ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
October 15, 2009. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
Heading for explosion point? By
If Alice Springs doesn’t get a pressure valve to let off steam
“there could be an explosion point somewhere down the track”.
That’s the view of Eric Sultan, a local identity of Afghan and
Aboriginal descent, qualified electrician and for the past nine years
working for a public housing support organisation now closed down.
Mr Sultan says discrimination is rampant in Alice Springs, yet it
doesn’t have a local office of the NT Anti Discrimination Commission
Mostly the only way people can get in touch with the ADC is through the
Darwin office, by phone or by letter.
This is of no use for people whose first language isn’t English, who
don’t like transacting that kind of business by phone, and who are
Yet those are the people most likely to be subjected to discrimination,
says Mr Sultan, not necessarily because of malice, but often through
impatience or ignorance.
A face-to-face meeting with an Alice based officer of the ADC could fix
matters in minutes, rather than dragging out issues in prolonged
The way the statistics are presented may well reflect the ADC’s
attitude to Alice Springs: it is lumped in with “Other NT”.
The numbers of new complaints throughout the NT were 132 in 2006-07 and
130 in 2007-08.
In 2007-08, 55% came from “Darwin and Palmerston” (down from 68% the
year before) and 42% “Other NT” (up from 30%. A very small number of
complaints come from interstate).
Mr Sultan says the statistics are meaningless: “For every one complaint
lodged there are probably 100 that are not lodged, because it’s just
Rachel Dunn, a conciliator and delegate of the Anti-Discrimination
Commissioner, who visited Alice Springs last week, says she “supports”
what Mr Sultan is saying: “If we had the funding it would be great [to
have an office in Alice Springs] but we don’t, and we’re not likely get
She says only Darwin has an office and other towns such as Nhulunbuy
are in the same position as Alice Springs, and also “have pressing
“There is a lack of services in Alice Springs.”
Ms Dunn (pictured at right with Mr Sultan) says ADC is
“attempting” to spend a week here every three months, or two weeks
She says complaints about agencies shutting down in Alice Springs are
“not new to us”.
“A number of agencies closed down,” including the Ombudsman’s office
some six months ago.
It was the Alice Springs front office of the ADC, assisting with
Soon after receiving Ms Dunn’s statement we had a call from acting
director Tracy Keys saying only acting commissioner Lisa Coffey was
authorized to make statements for the ADC.
But Ms Coffee was on her way to Tennant Creek and could not be
Meanwhile things are getting worse, says Mr Sultan, partly because of
the accelerating urban drift (“it’s huge”) from outlying communities to
Friction can range from an impatient check-out operator frustrated with
the Basics Card, to bullying at the work place and sexual harassment,
to impatience from neighbors about noisy kids playing in the street.
If there were a clearer picture about the incidence and level of
tension, initiatives could be taken such as “inductions” for
non-Aboriginal people into the features of the “different lifestyles”
of Aboriginal people.
Should the process include newcomers to Alice Springs receiving an
induction into the conduct required here, with respect to noise,
begging, fighting and relieving oneself in public?
“That’s anti-social behavior,” says Mr Sultan. “That’s another issue.”
Meanwhile, he says, things are getting worse as frustrations are
“bottled up and bottled up.
“We need to knock it on the head before it gets worse."
Ron Sterry is negotiating the re-financing of his 250-block Coolibah
Estate residential development in Ragonesi Road.
Stage One – 86 blocks – is partially completed and buyers have paid
deposits on 44 blocks, either $1000 or 10% of the value. However, these
arrangement will run out in December and Mr Sterry says: “We’re
revamping the project, doing our best to get it back on line.”
So far work worth $3m has been done on Stage One, and Mr Sterry is
negotiating for a further $9m.
(See our major story on urban residential development in last week’s
Looking for leaders. By KIERAN FINNANE.
If part of what makes a leader is a good mentor, Desert Knowledge
Australia wants to make sure those people are available for the next
generation of leaders in The Centre.
They’re creating an Alice Springs Desert Leadership Program, under the
guidance of established leaders, including the town’s Mayor Damien
Providing mentors to the participants is an important part of the
The Alice News asked Mr Ryan who mentored him and why the town would
need a formal program now.
“We had subliminal mentors, or I did, people I looked to – my father,
my first boss Paul Egar.
“I was only a kid, I learnt from him punctuality and turning up with
the mindset to do the job for the day, not turn up with a ‘I’m here to
mark time’, I always respected that in him.”
