ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
April 17, 2008. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Centre poor cousin in $.6b
housing scheme. By
Only two communities in Central Australia, out of a total of 16
throughout the Territory, will be benefitting from a $420m program to
build 1000 new houses for Aborigines.
That means on average, The Centre will get just one-eighth of the five
year scheme funded mainly by Canberra, known as Strategic Indigenous
Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP).
And only 22 communities in The Centre will benefit from an additional
$124m for housing upgrades in 57 communities.
A spokeswoman for Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin
says the allocation of funds to communities “is done jointly with the
NT and Federal governments”.
SIHIP director Rick Harris, from Territory Housing, says the
communities had been selected on a needs basis, in accordance with
“levels of overcrowding”.
Asked whether the selection of communities indicated SIHIP’s view that
overcrowding in Top End communities is “far more severe” than in The
Centre, Mr Harris said: “Our statistics indicate this.”
Asked about the expenditure for each individual community he said: “The
scope of the program is still being finalized.”
Meanwhile the slump in the Alice Springs construction industry is
continuing as far as “bush work” is concerned, and SIHIP will be
inviting tenders nationally on an “equal opportunity” and “value for
money” basis, and will give no concessions to local businesses as is
common in other government tender processes.
“We will work with all construction participants in the NT,” says Mr
Harris, “but we’ll go interstate as well because the project will
require signifacant resources.”
He says expressions of interest will be invited on May 1 for “Alliance
Partners” – the primary contractors.
Aboriginal construction enterprises will be engaged if appropriate but
there is “no formula”.
Mr Harris says contributions by prospective occupiers of the new homes,
such as providing labor, would be “encouraged but not mandated”.
Making such a contribution compulsory would “not be considered in any
way” because “we want the program to have a very positive impact”.
This is a clear departure from the “mutual obligation” principle
espoused by Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough before last
year’s Federal election.
Mr Harris says there is no decision yet on what type of housing will be
built, and individual consultations will be carried out with each
“We are looking into what worked and what hasn’t. We are pulling
together information from the past,” says Mr Harris.
Construction of houses will start in Tennant Creek in October but
Hermannsburg and Yuendumu, the only Centre communities to get new
homes, will probably have to wait until early 2009.
Construction of new community housing has all but ground to a halt
while the new Federal Government is re-jigging its “Intervention” and
revising housing policies.
Over the past 12
years Judy Barker and husband
Phil have built up, from scratch, a substantial factory in Ghan Road.
They make a range of products for construction, but mainly wall and
roof frames, sheet and steel joinery on equipment most of which is
designed by Mr Barker, especially jigs and tooling to suit local
building and designs.
The factory is worth around $5m and employs 10.
Barker Hume Homes have provided components for about 600 homes.
Last year the firm supplied major components for about 40 homes on
This year not a single one has been ordered, and Ms Barker does not
expect production to resume much before Christmas – a break of more
than a year for this type of work.
Only refurbishment of houses has cranked up,
with tradesmen and suppliers in Alice Springs reporting keen demand.
Industry figures say construction of new houses in the bush is unlikely
to resume much before Christmas.
That will mean a 12 month break in bush orders for companies such as
CEMEX Australia Pty Limited (formerly Readymix), a concrete supplier,
and Barker Hume Homes, an Alice based manufacturer of steel wall and
In 2006/07 Barker Hume supplied about 40 bush houses, says the
company’s co-owner, Judy Barker.
“Funding for community housing is usually allocated on a financial year
basis,” she says.
“Local builders would by now have upward of 30 houses on the go.
“Tenders are normally let in August-September for the current year’s
But this year Barker Hume are doing mostly maintenance style work – no
new houses yet.
Ms Barker says construction of some new housing has started “but we
have seen a shift to transportable building, which has been awarded to
an interstate company.
“There are apparently also kit homes, coming from interstate in
containers,” says Ms Barker.
“Neither of these are supporting local businesses or suppliers.”
CEMEX manager Mike Singer says current work is “remedial” while orders
for new buildings haven’t come on stream yet.
He doesn’t expect that to happen before 2009.
“People like electricians, painters and chippies are busy with bush
“We are not yet,” says Mr Singer, whose company is a major supplier of
foundation slabs for new buildings.
Probuild’s manager Phil Danby says his company is doing do some bush
work, for example, the Kintore pool and two houses there.
Probuild has been accepted as “panel contractor” for Intervention work,
but has not yet been given any major construction work.
Meanwhile some suppliers are run off their feet.
Todd Steer, the manager, and Warren Doody, the 2IC of electrical goods
supplier Lawrence and Hansen say beginning in January, orders from some
tradesmen have trebled.
Mr Doody, who has 20 years’ experience in the trade in The Alice, says
the increase is “phenomenal” and it’s hard to keep up.
But the orders are typical for maintenance work, not new buildings.
The Australian Government will contribute $547 million to SIHIP over
four years “through the Northern Territory Government” which will
provide a further $100 million.
Regional industry information sessions will be held at Tennant Creek
and Alice Springs in early May.
doing deals worked. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Doing deals, forming alliances, running on tickets are an advantage
when it comes to getting elected as an alderman.
Melanie van Haaren owes her seat on this council largely to her
preference swap with Murray Stewart: he gave her his second preference
and she gave hers to him.
For a sitting alderman she polled quite poorly in the primary vote,
coming in at tenth place.
Ald Stewart polled a strong primary vote – at 1446 second only to Mayor
Damien Ryan’s, whose aldermanic primary vote (2608) was of course
543 of Mr Ryan’s 2nd preferences then pushed Ald Stewart over the line
to take the first vacancy.
