ALICE SPRINGS NEWS
June 16, 2011. This page contains all
major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.
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Statehood debate a distraction
from necessary reform. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Far from being on the road to becoming Australia's seventh state, the
Northern Territory is likely to see its autonomy further eroded unless
the government lifts its game in relation to the NT's most
So says Professor Rolf Gerritsen, research leader in Central Australia
at Charles Darwin University.
"Commonwealth intervention is imminent unless we fix the system," says
Prof Gerritsen (pictured).
What is broke, he argues, is the lack of transparency and
accountability in the way the government spends money compared to the
way that it 'earns' money. Its decision-making and spending are
characterised by "a very severe local urban bias", with a lot of
the money 'earned' for Aboriginal disadvantage not being spent on
"The default decision-making position is that if something is popular
in Darwin, the government will do it," says Prof Gerritsen.
An example: as part of the pre-budget announcements this year the
government revealed that 600 reinforced concrete culverts, donated to
them by Energy Resources Australia, would be used to make an artificial
reef for recreational fishing in Darwin Harbour, with the government
spending an additional $1m on the project.
"This is a clear and dramatic illustration of the sort of development
priorities that the NT Government has," says Prof Gerritsen. "Imagine
instead that the culverts had been put to use in repairing bush roads
after the NT's record wet season. That could have achieved benefits
from a range of perspectives: if the roads were used by pastoralists
the culverts would have contributed to increased productivity for them;
if they were used by remote communities, living standards would have
"The money spent by the government needs to reflect the way in which it
has been earned. As the majority of Aboriginal people live in the bush,
a large proportion of general purpose grants should be spent there.
"The NT Government claims that they are, but the Grants Commission does
not agree. For example, in the category of services to Indigenous
communities, the NT Government spends only a bit over a half of what it
would if the money it gets for that category were tied to spending on
"Consequently the Commonwealth is increasingly trying to exert an
influence in the Territory by providing specific purpose project
funding. SIHIP is an obvious example.
"If we don't reform the system, I'd say within five years the
Commonwealth will make our general purpose grant into one giant
specific purpose grant."
How can this be prevented?
Prof Gerritsen says first we need to institutionalise greater
transparency and accountability in NT Government spending.
"People need to be able to work out where the money is going. At
present you really need to be an expert to read the NT Budget. For
example, it's generally impossible to separate out the administration
cost from the amount actually being spent on a specific purpose. And
the Budget papers do not tell us about the government's long-term
liabilities which have increased dramatically since Labor came to
power, with an increase of some 3000 public service positions. About
half of those are useful – teachers, nurses, police – but many are in
administration and chew up budgets. Our public service is larger than
the ACT's although they've got almost twice the population."
He says the existing Grants Commission data contains the information
required: "It is objective and long-term. They've been working on it
The Auditor-General could be resourced to mine that data and report on
patterns of expenditure, an exercise which would influence a more
equitable distribution of resources, away from Darwin.
Where to? Local government?
Certainly there should be "some kind of sub-regional structure"
but Prof Gerritsen does not believe that the current system of
local government in the bush has the necessary legitimacy. In terms of
elected representation, he thinks it would be better to revert to the
small community councils, who could send their representatives to an
area authority with specific powers, for instance to decide on local
roads expenditure. The current system clearly under-spends on roads,
with only 2% of the budget allocated to roads, compared to 5% in SA, a
Prof Gerritsen sees the NT Government remaining in charge of the major
portfolios like education, health, police. Thus the three tiers of
government would be maintained, in contrast to the possible two-tiered
system put forward by Fred Chaney in his recent contribution to the
statehood debate (see our story archive).
Prof Gerritsen believes that a two-tiered system is unrealistic: "The
states will never support their own extinction."
And in his view, the larger states will never support the granting of
statehood to the NT, because in a referendum situation, where support
from a majority of states as well as a majority of voters is required,
this would give the balance of power to the smaller states.
"At present the whole statehood debate is focussed on discrimination.
With respect to referenda, what we experience in the NT is no different
to what the other territories experience. If we want to have our votes
included in the states count, we could be included in the South
"As for our 'constitutional fragility', any Act by the Commonwealth
conferring statehood on the NT could be reversed by a future
parliament. Once again, if the Commonwealth didn't like what the NT was
doing, it could intervene.
"So our time would be better spent on reform that is within our power,
before the Commonwealth does it for us."
The decline of Central Australian
political representation. COMMENT by ALEX NELSON.
