ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
July 16, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Right to climb Uluru may go. By ERWIN
By ERWIN CHLANDA
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has denied a
report in The Australian that he has “forced” Environment Minister
Peter Garrett to “retreat from a plan to shut down the climb to the top
She says a comment made by Mr Rudd on Radio 3AW – that “it would be
very sad [if people] weren’t able to enjoy that experience” – was “not
a disagreement” between the politicians, but intending to encourage
“Everyone can have an opinion,” she says.
“Some people thought [closing the climb] was a foregone conclusion.”
Meanwhile, both the NT Government (Minister Chris Burns), and the local
lobby group Tourism Central Australia (chairman Ren Kelly), have
opposed the proposal, included in a park draft management plan, now
open for public comment until September 4.
Both Dr Burns and Mr Kelly say it should be up to each individual to
make a decision about climbing or not.
Mr Kelly says Tourism CA is working with the NT Government and Tourism
NT “to develop some new strategies to keep the climb open for all
That strategy will be put to the review committee of the draft plan.
CLP Senator Nigel Scullion says: “We are now seeing a confused response
from the Federal Government as they sense the level of public backlash
to the plan.
“If the climb is closed it will deal a serious blow to the Red Centre’s
tourism industry and cut off further opportunities for Indigenous
A spokeswoman for Mr Garrett says because of “privacy restrictions” the
comments made during the consultation process would not be made public
but would be “described”.
Making the submissions public would lessen the chances for getting a
“very wide range of submissions”.
It seems yet again a decision about national parks, crucial to The
Centre’s economy, will be made behind closed doors.
The Alice Springs News put the following questions to Margot Marshall,
Director Public Affairs, Parks Australia:-
NEWS: How is it decided who has authority to speak on behalf of the
PARKS: This is a question for the Central Land Council (CLC).
NEWS: What is the annual amount of gate takings paid to the Aboriginal
PARKS: 25 per cent of gate takings goes to the traditional owners
under park lease agreements. $1.7 million in 2007-2008
was passed to the CLC.
NEWS: Who gets it?
PARKS: This is a question for the CLC.
True to form, the CLC did not answer those questions.
And Mr Rudd’s man in the NT, MHR for Lingiari Warren Snowdon, asserted
on the ABC on Monday that 90% of people wouldn’t care if the climb was
After all, it’s Aboriginal land, he said.
We asked Mr Snowdon on what survey he was relying, quoting that figure.
We received no reply.
The current avalanche of media comment and reporting was triggered when
National Parks Director Peter Cochrane announced: “The Uluru climb
continues to be a contentious issue with traditional owners and many
The most vocal Aboriginal spokesman is Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal
Corporation CEO Vince Forrester, described as an elder.
He claims that the Aborigines of the region, who have a majority on the
parks management board, are broadly opposed to climbing the Rock.
Mr Forrester denies allegations – made widely to the Alice News but on
the condition of anonymity – that Mr Forrester has no right in
traditional Aboriginal terms to speak on the issues.
But Mr Forrester says his grandmother, Tjintjatjwarra, was born at Kata
Juta (the Olgas), and her father and his wife were also born near The
“I’m talking about my great-grandparents now, before the white man
came,” says Mr Forrester.
What does he say to people who claim he is not an initiated man?
“I put scorn upon them. I’ve never seen them in the ceremony, at
“I am challenging them to prove to my family, and the mob I belong to
out here, that I am not an initiated man.”
Was he not told by senior men in the Hermannsburg region to keep out of
a dispute, some 20 years ago, about tjuringas given to the
anthropologist Ted Strehlow?
Says Mr Forrester: “The Hermannsburg mob at that time, most of them are
dead now, told me, you can look after your own [sacred objects] and we
can look after our own.
“There were objects all over the country.
“I was with 13 elders at that time, covering all the Central Desert
areas,” in a national campaign to have objects returned.
“I was a go-between.
“There were Aranda people there, Luritja, Pintupi, Warlpiri people.”
Did Hermannsburg people say, ‘Keep your nose out of this’?
“Yes, but we said there were some other [objects], too.”
Mr Forrester says a sign was put up at the base of the climb in 1985,
“in five different languages, saying please do not climb Uluru.
“That sign still stands today.
