ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
August 6, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
charge: five young
The five young local men charged with murder of 33 year old Donny Ryder
on July 25 appeared in court on Tuesday.
They are Scott John Doody, Timothy James Hird, Anton Thomas Kloeden,
Joshua Ben Spears, and Glen Anthony Swain.
It was standing room only in the court, with family and friends of both
the victim and the accused present in large number.
Magistrate Greg Borchers asked that only those seated remain.
Messrs Hird, Kloeden, Spears and Swain were dealt with quickly: no
applications for bail were made.
They were remanded in custody until today (August 6) when bail
applications will possibly be made.
Mr Doody’s mention had not taken place before the Alice News
As well as murder, all five face charges of unlawfully causing serious
harm, possess use or carry a prohibited weapon, and multiple counts of
recklessly endangering life.
Mr Buzzacott reading the prepared statement of the late Mr Ryder's
relatives. Behind him on the left is Mr Ryder's fiancee, and on the
right, his mother (covering here eyes). Photo RAINER CHLANDA.
Breaking News - Thursday:
Grieving family urges calm. By KIEARAN FINNANE.
Family members of the late Donny Ryder (pictured below right),
over whose death five young local men face charges of murder, have
called for "calm in the community over recent events and in the lead up
to the trial date".
Thomas Buzzacott, cousin of the dead
man, read a prepared statement on the lawns opposite the Alice Springs
He was surrounded by family members,
including the victim's mother, "Aunty" Theresa, and the victim's
had waited all morning for the bail application hearings listed for
four of the five defendants. The fifth defendant was listed for a
Some family and friends of the
defendants were also in court, though not in as great a number as on
Tuesday, when they were first listed for mention.
The last application was finally
heard just before 1pm.
Bail was not sought for any of the
defendants, though yet may be for some at a later date.
Committal dates have been set
for November 16 to 25. This is to decide whether there is enough
evidence to go to trial.
In the statement outside Mr
Buzzacott noted that only one of the families of the defendants had
offered their condolences to the bereaved family.
Sister-in-law Karen Liddle said that
these were the parents of Timothy James Hird.
She also said: "Aunty Theresa has
said all along we don't blame the families, the parents or the brothers
She also referred to two among the
other families as "really well known Alice Springs families" who have
been "associated with the Aboriginal community over 30 years or more".
She said: "This is the toughest
The statement also called for the
"whole community to support us in helping each other to make necessary
changes to current laws and practices that are clearly not working".
It did not specify which laws and
"We need to allow for better
understanding of the different cultures and work towards respecting our
differences and beliefs. This will certainly reduce violence in the
community which has been affecting each and every one of us.
"Current laws are creating
unnecessary conflict within the community.
"This is a vulnerable time when all
young children and youth need our strength and courage to protect them.
"It is they who need our constant
vigilance and guidance. Through our love and support as parents and
families we must help them to live better lives, to allow for cultural
exchange to broaden their learning in life and help them to achieve
their dreams and aspirations.
"This is a crucial time for the
whole community and governments to come together through compassion and
understanding as human beings and as one community."
The family also acknowledged the
quick response to the death of Mr Ryder of the Alice Springs Police and
"The Northern Territory Regional Team" who had combined
"professionalism" and "cultural sensitivity".
"For this we thank you," said Mr
They also thanked members of the
community who had assisted police with their investigations.
Emotions rose when Mr Buzzacott
recalled Mr Ryder as "a young man full of compassion and love with a
vibrant energy for life and was one who always held a welcome smile
with a 'hello' for everyone he met".
While the mood in court among family
members had been sombre, there had been no tears.
Now Mr Ryder's mother and his
fiancee wept openly, with their arms around one another.
Mr Buzzacott continued: "His working
life was bound by his enthusiasm for life, connecting him with the
spirituality of the land he loved whilst embracing friendship with all
people within the community.
"He was a popular and proud young
man who was loved by all his family and friends.
"He possessed a natural ability to
share his love and in doing so maintained his personal characteristics
as a true gentleman who was Arrernte, a Territorian and Australian and
this is the image we share with the rest of the community."
KIERAN FINNANE covers the furore over town
Clark on her own.
A bitter rift in the town council has isolated Greens
alderman Jane Clark from all other elected members who claim –
overwhelmingly – that her “political grandstanding” had caused massive
damage to the council’s reputation, and by extension, that of the town.
Media and bloggers around Australia and also overseas, refering to
statements by Ald Clark, painted a picture of rangers on freezing
nights taking blankets from illegal campers in the town’s creekbeds.
Ald Clark is accused of using council meeting procedure to manoeuvre
herself into a position where her allegations could not be refuted, and
to have abused her position on council to pursue another political
She said at the July 27 council meeting that she had been “shouted down
quite strongly” during council’s deliberations “behind closed doors”
about the draft by-laws. But fellow aldermen deny that or say they have
no recollection that she was.
She went on to outline her concerns and spoke with some emotion about
particularly the ban on begging and the disposal of “abandoned items”
such as blankets belonging to people camping in the Todd and other
But fellow aldermen again either deny that Ald Clark had made clear the
strength of her views on these by-laws or have no recollection of her
having done so.
Mayor Damien Ryan accuses Ald Clark of being “mischievous”,
particularly in her “misrepresentation” of the “abandoned items” by-law
in the media from the following day.
She was quoted on ABC radio (July 28) as saying: “Council wants to be
able get those blankets and throw them away.”
The item was headlined: “Plan to strip blankets from Alice homeless”.
One blogger, Kathryn Hemsley, cites this news item and then the
response to it which she emailed to councillors: “I was also horrified
to learn that you voted in favour of a by-law allowing Rangers to
forcibly remove blankets from homeless people and throw them away. This
is an incredibly barbaric practice. You are allowing enforcers to
target those in desperate need of help and dealing them a death
Ms Hemsley then posts an email reply she received from Ald Clark. This
is an excerpt from Ald Clark’s reply: “Thanks for your email. The
‘blanket’ bylaw is number 71
“Proposed By-Laws which raise questions for me are - Number 71 - which
prevously only allowed staff to impound abandoned items.
