ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
March 3, 2011. This page contains all
reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
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Ministers snub pleas for help. By
As the town is in uproar over delinquent children roaming the streets
at night, committing crimes, four Territory politicians are not
responding to concerns that one of the few late night programs for
young people is at risk of closure.
The Gap Youth Centre in December wrote to Chief Minister Paul
Henderson, and ministers Malarndirri McCarthy (Indigenous development),
Kon Vatskalis (children) and Karl Hampton (Central Australia) who touts
himself as a Gap kid.
To date not one of them has replied.
Gap CEO Jennifer Standish-White wrote again on February 4 – still no
reply, apart from acknowledgement of the receipt of the email by the
staffers of two ministers.
Ms Standish-White says in response to several further attempts to
contact Mr Hampton, his staff said he is very busy, it’s difficult to
say where he is right now, and that the message had been forwarded to a
senior adviser (who also has not replied).
The Gap Youth Centre is open until 10pm Wednesdays, Thursdays and
Fridays, has 230 members aged 12 to 18, and up to 40 at a time drop in
to enjoy 16 computers, a chill-out room, a music room with instruments
and recording devices, multi media facilities, a pool table and
The young people are from town as well as bush communities.
They are taken to wherever they are living or staying in town by
minibus between 9pm and 10pm.
Just one full-time and two part-time employees run the program.
At least two must be at the centre and in the bus. So when the bus runs
start, the centre has to be closed.
The organisation is funded mostly from Canberra, $500,000 a year, for
three programs: one caters for homeless kids aged 12 to 21, and one
provides after and holiday school care, for which parents also
contribute a small fee, and the third is the late night program.
The NT Government is putting in a mere $155,000 for the current
financial year for, management, “sport and rec” and the late night
The “sport and rec” component, for which Mr Hampton is responsible,
gets $40,000 of that, a lot short of the $130,000 the centre had asked
Bush kids like the Gap Youth Centre and – with occasional shyness
towards town kids – fit in well, says Ms Standish-White.
Some even fib about their age – minimum 12 – to gain admission to the
late night program.
“Don’t close the Gap” they quip.
Yet the facility is always operating on a knife’s edge, and struggling
from year to year as government funding is short-term, making long-term
Ms Standish-White says the Gap Youth Centre is collaborating as best it
can with other organisations helping young people.
They include Congress, Tangentyere, Bushmob, Catholic Care, Mission
Australia, ASYASS and Relationships Australia.
But at the same time all are competing against each other for funding,
from the Commonwealth as well as the NT.
And coordination of the work has its limits and needs to be improved,
says Ms Standish-White.
For example, in 2009 there were 650 applicants for money from the
Federal proceeds of crime initiative. Only 15 received funding. The Gap
Centre was on the short list but missed out.
sadness about the children of the town. By
A four week old infant is dropped off, in the middle of the night, to a
foster home because his parents are drunk and fighting.
It’s 3am and the lawns outside the Flying Doctor Service are abuzz with
25 kids “who don’t even come up to my hip”.
A young white man is banged up in the drunks tank after being “jumped
by three or four indigenous Australians” whom police allow to “just run
off into the shadows”.
And drunks abuse the detox house by getting a feed, a shower, clothes
and walking out instead of staying for a program.
The well-being of Alice Springs kids appeared uppermost in the minds of
many of the 250 locals last week attending a meeting called by Action
for Alice to thrash out the town’s problems.
But opinions about how to accomplish that differed vehemently as the
misery abroad in this town was laid bare.
Michael Gallagher, foster carer:
It’s a bloody hard job.
You get woken up 2am. A four weeks old kid, just a fortnight ago.
Only with us for two nights. His mother bashed up, he was born a bit
early as a result of that.
This little kid came in, you know, innocent to the world, hasn’t done a
thing wrong in his whole life, but his mother and father went and did
what they did.
They made that choice to go out and drink, they made the choice to get
into a fight.
And that’s where responsibility needs to come into this town. Parental
responsibility and responsibility for anyone who’s involved in looking
after these little kids.
That’s what it comes down to.
If we had this responsibility from everyone then we’d stand a darn good
chance to get this town to where the bloody hell it should be.