“We’re asking nicely, Erwin. We’re asking nicely.”
Mr Forrester says his supporters include Reggie and Cassidy Uluru, the
sons of the late Kumantjai Uluru, undisputed custodian of The Rock;
Harry Wilson and Malya Teamay.
“When [the Federal Government] suspended the Racial Discrimination Act
I was going to protest at the base of Uluru, with flags and placards,”
says Mr Forrester.
“You know what I am like, Erwin, I do these sorts of things.”
Google throws up dozens of media statements by Mr Forrester, and
judging by them he was a great deal more robust in his comments.
Far from basing his objections to climbing Uluru on cultural grounds,
he threatened a ban as a means to a political end.
In an interview about the Federal Intervention he told the ABC on June
26, 2007: “I mean, it’s freaking everybody out because it’s bringing
the military in ... why is there a military operation against the most
poverty-stricken community members of Australia?
“If I had my way, I’d close the bloody climb. That tourist industry
brings a lot of dollars into the Territory, and tourists all come to
The Green Left Weekly issue of April 23, 2008 reports Mr Forrester as
telling a meeting attended by 130 in Redfern that the Intervention is
“a social experiment: they’re going to take this right across Australia
... We can close the climb. We can open professional tour services,
charge professional rates, and we get the money.”
And the UK Guardian on June 22 last year reported Mr Forrester, “an
elder from the Mutitjulu people who are Uluru’s traditional owners and
have the power to ban climbing on it” as saying: “We’ve got to take
some affirmative action to stop this racist piece of legislation.
“We’re going to throw a big rock on top of the tourist industry ... we
will close the climb and no one will climb Uluru ever again.”
Mr Forrester admits that at that time he made a connection between
climbing and the Intervention, but the current issue, the draft
management plan, “is a different matter”.
Meanwhile, far from rejecting the notion of a climbing ban, Mr Rudd
seems to be having two bob each way.
This was his conversation with Neil Mitchell of 3AW on July 10, when Mr
Rudd was in Italy:
PM: I am on the other side of the world. As a matter of general
principle my view has always been that people should be able to have,
you know, appropriate access to Uluru.
Obviously it’s a question I suppose of public safety and managing
important natural parts of our landscape, it’s a bit like managing the
Great Barrier Reef in some respects. And there have to be appropriate
I think it would be very sad if we got to a stage though where
Australians and frankly our guests from abroad weren’t able to enjoy
MITCHELL: What, to climb it?
PM: Yeah. To climb it.
MITCHELL: So you’d think it’d probably be a good thing if they could
climb it. I’ve never done it myself but a lot of people say it’s very
impressive to climb.
PM: Yeah, I’ve not done it either but I’ve run into people from abroad
who’ve climbed it and have had a great experience. I’ve also run into
people from abroad who have fallen over and done themselves great
damage. I’ve run into them all. So management plans are necessary to
both preserve sites like this and I suppose that’s the basis of some of
these studies which have been undertaken. But management studies are
also necessary in terms of properly regulating access in terms of
public safety as well. But it’s a wonderful part of Australia out
there, and I look forward to getting out there myself at some stage.
Whether that was to climb The Rock or not Mr Rudd did not say.
Spin vs truth.
“No land is being locked up. Let’s be very clear about that. You know
it. I know it. No land is being locked up.”
That was Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon on June 12 talking about
the handover to Aborigines of NT parks.
It's a long way from the facts: Try and enjoy the Rainbow Valley rock
formation and claypan from the campground, delineated by the black
plastic bollards now in vogue with Parks and Wildlife.
The information kiosk proposes the only activity, apart from limited
camping, allowed them in the reserve: a walk along a “marked track to
the arch-shaped formation known as Mushroom Rock”.
The sign suggests allowing one hour for the return walk. To reach
Mushroom Rock takes about 10 minutes.
The sign goes on to say: “Access to other areas of the reserve is by
permit only. Contact Parks and Wildlife Service on 89518250 for more
From the site, such a call could only be made on a satellite phone.
Circumnavigation of the rock formation even at its base is out of
bounds, though it is clear that some visitors go further than the end
of the official track.
Some visitors are also walking on the claypan: not everyone dutifully
reads signs first. Campsites are equipped with firepits and there
is a single composting toilet.