“Council now wants to add the words - ‘and dispose of’ - the most
common abandoned item currently dealt with is the camping supplies and
blankets of homeless people. We need to lobby for the words ‘and
dispose of’ to be removed.
“When taken together with 57. No Begging, 34. No Protests without
Permit, 83. Move On, 84 Removal of Persons and 26 No Camping, you will
see that there is a general targetting of certain sectors of the
This certainly goes further than Ald Clark’s statements in front of
either the council or to the ABC the next day. She also does not
attempt to clarify Ms Hemsley’s misapprehension that blankets are
Whatever one thinks of the by-law, it concerns “abandoned items”, not
items that people are using at the time.
By late Friday last week Mr Ryan had phoned Ald Clark twice and texted
her twice to express his concerns about her misrepresentations, but he
says she had responded only with one message, saying that she would get
back to him.
Mr Ryan says Ald Clark’s claim to have been “shouted down” is
“blatantly incorrect” and “as insulting to me as it is to other members
of the council”.
“I don’t let anyone get shouted down,” he says.
He says he was aware of Ald Clark’s opposition to certain by-laws, such
as the one requiring council permission to hold a protest.
He does not recall her having opposed before July 27 by-law 71, the
abandoned items by-law.
“Mischievous” is a word also used by Ald Brendan Heenan about Ald
Clark’s statements in the media and her failure to clarify
He says she has “denigrated the town and denigrated council rangers”
with her statements about what rangers would do with campers’ blankets.
Ald Heenan says Ald Clark’s views on the by-laws in the committee
meeting were “not that strong”, while her speech at the ordinary
meeting was “stage-managed” so that other aldermen did not get “a right
Deputy Mayor John Rawnsley in fact urged Ald Clark to take part in the
She had moved the motion for the by-laws to be placed on public
exhibition and had reserved her right to speak.
Ald Rawnsley queried this tactic: “If you are going to criticise it ...”
Ald Clark interrupted: “I have no problem with it being put out on
Ald Rawnsley: “That doesn’t give other aldermen a chance to respond to
Ald Murray Stewart then asked for “standing orders” (which limit
aldermen to having “only one bite of the cherry”) to be removed, to
allow a to and fro debate. This was agreed to.
Ald Clark was silent while standing orders were removed, even though
concerns apparently close to her heart were raised, among them the
begging and protest by-laws.
When standing orders were restored, having reserved her right, Ald
Clark got to have the last word, to the applause of several in the
Ald Rawnsley says he anticipated that Ald Clark would be critical
because of what she had said on ABC radio during the day, not because
of any prior statements from her in council’s informal meetings.
He says the issue of campers’ blankets had come up during those
meetings and that “our understanding was that the present policy would
be continued”, which is that council rangers take the blankets to
“When the connection was made previously between the abandoned items
by-law and blankets, we were informed that it would not impact on this
practice,” says Ald Rawnsley.
He says he would have preferred that there be an open discussion at the
formal council meeting “to have the issues thrashed out”.
Ald Stewart sees Ald Clark’s tactics and statements as “a classic
example of why there is no place for party politics in local
He says she “used everyone” in the council chamber, including her own
supporters, to boost “her political standing with the Greens”.
He says the reform of the by-laws has been in process since the middle
of the term of the 10th Council, of which both he and Ald Clark were
“I will swear on a stack of Bibles that Jane Clark not only
participated in the reforms process, but any disapproval from her was
very muted and of an extremely minor nature,” says Ald Stewart.
“She was supportive of the changes – and her supporters need to
understand this – with the exception of one or two.
“The main one she was concerned about was the requirement of a permit
He says Ald Clark did not have the “integrity” to test her views
against others, during the council meeting. He says her supporters are
the ones who should be “the most disappointed” as she has “shown two
He says it is “beyond belief” that Ald Clark was “shouted down” during
meetings and briefings on the by-laws. He says these were conducted in
an “extremely mature fashion”, with an exchange of views taking place.
He says that until the meeting of July 27 Ald Clark had “great
standing” with the other aldermen, conducting herself with “aplomb and
professionalism” but that standing has been “derailed”.
“Her performance the other night has showed us that only one thing is
important for her – her standing with the Greens.”
Ald Liz Martin says that in her recall Ald Clark made “no objection at
all” to the draft by-laws other than to “the protest stuff”.
“It was political grandstanding at best, a rehearsed political
performance,” she says of Ald Clark’s statements in council on July 27.
“It was the first time I’d heard those viewpoints.I had to come home
and ask myself had I missed something.
“But I had a look at my notes and there was no very loud warning from
Ald Clark about the reaction council could expect from the public.
“There was very definite misrepresentation that day and the days after
in the media, both local and national.”
Ald Martin says Ald Clark has not tried to correct the misapprehensions
about council’s intentions and policies in relation to campers’
blankets, describing this failure as “misconduct that council will have
to deal with”.
Ald Melanie van Haaren says “no on both counts” to whether Ald Clark
was ever shouted down or had made known the strength of her views on
the begging and abandoned items by-laws.
“I suspect another agenda, that she is using the by-laws debate to feed
that agenda, whatever that may be,” says Ald van Haaren.
She says Ald Clark’s “hesitations” around certain by-laws were “no less
and no more” than those of other aldermen.
Ald Samih Habib says Ald Clark was never shouted down: “That would be
completely out of place, nobody shouts anybody down.
“We might get excited, we might criticise each other’s comments, maybe
she was criticised for her opinion but we don’t boo anybody.”
On whether aldermen were aware beforehand of the strength of Ald
Clarks’ views, Ald Habib says, “I know her political views, I know she
will be against it.
“We know she is not supportive of the by-laws, I’m not supportive of
the whole lot either.”
Ald Sandy Taylor says she is “pretty sure that everyone has been able
to have their say” during the several informal meetings concerning the
“I honestly don’t recall anyone being shouted down.”
Ald Taylor says everyone had strong opinions about different things and
everyone expressed concerns about the enforcement of the begging
by-law: “How can people pay something when they don’t have it?
“But the flipside is that native title holders don’t want beggars in
Alice Springs – we are trying to support the native title holders’
Ald Taylor says that by getting up “on her soapbox” Ald Clark has shown
herself to be “not a team player”.