Dave Perry, motor dealer:
We should ask for what can be funded by our government. Realistically,
everything is stretched, as it always is.
If I treated my kids like this I’d have them taken away from me and I
wouldn’t have them with me. We need to get it down to a point of
protecting the kids first.
That’s our foremost.
And the elderly in our town.
Anywhere in the world, where you don’t look after your kids and your
elderly you’re without hope.
Scott McConnell, business and service organisation manager: We taught a
generation of Aboriginal youths that we don’t respect them.
We’ve got no time for them. How do you expect them to respond?
I do not want to see children chased with dogs.
If you get rid of the dog thing I’ll work with you.
Otherwise I’ll think you’re a bunch of clowns.
Janet Brown, businesswoman:
Every child is our child.
And they are hurting.
They do not have the love.
They do not have the protection.
We have to give them hope.
It is the responsibility of everyone in this group, in this town, to
make sure our children are safe. If we can’t protect our children
then we are of no use.
If you say we don’t want a curfew then you are saying those kids do not
We’re not trying to ruin their lives, we’re trying to help them.
Michael, surname and occupation unknown:
Zero tolerance moved New York from being the murder capital of the
planet to one of the best ordered cities in the world.
We have a generation that has learned disrespect of the law because it
has never been held accountable to it.
And when they are, the judges turn ‘round and release them because the
prisons are already full or the judges are just being too lenient. Zero
tolerance is a level playing field.
Barbara Shaw, anti-Intervention campaigner:
[The crime rate went up because] extra police were brought into the
Territory because of the Intervention. And now youse mob are crying out
You want more policing in Alice Springs? Talk to the people under the
bridge who are waiting for their houses to be built under SIHIP (huge
groans from the crowd).
Person in crowd:
Why don’t you tell them to help themselves?
(Crowd applauds and shouts its approval.)
Di Lochiel, owner of Gapview Hotel:
[The Intervention made camps dry and] forced these people into the
streets, out there in your community, where people don’t want to see
all these situations.
They forced them into the judicial system, creating another level of
people going into jails.
Tom Sullivan, grown up in this town for over 12 years:
What I’m sick of the most are the double standards and two sets of
laws, and the way police are going about enforcing the law.
One of my mates got jumped by three or four indigenous Australians, got
his head split open, the police came, the people who started the fight
went off to do their own things.
My mate asked for a lift down to the hospital and the police told him
it’s not far to walk. 90 per cent of the time when fights do break out,
by the time the police get there they lock up the victims and let the
criminals just run off into the shadows.
We end up spending the night in the drunks tank for simply standing
there and having a cigarette.
Rex Neindorf, owner of the Reptile Centre:
[Bush kids coming to town must get] reciprocal schools.
If they are under 10 years of age the cops cannot touch them.
These kids who are about six or seven years of age are committing
These people are hiding in bushes.
I’ve got a $5000 night vision in my car, so I can see what’s going on.
I can see everything that’s going on. I’ve got more equipment than the
cops have got.
plan: Any more mistakes? By KIERAN FINNANE.
As Member for Stuart, Karl Hampton made a media release on February 10
about the Local Implementation Plan for the “growth town” of Yuendumu.
“The Local Implementation Plan sets time lines for specific actions to
be taken by responsible parties, including government agencies and the
community,” Mr Hampton said.
The Alice News had a look in the detailed document to see what had been
decided about the operational funding of a major community asset, their
There it was in black and white: “NTG will contribute to the pool’s
This would have been quite a turnaround, as Mr Hampton had stressed
that his grant last year of $49,000 for the pool was a one-off.
We asked for confirmation and have never received an answer.
However contacts in Yuendumu say they have been told that the sentence
is a mistake.
We went back to Mr Hampton:
How can the Yuendumu community be assured that there are not other
mistakes in the Local Implementation Plan?
You guessed it, no answer.
Meanwhile, we hear that the pool is going great guns, with an
incident-free enjoyable season for more and more people, adults as well
as kids. – Kieran Finnane
German-born Renate Schenk has been running her tourism shop in Todd
Street, Winjeel, opposite the civic centre, and in the normally busy
stretch of tour booking agencies and art shops, for 20 years.
She shut up shop for good this week.