There is no provision of shade at the campground.
In the wake of joint management of the reserve with Aboriginal people,
some 90% of land accessible previously has indeed been "locked up".
NT media producers win some,
lose some. By KIERAN FINNANE.
In a now familiar refrain from the Territory’s small but vibrant film
and television industry, the awarding to a ‘southern’ company of a
$300,000 government tender for the construction of an online visitors’
centre for the West MacDonnell National Park is being protested.
The Film and Television Association of the Northern Territory (FATANT)
says at least two well-qualified Territory companies tendered for the
project but lost out to a Sydney-based company, Wanted Digital.
The Alice News understands that one of them was Neil Aitken’s Redback
Productions, which has independently built and maintained an
informative website about Alice Springs as a holiday destination since
at least 2005.
We asked Mr Aitken to comment but he declined “at this stage”.
A FATANT media release says: “At numerous meetings with senior public
servants, ministerial advisors and members of cabinet, FATANT has been
assured NT Government policy is to support local jobs and to put the
home grown industry first.”
The government could well counter that the tender for the website
content – at $885,000, worth more than twice as much – went to a
Territory company, Captovate, and FATANT indeed welcomes this.
However, it says the award of the tender for the website construction
to Wanted Digital “is a missed opportunity to develop our IP
[intellectual property] based home grown industry and means lost jobs
for the local sector. “
The Alice Springs News asked FATANT president Gary Haslett how he
thought the government should weigh up “local versus the best” in
(The terms, of course, are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as the
low budget Central Australian film, Samson and Delilah, demonstrated in
May, trumping competition from around the world to win the Cannes Film
Festival’s prize for best first feature.)
Mr Haslett said the creation of the online visitor centre is venturing
into “a whole new area” – offering visitors to the website an
“experience as if they were there” and also on-site delivery of
interpretive content via a mobile device.
“I don’t think Wanted Digital are already doing this,” he says, arguing
that government money would be better invested in a local company to
develop this kind of IP.
The News asked Wanted Digital if they are in fact already building
websites which produce an experience for the viewer “as if they were
there” and are already delivering content on a mobile device.
Cora Spear, Strategy Director for Wanted Digital, said she was not
“in a position to comment” as the company’s tender is “commercial in
confidence”, noting that “this seems to be an issue between NTG and
In a media release announcing the tender results, Chief Executive of
the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts and Sport,
Jim Grant, said Wanted Digital’s “experience and outline of using
innovative technology in producing the website was critical to their
“The use of augmented reality and the development of a unique mobile
application will be cutting edge and was an example of the technologies
presented by Wanted Digital that was very exciting to see.”
Interestingly, in the week before the announcement of the tender, Alice
Springs-based media producer David Curl, celebrating his 20 years in
the Centre, gave invited guests a preview of an online visitors’ centre
he has created with his own resources.
Mayor Damien Ryan and Tourism Central Australia’s Peter Grigg both
spoke at the occasion, applauding Mr Curl’s achievements.
Mr Curl said he hopes to go live with the website in a couple of
months’ time, which would certainly preempt the launch of the
Mr Curl’s site, the Red Centre Channel, contains a massive amount of
video content on a wide range of topics – historical and contemporary,
social and environmental – and employs or will employ mobile device
For instance, Mr Curl told guests that they will be able to use their
mobile device to record the sound of a birdcall they hear in the bush
and use that recording to identify and learn more about the bird from
The News understands Mr Curl did not put in a tender. He declined to
comment for this report.
Meanwhile, Captovate’s Michael Hawkes says the major creative direction
for the the West MacDonnell Visitors’ Centre website will come from
“people in Alice”, while Captovate will do the project management.
Project manager Karen Hawkes says they will use a variety of Alice
Springs-based content providers, juniors as well as seniors, building
She says the vision for the site is the department’s: “They are very
clear about what they are trying to do.”
Says the department’s Mr Grant: “The deliverables of this project will
highlight the beauty, attraction and rich environmental assets of not
only the West MacDonnell National Park, but all parks and reserves in
the Territory in an online format.
“The creation of this online, or virtual visitor centre, is a component
of a $3m Northern Territory Government election commitment to create a
West MacDonnell National Park Visitors’ Centre.”