When he entered the full-time workforce, at the Alice Springs Camera
Shop, a business he would eventually own, he encountered a “hard task
master” in then owner John Cumming.
“But he was also a mentor as well”, as was his manager, Gordon Nielsen.
“He taught me so much about how to buy, how to sell, how to maintain
stock. All those things are mentoring.”
The leadership program is as interested in leaders in the business
community as in the public and NGO sector – what it wants is a good
spread of mentors and program participants across the community,
Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.
A key goal is for people to learn how to work well together
Mr Ryan has made a point of working in this way in his role as Mayor,
from having good working relationships with Lhere Artepe and
Tangentyere Council to getting to know “street kids”. The News asked
him what kind of inter-cultural working experience he grew up with.
“My uncle ran a cattle station, I spent a lot of time there as a
youngster – there was no difference between Indigenous and
“When I went through primary school here there were only seven boys and
twenty-odd girls. David Ross [now Central Land Council director] was in
my class, Peter Laurie who’s now deceased, a young lad from Melville
Island, we lived like that together.
“In the sporting field, Graham Ross coached Federal Football Club. I
used to hang around there. He was a man who taught me a lot about how
you should respect other people.
“I used to buy Indigenous art for John Cumming and I spent a lot of
time with [W.] Rubuntja. He taught me a lot.
“And Keith Namatjira, he was a scallywag but, by God, he taught me a
lot. He was one of Albert’s five sons, he’s gone now.”
So, is there something missing about our social relationships now that
we need a program to teach us how to work together and how to lead?
It’s more case of value-adding, according to Mr Ryan: “We do hear
people saying, ‘where’s the next batch of leaders?’.
“I’m pretty new to this game and I’d like to see others come along.
“People think you have to go out and pick the brightest stars, but
there are people who are out there who are leaders who you wouldn’t
normally think of – they could be our next members of parliament, the
next owners of a big business.
“The mentor has got to give a commitment to this, got to be available
over two years when a person rings up and says ‘I’m tearing my hair out
“And I’m sure these guys, the ones being mentored, will create their
own alumni, like people do through sport or through school – if we can
start that sort of process, it will be great for the town.”
Other established leaders to join Mr Ryan in the program reference
group are former Territory Administrator Ted Egan AO, former Mayor Fran
Kilgariff, CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service
as well Senior Traditional Owner and Native Title Holder Pat Miller AO,
Deputy CEO of MacDonnell Shire and Desert Knowledge Australia Board
Director Des Rogers, Desert Knowledge Australia CEO John Huigen, and
Interpreter and Bi-Cultural Consultant Kenny Lechleitner.
The program, being developed in partnership with the national
organisation, Social Leadership Australia, is at the stage of calling
for expressions of interest from people who would like to become
A “self-assessment pack” has been developed to help identify them, says
If the person then decides they have the necessary qualities, there is
an expression of interest form to fill out.
This will be followed by an orientation program over four weekday
evenings which will include “clarifying the role and making sure
everyone is on the same page”.
These early time commitments should also help establish for the people
concerned whether or not they have the time to take on the role.
When the program begins, the mentor will be required to take part in an
initial “orientation connection session” with the person they are
mentoring, followed by monthly contact for an hour and to be available
for telephone contact.
Those applying to participate in the leadership program – adults from
their late twenties to early forties who have already demonstrated
leadership capability and impact – will go through a selection process.
“We’ll tap into the wisdom of our reference group to help us with
this,” says Mr Huigen, and the group will also help “match” the mentors
The program proper should get underway in April next year.
Apart from their person-to-person contacts with mentors, the
participants will also have a range of learning experiences, some of
which will take place away from Alice Springs.
“This is about learning to speak the language of metropolitan
Australia, where so many of the decisions affecting desert Australia
are made, and getting an understanding of how Alice Springs is seen
from an outside perspective,” says Mr Huigen.
In the last six months of the program – April to October, 2011 –
the participants will come together as a group to work on a project
that will bring about important community benefit.
“This will be particularly about learning to work together as a
leadership group,” says Mr Huigen.
What evidence is there of this kind of program achieving its goals –
that is, contributing to the development of the leaders of the future?
Mr Huigen says it’s “always challenging to prove that the program is
the one thing that made the difference” but there is a lot of
qualitative evidence of their usefulness.
There’s also “huge investment” in leadership development programs
worldwide, which “is reflective of a perceived need and value”.