The next two strongest beneficiaries of Mr Ryan’s preferences were
Samih Habib (number two on Mr Ryan’s how-to-vote card) and Brendan
Heenan (number five).
Ald van Haaren (at number six) only did moderately well out of this
round (106), but Ald Stewart’s preferences in the next round put her in
the running, adding 460 to her tally.
She also did exceptionally well from the distribution of Sandy Taylor’s
preferences. Ald Taylor filled the seventh vacancy and 619 preferences
from her then pushed Ald van Haaren (at seventh spot on Ald Taylor’s
card) into the eighth vacancy.
At this round Steve Brown was Ald van Haaren’s nearest rival with only
262 of Ald Taylor’s preferences.
As he was ahead of her on Ald Taylor’s how-to-vote card it seems fair
to assume that there was an element of donkey vote in this flow of
preferences, with Ald Taylor’s name immediately above Ald van Haaren’s
on the ballot paper.
Green candidate Lisa Hall got into the running because of her number
two spot on the Green ticket.
Her primary vote at 102 was the third lowest and after the third round
she was still only on 197.
The distribution of preferences from Jane Clark, the number one Green
who filled the third vacancy, then pushed her into contention, taking
her tally to 710.
Had there still been 10 positions for aldermen (the reduction to eight
was initiated by Ald Stewart) Ms Hall would have filled the 10th
Steve Brown would have filled the ninth. Mr Brown, chair of the lobby
group Advance Alice, was the surprise loser in this contest.
Ald Stewart’s deal with Ald van Haaren cost Mr Brown, whom many would
have thought a more natural bedfellow for Ald Stewart. Compared to Ald
van Haaren’s 460 preferences from Ald Stewart, Mr Brown, at number five
spot, only scored 150.
His electoral under performance then seems to be down to a lack of
favorable deals, even from people clearly in the Advance Alice camp,
like Brendan Heenan, who put him at number seven spot.
Some mud about self-interest in relation to his campaign on town
planning – unjustified in the opinion of the Alice News – may also have
Mr Brown was philosophical about the result on the weekend: he said
he’d been happy to accept lower spots on how-to-vote tickets of Advance
Alice sympathisers, in order to push lesser known candidates forward.
He’s happy with the make-up of the Eleventh Council, seeing in Alds
Stewart, Heenan, Habib, Liz Martin and Taylor, all people with
concerns and outlooks similar to his own.
Another interesting result emerges from scrutiny of the flow of
It is clear that voters want to see Indigenous aldermen elected, albeit
ones with “mainstream” outlooks.
There were three in the field: Barbara Shaw, who does not shy away from
a “radical activist” label, John Rawnsley and Sandy Taylor.
Ms Shaw polled strongly in the primary vote, with 537, putting her in
Ald Rawnsley and Ald Taylor were also in the first eight, with 386 and
Ald Rawnsley went on to fill the fifth vacancy, with a steady
distribution of preferences flowing to him: 163 from Mr Ryan; 124
from Ald Stewart; 144 from Ald Heenan; 83 from Ald Clark and then a big
425 from Ald Habib.
These are interesting results for a candidate who campaigned as an
independent but is strongly associated with the Labor Party. He works
as an electoral officer to MLA Alison Anderson and is always visible in
Labor Party activities.
Indeed his Labor association, given that the party is in power in the
NT, may have had something to do with his appeal. A better relationship
with the Territory Government is something Mr Ryan has clearly put on
the agenda and he gave Mr Rawnsley his third spot, while Ald Heenan
gave him number two, and Ald Habib put him at number four.
But Ald Rawnsley has obviously also been able to impress with his
thoughtful yet firm approach to issues; his persistence (at age 27 this
was his second tilt at council); and his calm, pleasant demeanor.
The distribution of Mr Rawnsley’s preferences then put Ald Taylor over
At number three on Ald Rawnsley’s card, she received 605, compared to
Mr Brown’s 44, for example.
Ald Rawnsley’s next strongest beneficiary was Ms Shaw with 117, just
ahead of a natural Labor voter choice, trade union organiser Miguel
Ociones with 113.
Ms Shaw was at number six on his card; Mr Ociones at number eight.
Ms Shaw finally came in at eleventh place, a result remarkably similar
to her father’s in 1996. In that election Geoff Shaw had come in third
in the primary vote count and slipped to eleventh with the distribution
Happily for the town, Ms Shaw’s performance cannot be interpreted as
There is a reasonable level of support for her political outlook but it
is not strong enough to get her over the line in the exhaustive
preferential system, acknowledged to favour the mainstream.
Ms Shaw’s own preferences favoured the Greens. Ald Rawnsley and Taylor
were at number six and nine spots on her card.
For the record, the aldermen of the Eleventh Council, in order of the
strength of their vote, are: Murray Stewart, Brendan Heenan, Jane
Clark, Samih Habib, John Rawnsley, Liz Martin, Sandy Taylor, and
Melanie van Haaren.
Had it been a first past the post contest, the order would have been:
Stewart, Clark, Heenan, Barbara Shaw, Steve Brown, Rawnsley, Habib, and
Taylor – a difference of only two aldermen in the final make-up of the
Interestingly, these two, Ms Shaw and Mr Brown, were the most outspoken
and audacious of the non-incumbent candidates.
Privatise Central Australia? By
Should we privatise Central Australia?
Successive governments, and their lavishly funded surrogates, have made
a cruel hash of Aboriginal development here for 30 years.
So should we get in private enterprise to manage the million square
kilometre ghetto archipelago that is Central Australia?
