ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
July 2, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
School sex offender got away with
it, say victim’s parents. By ERWIN
Parents of a girl now aged 15 say two years after a string
of sexual assaults on her, over some six months, by a male class mate,
the authorities have still not taken appropriate action against the boy.
There were two major assaults, both at the Alice Springs High School,
when they say the boy, after fondling the girl’s breasts, attempted to
tear her shirt off. He is also alleged to have made repeated
threats to the girl, in the school and outside, of violence and sexual
But in contravention of legal requirements that such assaults are
reported, the teacher whom the girl informed about the first major
attack didn’t even tell the headmaster, let alone others in authority.
The then Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET, now
DET, Department of Education and Training) has admitted to the
Ombudsman that the teacher had failed to follow protocol “because she
believed she had adequately dealt with the [events] at the classroom
The second major attack was reported to the school principal at the
time, Peter Vaughan, but despite the intervention of the Ombudsman,
police took no action against the boy, because they had been told by Mr
Vaughan that the alleged attacker had left town.
The girl’s parents say they repeatedly told the police about the boy’s
whereabouts – in Alice Springs – but nothing was done.
In a bizarre twist DEET admitted that Mr Vaughan had spoken to the
father about double jeopardy – that an offender can’t be punished twice
for the same crime.
Says the Ombudsman’s Senior Investigation Officer, Giovina
D’Alessandro, in a letter to the father: “The Principal also recalled
using the term ‘double jeopardy’, and that he advised you that if the
court applied a penalty then the school would not be in a position to
impose a further penalty.
“However, the Principal has stated that his comments were not intended
to discourage you from reporting the matter to Police.”
It seems clear the school, in this grave matter of a student
being sexually assaulted, apparently failed entirely to comply with
protocol, namely to make a report to the police and then keep its nose
out of it.
It is unclear what role the school-based constable played in the events.
Ms D’Alessandro wrote to the father: “[DEET Director of Legal Services
Craig Drury] pointed out that the issue of schools investigating
serious matters which may also constitute a criminal offence is a
“In the past, Police have made it clear to DEET that they do not want
the school conducting a detailed interview with the alleged victim or
offender of a sexual assault as it may compromise Police evidence in
such a way so as to make a subsequent prosecution difficult if not
“DEET has accordingly developed a policy which incorporates that
As it turned out, the only penalty the boy appears to have suffered so
far was a two week suspension from school. The girl said in a
statutory declaration to the police:- “[The boy] used to make threats
to me, stuff like he knew where we [she and a girl friend] lived and
that he would come and rape us and trash our house and stuff.
“I certainly felt that [the boy] might turn up at my place, because I
know he visits friends across the road from my place.
“He makes me scared, and makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe when he
“Sometimes I think he would try and do more than just touch my
The parents say they lost faith in the public education system and
enrolled the girl in a private school, at a cost of more than $6000 a
year. They asked DEET to compensate them, but DEET had refused.
The father says he had a telephone conversation with a DEET official
about the demands.
The father alleges the official said – words to the effect: “We will
engage the best lawyers at your [taxpayer’s] expense and drag this out
for as long as it takes to send you broke.”
Chief Minister and Education Minister Paul Henderson wrote to the
father on April 30, 2007, saying he would get back to him once the
Ombudsman had made “any recommendation(s)”.
The father hasn’t heard from Mr Henderson since.
The parents were motivated to bring the affair to public attention by
last week’s lead story in the Alice Springs News, “Alice school sex
DET issued the following statement: “The Department’s main concern is
the wellbeing of students and staff and it takes any accusations of
assault very seriously. The teacher did not follow Department
procedures in reporting the original complaint.
“The Department has sincerely apologised to the family for this
“Subsequently the matter was reported to police for further
investigation and the student immediately suspended. The Ombudsman’s
investigation was satisfied with the school’s response.”
Vatskalis dropped bundle on swine flu:
Giles. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Member for Braitling Adam Giles says Health Minister Kon Vatskalis has
“dropped the bundle” on swine flu.
With the number of cases ballooning in Alice Springs and Show Weekend
coming up, Mr Giles says he’s worried about the rates of infection
getting out of control.
He expressed his concern as it was reported that one in five patients
at the Alice Springs Hospital have the disease.
