ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
April 21, 2011. This page contains all
major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
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council dump to super green project: Melbourne environment park example
By ERWIN CHLANDA
In 1982 it was four and a half hectares of council rubbish dump.
Today it is Australia's most successful project where you can get
hands-on experience of turning environmental principles into reality.
As such the Ceres Park – named after the Roman goddess of agriculture –
in Melbourne's East Brunswick is the shining example for the Alice
Springs group setting up a community garden in the Frances Smith park
on Kurrajong Drive.
The ALEC inspired project is only just getting under way (photo below). A 50 square
metre patch has been dug up and mulched. Another working bee is planned
in about three weeks' time and water is about to be connected to the
site leased from the council at a peppercorn rent.
ALEC has appointed two people to manage the initiative. ALEC's Jimmy
Cocking says about 150 people are on the email list and some 50 turn up
for the working bees.
By comparison the almost three-decade old Ceres is a mammoth
enterprise: $8m annual turnover, 160 staff (mostly casual or
part-time), 400 members, 70% of whom live in a five kilometre radius,
350,000 visitors a year, 70,000 children from 400 schools from
throughout Victoria taking lessons and workshops in a string of
In the first few years Ceres volunteers were busy rehabilitating the
flogged out soil, composting it with food scraps, setting up a worm
farm and carting in fresh topsoil. Today the fruits of this labour are
At its home site and others, Ceres grows organic fruit and veg. There's
a market garden as well as individual plots for Ceres members – about
five or six square meters, watered mostly with recycled water and
rainwater. The produce is sold at two weekly markets, it is used in the
park's restaurant and two cafes, and sold through a "food box" scheme:
orders are dropped off to pick-up points, usually front yards of
members' homes around the suburbs where buyers can collect them.
There's a big yard for chooks – free ranging, of course. The market is
right next to it. Baskets, in which shoppers gather their selections,
are made by Ceres members. No plastic bags here – bring your own or go
without, which is not as hard as you think.
Shopping done, parents and their small kids sit down for a chat and a
play, listening to live music (three blokes on double bass, banjo and
guitar when the Alice News visited). The coffee is great.
Weather permitting – this is Melbourne, after all – a stroll invites,
past a duck pond, the extensive gardens, a photovoltaic power station,
a playground, gathering areas, and various group projects like a "sweat
Then there is the shed where you can fix your pushbike and be shown how
to do it.
"We're empowering people to mend their bikes," says Terry, one of the
volunteers running the well-equipped workshop.
People drop off bikes they no longer want which are then stripped for
parts. The use of second-hand bits is encouraged which are sold cheaply
or given away.
If all this is feel-good stuff, Ceres makes no apology for it.
On the contrary, it says it wants to promote "social wellbeing and
connectedness, a sense of place and community, and work to re-enchant
the world" whose people are affected "by wars and conflict, mass
dislocation, lack of food and water … materialism, isolation and
loneliness, fear and depression".
heritage listing revoked:
Developers get their way
Minister Karl Hampton has revoked the heritage listing of the old
drive-in site. The listing covered the screen and the projection and
One of the site's current owners, Philip Danby, had applied to have the
listing revoked in the context of the recently approved plans to
redevelop the site as a residential subdivision.
In a media release today Mr Hampton said the revoking was a move he
didn't take lightly, but said "there is a need for more housing
development in Alice Springs".
Said Mr Hampton: “The fact is the drive-In site has been vacant and
neglected and subject to vandalism for many years.
“The proposed residential development has been approved by the Minister
for Lands and Planning to allow for a maximum of 74 residential lots on
He had met with the property developers to discuss options of
incorporating the existing drive-in structures into the proposed
“I was satisfied by the developers’ explanations as to why the screen
and damaged projection facilities and kiosk would have a negative
economic and aesthetic impact on the proposed development,” Mr Hampton
“The property owners have agreed to offer the screen to any interested
local community group or organisation and have agreed to assist with
the relocation costs.”
Mr Hampton said he had also met with, and received submissions from,
supporters of the Pioneer Drive-In’s heritage status.
“While I recognise the Pioneer Drive-In holds a fond place in the
memories of many Alice residents, the fact is that the site and
structures have sadly deteriorated and have been described as an
eyesore on the main southern entry into town.
“Allowing this residential development to proceed will lead to
jobs in the construction industry and an economic boost to the town, as
well as providing for more housing in Alice Springs.”
See previous reporting at
The youth justice merry-go-round
The justice system is often accused of failing to deal effectively with
criminals and with young offenders in particular. Two recent cases
involving juvenile offenders are revealing about some of the challenges
and some of the failures. Alice Springs News reporter KIERAN FINNANE
has listened to the court tapes in two cases of "unlawful entry"
involving young teenagers. Because of their age, their identities
cannot be disclosed.
Let us call the first offender Tom. He pleaded guilty in the
magistrates court late last year to unlawful entry of a dwelling house
at night and stealing from that house. He was with a teenage
co-offender, heading home from an outing, around 8pm, when they ran
into the co-offender's brother, an adult, who apparently suggested the
They found keys to the targeted house in a hiding place near an
entrance door and were able to let themselves in and help themselves to
a number of items, valued at close to $1000. It was not made clear in
the court how police quickly identified him but Tom was arrested the
next day. In his electronic record of interview he said that the
unlawful entry had been the co-offender's idea and it had been the
wrong thing to do.
Although he was assessed as suitable for juvenile diversion, on the
advice of the legal aid lawyer he decided to plead guilty to expedite
the matter. A plan for his future, including returning to boarding
school interstate, had been put in place by a FACS worker and others.
