ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
July 1, 2010. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
in the real world. By KIERAN FINNANE.
When you talk to Ingkerreke’s Scott McConnell about Aboriginal
employment get ready for a shock: we don’t need programs to get
Aboriginal people back to work, he says.
Indeed programs are part of the problem.
“Programs deliver outcomes to the people running them, not to
“Certificate I in painting rocks on roadsides holds people back.
“We need full trade apprenticeships for people to become electricians,
“We need to invest in people, not programs, to give individuals the
ability to make choices about their own lives.”
The way to achieve this is by “operating in a real live commercial
And that means no grants or subsidies.
“As soon as you engage in that subsidy-driven world, you have to engage
in all the baggage that comes with it and it aint worth the trouble,”
says Mr McConnell.
“It also builds a culture of dependence and we want to build a culture
For Ingkerreke Commercial to become independent they had to find a
product or service for which there was a market and apply to it
commercial principles: customer service; quality control; production
They identified one product and one service and concentrate on those.
In their boiler-making room they produce vehicle trays, which have
found a strong local market because they’re cost compettitive, good
quality and delivered on time, says Mr McConnell.
There are five boiler-makers and two apprentices employed, all on
full-time, permanent, competitive wages.
Ingkerreke also run an “all trades” building company specialising in
At present, a lot of their work, as for many other builders, is coming
They are doing renovations, supplying all trades, at Santa Teresa and
Amoonguna for the New Futures Alliance, and at Palmers’ camp and New
Ilparpa camp for the Territory Alliance.
They’ve also got the contract to renovate the old Imparja building in
Leichhardt Terrace, have restored a historic building at Ikuntji
(Haasts Bluff), and built an elevated walkway at Uluru-Kata Tjuta
National Park, among other projects.
Mr McConnell rejects any suggestion that as “Aboriginal contractors”
they are getting “Aboriginal work”.
“Our contracts are based on price and productivity.
“I am held accountable by my board of directors to maximise Indigenous
apprenticeships and social outcomes but that’s not relevant when we
respond to an invitation to tender that’s in the newspaper.”
The big influx of money for Aboriginal housing won’t last forever, as
Mr McConnell points out, and he intends to make sure that Ingkerreke
Commercial can respond when the market changes.
“We want to prove that being an Aboriginal company is not a
disadvantage, and nor do we need any kind of favouritism.
“We compete in an open market. If you learn to walk with a crutch,
you’ll always walk with a crutch.”
Ingkerreke was originally set up 25 years ago as an outstation resource
agency, servicing its 12 member outstations to the north and east of
town that came into existence after successful land claims on old stock
This is still Ingkerreke’s core business for which they receive
government funding and these days, while the organisation is still
controlled by its original membership, its delivers local
government-type services to 45 outstations.
Ingekerreke Commercial came into existence five years ago.
The organisation “could see the writing on the wall”, says Mr
It was clear that the Howard Government would drive a massive
restructuring of the way government was doing business in relation to
A turning point for Ingkerreke came with the acquisition by the
Indigenous Land Corporation of the site in Kidman Street, in Alice’s
industrial area, from where they operate today.
The acquisition came with “a high level of accountability”, says Mr
“They wanted to see real outcomes, tangible things that they could
Mr McConnell joined the organisation in January, 2005 and helped drive
the establishment of Ingkerreke Commercial.
The company has around 90 staff, all in “real” full-time jobs and
apprenticeships. The only subsidies are those that apply to apprentices
anywhere. About two thirds of the staff are Indigenous, as are all 12
of the apprentices.
They are variously in their first, second and third years, in
electrical, boiler-making, carpentry and plumbing apprenticeships.
In their five years Ingkerreke have turned out one fully qualified
gasfitter / plumber who is still with the company.
They will take on temporary staff when they’ve got a big project, as
they did with the clean-up of town camps late last year.
How does Ingkerreke deal with the problems typically said to plague
Aboriginal employment – unreliability, absenteeism, cultural pressures?
“By treating people with expectations,” says Mr McConnell, without
“As an Aboriginal corporation we do understand where people come from
and what their cultural obligations are – funerals and men’s business
are the main ones that impact on us.
“But we do draw a line in the sand because we have to operate in a
“We keep people informed about our expectations, we share with them
what we are trying to achieve, and people respond.”
Employees are entitled to five days’ bereavement leave and five days’
Mr McConnell also sees a lot of the generalisations around Aboriginal
employment issues as unhelpful at best, racist at worst.
He says reduced productivity and absenteeism related to alcohol
consumption is a major workforce problem across the board in Alice
“It is a big issue for Aboriginal people but I just wish we would
recognise that it is a major issue for non-Aboriginal people as well.
“There are big mobs of workers across town who don’t come to work
because they’re grog sick.
“And sure we lose some work days to cultural obligations but white
people have cultural obligations too.
“So many of them have their family elsewhere and their obligations to
visit them are also a major issue for productivity.”