“From being the last place to get it, all of the sudden we’re the worst
per capita in Australia, and possibly the world.”
He says the Territory needs to learn lessons from the rapid spread of
“How was swine flu allowed to get out bush?” he asks .
“Were the first cases identified effectively quarantined?
“Are the new cases being effectively quarantined, to limit the further
“How safe can families in my electorate feel when they go to the Show
The Alice News offered right of reply to Health Minister Kon Vatskalis.
A spokesperson said: “The Opposition have refused to take up the offer
of a briefing from the medical experts. “They are being
“Since the start of the outbreak the Government has followed the advice
of the experts and will continue to do so.”
The number of cases of swine flu is being updated by the Health
Department daily (www.health.nt.gov.au).
An indication of the disease’s rapid spread is the 35 cases confirmed
over the weekend, followed by another 17 in the next 24 hours.
The majority of the cases are in the Centre. On Monday there were 17
people with the disease hospitalised in the NT, 15 of them in the Alice
Crushed glass in – not on – the
footpaths. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The Territory Government has granted the Town Council $850,000 to buy a
Planning and Infrastructure Minister Delia Lawrie informed the council
of the grant though apparently the money will come from the Department
of Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage.
Crushed glass can be used as a partial substitute for sand (up to 50%)
in non-load bearing concrete.
Council has plenty of use for the material in its footpath and kerbing
programs and is trialling its use in the Gathering Garden on the corner
of the Civic Centre.
Mayor Damien Ryan says the biggest benefit is that glass will no longer
need to go into the landfill. He says 6000 stubbies yield
about one ton of sand.
Meanwhile, the Australian Government granted $84,000 to the Town
Council, a share of an additional $100m for local governments announced
at last week’s National General Assembly of Local Government in
Australia, held in Canberra.
Aldermen will be considering how the unexpected money can be spent.
They have also asked officers to put forward some ideas about what kind
of competitive “strategic project” could be applied for from a further
$120m for local government projects across Australia.
Mr Ryan says the Australian Government has poured $1 billion into local
governments since last November.
He says his peers across the country agree that the current national
government is working with local government in an unprecedented way.
Council has also received a $90,000 grant from the Territory Department
of Planning and Infrastructure to develop the area between the Totem
Theatre and the Senior Citizens centre in readiness for an outdoor food
market during tourist season.
And a further $75,000 over three years has been received for
maintaining the Discovery Walkway and will be matched by council.
While the walkway (pictured) was developed by Great Southern Rail and
is on government land, no regular maintenance program was provided for.
Council has stepped in, with the support of Tourism Central Australia
and others, to work through overcoming the issues of maintenance, says
CEO Rex Mooney.
Council’s energy savings get gong
The Town Council has officially achieved Milestone Four in the Cities
for Climate Protection program.
Mayor Damien Ryan and Alderman Jane Clark on behalf of council were
presented with their CCP certificate last week at the National General
Assembly of Local Government in Australia, held in Canberra.
Cities for Climate Protection is an international campaign to involve
local government in greenhouse gas emission reduction which council
signed up to in 1998.
The previous council was taken to task for its slow progress on the
program (see www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1405.html and
While the program has been defunded by the Australian Government, the
Town Council will continue to Milestone Five which involves on-going
monitoring of actions undertaken.
The “aspirational goal” for Milestone Four was to achieve a 5%
reduction in greenhouse emissions, which council “easily achieved”,
says CEO Rex Mooney.
Arid Lands Environment Centre coordinator Jimmy Cocking says council’s
involvement in CCP has been “worthwhile”: “They’ve done a lot, but
there is still a lot to do.
“With a 5% aspirational goal they really haven’t had to push themselves.
“There is so much potential here to lead the world as a sustainable
Mr Cocking welcomed council’s support of a community garden with a
grant of $5000 and recognised their efforts with recycling.
“Localising glass recycling rather than shipping it off is a great
idea,” he says, responding to the news that council will buy a glass
“Now let’s see some ideas for dealing with cans, plastic, paper and for
The council’s energy efficiency committee reported back this week on
its energy audit reports for the Town Library, the Depot and the Civic
Centre and the actions taken to reduce energy consumption.