When the current redistribution of NT electoral boundaries is
finalized, Alice Springs will be isolated within one bush electorate
for the first time since the era of the Legislative Council that ended
But in stark contrast to the bad old days of Commonwealth control, The
Centre is about to have the least representation in parliament on a per
capita basis since the beginning of the Legislative Council in 1947.
Of the original 13 members, six were elected members representing five
electorates – the seat of Darwin had two members. (The remaining seven
members were appointed by the Commonwealth). Thus out of five
electorates across the NT, 80% were outside of Darwin, and two – Alice
Springs and Stuart – were based in The Centre, comprising 40% of the
electorates and a third of the elected representation for the NT.
The first two Centralian members were Labor. Jock Nelson easily took
Stuart, and Dick Ward won Alice Springs with a margin of one vote! Both
were destined to become NT political luminaries.
By 1974 the Legislative Council had eleven elected members, of which
five were Darwin-based (still less than half for the NT); but The
Centre had only its two original seats, now held by Country Party
members Bernie Kilgariff (Alice Springs) and Tony Greatorex (Stuart),
18% of the elected representation in the NT.
The fully-elected Legislative Assembly commenced in October 1974 with
19 members, of which four seats were based in The Centre – Alice
Springs, Stuart, Gillen and MacDonnell, all held by the CLP.
The Centre’s proportion of representation was 21% of the NT’s total;
significantly Darwin had 10 elected members, exceeding half the total
for the first time.
However, until 1983 there was no major change to electoral boundaries.
The 1970s was a period of rapid growth for the Alice while Darwin was
stalled for a time by Cyclone Tracy.
There were two significant changes in 1983 – the first was the
beginning of Palmerston, a new population growth centre in the Top End;
the second was the increase of the Legislative Assembly from 19 to 25
Six seats were based in The Centre – Stuart and MacDonnell were
retained, now joined by Araluen, Braitling, Flynn and Sadadeen,
comprising 24% (effectively a quarter) of elected representation in the
By 1989 the growth of population in the Top End relative to The Centre
forced a redistribution of electorates. Early in 1990 The Centre lost a
seat – Flynn and Sadadeen vanished and were replaced by Greatorex,
joining the remaining four seats.
The Centre now had 20% of the NT’s elected representation, virtually
identical to the percentage level of the 1970s.
From 1990 until now The Centre has retained five electorates based in
and around Alice Springs although there have been numerous adjustments
of the boundaries. Most telling of these is the expansion of Araluen
into the rural area several years ago, a mimicry of the old Flynn
electorate; and the inexorable northward shift of Stuart.
This trend has been obvious for years, as noted by the 2004
Redistribution Committee in regard to Barkly, Daly and Stuart: “The
Committee felt that gradual change was more appropriate … this was best
achieved by continuing to move the boundaries in a northward direction
owing to the strong influence of the divisions within and adjacent to
Darwin and Palmerston”.
So now to the present, where there will be four electorates based in
and around Alice Springs, equating to 16% of the total elected
representation across the Territory, the lowest ever for The Centre
(although Barkly will cover a significant portion of The Centre, too).
To add insult to injury, the Division of Stuart will remain – the sole
original electorate from 1947 still existing – but now it will surround
Katherine and stretch from the Victoria River to the Gulf of
Stuart is to become a Top End seat, at the expense of The Centre of
which it for so long has been a fundamental part of our political
Cattle exporter attacks Four Corners,
letter circulates amongst pastoralists
This letter has been sent to
Four Corner program and it is also circulating widely in the Northern
Territory cattle industry. We offered Four Corners a right of reply and
Mark Bannerman replied: "Four Corners doesn't want to make any comment
about the letter that you have sent us. We stand by the program we
broadcast and if and when the letter is received by the program we will
respond to it fully."
I must introduce myself. My
name is Scot Braithwaite and my life has basically revolved around live
export since I was 10 years old. I was unloading cattle boats in
Malaysia at the age of 13. I have worked for all the major cattle
companies including as a Head Stockman in the Northern Territory. I
have a degree in economics from the Queensland University and I
personally have sold more than 1.5 million head of cattle into
Indonesia since 1991. I am presently employed as the marketing manager
for Wellard Rural Exports.
I am writing to you after the Monday
program to say that although I abhor the treatment of the animals shown
in the video, your one sided approach to the subject and the possible
effect of that of a ban on live exports is too big a price to pay for a
report based on the evidence of an organization whose charter is to
shut us down.