Mr McConnell points to the transience of many non-Aboriginal people as
But isn’t that matched by Aboriginal employees not staying in their
“Sure you might employ someone and it doesn’t work out, but the
investment you’ve made is in someone who is committed to staying here
and sooner or later you might intersect with that person again.”
He gives an example: when a man they’d employed decided one Thursday
that a “liquid lunch” was his priority, he was sacked on the spot.
Three months later he asked to be re-employed. They gave him a second
chance and so far so good.
“He’s been working for us in a remote community since before last
Christmas, proper number one.”
Mr McConnell says the man was motivated by undertaking a good job,
“lots of hard work which makes you feel like you’re contributing
something”, and getting paid properly.
He sees welfare as “actively keeping people away from employment” and
calls on the community to openly acknowledge this.
He believes many people share this view though they may not openly
“We won’t drive change until we talk about it,” he says.
“An old Anangu man told me about a horse that died of thirst trying to
get a drink from a dripping tap when nearby there was a rockhole full
“That is what is happening to many Aboriginal people.
“The dripping tap is in direct relationship with alcohol abuse, family
violence and low self-esteem.
“We’ve got to help them turn towards the rockhole of having a job.”
He agrees that reform of the welfare system itself, making it
impossible to stay on the dole if there’s work available and you’re fit
to do it, would be the easiest way to tackle this challenge.
CDEP falls into the welfare category, he says, believing it to have
been “the single biggest barrier” to meaningful Aboriginal employment.
Ingkerreke had a large CDEP workforce, some 200 participants, and did
try to maintain it through the transition phase to the new-look CDEP of
the Federal Labor Government.
Mr McConnell says this scheme is a con, nothing more than a
work-for-the-dole scheme, and although it has been hard for Ingkerreke
to be cut loose from it, they have treated the change as an
He excuses himself as a non-Indigenous person for speaking on a matter
of Indigenous identity, but says, as someone who has associated with
Indigenous people all his life, he believes that it is possible to be
“highly capable, recognised and accountable in the Aboriginal way”
while also participating in the non-Indigenous social and economic
“They are not mutually exclusive.”
He believes this view is shared by his board – “very forward thinking
people with an optimistic view about the future”.
Action about the future of Aboriginal people needs not to be left to
politicians and bureaucrats.
Aboriginal people themselves need to be empowered to make the changes.
Ingkerreke’s contribution is to get people through as fully-certified
tradesmen, so that they are in a position to own their own company,
work in their community as a tradesman or “take a job with Sitzlers or
If Aboriginal leadership on this front – of addressing welfare
dependency and achieving employment – is lacking, Mr McConnell believes
it is because “we have invested in programs, not people”.
On this point, he welcomes the different approach of Desert Knowledge
Australia’s Alice Springs Desert Leadership program – “it’s investing
“It’s incumbent on us to deal with the issues, not just keep talking.
“You only need employ one person at a time.”
Looked at this way, there’s a lot of scope across the community to make
show, no pay
A way of tackling welfare dependency that is frequently canvassed is to
apply penalties if a person does not take available work which they are
fit to do.
A new job seeker compliance framework was introduced on July 1 last
The previous toughening of compliance rules saw automatic
“breaching” – no dole payments – for eight weeks after three “failures
to participate”. A failure could be not turning up to a job interview
or not turning up to work.
After July 2009 a “No Show No Pay” penalty was introduced, applied for
each day of failing to participate. If there are three failures in six
months, the job seeker has to attend a “Comprehensive Compliance
If it’s found that the person is persistently and deliberately
non-compliant then an eight week non-payment period may be applied.
Recent reporting on the Federal Intervention provided non-compliance
statistics for the 73 relevant (“prescribed”) communities.
There were 12 penalties (the figures do not discriminate between the
“No show No Pay” penalty and the eight week non-payment period) for 12
people since the introduction of the new framework.
While the figures are not strictly comparable, the six month period
August 2007 to January 2008 saw 66 eight week non-payment periods for
65 people (Labor came to power in November 2007); February ‘08 to June
‘08, 33 for 32 people; January ‘09 to June ‘09, 12 for 12 people.
One job creation ‘program’ with real results was government action,
again in the context of the Intervention, to properly fund CDEP
positions that were involved with government service delivery.
This led to the funding of 2211 jobs – 1670 in Australian Government
service delivery and around 400 in local government service delivery.
At the end of last year 2158 of these positions were filled.
However, there is concern at present that some local government jobs
are under threat.
The Territory Government is extending funding for transitioning CDEP to
real jobs until the end of 2010 but it is unclear what will happen
According to the President of the Local Government Association of the
NT, Kerry Moir, shires are wanting to transition people into housing
jobs because that is where funding is available.
But LGANT is concerned that shire core services will suffer and some
employees may even lose their jobs.
Killing the goose that lays the golden
egg? By ERWIN
The greed of Alice Springs landlords will destroy the town in which
they have invested their own money.