DKA is in fact involved in helping deliver such a program for
top-ranking executives of the National Australia Bank and is drawing on
the bank’s expertise in the area to develop the local program.
Phil to put Alice on the
couch. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Phil Walcott wants to combine his profession – psychologist – with
politics and a brave dose of optimism to tackle The Centre’s problems.
“It’s all about working with people,” says the openly gay 55-year-old,
16 years in Alice Springs (“I came for two”).
In the next Territory election he will stand as an independent “because
then I don’t have to play party politics, I don’t have to bow and
scrape to anybody, I can just do it the way I do it”.
Who will he give his preferences to?
Why? Mr Walcott’s answers are not the standard political fare.
“I’ve been [an ALP] supporter for a long time,” he says.
“There is no way I’d support the Country Liberals, certainly not with
Terry Mills at the helm.
“I’m so angry with him because of what he did to Jodeen Carney.”
What has he done to Ms Carney? And, given that Mr Walcott is obviously
ALP friendly, why does he care?
“He took her job off her.”
That was the Opposition Leader’s job.
“He’s just a bully, so I don’t like him.”
Mr Walcott hasn’t picked a seat yet, but it won’t be Araluen if Ms
Carney contests it again – which she would do, of course, for the
Country Liberals (CL), a party he opposes.
“She is a fine lawyer, a smart young woman, dedicated and passionate.
“I’d like to see her as the Attorney General.”
For that to happen, would the CL not need to win the election?
“I think the way things are going, if the ALP don’t pick up their game,
they won’t be in government next time ‘round,” says Mr Walcott.
Isn’t he then directing his preferences to a party he expects to be a
“If I give them to the ALP maybe they won’t be.”
If he doesn’t stand for Araluen, Braitling – where he will soon be
moving – seems to be his second choice.
Mr Walcott predicts Independents will be having a big say in the
Territory after the elections which he expects to be quite soon, with
Gerry Wood currently holding the balance of power, Alison Anderson
doing her own thing, and former Alice Town Council ranger and youth
worker Eddie Taylor standing in Tennant Creek.
If Mr Walcott gets elected he seems likely to be putting The Alice on
the analyst’s couch, to get to the bottom of the town’s multiple levels
To explain what’s wrong he gives as an example the progress of a child
from dependency to independence as an adult.
“We’ve evolved a culture of dependency across all sorts of sections of
our community,” says Mr Walcott.
“Lots of people grew older.
“They just forgot to grow up.
“They didn’t become independent.
“They didn’t believe in themselves, and have no self esteem.”
The News put to Mr Walcott that many parents observe that in primary
school, there are few racial barriers. Kids become friends and
play sport together. But in highschool the races drift apart,
hostile gangs are formed.
There is a strong majority of white children in the private schools,
and black ones in the state schools. Why?
Mr Walcott is a prime mover of Headspace, a group formed here a year
ago, and including a string of local organisations, such as the Town
Council, Chamber of Commerce, government departments and NGOs.
They are fostering “wellbeing” and “positive life choices” for 12 to 25
year olds, and have employment as a goal.
“The more people can start to feel good about themselves, the more they
can lose the victim status and become survivors, succeeders.
“Let’s turn the mentality ‘round,” says Mr Walcott.
“It’s something we all have to practice more, seeing that the glass is
half full, not half empty.
“It’s about taking charge of your own journey. Get into the driver’s
“Don’t sit in the passenger’s seat.
“Don’t let fear or depression or bullying be the driver.
“And don’t sit in the back seat and let someone else drive your car.
“Don’t always have passengers in your vehicle.
“Sometimes you need to be by yourself.
“And look ahead, out through the windscreen when you drive, not the
rear vision mirror.
“Check once in a while but don’t look back all the time.”
Aren’t there strong forces in this town for whom misery is good
“Ah yeah, probably the gaol ...”
We quoted to Mr Walcott from a report in our September 17 edition: “In
July there were 2619 people on the dole in Alice Springs, receiving
Newstart or Youth Allowances, while the town has acquired a reputation
among backpackers as an employment Mecca where work can be snapped up
quickly and easily.”
We asked Mr Walcott, why are people getting sitdown money when there is
an abundance of jobs?
“It’s because they are still dependant ... they say ‘the government can
give me money’.
“What’s gone wrong with their life? Why are they choosing to be on the
“I work a lot around the choice theory which says people need fun,
freedom, love, belonging and power.”
Fun is kids laughing or people having a party.