“I know she is a Green but we are elected to represent the town of
“We’ve had a cohesive aldermanic team and I’ve been happy to work with
“But where does this kind of thing that Jane has done leave us?”
Clark: I’m just having my say.
Alderman Jane Clark did not agree to be interviewed for this report.
She made the following statement in writing:
The key focus here is that the by-laws are now open for public
consultation and debate. Everyone is welcome to have their say,
just as I am allowed to have my say.
I don’t believe the new by-laws measure up to basic principles of
justice and fairness, as required by the Local Government Act s189(2).
I believe they also infringe on personal rights in an unreasonable way
contrary to s189(1)(d) of the LGA.
I am also concerned that the new by-laws give wider arbitrary powers to
Council Rangers and ‘appointed persons’.
Many aspects of the new by-laws are unnecessary because they
double up on other laws, for example, on what police already do, such
as pouring out alcohol, and may therefore fail to
satisfy s189(2)(d) of the LGA.
I believe I am speaking in support of common sense, compassion and
Damage can’t be estimated.
Not even the Australian Tourist Commission would have the funds to
counter damaging global publicity generated by the false clams of Alice
alderman Jane Clark.
That’s the view of Ren Kelly who heads up the local industry lobby,
Tourism Central Australia, which has more than 300 members.
“She has brought the town into disrepute and it is impossible to fix
that,” he says.
“I cannot estimate the dollars it would take to go into every market
where the story ran. The more you spend on it, the more it’s going to
develop into an international story.”
Mr Kelly says the best way to counter such damaging publicity “is for
the community to put on the best possible face it can.
“Minimise the humbugging, the unsightly behaviour in the river.
“We need to work with the council to make the by-laws work and make
them work sensibly.”
Mr Kelly says the public should be aware of the damage done by
“radical” Ald Clark’s “uncorroborated ideas, promoting her own views of
what’s going on”.
Time for Aborigines to speak out:
“Aboriginal people have representation.
“Everyone can come to meetings. I don’t speak for Aboriginal people.
People have a right to speak for themselves.
“As long as these white do-gooders are around – and they are in every
[Aboriginal] organisation – our people will be down-trodden.”
This is Alderman Sandy Taylor speaking, the first Aboriginal woman to
be elected to the Alice Springs Town Council.
The Alice News asked her why she responded in the way she did to the
suggestion from a young woman, a member of the public who spoke at last
week’s council meeting, that the draft by-laws be translated into other
Ald Taylor asked her what languages she would be thinking of – “Arabic?”
The young woman then said she would have to talk to people to see what
their concerns were but said a lot of people in Alice Springs speak
central desert languages.
“I knew what she was driving at,” says Ald Taylor, “but it’s time
Aboriginal people spoke for themselves.
“The truth is if people want to point fingers about what is going on in
this town, start pointing at the organisations who have got funding.
“There’s a lot of money there as far as I can see. I live in hope that
something can be done. It’s time that the Federal Government took
account of what Tangentyere is doing.
“The cleanest the town camps have ever been was Anzac weekend when
[Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny] Macklin visited. Now they are
reverting to the same old dismal places.
“What have Tangentyere been doing since their last annual report of
2005-06, which is the latest I can find on their website?”
Isn’t Ald Taylor on council’s sub-committee that liaises with
“We can’t even get an appointment,” she says.
“Too many people purport to do good stuff but what they are doing is
making our people more and more dependent on them.
“People need skills, they need education. My mother doesn’t read and
write but she made sure we all went to school, all eight of us girls,
for us to survive. We are still paying lip-service to education but
people are not being responsible about sending their kids to school.
“If it takes more Income Management to get them to do that, then good.
Until people are hit in the hip pocket they won’t do the right thing.
“There’s no excuse for these people to be living down the creek. If
they were people who were educated, made to go to school, they wouldn’t
“We used to be a proud nation, now we’re not. People go against
authority, there’s a whole breakdown, there’s no respect, no pride.”
Ald Taylor is distressed as she speaks, but also determined: “If I
upset people by saying this, that’s too bad.”
By-laws: the vitriol is
in the mail.
Mayor Damien Ryan and aldermen have been inundated with hostile emails,
mostly in relation to comments made by Ald Jane Clark in an ABC news
report (see separate story) following last week’s council meeting that
voted for the draft by-laws to go on public display.
“There have been some disgusting emails from right around Australia,
lots of them carbon copies of each other, some of them just vitriol,”
says Mr Ryan.
He says he’s received hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls,
many of them abusive and from people who don’t identify themselves, as
well as a number of requests for radio interviews from around Australia
and the world including New Zealand, Singapore and Beijing.
He says the line of questioning from interviewers changed when he
explained the native title holder body Lhere Artepe’s “Do’s and dont’s”
These stipulate, among other points, no camping on sacred sites,
including the Todd River, and no begging.
He says some emails are constructive, explaining why they don’t support
certain of the draft by-laws, and why they agree with others.
This kind of feedback he welcomes.
“But there are a lot of ignorant people out there, who have no concept
of the makeup of our council or the issues in Alice Springs, who are
Ald Liz Martin says she is “sick of being called a Nazi and heartless”.
It is clear that the headline to the ABC news report of July 28, “Plans
to strip blankets from homeless”, has fed some overactive imaginations.
In an email from Jason Gardner circulated to all aldermen, the author
writes: “I was always immensely irritated by the smell and persistence
of the beggars when I lived in Alice (from ‘79-’95), but simply
stripping them of blankets in mid-winter and leaving them to freeze to
death is the sort of thing one might expect of the Nazis on the Russian
“Leaving aside the PR aspects of this revolting exercise in callous
arrogance; have any of you considered the ramifications for the Council
officers who strip a person of blankets in mid-winter, and then return
the following morning to find that individual has died
of hypothermia overnight?
“Ladies and gentlemen (and I use the term loosely; with the exception
of Ms Clark, whom I personally know and respect); this is manslaughter,
plain and simple. You will be making Council officers into defacto
One email accused Ald Sandy Taylor of “leading a charmed life, eating
caviar, drinking champagne”.
