ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
March 26, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Town plan on the never never. By
Ten months after the well-attended Planning for the Future forum
on June 5 last year, Planning Minister Delia Lawrie has released an
Outcomes Report and Action Plan.
If you were looking forward to an announcement of a program of events
or works to transform the character of Alice Springs, you’ll be
If you imagined that there would be budgeted projects with start dates,
The “actions” are reviews, audits, studies, modelling, and developing
frameworks, with the exception of subdivision construction at Larapinta
(due for completion this financial year), and headworks at Mt John’s
Valley Stage 1 (already complete).
A major report into the revitalisation of the CBD, developed by
Material Thinking’s Paul Carter following extensive community
consultations last year, has not been released.
Aspects of some ideas foreshadowed in Paul Carter’s community
consultations are contained in a two-page summary.
A “framework plan” will be developed by the second half of 2010
following further community consultations.
Asked why, when consultations had already been extensive, Ms Lawrie
said, “Not about height limits”.
This would suggest that height limits are not a focus within the Paul
Carter report although they were brought up, as one point and not a
major theme, in the June 5 forum. (See
At a time of economic downturn and when several CBD blocks have
languished for years for want of any kind of development, the call for
a height limits debate is surely a red herring.
Ms Lawrie says some developers are asking for buildings to go to five
storeys, although “people may say no” and “the wishes of the community
will be respected”.
She said upper storeys could be used for residential purposes, again a
point raised in the June forum.
The other aspect of possible change in the CBD emphasised by Ms Lawrie
is to “turn the town around” so that it looks out on the “beautiful
There is no mention in the two-page summary of developing the area
around the Uniting Church and possibly the Hartley Street carpark as
community public space.
Nor is there mention of improving the links between approaches to the
three sacred hills at the edges of the CBD (Anzac, Billygoat, Annie
Meyer, to give their European names).
These were important parts of the community discussions with Paul
Queried about them Ms Lawrie said they’re “all in the document”; she
has provided a “high level synopsis”.
It is not clear what document she was referring to.
In the synopsis most points regarding the CBD are introduced with words
like promote, encourage, develop, consider although there are some
“provides” and “improves”.
Over the last several months the Town Council Director of Technical
Services Greg Buxton has repeatedly told aldermen he was awaiting the
CBD “masterplan” to guide council in matters of carparking in the CBD.
He need wait no longer: the action plan handballs it back to the
council to review the current strategy and “to provide appropriate
levels of car parking to address demand”.
Questioned about the release of the Paul Carter report, Ms Lawrie said
she understood it is still in draft form, she had not received it and
had been asking for it.
The Alice News understands that the report, including a summary, was
finalised weeks ago.
The News put this to Ms Lawrie.
She repeated “categorically” that she had not received the report and
had been asking for it.
The News has conducted an interview with a senior public servant on the
contents of the report.
And we have it from an extremely reliable source that the report is on
the desk of departmental CEO Richard Hancock.
So if Ms Lawrie is asking for it, why does Mr Hancock not give it to
Something here is not right.
Readers will remember too that a promise of $5m to support projects in
the CBD was made during the last Territory election.
Asked about this, Ms Lawrie said the money is still “sitting there
against” the CBD plan.
The good news, says Mayor Damien Ryan, is that the action plan has been
placed in the hands of a local steering committee.
“We have never had a steering committee involved in planning in this
town,” he said, describing it as a “great leap forward”.
The committee will be co-chaired by Minister for Central Australia Karl
Hampton and Mr Ryan.
Its members are: Lhere Artepe CEO Darryl Pearce, Chamber of Commerce
head Julie Ross, architect Brendan Meney, real estate agent David
Forrest, and senior public servants, Fran Kilgariff, now heading up
regional development in the Centre, and Tony Renshaw, regional director
Ms Lawrie announced that the next residential subdivision will take
place south of the Gap, on Arid Zone Research Institute land. This
received mixed support at last year’s forum, as the cheapest
It is a “significant departure from existing plans”, said Ms Lawrie,
but she welcomed it as “innovative and new thinking” from Alice Springs
The subdivision would ultimately yield 1400 blocks, depending on
Headworks are estimated to cost $30m.
Blocks would be turned off for an estimated $23,500 each.
In the meantime the 80 lots to be turned off at Mt John’s Valley,
together with medium density developments in town permitted by spot
re-zonings, will go towards answering immediate needs.
Lhere Artepe is developing the first 40 blocks at Mt John’s in return
for waiving native title rights over the land; they also have first
option on the remaining 40, which they would buy from the government as
undeveloped freehold at a price set by the Valuer-General.
Ms Lawrie said the government has emphasised to Lhere Artepe the need
for some affordable blocks within the subdivision “even though it is
prime real estate”.
Mr Hampton said a population of 35,000 is being planned for (and not
the Country Liberals’ target of 50,000).
Ms Lawrie said the Town Council’s suggestion of an annual release of
100 blocks is “right on the mark”, rejecting the Country Liberals
recent proposal of 200 blocks per annum as “way too much”.
“You don’t want to devalue the family asset,” she said.
A turn-off of 100 would more than triple the current turn-off of 30
Alice on uranium mine: ‘56 to
44 in favour’. By
KIERAN FINNANE and ERWIN
A survey of community perception of uranium exploration in Alice
Springs, commissioned by Cameco and conducted by Synovate Adelaide,
shows a slight majority – 52% – in favour of exploration, with 46%
against, and 2% without opinion.