Tom, in his early teens, had been under FACS care for close to two
years, with his grandmother and mother having "joint parental
responsibility" with the CEO of the Department of Families and
Children. His normal place of residence was with his grandmother and he
had been at boarding school for most of 2010. At the time of the
offending he should have been back at school but was not, because he
had "missed the bus".
This did not wash well with the magistrate who wanted to know why he
had not caught the next bus. It turned out that Tom, after missing the
bus, had disappeared for two weeks. When his whereabouts was finally
established, a death in the family meant that those responsible for
him, including FACS, did not want to send him away immediately. After
the funeral, Tom disappeared again, despite the "daily care and
control" supposedly being exercised by FACS.
What kind of young teenage boy is free to make these kinds of decisions
about his life, the magistrate wanted to know. His lawyer agreed that
Tom was causing a lot of concern to his grandmother and to FACS.
Meanwhile, plans had been hatched to get him out of Alice Springs
pending the start of the new school year. He was to spend the Christmas
holidays with his mother on a bush community across the border to "try
to re-establish their relationship", and then return to the boarding
school, which was willing to take him back.
The plea of guilty and admission of the facts meant that the charges
were proven. Now the magistrate had to decide on the penalty.
lawyer asked that he be placed on a good behaviour bond, without
supervision, the latter condition mainly because of the difficulty of
arranging supervision in another jurisdiction.
So what happens across the border we don't care about? asked the
magistrate. But it was a rhetorical question as he then turned to young
Tom and gave him a lecture about his wrong-doing. He spoke to him about
the problems he had caused for his victims as well as for other boys
like himself – now people would look at young boys like him and wonder
whether they were going to break into their houses, said the
magistrate. He told Tom he had to make an effort at school: "You won't
get anywhere without an education, you need to be able to read and
write." And he told him that life is a two way street: he has to help
those who look after him as much as they have to help him. If he
didn't, he'd end up in court again and the consequences would be more
Tom was then released on a good behaviour bond for 12 months, on his
own recognisance for $500.
Within two months Tom was back to court for a breach of his bond. As
the News understands it, he had not reoffended but had returned to
Alice Springs without permission. The consequence of the breach
that his current good behaviour bond was cancelled, and a new one
issued before he was bundled off by departmental staff to finally get
on the Greyhound bus for boarding school. As the News understands it,
he did not have to pay for the breach. Bond conditions include
attending the school, residing where directed by FACS, and not
returning to Alice Springs without permission.
The second case is more complicated.
We shall call the young offender Patrick. He came before the court
earlier this month on charges of unlawful entry of commercial premises
and stealing, and separately, of unlawful entry of a dwelling house and
stealing. He had already spent a number of days in custody because his
lawyer had been unable to find family to appear in court with him and
take responsibility for his care. He is a little older than Tom and is
in the care of his sister-in-law. The formality of this arrangement was
not known but the sister-in-law was receiving Centrelink payments for
him and was sitting in the court during the hearing.
For both sets of offences, committed about a month apart, Patrick had
been in the company of older, more experienced co-offenders. In the
case of the unlawful entry of commercial premises his lawyer suggested
that there was an adult co-offender whose identity was unknown – "First
I've heard of him", said the prosecutor – as well as a juvenile
co-offender. A window had been broken to gain entry.
In the case of the unlawful entry of the dwelling house, he was with
two juvenile co-offenders, both a little older. Here spare house keys
were located in the shed, but the break-in was foiled by the imminent
arrival of police.
In both instances, alcohol was stolen. In his electronic record of
interview, Patrick apparently told police that he had broken into the
premises "to get grog" in order to "drink it".
Patrick's lawyer was adamant that the boy did not drink alcohol,
however the prosecutor, relying on memory, was not so sure. Despite an
adjournment, during which the prosecutor intended to find out about
Patrick's "alcohol usage", it remained a mystery: "There's nothing on
file", he told the magistrate upon resumption of the hearing.
Everything that the lawyer said about her young client was qualified by
the fact that she could not take her instructions from him with any
certainty, such is his poor command of English. Patrick is enrolled at
a middle school in town but has done most of his schooling to date in a
bush community. There was some question of him being ordered to return
to a bush community but the magistrate wanted to know what the
schooling options would be. On the basis of Patrick's very limited
ability communicate in English, the magistrate expressed his doubts
about the efficacy of a bush school in preparing students for secondary
Patrick's lawyer wanted the magistrate to deal with him as a first
offender, even though he had been before the court previously for
another offence – a break-in during which he stole food apparently
because he was hungry. The lawyer's argument was that the second lot of
offending had occurred before the court had heard the first case and
before Patrick was put on a good behaviour bond. Since he had been on
the bond he had stayed out of trouble, she said. He was not in breach
of any court order, nor was he on bail.
The magistrate was not quite convinced: even if he disregarded the
earlier offending as a prior conviction, it was still "relevant in
disposition". "I have to sentence people in a holistic way," he said.
The lawyer stuck to her guns; she wanted Patrick only to be given
another good behaviour bond. She argued that Patrick had been roped
into the offending by older, more experienced people and had not been
mature enough to "distance himself". Her instructions were that he was
no longer hanging around with these people, he was attending school and
playing football. With the break-in at the dwelling house, she said her
client had been watching but not actively involved.
Patrick's mother is an alcoholic and he does not have much to do with
his father. Both parents live out bush. Patrick's lawyer argued that he
should continue to live with his sister-in-law who maintains a
non-drinking house on a town camp.
The magistrate was a little sceptical about the arrangement as there
was a suggestion that it was a friend of Patrick's brother, husband to
the sister-in-law, who had led him to break in to the commercial
premises. "You seem to say his life is sorted – it's in a total mess,"
he said to the lawyer.