Liquor litter charge legally
invalid, says Hotels Association. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The Australia Hotels Association NT branch have asked the Town Council
to withdraw the declaration of the Liquor Litter Charge to be imposed
on the owners of premises where takeaweay liquor is sold.
The association's Executive Director Amy Williamson says that the
charge is "invalidly made under Section 157 of the Local Government
Act", basing this on advice received from Senior Legal Counsel.
Lawyer Peer Schroter, acting on behalf of a number of the affected
property owners, is liaising with the association.
He says "at this stage [we] have not formally resolved action pending
receipt and consideration of Counsel's advice".
Town Council CEO Rex Mooney declined to comment "because of legal
The association's letter and a full report will be presented to
aldermen with this month's papers, says Mr Mooney.
Ms Williamson says the association's legal advice "indicates that the
declaration of the charge is beyond power of the council".
"Section 157 permits the imposition of a charge on land for work or
services carried out for the benefit of that land or occupiers of that
"In this case, the service that the charge has been imposed [for]
(being litter collection), is not limited to litter collection [on the
land] upon which takeaway liquor outlets are situated but is in fact a
service intended to benefit all the land within the Municipality of
Alice Springs," says Ms Williamson.
She says she has expressed in her letter to council "considerable
disappointment" that they have taken "this approach to liquor litter
reduction without full consultation with all stakeholders".
She also suggests that "industry" is "happy to work with council to
reduce the amount of litter in Alice Springs" and has undertaken steps
in that direction.
Says Ms Williamson: "Industry, through the Packaging Stewardship Forum
of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, was working on a number of
potential litter-reduction and recycling projects with council prior to
the declaration of the charge.
"These projects were focused on a lot more than bottle and can
Council's Director of Technical Services Greg Buxton says the Packaging
Stewardship Forum withdrew from negotiations with council when the
Northern Territory Government announced in mid-March their commitment
"in principle" to introduce a cash for container scheme by 2011.
"It had nothing to do with our liquor litter charge," says Mr Buxton.
He says the forum, which supports recycling efforts only when
voluntarily undertaken, had written to the Territory Environment
Minister Alison Anderson to express their disagreement with the
government's intended scheme.
He says it was only after they had heard back from Ms Anderson, that
the forum then wrote to council "using our liquor litter charge as a
reason for why they wouldn't pursue a joint venture with council".
Up till then negotiations with Mr Buxton and his staff were quite
advanced. Among other possible initatives, the forum had agreed to put
$35,000 into a demonstration project using crushed glass as a
substitute for sand in non-load bearing concrete.
The idea was to use this project to convince the NT Government to
assist council to buy a glass crusher.
The need for this has since been superseded with the government
granting council $850,000 for the purchase before the demonstration
project was even completed.
Mr Buxton says he would be pleased to enter into negotiations afresh
with the forum over plastic recycling, but "the tone of their letter
appears to have slammed the door shut", he says.
However Chief Executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council
(AFGC), Kate Carnell, says if council were interested in resuming
partnership discussions, "we would be more than happy to oblige".
She says council decided "to go down a different path" from the
discussions the AFGC's Packaging Stewardship Forum held with them about
six months ago "to establish a possible partnership on a number of
projects to increase recycling of beverage containers".
Ms Carnell acknowledged council's "every right" to do so.
Mr Buxton remains adamant that the AFGC
Packaging Stewardship Forum "withdrew from the
agreement/partnership, without notice or discussion with council".
He says council "has always been willing to proceed, however the PSF
decided council's actions in other areas of recycling and environmental
concerns didn't suit their ideals".
Meanwhile, council has announced the location of its container deposit
centre – at Territory Metals on Smith Street (next to Origin Energy).
Local residents will be able to drop off their glass and aluminium
drink containers (up to 500 at a time) at the deposit centre and
collect five cents per item.
A driver's licence will establish proof of local residence, but Mr
Buxton says an "honesty policy" will apply for those people who do not
have a driver's licence, including children.
Council does not want the deposit centre to be "inundated" with
containers from outside of Alice Springs, he says.
Nonetheless he expects that council will have discussions with the
shires about how they can participate in and contribute to the scheme,
which would assist with clean-up in bush communities.