Democracy guarantees us freedom.
“Love is huge. To love and be loved.
“If you don’t belong you’re on the outer.
“You belong to a cricket team, or you belong in Alice Springs, there is
a sense of ‘this is part of me’.
“Power is a three way thing – power within, power with, the synergy,
and power over, domination.”
Mr Walcott says society is too often pandering to people failing to
Is it pandering when Centrelink pays the dole to people on their books
rather than make them take the abundant jobs?
“Yes. And it’s negligent, spending taxpayers’ money.”
So how do you guide these people into the future?
“They’ve got to drive their own journey. It’s not up to me to find the
answers for them.”
Would he advocate withdrawing the dole if there is work on offer?
“Absolutely. When people are working they feel better about themselves.
It’s an empowerment thing.
“The first job I ever had was sweeping up hair in a barber’s shop when
I was 12.
“It was my Saturday morning job.
“I kept working in milk bars, in the dish pit.
“It all added to my experience. Stacking shelves at Woolies, and being
a cleaner at the club.”
Mr Walcott, now with quite a few letters behind his name – M.A. B.Soc.
Sc. Dip. Teach. J.P. MAPS – lobbed in Alice in 1992, working for the
Department of Health (“I’m not a very good little public servant”), and
later became the school counsellor at St Philip’s College.
He is now running a private psychology practice, as well as the Rainbow
Connection promoting, in collaboration with Tourism NT, the Alice the
world over as a town friendly to gays.
Darwin to answer all Alice
calls to police. By KIERAN FINNANE.
All calls to police from Alice Springs will be answered in Darwin from
the end of November.
For the last 30 years police in Darwin have been taking the Alice 000
“fall-over” calls – those not answered locally within 27 seconds, says
Assistant Commissioner for Crime and Support, Mark McAdie.
And over the last two years the proportion of calls taken in Darwin has
been increasing, he says, to the point that now half of Alice’s calls
are answered there.
This has been particularly because of the difficulty in recruiting
Mr McAdie says the police have tried “everything we could think of” to
recruit local people but without success.
Has this included increased pay?
“These are very, very well-paid positions” compared to other
call-taking jobs around Australia, says Mr McAdie.
The Alice News has heard that there is sometimes confusion about where
a call is coming from, especially when a street name here is duplicated
in another Territory town.
Mr McAdie does not deny that there have been such incidents but he says
everything is being done to prevent them.
The computer system tells the call-taker where the call is being routed
from; if it’s from a landline, the number appears on their screen; and
a map of the location also appears.
“As a fallback position” the call-taker also asks the person to be
explicit about their location.
“We are aware of the replication of place names in the Territory – it’s
a problem we’ve been dealing with for as long as I can remember,” says
“The change at the end of November doesn’t change the risk of confusion
– it has always been there.
“But the reality is we deal with it in the best way we can, short of
renaming all the duplicated places.
“We understand people’s concerns but we are putting as many measures in
place as we can to prevent confusion occurring.”
Arrenrnte Council missed out
The Arrernte Council has lost the opportunity of buying the site of the
old drive-in theatre on the South Stuart Highway.
The council’s CEO, Geoffrey Doyle, says Federal funding, sought from
the Aboriginal Benefits Account, hadn’t come through in time.
The six months contract with the vendors, extended to seven, had
expired. However, Mr Doyle says the council has its eye on other
“The vision is still there,” he says. “We’re looking for another viable
Sacred sites fees.
The Town Council will lobby for the NT Government to pay all
application fees for the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.
There was again discussion about the issue at the council committee
meeting on Monday night, prompted in part by the outstanding issue of
fees for the Todd and Charles Rivers fire management plan.
As previously reported by the Alice News (August 20), AAPA have
estimated a $37,710 fee for processing this plan (in fact three plans).
The application has been made jointly with the Department of Planning
and Infrastructure and the Fire Service.
The Alice News asked both agencies why they would not be contributing
to the fees.
DPI’s Director of Regions Ann Jacobs, in a written statement, said:
“The areas under application are within Reserve 1708 under the care of
Alice Springs Town Council and therefore do not come under the
responsibility of the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.”
A spokesperson for the Fire Service supplied this written response:
“The NTFRS operates under the Fire and Emergency Act and as such
responds to incidents within the area of the Todd and Charles rivers in
order to bring any fire incident to a conclusion.