A few steps around the corner in Gregory Terrace, the big shopfront of
another holiday and tour agency, the Outback Travel Shop, operating for
more than 10 years, also closed its doors.
A sign on the window says the operation has been moved online.
Mrs Schenk says Australia has lost its magic for visitors from
overseas: “The atmosphere has changed.
“It used to be a great experience to travel around Australia, and here
see the Aborigines.
“It’s a totally different form of contact now.
“Australia is just a place you are supposed to see.
“There is no major attraction.”
A few years ago Mrs Schenk switched from being a tour agent to selling
Abriginal art, and with the demise of many old artists, she found the
business to be in decline.
And the buyers are much less discriminating: “Didgeridoos and
boomerangs made in China used to be a no-no.
“Now people say, OK, they’re cheaper, we’ll take them.”
There has been a sharp drop in both visitor numbers and spend.
January and February numbers are down 40% on last year.
The average spend in her shop last year dropped from $40 to $20 and
this year it’s just $11.
“The high dollar doesn’t help.”
Meanwhile, domestic tourists are being targeted with a $1.4m Red Centre
campaign which began on February 12 and will run to April 30.
Qantas is offering a special Red Centre airfare for the duration of the
Tourism Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy, says “emerging
communication platforms” are being used, “including a Red Centre
Facebook page and a dedicated You Tube channel”.
There’s also a new television commercial for the 7, 9 and SBS networks
and a series of print advertisements in major metropolitan newspapers
Ald Melky? By
Business man Eli Melky, who ran a vigorous ‘clean up the town’
campaign, was well ahead of rivals on polling night, with 28% of the
At that stage 66.2% of expected votes (based on enrolment) had been
The results for other candidates were as follows: Steve Brown 22.2%;
Craig Pankhurst 20.9%; Mister Shaun, 14.1%; Jill Hall, 6.5%; Janice
Knappstein, 5.4%; Peter Flink, 2.7%.
Second preference votes will be distributed after the deadline at 6pm
tomorrow (Friday) for receipt of postal votes, starting with the second
preferences of the candidate to receive the least votes, until there’s
a front-runner, with 50% plus one vote.
The Alice News will post the final result on our website as it comes to
context. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Letting off steam is a good thing but Action for Alice now needs to
come up with credible and costed strategies lest it is giving the NT
Government, which loves to ignore Alice Springs, an easy way out for
yet again doing nothing.
Let’s take the curfew idea. It sounds great at first glance. But in the
cold light of day, the following is what would happen.
Young Johnny is 17 and it’s 11.05pm.
A police patrol spots him and says he should be home.
Johnny responds with his middle finger pointing skywards.
The cops arrest him.
They haven’t got a cell for juveniles and so Johnny is put into an
office at the police station and is watched by a police officer for the
rest of the night.
Or Johnny may go into an observation cell, or a room near the meal
room, but not into the watchhouse, where the adults are, or maybe to
Aranda House which doesn’t have much space and no security to keep kids
If you have a couple of hundred kids (and that seems to be the number
bandied around as being delinquent and on the loose), the above
arrangements would be useless.
We’d need a facility, institution, home – call it what you like – for
200 kids, boys and girls separated, plus suitably trained staff.
As most internees (inmates? prisoners?) would be inclined to scamper at
the first opportunity it would be necessary to surround the facility
with razor wire. Kids very skilled in breaking into places would no
doubt be using the same skills breaking out.
So, what we would have would look very much like a prison.
Now comes the difficult part: When do we release these kids, and into
There is ample evidence that a good many of the families these kids
belong to are dysfunctional at best, lethally dangerous at worst.
Do we deliver kids into such a situation? Surely not.
First we would need to satisfy ourselves that the people we’re handing
these kids over to are safe and proper.
This could take a while.
The one night in the facility for young Johnny is turning into a few
Maybe we will never find proper custodians for some of these kids –
Foster homes and youth emergency accommodation are chockers even now,
with no curfew in place.
One family is fostering nine children.
It would not make sense to funnel large numbers of curfew breakers into
the already chaotic hotchpotch of overworked social workers,
underfunded NGOs and private foster families at the end of their tether.
So, hurrah, we turn over a new leaf and finally do what it takes. Hello
200 bed home.