Should we give that a shot before a new Prime Minister in Canberra, and
a new Chief Minister in Darwin, unleash the next round of hapless
It’s a nice thought but of course we won’t.
Has there even been an audit of the commercial opportunities, on the
basis of all things being equal, taking into account the huge supply of
labour (some 10,000 idle people), vast amounts of arable land, ample
water, minerals, bush tucker, cattle, camels, and – above all – an
unquenchable thirst for the “product” in one of the world’s last
To know the prize could well accelerate and focus efforts to attain it.
The short answer is “no”. There has been no audit of commercial
There is no long answer either – it seems the question has never been
Close to such a survey is a working paper about the troubled community
of Wadeye, by John Taylor (pictured), of the Centre for Aboriginal
Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), and economist Owen Stanley.
It’s a study more of how to reduce waste of government money, rather
than setting up any sort of economy not reliant on welfare (see box
CAEPR is run by Jon Altman, of the Australian National University in
He is one of the nation’s foremost commentators on Aboriginal
He has more than three decades of connection with The Centre,
undertaking research in the 1980s at Mutitjulu, at the base of Ayers
Much of what Professor Altman says has been said many times before, no
doubt because so little progress has been made.
The examples of Aboriginal advancement he mentions are all based on his
research in the Top End, or interstate.
“There is a huge historical legacy.
“How do we get to the stage so all things are equal to start with?” he
“If you want to get people engaged in mining, tourism, horticulture,
they have to have good health, some basic education, be work ready,
have decent housing.
“One of the policy dilemmas is: how do we address social disadvantage
without further entrenching passivity and a high level of state
“We need to give people the opportunity to engage while fixing the
“What is it that makes 25% of the workforce at the Century Mine [in
north Queensland] Indigenous, and 20% plus at the Argyle Diamond Mine
[in WA]?” asks Prof Altman.
Four years ago, 10% of the workforce of the Granites gold mine
north-west of Alice Springs were Indigenous – 68 people.
But only eight of the 650 workers were from the nearest communities,
Lajamanu and Yuendumu, which have massive un- or underemployment.
Today there are 550 employees, 80 of them Aborigines, 53 from Alice
Springs and 20 from Brisbane and Darwin.
But as far as employment from local communities is concerned, now there
are only three from Lajamanu, and four from Yuendumu, one fewer than in
The Ayers Rock Resort has 1000 employees. In December 2004, not a
single one was from the Mutitjulu Community, just 27km away, also with
most of its population on welfare.
The resort company, Voyages, which has made concerted efforts to employ
Aborigines, did not respond to an enquiry from the Alice News whether
the situation has changed in the meantime.
Says Prof Altman: “Part of the answer is the way these places are
managed to accommodate Indigenous participation.
“If you are living in Mutitjulu in an environment that can be very
unstable, if you haven’t had any sleep the night before, you haven’t
got a house and no access to a shower, turning up at Ayers Rock Resort
on time in a presentable way can be an enormous challenge.”
He says the costs of having such a job may outweigh the benefits, for
example, people “have to move from Yuendumu to the Granites gold mine,
divorcing them from their community and possible family, two weeks on,
one week off.
“In Central Australia kin based societies are still very strong, and
clearly people haven’t made the choice to break away and live in
“We quarantine our incomes in terms of our families and in terms of our
individually owned assets.
“Many Aboriginal people, in terms of their world view, their social
norms, don’t see this as the way to go.
“In terms of priorities there may be a lot of things happening in their
communities that would concern them, that would make them not want to
Would not that be the same with every other worker at the Granites?
Prof Altman quotes a report in The Australian two weeks ago, about a
couple making $300,000 a year between them in a WA mine, but another
miner complaining he can’t get a relationship going.
The necessity of indulging Aboriginal people with respect to their
cultural preferences, of course, has been the mantra for for 30 years
Will we not, sooner or later, have to make a decision about whether
this deserves the ongoing support of the taxpayer?
Do we still accept that some people will get support from the public
purse without having to make the effort expected from everyone else?
Do we really need to provide conditions for Aborigines in which they
can work “in their own time, within their community, in an environment
they find non-threatening”.
Says Prof Altman: “It’s not a question of either-or, do you live in a
kin-based or in a market-based society, or individualistically, or
according to neo-liberal norms.
“Increasingly people move between these two poles and there is space in
The bureaucracy has yet to get a handle on this.
“Again, it’s not an either-or,” says Prof Altman.
“Policy makers know where they are and where they are going.
“But that space in between is a process that could take somewhere
between 12 years [2020, the date of Mr Rudd’s scheduled review], 22
years [2030, a generation, by which time Mr Rudd wants to close the 17
year mortality gap] and 100 years.”
There is also a “customary sector, activities that are unrecognised and
non-market oriented, but have value.
“People can produce a piece of art for the market, whether they are on
the dole, on CDEP, the pension or have no income at all.
“Some Aboriginal people will adapt to the mainstream, but at other
times we’ve got to adapt the mainstream to them.”
Prof Altman says the jobs for the dole scheme, CDEP, is “a good model,
somewhere in between passive welfare and full time engagement in the
Is CDEP a purpose in itself or should it lead somewhere? So far, in
most cases, it hasn’t led to mainstream employment. Is entry into the
mainstream desirable or not?
“It’s not essential. A proportion of CDEP participants may exit into
the mainstream and some go back to CDEP.
“We shouldn’t overlook the fact that two to three million Australians
work part time.”
But they are not on income support from the Government.
“It depends how you define these things.
“There are certainly very many people who work part time in the public
sector, and receive family tax benefits.
“Is that income support from the Government?
“One in three jobs in the Northern Territory are public sector jobs.