This is the view not of an activist, politician or academic, but of the
manager of a business where people go to buy cartons to pack their
belongings when “leaving town”.
And it’s where they store their possessions – mostly much longer than
expected – because they can’t find a home, or where they leave them,
“just for a few weeks” when they’re hoping to come back to The Alice –
but never do.
Michael Kallweit is confronted daily by the misery created by
debilitating rents and the cost to buy real estate.
He is the manager of Self Storage which rents out garage-size sheds,
more than 300 of them, in the industrial area.
Mr Kallweit says there are, broadly, two types of people leaving town:
those who’ve been here for a long time, 10 to 20 years, and who are
sick of the growing ant-social behaviour in public.
And those who come here with a trade or profession, whom the town needs
desperately, but who simply can’t earn enough to pay rent and feed
their families. They’re leaving at the rate of five families a week, in
Mr Kallweit’s observation.
“We are losing good people,” says Mr Kallweit who stresses he’s
speaking as a concerned local and not on behalf of Self Storage.
“The quality of services here will drop.”
He says the statistics may be bland but the human tragedy all too real.
“Relationships can’t be formed or they are shattered by these pressures.
“Young people can’t leave their parents’ home to start their own
“They cannot become independent.
“They may be too young to have the communication skills to cope with
“Family units collapse.”
Mr Kallweit says he’s also encountered many young single mothers in
The drama is not just at the bottom end of the income scale – in fact
housing for the poorest is getting a shot in the arm with a Federal
allocation of $150m for town camp housing, apart from the ongoing
subsidies for public housing.
But the middle class is getting a hammering: Mr Kallweit says he’s seen
many health professionals leaving town, heading for other regional
cities just as appealing as Alice Springs, but offering housing at half
Victor Burge, who works with Mr Kallweit, says he knows one tradesman
who has four children and an Aboriginal wife.
Mr Burge says when this man sees a real estate agency, one look at his
wife is usually enough to be shown the door.
When he approaches an Aboriginal organisation for help, one look at him
usually brings the same result.
Another tradesman has most of his possessions stored in one of the Self
He sleeps in his car.
Mr Burge is also a victim of the system.
Notwithstanding that he was a good tenant and punctual payer of rent,
he was given notice.
He says the real estate agent told him “the owner wishes to have
possession of the property back” but the morning after being thrown out
Mr Burge saw the flat advertised for rent – with an increase from $330
to $450 a week.
The Self Storage facility, while providing an important service, is not
Monthly rents for the units range from $125 (for a 1.5m x 1.5m x 3m
space) to $250 a month (4m x 6m x3m).
That means the annual rent per square metre for a windowless room with
a tin roof and no facilities ranges from $125 to $660.
Office space in the CBD costs around $220 per square metre.
Says Mr Kallweit: “Our prices are some of the lowest in the country.
“We have not had a price rise in 15 months and at that time by only by
5 to 10 dollars extra for the month.
“We understand the hardship in Alice Springs.”
Tenants of flats and homes can make, under Section 42 of the NT
Residential Tenancies Act, an application for a declaration that rent
The NT Commissioner of Tenancies (in South Australia it’s a tribunal)
can make such a declaration, (in part) whilst “having regard to the
general level of rents for comparable premises in the same or similar
A telephone enquiry with Consumer Affairs NT reveals that such an
application would be quite tedious: “Please attach any paperwork that
will support your claim: eg rent receipts; condition reports; copies of
quotes, accounts or receipts for work on the premises,” says the form.
And the application needs to be supported by evidence about rents in
the area from a licensed valuer who would charge “in the vicinity of
$1000” for his service.
It’s a fascinating proposition: the word “excessive” conjures up
notions of fairness and reasonableness.
Would the commissioner, for example, look at the initial investment for
the dwelling, say 20 or 30 years ago?
And would he or she then determine a reasonable rate of return on the
investment, say 10 to 15%?
The guidelines seem clear: if everybody is ripping off tenants then
it’s a perfectly OK thing to do.
This was all the Department of Justice said: “Consumer Affairs has no
further comment to make beyond pointing out that if a Tenant has
specific concerns about Tenancy matters to contact us directly.”
& Water busts deadlines for stopping Perfume Creek flows.
By KIERAN FINNANE.
Discharge from the sewerage ponds into the Ilparpa Swamp and thence to
St Mary’s Creek alongside the Stuart Highway can be done in all
weathers until the commissioning of the various phases of the Water
The latest deadlines for the commissioning have all passed.
If they had been met, we either would not have the current discharge or
the Power and Water Corporation (PWC) would be in breach of its
Dubbed “Perfume Creek” the discharge has been flowing along the course
of St Mary’s Creek since at least June 21, the second time in this dry
month it has done so.
News about the once-feted $10.4m Water Reuse Project has dropped from
The most recent “update” of it on the PWC website is dated October 2,
Intended to reduce environmental impacts associated with overflows from
the ponds to the swamp, the project began in 2003 with a commitment of
$6.3m for stage one.