Let’s say it costs $20m to build.
The Territory’s 2010-11 Revenue Budget is $4.8 billion (52% GST
revenue, 31% tied Commonwealth funding and 18% Territory revenue).
That’s $21,818 per Northern Territorian.
The $20m constructioncost would be less than one half of one percent of
For the running costs we could – should – divert the millions poured
into the existing multitude of uncoordinated organisations, living hand
to mouth for funding periods of a year or less at a time. The money
saved on writers of submissions, and hapless bureaucrats in distant
Darwin and Canberra evaluating them, would be huge.
With enlightened planning we could create a world class facility
dealing with life and death issues in a community at the edge of the
It could be a place of safety and opportunity for children who over
decades have been denied – and these are crimes – the necessities of
life, and education, not by the governments, but by their own families.
Children who have been abused in every conceivable way, by their own
families. Children who have been denied a fair slice of this lucky
country by failing to equip them to grab hold of one.
But it would be a facility where we put “taken away” children.
And that’s the crux of the matter: Do we want to create a new taken
away generation? The answer to that may well be yes, or may well be no,
but it must be given.
Clearly, Action for Alice, or at least some of its members, think it’s
the only way those kids can be saved.
Unless the curfew issue is thought through to this ultimate
consequence, raising it is no more than empty rhetoric – hot air.
Of course, the curfew issue isn’t new (just Google our website).
The well-documented 2007 Youth Curfew Report by three young people of
the NT Government’s Youth Round Table, including Claire Ryan, Mayor
Damien Ryan’s daughter, also makes useful reading.
As the report says, in late November 2006 Alderman Robyn Lambley – now
MLA for Araluen – proposed ‘”unsupervised (not in the care of an
appropriate adult) children under the age of 15, found on the streets
or any other public places during the hours of 10pm and 5am, to be
taken into protective care and custody”. The motion was passed in
The NT Government wouldn’t have a bar of it.
“Government acknowledges that the level of antisocial behaviour in
Alice Springs and the number of young people on the streets is too
high,” the report, which also rejects a curfew, quotes the response,
“but curfews are indiscriminate, and youth antisocial behaviour and
violence is normally led by a few ringleaders.
“Police should spend their time and resources dealing with these
individuals rather than young people who are not causing any problems.”
And haven’t the cops done that so well over the past four years!
Over to you.
Hampton. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton called together more than
70 Indigenous leaders and representatives from Alice Springs last
Friday in a closed meeting to discuss anti-social behaviour and alcohol
Minister for Indigenous Development, Malarndirri McCarthy, was also
In a media release Mr Hampton said Indigenous people in Alice Springs
“have been left out of the current debate and they are extremely
concerned at what is happening in their town”.
“[They] did not shy away from the issues and agreed that anti social
behaviour and alcohol fuelled violence is unacceptable.”
Action for Alice put out a media release in response:
“The issues the group are trying to motivate the NT Government to
address are not race based as was clearly demonstrated at Tuesday’s
meeting when Barbara Shaw and Lindsay Bookie both addressed the
“The fact that the Minister is restricting his attendees based on race
flies in the face of reason and resolution. A number of the action for
Alice members have lived and worked for most of their lives within
Alice Springs and have a deep understanding of the issues.”
Meanwhile, extra police have been announced. Mr Hampton thanked
Mayor Damien Ryan for being “front and centre in working with
government and the community to solve current problems” and called on
Imparja Management “to cease their advertisements which continue to
cause division in the community”.
battleships to cruise V8 Supercar track. By CHRIS WALSH.
What do the V8 Supercar Clipsal 500, the 50th Henley-on-Todd, and the
50th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs have in common?
Not a lot other than the hugely popular Clipsal 500, in Adelaide on
March 17 to 20, will have three very special vehicles doing “hot laps”
at lunchtime each day – our own, unique ‘boats’, the Nauteus, the HMAS
Courage and a Viking ship.
This will be the second time the Nauteus has been to Adelaide but the
first time that it won’t be driven. It went to Perth in 1988 for the
America’s Cup and in 1993 it was driven straight from Alice Springs to
Adelaide and across to Melbourne. At that time, it went down for the
World Conference of Rotary and made a live appearance on Hey, Hey It’s
Last Sunday I spoke to the President of the Alice Springs Rotary Club
and Commodore of the Henley-on-Todd, Eleanor Dennis, and some of the
ships’ captains and crews.
