to spend time with their peer group living with
cancer. Parents need support as well, and families are flown to Darwin
for a yearly family camp to share experiences with others.
This year the Ride a Mile for a Smile fundraising bike ride will be
from Uluru to Alice Springs on Saturday, May 10. The major trophy will
be for the team that raises the most money.
The teams are from the Alice Springs Fire Service, Correctional
Services, NT Police, Australian Federal Police, Pine Gap, NT Emergency
Services, and St Johns. You can support your team by making a tax
deductable donation to Camp Quality or assisting with a fundraiser.
If you would like more information or need assistance please contact me
on 8985 4433; mobile 0414 258 424; or email on
Sir,- In the past you have managed to spread the word about the
AUSWRITE contest among your readers. It would be wonderful if you could
do the same again.
We have extended the closing date for entries to 18 ApriI 2008.
Entry forms can be obtained by email to email@example.com or by
applying to AUSTWRITE Entry Form, PO Box 327, Mascot NSW 1460. AUSWRITE
hopes to encourage writers and writing by the use of this contest.
ADAM CONNELLY: Four years of
sheer hell for Mayor.
By the time you read this, the biggest publicity exercise of 2008 will
have been run and won.
The council elections were one of the most hotly contested races for
the third tier of government I have witnessed. Eight contenders for
Mayor and 18 people wanting the less glamorous gig as Alderman.
Why in the name of all that is holy would any sane person want to
become Mayor? It would have to be the most thankless job in town.
The money isn’t that flash plus no matter what you do half the people
in town will think you’re doing a bad job. Regardless of the rhetoric
most of the decision-making will be done in Darwin and Canberra and
you’ll spend most of your day listening to elderly people complaining
about “kids these days”.
It’s like putting your hand up for the job of being Derryn Hinch. And
who’d want to be him?
But council candidates are made of different stuff. They seek the
inevitable spotlight on their ability to do the job promised. They
shirk not the criticism. They genuinely want the job in order to shape
Australians are by their nature a cynical lot and Centralians are more
Australian than most. We look at altruism and want to know what they’re
hiding. What hidden agenda can’t I see yet?
Surely you wouldn’t put yourself through all the criticism, all the
personal attacks and all the gossip without some sort of kick back. I
know I wouldn’t.
I voted early on Saturday. As the doors opened in fact. And like you I
had to run the gauntlet of people with their hands outstretched
clutching how to vote papers.
I have a policy of not taking how to vote papers. I like to make up my
own mind. It’s my democratic right, no less.
There is a strategy one must employ in order to make one’s way quickly
through the gauntlet. It’s the same technique used for not filling out
surveys in shopping centres or getting down the Todd Mall
Head down, no eye contact and a brisk, determined pace.
Do this and you’ll get to the end of the line unscathed. Stop and chat,
smile or in any way engage with these pedlars of political paper and
you’ll be swimming in a sea of Vote 1’s before you can blink.
Once in, I had my name marked off the electoral roll. Technically once
the lady had placed a small black mark against my name, my democratic
duty was fulfilled.
The electoral commission and indeed the law says that voting is
compulsory. Not exactly true. Turning up and getting your name marked
off the roll and being handed a ballot is compulsory. Actually marking
a vote isn’t.
There has been the occasional election in times past when I have been
tempted through lack of choice to leave the ballot blank.
I wonder if anyone else voted backwards in this election? I’m sure
there are a small but significant percentage of citizens who voted the
way I did. On the aldermanic ballot I was less sure about who I wanted
to be an alderman than I was about who I didn’t.
So instead of putting a 1 first I put an 18 first and worked my way
back to 1. It makes voting a little bit more fun, I think.
Using this system you sometimes surprise yourself as to who you don’t
like least. A little bit like Australian Idol. Though mercifully Damien
Ryan didn’t sing “the Steve Winwood classic Valerie”.
This election I had my name marked off and the keeper of the roll asked
me if I had voted previously today. It was one minute past eight in the
morning. Technically impossible for me to have made it from another
polling place in a minute.
I thought about explaining this to her but then I though that she’ll be
marking off names for the next 10 hours. She’ll get enough grief.
Politics is a strange beast and when it’s local government it can be
particularly peculiar. I entered a cardboard voting booth as another
voter was leaving.
He had not been as successful in getting through the paper line. He’d
left his how to vote papers in the booth, and as I unfurled my ballot I
Two of the candidates promised, if elected, to carry out basically the
same policies. Recycling, litter, and dry town positions reflecting
each other. Yet one had preferenced the other in the bottom half of the
pool and vise versa. You’d think they’d be allies.
So congratulations to Mayor Ryan and those alderman that made the grade
and commiserations to those who missed the cut. But look on the bright
side, at least you won’t have people whinging and complaining at you
every waking moment.
And that’s got to be some consolation.
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