Among these were lighting modifications in the library which have
achieved greater brightness with half the lamps.
This resulted in financial savings of $2600 per annum from an
expenditure of $1400. An air-conditioning timer/controller was
also installed in the library to turn air-conditioning off during
scheduled closures (with a manual over-ride switch for after hours
At the Depot actions such as turning off air-conditioning after hours
achieved a “notable” reduction in electricity consumption with little
However subsequent installation of security lighting negated some of
the savings (though they did reduce vandalism at the Depot).
At the Civic Centre progress has been limited in part by contractual
issues but also by lack of qualified tradespeople in Alice Springs.
The committee’s report notes that a “critical mass” of buildings with
“leading-edge technologies” like those installed in the Civic Centre,
may be required before suitably qualified tradespeople become available
in Alice Springs.
Bushlight jobs safe – for now. By ERWIN
The jobs of the 28 Bushlight employees are safe “for the moment,” says
the CEO of the program, Bruce Walker – they have contracts to 2010.
The Federal Government has stopped the capital funding of the project
which for the past eight years has planned and supervised the
installation of solar power systems in 127 outback communities across
the Top End of Australia, for people living “off grid”.
Now only operational funding, $2.2m, will be available until the scheme
closes down in 2011.
In addition there is still capital funding in WA.
Bushlight was spawned by the Alice-based Centre for Appropriate
Technology (CAT), and has offices in Alice Springs, Cairns, Darwin and
Dr Walker is keen to change the government’s mind, and a spokeswoman
for Environment Minister Peter Garrett says officials are still looking
Dr Walker says: “They are stimulating every other thing in the country,
why cut the stimulus to something that’s actually working?”
On the one hand the government wants to “close the gap” while on the
other the outback “is losing out yet again over decisions made
He says CAT is busy pointing out “unintended consequences” of the cut.
Dr Walker says critics of Bushlight’s cost – $30.8m so far, or $244,000
per system – often overlook the side benefits.
The program’s team were involved not in the actual installation, but in
“community support, engagement, developing resources, technical design,
organising small suppliers, and payment of the bills”.
A bevy of small businesses has sprung up around the program.
Bushlight’s premature demise would lead to a loss in community benefit,
diminishing the “capacity to respond to a lot of other initiatives”.
“If you don’t have capital programs to deliver, then these people move
to other areas.
“We have runs on the board. We built on the back of the [Bushlight]
opportunity a capacity.
“We need to find a creative way of maintaining that capacity and
building it further.”
Bushlight is saving 2.2 million liters of fuel a year, worth $3.3m.
Aboriginal doctor finds her work
rewarding. By ERWIN
More Indigenous health professionals is one way to make improvements in
Aboriginal health, says Dr Kim Isaacs, a Resident Medical Officer on a
three month rotation in the Alice Springs Hospital.
Dr Isaacs is a Noongar, Yaruwu and Karajarri woman. Her mother is from
Broome and her father is from the south-west of Western Australia.
She is the first Yawuru and Karajarri person to become a doctor,
completing a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery Degree at the
University of Western Australia in 2007.
She did her internship at the Sir
Charlie Gairdner Hospital in Perth and began her term as a
Resident Medical Officer there.
The hospital sent her to Alice to increase her paediatric (child
“I am enjoying learning and working with the many Aboriginal groups
from this area and making a comparison of the similarities and
differences to our health back home in Western Australia,” says Dr
She did not want to specify what these might be as she has only been in
town for a couple of weeks.
Most of the children she is working with in Alice are Aboriginal.
“It’s a very busy ward which makes the work challenging but it is also
rewarding,” says Dr Isaacs.
While she’s in the Centre she hopes to get out and meet other
Indigenous people working in health and in Aboriginal organisations
with a view to encouraging any who might want to study medicine.
“There’s a lot of interest in getting Aboriginal people into medical
school and once they’ve graduated, to return to work in their
community,” she says.
That’s very much what she wants to do – to work in general practice and
paediatrics back in the Broome area.
Although there’s a family background in health care – her mother’s a
nurse, her uncle worked in Aboriginal mental health, and her
grandfather was a traditional healer in Broome – medicine was not her
first field of study.
She did a Commerce degree at UWA and afterwards worked as a researcher
at the Western Australian Office of Aboriginal Health and at the
Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
That’s when she developed her interest in medicine.