The magistrate also raised the issue of a further offence allegedly
committed by the youth, after the offences that were the subject of the
hearing but before the hearing of the first case which had resulted in
Patrick being put on a good behaviour bond. The lawyer had not
given the file for the further offence. In any case, she asked that the
magistrate "distinguish" that file because it post-dated the charges he
She had her way. In the end Patrick was put on another good behaviour
bond for a period of 12 months, on his own recognisance of $500.
However the magistrate was of the view that he needed supervision and
gave that power to Community Corrections. They would tell Patrick where
he could reside and where he had to stay away from. He must also obey
their directions about reporting, education and counselling. He is not
allowed to drink alcohol and must submit to breath analysis as directed
by a probabtion officer or police officer.
'Tsunami' of support
for Bess Price. COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA.
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
The careless posting
on Twitter of a disgusting statement by one of Australia's foremost
Indigenous activists has put into sharp focus the conflict between the
two sides of the race debate: those who feel first hand the sharp pain
in bush town slums and remote communities, and those far removed from
it all, yet commanding public and government respect, attention and
Larissa Behrendt, Sydney based professor, lawyer, sought-after advisor
to the Gillard government and plaintiff against columnist Andrew Bolt
under the Racial Discrimination Act, did not respond to the Alice
Springs News when asked whether she had said this: "I watched a show
where a guy had sex with a horse and I'm sure it was less offensive
than Bess Price." But it is widely reported that she had so twittered,
and Ms Behrendt has made public statements seeking to explain her quote
and in The Australian made an apology.
Ms Price, appearing on the ABC's Q&A, had articulated her support
for key aspects of the Federal Intervention in the Northern Territory,
saying women and children had a better life because of it.
For decades there has been a divide in the "Aboriginal" debate so far
as it concerned itself with the remote regions of the nation. In one
corner were those with first-hand, day to day knowledge of the issues,
because they were born in those locations or lived there for a long
time, and like Mrs Price, are
at the coalface.
She and her husband David, a white man with decades of bush experience
as a teacher and advisor, emailed this following the Behrendt affront:-
We are getting tired of all this. We went to the funeral of Bess'
murdered sister-in-law. She died of stab wounds to the head. The same
week we attended the funeral of Bess' brother's stepson. He bled to
death after punching his fist through a window pane. Today Bess is
trying to organise lifts to Yuendumu for the funeral tomorrow of her
cousin's 14 year old niece who hanged herself because her parents
objected to her relationship to a boyfriend, a skin brother to her.
In the other corner are people such as Professor Behrendt. They have
been tagged the Peugeot Proletariat, the Cappuccino Set, the lower case
"l" liberals, the Politically Correct – generally people well paid,
well housed and well pampered with perks.
We now need to get beyond this irrelevant tit-for-tat and get a handle
on who is right and who is wrong. The life of Alice Springs, for one,
depends on us getting it right.
The casualties are likely to include Barbara Shaw and the Greens, if
she remains their candidate. Ms Shaw has – again – vehemently attacked
Mrs Price over her stance on the Intervention. Most media are happy to
continue parroting Ms Shaw's anti-Intervention rhetoric and her
poor-bugger-me "I am a town camps resident" spiel.
Do these media question why Ms Shaw and her family, mostly in good
health and work ready, or adequately superannuated, should not only
live in public housing, but have a mini-suburb allocated to them? Any
media needing a lead can find it in the Alice Springs News
David and Bess Price say there has been a "tsunami" of support for the
comments Mrs Price made on Q&A.
These are some samples:-
Marcia Langton, famed Aboriginal activist, author and academic (in The
Australian): Larissa Behrendt's foul Twitter message … is an exemplar
of the wide cultural, moral and increasingly political rift between
urban, left-wing, activist Aboriginal women and the bush women who
witness the horrors of life in their communities, much of which is
arrogantly denied by the former.
Whereas Bess, a grandmother who resides in Yuendumu, is a first-hand
witness of terrifying violence against women, lives in one of
Australia's poorest communities, and campaigns for the needs of women
and children, especially their safety and everyday physical needs,
professor and lawyer Larissa Behrendt lives in Sydney in relative
luxury as compared with Bess's situation, has no children, has a PhD
from Harvard and is the principal litigant in a case against
conservative columnist Andrew Bolt, who published several columns
accusing the "fair-skinned" Behrendt and others of falsely claiming to
be Aboriginal to get the perks. I have never in my life witnessed such
extreme disrespect shown by a younger Aboriginal woman for an older
Aboriginal woman, except where the perpetrator was severely intoxicated
on drugs or alcohol. Nor have I witnessed, except once or twice, such
snide dismissal by a younger Aboriginal woman of an older Aboriginal
woman's right to express her views. Those of us who were brought up in
the Aboriginal way were taught from a young age to show respect for our
elders and not to speak while they are speaking. This is a fundamental
and universal law in Aboriginal societies.
And in an email to Bess and Dave Price, Ms Langton said: I am horrified
at the treatment you are suffering at the hands of Greens, and
especially Barbara Shaw and her white entourage. Know that I support
your work – both your excellent cross cultural training business and
your work for the community.
[Ms Shaw has made much of the fact that the Prices live in Alice
Springs, and while this is so, there's no doubt that they maintain
their deep connection with Yuendumu. Mrs Price was born and raised in
Yuendumu and says her people there maintain that it is her community.]
Rebecca McLean, producer and director: Hang in there, Dave, there are
more supporters than not and the most telling of all is that Bess –
unlike the Barbara Shaws and Marlene Hodders of this world – is
actually getting people to talk about the issues – she is a true
diplomat and crosses the divide of both worlds in a unique and
exceptional way which is a rare and special gift.
Dr Diane Caney, manager, Children and Youth Services Policy, Tasmania:
How wrong for people to be so hateful and ignorant of the democratic
right to have one's opinion and for it to differ from that of others!!