A pipeline was put in to take treated water to the Arid Zone Research
Institute, where it was to be stored in the aquifer for late reuse by a
horticulturalist. It appears that no such end user has been found (the
job of the Department of Resources – Primary Industry).
PWC announced its last anticipated dry weather discharge in 2007, in
anticipation of the water reuse scheme kicking in.
However its current licence, issued in January 2008, allows it to
continue discharging whatever the weather but stipulates dates by which
the reuse technologies and site would be commissioned.
The Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) Plant was to have been commissioned
by January 31, 2009.
The Soil Aquifer Treatment system and the reuse site were to have been
commissioned no later than January 31, 2010.
And PWC was to have reported to the licensing authority, the Department
of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (NRETAS), by
March 31 of this year on the final effluent quality achieved from the
SAT commissioning phase.
Once the DAF and SAT had been commissioned, the licence stipulates that
PWC was to change its discharge regime to wet weather only.
As the current discharge has occurred during dry weather we can assume
that at least some of the deadlines have not been met.
Our questions to PWC on whether they had been and if not, why not, had
not been answered at the time of going to press.
There have certainly been no media announcements of progress.
The most recent release associated with the project dates from 2008
when the Water Reclamation Plant described as “the ‘engine room’ of the
Alice Springs Water Re-Use project”, destined to produce 600
million litres of recycled water a year, won an architectural award.
On the Department of Resources – Primary Industry website the project
is referred to in the future tense: “A portion of AZRI will be used to
recycle wastewater from Alice Springs using underground water banking.”
Elsewhere on the site the “research project” is described as
aiming “to investigate the suitability Alice Springs recycled waste
water, and the suitability of the identified soil types, to
successfully grow horticultural produce”.
Meanwhile, on the current discharge, licensing authority NRETAS
supplied the following statement: “The Waste Discharge Licence issued
by NRETAS to Power and Water Corporation allows for any excess
wastewater not evaporated or recycled to be discharged to the swamp.
“The licence specifies the Discharge criteria of a range of parameters
including suspended solids, E.coli, total Nitrogen and Phosphorus for
which the licencee is required to meet.
“The present discharge is the result of three factors: heavy rainfall
earlier in the year when mosquito breeding made it difficult to release
water to the swamp; present cold weather reducing evaporation; and an
increase in visitors to Alice Springs during the Finke Desert Race.”
Our statement from PWC in last week’s report on this subject referred
to permission from the Environment Protection Authority.
It should have referred to NRETAS.
The Environment Protection Authority does not have a regulatory role
nor does it issue licences.
We published a comment piece headed “Disturbing questions about
government appointed regulator” in last week’s edition.
This contained a reply by solicitor Peer Schroeter, of Povey Stirk.
We said he was writing on behalf of the Agents Licensing Board.
In fact Mr Schroeter was responding on behalf of the real estate firm
The Alice Springs News regrets the error.
tolerance for payback: police. By ERWIN
A family was in fear for their lives when during a home invasion on
Saturday, car keys were taken, the home’s door was blocked, the car
stolen and torched – all suspected to be part of an ongoing cycle of
The owner of the home says she was afraid the house would be set alight
after the perpetrators used a rope to tie the front door so it could
not be opened, preventing a fast escape for her and some other family
“I’m worried there will be more trouble,” says the owner, speaking on
condition of not being named.
“It’s an ongoing family feud. It’s wrong.”
She says the perpetrators should be brought to justice but after that
“it should stop.I’m speaking as a mother.
“Our family will not continue this payback.”
Superintendent Sean Parnell says police have a zero tolerance approach
“We don’t condone it,” he says. “If it does happen and it is against
the law we will take action.
“The court will decide what the punishment will be.”
Supt Parnell says there is no clear evidence that payback is becoming
more frequent in town, but concedes an increase may be the result of
“urban drift” from remote communities to Alice Springs.
“Communities don’t want certain people and they get pushed into town,
or they want to get away from payback,” he says.
The car stolen last week was found burning in a creek soon after the
Supt Parnell says several items were seized from the wreck “for
forensic examination of finger prints and DNA testing”.
We put the following question to Karl Hampton, Minister for Central
Australia: “We are now aware of several payback events in Alice Springs
in the recent past.
“Do you think there is a case for legislating to make payback an
aggravating circumstance in violent crimes, attracting much higher
“Do you think payback itself should be a crime?”
An aide to Mr Hampton said he’s on holidays but a government spokesman
said: “A crime has been reported and is currently being investigated by
“The Northern Territory has some of the toughest penalties for assault,
home invasion, car theft and arson in the nation.”
racing to restoring Mo’s followed his dream. By
By rights he should have been Darwin’s not ours: Murray McCosker,
affectionately known as Mo, had been living and working in Sydney when
he applied for a job in Darwin.