During her six years of medical school she did many placements in
remote health in Western Australia, Maori paediatrics in New Zealand
and Native American health in the USA on the Navajo Reservation.
With her studies overseas, she found a lot of similarities in health
issues, but says the challenge of remoteness for the Kimberley people
is still a major problem, as they have to travel great distances to
access tertiary health care in Perth
There’s a need to put more resources into primary health care in remote
areas – more GPs and early screening of diseases– in order to get on
top of problems before tertiary health care is required, says Dr
Fun & freedom of the Show
life. By KIERAN FINNANE.
They wouldn’t change the freedom and fun of life on the show circuit
That was the theme amongst all the show men and women the Alice News
spoke to on Tuesday, as they set up their tents and spruced up their
There are three generations of Browns on the circuit now.
Sue is pictured with daughters Camilia (9), Maticka (7) and Angela (6)
setting up their shooting gallery (opposite page).
The girls do distance education out of Forbes in NSW.
Is that home?
“No, home is the road,” says Sue with pride.
The family also own the Twister ride, a laughing clown stall, dodge’em
cars, bungey jumping, a food van and children’s rides.
The Millers have been in the business even longer – six generations,
counting baby Griffin-Lee.
The family were taking amusements around the Territory 80 years ago
before a show circuit even developed.
Today there are hundreds of Millers on show circuits around the country.
“It’s rare to go to an Australian show where there’s not one of our
family,” says Tyrone Miller, father of Griffin-Lee.
They’ve brought to Alice the Cha Cha, the Octopus, dodge’em cars and
this year are introducing a new ride for little kids, Bumper Boats.
Tyrone says the boats have had an excellent safety record in the USA
over 25 years.
Dad Bruce chips in: “We give the kids a quick swimming lesson before we
put them in!”
It’’s not always a family affair.
Craig Gilchrist (pictured page 1) leaves his partner and children
behind when he heads off on the circuit.
“It works out well,” he says.
This is his fifth year on the road, and he wouldn’t give it up for
“Paid to travel, what more could you ask for?
“Meeting different people, seeing different things, seeing the outback
and how they carry on here.”
And how’s that?
“People in the country are better than city people. They’ve got more
time for you, they talk to you civilly.”
Trent Andrews is new to the life. It’s only been three weeks but he’s
loving it: “It’s fun, exciting, something different every day.”
The appeal is similar for Hayley Binsiar and Teresa Horrex who work for
Gills have got the ferris wheel, the Star Dancer ride, motorbikes and
Teresa’s been with Gills for four months, travelling with them through
She’s come back to the show circuit and Alice Springs after a 16 year
The work and the lifestyle are a great change from raising kids (hers
are grown up now) and doing housework, she says.
Hayley’s been with Gills for just two weeks, but on the show circuit
for some 18 months.
She loves travelling around. Originally from Mackay, where everything
is so green, in Alice she’s enjoyed her first sight of red dirt.
Aboriginal art for World Expo
Warlukurlangu Artists from Yuendumu, Mbantua Gallery from Alice Springs
(specializing in Utopia art) and Buku Larrnggay Mulka from Yirrkala are
working on exhibition prospects to coincide with the Shanghai World
Expo next year.
Their representatives took part in a trade mission to Shanghai in May,
sponsored by NT Chief Minister’s Office and Austrade.
While Aboriginal art will be part of the NT Government’s presentation
at the expo, there are also opportunities for satellite events, says
John Oster, executive officer of the art centre advocacy body, Desart.
Contacts made with Shanghai galleries will be developed over the next
few months, with “two real prospects” for art centres at this stage,
says Mr Oster.
He says Warlukurlangu and Buku Larrnggay Mulka have “the capacity and
export readiness to engage quickly with the opportunities”.
Pictured are, from left, Tim Jennings (Mbantua), Gloria Morales
(Warlukurlangu), Vivian Zhao (Australian Trade Commission Shanghai –
Business Development Manager), Wayne Fan (Department of the Chief
Minister NT – Senior Project Officer), Sun Yongkang (Capital Art
Gallery, director), Will Stubbs (Yirrkala) and John Oster (Desart).