We are having a fight in Tasmania with the ALP government here driving
a massive highway straight over a site which has evidence of 40,000
years of continuous Aboriginal habitation. Stay strong, Bess. You have
been a marvellous presence in my life for over 45 years.
How to slow
bleed the urban life out of a city: Alice’s approach to urbanism.
COMMENT by TARSHA FINNEY
The Northern Territory Government
needs to be congratulated for organising and hosting in Alice
the recent Enquiry by Design process for Kilgariff. Such community
forums that allow contribution by some of the brightest minds in the
city provide excellent mechanisms for both cultivating transparency
around decision-making and also for informing the general public and
community of the complexity of such a planning problem.
It was refreshing to see
participating the Mayor, Territory Ministers and key city actors
alongside local landowners, traditional owners, and so many interested
However, having spent the last three
years working in and on Alice Springs with Masters of Architecture
students from the University of Technology, Sydney in an urban design
workshop and semester-long design studio it seems to me that, despite
the good will and the value of the process, the premise of the
was flawed in several significant and connected ways.
The first is that treating housing,
and the lack of affordable housing and land for the expansion of the
city, as the urban problem in Alice Springs is the wrong assumption.
The idea seems to be that if housing production and affordability
resolved, everything else problematic in the city will resolve itself –
and I make that argument knowing that the city also has a master plan
being developed to address issues around Todd Mall.
This is simply not true. Land for
expansion and housing are certainly an issue, and addressing this is
critical, but it needs to be addressed within the framework of larger
strategic thinking about the city – and it’s this strategic thinking
that doesn’t seem to be taking place.
The second flaw is that an enquiry
by design is a powerful tool for community engagement but it should
have been run BEFORE a decision was made on Kilgariff, not once
head-works were commenced. And certainly it shouldn’t have been
a master planning tool at the scale of Kilgariff’s 180ha and the
airport site next door and south of the Gap. Rather it should be
as a tool for a strategic projective thinking about the whole
Such an enquiry would examine the question of who and what does Alice
Springs want to become.
What occurred with the Kilgariff
Enquiry by Design was a passive playing out of a set of
data sheets that made a statement about what Alice is and what Alice
Springs will be. For example, it is possible to influence population
growth – Alice Springs has a choice. Should the city become smaller or
larger, and what are the consequences of each choice.
But the more important question is
what does Alice Springs want to be such that one would want to
manipulate population growth in that direction. Urbanism is
projective. It is an argument about what we want to be in the
based on spatial, economic, social and political tools that show us
ways of getting there. It is not about reflecting back an
inevitability based on what are, in essence, sets of malleable
If there is no strategic vision,
there is nothing to buy into: no-one buying in, no-one to negotiate
with over disputes about land use. And this is the real issue
not a lack of housing or room for expansion. Rather, how do you
cultivate broad community buy-in to a vision of what the city might
become such that there’s incentive for communities and individuals to
let go of the easy reach ‘no’ button and instead have something to gain
by being involved in the process and outcomes.
Finally, and connected to these
ideas, is the fundamental issue of scale: Alice Springs is thinking
about itself at the wrong scale. Kilgariff can’t be thought about
isolation as it was in the enquiry. The problem of housing, its
availability and affordability needs to be considered at the scale of
the whole of Alice Springs, and Alice Springs needs to be
not as 29,000 people living north and south of the gap, but as Alice
Springs plus the 18,000 people across three states living in a kind of
remote and intimately networked set of urban, arid zone communities
where Alice Springs is the urban anchor and service hub for nearly
As I have said in detail in other
places (The Conversation http://theconversation.edu.au/), the
danger that comes with Kilgariff is that it becomes either a poverty
sink, or the more likely scenario, a gated middle class white flight
neighbourhood that allows a segment of Alice Springs society to
dealing with the urban dysfunction present in the centre of the city,
letting the city further decay while Kilgariff residents choose to live
apart. Either scenario results in a significant drain on public and
private resources away from resolving the real issues of the city as
new projects are developed and delivered nine kms away.
If we consider Alice Springs not as
29,000 people, but as a regional network of nearly 50,000 we’re
starting to get some critical mass. Now we’re starting to get
somewhere and with a voice that might push back on Darwin’s apathy –
but one is also forced to position Kilgariff quite
Housing, land for it and its affordability, then becomes an issue
relative to that regional metropolitan network of 50,000, where Alice
Springs is a compact urban core, the socially, economically and
environmentally sustainable anchor to a powerful distributed
Out of this year’s urban design
workshop for Masters students have come a few suggestions on where
future strategic thinking might reside. Each of these is
the understanding that with multi-scalar, strategic arguments, it’s
possible to get broad community consensus and agreement over the
strategic vision for a city. What is presented below are the results of
a two and a half day workshop, which followed four days of
presentations and consultations with local community groups,
businesses, urban decision makers and government
The Metropolitan Regional Scale:
Alice Springs is the anchor and hub for a unique distributed desert
metropolitan regional network of almost 50,000 people. The city
to be strategized, visualised, mapped and worked on at this
simply from the top of northside to somewhere near the
Creative Industries: No other
regional city in Australia has parts of itself networked into major
national and international cultural institutions in the same way and to
the same intensity that Alice Springs and its surrounding remote
communities do. Fine exemplars of Central and Western desert art sit in
collections like the National Gallery of Victoria; the Art Gallery of
NSW; the National Gallery of Australia; the British Museum, London and
the Quai Branly in Paris.
To understand this, one has to
accept that one of the great visual arts movements of the 20th century
has been Australian Indigenous Arts. Central and Western
is not valuable because of its social welfare impacts, job creation or
as evidence of an authentic and disappearing tribal culture. It
valuable because at its best, it’s a dynamic, contemporary and
art practice that involves the translation and evolution of traditional
modes of cultural practice into contemporary mediums – and this active
and conscious translation of the traditional to the contemporary
what constitutes it as ‘art’.