Cyclone Tracey got in the way and the job fell through, so it was after
a seven hour flight from Sydney on a Fokker Friendship that he arrived
in Alice Springs in late January 1975.
A plumber by trade, he was employed by John and Judy Dona at their Dona
Sales business in Hele Crescent. In those days it was common practice
to engage in a basic six month contract on the tools before being given
an airfare to go to any capital city in Australia for a break.
Mo recalls how after the first six or eight months most tradies would
take the money and live it up until they were broke, before returning
to the job for another six months. Mo was living at the Melanka
Hostel at the time and this way of life went on for a couple of years.
In late 1976 or early 1977 he met Shorty Maclean, which led to his
riding in a few motocross events and involvement with Arunga Park
Speedway on the working bee side of things.
By 1978, Mo had met Angela Spangler and they were living on site at the
speedway and Mo’s love for Formula 500s came to the fore when Arunga
Park held its first Australian Formula 500 Title the same year.
When he and Angela went to Perth for a holiday in late ‘78, they
returned with their own Formula 500 – complete with a B33 BSA engine
and a Norton gearbox.
Shorty, while racing stockbikes and swinging on an outfit, became Mo’s
In late ‘79 or early ‘80 the McCoskers went back to Perth for 12
months. Mo’s main aim was to do some racing and have a bit of fun
before returning to the Alice in late 1980 so Angela could run her own
In 1981, they bought out June Smith and Mo continued his passion for
the sport, winning the Northern Territory Formula 500 Title.
At the same time, life progressed, children were born and Mo assisted
in the shop for a couple of years. By 1985 Mo had backed out of racing
due to business commitments but remained involved with the Formula 500
When Arunga Park once again held the Australian Titles in the following
year Mo was heavily involved with the promotional side of things .
At the end of 1986, Darwin’s Northline Speedway was in financial
difficulty so Mo moved to Darwin and became their manager for the next
He was a little taken aback to learn a fortnight later that they were
to host the ‘87 Australian Sprintcar Titles!
With only three months and an enormous amount of work to get the event
organised, the title was successfully hosted in November 1986.
Returning home, he continued to race another two or three seasons
and became fairly competitive before destroying a race car.
Although more business commitments had to take first place, Mo served
on the speedway committee on and off but stayed away from racing for
the next 10 or 15 years.
He’s returned in the last few years and was heavily involved in
promoting the ‘94 and ‘02 Australian Formula 500 Titles as well as the
ones held recently.
These days, Mo’s become interested in classic bikes and restoration to
a degree, particularly on the speedway side of things. He’s bought a
couple of solos including a complete 1970 Mark 1 Neil Street Conversion
bike and a nineteen-something 4 stunt, long stroke, JAP.
The Street Conversions were the very first of the 4 valves developed by
Neil Street and Ivan Tighe. They were built especially for Street’s
son-in-law Phil Crump, who was right up on the world speedway scene in
Although Mo’s Street Conversion is pretty well complete apart from a
missing carburettor, fuel cap, handlebars and seat, he tells me there
needs to be a bit more research carried out on the JAP.
He’s hopeful that he may have sourced a carburettor from Darwin which
hails from the same era as the bike.
With Shorty giving a helping hand, Mo intends to strip the Neil Street
bike down first and have it sandblasted.
The idea is to rebuild both bike engines completely and take them back
to as close to original as possible.
I asked if he intends to ride either of them.
He laughingly tells me that he’s never ridden a solo and besides, he’s
“too old and fat and ugly now to hop on one”.
And he values his bones.
He adds that if the bikes come together nicely, he might let someone
“have a pedal on them one day”.
About 12 months ago, Mo says he “went stupid” and bought a fully
restored 1955 D Series Vincent Rapide – his little pride and joy.
This bike was originally found running a Mount Hagen sawmill in New
Guinea: complete except for the wheels and handlebars and a few minor
bits and pieces.
It has matching engine numbers, frame numbers and rear swing arm which
is pretty rare to find.
The fellow who found it in the late ‘70s spent a lot of years
rebuilding it, tracking parts and getting his money together for the
rebuild. In the early ‘90s, he sold it to a fellow in Brisbane who then
sold it to Mo. The jetting had to be sorted out for the Centralian
climate and due to this it had a few hissy fits when it first arrived.
Mo doesn’t take her out that often but hopes she’ll stay in the area
for quite a number of years.
Mo’s regular ride is his 2003 Anniversary Fatboy, which was bought when
he went into the shop to buy a set of valves for his son’s Formula 500!
He says the Rapide probably doesn’t compliment his Harley but it
doesn’t matter because as we get older we can afford these little
luxuries and besides, the old girl’s bloody beautiful to ride!
Mo reflects on how age and time, along with business commitments
affects people – particularly in the past couple of years when new
business ventures have tied him up heavily.
He believes that as life goes on we should look back at things that
happened and just enjoy it as we get a bit older.