They were Captain Quinton Kessner (Nauteus), Viqueen Vice Captain Jane
Winter (the Viking ship), past Captain of the Viking ship, Neil Ross,
and Captain John Bridgefoot (Commander of the Royal Centralian Naval
Boat HMAS Courage).
They’re all very excited about such a fantastic promotional
exercise for Alice Springs and Henley-on-Todd, while also linking up
with other Rotarians.
Among them will be one of the original Viqueens, Christine Potts, who
now lives in South Australia and hasn’t been on board the Viking
ship for almost six years .
She has been diagnosed with cancer and one of her wishes is to see her
beloved Viking boat in Adelaide.
Fellow Viqueen Jane Winter wrote a letter to the southern Rotary Clubs
about 12 months ago to see if such an arrangement could be made.
The end result has turned out beautifully with the invitation to do
some laps at the Clipsal 500, and depending on how well she is at the
time, Christine will be on board.
The Clipsal 500 has chosen the Royal Flying Doctor Service as their
charity for 2011, but the Alice Rotarians are going to ask to do a
little bit of cancer fundraising on behalf of Christine.
“We’ve made some little horns with slots in them, so people can put
their money in and they look really cool,” says Jane.
At this stage, Christine is not ware of what’s being planned for her.
“There’s so much involved with getting the boats down to Adelaide and
into the Clipsal area,” says Jane, “but we’ll have to tell her soon, so
that she’s prepared for it all.”
“Soon” is next week and the logistics of getting three boats to
Adelaide in good shape are huge – even with the help of many sponsors
such as Genesee Wyoming Railways and Toll Transport.
The boats will be loaded by Toll staff onto the Ghan on March 5, while
the crews and supporters will either fly or travel by bus.
The group will consist of about 25 people – three captains and their
crews, along with a mechanic and other support people. Some of the
internal workings of the boats are quite intricate and having personnel
who know how to operate and get them all set up is vital. The Nauteus
takes about five hours to be properly set up, including hoisting of the
top sails, so a good crew is essential. Although the boats won’t travel
over long distances, it would be awful to be stuck on one of the main
roads of Adelaide without any assistance.
They blew a tyre on the Nauteus last Saturday, says Quinton, and it was
pretty difficult to change it on the side of the road. Once in
Adelaide, the boats will be collected from the railway yards at Kilburn
and driven (with a police escort) to the Clipsal site. This alone,
should attract plenty of attention!
The Clipsal track is some four kilometres long and the boat laps will
be included with the Australian Defence Forces showing.
“To be included with the Defence Forces is great because the Australian
Navy actually supports our HMAS Courage and I drink Courage, so it’s a
lovely tie up!” says John. “We’ll be press-ganging some of the
Rotarians from down there into our crews as well.
“We’re getting a lot of support from Adelaide and the surrounding areas
towards this project because it’s very unique to the Alice.”
Two of the boats have Toyotas underneath them, while HMAS Courage has
an International Atco, making it the most powerful of the three.
I’m told that HMAS Courage “should be nudging anything up to 80 kms per
hour but that’s an extreme estimate”, while Nauteus “may get up to 65
kms an hour with a tail wind and about 15 with a head wind”.
Neil believes they’ll go at a “very pedestrian speed”, tagging along
with the Army.
They’ve had to trim the sails on two of the boats because of the
pedestrian overpasses at the track. Neil says he is going to take a
tape measure and personally measure them, just to satisfy himself that
it was really necessary to cut 30 cms off his main mast!
Eleanor says the District Governor would like to see more Rotary clubs
become involved with Henley-on-Todd.
“A lot of the other Rotary clubs do a lot of chook raffles and trash
‘n’ treasures. The three Rotary clubs of Alice Springs raise something
like $30,000 in one day.”
Last year’s Clipsal 500 had an international TV audience of 853 million
viewers in 142 countries.
ARROW: I’m doing
this for you, Alice.
I have decided to conduct an experiment in order to try and understand
the life of a serial drinker.