“For every dollar the Territory government raises it gets $5 from the
Commonwealth Grants Commission.
“In the Top End CDEP employees can say we manage feral animals and
weeds introduced by whites, we manage fire, often exacerbated by gamba
and mission grass, we provide bio-security services to the Australian
Quarantine and Inspection Service, and coastal surveillance to
“The beneficiaries are the Australian public.”
Should CDEP not be clearly defined so the public knows what it’s
getting for its money?
Prof Altman agrees with the notion that got traction when Mal Brough
intervened last year, that when public service type work is done, the
workers should get public service pay and conditions.
“I gave a paper in Alice Springs in 1985 that said that very thing.
“The problem with Brough was that he got rid of 8000 CDEP positions and
substituted 2000 ‘proper jobs’.
“This threw 6000 people into passive welfare.
“He should have knocked off one CDEP job every time he created one
Why does the stunning success of Aboriginal art in The Centre not
translate to other commercial endeavours?
“It’s an endeavor that’s culturally based, where people make very
strong statements about their identity.
“It’s something that’s highly political, people are making strong
statements about where they belong, from what country they are, about
their self worth.
“It’s just a win-win all ‘round.
“And we have developed community controlled Aboriginal centers as good
mechanisms for brokering between Aboriginal people and the
The way to apply this successful process to other endeavors has yet to
Help from the state continues to be needed to meet some of the
“Aborigines are not blameless for destroying houses, but when you’ve
got 20 people per house, you can see circumstances arising when people
“Surely, one of the things we’ve learned in the past 30 years, I hope,
is how to make our investment a lot smarter. We’ve had so much research
about showers that don’t break.
“Why aren’t we delivering more sustainable hardware to these
“And part of the solution, as Noel Pearson says, is Aborigines taking
part of the responsibility.”
Why are people breaking showers in the first place?
Are the taxpayers not getting sick of throwing money at the problem?
“Australia will tolerate spending public money on Aboriginal people
because this is an issue that the nation, now more than ever, is
committed to fix,” says Prof Altman.
“I don’t think people know how to fix it.
“This is the paradoxical thing that came out of the Howard years: for a
decade they wanted to sweep that Aboriginal thing under the carpet,
saying, look, they can mainstream.
“In the last year of the Howard era, 2007, suddenly indigenous issues
have become a core mainstream issue for Australia.
“Now they’re one of the two or three priorities of the nation.”
Fistful of dollars: Now for the
A study by the Australian National University *) estimated the cost to
the Australian community of the socioeconomic conditions at Wadeye,
some 250km south-west of Darwin, comparing them with the Northern
Territory population overall.
The community is a typical one in the Territory: its currently 2100
people are “relatively sick, poorly housed, illiterate, innumerate,
disengaged from the education system, on low income, unemployed, and
with a sub-standard communications network”.
Given all that, one would expect public expenditure there to be “be
substantially higher (not lower) than the Northern Territory average,”
says the report.
“What emerges instead is something akin to [the] oft-cited inverse care
law in relation to health care needs— ‘to those most in need the least
is provided’,” say the authors. In fact the state spent annually nearly
$2000 less per person on the people of Wadeye compared to Territorians
The authors did the sums of output not achieved because conditions at
Wadeye are poorer than for the Northern Territory overall; additional
government expenditure made necessary by these conditions – the
“remedial costs”; and output lost because people die younger.
The answer: If Northern Territory conditions were replicated at Wadeye,
“output per person would increase by about $22,000 per annum and
average employment incomes would increase by about $13,000 per annum”.
The authors found an “imbalance in funding with proportionally less
expenditure on positive aspects of public policy such as education and
employment creation that are designed to build capacity and increase
output, and proportionally more spending on negative areas such as
criminal justice and unemployment benefit.
“This begs the very important question as to whether this situation of
fiscal imbalance actually serves to perpetuate the ... socioeconomic
Planners currently grapple with this question: Could they save money by
providing more schooling, preventive health care and housing (the
shortfall there alone is estimated at $52m), because this may lower the
spending on police, courts, jails and looking after the sick.
“Expenditure will need to grow either in response to declining
socioeconomic status, or in order to enhance it,” say the authors.
*) The Opportunity Costs of the Status Quo in the Thamarrurr Region, J.
Taylor & O. Stanley, Working Paper No. 28/2005, Centre for
Aboriginal Economic Policy Research.
Breathing life into the CBD. By
The revitalisation of Alice Springs CBD is linked to the branding of
the Red Centre as a National Landscape and the development of the Red
Centre Way (formerly the Merino Loop Road) as an experience of that
landscape, with Alice Springs as “the gateway”.
A consultant, Professor Paul Carter of the University of Melbourne,
will be in Alice Springs next week to conduct community consultations
on the CBD plans.
The consultations will be focussed on different “stakeholder” sectors,
but one that is open to all comers is the StoryWall event next Tuesday,
April 22, 7-9pm.
People attending will be encouraged to share their stories of the Alice
CBD, as they have experienced it, or as they would like it to be.
Talk of opening up an east-west corridor through the heart of the CBD,
linking the railway station to the river (see Alice News, March 6), is
only at the conceptual stage, says Tony Mayell, executive director
southern region with the Department of the Chief Minister.
But it’s logical and would provide “a nice entry point” to the Red
Centre Way, linking an experience of the town to the regional
experience, he says.
Development of infrastructure at the Desert Park, improving public
spaces and access as well as its attractions, is a complementary
plan. There is a commitment to taking a holistic approach, rather
than doing things in isolation, says Mr Mayell.
And the emphasis is not solely on the visitor experience:
revitalisation of the CBD will create a “more family friendly, safe
place” for locals as well.