I have the following points to make. I would like to have the same time
as those who denigrated my life to show you the other side of our
industry. To show you what is really going on. In Australia there used
to be thing about “A fair Go”. You have gone with images provided by
one person followed up by your investigative journalist who spent a
week in Indonesia. Your report makes out that close to 100% of
Australian cattle are treated as was shown on TV.
1 the ship that appears in the
footage “for less than 30 seconds” is a vessel that cost tens of
millions of dollars to build. We have had three separate media groups
sail with this ship and it can in no uncertain terms be described as
best in class. The Wellard group has another three vessels of the same
standard with another two being built in China. This is a total
investment of 400 million dollars to ensure that livestock exports from
Australia are undertaken at the utmost levels of cow comfort and animal
The feedlot that was filmed was
given a 10 second view. This feedlot is without a doubt world class.
Your viewers should have at least had the opportunity to view large
numbers of cattle eating and sleeping comfortably in a fantastic
facility. This company has in addition moved to kill all its cattle
through stunning system it has control of. This owner has spent 20
years of his life in the industry, has built his business from nothing,
has done all that is required of him from an animal welfare point of
view yet your reporter makes no mention of these things.
Within a three hour drive or a 15
minute helicopter ride there are another three world class facilities.
All three feedlots including the one filmed, are at, or better than,
what can be found in Australia. The cattle being fed, and the ration
being fed, leads to a lot fewer animal health issues then a similar
size operation in Australia.
One of these facilities is operated
and owned by a large Australian pastoral house. They had no mention in
your supposedly unbiased report. The operation is run by a North
Queensland man who, through his absolute dedication to excellence, has
built a feedlot and slaughtering system that his company, the industry
and he himself can be very proud of. The system is closed, all the
cattle are already killed through their own abattoir. They import
20,000 to 25,000 cattle a year. They have been doing this for at least
five years. Why should they be shut down? For what reason could anyone
justify closing this operation down, especially without even bothering
to look at what goes on?
The other world class feedlots that
could have been investigated with a three hour ride in the car are
owned by a large publicly listed Indonesian company. In all, they have
on feed 50,000 cattle and import about 120,000 cattle a year. They have
recently built an abattoir (the one that was briefly shown on the
program). They built this two years ago as they knew that modern
methods must come to Indonesia and they were willing to make the
investment to make it happen.
The total investment from these
three feedlotters alone in infrastructure and stock is over 100 million
dollars. Add to that the hundreds of millions that Wellard have
recently invested in ships and do you really believe that these people
would leave the final product to a murderous bastard with a blunt
They not only have tried to ensure the welfare of the animal but have
made investments to make the changes all along the chain. These people
deserve to have their side of the story heard.
If the system is not perfect, and it isn’t, they have the wherewithal
and the incentive to make it happen in a very short time.
These three importers who have shown
a commitment to everything good about animal production, handle 45 % of
The other major issue that was not
covered was the social responsibility that all feedlotters in Indonesia
practice. Their operations are in relatively isolated poor areas; the
feedlots provide employment opportunity, advancement through effort,
and a market for thousands of tons of feedstuffs grown for the cattle.
My understanding is that 8000 people are directly employed by the
feedlots and over a million people are reliant on the regular income
made from supplying corn silage and other feedstuffs. This is not made
up, it is fact. It can be easily checked. I will bet my million farmers
against the million signatures on the ban order. It is very easy to sit
in your comfortable chair and criticize but is it really worth the
human cost to ban something that can be fixed and fixed reasonable
That is Sumatra.
In Jakarta is the largest privately
owned abattoir that kills about 4,000 to 6,000 heads a month. It is a
well run facility that has no welfare issues. In addition it was
working on getting a stun system in place well before the Four Corners
report. No photos from here, yet this is another [enterprise which] has
been doing the right thing and [which] will lose [its] business if the
trade is banned.
The largest importer in to Jakarta,
has also built a slaughter facility in the past 12 months. It has not
been commissioned yet but can be made ready within a month. They also
have a private bone to pick with the program. As was not reported in
the show, abattoirs in Indonesia are operated by any number of
individual "wholesalers”. They control the space and [their workers
kill] their number for the night and then hand over to the next team.