“The NTFRS is supportive of the Todd and Charles River Fire Management
Plan and its objective outlined: To reduce the incidence and impact of
grass fires in the Todd and Charles Rivers through a strategic
and coordinated approach to fire management.
“The NTFRS sees the plan as a benefit to all stakeholders associated
with the rivers.
“However, as the plan clearly outlines in point 1.7, ‘the landholder is
ultimately responsible for fire management of the land’.
“As such, the NTFRS is not in a position to assist the Alice Springs
Town Council with the financing of permits required for the Authority
Other AAPA certificate issues were also before council, including an
application for silt removal upstream from Schwarz Cres (a $7300 fee)
and another for clean up, weed removal and fencing of Little Sisters
Council CEO Rex Mooney also reported that “indicative costs” for the
bracing of the dead trees in Traeger Park (see Alice News, October 1)
are $30,000 to $35,000.
“We will write to AAPA to ask for the costs to be shared,” he said.
Mayor Damien Ryan asked council officers to report back on how much
council spent on AAPA fees over the last year, suggesting that there
will have to be a budget line for this in future.
Ald Sandy Taylor argued that the fees are understandable for new
applications but described the fee for the fire management plans, when
all the sites in the river are “well documented” as “ridiculous in the
Deputy Mayor John Rawnsley argued that as AAPA is a Territory
Government instrumentality, AAPA fees should be borne by the Territory.
He said the burden of AAPA fees falls on Alice Springs
disproportionately because of the high concentration of sacred sites in
He also said it is unfair for all of the costs as well as the
liabilities to fall to council.
He was at pains though to say that council must make clear that it
values the presence of so many sacred sites.
He and Alderman Brendan Heenan will craft a notice of motion to express
all points of the case in time for council’s ordinary meeting at the
end of the month.
Metalworkers forge ahead. By
“Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary” – that’s the motto of the
Creative Metal Group. It applies principally to the things they make
but it also suits their approach to the way they work.
The core members of the group met five years ago when they were
learning decorative metalwork at CDU, under the guidance of Mark Gooley.
When the course was disbanded they decided that they wanted to stay
together – to support each other technically and creatively but also to
promote metalwork skills to those who are interested.
“It’s the only way we’ve been able to continue,” says Sheriden Appel.
“We need access to the equipment and the right kind of environment to
use it in – oxyacetylene cutters and mig welders have to be used with
It’s taken two years but now they have equipment and premises, at 7
Hele Crescent, and today they begin the first of two eight-week courses
they’re offering to people who want to improve their skills or learn
“We’ll see how these first two courses go and decide what else we can
tackle after that,” says Sheriden.
Over 24 hours of tuition students can learn cutting, bending, welding,
forgework and casting.
“There’s a whole range of things you can do with these skills”, says
“People can find out if they’re interested for a start – that’s how we
all got into it.
“We’ll start them off on a small project – the first thing I made was a
wine rack – and then if they want to they can aim at something bigger.
“They have to supply their own metal but they get to use the gear we’ve
got, under instruction.”
In the past students have made beds, tables of all kinds, chairs,
chandeliers, gates, door and window screens, mirror stands, birdbaths –
imagination is the limit.
“We expect we’ll get a lot of female students,” says Sheriden.
“They like to learn to use the machinery – it’s not too hard and
they love it.
“I’m a power tool junkie now. Before I started I used to have a little
power drill, the kind a jeweler would use, and that’s all.
“Now I’ve got my own mig welders, angle grinders, a little forge and an
One of the things she’s learnt over the years is that men and women
think differently: she can be stuck with something that seems difficult
or complicated and a man will suggest a simple way around the problem.
“But that works both ways,” says Warwick Beever – sometimes it’s the
women who’ll have the solutions.
“That’s what’s great about working as a group – the free-flowing of
ideas,” says Sheriden.
“We help each other with technical things but also with design ideas.
“Most of what we do has a sculptural quality but often there’s a
practical function as well.”
She points to the stainless steel and copper coat-stand that she made
and has brought to the shed to hang their welding masks on – its
graceful curvilinear design would also look good in the most elegant
Most of the metal they use is recycled.
Stewart Pritchard of Territory Metals donates some and the rest is
“When our friends go out bush they always come back with bits of
exhaust pipe and whatever else they can find,” says Sheriden.
While the CDU course was still going, Mark conducted a workshop at
Engawala (Alcoota), an Aboriginal community north of Alice Springs.
The young men used old carparts to make sculptures, mostly of birds and
animals, but also of vehicles.