Of the $500m earned annually from
the visual arts in Australia, $400m comes from Indigenous arts. A
significant contributor to that is the work coming out of the Central
and Western Deserts region, work that is stylistically unique to that
being produced in other places to the north, east and west of Alice
Springs – and it is an inheritance of work that every year is lost to
other states, other institutions and other collectors.
As an industry it has a complex (and
sometimes fraught, as the Securing the Future Senate Inquiry has
demonstrated) income earning potential within the region; it is a major
attractor of interest from national and international visitors; and it
attracts to its dynamism, non-indigenous artists from around Australia
who have built up within Alice Springs a unique creative economy. This
is a great advantage that is not being recognised fully by the
It requires address in several ways:
• A major public institution
dedicated to art coming from the Central and Western Deserts.
could do the following, but may perhaps do much more and (obviously)
needs to be developed in close consultation with artists: act as a
keeping place, a contemporary exhibition space, a practice and
acquisition space, a library and resource centre, and space of
scholarship for both Indigenous and non-indigenous artists, and
national and international visitors to Alice Springs.
We know what these kinds of
institutions do for urban fabric – look at the Guggenheim in Bilbao,
Spain or the new MONA gallery in Hobart. These projects are not only
engines for cultivating and strengthening cultural production and
identity, but they are more broadly powerful economic and spatial
armatures for urban renewal. http://mona.net.au/
• In addition there needs to be
support for small scale, dynamic art-based occupations of the city, by
creating cheap spaces for artists using unused retail and office
as a way of bringing life back into the city rather than leaving empty,
unlet retail space. (See renew Newcastle http://renewnewcastle.org/).
Housing: The Northern Territory
government has already commissioned the excellent, surgical Residential
Capacity Study for the Central Activity District(CAD) of Alice Springs
which identifies all of the possible sites for residential
both public and private. The same kind of study needs to be carried out
across the city from the very northern suburbs right through to south
of the Gap, identifying points of possible intensification around
existing shopping and leisure facilities in the pursuit of a
sustainable and compact housing strategy for the city.
Alice Springs, with its flat
landscape and solar city undertaking has the perfect opportunity to
create a genuinely unique sustainable response to both living in the
city, and living in the desert. Economic, environmental and social
sustainability are conditions that work co-operatively. The
environmental sustainability of a compact, walking and cycling city
that has a functioning public transport network aids in the cultivation
of social sustainability. Together these two conditions create
that people want to live in and contribute to resilient economic
In Australia, unlike other parts of
the world, we rarely need to disagree about things that really matter.
We (mostly) have enough water; we aren't too many; most of us are well
fed; and we (mostly) have enough land. But in Alice
are very different in their concentration. Here, where the beautiful
rigour of the 19th century urban grid which lays out the CBD of Alice,
rubs up against, is laid over, retreats from and crashes into the
form marking the monumental and epic Caterpillar dreaming of the
Arrernte people, there are very serious disagreements and differences
to be negotiated over appropriate land use. These cut in both
directions and to the absolute heart of cultural practice and
on both sides of the dispute – it’s not one way.
What’s interesting about the
implications of not going ahead with Kilgariff is what it asks of us: a
significantly higher level of political, diplomatic and leadership
skill then we are used to demanding of each other in Australia. The
easy way out for Alice Springs, for the Traditional Owners, for the
local council and the Northern Territory Government from its position
in Darwin is to open the pressure valve and develop Kilgariff.
doing so, they will slow bleed the urban life out of the city.
The much harder option is to set in
place the mechanisms for an inclusive and serious disagreement and
negotiation of conflicting interests and needs such that a city
developed sustainably over the next 30-50 years: both socially,
economically and environmentally. And everyone needs to step up
that challenge. Everyone needs to participate in the conflict of
interest: Traditional Owners, politicians, government
urban decision makers, urban planners, architects and members of the
Alice Springs is a test case
all of us, for all of our humanity and capacity to act in our cities
and towns. This is about how we negotiate serious and real
and yet remain able to live together. Kilgariff, as it is conceived at
present, is about giving up and deciding to live apart.
Ms Finney is a Senior Lecturer, Faculty of
Design, Architecture & Building, University of Technology, Sydney.
More money for Kilgariff
The NT Government's pre-budget
announcements include "more than $3 million for additional
infrastructure at the new suburb of Kilgariff".
In a media release Minister for
Construction, Lands and Planning Gerry McCarthy said $3.5 million is
being allocated in the 2011 Budget for "ongoing works to provide water
pipes, road works and drainage".
This is on top of the $4.3 million
which is already being spent "to lay sewer pipes and power
Kilgariff will give "first home
buyers, families, investors and new residents housing choices and help
reduce the cost of living", Mr McCarthy said.
“The Territory Government is
committed to developing this area as quickly as possible.
“Along with the various private
developments planned for the area, Kilgariff will provide vital
infrastructure for broader Alice Springs as it grows."
Man Plans for an Olympic Pool.”
This was the headline in the Centralian Advocate on 9th October
1969. The young man was Vic de Fontenay (at right),
at that time manager of the existing, aging pool on Railway Terrace,
built by Pat Chapman during the war. 550 People had used it one
unusually hot day in the previous August and 5000 people in the three
weeks from the season opening that year.
A new swimming pool complex was desperately needed by Alice Springs.
Vic had been the manager of the old pool since he was 18 years old,
having gained experience as a keen observer of the activities of the
previous managers since his summers at the pool as a teen and as a life
guard in more recent years. In 1968, when the manager of the day
his job six weeks before opening day, Vic applied for the
Initially he was told he was too young, but, nevertheless, he won the
position and “dove” into his responsibilities by working 60 to 80 hours
a week to keep the facility operational. During the winters he
traveled throughout Australia learning as much as he could about
municipal pool operations.