Strangely, it shows more people (56%) support future uranium mining,
with 44% against.
Another curiosity is that half of respondents believe the majority of
the population is opposed, while only 20% believe there is majority
support. The remainder don’t know.
Synovate is described as an independent market researcher.
The company interviewed 750 randomly selected residents over the age of
18, with the sample weighted by age and gender to the 2006 Census
Synovate notes that the results are similar to the 2007 survey
conducted by market pollster ANOP for the Australian Uranium
Association. They report that this survey found 50% of Australians
support uranium mining, with 39% opposed and 11% unsure.
The company also notes that Alice residents (it does not say what
proportion) are concerned with environmental, health and safety
Asked if the industry could do anything to increase their support, 60%
of respondents said yes. Of these, 13% wanted more information and 12%
wanted industry to address their fears regarding health, safety and the
Two thirds of respondents agreed that Cameco was providing positive
benefits to the community. Of these, 75% said uranium mining would
create more jobs; 61% said it would have a positive impact on local
There was a high level (84%) of awareness of uranium exploration in the
region; 61% were aware of Cameco; 74% were aware of the Angela project.
Cameco renewed its education campaign earlier this week, with events
organised around the visits of Canadian company executives, Gary
Merasty, Vice President Corporate Social Responsibility (see separate
story), and Roger Lemaitre, Director, Worldwide Exploration Projects.
In response to global concern about carbon-emitting energy, the company
is positioning itself on the “green” side of the fence: the verso of
these executives’ business cards bears the slogan, “Nuclear. The Clean
Air Energy”; a small tree symbol and the word “Recycled” denotes that
the card itself is made from recycled paper.
Mr Lemaitre, speaking to a small gathering of locals – including Viv
and Craig Oldfield, principals of Gorey and Cole who have just been
awarded the drilling contract for the Angela project, Liz Martin
representing the Old Ghan Preservation Society, the Chamber of
Commerce’s Julie Ross, and Ross Engineering’s Neil Ross – said
profitability of uranium is tied to the demand for electricity.
A 53% worldwide increase in demand by 2030 is forecast, with 70% of
that in the developing world.
And nuclear power, he said, is the lowest cost non-hydro energy able to
provide baseload power to meet that demand.
Asked by the Alice News whether the costing includes the price of
decommissioning nuclear power plants, Mr Lemaitre said he thought not.
However he made the point that decommissioning would also have to be
factored into hydro and other energy forms to make a fair comparison.
(The British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has put the UK’s nuclear
waste clean-up bill at 70 billion pounds, according to the BBC, March
Mr Lemaitre also argued that with Australia relying on coal for 75% of
its electricity generation (the world figure is 45%), nuclear power has
an important place.
The News asked about how much carbon-emitting energy is used in uranium
exploration and mining activities.
Cameco’s Jennifer Parks said the figure is less than for solar; only
hydro is lower.
Mr Lemaitre said Cameco has done a detailed study of its carbon
footprint which will be released soon.
He said the industry is on a learning curve, coming out of the “lost
generation”, between 1982 and 2003, when there was little exploration.
In that time the price of uranium rose from $10 a pound to $135,
prompting intensified activity.
The price is currently around $40 a pound.
Despite the global financial crisis, Cameco raised $490m two weeks ago,
and now has an exploration budget of $55m.
They’ll be spending $21m in Australia this year, including $9m in the
Mr Lemaitre said the NT “has a regulatory system that’s easy to
understand and is a friendly place to do business”, commending
the government for its NT Geological Survey.
“I wish we could have that in Canada.”
He reported that the CLC is “close to” signing off on the project.
An Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority certificate is “due any
day” and approval of a mining management plan, that deals mainly with
environmental issues, is due “in a month”.
He said the company’s engagement of the community is not happening
“quite as quickly as we wanted to”.
A Community Reference Group will be put together to assist with this,
following workshops in April.
IAD row: don’t mess with the
ladies! By ERWIN
When it comes to red blooded Aboriginal politics, they get no fiercer
than when the two factions are facing off for the control of the
Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD).
Some 70 people, eying each other suspiciously, between them apparently
armed with hundreds of proxy votes, are filing into the spacious
meeting room of the almost new $3m complex in South Terrace.
Aside from this publicly funded building, not a lot of “development”
has occurred in the institute of late.
Its library and language centre are closed, and the organisation is
reeling under allegations of graft, waste of public funds, incompetence
and breaches of the constitution.
The business of the special general meeting today: “To dismiss the
current Committee and to approve a proper election of a valid new
Committee to be conducted by the NT Electoral Office forthwith.”
The start of the meeting is delayed as people in the next room are,
apparently, dealing with issues of who’s a member and who’s not,
and whose proxy votes will be approved.
Later Neville Perkins, who says he is IAD’s longest serving member,
tells me he submitted 48 proxy votes but only 18 were approved.
No explanation was given.
Mr Perkins OAM was there when the recently deceased Rev “Tjilpi”
Downing founded the institute 40 years ago.
Mr Perkins has a distinguished career in NT politics, as the Member for
MacDonnell (Labor), and in the management of several local Aboriginal
organisations, including IAD, as well as the national multi-million
dollar operation, Aboriginal Hostels.
But today, soon after the meeting finally gets under way, Mr Perkins is
on the brink of getting thrown out by the chairperson, Janice Harris,
who stands to get the chop if the business of the meeting is resolved
in the affirmative.