The work was exhibited, with most pieces selling for between $150 and
$300. The group were impressed with the young men’s talent and hope
that in time they will again be able to offer workshops on communities.
The main focus of the group is production but there are plans to
Many have already shown pieces in Mike Gillam’s Scrapyard Magicians
shows, held annually between 2004 and 2006 at the then Silver Bullet
Gallery in Hele Crescent, and subsequently at shows in the Olive Pink
It’s a tribal thing. By POP VULTURE
Some 40 odd years ago a little known group from Birmingham, England
called “Earth” decided that a music and name change was in the wind.
Black Sabbath was born and the musical world was changed forever.
In a soulless Western culture of fast food chains and franchised
jungles, many young choose to conform and subsequently become a product
of this environment.
And with processed lifestyle comes music wrapped in plastic.
The endearing result for some is to journey against the grain. And teen
angst has given birth to yet another Alice Springs metal band – I’m
unsure of the title these boys go by, or even when their incarnation
was spat out of the womb, but they were well received at the Malice in
the Alice night, held monthly or so at the Todd Tavern.
Heavy metal music (along with its vast array of sub-genres) in all its
decades of aggressive existence has never once received mainstream
It is an artistic platform for rebellion and release, the feeling of
this energy lives just below the surface of your skin, and there it
grows until you feel the itch rising to the surface like an early onset
of some allergic reaction, leaking out the pores of everybody around
If it was a visual thing you would have to picture some kind of toxic
tree sap, a magnaplasm of harmonious release, and then it takes on a
form of an aggressively friendly energy, it’s the Jitterbug to everyone
And that’s why there is a more or less regular celebration of this
heavily misunderstood music at the Todd Tavern. Five dollars is all it
costs to walk through the threshold, but if you’re a few too many years
post-high school you will probably want to join the collection of
fossils at the back.
Oh no!! I’m now doomed to stand on the outside and marvel at what’s
inside. Only tours of groups that lacerated the 1990s permit me to
return to the fold.
Then only then does age outrank youth, and this in itself may be a
fleeting thought – remember it’s tribal acceptance. Every time I go to
this gig I feel old and often have to invite someone to join me as a
type of retrospective wingman. And as reliably as father time,
they are blown away by what is happening, and this is something that is
not new! This event has existed for years.
Nights Plague were the drawcard two years ago, and a couple of members
back in Alice last Saturday told me that they had just sold 500 tickets
to a show in Melbourne. Local groups like Miazma are definitely an
evolution beyond being legends in their own lunchbox and if they put
aside the time for their musical maturity to come to fruition,
this glowing light of a neon horizon awaits, and south of heaven
is where it’s at.
For reasons that remain cool, the age group of the performers in Alice
hovers around the mid to late teens. Marketing these shows seems to
stay within demographic of the genre, and judging by the 200 strong
metal militia that attend every time, that sort of promotion suits this
colourful group just fine. It’s something that’s theirs and only
Cross pollination with other mediums of musical artistry can never
occur here, it’s, as they say, a tribal thing.
Little things of everyday life.
By KIERAN FINNANE.
It’s a labour of love – to preserve for popular memory the changing
face of Alice Springs and the everyday life of its people as
recorded by photographers, amateur and professional alike.
Geoff Purdie and Barry Allwright discovered that they were both
independently scanning old photographs in danger of being lost or
They decided to join forces, take a more systematic approach and enlist
the cooperation of the Public Library so that everyone can see what
Geoff had been recording on video the stories of older people before
they passed away and realised that photographs could enrich those
“Barry knew more about scanning, so we decided to work together,” says
“Then we thought what use is it if no-one knows what we’ve got,” says
Barry, “so we approached the library to house the collection.”
At this stage the library holds (in folders in the Alice Springs
Collection) printouts of thumbnail scans and whatever written
information the pair has been able to glean, with each photo identified
by the name of its donor and a number.
To date the pair have scanned over 2000 photos taken by about 30
Barry has another thousand in the pipeline. Most of these come from two
former locals – Harry Birtwhistle and the late Audrey Attwood, whose
slides are carefully dated and captioned.
A feature of many collections of slides is that they’re less likely
than prints to carry captions or even dates.
Ultimately Geoff and Barry, who’ve called their project Central
Australian Historical Images, hope that the collections will be stored
on computer at the library, with a searchable database.
They’d particularly like to see the possibility of people being able to
add information to the database.