Vic was named President of the Memorial Olympic Pool Committee.
already made a preliminary drawings of the facilities for the
Park site and had estimated the cost at $250,000. As often
prices soared by $100,000. Meanwhile, the Committee continued
fundraising and obtaining general support from the community. Vic
pleased to note that the final design of the pool complex was very
similar to his original draft.
Before the Memorial Olympic Pool was completed Vic left Australia to
gain experience overseas. While in England he worked as a Life
then Assistant Manager at a Community Pool. He then moved to
Filtration Engineer, building filtration plants on commercial swimming
pools and on sewerage treatment plants in southern England. In
he worked a short while at the Institute of Technology, Haifa,
designing filtration systems for sewerage treatment.
Back in Alice Springs in 1973 Vic started the first full time swimming
pool business and opened a pool supply shop in 1975. This was followed
by a second shop in Darwin. He wrote the first Technical Training
Manual for Swimming Pool Servicing in Australia.
Vic and his wife Verity moved to Darwin in 1978 and sold the Alice
Springs business in 1979. He travelled continuously, added 500
of lecture notes and 17 hours of audio tape to his training program for
the swimming pool industry, oversaw building of numerous pools and
fountains and ran Motivational Video Seminars in Darwin – in general
kept up his fierce work schedule and made good profits.
In 1982 Vic began importing swimming pool industry chemicals and
equipment from the USA. He based the operation in Canberra
its central location. Vic and Verity moved to Canberra in 1983
joined forces with a local businessman.
The business failed. They lost everything. By selling the
pool business in Darwin they covered their losses.
Vic attributed his recovery to a number of motivational speakers who
gave him inspiration to take a new direction – into the commercial side
of the swimming pool industry. Beginning with repairs to a number of
swimming centres around Canberra, Vic expanded to tendering for the Spa
Pool, Plunge Pool and Saunas for the Sports Training Facility at the
Australian Institute for Sport.
With a new partner he built up a just-surviving Health and Fitness
Centre, increasing the turnover by 100% in six months.
A hydrotherapy pool was added to the Sports Science Medicine Clinic at
the Australian Institute of Sport – the most costly hydrotherapy pool
of its kind in Australia. Vic’s confidence in his abilities had
returned. At the same Institute for Sport he was granted a contract to
carry out a study of the efficiency of operation and maintenance of the
$11m Swimming Hall facilities followed by a six month staff training
During a business lull Vic heard motivational speaker E. James Rohn
say: “When you don’t have anything left to give, then give to someone
who has less.”
Two days later he saw a news item about the need for a hydrotherapy
pool at a local school for profoundly physically and mentally
The school was owned and run by the ACT Government but funding had been
decreased, putting the five year struggle for a pool further down the
list of priorities. The next day Vic went to the school to offer
Initially he was not welcomed but persisted by offering his services
free of charge to make the pool happen. Twelve months and six weeks
later and for less than half the price the Government had estimated,
and with 85% of the cost covered by donation of work, funds and
materials, the Malkara Hydrotherapy pool was completed and opened by
Mrs. Hazel Hawke, wife of the Prime Minister of the day.
However, Vic had no income for six months while he worked full time
organizing the building of the pool, so again they were just getting
by. For his work on this project Vic was chosen “Canberran of the Year
1987” and was awarded the Foundation of Rotary International Paul
Work suddenly came flooding in, including design and building of all
the water works for the memorial fountain dedicated to the Royal
Australian Navy for its 75th Anniversary.
The job was finished the day before the Queen opened the
Following this Vic’s company was awarded the contract for installation
of all equipment for the swimming pool and spa pool at the new
Parliament House in Canberra followed by equipment for the reflection
pool below the flag pole and design and installation of the equipment
for the commemorative or forecourt fountain at the entrance of
Vic won contracts to install pools and fountains in hotels, municipal
pools and luxury private pools until a downturn in the economy in the
early 1990’s caused him and Verity to pack up and head for Fiji, where
the potential growth of time-share units and expansion of resorts
needing swimming pools appeared to be a new market for his
Limitation on company ownership meant that Vic had to work for
existing, locally owned companies.
The de Fontenays left Fiji in 1995, once again almost penniless, and
returned to Australia, settling in Adelaide. Vic had vowed to get out
of the pool business, but, once it was known that he was back in
Australia, his services were requested for repair of older, municipal
swimming facilities and the building of new ones.
He was contracted as maintenance consultant to pools in Canberra and
constantly on call for swimming pool problems throughout Eastern
Australia. Resorts in Fiji called him back as a consultant and he
or corresponded with developers from outside Australia as an expert in
Vic returned alone to Fiji in 2005 where he formed his own company in
partnership with Fijian Nationals. In December 2008 he became a
for the first time and in June 2009 married Reshmi, the baby’s
He was completing the pool facilities for the Intercontinental Hotel
Natadola at the same time. In late August, 2009, Vic took Reshmi
Asim to Australia for a holiday and to check on his business interests
in Adelaide where his company assistant was performing maintenance
contracts for a number of city area pools. During the trip Vic
ill but insisted on returning to Fiji on September 6 with his
Sadly, his condition worsened and he died at the Namaka Medical Centre
on September 10, 2009 while awaiting medical evacuation to Sydney for
dialysis. A memorial service was held for Vic at Our Lady of Grace
Church in Glengowrie, SA on September 18. Former Alice Springs
residents in attendance were his sister Ursula de Fontenay from Canada,
Don and Sue Thomas, Pam Greatorex, Richard Ballagh, Judith Whiting and
Mike Brennan. Mike worked with Vic de Fontenay Senior at Water
Resources in the early 1960’s. Vic was buried in at Nadi, Fiji on
In a real emergency we would not have time
to wait for the Counter Disaster
Sir – I am an Arrernte woman and Ngangkere, a traditional healer
who is warning the public about an impending natural disaster event for
Alice Springs. The event involves an earthquake and severe storm
activity triggering ‘catastrophic flooding’ with disastrous affects for
The only emergency response is immediate evacuation of the entire
population and affected outlying areas prior to the event.