Photo courtesy Gloria Morales.
An orgy of beanies. By POP
VULTURE with CAMERON
Two prisoners escape from holding cells and discuss places best not to
hide, but still spike and push the pop cultural syringe.
They are prisoner number 345278 aka Mr Yin and prisoner number 872543
aka Dr Yang. Cuffed together, they are forced to survey and converse
about entertainment whilst on the run.
Mr Yin: Let’s go to the cinema. The seclusion and air-conditioned
comfort will offer us solace and refuge, if only for a couple of hours.
Dr Yang: That all depends on what is screening. Imprisonment can often
come under the guise of entertainment.
Mr Yin: How about Transformers again?
Dr Yang: No. Apart from the visual face molestation of
epilepsy-inducing action, I was casually bored with this sequel.
It seems that in this modern era, all a filmmaker needs to do is
produce this veritable mortar shell of special effects and keep the
film’s dialogue and plot line completely void of originality. The
general population of cinema-goers will still exit the building
resembling goldfish at feeding time, drop-jawed and crystal-eyed.
I know you enjoyed it Mr Yin, but I feel that hype is the new market
platform now rather than the final product release.
Mr Yin: I thought it was good. Above the norm for M-rated family
entertainment. The swearing was a bit out of sync with what the
generation Xs grew up with, their sacred “robots in disguise”. But
sometimes I think you just need to swim with the current.
Dr Yang: Never! It is for my refusal to conform to what is the current
tide of what we are and are not supposed to enjoy, that I found myself
Mr Yin: Yeah … that, and all those murders you did.
Dr Yang: Alas … the shackles that bind my feet and hands are but
metaphors for the repression of my free thought.
Mr Yin: OK, if you can justify multiple homicide as free thought. Good
luck to you. Anyway this Beanie Festival sounds unique, warm, live
music, ample food that is far from prison issue, and an added bonus of
the police not being able to single us out if everyone is wearing
criminal-associated apparel, by which I mean a beanie.
Dr Yang: Definitely, before my unjustified sentencing, I had great
adoration for the annual Beanie Festival. But one thing’s for sure, I
do want to be absent in body for the show-stopping announcement of the
Top 10 beanies, fresh off the podium and ready for purchase. The
horror! The horror! Scores and scores of people, a violent swarm, a
giant teeth-clenching beast machine, clawing and lashing, kicking and
scratching, and ultimately de-evolving at the chance to own one of the
Top 10. Honestly it’s like being tied up inside a giant reptile washing
Mr Yin: That’s actually the part I enjoy the most. So many preachers of
non-consumerism and limited possessions living, all involved in this
orgy of retail ejaculation. It’s hilarious, forget tight-arse Tuesday
at the video shop, this is by far and away the absolute pinnacle of
cheap entertainment to be had.
Woe betide the auction hammer!
ADAM'S APPLE: Ponderings from the
If you have ever thought that men might cherish the time spent on the
loo a little too much, I think you might be right.
This week I was sitting on the loo, pants around my ankles. The radio
in the bathroom was on and playing a killer tune and I was reading a
While I was sitting there on the throne I realised that I was the
happiest I had been all week.
I had time to myself. I had some great tunes. I was reading about
sport. I was sitting down and I wasn’t wearing pants. What more can a
man ask for?
The reason men love a good spell on the loo is mainly to do with the
fact that for a small period of their week, the loo provides a rare
opportunity for a man to be alone and to think.
Sure, men are thinking all week, but for a 20 minute period, newspaper
or magazine in hand, in the loo a man is free to think about whatever
The freedom to contemplate, to roam the mind is a rare but cherished
While I was sitting there, surveying all I command, I did some thinking
too. In fact many of the columns you have read over the years have had
their genesis with my bare bottom planted firmly on the same plastic
A thought entered my head. Who designs the artwork for the toilet
paper? The designs don’t suddenly appear on the 2-ply so someone must
have the job of designing them. Is that their only responsibility at
the toilet paper factory? Is that a full time job? What sort of
qualifications does one need for that gig?
“I see you’re a frog in a jacket specialist!”
“Yes I am. I also dabble in smiling fishies and teddy bears with honey
I wonder what sort of job satisfaction designing the artwork for toilet
paper could possibly imbue. Does the designer take pride in the fact
that their work is seen in thousands of grocery stores and millions of
homes every day or do they resent the fact that their masterpieces
generally end up obscured by poop?