Mr Mayell says the plans to date for the CBD are a “distillation” of
the original input from the Town Council, as well as from Tourism
Central Australia, who want a bigger and better visitor facility in
Alice, and the Uniting Church, who are looking at the future use of
their properties that front Todd Mall (see article on Adelaide House,
Alice News, April 3).
He says now the drive is to pull together “something we can take to
government, scoped out and costed”.
There is definitely in principal support from the Territory Government
to fund this major Moving Alice Ahead project, says Mr Mayell.
An initial grant of $300,000 that has been in a trust account with the
Town Council is being used now to pay for the consultancy.
Mr Mayell says it was agreed at a recent meeting with council CEO Rex
Mooney that it was opportune to now get the planning for this project
“back on the table”.
He expresses surprise over sentiment expressed by the former aldermen
that they had been left out in the cold on the project (see Alice News,
He says the council is a key partner, not least because council-owned
land (including Todd Mall and the Harley Street carpark) is centrally
A new NGO: Work for the dole that
A new company running work-for-the-dole projects in the NT now has 40
fully paid staff, 90% of whom are Indigenous and most of whom live in
“We have made what some say is the impossible, possible,” says the
company’s NT manager, Adam Giles.
The expansion has followed the lifting of the work test remote area
exemption for people on Newstart and Youth Allowance in remote
The not-for-profit public company, Community Enterprise Australia
(CEA), operates across 20 NT communities and soon will move into SA and
Projects, designed in consultation with community councils, range from
community clean-up to house-painting, building chook yards, sewing and
“It’s all about capacity development – getting people job ready – and
community development,” says Mr Giles, who was the CLP candidate for
Lingiari last year.
“It’s easy to put someone on, but to retain them is a lot harder, even
with Centrelink’s three strikes policy.”
In theory this policy means that if a participant fails to turn up more
than three times without a reasonable excuse such as illness, they will
lose their benefits for eight weeks.
We’re ready for experience
seeker. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The Red Centre is already well placed to meet the demands of the
“experience seeker”, the global market targeted by the National
Landscapes initiative, says Wendy Hills, in charge of “Australian
Experiences” for Tourism Australia.
The Alice News reported last week that the Red Centre will be among the
top seven National Landscapes to be announced soon.
The initiative, driven by a partnership of Tourism Australia and Parks
Australia, is to help travellers “bite off a piece” of our big country,
says Ms Hills.
Australia has been marketed as a whole and has a great overall image.
Now it needs to have a destination marketing framework in order draw
experience seekers into spending “four weeks here rather than one”.
They will come to the Red Centre “to experience its ancient living
culture and landscapes and breathe its fresh air”, attractions that
gain strength from the fact that such experiences elsewhere in the
world are rapidly diminishing.
The impact of climate change sensitivities on what is a long-haul
destination for most in this environmentally aware market “is not as
great as we thought”, says Ms Hills.
According to the Tourism Forecasting Committee, a group of private
sector experts advising Tourism Australia and government, aviation
contributes only 2-3% of total greenhouse gas emissions (Forecast 2007,
But particularly European tourists “are under increasing pressure from
activist groups to consider the impacts of long haul travel on the
environment”, says the committee.
Industry has responded with carbon offsetting schemes which allow the
consumer to pay the price of the carbon footprint, with the money then
transferred to a greenhouse gas abatement provider.
The committee acknowledges some present weaknesses of the schemes –
they are “largely voluntary and unregulated and many lack transparency”
– but says that they are gaining consumer acceptance.
A comprehensive abatement system could include emissions trading
systems, environmental taxes,alternative fuel sources, improved engine
efficiency and vehicle/aircraft design, and air traffic management
improvements, says the committee.
What about the readiness of the Centre’s industry to satisfy the
experience seeker’s interest in Indigenous culture?
Ms Hills acknowledges that Indigenous tourism is still small but says
the important thing is that it is growing and growing sustainably.
Research into visitor experience of it was conducted last year by
Tourism Research Australia (TRA), via 288 on-line surveys and 12
A majority (76%) of respondents had looked for information about
Aboriginal people and culture before travelling, with information on
“how to visit an Aboriginal community” being the the most difficult to
A larger number (84%) sought information during their trip, expecting
to find it at Visitor Information Centres and in local visitor guides.
Overwhelmingly (91%), the respondents expected to meet and interact
with Aboriginal people in the NT.
A scan of the brochures available at Alice’s Visitor Information Centre
suggests that this would be possible in town through a few experiences,
at a price: Dreamtime Tours advertise as “an authentic experience” in
which visitors can “meet Indigenous Australian Aboriginal people ‘still
living the culture’”.
Aurora Alice Springs offers a Sacred Sites and Culture Tour with a
local Aboriginal guide, as well as their Red Centre Dreaming Dinner and
Show (see Alice News, April 12, 2007 for a review of this show).
The Desert Park’s brochure gives strong emphasis to Aboriginal language
and knowledge and the presence at the park of Aboriginal staff.
There is also a small display at the visitor centre showing two sides
of the same country, the township of Alice Springs and the Arrernte
place Mparntwe – a minimal introduction to a rich story.
A majority of TRA’s respondents rated interaction with Aboriginal
people while they were in the NT as important to them, with 73% of
these “satisfied” with their experience and 27% “dissatisfied”.
Museums and cultural centres rated best in the satisfaction stakes,
while experience of “Indigenous health and well-being” and “a tour of
an Aboriginal community” rated highest in the dissatisfaction category.