The National Library has also approached them about including their
collection in the library’s on-line photograph database of over one
These steps will probably require some funding to employ a person with
the appropriate skills.
For now, Geoff and Barry put in the hours simply because they love the
place and its history.
It’s not only the photos taken by people who’ve lived here that they’re
“A lot of people have passed through Alice – we’re trying to access
those photos too,” says Geoff.
An ad he placed in the magazine, That’s Life, drew contact from a
number of men, now in their eighties, who had been here during the
Second World War – Reg Morely who together with his brother was in a
camp at the base of Billygoat Hill; Chas Wales, who has never been back
“They were so pleased that we were interested,” says Geoff, who scanned
the men’s photos and then sent them back, together with a duplicate CD.
Neither Geoff nor Barry hold onto originals.
“We’re not an archival service,” says Barry. The photos they receive
are often the worse for wear, but some improvements can be made during
the scanning process, including the restoration of colour to faded
Kodachrome film on the other hand preserves very well: “I’ve seen
photos taken on Kodachrome from the 1940s that look as if they were
taken yesterday,” says Barry, “whereas any colour photos taken in the
‘70s tend to be very faded.”
What have been the most memorable finds?
Geoff recalls receiving a collection as a result of his brother-in-law
mentioning their project at a barbecue.
The host went into his shed and came out with a carton full of photos
and slides: he’d found it at the rubbish tip and couldn’t bear to leave
“There was some good stuff,” says Geoff, “but the saddest thing was all
these baby photos – it seemed that the couple had split up and their
family history got lost in the process. I would have liked to have been
able to give the photos back but we had no way of contacting them.”
Barry says there’s always information in a photo, “even if it’s only
what everyone is wearing”.
He’s fond of a couple of shots from the Joe Jackson collection, taken
by Jackson’s friend Les Hansen, that show billycart races being held on
the ‘big dipper” on the North Stuart Highway.
“It shows something of how people lived then, what they were doing for
fun – you couldn’t do it today!” says Barry.
“It’s a little thing but the kind of thing we want.
“We’re not trying to compete with the archives or the Strehlow Research
“We’re hoping to complement those collections with one that shows the
little things of everyday life.”
Joe Jackson was a dingo trapper and roo shooter in the 1950s and ‘60s,
active especially round the Mount Wedge area, while Les Hansen was a
house-painter. Both took a lot of photos.
“Roo shooting is an industry that’s gone out of business here now, but
it was happening back then and is part of our history,” says Barry.
The pair reach a simple agreement with donors: in return for scanning
their collection, the donors agree to make it available to the public.
Barry urges people to caption and care for their photos of today: “We
don’t know how interesting they might be in 50 years’ time.”
To donate or obtain copies of photos, call Barry: 89521726.
ADAM'S APPLE: A difference
between spin and makeup?
Imagine life in pre-history. There, in a cave in the middle of some
sort of tundra, the sun is setting and Moog makes a fire.
Moog is a good fire maker and is pretty handy at hunting and finding
water. Many of the women think Moog is a bit of a catch.
Moog has noticed a couple of girls watching him make the fire. They
giggle to each other and subconsciously play with their hair. Moog
takes a moment to let the fire breathe and turns to the giggling gals.
He struts over knowing that he is being quite impressive. Moog stops in
his tracks. Beyond the girls he sees a vision. A beauty. Could that
really be Joggo? She’s different somehow. Her lips are redder and her
hair is lighter than he remembers.
Since the dawn of time, we humans have been doing our level best to
improve the way others think about us. Animals do it too. The brightest
feather, the longest horn, the reddest bum all get the girls.
Politicians have a reputation as people who try to spin their way out
of dire situations. Any bad news is turned into a positive simply with
the right wording. They call it spin.
Others call it shysterism or worse. We roll our eyes when we hear it on
the six o’clock news and we cry out for the bullshit to stop.
But is there a real difference between spinning the unemployment
figures and wearing make up? Both acts are trying to make a situation
appear better than it really is.
In today’s world we accept this facial spin as a perfectly decent
deception. As each day passes more and more of these enhanced images of
ourselves are not just accepted but encouraged.
So much so that now in the field of fashion, clothes makers are
changing the sizes of their garments to make people feel better about
The actual size of the clothes isn’t changing but now a size 16 is
rebranded as a size 12. Surely to goodness a woman would know that she
didn’t just loose two dress sizes on the trip to the shop. More
amazingly, a company in the United Kingdom has just pulled this trick
with women’s underwear. Shirley woke up a B cup this morning, went to
the underwear shop and came out a D. I suppose it saves money on
I myself have shirts of the same measurement but wildly different
sizing. I don’t think of this anomaly as an ego boost but rather an
annoyingly lax attitude towards a measuring standard on behalf of the
Asian rag trade.