We’ve all done work that has been less than edifying. I’ve worked a
checkout. I’ve analysed urine and sputum. I’ve been paid to dress as
the unbelievably poorly named Roger the Rooster. All these jobs were
fine enough but totally thankless.
No one thinks about how great it is to be able to collect food and
household items without the need to hunt and gather.
When the patient gets the all clear, it is the doctor who gets the
thanks, not the poor lab technician who had to wade through a week’s
worth of wee.
Still on the loo I thought about the most thankless job I could
possibly see myself doing. I’m pretty sure being a statistician would
have to be right up there as the most thankless job I could imagine.
Without statistics, governments would never be able to explain why they
want to spend our money. Without statistics we wouldn’t know how many
people there are in Australia, how many of those people are poor and
how many of those poor people can read and write.
Statistics is the backbone of government policy. It’s the backbone of
business strategy and it’s the gold nugget for breakfast radio jocks
and weekly column writers.
A good statistic makes our life so much easier. When we find out that
more Americans believe in UFOs than believe in God, it’s like
When we read that there was more people without a job in Australia than
thought Brendan Nelson would make a good Prime Minister, it was like
we’d caught a leprechaun.
Statisticians make my job so much easier, yet I never thank them.
You’ll never see a statistician on Celebrity Deal or No Deal.
You’ll never hear someone say, “That’s the statistician’s super model
girlfriend”, and I doubt you’d even invite a statistician to a dinner
party if you could find a good enough excuse.
On top of all that, on top of being social pariahs and having a
thankless job for which everyone else claims credit, on top of that,
statistics is really hard.
If you’ve ever had to take a statistics class you’ll agree that 95% of
the population would rather remove a vital organ with an apple corer
than take statistics.
So I guess the conclusion I made before I hiked up my trousers and
washed my hands was if you are in a position to thank someone for the
work they have done, take the time to show your appreciation. It might
stop others becoming statisticians.
LETTERS: Where are the
Intervention's fruit and veg and real jobs?
Sir,– It’s been two years since Mal Brough sprang the NTER tsunami (the
Intervention) on the NT.
When the Rudd Government came to power they announced that it would be
policy as usual but that on the anniversary of the Intervention a
review would be conducted.
As one local Yuendumu person posed the question: “Why is Rudd using
Howard’s shoes and piggy-backing his policies?”.
Last October the Report of the NTER Review Board was released. All 129
pages of it, and a great job done by Peter Yu and his team.
Minister Macklin’s immediate response was to cherry pick the report and
announce that the Government would implement some of the
recommendations. The main such recommendation is reinstatement of the
Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), and wait for it ... in a year’s time!
Compulsory income management (IM) is the most obviously bizarre,
inefficient and counter-productive of NTER measures. The report’s first
recommendation on IM is that “The current blanket application of
compulsory income management in the Northern Territory cease”.
Yet Minister Macklin said compulsory IM would continue (ED – We
understand compulsory IM is being considered in the current
consultations with Indigenous communities, with a view to redesigning
NTER measures so that they do not require the suspension of the RDA).
In a continuous barrage of announcements and media releases Minister
Macklin keeps presenting IM as some sort of panacea and one of the main
planks in the Government’s latest policy mantra. “Closing the Gap”.
A Government that promised to make “evidence based” policy decisions is
now following in the footsteps of its predecessors and pursuing the
politics of fear and loathing and spin.
Anecdotes of “children getting fresh fruit and food at last” and “women
that feel safe at last” and all thanks to IM and the Gap palpably
closing. You tell that to the people of Alice Springs currently
over-run with what I describe as IM refugees.
People who have nothing better to do than to drink, gamble, hang out
and generally make a nuisance of themselves, the catalyst for resurgent
racist attitudes and tensions in Alice Springs and elsewhere.
[Some] have had their houses effectively appropriated by Territory
You tell that to those Yuendumu people who have invested so much soul
in the bilingual program, recently killed by the “four-hours English
only policy” coup de grace.
Whilst education policy is not part of the NTER per se, it is being
driven by the same ethnocentric mind-set.