TRA point to two areas where there’s obvious potential to develop
“additional Indigenous experiences”: tours of an Aboriginal community,
and tours in which an Aboriginal guide explains Indigenous methods of
hunting, fishing and survival.
Ms Hills says there is a general realisation that Indigenous “product”
has to be mainstreamed: “There’s an air of reconciliation within
Australia and abroad at the moment, with Prime Minister Rudd’s ‘Sorry’.
Now’s the time to help this sector become strong and reliable and
sustainable. There has to be a willingness on both sides, Indigenous
and non-indigenous, to do this.”
Part of this means having Indigenous presence as part of everyday
experience, she says.
“In New Zealand everyday Maori life is something that tourists witness,
it’s not a show.
“That tends not to be the case with Australian Indigenous people.”
She also says mainstream non-Indigenous operators need to develop “the
confidence to engage with and perhaps visit Indigenous communities as
part of their product”.
In the past people the “unreliability factor” would be a real issue
with consumers, but Ms Hills says the market “we are chasing” will
accept flexibility of arrangements as long as they know about these
possibilities in advance.
“If you say this is an ancient living culture, with customs that have
to be honoured, and if that means the itinerary changes, that’s part of
it, we have to work around that.
“Be flexible and be honest, these things happen, we can find something
else to do, have a backup plan.”
What about the impact of the notorious “negative stories” of the
Centre’s “social problems”?
Ms Hills is not overly concerned: “Everywhere else you go in the world,
where there are traditional and non-traditional people, there are these
“When questions of social and cultural disorder come up, tell the truth
– this is about the difficulties of a traditional culture
adapting to contemporary life.
“If it’s explained, the ‘experience seeker’, with their focus on
learning, will accept it.”
Nonetheless TRA’s research shows that “the issue of alcohol abuse and
social problems in Aboriginal communities” was the “main negative
cultural experience” for its respondents.
Hardcore makeover at the Small
Day In. By DARCY DAVIS.
Over 50 fans of local live music turned out for The Small Day In at the
Youth Centre on Saturday night.
New band Numb With Fear burst onto the scene with their brutal, melodic
metal style, playing three originals and two covers. It was refreshing
to see some fresh faces playing music – all members of the band are
just 15 years old.
The Moxie performed their regular set with a new song from their EP,
which they are now recording with Matt Burns at his recording room next
to Casa Nostra.
Sweet Surrender had to wait for drummer Joey Klarenbeek to finish work.
While stalling for time, their guitarist Kaileb Rothwell had an
impromptu blues jam with Ex-Zenith ASP drummer Callum McKenzie and
Through Bullets and Bravery guitarist Brenton Wilson.
When Joey arrived, Sweet Surrender kicked off their set by unveiling
their new name, Glasgow Smile, which alludes to the process of cutting
someone’s face from ear to ear, resembling a smile. How hardcore.
“We didn’t feel we could mature with that name [Sweet Surrender] – we
only used it for our entry to the 2006 Bassinthedust because we
couldn’t think of anything better, but we’re at a different stage now,”
said guitarist Kaileb Rothwell.
The boys played some of their usuals, “It’s not me it’s you” and “Last
Stand” but also played a new song called “My Descent”.
Glasgow Smile are applying for Bassinthegrass in Darwin alongside the
likes of Wolfmother – I wish them luck.
The Small Day in was a good night, but was compromised by the poor
acoustics of the venue with sound bouncing off the sheds on each side
and not enough people to soak up the noise.
Next time there’s a gig with all local bands, show them that you care,
get down there and throw your hands in the air.
LETTERS: Police "unwanted" or
doing their duty?
Sir,– We live on our own homeland which is freehold under the
We have four houses on our block, all with large families.
Our maintenance is carried out by an Aboriginal resource centre in
Alice Springs, and is controlled by the rent we pay to them.
The Iwupataka Land Trust steering committee under the Central Land
Council manages the land where we live.
We are a peaceful family on our own property but seem to attract the
attention of an unwanted police presence when chasing unknown people in
cars doing over 100 kph, having no thoughts for the safety of the
residents here. This society is run by some protectors of the law with
no duty of care when it comes to Aboriginal people. It seems all
Aboriginal people are guilty of something in their own country. No
wonder there is lawlessness and anarchy in Alice Springs.
The police seem to bring it to us in our own homeland 50 km away by
chasing criminals at speed past our homes two kilometres off the
Now we also have blatantly racist signs erected outside the town camps
and the Iwupataka Land Trust area – areas of Aboriginal freehold
land are now under a suspended racial discrimination act controlled by
the federal government (including the current Labor government).
For years we have enjoyed having a beer like the white fellas in our
own homeland but now that has been terminated by that suspended act
under the supervision of the so-called Intervention (also a racist
Our family members have been reporting to us the police have been
pulling them over in their cars at Flynn’s Grave and taking their
unopened cartons of alcohol off them. Should they ask the police for a
receipt? Why are the police tipping the beer out and then littering the
highway with the empty cans and containers?
No wonder there is suicide in Aboriginal communities because it seems
this is all they have to live for.
Iwupataka Land Trust, Jay Creek
[ED – The Alice News offered police a right of reply. Superintendent
Sean Parnell says the area is a restricted [dry] area under
Commonwealth legislation and police must enforce the law there as in
any other restricted area. “If we have information that people are
running grog out there, we take appropriate action, including vehicle
searches,” says Supt Parnell.]
Sir,– In response to your article (Alice News, April 10) about the
Federal Government’s Intervention in the Northern Territory, what has
Child health checks – should have been followed up a long time ago.
Increased employment – for non-Aboriginal people and local businesses.
More housing – for non-Aboriginal workers, bureaucrats, transients.