My willingness to act on the messages [I am receiving] is driven by
faith and mutual respect connecting with spirituality and
maintaining the balance with Aboriginal culture, scientific knowledge
and the application of logistics and professionalism, not scepticism or
sarcasm as shown by the response of Anne Marie Murphy, Alice Springs
Chief of Police and Regional Counter Disaster Controller in the Alice
Springs News of March 26.
My warnings are in connection with the land and based on spiritual
guidance following the customs of Arrernte people and the teachings of
my elders. My vision and dreams shows the whole town inundated by
storm activity involving heavy rainfall with flash flooding and rising
flood waters peaking to approximately 50 metres in river height at
I have sought the advice of Dr Mary Bourke, senior scientist associated
with the Planetary Science Institute based in America. Dr Bourke
has conducted much research work on the Todd and Hale River systems,
particularly ‘Geomorphology of Paleofloods in Central Australia’. She
has confirmed the result of her findings by email, detailing the
accuracy of my vision relative to the kind of a past catastrophic flood
I am well aware of the Counter Disaster Committee, their role and of
the flood plan. I have read the report by A Marquardt, ‘The Alice
Springs Flood Mitigation Dam 1990’ which explains the nature of the
Todd River with major flooding events occurring during the monsoonal
low period from October ending in April.
The current measures in place do not explain how the committee is going
to effectively address an emergency response relative to a series of
severe storms producing heavy rainfall, let alone the level of
catastrophic flooding which exceeds the Level E flooding involving the
“1:100” and probable maximum flood (PMF) level.
Waiting for the Counter Disaster Committee to meet while fast
developing and severe storms are upon us and to act on a one hour
‘warning system’ when the Todd River is in full flow with rising flood
waters would be too late.
Second thoughts on Kilgariff
Sir – The negativity imbuing some of the comments on the Kilgariff
development smack of prior agendas. I am especially referring to the
letter by Steve Brown from April 14 and the comment by Tarsha Finney
from April 21.
I would like to see another letter from Steve Brown applying the same
yardstick he uses to criticise the development of Kilgariff to his own
proposed development at White Gums.
Specifically I wonder will he sell an 800 sq meter block for $60,000,
will he allow anyone to build just anything on the blocks they do buy
and on a time frame that suits their budgets, and has he secured NT
Government commitment to construct commission homes immediately once,
and if, his development does gain planning consent?
Or is it the case that Mr Brown’s objections stem from a worry that the
development of Kilgariff will mean the very people he is hoping to
attract to White Gums may now decide to buy into Kilgariff instead? Or
at least they may decide to if commission homes are either not allowed
or kept to a minimum.
Of course it’s true that the price tags on the blocks at Kilgariff mean
that the suburb will become a middle class neighbourhood and not a
poverty sink. But who wants another poverty sink? We are only now, and
slowly, overcoming those we do have by upgrading our town camps at huge
It is true that converted commission homes form the backbone of much of
Alice’s residential stock. But the days when governments built houses
then rented them then sold them to the renters are long gone. I don’t
know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but Ayn Rand and our
pollies seem to have decided that that is the road we will all now
Housing affordability is a genuine worry, especially for first
homebuyers. But no one who owns a home wants prices to fall, and since
our lawmakers are mostly home owners, I doubt if the bottom drops out
of that market if they can help it. Innovative loan arraignments and
family help will probably be the way to go.
I will admit to getting a kick out of reading the screeds of visiting
academics. Ms Finney seems to find the dynamic of Alice Springs
altogether too difficult to fit into the paradigm of her southern
university world-view. She follows a well-worn path of telling us why
Alice doesn’t work, can’t work, won’t work. It’s true that we went
close this last summer, but that wasn’t the first time and nor will it
be the last.
And yet we’re still here. I suspect that after they return to their
southern homes, Ms Finney and her acolytes will wish they were too.
Why punish all?
Sir – B y l i v i n g i n P i n e C r e e k I h a v e
b e c o m e t h e v i c t i m o f c o l l e c t i v e
p u n i s h m e n t , m e t e d o u t b y t h e N T
G o v e r n m e n t .
T h i s h a s b e e n b r o u g h t a b o u t b y a
s m a l l g r o u p o f p e o p l e w h o h a v e n o
r e s p e c t f o r t h e l a w , i n d u l g i n g i n
a l c o h o l f u e l l e d c r i m e .
I n s t e a d o f r o u n d i n g u p t h e s e r i a l
o f f e n d e r s , a n d r e - e d u c a t i n g t h e m ,
t h e g o v e r n m e n t s e e s f i t t o p l a c e
c o n t r o l s o f l i q u o r p u r c h a s e s o n
p e o p l e w h o h a v e n o c o n n e c t i o n t o
t h e a b o v e p e o p l e no r t h e c r i m e s
c o m m i t t e d b y t h e m .
T h e d e f i n i t i o n o f "c o l l e c t i v e
p u n i s h m e n t " i s t h e p u n i s h m e n t o f a
g r o u p o f p e o p l e a s a r e s u l t o f t h e
b e h a v i o u r o f o n e o r m o r e o t h e r
i n d i v i d u a l s o r g r o u p s . Th e p u n i s h e d
g r o u p m a y o f t e n h a v e n o d i r e c t
a s s o c i a t i o n w i t h t h e o t h e r
i n d i v i d u a l s o r g r o u p s , o r d i r e c t
c o n t r o l o f t h e i r a c t i o n s .