The sticking point is yours truly, invited as a reporter for the Alice
Springs News by the Perkins camp, but clearly not welcome by Ms Harris.
Without having a direct shot at me she enumerates the non-members
allowed at the meeting, with advance notice, by the committee that’s
facing the sack: they include an adviser to the meeting and former
local government identity, Bruce McRae, a sign language interpreter for
the deaf, a scrutineer, two resolute-looking security guards – but no
members of the Fourth Estate (I’m sitting not far from the exit – just
Mr Perkins challenges Ms Harris with a point of order, saying it should
be up to the meeting, not the committee, to decide who can attend, and
that matter should be put to a vote.
Eileen Hoosan, who also has a long association with IAD, supports Mr
Perkins and says to me: “You stay right here.”
Ms Harris – her hand holding the microphone is trembling – decrees the
matter is “not open to discussion” and gives Mr Perkins his first
warning, saying he’ll have to leave the meeting if a second warning is
When Mr Perkins fails to be impressed, Ms Harris threatens to “abandon”
the meeting, presumably with the result that the motion, that could
spell her and her committee’s doom, could not be moved.
Minutes later she declares “the meeting is over” and storms out,
followed by roughly half of the crowd.
Not so, say the Perkins-Hoosan crowd which by now has the room to
There are some prominent figures of The Centre’s Aboriginal society:
Harry Nelson and Rex Granites from Yuendumu, Russell Bray, Eric Sultan.
Mr Perkins says later “our campaign to clean up IAD” includes also
members of the Turner, Abbott, Shaw, Rabuntja, Hayes, Kunoth, Martin,
Ross, Tilmouth, Presley, Stewart, Taylor, Swan, Doolan, Ferguson,
Rontji, Ingkamala and Malbunka families.
Some 30 people are still left in the room, reportedly holding 175 proxy
votes. It’s well over the 20 votes required for a quorum.
Betty Pearce is appointed chairperson, and Krystal Perkins as the
Ms Pearce wastes little time in telling Mr Perkins that if he becomes
too long-winded, it will be her who’ll throw him out of the room.
Mr Perkins’ instant deference to Ms Pearce leaves little doubt that
when it comes to “whitefeller” style meetings, Aboriginal ladies run
Highly respected Arrernte elder and artist, Margaret Kemarre Turner
OAM, hands me a note, saying, “We continue this meeting as per
constitution and with [my] blessing. Welcome to Country.”
At that point it isn’t clear whether Ms Harris had closed the meeting
Someone suggests this would have had to be done by a vote from the
Ms Pearce, just in case, re-openes the meeting, saying it’s been
properly called and convened, and is now going to transact its
As it turns out, Mr Perkins has circulated a comprehensive dossier of
IAD’s recent woes.
• September 2008: The board is replaced by a statutory manager. (Ms
Hoosan tells me the fee for this management was $161,934, paid to a
firm of accountants.)
• Contrary to the constitution, a board member receives payment for
work from IAD.
• People not qualifying are registered as members.
• A student not completing a course is given a completion certificate,
jeopardising IAD’s status as a Registered Training Organisation. This
is described by Ms Pearce as a criminal offence.
• There is “misuse of public funds and non-compliance with Government
funding contracts”. The list goes on.
• Sacked board members take the matter of their dismissal to court and
reach a confidential settlement.
• The annual general meeting on December 23 last year elects a
management committee but fails to do so “properly and validly”. A main
sticking point is that the election is not conducted by the NT
Electoral Commission – a matter the meeting seeks to rectify.
Back to the meeting: Ms Pearce chairs discussion about the fact that
yet again, the Electoral Commission isn’t present, as two police
officers walk into the room.
One says to Ms Pearce that the matter of the meeting continuing in Ms
Harris’ absence has to be “sorted out or everyone has to leave”.
No way, Ms Pearce tells the Law, this is a special general meeting and
it is continuing.
The officer, apparently no more prepared to argue with Ms Pearce than
was Mr Perkins earlier, leaves the room, followed by his partner.
Not surprisingly, the motion of the day is carried with no votes
But there are two abstentions, from a man and a woman.
The man, who wouldn’t give his name to the the Alice Springs News,
takes the floor.
He says he is a new member of the current board, and he is “very
disgusted” with the “bickering” in which “IAD is losing out”.
He asks: “Is this about two people or IAD?”
The man is listened to in silence after which he and the woman leave
The police officers come back, saying it’s all OK, the meeting can
continue, and they both take their leave.
The meeting is adjourned for one week, resuming tomorrow, Friday.
The rebel crowd will insist that the new board is elected under the
strict auspices of the NT Electoral Commission.
The members adjourn to the IAD canteen for lunch, only to find that
their opponents, who’d walked out of the meeting early, have eaten most
of the food.
The rebels agree it’s a minor setback in a pretty good day.
Ms Harris could not be contacted for a comment.
CDU: No more lagging behind.
By BEVERLEY JOHNSON.
BStrengthening already existing partnerships between Charles Darwin
University and three interstate universities could encourage more
students from interstate to spend time studying in the Centre and vice
Newly appointed vice-chancellor at Charles Darwin University, Professor
Barney Glover, says he is “well aware” that Alice Springs has a
“leakage” of students to interstate universities.
CDU plans to build on their relationships with the James Cook
University in northern Queensland, the Australian National University
(ANU) in Canberra and Flinders University in South Australia in order
to give Territory students greater choices.