I am aware of the health risks and so on and take them on willingly, as
a concerned parent might do for their children. I’m doing this for you,
Alice, and I hope you’re bloody grateful.
I will add that this piece will be rather heavily spell checked
tomorrow when I’m sober, right now it’s covered with the red squiggly
lines that informs me that Microsoft word does not approve of my misuse
of the English language.
So, why am I doing this, you might ask.
Fair call too.
It’s 11 in the morning and I am wobbly. I will state that number one
son is with his mum this week and no parental neglect was involved in
the making of this saga, this is an experiment – not a lifestyle choice.
I want to understand why this seems to be a good idea, to wake up with
the avowed intention of getting shitfaced as the order of the day. You
can imagine the diary entry (if this is something that a hard core
drinker would do): “9am, start drinking” and just repeating this ad
I don’t drink much in the day, I am no good at it, and when I do break
the dog gets wrestled with and I go to bed early.
That’s about it, granted, but it can unsettle those around you,
particularly number one son. (The one exception to this rule is AFL
grand final day).
I don’t like camping, this has been documented in this paper before, so
drinking during the day I can do, but sleeping in the sand afterwards
is a no no. So this is a piss wreck lite approach to the situation.
I am also not fond of beer or cheap wine so this experiment will be
carried out with whisky mixed with coke, which my Scots friend assures
me will surely end up with my soul going to hell.
Coke is the work of the devil when mixed with Scotch, so it is.
My first thought as I contemplate my early morning beverage (not
orange juice) is how unpleasant it smells. It’s out of place here in
the bright sunlight, it really does offend me – but not as much as the
first sip. Pure acid, man. Yuck.
Then the glow kicks in and everything makes sense, in a kind of don’t
need to worry about anything, nothing really matters kind of way. Have
another sip, repeat.
This is the road to self destruction, sip, repeat.
Such a small thing and so easy to do, over and over again. Everything
spins around this.
Next day, I am sober and cross. My head hurts and I want to break
This is after one day of selling my soul and I certainly will not be
drinking grog today, the thought is too much to contemplate.
I finished my first session yesterday by one pm, then had a couple more
drinks in the evening as I was already hung over and I knew that there
was no way I was going to be able to back up today.
What a way to spend your days. My body feels disgusting.
So, my thoughts after this bizarre day are:
Surely no one does this for fun.
If my body is wrecked after one day, what is happening after the first
No wonder kids don’t go too school if their parents are this sick and
There is no doubt in my mind after this experience that people who are
continuously abusing grog need to be removed from their current
environment, restrained while being rehabilitated and not be allowed to
begin the process again.
There is the challenge for politicians who want those adverts pulled
off TV. Go to it.
Sir – Now that I'm living in the USA, your paper is the only means of
keeping up to date with news from The Alice. Great to have it back
online after the Christmas break.
While at work last week, I was approached by an executive who is
planning a trip to Australia for the family.
For sometime now he has be firing questions at me each day about
Australia while preparing for the trip "Downunder" as he says.
Alice was definitely on the map. His kids were excited to think
they were at last going to see "The Outback" where Mr Dundee lived.
Well, a few days ago he handed me an article from The Australian
('Destroyed in Alice' by Nicolas Rothwell, February 19) and asked
if this were a true indication of how things really were in Alice.
After reading the article I had no idea what to tell him.
He has since told me that he is now not sure if he wants to let his
kids see Alice if it is as bad as what they say.
Now I read your paper with the article about the local meeting of the
concerned citizens and the points that they would like adopted.
It is sad but uplifting to see that the locals are now getting together
and voicing their true concerns.
I only hope that their opinions will be listened to and that those that
know "stuff all" will stand back and let the locals have the input into
how they think things should be handled in the future.
To quote Steve Strike, "not to knowledge from Canberra".
Wet canteens not safe for kids
Sir – Wet canteens out bush may or may not reduce the number of
drinkers coming to town but it will not stop anti-social behaviour and
health issues that go with drinking.
The 'not in my backyard' mentality is rather disheartening.
People fought to get their communities made dry.
If we really care for the welfare of the kids we should not be pushing
alcohol out bush. Some communities have no police presence.