In any one night eight to 10 separate operators can be using the same
facility. In the case of the footage of the head slapping the camera
panned to the cattle waiting and the tags of AA, Newcastle Waters and
his company were made very prominent. Yes, they were there but the team
that handled was different to one being filmed. They protest that their
crews are well trained, no head slapping occurs and very large and
sharp knives are used to ensure a bloody but quick end.
I have no reason to doubt them because I have seen a lot of their
cattle handled at point of slaughter and their crews are well trained
with immediate results. Where can their case be heard?
I have watched literally thousands
of cattle slaughtered in the boxes in Indonesia. Yes there are
problems, as there are at every point of slaughter on every type of
animal in the world, but 98% of the cattle I watched killed was quick
and without fuss. Why is there not one shot of what happens 98% of the
time? The shots of outright cruelty are totally unacceptable and
the slaughter of cattle is still gruesome and confronting but is not as
prevalent as portrayed in your report.
Yes it does some times happen but it is the exception not the rule. And
we are already taking steps to improve the system and we have the
ability to ensure all animals are stunned in a very short time.
Yes there are a couple of operators
who in the short term will not be able to handle the new way. But they
will be dropped, no commitment to stunning, no supply. No negotiation.
There are also a number of operators privately owned who were, to all
intents and purposes, doing the right thing. They were asked to supply
through the boxes and they have. They will be asked to only supply
though a stunning facility and they will. They have far too much
invested in the whole industry over many years to not do as we ask.
I am asking for a fair go. You have
been expertly manipulated. Hear the actual other side of the story let
the Australian public see both sides. I am happy to make all the
arrangements. This is too important to let sit with the images you
portrayed on Monday without recourse.
Success no longer a 'shame job' at Centralian College. By KIERAN
A very capable Aboriginal student
refuses to take on academic studies because it means being different
from his friends – it's too much of a "shame job".
The year is 2006. Eddie
Fabijan has just arrived at Centralian Senior Secondary College as
assistant principal. Around 17% of the college's 300 or so students are
Indigenous. Overcoming their under-achievement, breaking the 'shame
job' syndrome, becomes his greatest challenge.
In 2007 the NT Government moves Year 10 students from the junior high
schools, ASHS and ANZAC, across to Centralian College. This gives Mr
Fabijan and the college their opportunity. Until now a lot of
Aboriginal students have simply disappeared after finishing compulsory
schooling at the junior highs. Moving to a new school to continue their
education has been too daunting.
Mr Fabijan and his team take a reality check: academically a
significant number of the students are a year or two below age level.
So the college develops programs to respond to where the students are
at and to take them forward, knowing that these Year 10 students will
become the next Year 11s and 12s. Year 10 provides the foundation on
which to build.
The NT's top
Indigenous student is from Centralian. Because of things going on in
her life outside of school, she has taken two years to complete Year
12, but she's done it, achieving an ATAR, the ranking to gain admission
The year is 2009 and this top student is one of 31 Aboriginal students
from the college completing Year 12, 10 of them achieving ATARs. In
2008 there were 25 completers, including half a dozen with ATARs.
Little by little the college has raised the achievement bar, taking the
capable students beyond Community Studies (work and life skills) to
academic courses. As students see peers succeed, more are willing to
have a go.
student arrives at the college with an ambition no greater than working
at Macca's. He has the support of his family and the Clontarf Football
Academy to aim higher. By halfway through Year 11 "something clicks".
He goes on to get his Year 12 with an ATAR. He takes a gap year
to work at the mines and save money. Now he's at Flinders University
studying creative writing and arts.
The year is 2011. Out of a total enrolment of more than 500 across
years 10 to 12, 50% of students are Aboriginal and the college
ultimately wants to see 50% of Year 12 completions coming from them.
There's still a way to go. With 85 students likely to complete Year 12
this year, 24 of them are Aboriginal, just over one third.
But, joining the cohorts of a similar size from the last few years,
that makes over 100 role models out there for other young people,
including ultimately the students' own children, where a few years ago
there were a mere handful.
Steve Smith teaches in the college's Gateways program for students who
need extra assistance. They are mostly Aboriginal. Some – he says
around half – come from difficult backgrounds; some have "fantastic
families" but are struggling for other reasons, as some students do
Getting to Year 12 is not the only route to success, says Mr Smith.
It's important to acknowledge completion of Year 11 and vocational
courses as leading to "a viable future".
This week many of the Gateways students have been off campus, doing a
two-week block of intensive vocational study. With five blocks across
the year many students complete early trade certificates while they are
still at school.