Flinders University already has a long standing partnership with CDU’s
remote health educational programs in Alice Springs. The ANU has
students using CDU research facilities, and James Cook uses the Darwin
campus for its coastal management and marine science
CDU is looking to increase its numbers.
Students physically moving to the Territory is an option but not the
only way to do it. Delivering a good product at a distance is another
and online courses are attracting enrolments.
The notion that all 18 year olds will remain in their hometown and
attend the local university is an “ancient view”, says Prof Glover.
CDU, together with four other regional universities, is at the bottom
of the pile for its proportion of school leavers, according to the Good
Instead their students tend to be in a higher age bracket, over 24, who
have some “work experience and life experience”, says Prof Glover.
Courses are designed “to open pathways to specialist interests”.
“The age of students at CDU also reflects the modern situation in Alice
Springs,” says Don Zoellner, CDU’s Pro-Vice Chancellor Community and
The town’s workforce of public servants, shift workers, education and
health professionals, provides a large proportion of CDU’s local
students, he says.
“Many people want to do extra courses but on a part time basis.”
CDU is waiting for a response on an application for $17m under the
Commonwealth’s economic stimulus package. The funds would be put
towards further developing the technological resources at both the
Alice Springs and Darwin campuses.
A new clinical teaching facility on the Alice campus will be fully
operational by May.
Some 300, including around 40 from Alice Springs, nurses have signed up
to undertake a variety of two-week courses, as part of their student
nurse’s vocational learning program. And it is possible that some of
these will decide to continue their studies here.
The state-of-the-art replica hospital ward includes high tech beds,
real clinical dummies and is capable of facilitating 20 students at a
The clinical teaching facility should create a nursing education hub in
Central Australia, says Prof Glover.
The facilities are being tested presently by some of the staff working
in local age care services.
For some time now students in Alice and Darwin have been using video
technology in the classroom.
Teaching through interactive web cam facilities is becoming
increasingly popular. In this way, for example, one student has been
taught how to play the cello.
Some 300 students at CDU currently have an Alice Springs postcode, five
times as many as six years ago.
They study predominantly Law, Education, IT, Business and Tertiary
Enabling (getting students’ literacy and numeracy up to speed for
There has been an increase in the number of applicants for Law since
the course became fully available online.
There has also been an increase in VET apprenticeship applications,
says Prof Glover.
The applications have held up in the face of the economic downturn, in
comparison to universities in Western Australia and Queensland,
according to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.
“This could be an indication that the NT economy is holding up better,”
says Prof Glover.
Ready to defend CDU’s poor reputation in the national ranking tables,
Prof Glover says the university is achieving positive scores in
The Good Universities Guide ranks both undergraduate and postgraduate
research intensivity as relatively high, (four stars out of five),
comparable with Flinders University and Queensland University of
Technology. The proportion of research students at CDU is also ranked
as very high. However, graduate rating of overall satisfaction with the
educational experience earns CDU just one star out of five.
But it is not alone: Central Queensland, Flinders, Macquarie,
Queensland University of Technology, Adelaide, Canberra and Newcastle
universities all earn only one star.
CDU also gets just one star for teaching quality, sharing this ranking
with seven others, including one “old sandstone”, the University of
CDU does a little better with the “positive graduate outcomes”, earning
The rankings do show some “lagging” results, but CDU will be investing
more resources into improving the university’s reputation and lifting
its profile, says Prof Glover.
Tragedy to triumph. By
Local lad Isaac Elliot, a paraplegic after a a serious motorbike
accident in 2007, is not letting his disability disable his life.
As captain of his destiny, he has set up Zackerfilms, an independent
production company, and has produced his first multi-camera film, 30
Minutes, 40 Riders, 50 Degrees.
The film will be premiered this evening, 6.30pm at Centralian Senior
Secondary College, where Isaac was formerly a student.
“Before the accident my focus was solely on motocross racing.
Now I can’t be a super national motocross star, I’ll have to be a super
national motocross filming hero instead,” he says.
Fortunately the dirt bike enthusiast has been able to continue enjoying
his original passion on a specially modified bike but he obviously
can’t compete at a professional level.
Combining his love of motocross with a fairly recent love of
film-making has not been easy.
Technical issues caused a multitude of dramas throughout the production
“I’ve been working some crazy hours to get the film finished. Recently
I was editing until 3.30am, then I had to get up at 6am to go to work
at my regular job.”
He taught himself how to use his filming and editing equipment and
developed his filming techniques by viewing hours of You Tube footage.
He decided to use multiple cameras to capture simultaneously a variety
of different angles throughout the race featured in the film.
The camera attached to a rider’s crash helmet allows the viewer an
authentic taste of what it feels like to be the rider bombing down the
track, says Isaac.
The film brings to light the trials and tribulations of life on the
motocross racetrack, following local riders as they tackle the track
under the scorching heat of the Central Australian desert.
Orchestral music is juxtaposed with heavy impact racing footage.
Isaac says he decided against using music with lyrics, as he felt it
might take away from the power of the footage.
Dust to Glory, a film about the Baja desert motorcycle race, has been a
major influence – “an awesome movie”.
“I wanted to produce a film that takes a different approach to the
regular motocross films, make it more like a movie.
“My film includes narration that gives more detail about riders, and
explains their stories.”
The usual motocross video has a commentator covering the events within
the race, rather than a story, he says.
The film stars a number of riders from the Alice Springs Motocross
Club, all of whom have or do race in the Finke.