1000 households now with Alice
One thousand households or 10% of all homes in Alice Springs are now
committed to being more energy efficient though the Alice Solar City
There were celebrations in the Smart Living Centre this week when
Melinda Hassall became the 1000th customer to register her home.
“This is a major milestone for our town,” says Sam Latz, Acting
General Manager for Alice Solar City, “especially considering our goal
was to reach 1500 by 2013.
“We have been overwhelmed by residents’ interest to implement energy
efficient activities in their homes and congratulate all those who have
become involved since our launch in March last year.
“Almost $2.5 million has been spent by households on solar and energy
efficient measures in the home, which will put a large dent in our
town’s greenhouse gas emissions, and we are about to embark on a major
monitoring and evaluation project which will tell us just how well we
“By far the biggest interest has been in solar hot water systems – we
have supported the installation of 175 systems in 15 months.
“Fifty eight homes now have solar photovoltaic systems on their
rooftops, which is fantastic considering there were only two in Alice
Springs before we started the project.”
Also popular is the 10:10/20:20 incentive, where households get a
10-20% credit on their power bill if they reduce their electricity
consumption by 10-20% after their energy survey – 59 people have
claimed a total of $4,090 in credits.
Other very popular measures include painting the roof white, replacing
high energy use lighting with energy efficient lighting, installing or
upgrading insulation and servicing existing solar hot water systems.
Businesses in Alice Springs are getting on board as well, with 60
businesses now participating.
“Businesses are lining up to follow the lead of Zone A, who were the
first small business to install a solar PV system on their roof through
Alice Solar City”, says Mr Latz.
Melinda Hassall says she was very keen to discover ways that she was
able to make her new home more energy efficient.
“I have already made some small changes to reduce my energy and water
use, but I‘m keen to learn what more I can do.
“Alice Springs is the perfect place to harness as much energy from the
sun as we can.”
Alice Solar City is part of the Australian Government’s $94 million
Solar Cities initiative designed to test integrated approaches to urban
Enriching Maths makes learning
fun. By JUSTIN ZAMMIT.
Challenging, fun and useful! That’s the verdict from students who
attended the recent Alice Springs Maths Enrichment Camp at the Ross
Thirty students from Yirara College, OLSH College, Anzac Hill and Alice
Springs High Schools, Braitling, Bradshaw and Larapinta Primary Schools
attended the three-day camp to compete in a variety of problem solving
activities based on three major themes – graphs, robotics, and numbers.
Organised by a number of teachers, schools and academics from across
the NT, the camp was designed to bring together a diverse range of
students who were divided into different groups with the aim of mixing
people from different year levels and schools.
Matt Skoss, President of the Mathematics Teachers’ Association of the
NT, was delighted with the success of the camp and wants to see it
become an annual event.
“It’s been really exciting to see the kids engaged with the activities
that really stretched their mathematical thinking,” he said.
“The nature of many of the activities required students to be largely
Students worked together to solve problems without too much teacher
input. The aim was to encourage independent thinking and social
interaction between different age groups and Maths levels.
“You don’t have help from the teachers. It’s good to think
differently,” said Megan, a Year 9 student.
Jamie, a Year 6 student found this process interesting. “I’ve learnt a
little bit about numbers,” she admitted.
Mark, a Year 7 student found some of the activities challenging but
admitted it made him think about what he was actually doing. Other
students agreed with this. “Different people brought in ideas and
worked together,” said Sarah, a Year 9 student.
“You can learn heaps of stuff ‘cos you’re with your friends and working
in different groups,” said Grace, also in Year 9.
One of the most popular activities dealt with robotics. Thanks to a
successful application for funding from the Australian Government
Quality Teaching Programme, John Bermingham has been able to bring
together teachers who are interested in using robotic technology in the
At the camp he encouraged students to program robotics to respond to
commands and move around the room. Ethan, a Year 7 student says
learning about robots will help him getting involved in engineering.
“I’m a nerd when it comes to computers,” he admitted. “It should help
improve my Maths understanding and problem solving.”
Mr Bermingham believes robotics are being increasingly used in schools
across Australia. He is pleased to see the impact this is having on
“It gives students an opportunity to learn key concepts in Science or
Maths,” he said.