“That person doesn’t know anything about me. I don’t agree with all the
draft by-laws. Personally I probably wouldn’t vote for the begging one.
“We are getting feedback but it’s not constructive.”
Ald Taylor says she feels sorry for homeless people but council has to
do something to clean the river up.
She recently took part in a Clean Up Australia day, working in the
river. She says the stench of human faeces amongst the bushes along the
banks was terrible.
“For people to live in these conditions is totally unhealthy.”
Deputy Mayor John Rawnsley says he was approached “principally over the
blanket issue” by many people at the ALP National Conference last week:
“I had to correct their misconceptions.”
Anderson turns her back on
Resolute MLA for MacDonnell Alison Anderson made good her recent threat
over the handling of the $672m Aboriginal housing scheme and announced
on Tuesday: “Today I am walking out of the Labor Party and turning my
back on the Government of Paul Henderson.”
Ms Anderson said there would now be “a new political age, a new time,
when we must build a new architecture for the Territory, and a new way
“More open, honest, decent, fair.
“I hope we can move beyond the pointless, bitter name-calling of party
“I hope we can see government by coalition and agreement, government
that better suits these times of challenge.
“We face a deep social crisis in the Territory.
“I commit myself to fighting for a better future.
“I believe that today we begin the journey from the darkness into the
Ms Anderson says the straw that broke the camel’s back was Mr
Hendoson’s failure “to defend me when the race card is played.
“Last Saturday’s Northern Territory News article by Nigel Adlam
attacking me and my indigenous ministerial colleagues was blatantly
racist: the Chief Minister’s office knew what was in it before it was
“Three days have gone by – the whole long weekend – and Paul Henderson
has not spoken out in our defence. Not a word. He has allowed a racist
attack to stand unchecked.
“That silence was the dog-whistle to the electorate. It was the signal
that it’s OK to beat up on black politicians.
“The Chief Minister has abandoned his indigenous colleagues.
“The day that article came out was the day everything changed, and we
began sliding back to dark days of the past.
“All my life I have fought against racism: I have spoken out against
it, and I have watched us move on as a society. I believe in the
Northern Territory, and the goodwill of Territorians.
“I believe we can all build a future together, and respect each other.
“For four years as a member of the Legislative Assembly and for one
year as a minister I have spoken up for all Territorians – all
Territorians, regardless of race or creed.
“I treat everyone on their merits, and I expect to be treated that way.
“I am nauseated by what the Chief Minister’s silence shows: how could
he not speak out for his own colleagues?
“How close do the links go between the NT News and the government
political advisers on Level Five? What is the inside story? Maybe you
should ask Paul Henderson for his answer!
“Here, today, I call on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to condemn Territory
Labor, and condemn Paul Henderson, and stand up for Aboriginal rights.
“Mr Henderson has the dirt of racial politics on his hands. He is a
diminished figure. He stands now for division, spin and manipulation
along with his media mates.
“I see very well that Territory Labor is no longer the best friend of
Aboriginal politicians and Aboriginal voters. Labor only came to power
with black votes, and only stays there with black votes. It lives on
Aboriginal funding from Canberra.
“And what has changed for Aboriginal people under them?”
85 houses for camps,
just 8% for admin.
Alice Springs town camps will get 85 new houses from the Federal
Government’s $100 million housing and infrastructure commitment,
according to information released by the office of Indigenous
Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin on Tuesday.
The total allocation to new housing is $34 million – an average cost of
$400,000 per house.
Of more than 200 existing houses on the camps, 46 have recently been or
are being refurbished, leaving a further 154 houses to be considered
for refurbishment. The refurbishment is included in an “early
works” program budgeted at $18m.
Other works are: clean up, due to start August 10; urgent repairs to
“make safe”, due to start the following week; and early construction of
demountables in two town camps to house people “sleeping rough”.
Major works, including the construction of new houses and upgrades, are
to begin within eight weeks.
However progress could yet be delayed by legal action. An injunction
has been sought by Mt Nancy resident Barbara Shaw, with a Federal Court
hearing in Melbourne scheduled for Tuesday, when the Alice News went to
Administration costs for the program are expected to be 8% ($8m) and
will be closely monitored.
The budget is based on current planning and estimated costs and may
need to be amended.
Tiny bodies in morgue
for up to 18 months.
The Alice Springs Hospital took the unusual step last week to publish a
funeral notice about a burial it was organising of five still born
The babies had been born over the past 18 months and their bodies had
since been kept in the hospital mortuary.
General manager of the hospital Vicki Taylor told the Alice Springs
News that it was not the first time that the hospital had arranged such
However it was the first time they had published a funeral notice.
This was done to maximise the chance of the babies’ mothers and other
family members being informed of the burial.
The hospital had also tried to contact the babies’ mothers personally.
Ms Taylor said sometimes it may be difficult for families to make
burial arrangements for themselves, including for financial reasons.
She said there had not been any rise in the rate of still births.
Hospital policy is being changed to proceed to burial within six months
of death or still birth.
A mob with more than a
bit of ‘try’. By KIERAN FINNANE.
“We were always going to make a go of it, no matter where we were –
we’ve got a bit of try in us,” says Craig Le Rossignol who, together
with his parents Mary and Robert, runs Oak Valley Tours.
The venture gives visitors the opportunity to camp overnight on the
family’s land – in a camping ground equipped with flushing toilets and
hot showers – and to go on a guided walk with Craig into the
nearby hills where there are examples of rock art and a fossil field.
Oak Valley is about 100 kilometres south of Alice, down the Old South
The drive takes you through some of the prettiest country in the region
– deep red sand dunes, dotted with desert oaks, stands of scruffy young
saplings alongside majestic older trees.
Outback Tours bring in visitors three times a week and as well the
family take private charters.
But tourism is not the only way the family is trying to make their land
work for them and for their future generations.
They own the land as Aboriginal inalienable freehold, granted to Mary’s
father, Jack Kenny, together with Mary and her brothers and sisters.
The small size of their land trust has smoothed the way for the
initiatives the family has been able to take.