He’s met a lot of really lovely people from speedway over the years,
and could probably go anywhere in Australia and still have a good old
chin-wag with people he’s raced with in the past.
On the other side of the coin there’ve been some real shockers but the
good times far outweigh the bad.
I asked him if he has any other restorations on the horizon.
He says he’s still looking and will keep his ear to the ground – he’d
like to track down a couple of old sidecars just for restoration; and
although he can’t afford to buy a HRD at this stage, he’d love one
He has a couple of old Jawa engines at home which may end up as a
restored Formula 500; and another thing he would passionately like to
have would be along the lines of an old triple Kawasaki or a Suzuki
The list seems endless but then it depends on whether a man ever gets
the time to actually do it all or whether he’s got a big enough shed to
put all the junk in!
Fest inspires a play.
By KIERAN FINNANE.
Beanie culture has surely reached another level when a full-length play
by an experienced writer draws its inspiration from the annual Alice
Springs rituals around this no longer humble item of headwear.
Beanie Festival goers had the opportunity on the weekend to watch a
reading of the play, Head Full of Love, by Alana Valentine,
commissioned by Darwin Festival and being produced by them. It will be
staged in Darwin in August and then at Alice Desert Festival in
A play about the developing friendship of two older women, one
Aboriginal, the other white, meeting in Alice at Beanie Festival time
might sound too warm, fuzzy and predictable, but it is saved, mostly,
from these things by its characters taking on flesh and bones.
This is partly due to the authenticity of Colette Mann and Roxanne
McDonald in their roles – even reading from their scripts – but also in
good part to their dialogue, entertainingly full of cultural
misunderstandings, which are nonetheless not over-played, as well as of
quite intimate disclosures about their lives, which are often moving.
The beanie which Tilly, a resident of Hidden Valley town camp, is
making to enter in the festival competition, is the thread holding the
play together. It’s a story-telling beanie, with each of its bands of
colour representing one of her family members.
As she tells their stories to Nessa, who’s fleeing a city life of
loneliness, dissatisfaction and an episode of mental illness, Nessa
responds in kind and little by little a touching portrait of the pair
and their friendship emerges.
Nessa might sound a bit like a stereotypical empty white vessel waiting
to be filled by meaningful relationship with Aboriginal people and
culture, but despite her problems she comes across as having a quite a
strong sense of herself, of what she wants from life and the courage to
go out and get it.
Valentine, who has a string of writing credits and awards to her name,
navigates most of the potential pitfalls of her subject matter well and
has a good ear for dialogue.
Someone more expert might fault her representation of Aboriginal
English but for me it mostly rang true.
The play is being directed by Noonuccal Nuugi man Wesley Enoch, also a
reputed talent and recently appointed artistic director of the
Queensland Theatre Company.
& music, today, tonight and pretty soon.
The Beanie Festival may be over but winners of the National Beanie
Competition are on display at Araluen till July 25.
Pictured (above right) is Winged Aviator by Emma Bruce, winner of the
New Wave Beanie Prize for a school-aged advanced beanie maker.
There were 14 prize winners in all, including a people’s choice.
• Then and Now looks back over 10 years of textile works by Alice
artist Kathryn Frank.
She has explored many techniques and show includes Shibori works,
wearable art, recycled “sustainable couture”, silk scarves and bags, as
well as felted jewellery and scarves.
Opens tonight, 6pm, at Central Craft’s June Marriott Gallery and
continues till July 14.
• Byron Bay’s the Lucky Wonders play tomorrow (Friday) night at the
Firkin and Hound.
They are singer songwriter duo Jessie Vintila and Emma Royle, as well
as Brent Calcutt on bass and Anastassijah Scales on drums, touring the
country in their WonderBus.
Their debut single “Happy Pill” went straight to the top of the
Triple J Unearthed Roots chart.
Their album, Thirteen O’Clock, is described as “a delicate blend of
roots tunes with a pop underbelly”.
• One of Australia’s most recognized ukulele players, Rose Turtle
Ertler (at left), is in Alice next Monday and Tuesday.
She’ll share her ukele skills in a workshop on Monday (call 0413 007
605 for info) and will perform at Annie’s Place on Tuesday.
Rose has being performing solo for over 10 years, tours regularly in
Australia and has performed overseas at Ukulele Festivals in New
York (2008) and Auckland (2009).
All Rose’s instruments are vintage 1930s or ‘40s and will mostly be
played acoustically, although for some songs, Rose will return to
her old style of Uke playing.
• For youngsters, on school holidays art workshops at the Desert Park
are continuing on Wednesdays.
July 7, 10am: How to Take that Perfect Shot (with your digital camera).
$10, minimum age 10 years.
July 14, 10am: Botanical painting with Patricia Weeks. $37
includes art supplies; minimum age of 15 years.
July 21, 9am: Jewellery Making. $10, minimum age 10 years.
July 28, 10am: Botanical Painting with Patricia Weeks. $37,15 years.