Excessive policing bordering on invasiveness.
Income management – a nightmare.
Increased profits for major supermarket chains.
Closure of local ‘corner stores’.
Independent MLA Alison Anderson has no right to call for these extreme
measures to run for at least three years (she said ‘forever’ on
Monday’s Lateline programme).
What other program gets reviewed when it is not even 12 months old, she
Answer: many government programs run for six or 12 months.
Medical trials on human beings might be planned for six or 12 months
but if found to be not working they are dropped immediately to avoid
unforeseen side effects.
I don’t know where Mark Wellington (Centrelink’s National Manager)
obtained his anecdotal feedback that people really like the
In a survey of 70 people carried out in Alice Springs on March 13, only
two people said they liked it. The rest had many reasons why
quarantining is not working for them.
Disempowered people in dealing with bureaucrats are likely to be
compliant and won’t want to further jeopardise their welfare
I am interested to hear that community stores are supplying “more and
better food and more money (is) being spent on it”.
Some part of this should be attributed to the increase in population in
communities due to more police, more bureaucrats and intervention
visitors, business managers, journalists etc.
I wonder what plans the government and Mr Wellington have for the rest
of the population who spend their welfare money on “prohibited
substances and practices – alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography”?
I have heard from several quite differing sources that the plan
is for the quarantining of welfare to be rolled out to the wider
Australian community; Aboriginal people are being used as the excuse to
put the mechanisms in place.
By the way, just because children might turn up for school doesn’t
necessarily mean they are going to learn anything. Education has
to be relevant and culturally appropriate.
Sir,– It seems to me, from recent events, that Heritage is not widely
understood therefore its value and loss is not noticed until it’s gone.
In the words of Pittwater (NSW) MP Rob Stokes: “Heritage is about
protecting our past and handing it on to future generations.”
(Pittwater Life, April 1).
I suppose that many people would agree, although many seem to consider
that the past is not relevant to the future despite their present
concern for their children’s prospects. Mr Stokes continues: “Our
natural and built heritage tells an important story for our nation and
our area. We have so much to learn from preserving and developing
special sites. As our population increases, our heritage places become
more important and need greater protection, not less” (Peninsula
Living, April 2008).
Mr Stokes’ remarks are in response to the NSW Planning Minister Frank
Sartor and his actions over a former Labor Party site for family
holidaymakers in the Ku-ringai National Park on Pittwater, north of the
Sydney CBD. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) and the NSW
Heritage Office have supported both the buildings and the natural
features of this site but the Federal Environment Minister Peter
Garrett has made a ruling against them. In a situation to which
many Alice Springs residents could relate, Minister Sartor has removed
the site from the responsibility of the local Pittwater Council.
That puts the Minister in direct opposition to local activists
(residents and rate payers) who voiced their pro-Heritage opinion at a
recent public meeting.
I note this case because it’s typical of many around Australia
involving that mysterious thing called ‘Heritage’. While interest
in Australian History is considered a minor issue (unless it’s
something like the discovery of HMAS Sydney), its impact on local
communities such as Alice Springs is major. This doesn’t seem to
be well understood.
Development Applications are sanctioned by the organisations which are
fronted by elected representatives, except in the instance of buildings
like Adelaide House where the local Uniting Church Council has
autonomy, according to the Secretary of its National Assembly.
The recently announced plans for this building were reported in the
Alice News and have implications for our CBD which many tourists
NT Minister Scrymgour’s sanctioned demolition of the local character
buildings now replaced by L J Hooker, the Commonwealth Bank and others
is modernisation in a post modern era.
Unless more Australians pay attention to our history and heritage and
demand accountability, we will see the disappearance of what makes
Australia unique. Local campaigner Domenico Pecorari’s chilling words
about “a bleak future” for the Alice is on the money.
Sir,– I write to express umbrage about the fee structure and business
practices of Pawz N Clawz in Alice Springs, which I believe is
owned by the RSPCA.
My wife and I had cause to board our two dogs on two separate
occasions. (This includes care and feeding of animals).
On Friday, February 1, we boarded our two dogs to be picked up at 10am
on Tuesday, February 5 – a period of four days. Pawz N Clawz
calculated this as five days and tried to charge us for five days, not
On this occasion they saw reason and eventually charged for the four
days, as it should have been.
Then, on Friday, March 7, we boarded our dogs to be picked up on
Sunday, March 9, to be collected before 10am up to 11am. I
calculate this as two days as the dogs were not staying longer on the
Pawz N Clawz open daily at 10am and on Sunday close at 1pm.
As I had an appointment at 10 until 11am I had no chance to pick the
dogs up before 11.30 as they were not open earlier.
Pawz N Clawz insisted that this was a duration of three days. They
calculated the half hour as one full day, even though they were not
feeding the dogs or doing any extra cleaning on the Sunday.
I wish to express my anger towards this practise of adding an extra
day’s fee as it suits them, when they are not prepared to bend at all
to assist their clientele, and supposedly are offering a service to the
community – particularly when they act under the auspices of the
Toni Harrison, president of the local RSPCA, responds: At the time [the
Arthurs] first boarded their dogs with us, they were made aware of our
policy and opted to collect the dogs by 11am rather than pay an
additional day. There was no “eventually seeing reason”, nor do we add
the charge for the extra day “as it suits us”. It is simply standard
policy. I am aware that it may not be convenient for every customer.
During their first stay with us, the dogs were kennelled separately at
the customers’ request, due to feeding issues. During their second
stay, the dogs were kennelled together at the suggestion of our staff
who offered to supervise the feeding. This in fact resulted in a saving
to the customers, and was suggested for the benefit and wellbeing of
Mr Arthur arrived to collect the dogs quite some time after 11.30am.