What possible benefit does this sort of spin engender? Perhaps the
thinking is that if a man sees the garment on the floor he’ll be less
likely to run from a night of passion if he thinks you are a size 8.
Let me let you in on a little secret. If you are naked in front of me,
I am really not thinking about the number written on the little white
tag on the back of your blouse. In fact at that moment I may not be
able to fully recall what colour the blouse you were wearing might have
So the only other explanation is that we are now so used to deceiving
others with our hair dyes and our vertical stripes and our exaggerated
resumes that we now feel OK about lying to ourselves.
Surely though, no matter what the tag on the shirt of my life might
indicate, I know that I am overweight. I know I’m not the dancer I
would like to be. I know that I can be a moody git from time to time. I
know this and by the time we are old enough to know that about
ourselves surely we should be comfortable enough to live with these
I sometimes think Alice Springs has a communal case of the B to D cup
disorder. We live in this amazing little town in the middle of nowhere
yet that doesn’t always seem to be enough. We yearn for the wonderbra
of a ten thousand seat sporting arena. We cry out for the control
garment of a major retail chain and we could kill for the hair plug of
an international rock act.
Sometimes I think we forget that many people find our little breasts or
our receding hairline a bit of a turn on.
LETTERS: The saga of dead
trees: public safety concerns ring hollow.
Sir,– In the past Steve Brown has made some positive and thoughtful
contributions to your letters pages but his vitriolic spray over two
sacred trees at Traeger Park (Alice News, Oct 8) seems excessive and at
times contradictory with his stated goals of “togetherness.”
He is wrong to assume that landscaping and plants won’t be included in
future measures to beautify this site. These decisions have not yet
been made. (Hopefully the Council will take up Steve’s suggestion and
use this as an incentive to plant hundreds of more trees within the
wider Traeger Park area). Claims by the Town Council and repeated by
him that the two sacred trees pose a threat to public safety also ring
hollow. I have viewed a sacred sites certificate issued in 2003 (and
without an expiry date) that gives the Town Council a very free hand to
undertake tree maintenance including the removal of dead branches at
And yet no attempt has been made to address the obvious threat posed by
a tree located near public seating at the northern end of the oval
(pictured). Overlooked in the debate, this tree exhibits conspicuous
dieback and an abundance of dead branches (obvious for several years)
while cries of public danger are applied incessantly to a couple of
trees, scarcely more than 100 metres away and behind a fence!
From my experience, interacting with ‘local’ custodians, Steve’s belief
that “dreaming stories” do not extend to individual trees is not
strictly correct. Clearly it’s illogical to assume that a sacred site
is only as old as the oldest living tree. Some individual trees
however, can occupy a special place within a site but they are normally
part of a larger site and greater journey.
As generations of custodians, trees, plants and animals come and go,
sacred places providing physical links to the Altjira, the creation
period, also undergo changes.
With goodwill, responsible planning and protection, the descendants of
the sacred trees we enjoy today will sustain these sites in a
recognisable form and in perpetuity. But nothing, even the complete
annihilation of trees, or the concealment of sacred sites under bitumen
or buildings, will change the fact that this is sacred ground. How our
community responds to the challenges of living in this special place is
The natural world and sacred sites are inter-connected and our failure
to maintain biodiversity clearly reduces our ability to protect the
full richness of sacred sites. A sacred tree that dies, even
prematurely, remains sacred. Ecologists and indeed most observant
landowners and custodians of sacred sites know that dead trees provide
important hollows used by nesting birds, lizards and micro-bats before
ultimately breaking down and returning to the soil.
So the next time you remove a dead tree or trim off those unsightly
hollows to tidy up the town, think of the loss of bat habitat and the
extra tonnages of insects free to attack plants and torment
shop-keepers in the mall.
Working with the country and maintaining cultural and ecological
balance makes good economic sense.
I remain hopeful that the Town Council and AAPA can lead by example.
The challenges are far from insoluble and speedy resolution would be
assisted by a measure of understanding, less name-calling and above
all, leaders who remain resolute in the face of ridicule.
ED – Mr Gillam is a member of
the board of the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA) but the
views he expresses are his own.