Isaac does not have any immediate family living in Alice Springs.
Brother Troy however is visiting from Adelaide and arrived just in time
to help Isaac with his final preparations.
Obviously proud of what Isaac is doing he says, “As his brother I don’t
think the accident has changed Isaac at all.
“If it was me, I would still be sitting around in rehab, but Isaac is
so motivated he just deals with everything in such a chilled out way.”
The preview tonight is only the beginning for Zackerfilms, Isaac is in
the final negotiations to film the Australia Motocross Series, eight
At this stage he plans to specialize on motocross, but his aim is to
eventually produce an all time epic movie about the Finke Desert Race.
Passion, place and history in
ambitious debut novel. By
The Diamond Anchor
By Jennifer Mills.
University of Queensland Press, 314 pp.
A novel set in a fictive town on the Illawarra coast in New South Wales
wouldn’t normally come across my desk, but The Diamond Anchor, to be
released next week, is by Jennifer Mills who gives her address as Alice
Springs and is increasingly coming to notice with publication and
awards around the country.
To name a few: the Marian Eldridge Award for Emerging Women Writers in
2008; the NT Literary Award for best short story, 2008; winner of the
Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Short Story Competition (Pacific
region) 2008; a highly commended in the prestigious Newcastle Poetry
Prize in 2007; a highly commended in The Age short story competition,
2007; inclusion in the Best Australian Stories 2007, published by Black
And readers of the Alice Springs News will remember her for taking out
both first and second prizes the last time we ran a short story
competition, in 2007.
This flush of success has been hard earned: Mills dedicates herself to
her art more single-mindedly than most, forgoing comfort and security
to buy the time and experience that feeds it. She lives and works in a
small shed, and travels widely, well off the beaten path and on the
smell of an oily rag.
She first came to my notice with her story that gave the title to the
locally-produced Ptilotus Press anthology, The milk in the sky. The
story is an erotically and lyrically charged account, tightly written,
of a sexual encounter between two young women at a bush dance.
In the same volume she wrote movingly in ‘Roadhouse’ about the
loneliness of a trucky who is caring for his dying father, once a
driver like himself. In just a few pages several characters, the span
of a lifetime and a whole social milieu is evoked.
In the stories that won the Alice News competition prizes – ‘Reason’
and ‘Crow Season’, again deftly written and balancing wry humour with
darker elements – her characters are a public servant and the
government Minister she works for, in negotiation with an Aboriginal
community; a prisoner on the run and the woman who picks him up on an
I mention these as examples of Mills’ observational, imaginative and
They also set up expectations of the kind of reading experience I would
have with her intriguingly titled first novel.
The title, The Diamond Anchor, made for a good start: the immediate
reference is mysterious but holds the promise of something hard,
glittering, alluring and deep-rooted.
I soon learnt that it is the name of a pub (shortened to Danker) in
Coal, Mills’ fictive town on the cliffs of that magical stretch of
coast between Sydney and Wollongong.
But it is employed for its metaphoric weight too: Mills moves her story
over 300 pages towards the unearthing of an allegorical diamond alluded
to on page 10, the one in the pocket of the person who then spends a
lifetime looking for it.
This bright, hard thing turns out to be acknowledgement of – and I’m
not giving anything away that we don’t suspect from the first page and
know for sure by page 49 – the love that grows to a sexual passion
between the narrator, May, and her best friend, Grace, and that is
betrayed and abandoned before it even knows its name.
The story is told almost entirely from May’s point of view – there are
a couple of passages from Grace – as a seventy year old, looking back
over a life that has been haunted by her early passion but has also
gone on to include a happy marriage, two children, something of a
vocation as a publican, and deep commitment to Coal and the Danker, her
Around the love story Mills brings to life May’s family – in particular
her reckless, hard-drinking but loveable father and her long-suffering
mother – as well as the small town of Coal whose fortunes rise and fall
with the coal industry and later with the encroachment of a rapacious
real estate industry fuelled by Sydney money.
Mills says about writing that it offers her the opportunity to be
“interested in everything”, and this novel demonstrates her
eclecticism. She bites off a chunk of Australian history that takes in
colonisation, migration, the rise of heavy industry along with unionism
and communism, the depression, war, and the growth of a small town
around these forces.
She also writes very effectively of place – not one she was born and
raised in, but one that she has obviously gotten to know – from its
sunrises over the vast expanse of the Pacific to the east, and its
rockholes, beaches and cliffs, to its half-sky and afternoons
foreshortened by the shadowy escarpment, covered in dense bush, that
rises steeply behind it.
You close the book left with a rich sense of the place.
From what I’ve described here you can see the challenges and ambitious
scope of the novel, and overall it provides an engrossing read.
However I struggled a bit with its sustained elegiac tone and the
relatively limited emotional ground covered. May is smitten by Grace
almost from the beginning – they’re just little girls when they meet –
and the relationship isn’t shown to develop much beyond that, even
after it becomes a sexual one.
Their sexual contact is tentative, as far as we know, except on one
occasion, the significance of which is ambiguously treated.
The writing about their sexual encounters is restrained, at times even
clinical, lacking the charge that Mills is capable of.
The story is set in an era when love between women was a far greater
taboo than it is now, and it could be argued that its restraint is in
keeping with narrator May’s reserved, even secretive character. But I
needed to know more, in order to be convinced that what happened
between the two women could have so haunted them across a lifetime
And this after all is May’s mission in writing the story (as a long
letter to Grace, which she may or may not send) – to uncover for
herself what their subterranean relationship has meant for her life and
to know what to do in the little time left to them.