• Central Australian filmmakers are being called on to make new screen
works of up to seven minutes for the Lens Flair competition.
The competition is part of the much-loved Cinema In the River project
which will expand from two to three nights of screenings, on October 21
to 23, to include a showcase evening of winning entries.
Four free development workshops will be held in Alice in August.
The competition is an initiative of the Alice Desert Festival and
is supported by the NT Film Office.
NANCARROW ARROW: What
a great time to get scared.
How exciting – a weekend where we get to make things that go bang as
well as the opportunity to scare ourselves silly on the newest rides at
We have as yet managed to avoid the fun police who want to make our
world into a safe and sanitary place in the Territory. That’s right –
we still have the inalienable right to hurt ourselves in a myriad of
ways using fireworks. Set them off in your face, shoot them at each
other or that heart stopping moment when you realise you did not
securely fasten the base of the fire ball launcher (as instructed) and
run, run, run as blazing balls of coloured light smash into the walls
and foliage all around you. Joy.
Of course it’s the near misses that excite, not the hits that people
turn up presenting at the emergency ward, dazed and holding burned bits
and wondering where it all went wrong.
So, I’m not the one to point the finger and say, “No you can’t”. That’s
for the fun police to do. But be careful, the eye you save might be
And then there is The Show to look forward to. Was there anything more
exciting as a kid? Pestering parents and grandparents for jobs so you
had spending money, the planning of showbags and the rides you would
try. Heady days and you hadn’t even gotten there yet. The size of it,
the noise, the smell of the pig pens – oh yes, what a place! Until you
got lost, that’s when you’d realise that heaven could indeed turn to
hell as you spun and turned and there was no one you knew, anywhere.
Then the next stage in Show life experiences, awkward adolescence. It’s
never been a strong point of mine, chatting up girls and certainly not
at an early age. I liked girls a lot, certainly thought about (dreamed)
a lot about them and was even able to be friends with most. But in the
game of teenage love I was generally on the bench when the first team
ran out, unable to translate friendship into the snog that would, I was
sure, change my life.
The Show helped things along a bit, one could present hard won toys to
the object of desire, shout dagwood dogs and just occasionally, if
gravity and the ride conspired together and the stars aligned, touch
bits of girl accidentally that would take weeks of manoeuvring to
achieve. If at all, in my case. Is it any wonder that I love The Show
so much and look forward to it every year?
Except the Show bags, which is God’s way of telling me I’m getting old,
far more effectively than my achy knee. I can’t do it, I have to go
outside or else I spoil it by saying loudly “You’re going to pay how
much for a plastic bag with a (enter latest fad here) blow up thingy
and a packet of lollies?” It embarrasses the kid and the nice people
who sell the bags unnecessarily. Supply and demand drives the market
I used to be right into scary rides when I was a kid but now I know too
much about metal fatigue and just how easily and silently nuts can undo
themselves. Team that up with an active imagination and an overactive
adrenal gland and I don’t really need to get on a ride at all. I can be
terrified standing on Terra Firma, watching the screaming (and
occasionally, vomiting) faces spin round and save myself ten bucks in
the bargain. Due to peer pressure from wife and son I still go on and
the knowledge of just how reckless I am being makes the thrill of
getting off in one piece all the sweeter.
highs and lows for backpackers in Alice. By ANNE-LAURE POLIAN.
Alice Springs, what a poetic name for a town: an oasis in the desert, a
place where to quench your thirst, a refuge, a home and a love for a
woman as the story says …
As far as I remember, I’ve always wanted to come to Alice and Uluru, to
breathe the immensity, to feel the heart’s beating of the country, in
the middle of that red nowhere.
The desire to see Australia dates to my childhood: I was 11 years old
when one day my father returned home after having spent four months
working and travelling in Australia, his luggage full of strange and
amazing objects, his head full of tales and his eyes looking vague and
sparkling while thinking about that distant land.
It was 16 years later, grown up and fed up with Paris when I decided to
get rid of everything – job, flat, car – and jumped onto a flight for
And because I somehow wanted to keep the best for the end, it still
took me eight months to arrive in Alice.
I had heard during my travels so many different things about the town
that I had no idea about what to expect. Some said, “Alice is so
boring, there’s nothing to do there and so many Aboriginal people drunk
everywhere, plus the place is dangerous at night”, while others said,
“I loved Alice, a nice friendly town, I enjoyed the pubs during the few
evenings I spent there and you will find lots of jobs”.
I was prepared for the worst. I thought I’d discover a flat dry
sunburnt and miserable land.
Instead when I arrived by the Ghan from Darwin, I saw yellow, red
and green hilly scenery welcoming me. I was glad.
Now let’s have a closer look: hop off at the station, take the photo
every tourist takes – the statue of the Afghan riding his camel – then
jump in the Annie’s Place shuttle, arrive at the backpacker’s. As the
name suggests, it’s a friendly place and you can hear good concerts
Let’s go into town and find a job or my bank account will soon have a
hard time! It’s Sunday afternoon, the mall is almost deserted apart
from a few Aboriginal people sitting on the ground, trying to sell
their paintings: “Hey sister, come here come here!”