They haven’t had to seek agreements from hundreds of other traditional
Jack, who has now passed away, was a Southern Arrernte man; his wife
was a Luritja woman. They had 13 children, all of them born at
Robert’s father was a Frenchman – hence his exotic surname, meaning
“the nightingale” – while his mother was the daughter of an Irishman
and a Gurindji woman.
“I’m an impostor in someone else’s country,” jokes Robert, “but I’m
here and here to stay.”
He spent his teenage years with the Clarks on Andado Station, after
three years of schooling in Adelaide.
“I started at nine and finished at 12. I told my mother that was
“Old Mac Clark”, husband of Molly, taught him everything he needed to
know as a stockman.
“It was all hands on. You done everything, stripped down motors, the
“He said here’s a Southern Cross motor. I said I don’t know anything
about them things. He said it’s easy, here’s the rings and bearings,
pull it to pieces, take the old ones out, remember where they went, and
put it all back together again.”
That’s been Robert’s approach ever since – he’s the quintessential “can
do” man, otherwise known as a “bushy”.
He and Mary moved into Alice Springs when their children needed to go
to school. They have six, four girls and two boys – in order of birth,
Loyola, Aaron, Kerry, Craig, Tanya and Lillian.
Robert wasn’t sure how he’d make a living in town.
“But I fancied myself as a bit of a Roy Rogers. I said to my wife, the
one thing I can do is ride race horses.”
He met Albert Matteucci who had a race horse and a plastering business.
“He needed a jockey and I needed a full-time job.”
Robert learnt the tricks of the trade and after a few years started
taking on his own contracts.
He also did some teaching – cattlemen’s skills – at the Institute for
But by the time his last two children entered high school he was
itching to get back out bush.
His mother came to live with the children and he took a job managing
Kenmore Park, a cattle property in South Australia.
Then in the early 1980s, after Jack Kenny’s land claim was granted,
Jack told him and Mary to take their pick of land and “to put it to
work”. Jack had been a stockman.
The whole land trust – formerly a stock reserve and stock route in
Jack’s tribal country – is only 115 square kilometres.
Robert and Mary chose the Oak Valley site, 30 square kilometres.
They’ve done all of the infrastructure development themselves, assisted
by various lots of funding, first from the Department of Aboriginal
Affairs, later from ATSIC.
Some jobs they put out to tender but whoever took the contract had to
employ a family member alongside them.
About 10 “young fellas” from the extended family have had on-the-job
training at Oak Valley.
Today there are three family homes there, a photovoltaic array which
supplies 90% of their power, all the sheds and out-buildings you’d
expect on a working property, horse yards, paddocks, a large vegetable
patch (awaiting Spring planting), a small orchard and vineyard, the
camping ground and as well there’s a plantation of 600 olive trees.
Robert says it was Craig’s idea, which he resisted at first.
“But I when I read that they were evergreen and drought resistant, I
wanted to have a go. I got greedy and put in 400 straight up.
“I made a rule, no-one was to talk about olive trees past our gate.
They cost us a lot of money and if they all died, we would be a
But the trees “took off”!
Not content to simply produce and export the fruit, the Le Rossignols
do their own cold pressing to make olive oil, bottle it and sell it as
a boutique product.
The first trees, grown from suckers planted nine years ago, started
producing fruit in 2006.
The more recent plantings went in at 12 to 18 months and started
fruiting after two years in the ground.
They’re fertilised with GroMor (an organic product), pruned and watered
and that’s about it till picking time, when having a large family comes
There’s no question of buying a mechanical picker at $100,000 a pop and
luckily there’s no need.
“We put on a barbecue and turn all the grandkids loose in the olive
patch,” says Robert.
“For us grapes were a lot of work. I was trying to find a crop that
would be easy, manpower-wise.
“The 600 trees are set up so that one person can water them all in one
day, by going from tap to tap.”
He says there’s plenty of water at Oak Valley.
They check their bore pump annually and it shows that they are not
drawing down beyond the original level.
Each tree uses 80 litres a week, half that in winter, but more when
it’s very hot.
A hail storm wiped out the bulk of the crop last year but this year
they are hopeful of a capacity yield, with 500 trees producing around
90 kilos each.
They get 10 litres of oil from 100 kilos of olives, so, all being well,
will produce 4500 litres of oil.
At $40 litre that sounds like a nice little earner, but Robert says
he’s done the sums and they’d need 1500 trees to be profitable.
He says he and Mary – “we’re both half crippled” – will be satisfied
with laying the foundations of an enterprise.
“We made a decision to keep low key.
“We didn’t set out to be millionaires, Mary and I came here to retire.
“But by the time the grandkids are up and running, there’ll be
something to take over.”
We have our own patch of country, our
Craig Le Rossignol says tourism offers an opportunity “to speak from
our own perspective”.
He says everyone is “second guessing” Aboriginal people and he resents
the negative stereotypes that put “all Aboriginals in the one box”.
“There are heaps of us out here [on traditional country] trying to make
a living for our families.
“Tourism is a good way to do that.
“Each language group is unique and we’ve each got our own patch of
country and our own stories our grannies have passed down to us.”
He says “100%” of visitors to Oak Valley go away happy.
“If they can’t write English, they draw a smiley face in the visitors’
Like his father, Craig (pictured) started off in the cattle industry
and later worked for Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation and as a tour
guide at Wallace Rockhole.
He’s a father of four, with his eldest son now working as a prison
officer, while his younger children are still in school. He also has a
He feels strongly about retaining his Aboriginal languages – Arrernte
and Luritja – and wants the next generation to speak them too: “They
need to know properly where they are from.”
They have a good teacher in their grandmother: Mary speaks seven or
eight different dialects and is a qualified interpreter.
Beauty & song. By KIERAN FINNANE.
When Barbara Stuart paints the landscape of the Centre she sees
“beautiful country” and the majority of the works in her show at the
Olive Pink Botanical Garden reflect this.
She says she is besotted with the Milky Way and camping under the stars
– choosing an image that evokes both as the signature work of the show.
But she also tries to imagine “Aboriginal presence” – “what life
was like here before colonisation”.