I also needed to know how May deals with the physical relationship with
She goes into the marriage still very much in the thrall of Grace, but
apart from sporadic guilt about disloyalty, appears to slip with ease
into happily wedded life, which I found left questions begging.
I missed the tighter writing and control of material that Mills
demonstrates in short form, both the stories and her poetry. It’s
probably a tall ask in a first novel, and I’m confident we’ll be in for
treats in the long form too as she gains experience with it.
I missed too her tough forthrightness, her contemporaneity, but of
course no writer wants to be boxed into doing one thing, and in
appreciating her impressive range, I see that The Diamond Anchor
certainly adds to it.
In bookshops from April 4.
I’ll sleep on the couch. By
In these times of economic crisis “couchsurfing” is coming to the
rescue of the intrepid traveller.
It’s a worldwide movement offering those with a thirst for local
knowledge, culture and custom the choice of hosts across the globe, who
advertise themselves online.
The hosts welcome the travelers into their homes, willing to share
everyday life experiences with them.
No money changes hands. All the guests need to do in return is to agree
that one day their home will be open for other travelers.
Says local couchsurfing host Sebastian Hall, aka Swinging Safari: “By
staying with local people, travelers get to see and experience the town
from a different perspective. It’s a great way to get a feel for a
Sebastian’s online blog states that his current mission is “to meet as
many groovy people as possible”.
He wants to “build a muso and artist based commune in the middle of the
central Australian bush”.
A keen musician, he was introduced to the website about a year ago by a
He has a big personality and passion for the local area and travelers
from all over the world are eager for him to be their authentic guide
to the Australian bush.
His one bedroom unit is not exactly spacious, but he makes the effort
to ensure his guests feel welcome and at home, no matter how many of
them there are.
“The great thing about couchsurfing is that people begin to let down
their barriers, a bit more than they would in, say a backpackers, there
seems to be less ego involved,” says Sebastian.
Giving his guests a home cooked meal is something Sebastian feels is an
important part of the couchsurfing experience.
A keen traveler himself, he knows only too well what it is like to have
a good feed when you’re on the road. So he regularly stokes up the BBQ
for his guests and appreciates the couchsurfing philosophy about
breaking cultural barriers through a friendly conversation over a good
He makes sure guests meet his friends and get a real taste of Alice
The experiences are always varied, and some surprising, although
unfortunately not always in a good way.
“I had a guy from Israel who couldn’t go out on the Saturday because of
his religion – we had to stay indoors all day.
“I had four German girls stay, who didn’t talk, except to each other in
“There was a French guy who ended up staying for a month and all he
left was a soiled mattress and a dirty sleeping bag.”
Hearing stories like this could turn a person off, but Sebastian says
everyone should give hosting a try – he has made great friends and each
have brought some interesting ideas and experiences to his own life
that otherwise he would never have had.
“I had an American Jewish couple stay with me, they told me how they
met at summer camp when they were 12. We discussed everyday life in our
“I have had random jamming sessions late into the night with different
musicians from around the world.”
Having recently received its millionth member worldwide, the website
www.couchsurfing.com has 35 members listed in Alice Springs.
Local resident and registered host Isle Mahieu says she has always been
open to new experiences.
Couchsurfing has brought many interesting people to her door. She’s had
fascinating conversations with them and learnt what it is like to live
in other parts of the world.
“I really like living in Alice Springs and I get excited about showing
people the place I have chosen to live,” says Isle.
“You learn to be more open minded, you learn not to pass judgment so
quickly and categorize people.”
She is very selective about who she lets surf her couch and when (the
website allows for this).
“Having people to stay definitely depends on my mood,” she says.
She finds the website is easy to use and it is monitored regularly by
the website providers. “I usually rely on my instincts when deciding
who to invite.
“Hanging out with a variety of people makes life more interesting.
“I had an extremely religious guy come stay with me, I was a bit
apprehensive but his profile sounded interesting.
“We ended up having heaps of fun together. He even left me a bible when
he moved on – I haven’t read it but the thought was nice.”
She’s also had a few mishaps: “One guy was really cool, but he insisted
that I eat an icecream he had bought me.
“The thing is I don’t really like ice cream, but he wouldn’t take no
for an answer and practically forced the thing down my throat.
“And I was put off by one guy that stayed, he was trying to make a pass
“I nearly had the shock of my life, when I walked into the front room
to find him strumming his guitar, naked on my couch.”
As it turned out, she was so taken aback by her guest’s bare chest,
that she didn’t look below the guitar to see that he was still wearing
Murray bowing out.
After 12 months as Deputy Mayor, Alderman Murray Stewart reflects on
In accepting last year’s nomination for this privileged office, I
stated that it would only be for 12 months. I intend honouring
that commitment and will not be standing again.
There have been many highlights over this past year.
The most fulfilling was representing our town in the Mayor’s absence at
the Prime Ministerial Local Government conference in Canberra.
I would like to think that my pride and bright and beaming disposition
greatly assisted in bringing home some essential funding and
affirmational Federal support for our town.
Our Mayor Damien Ryan, as captain of the crew, has not only been
supportive but has also kept me constantly informed about matters of
crucial Alice Springs importance.
I firmly believe that our character differential has served Alice
Springs. Our Council CEO deserves a special mention as even when I have
burnt his ears off with seemingly millions of phone calls, he has been
patient and diligent in following through the many matters that I have
brought to his attention.