With some free time on their hands, Mr Smith and colleague Gonzalo
Gaces have been working on the detail of a Maths Applications course
they've designed for Gateways students – one of the college's exercises
in "raising the bar". The course gives the students the same level of
academic attainment as mainstream "Maths Apps" throughout the NT and
SA. The only difference is that the maths concepts are taught in the
context of the student's choosing, for example, the ones required for
This year there are seven Aboriginal Year 12 students who could pass
Maths Apps, having been introduced to the course through Gateways last
year. With the role model effect kicking in, next year the numbers are
likely to jump to around 20, drawn from the 40 Year 11s who have been
introduced to the course this year.
A similar story can be told with the English Communications course. In
2008 no Gateways student passed the "Comms" course at Year 12 level.
Throughout 2009 senior teacher Helena Monaghan lead her team in working
with the Year 10 and 11 Gateways students to prepare them for Year 12
success. It came in 2010 with six students passing the course. This
year the number is expected to be around 20. "And this is jumping
through all the performance standard and moderation hoops," stresses Mr
A former Gateways
student now works as an orderly at the Alice Springs Courthouse. Mr
Smith is delighted to see her there, dressed in the smart black suit of
the orderlies. As they chat she tells him that her boss is encouraging
her to study law.
The key to working with the Gateways students, who have often come from
10 years of failure or negative experiences of school, is to form a
"great relationship" with them.
"You have to know their heads inside out, be sympathetic, understanding
and patient," says Mr Smith. "You have to understand that some days
others things that are happening in their lives are going to be more
important than school."
For some students that might mean the typical teenage things, but for
about half the Gateway students the challenges are very significant.
Some are living at refuges, some do not know where they are sleeping
from one night to the next, some are sleeping rough and have even been
found sleeping in the stairwells of the college.
Part of Mr Smith's daily routine is to check the magistrates court list
to see if any students are in trouble with the law, and if they are, to
work out what kind of support the college can give them.
What motivates these students to keep coming to school?
Mr Smith answers with a question: "Where else can they go to feel safe
and be with friends?"
Mr Fabijan says the college wants to seize this "last opportunity" to
work with these young people, including working on values, teaching
them that it is not acceptable to be aggressive towards women, to swear
in public, promoting respect and compassion.
He also says the college would dearly love to see boarding facilities
become available in town for vulnerable students and is working with
the department on the issue.
student from Santa Teresa, a community 85 kilometres east of Alice, has
been boarding at Yirara College and attending mainstream school since
Year 8. Most of his peers have gone home before completing their
studies. He will complete Year 12 in Gateways this year. Clontarf
Football Academy are working to inspire him to look for further
opportunities next year.
Important contributions to student retention and success have been made
by the Clontarf Football Academy and the Centralian Girls Academy
programs, at both Centralian Middle School and the college. The
programs use incentive schemes including sports participation and
reward trips tied to school attendance and achievement.
They have attractive 'home' areas at the college. (Indeed you're hard
put to find an 'old school' classroom with rows of desks and a board
out the front anywhere in the college, though some do exist. There's
been a big effort to transform the somewhat unpromising building into a
warm and welcoming space, from the moment you walk in the front door.)
While Clontarf and the Girls Academy were set up with Aboriginal
students in mind, the college uses different buckets of money to keep
them open for any interested student. The various targeted programs may
give an impression of a segregated school, but there are quite a few
opportunities for all students to come together, including the weekly
"coaching" sessions – the pastoral care groups that are across year
levels and programs. There are also concerts, presentations, assemblies
and so on, as well as some joint activities with the Centralian Middle
School and community schools.
All these are steps towards greater integration of Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal students, the next challenge on the college's agenda.
Challenges for democracy in the
Central Desert super-shire. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Itinerant campers are not only an issue in urban centres like Alice
Springs. What to do about longtime "squatters" at Creek Camp and
Caravan Camp, both on Crown land near Ti Tree, was on the agenda at the
Central Desert Shire's council meeting this week.
It's an issue that's been around for a long time, decades it seems, but
not one the cash-strapped shire was happy to take on. The shire may
have revenue amounting to more than $36m but much of that is in the
form of tied grants or is for delivery of other agency's services. The
shire is "very, very poorly" funded for the delivery of core
services, CEO Roydon Robertson reminded councillors, and its current
position, like that of the NT's other shires is "totally
Add to this the mind-boggling size of the shire – some 300,000 square
kilometers, almost as big as Italy – and its several major language
groups, and the magnitude of the task for local government in the bush
becomes daunting. This was brought home when what looked like a good
news story – a grant of almost $7m for a CDEP extension program across
the shire – was strongly qualified: councillors were warned that the
scale of the funding would provide a very real challenge to the shire's
capacity to deliver the programs.