So I come closer and find that some of their paintings are quite nice
pieces. But they’ve called the wrong person: I’m a backpacker, which
means no money in the bank account, sorry guys!
They soon realise that there’s no coin to expect from me, so next
question: “Hey sister, d’y hav’ a c’garette?” And because I want to be
friendly and haven’t got any experience, I give one to the guy who’s
As a result, the guy next to the first one asks me for a cigarette as
well, which I can’t refuse, then the third guy and the fourth, the
fifth, the sixth, the seventh and the eighth and so on: it’s like the
whole street had decided to converge on me at that very moment for a
cigarette! Funny, but it’s the first and the last time it happens.
That is my first contact with Aborigines. While walking through the
centre of town, which is rather pretty with its painted walls, I can’t
help thinking that what travellers have said to me about Aborigines is
unfortunately true: some of these once proud first inhabitants of the
country wander or sit in the grass idle, neglecting themselves and
drinking the whole day.
At night you can hear yellings coming from the river and no-one wants
to know what happens there …
One morning, a few days after my arrival, while walking down the mall,
I see a man and woman howling and punching each other.
The woman even picks up a stick and hits her partner.
I am almost tempted to interfere, but I know what would be the result:
they would strike me, so I just walk away.
This situation is sad, I feel so sad for them, sad about that violence
between themselves, but I feel angry when that violence finds its way
against me or some of my travel mates. Because it happens: it’s not
rare that someone finds their car in the morning without any intact
One night at the YHA, at around 11pm, we are chatting by the fence near
the river, when suddenly we see a shadow throwing at us a glass bottle.
It explodes on the concrete, hurting no-one. Then a second one arrives,
Finally two young heroes come by the fence defying one of my friends to
go out and fight.
“We are gangsters,” they say, “we live in the river, this country
belongs to black fellows.”
They are right, this land moulded and shaped by their long presence and
legends belongs, at least partly, to black people.
That’s why I would like to thank Aboriginal people for letting me stay
in their beautiful country, but for the fights, sorry, we are not
interested: peace and harmony would be a lot better.
Not that the fault for that current separation between our different
communities is the Aboriginal responsibility only.
For instance, why is there a charge for the toilets in Woolworths if it
is not for preventing Aborigines from using them?
Everywhere else in Australia toilets are for free.
Plus the tragic history of white settlement is still deeply present in
all memories. Since then, it seems that sadness and a feeling of
aimless life inhabits lots of these people.
But apart from the “gangsters of the river”, I have fortunately
discovered that other kinds of Indigenous persons exist and that
communication is really possible. In the mall, instead of peeking
surreptitiously at these dark cross-legged seated figures and secretly
taking pictures of them without asking for their permission, you can
also come closer, be respectful and sit by the side of some groups,
having a nice chat.
Then they’ll tell you their skin names (or tribal names), they’ll
explain to you their family and relationships.
One will also tell you old stories like this little one: “A long long
time ago, when my ancestor saw white people for the first time, she
thought they were ghosts.” Their babies will smile at you, and what is
cuter than a black baby smiling?
Now, what about white fellows?
I’d say very friendly, covered with tattoos and piercing, drinking beer
at light speed and speaking weird English with a bloody hell accent! It
makes it hard for poor foreigner ears!
As expected the best place to meet them is bars: cheers for Bo’s saloon
and the Rock bar for their atmosphere and their musicians.
Overall, a special thanks for local associations like the “bush
walkers”, who invite travellers to join them for their walks through
the splendid landscapes of the MacDonnell ranges.
But it’s not because Australians are friendly that life is always easy
for backpackers. First problem: how to find a place to live if you want
to stay to work?
After two days at Annie’s Place, I am gently told to pack my things and
go away because the maximum stay is three nights. All right, then let’s
go to the YHA, thinking that now I can put down my luggage and rest,
alas no. There’s as well a maximum stay here, of two weeks, great!
How long is this going to last? And what about the holy quest for jobs?
Is Alice Springs the jobs’ land of plenty?
For sure there is more work here than in other areas, but it may be
difficult to find a full-time job which allows us to live properly and
save a bit.
And backpackers will be often offered jobs no-one else wants to do or
with difficult conditions: “You have to ring us each morning very early
to know if you are summoned to work half an hour later.”
But these difficulties are part of the deal: if the strange species of
human that is a backpackers wants to go on travelling through these
thousand of kilometres of Australian land, then there’s no choice but
to be contented with whatever we find. Then comes the reward …
So now I am waiting for the sun to rise again over these mountains and
plains, and leaving the town, its mixed colourful inhabitants and their
contradictions behind me, I will head to the desert and sleep under the
stars, dreaming of yellow, red and green.