Four of the works address this. In three her approach is suggestive –
feet dancing, small painted-up figures watching over country –
while one is allegorical, showing people being lured away from their
traditions and towards the trappings of Western civilisation.
She says Aboriginal presence in the Centre is a “national treasure” and
many people in the cities want to find out more about it.
For the last four years she has been organising visits to Yuendumu,
where women take groups out bush and teach them about their
culture. The experience has fed this strand of the show.
But the exhibition is also evidence of the joy this non-Indigenous
woman feels when she’s in desert country.
The show opens tomorrow (Friday) at 7pm and features the Asante Sana
choir, brainchild of Stuart’s husband Morris, which started
performing concerts out at Trephina Gorge more than four years ago.
Following on will be “garden-friendly” live music is now a feature of
alternate Friday evenings at the garden.
The Bean Tree cafe opens for dinner, serving a bushfoods-flavoured menu.
This week regulars Edan Baxter and Olivia Waterford head the lineup.
Once a month the musicians share the limelight with movie screenings,
organised by a new group of cultural enthusiasts calling themselves
But this Friday it’s music only.
LETTERS: Begging with
1000s in the bank.
Sir,– Once more our town is abuzz with debate on whether we are a
racist community or not, and the same old, superficial nonsense is
being thrown about. This time it’s about the Town Council’s attempt to
do something about begging or what Aboriginal people call ‘humbug’.
Under Aboriginal Law kin have open access to all of a person’s assets
and income. You can’t say ‘no’ to kin. As an economic principle it was
probably the only way that modern humans could have survived in the
desert, given the tools and resources available to them.
When you have nothing but your body to transport food and no long term
way of storing it, then eating what you have, on the spot, and sharing
it with your kin who are with you at the time makes complete sense.
When those involved could rely on reciprocation when their kin had food
and they did not, it worked well.
Now the principle is still applied: the grandchildren of those who
lived traditionally in the desert are now trying to survive in a
totally different set of economic circumstances but stay loyal to their
The problem with the so called ‘demand/share economy’ is that it
doesn’t allow for budgeting, planning or investment in the future.
These were unavailable luxuries in the desert.
Applied to money, cars and even houses, it is an economic disaster,
especially now that many have lost the sense of responsibility to kin.
They have accepted the current emphasis on individual rights and
combine it with traditional notions of individual autonomy (‘it’s my
Their primary concern is the funding of recently introduced addictions
like alcohol, nicotine, gambling, ganja, mobile phones and so on.
Some are prepared to use threats of violence as well as the traditional
emotional blackmail (‘I’m really hungry’ – said with a long, hang-dog
Those who are trying to adapt to the mainstream economy find themselves
under constant pressure to give to kin who aren’t likely to have the
means or inclination to help them out in return when the bills come in.
Too often ‘demand/share’ has become ‘demanding money with menaces’. A
common greeting now is the hand outstretched, palm upward, and the
fingers pulled back to the body in a gesture that means ‘give me
something’ with no accompanying words.
I have lived with this problem for 30 years and have survived because
my Warlpiri in-laws have always acknowledged and respected the fact
that I live by a different Law. This means that I have been able to
avoid bankruptcy and help those who deserve it.
Aboriginal people don’t have the ability to appeal to a different Law.
If they manage to survive in the mainstream and retain the respect of
kin they are nothing short of heroic. I know many such heroes.
The addicted, or those who have lost their money to the addicted, will
try it on with non-kin if they think they are a soft touch. The
Christian tradition of altruism to strangers is literally a Godsend.
To ask non-kin for money is against Aboriginal Law. You should only ask
from family who can make similar demands in return.
Giving to beggars without expecting something in return demeans and
dehumanizes the beggar but, in our tradition, makes givers feel morally
superior as they store up grace for themselves in whatever heaven they
But how do you help an addict by helping to fund their addiction? You
only contribute to their self destruction. I will not help my kin to
It is not a matter of destitution. I have been asked for money by some
who had tens of thousands of dollars in their control only weeks prior,
or have had access to a substantial income stream from mining
royalties, but spent it or gave it all away.
The principle of ‘demand/share’ and the inability to budget is the
biggest single cause of Aboriginal poverty. Conniving in that process
out of a misguided sense of charity, a refusal to ‘blame the victim’ or
an attempt at moral superiority is, to me, repugnant.
So I support what the Council is trying to do though I am not sure at
all that fines will work. I agree with Bob Beadman that this is a sign
of understandable desperation. But if we are successful in stamping out
begging in our streets it is Aboriginal people who will benefit most.
My old Mum used to say that patriotism was the last resort of the
coward. Here, in our town, accusations of racism are the first resort
of the scoundrel, the ideologically driven and the naively moralistic.
By-laws: Catch me if you can
G’Day Ed,– A couple of points, among many. [The town council’s Craig]
Catchlove says [draft by-law] BL17 “allows the council to make a
determination that removes the necessity to obtain a permit” (to
distribute promotional material).
Imagine ‘promotional material’ contending that the Council members were
a bunch of idiots for proposing bylaws that beggars be fined.
I do not think my right to free speech would be well served by this
As for punishing the victims of graffiti, I would be inclined to
graffiti my own fence to oppose this one.
Swimming in unapproved areas?
Where do these people come from?
The scenes of adults, children, dogs, uncle Tom Cobley and all,
frollicking in the rising water of the Todd as it flows over Schwartz
Crescent causeway is one of the iconic images (and experiences) of
Finally, unenforcable laws (or by-laws) are BAD laws.
We have big and difficult social problems. They require difficult and
expensive long term solutions.
Simple and elegant solutions to complex and difficult problems are
Blankets are safe
Sir,- With all the radio and media coverage with emails and
letters to the print media, I wonder how many people have read the
I thought the media would have instigated their own investigation and
reported accurately and fairly the updated by-laws, not someones
mischievous interpretation of the by-laws and what they contain.
There is nothing in the by-laws that suggest that the Town Council
Rangers would dispose of any useable blankets.
The rangers do take the blankets back to the prevalent authorities for
cleaning and reuse.
These allegations denigrate the Town Council Rangers and the good work
that they do for the Town.