Financial downturns have generally resulted in great towns like ours
seizing upon the moment to become prosperous and even greater.
LETTERS: Liquor litter move:
where is the ‘fair factor’?
Sir,– Alice Springs Town Council are enforcing a Liquor
Litter Levy on to 12 take-away liquor outlets to
compensate for $350,000 shortfall in council’s budget.
What this means is council are forcing a price rise to the public based
on the fact that 60% of town litter is liquor-related.
This may be right, but we are being rail-roaded to pay to pick up the
cans of grog littering our streets in a DRY TOWN ZONE.
Dry camp and dry town laws are forcing drinkers back to our streets to
drink and leave their rubbish for us!
Take away the 5 litre casks to cut back violence in town camps; buy a
glass street sweeper for how many thousands of dollars – our
rate-payers dollars; then take away the long necks; bring in an ID
system to buy take-away alcohol, and a limit of one 2 litre cask per
person; but let drinkers buy as many 24 or 30-packs of beer as they
like (more litter) and drink more spirits.
The message is clear:
Drink your beer cans in our Dry Town Zone and don’t pick up your
rubbish, because council will come along and pick up after you – when
they get more money from us! What a joke.
Just on principle alone, where is the fair factor in this?
It has become clearer that Alice Springs needs a Cash for Cans
system now and not in two years’ time when the Government says
The majority of Alice Springs residents do not contribute to
litter on our streets and pay rates and taxes.
Alice Springs Town Council is using our rate money, government
using our taxes and 2 CPI tax increases a year and what are we
getting back – irresponsible drinkers and people trashing our town!
If Town Council do not push the Territory or Federal Government for
this $350,000 shortfall for this litter issue, we as a town can kiss
goodbye funding from Government for any unforeseen circumstances not
budgeted in Alice Springs Town Council budget for now and the future.
I cannot do this alone.
Alice Springs as a whole has to make a stand on this issue or we, who
pay rates and taxes already, will continue to pay for all shortfalls.
Why are 12 take-away liquor outlets being TOLD to pay?
Hoppy’s Cash Store
Go for Cameco,
Sir,– I commend Alice Springs News on its attempt to ensure open and
transparent dealings between Centrecorp, the Australian Government and
the general public.
But upon reading the November 2008 Performance Audit of
Centrecorp Aboriginal Investment Corporation Pty Ltd from the Office of
Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programs), I noticed, among others,
the following two comments:
On page 38, item 4.7, under the heading Management of conflict of
interest, OEA was not provided with access to the Centrecorp Board
Minutes and supporting papers as Management indicated that they are
likely to include commercially sensitive matters that do not relate to
business line supported by Government funding.
It was not therefore possible to confirm how instances of conflicts of
interest are currently managed in practice.
And on page 39, Centrecorp’s response to Recommendation No 3 in the
audit’s Findings and Conclusions reads, Centrecorp refused to provide
OEA with minutes of meetings of the Boards of entities in which
Centrecorp holds equity with other commercial shareholders owing to
their ‘Commercial-in-Confidence’ nature.
As a result it was impossible to judge the processes Centrecorp claim
to have in place. OEA makes no comment or allegation that Director’s
family members sought or obtained any benefit. This recommendation
seeks to have Centrecorp be transparent about conflicts of interest.
Please note that the report states ‘it was not therefore possible’
and ‘it was impossible’, and the impossibilities were excused on
grounds of ‘commercially sensitive’ and ‘commercial in
I expect Centrecorp will now simply rewrite its corporate structure to
accommodate the recommendations and to further avoid unwanted public
scrutiny. I offer no criticism of Centrecorp for doing this. It’s what
For that matter, it’s what we all do. We apply existing rules to our
own greatest advantage.
But as long as any corporation can avoid full public scrutiny on the
grounds that it is making money, especially if the money it is making
depends on government-issued licenses and government grants and loans,
the pursuit of that organisation to be open, transparent and
accountable will always remain a trivial pursuit.
We can chip around the edges as much as we like, but the heart of the
beast will remain out of reach.
While I admit I have no great interest in the pursuit of Centrecorp,
whether trivial or otherwise, I am interested in seeing Cameco pursued
back to its place of origin.
Cameco, not Centrecorp, is the corporation positioning itself to
threaten our lifestyle.
But if Centrecorp can excuse itself from full public scrutiny on
grounds of commercial in confidence, with how much more effect will a
multinational mining corporation use that same get-out-of-jail-free
Perhaps you can show us. Alice Springs News has shown its
doggedness, determination and zeal in attempting to get Centrecorp to
open itself to public gaze. Will you now please use that same
skill set to go after the Canadian uranium miners?
Sir,– I am extremely concerned at the Federal Government’s refusal to
follow through with commitments to abandon the controversial
radioactive waste dump proposed for the NT.
A motion introduced last week to the Senate by the Australian Greens,
calling for repeal of the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act
(CRWMA), was voted down by the Government.
It is national ALP platform to repeal this legislation.
It was an election commitment to repeal this legislation, yet the
Government is blatantly flouting its commitments and ignoring deep
community concern over its inaction on this issue.
The vote shows clear disrespect for the communities targeted for the
radioactive dump, who been waiting over a year for the Government to
come good on its promise.