It is bad when grog gets into a community illicitly. You know it
is not a safe place while the drinkers are tanked and so you keep a low
Anti-social behaviour in small communities is a much worse issue for
those experiencing it.
I was disappointed by the attitude of the majority at the Action for
Alice meeting as reported in the Alice News.
Sorry, Mr Melky
Sir – I would like to apologise to Eli Melky in regard to my letter,
February 24. My words were crass and vindictive and showed little
sympathy for those attempting to address the awful problems suffered by
people throughout Alice Springs.
I did not mean that Mr Melky is racist, but it is obvious that my
letter could easily be interpreted to mean this.
What I ought to have said is that it matters how we say what we say,
because it is easy for our words to confirm the alienation that is part
of the problem here. I also thank Mr Melky for his response.
Sir – Steve Swartz (Letters, February 24) would like us to return to
God’s law. Which God, which law?
I think he wants to do the choosing for us. He clearly prefers the
Which part of his God’s Law does Mr Swartz want to impose?
There would be a strong Old Testament focus if he is a
follower of R. J. Rushdoony.
Does he wish to include the laws laid down in Leviticus? Crikey,
stone the homosexuals?
And the adulterers? Where does he draw the line?
Rushdoony is an interesting source to refer to ... get on the net
and do a bit of research about him, a Christian Reconstructionist
(also known by some as the ‘Christian Talibanist’) who is on record as
defending slavery and racial inequality.
Rushdoony’s ideas would take us towards a theocracy, like present day
Iran. Goodbye tolerance and diversity. And many freedoms we take
How many of us would want to live in this sort of society? Not me.
Intervention the biggie
Sir – There is little respect for the law at present and Alice Springs
is in a bit of a downward spiral. The reasons for this are many
and complex but the NT emergency response is the biggie.
When Howard and Brough launched the Intervention in 2007 it was
unquestionably supported by then labor MLA for MacDonnell, Alison
Anderson. She had at least that much in common with the owners of
In came the army and most of the town supported them, believing all
would be well.
You do not need to be a local academic to know that all is not well
here in the Alice. In fact things have gone pear shaped with
It is now a rare sight to see Alison or new liberal leader Tony Abbott
on the streets and guess what, the likes of Howard and Brough are never
to be seen.
Unbelievably, some local dills reckon the current situation could be
improved by bringing the army in. Some still do not understand
what the purpose of a nation’s army is for.
Most who were in favour of the Intervention could not predict the havoc
now before us. If they could’ve, many would naturally have had
second thoughts about supporting Johhny’s little racist dream.
I have always been against the policy but least some communities are
safer and healthier places.
The good news is that we have a local by-election twinned with the
build up to next year’s Terrritory election to help us feel a bit
Town council is in a crisis largely of its own making and the NT
government is at last listening.
Darwin power-brokers know Labor can win again with no seats in Alice
Springs. They also know if our town is unliveable then that will lose
them support even in their precious Darwin seats.
To those with a criminal mind can I ask you to think twice before you
destroy this beautiful town. Every single person has too much to
lose. There is no point wasting time on who is to blame.
The current media frenzy helps cast suspicion over all of us and of our
motives of living here. Can we turn things around in time to save
We must unite as a town to force the government to act in our
interests. These are tough issues but that is no excuse for a
lack of strong action.
Dave R. Chewings
New approach to schooling needed
Sir – Most Alice Springs residents would be aware of the serious
numbers of children who are not engaging at all or, at best,
only fleetingly, with education in Alice.
No need to say that they are predominately Aboriginal children. Sadly,
I know too many of them.
Out bush there is a parallel problem.
There is nothing new in saying that it requires a 'whole of community'
approach to turn this situation around. Some of the social problems
that stem from this lack of engagement dominate local news coverage.
It is because of my time as a teacher out bush, and here in town at the
former Irrkerlantye Learning Centre, that I know so many of these kids
and their families. I know many bush people too through my
association with community footy teams.
I could look at the Alice Springs court list each morning and I would
know at least one name. If I went out on to the streets at night I
would know too many of the kids who are out there.
It is depressing to witness so much potential wasting away, and it is
depressing that a ‘whole of community’ approach is not being
utilized in tackling the problem.