All the media hype about Alice Springs again puts the town in a bad
light in Australia and Overseas.
Begging is humbugging and a cultural issue which affects the most
vulnerable in our community.
Ald Brendan Heenan
Sir,– I would like to thank [CEO] Rex Mooney for ensuring the Town
Council’s website now contains the full archive of committee meeting
minutes. In pushing for this I allowed my frustration to get the
better of me, and I put Mr Mooney on a public spot in an unfairly
The new by-laws are shaping up as the defining issue in the current
There are many theories, all hotly debated, as to why Alice Springs is
becoming a doss house.
But it is, and our council deserves full marks for showing itself
willing to step up to the challenge.
Enforcing the new laws will take common sense, but as long as no one
does anything stupid, I see no reason why they can’t work. Is there
such a thing as the house-keeping end of policing?
Unauthorised camping, public drunkenness before it gets violent,
begging, graffiti, littering and loitering with intent - the sort of
stuff we see all around us all the time.
It’s mostly just humbugging, and dealing with it is well within the
ability of the council’s rangers. With the new by-laws it
will be within their authority.
But I also think simply moving people on will do more to restore quiet
than any amount of heavy-handedness.
The hysteria attendant on a goose laying an emerald egg aside, we all
know that tipping out grog will sooner or later cause a fight, fining a
destitute beggar doesn’t make any sense and unauthorised campers will
get to keep all their blankets.
We hear from the government that crime is not all that bad and from the
opposition that it’s spiraling out of control.
Meanwhile more than 100 but less than 200 police are either too
busy to attend or don’t want to know about humbugging and
So it’s down to 9 rangers. I say call it a start and wish them
Sir,– There should be an immediate independent expert review of the
bureaucratic impediments to the implementation of effective and
efficient Aboriginal program delivery in the NT.
The current bureaucratic nightmare over the SIHIP housing program
suggests the bureaucrats have taken over the asylum, while our people’s
health continues to deteriorate through appalling, overcrowded housing
We need to be working on multiple social determinants of health at the
same time if we are going to “Close the Gap”, unfortunately the recent
Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report also reinforces the lack of
progress being made on the social determinants.
Suggestions that these two years of delay have been dependent on the
signing bits of paper for leases is of no consolation in a jurisdiction
that experiences the highest levels of homelessness and overcrowding in
the nation.Our people simply can’t live on bits of paper.
Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance, NT
Crisis in Indigenous towns
Sir,–The following is an open letter to:
The Governor-General Quenton Bryce, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Deputy
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Jenny Macklin, Leader of Opposition Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop,
Opposition Spokesperson on Indigenous Affairs Tony Abott, Senators Bob
Brown, Nigel Scullion and Trish Crossin, MHR Warren Snowden, Chief
Minister Paul Henderson, MLAs Alison Anderson, Karl Hampton, Mulandarri
McCarthy, Marion Scrymgour, Adam Giles and Leader for the Opposition
We Indigenous people need consultation and direct communication with
governments at all levels, instead of learning about policies that are
being implemented, that have a direct bearing on our life, through the
The $800,000 to $1 billion of tax payers’ funds that should have been
allocated to communities to remedy over-crowded houses is an example,
with scandalous reports that over three-quarters of the monies
allocated to the NT Government is being chewed up by consultants,
bureaucrats, public servants and the NT Government.
This is a request for attendance of the four Statutory Land Councils,
created under the Land Rights Act and the Native Title Act, to meet
over five days with the above mentioned parties to discuss the crises
affecting all Indigenous men, women and children of the Northern
The issues should include discussion on all matters affecting the lives
of Indigenous Australians such as the Stolen Generation, the new
shires, Basics Card and the re-instatement of the Racial Discrimination
Act, no houses built for two years, health, education, economics and
business enterprises and outstations.
The funding source for this meeting should be the Aboriginal Benefits
Maurie Japarta Ryan, Gurindji Nation
Sir,– For many years people have wondered how to tackle the problem of
abandoned shopping trolleys. For some it is quite a passionate issue;
for example, local resident Mal Crowley is well known for highlighting
this problem by novel means, such as designing feral cat traps out of
them (which featured on ABC TV’s The New Inventors in early 2006) and
putting dozens of them in a circle early one morning at the Tom Brown
Roundabout near Heavitree Gap.
The Alice Springs Town Council has also attempted to resolve this issue
by collecting and holding stray trolleys until the supermarkets pay
fines before releasing them to their respective owners. Unsurprisingly,
this approach is not working.
On June 24 I wrote a short letter to Mayor Damien Ryan suggesting a way
to deal with this problem, which reads as follows:
“Dear Mr Ryan, Having followed the debate about how to tackle the issue
of abandoned shopping trolleys, it seems to me there is a relatively
simple way to solve this problem.
I suggest that each supermarket affix barcodes to their trolleys. When
a customer uses a trolley, the barcode is scanned and a refundable
deposit is paid to the checkout before the trolley is taken away. Upon
the return of the trolley, the barcode is scanned again to confirm this
and the deposit is refunded to the customer or any person who has
brought the trolley back.
This method is similar to coin-operated systems but has the advantage
of providing no incentive for vandalism of trolleys to illicitly obtain
My idea also takes advantage of existing technology which ought to be
relatively simple to adjust to implement this procedure.
My suggestion is a variation of a container-deposit refund scheme, and
if it were implemented I think it would work just as effectively as
such schemes are known to do.
This very simple solution ought to help reduce the problem of stray
trolleys to a negligible level, saving on costs for all parties
concerned, not to mention all the apparent aggravation associated with
There has been no response.
On ya, Thunder!
Sir,– Last Saturday I spent a very proud three hours cheering on the
Territory Thunder QAFL football team.
Despite going down by three points, the brand of football was
spectacular. It was rapid fire end to end, high-marking,
Alice, I am of the firm belief that tomorrow’s AFL style and footballer
will be born here in the Territory.
That’s why recruiting agents from every single club are currently
sharply focused on our boys.
So let’s get on board and support our team and these future stars!
Never too late
Sir,– Grants worth up to $50,000 are now available from Telstra for
community groups to teach seniors the benefits of using mobile phones
Eligible community organisations can apply for Telstra Connected
Seniors® grants at www.telstraseniors.com.au until August 27.