Upon collecting the dogs he informed our staff that our practices were
“fraudulent” which is clearly not the case. In fact the additional
day’s charge had been paid up front, on the day the dogs were dropped
off. Our staff made no misrepresentations and have the full support of
Pawz N Clawz is a commercial operation, not a community service. The
profits go into community services provided by the RSPCA of Central
It is usual practice to have fixed drop-off and collection times, even
at boarding kennels where the operators reside on-site. I would be
happy to discuss this matter with Mr and Mrs Arthur, however they have
not approached our committee at any time.
Sir,– The Territory Government has again fallen short of the mark
with its latest announcement of 60 extra police for the Territory.
The steep rise in violent crime since Territory Labor came to office is
undermining our way of life and only a substantial and sustained
increase in police resources will turn the situation around .
Right now we need at least 100 extra police on the beat in our major
urban centres to combat growing lawlessness, yet next year the Chief
Minister is offering just 30 extra police officers to cover Darwin
City, Casuarina, Palmerston and Alice Springs.
This is cold comfort with the latest Quarterly Crime and Justice
Statistics recording a 37% increase of violent assaults in Darwin and a
21% increase across the Territory as a whole.
Too many people have to wait too long for police assistance to arrive
because of a shortage on police on the beat.
Nor is the Chief Minister willing to act on the other side of the law
and order equation and provide tougher sentencing options for the
Our criminal justice system has become a revolving door because of the
lenient treatment of too many lawbreakers.
We need a genuine boot camp for young offenders and the option of hard
work on a prison farm for adult offenders.
Given the Chief Minister pinched the ‘Safer Streets’ title from the CLP
it’s a shame he didn’t just adopt our law and order policy in its
Leader of the Opposition
Sir,- The Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee will
hold a public meeting with Alice Springs and its surrounding
communities to discuss the adequacy of telecommunications.
The meeting will be held on Friday, April 18 in the Andy McNeill Room
at the Alice Springs Town Council at 9am, The committee will use the
information collected through public meetings and written submissions
to compile a report that will be presented to the Minister for
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Dr Bill Glasson AO
Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee
ADAM CONNELLY: Licked by cunning
Ni Hao! I thought I’d welcome you all to my column in Mandarin.
It’s the language of choice for one in five humans and makes about as
much sense to the average westerner as a card trick to a dog.
Homophones are words that sound the same, like sauce and source, one
and won. In spoken English we tell the difference between those words
by the context of the sentence.
In Mandarin homophones are everywhere. But it isn’t the context that
changes the meaning. No it’s the inflection. Say it straight and it
means one thing. Go up at the end and it means something completely
That’s why Australians will never be all that much chop at Mandarin.
Most of our sentences are monotonal with an upward inflection at the
end. Like we are asking permission to finish the sentence. We talk as
though we are asking a question in every sentence. Mandarin and our
strange ways of communication are incompatible.
I have a friend who is engaged to a Mandarin-speaking woman. Last year
he went to Dalian in China to meet the in-laws and thought he’d learn a
few phrases in order to both impress his lovely fiancé and to
break the monotony of spending two weeks in someone’s house without
being able to say a word to them. He learned a rather eloquent greeting
and memorised it word perfect. Except for the inflections.
Through the uncontrollable laughter of his fiancé every time she
tells the story, it turns out that instead of impressing his future
in-laws with a poetic introduction he said something about a toilet and
an old dog.
So along comes Mr Smartypants Kevin Rudd this week and addresses a
Beijing university in fluent Mandarin. Way to show us up, Kev! Well
done. I had this whole argument about inflection and how Australians
just won’t get Mandarin and what do you go and do?
Now I feel really dumb. One in five humans speak it and now so does the
leader of our country. Looks like I should pull my finger out.
It’s a sore point for many polygenerational Australians with a European
background. Especially here in Alice Springs. I know of a bloke from a
remote Central Australian community who lives and works in town and who
up until three years ago didn’t speak English.
Didn’t speak English! As an ignorant white guy from the big smoke, the
fact that there are people born here, raised here and don’t speak
English nearly made my brain implode.
Thing is though English isn’t this bloke’s second language. It’s his
fifth. He speaks four local languages. It’s incredible to think that if
those four languages were Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese, we’d
consider him a genius. Yet there are many that still call him a dumb
black fella. I don’t. I’m envious.
Being bilingual would be wonderful. However many of us simply will
never achieve such goals.
I grew up in an incredibly multicultural area of Sydney and was
therefore exposed to languages from every corner of the globe. Stupidly
I never learned one. Not Mandarin, not Tagalog, not Afrikaans, not
Arabic and definitely not Warlpiri.
In high school I was taught French and German. Now while there’s no
doubt that France and Germany are still big language groups, their
influence on the world has diminished somewhat since … oh I don’t know…
Why the New South Wales Board of Education insisted that the key to
bilingualism be through those two languages still eludes me.
Today the big international languages to learn in my opinion are
Mandarin, Arabic, and Indonesian. Hindi and Japanese speakers are
learning English by the millions so we really don’t need to know those
in order to communicate.
One in five people speak Mandarin. Last week statistics were released
showing for the first time since 1000 AD, there are more Muslims than
Catholics on the planet and there are 125 million Indonesians just to
our north. A country and culture many of us don’t really understand all
that well. It might not be a bad idea that we be able to have a
So in a typically Australian half arsed fashion, I’ve decided to learn
a language. Yes indeed I’m off to the book shop for a phrase book. That
should just about make me expert. Do they have Learn Arrernte for
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