Mitch, an Arrernte/Luritja woman who has family living near the Harts
Range proposed site says, “This is not the first time the NT waste dump
affected communities and the Greens Party have tried using
parliamentary means to ask the government to fulfill its election
“The government thinks the NT communities, The Greens and the average
Australian citizen will be treated as ignorant puppets.
“But it is well known that uranium dumping and mining is genocide to
the sovereign owners of the nation it occurs on.
“Examples can be seen on the Navajo nation in the USA, the Toureg
nation in Niger and elsewhere.”
Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Alice Springs
Sir,– On the matter of repealing the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste
Management Act, the ALP remains committed to achieving this and will
respond accordingly once a comprehensive assessment has been concluded.
NT Senator Trish Crossin
ADAM'S APPLE: I'm going
A friend of mine once took me to Sydney’s Coogee beach. For a kid from
the suburbs, the beach is a day trip.
We from the outer western suburbs were more comfortable in parks with
barbecue areas or shopping complexes than we were at the beach.
Even now that I’m thousands of miles from the nearest beach the whole
idea is a bit ho-hum.
The thought of all that sun and sand and salt water in my eyes … I’d
rather burn my bum on a slippery dip.
But every now and then despite our lack of enthusiasm for the beach we
fool ourselves into thinking we should go. Perhaps it’s a feeling of
We Australians are beachy people – Surf Lifesavers and Golden Gaytimes
from the tuck shop.
So with the need to be a little less un-Australian I accepted the offer
from my friend to go to Coogee beach.
For reasons unknown my friend was hell bent on teaching me how to body
surf. Now once you’ve stopped laughing and picked yourself off the
floor, for reasons even more unknown I was keen for him to teach me.
After watching this obvious body surfing expert a couple of times, I
assessed that it was in fact quite easy to body surf. I was wrong.
As I paddled like a mad man onto a wave I vaguely remember my friend
yelling something about wave selection. Unfazed I powered on.
If you’ve ever been dumped by a wave you will know that it isn’t the
most dignified method of ending a body surf.
Many things were going through my head while being dumped. The
strongest thought, however, as my legs were flailing about above my
head, a position unnatural to all mammals but bats, was a wonder.
I was wondering quite intently about the whereabouts of my board
shorts. While I was hurtling towards the shore and possible spinal
injury, my pants were heading to New Zealand.
On a packed beach, full of families and Japanese tourists, I pushed
through the pain and ran faster than perhaps thought possible for a man
of my carriage to my towel on the sand to cover my toilet bits from the
exposure of a busy Sydney beach.
Somewhere, either in Sydney or perhaps Tokyo, I am sure there is a
photograph of a large pasty-white bearded man dressed only in a sun
protection t-shirt running up a beach with a look of shock in his eyes,
genitals flopping about in a mild panic.
The thought of this picture being somewhere out there has affected some
of the decisions made during my life.
I will never participate in what appears to be the new trend of
producing a home-made boudoir video. If you make a bedroom movie you
are always one argument away from some harmless fun with a lover
becoming internet pornography.
How many celebrity sex tapes are out there on the information super
highway? Just google the term and see the amount of sites dedicated to
I’m unsure of the right word to explain my initial viewing of the
alleged Pauline Hanson nudes. Having met the woman both here in Alice
Springs and after being roughed up by her security guards in Sydney I
feel confused about the woman to begin with.
But now I may or may not have seen her in all her somewhat off-putting
Maybe Pauline Hanson made the mistake when she was 20. Maybe she
Maybe it cost her the seat of Beaudesert in last weekend’s Queensland
election. Maybe it didn’t.
All I know is that nude pictures of politicians is about as unsexy as I
can imagine. Except for perhaps the aforementioned fat guy on the
Here in Alice Springs the problem in compounded by the fact that many
of us know our elected representatives personally. We’ve seen the Mayor
buying petrol, we’ve seen our local MLA drinking coffee at the local
We don’t want to see them and I’m sure they don’t want to see us after
racey pics have been splashed over the internet.
There is a certain publisher of a popular magazine offering millions of
dollars for smutty nude photos of American politicians.
Here’s the Adam’s Apple pledge.
If you have smutty nude photos of any Australian politicians I will pay
you, cold hard cash, not to show me.
Pop Vulture: That central
The morning light is inviting like an appreciative audience, the
evening rays, harsh and testing, grappling like an old world lynch mob.
Intermittent breezes are smooth kisses.
Gravel pathways are a shiatsu under foot; three corner jacks, ruthless
policemen, reminding you where to tread.
The market place lawns are an auditorium of Sunday intellect, the grass
an infinity of tiny hands, branding and tattooing uncovered skin.
Morning beverages swim through your system, a velvety caffeine serpent
in your brain, shunting to and fro like a steam engine.
The bass line caused by a dozen Friday night liberties quakes like an
external heartbeat, a thriving pulse given life by the drunken beehives
of bars and parties.
The last drinks call is the cold relenting hand of reality’s authority.
Flies are mobile freckles, they land and feel like microscopic
Tourists’ fly-nets make them look like toxic hillbilly swamp people.
The cooking concrete causeways turn into simmering hot plates for
walked dogs to do a jig upon.
At night they are cool chalky catwalk runways for the inebriated casino
The spinifex-stung land urchins migrate through the river bed.
The red rocks, like reflectors in a solarium, microwave the stream of
The crickets and cicadas chirp, cheer and jeer at the shape-shifting
days of Central Australia.
As the Alice refrigerator winter hangs in the wings, textile sensory
begins its metamorphosis into a new season.