Student Hanna found the robotics both enjoyable and stimulating. “They
teach you a lot about Maths and how to use it in the real world,” she
Justin Zammit teaches at Yirara
It’s better than fishing. By KIERAN FINNANE.
For some people it’s going fishing, for Dean Griffiths (pictured) it’s
helping others – that’s what he finds most satisfying.
And to amplify his efforts, he’s thrown himself into building up the
local branch of the service club, Apex.
They started the year with six members and now have 23, largely the
result of Dean’s efforts, says Apex Club of Central Australia secretary
and in-coming president, Mister Shaun.
Dean is a past president, current treasurer and vice-president and has
roles at a state level.
This week he is representing SA/NT in the National Apexian of the Year
Awards being held in Perth, having been awarded State Apexian of the
Year out of 200 SA/NT contenders.
He was nominated for the state award by his club for having been a key
driving force behind its fundraising and membership successes.
Over the last 12 months, the club has been involved in projects
totaling over 2150 service hours.
“A large proportion of these would not have gone ahead without Dean’s
commitment,” says Mister, who prepared Dean’s nomination.
The club has also raised some $40,000, with three-quarters of that
coming from profits from the Master’s Games Bar – again Dean was
instrumental, says Mister.
Among the club’s service activities has been the annual Christmas
Icy-Pole Treat – 14,000 icy-poles get distributed to local kids in
every street and town camp in Alice Springs by Santas on the back of
“It’s keeping up a 30 year tradition,” says Dean.
Working bees in aid of worthy causes are another tradition.
This year Apex members built a playground for kids on a remote
Aboriginal outstation and held a weekend long working bee out at
Hamilton Downs Youth Camp. This involved “an almost complete facelift
of the ablution blocks, historic buildings and installation of a new
weather station”, says Mister.
Dean is an active member on the Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Inc.
committee (which is independent from Apex), where he has served for
over three years. Specifically he worked to acquire and install a
state-of-the-art fire detection system which permitted the camp to meet
its regulatory safety requirements.
A member too of the Australia Day Committee in Alice Springs (does this
man ever sleep?), he has worked to bring on board a number of large
sponsors for the annual Australia Day Ball.
A new Apex project for which he’s enthusiastic is the establishment of
a scholarship for local students, “to help them follow their dreams”
but also to build skills in public speaking and presentation.
The scholarship winner would be required to make presentations to the
club about their endeavours.
“Hopefully it will act as a feeder to the club, get new members
involved and keep it strong and viable,” says Dean. Originally from
Mittagong in NSW, Dean has lived in Alice for 11 years. He is
Electrical Systems Manager for Alice and Darwin with Chubb Fire Safety.
NAIDOC caterpillar dreaming.
Eastern Arrernte men danced the Yipirinya (caterpillar) dreaming for
Mparntwe to wrap up NAIDOC celebrations held at Araluen last week.
The dreaming tells of the journey and battles of the caterpillar
ancestors who formed “these hills” (the MacDonnell Ranges around Alice
Springs), explained senior man Chris Wallace.
The striking head-dress worn by the men represents the Yipirinya moth
emerging from the caterpillar – “I can see it now”, said senior woman
The design, including the fringe over the dancers’ eyes, is based on
the distinctive patterns of the moth wings.
The downy feathers on the men’s torsos represent the silken hairs of
The leaves strapped to their legs is a tradition “used all the time” in
dancing – contributing to the rhythmic sounds of the dance, explained
Craig Ryder. – K. Finnane
Public art soon for Civic
Centre corner. By KIERAN FINNANE.
The nine large bronze coolamons for the Town Council’s public art
project, called The Gathering Garden, are nearing completion, with
delivery and installation expected early next month.
Eight of the coolamons will be installed in their upturned form and
will serve as seating in a garden on the corner of the Civic Centre
block, facing Todd Mall.
Paths in the garden converge on a central meeting place, where the
ninth coolamon, designed by Central Arrernte / Warlpiri artists Marie
Elena Ellis and Roseanne Ellis (daughters of the renowned Michael
Jagamarra Nelson), will also serve as a water feature.
In all 10 Aboriginal artists from nine art centres have been involved
in the project.
Council is hoping to launch the project in late August.