Unfortunately political point scoring, as with so many other facets of
our lives, is the preferred game for tackling issues that divide
The type of kids that I am referring to are not suited to a mainstream
education facility. English is not the first language spoken in
the home. My view is that a learning centre in town should be
A perfect site for such a learning centre is going begging. It is
the site of the former Anzac Hill High School. Apart from school
age children, it would also be a learning place for adults.
Whatever plan the government has for that site, it should be
overidden so that a learning centre is created there. I would
suggest that the excellent workshop facilites at CDU would be deployed
too. I am led to believe that they are under-utilized.
My experience with the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre provided me with
insight into an intergenerational education model that I believe has
much merit when educating Aboriginal people. The architect of
that model is local academic Dr Nicole Traves. Her doctoral thesis was
on the intergenerational model of education she devised.
The main thrust of the learning centre was in providing an education
for kids who came mainly from the town camps. Their attendance in
mainstream schooling was not happening. The Irrkerlantye Learning
Centre had its genesis when the former Traeger Park school site ceased
to operate. Its original title was ‘Detour’.
An integral component of the learning centre model was that it also
provided for adult family members to attend with their children. The
adults had their own programs.
At one stage there were three great-grandmothers, along with
grandmothers, mothers, aunts, fathers and uncles, doing their
artwork or participating in those programs . Young mothers
were also encouraged to attend as it had a crèche. The people
felt they were in a partnership with their kids' schooling.
It operated under the auspices of the former Centralian College. The
facilities and budget that it was provided with however were an
educational disgrace. When the learning centre was closed the kids were
moved to a local primary school. They retain their own unit there and
it is still named "The Irrkerlantye Unit". The outcomes are
successful there. Unfortunately the intergenerational aspect no longer
That aside, the time is now for another ‘Irrkerlantye’
intergenerational approach. The ‘whole of community’ theme needs to be
adopted to form an educational program whereby employers large and
small, government and private, would be vital.
Work experience would be a fundamental element for the participants.
It is my view that you would drip feed youth and adults into the
workforce, perhaps a half a day per week for starters. Employers'
requirements would be at the forefront of any program. The inclusion of
Family and Community Services, police, and any other relevant service
provider, would be an important component of such a program.
Another crucial element would be the maintenance of culture and
language. That aspect cannot be stressed enough.
There are many gifted educators in Alice with the talents and
experience of Indigenous education to design an appropriate
If non-Aboriginal youth were appropriate for this educational setting
then they too would be accommodated.
Conservative politicians and their followers always quote "boot
camp", code for "it’ll whip’em inta shape", as their solution to
combating the social problems we all know and despair about. To
champion this approach as a panacea for overcoming the social problems
we have is very shallow thinking.
My idea of a boot camp is that you have a healthy amount of
exercise each day. Apart from the obvious educational needs the
kids would have a bike helmet (my bias), swim togs, music stand,
workshop apron and kitchen apron for starters in their school locker. A
bike ride or swim session would be the start for each day. There is no
reason why this would not also extend to adults. I might add that there
are many people in Alice, including politicians, who would benefit from
this type of boot camp too.
In reinforcing the ‘whole of community’ approach I would suggest a
panel of elders be established. Their role would be to sit and talk
with the kids every now and then. I can think of four or five people
straight away who would perform this vital role well.
Finally, the NT Government urgently needs to co-opt the educational
knowledge of Dr Traves. Apart from her having an important input into
the establishment of the centre I have proposed here, I believe her
Irrkerlantye model should be suggested to bush communities.
It appears that present efforts, generally, appear not to be working
all that well in securing better attendance rates in the bush. The
policy of ‘English only for the first four hours’ is shameful and
damaging. Two way learning and learning as a community is a no-brainer
Dr Traves’ approach is broader than just standard education. She has a
solid grasp of how communities can proceed, in a positive way, to
self organization. Her most recent foray into community affairs was as
an advisory member of a group that has just seen the store at Santa
Teresa transferred back into the hands of the people there.
CDU researcher in indigenous community engagement, Matthew Campbell,
quotes a woman out bush who said "If you are here to help me, turn
around and go back home, but if you are here to work with me side by
side, come and let's get going!" That says it all.
Graham Tjilpi Buckley