N o w t o s a y t h a t I a m u p s e t , a t
b e i n g j u d g e d n o t f i t t o p u r c h a s e a
p e r f e c t l y l e g a l s u b s t a n c e , a t a n y
t i m e t h e o u t l e t i s o p e n f o r
b u s i n e s s , i s a n u n d e r s t a t e m e n t .
My m y f e e l i n g i s t h a t t h i s i s b e i n g
u s e d a s a t e s t , t o s e e i f
T e r r i t o r i a n s w i l l c o p i t , Te r r i t o r y
w i d e .
So i f y o u a r e t h i n k i n g b a d l u c k P i n e
C r e e k , b e w a r e y o u m a y w e l l b e n e x t .
I w i l l l e a v e t h e j u d g m e n t u p t o
y o u , a n d y o u c a n d e c i d e a t t h e
b a l l o t b o x n e x t e l e c t i o n .
I h a v e w r i t t e n t o D e l i a L a w r i e
r e c e n t l y a n d a m a w a i t i n g a r e p l y t o
m y o b j e c t i o n . If o u r p o l i t i c a l
m a s t e r s r e a d t h i s t h e y m a y w i s h t o
c o m m e n t p u b l i c l y .
K e n n e t h A R o b i n s o n
P i n e C r e e k
k e n n e t h r o b i n s o n 2 @ b i g p o n d . c o m
Gillen residents want to be heard
Sir – The frustration for residents living near the Centralian Middle
School basketball stadium has just got worse. Lighting was installed in
the stadium without any notification or consultation with residents.
This is just another snub in a process that has totally excluded
residents who live near the stadium.
The school and Government have ridden rough-shod over people whose
lives are being hurt by this development. The stadium was built in
December last year and has brought with it a number of unwanted
consequences for residents including high levels of noise, anti-social
behaviour and diminished views. The stadium remains open at night and
has become a hang-out for young people.
The lights are another problem the community has to deal with. Minister
for Education, Chris Burns, has failed to respond to a petition lodged
during the Alice Springs sittings of Parliament from residents angry at
the impact of the stadium on the neighbourhood. The petition had 262
signatures, but Chris Burns and the Labor Government have chosen to
ignore their plea that the stadium be relocated.
Residents of Gillen are generally in favour of the development of
facilities for young people that promote health, recreation and fitness.
But this stadium has been constructed without any consideration for the
people who live in the area. Minister Burns needs to show some respect
for local residents and respond to the petition.
MLA for Araluen
Is NAPLAN focus helping remote
Sir – Long before the inception of the National Assessment Program:
Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), a significant majority of Indigenous
students from remotely located schools across Australia had not made
the kind of progress in English literacy and numeracy that policy
makers, education professionals and parents had hoped for.
Despite countless well intentioned interventions seeking to close the
literacy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student groups, it
seems that the task of improving English literacy standards in remote
schools remains highly complex and contested.
I am an experienced remote schools principal and former regional
Indigenous education project officer, undertaking research that aims to
'tell the story' behind the NAPLAN result of remote schools.
Key questions guiding this research include: How are remote school
communities responding to strong expectations to significantly improve
their NAPLAN result and with what consequences?
How are remote schools being reorganised and for what purpose? What are
the risks? What are the benefits?
Is a primary focus on the NAPLAN setting up students in remote schools
for greater risk of failure, or does the NAPLAN represent an
opportunity to reshape and reposition our work as educators in ways
that will really count?
If you are currently working at a remote school, and wish to
participate in this research regarding the risks, benefits and other
changes associated with NAPLAN implementation in remote schools, I
would like to invite you to complete the anonymous on-line survey [at
the web address indicated below].
PhD Candidate UniSA
Solar power rumours untrue
Sir – Concerns raised regarding the value of installing rooftop solar
can be put to bed.
Two recent rumours in Alice Springs have come to light – that the Alice
Springs power grid won’t accept the power generated by solar panels,
and that Power and Water are no longer buying the electricity produced.
We want to tell Alice Springs residents to rest assured that solar PV
systems not only contribute to reducing the town's emissions, they
reduce consumer’s bills as Power and Water Corporation pays
householders and businesses for all the power they generate.
Every unit (kWh) of electricity fed into the grid by a solar power
system in Alice Springs directly reduces the demand on the power
station’s generators, and thus reduces the amount of gas and diesel
being burnt at the power station.
Power and Water will buy the electricity you produce, typically at the
same rate you're currently buying electricity from them.
For a typical residential system of 2kW, this means ‘revenue’ of around
$600/year. Solar PV panels have an expected life of 20-25 years,
making them an excellent long term investment.
A further issue that caused a hold on most installations for the last
six months was the requirement to obtain a building permit in order to
be eligible for the Australia-wide funding program.
We welcome the recent decision of the Northern Territory Government’s
Building Advisory Committee to remove the requirement for building
permits in non-cyclonic regions.
This decision clears the way for householders who had been concerned
about the extra costs and requirements of obtaining a building permit,
to now have their system installed.
Residents also now have another reason to think about installing solar
sooner rather than later.
The national rebate for solar PV systems is to be reduced on 1 July
2011, which means that after the 1 July, the net cost for a system
after rebates will increase by around $1000.
With the building permit requirement lifted, and the approaching drop
in rebate, now is the time to contact a local installer, arrange a site
inspection and quote, and have a PV system installed.
Alice Solar City can provide a list of local accredited
installers. Contact Power and Water on 1800 245 092 to find out
more having a solar power system connected to the grid and the feed-in
tariff that applies.
Alice Solar City