Grant amounts range up to $5,000 for local organisations and up to
$50,000 for state and territory organisations.
The workshops are a great way to help seniors learn how to pursue new
activities online, as well as a way for community groups to
reinvigorate their membership.
Once they’ve gained confidence in their ability to use new technology
to text, email and send and receive photos via email there’s a world of
new activities to explore like researching family trees, re-uniting
online with old friends and seeking travel and holiday information.
Group Managing Director
ADAM'S APPLE: I’d beg you to
read this but I can’t afford the fine.
If making quirky headlines was an Olympic sport, the
Northern Territory would dominate Australia’s representation in the
If you’re looking for stories involving alcohol, killer wildlife and an
idiot, look no further than the Northern Territory.
Nary a day goes by without some liquored-up crocodile harassing poor
unsuspecting, preferably bikini-clad tourists into a credit card scam.
But if you want to spice things up with a little controversy, look no
further than Alice Springs Town Council.
Oh they do love a good pot stir, don’t they? The proposed amendments to
the civic code really have set the feral cats amongst the turtle doves.
Under the proposal, begging will become illegal. We will be able to
fine a beggar $130 if they get caught asking for some change. Why stop
there? Let’s raise some real revenue. Let’s set the fine at $5000.
That is all well and good if it stops there. But we have all done a
little begging in our time. One night I will have a couple too many. I
will think it an excellent idea to call an ex-girlfriend. I will beg to
be allowed to come over “just to talk”. “I promise … no, just a chat I
swear!” Will that incur a fine? Perhaps it should.
Will I be fined for begging belief? Will begging my pardon cost more
than it’s worth under these new laws? What about begging forgiveness?
We all know why the amendment is being proposed. But is being asked for
money while walking down the Mall the worst that can happen?
I wonder if I’d prefer to have the short inconvenience of being asked
for a couple of bucks or to have to listen to the interminable
screeching of the seven year old busker whose parents have just
finished paying off junior’s violin lessons. That is a noise that can
follow you from one end of the Mall to another. Both scenarios
involve people publicly asking for money. Yet the one that incurs a
fine is the most fleeting.
Does that mean that the annoying, predominantly British backpackers
dressed in the charity t-shirts can no longer interrupt your stroll
with their clipboard and pen asking you for your bank details? I know
that it’s only $2.50 a day and I know that 11 year old Mokembe has to
raise her nine siblings on her own but there is no way I am going to
give my banking information to a man wearing rubber croc shoes and
cargo shorts. Is that not begging? If the clipboarders cop a fine then
I might vote for it.
If we are going to make a day of it, surely there is an argument for
saying that political campaigning is a form of begging.
As for banning public nudity, I have just two words for the aldermen,
Remember a little while ago a couple of young tourists thought it a
grand day for a little spot of topless sunbathing on the lawn of the
civic centre? Salad days when a brief glimpse of nipple was but a
curiosity. Now it seems nudity is an offence against the community.
Now I’m not saying that we should all be able to roam through the Alice
Plaza sans pants but is it really necessary to fine a kid for mooning
out of the school bus window? In my day the pressed hams out the back
window of the 773 to St Mary’s was a rite of passage.
Is it really that offensive that a couple of whimsical whippersnappers
decided to take off their singlets and lay down on the grass?
Those enthused by these new amendments say that the fines are a
deterrent. Maybe they are. Maybe the idea of such a big impost may
dissuade people from begging in the street.
Maybe there should be a deterrent for people getting their toilet bits
out in public.
Or maybe we just need to give the Alice Springs Town Council a hug.
Soundcheck at the Cat’s
Meow cabaret. By POP VULTURE with CAMERON
ONE: Third time round, the cabaret should open up
like a flower, gathering contributions over the last three years like a
Devoid of grants and other government handouts, the thriving troupe
TWO: The first Cat’s Meow Cabaret was held in a dark cavernous building
held together by drunk nails into the woodwork and violent
I speak of course of the Todd Tavern, the perfect venue for this event.
Dark, dim, cigar smoke creeping about the room like a toxic blue
spectre, fishnet legs not moving, just like invitational shop window
Foot-stained patchwork floorboards. The textile properties of the
chewing gum seats.
Throw in a sticky floor, and the night at the cabaret is already
rewarding itself, but the evolution of such an event is sometimes
unavoidable, and the brighter the flame the greater the heat-seeking
cultural moth population becomes, gathering in number as the cabaret’s
ONE TWO: But it’s the ability to allow growth and development that
permits this show to flourish. Despite some resistance to removing the
cabaret from such an appropriate venue such as the tavern, in favour
for the auditorium at Araluen, it is in a way celebrating the idea of a
cabaret, as opposed to the actual event.
Many missed the boat last season, so adding more soil in the form of
seating to allow the cabaret roots to grow is an action that is
ONE TWO, TWO, TWO: Another glowing attribute of the Cat’s Meow is the
attitude of many of the cast members, who shed the skin of the nine to
five serpent, to take on the tireless efforts that are attached to some
of the lead roles.
Felines rising from waste deposits is more of an adequate metaphor, for
these dual committed cats. Everyday life undergoes a magnificent
metamorphosis, as countless hours come to fruition in the form of stage
ONE, ONE: Musical juxtaposition, using tune as weapon to highlight and
punctuate an act, marrying a physical performance with the appropriate
soundtrack, this was something which was demonstrated with jackhammer
gusto last time around, with the cabaret’s “Bon Voyage” show.
Will it be a turn on to a new groove, or a nostalgic hand grenade of
bliss, time will only dictate. With the small insights that have been
leaked, as to what songs are to be used, it looks as though another
theatrical home run could well be in germination.
ONE, TWO UMMM… THREE!: Tomorrow the “KI” warehouse will be hosting a
“fun raiser” in support of the cabaret. The production is one of the
jewels in the crown of the Alice Desert Festival calendar, and with
extra seats on the menu, there is no reason to let this ship sail by,
except of course if you are serving some sort of penal detention term,
in which case start your plan of escape shortly.