On the Creek Camp and Caravan Camp squatters, Councillor James
Jampajimpa Glenn told the meeting that are "creating a lot of
rubbish" and "council can't keep up". He was speaking to a
recommendation from the Anmatjere Local Board – based at Ti Tree and of
which he is a member – to get a verdict from council on the shire's
obligations towards "these itinerant people".
President Norbert Jampijinpa Patrick commented that it was "a hard
decision", but Mr Robertson was adamant: it is not council's
responsibility to be paying for services for these people. Cr Glenn
seemed to agree but said some people want to stay at the camps because
of "their health problems" – presumably to be closer to the health
services at Ti Tree. He commented that they do not live in "a very
healthy way"; they have "no shower block".
There was some discussion to and fro about how long the squatters had
been there. Cr Sascha McKell commented that the problem should have
been addressed a long time ago, "not left to sit for 20 years".
Cr Dianne Martin said if the shire puts in facilities at the camps, it
will encourage other people to camp anywhere within the shire,
expecting facilities to follow. As the camps are on Crown land, she
argued that they are an NT Government responsibility.
Shire Director of Corporate Services, Cathryn Hutton, proposed that
council write to the government, to get help dealing with the waste
management and water supply issues at the camps.
Cr Glenn said that had already happened "a few times" but agreed to
"give it a go".
"We can only try," he said.
This was one of the few issues to be discussed at any length during the
meeting. Another was the only issue on which officers were seeking
direction (rater than endorsement) from council. Five options were put
to them to do with changing access arrangements for the Mt Theo program
to the shire works yard and employee at Yuendumu. The discussion was
led by Crs Elizabeth Bird, Martin and McKell, who had firm opinions
about terminating the arrangements.
In all other instances, recommendations put to the vote were carried,
few questions were asked, and no real debate took place.
One reason for this could be that councillors had met the day before in
a "preparation day". Cr Patrick told the Alice Springs News that more
discussion had taken place then, during the "run through" of the agenda.
Another reason could be the varying degrees of proficiency in English
amongst the councillors – more challenging in a formal meeting context
than in everyday life. As relaxed and friendly as the atmosphere
at the meeting was, discussion was tied to reports conforming to
bureaucratic norms and there was little effort to coax more information
or opinions from the softly-spoken Aboriginal councillors.
Recommendations which came up from Local Boards, made up of local
community residents, were spoken to by councillors from those boards.
Cr William Japanangka Johnson, for instance, spoke to a recommendation
that council consider employing a liaison officer at Lajamanu. Such a
position has existed in the past. Cr Johnson said it was "important to
our community, to liaise with non-Aboriginal departments" and it
"creates employment as well." He was supported by Cr Glenn: "You need
liaison officers, especially for our people."
There was a pause; neither councillor, nor anyone else, asked for a
vote on the board's recommendation. Cr McKell then asked if they were
happy to go with management's recommendation which was to refer the
matter to the CEO. They nodded and that recommendation was duly
Cr Martin Hagan spoke to two recommendations from the Yuelamu Local
Board which he chairs. One was to get council to write to the NT and
Federal Governments for information about SIHIP expenditure at Yuelamu.
It seems that there is concern in the community about the renovation
work undertaken, but as there were no questions to Cr Hagan, we are
none the wiser.
Director of Infrastructure Tim Day said he would be happy to seek
information and report back to the local board but warned that he may
have difficulty in obtaining precise figures relating to works done on
the ground as opposed to overheads.
"What do you mean by overheads?" asked interpreter David Moore from the
Aboriginal Interpreter Service. This was one of several questions from
him in an attempt to clarify concepts for the Aboriginal councillors.
When prompted officers were responsive, attempting to translate
bureaucratese into plain English. Mr Day also spent some time drawing
diagrams on the whiteboard to explain the shire's proposed partnership
agreement with a Job Services Australia provider for communities in the
Plenty Highway region. This was worthwhile: the situation was a whole
lot clearer in diagrammatic form.
On this subject it is unfortunate that the shire was not successful in
obtaining a Closing the Gap grant for leadership development ("Money
Story Project"), though most of the elected members have had some
training in this area, according to Mr Robertson. However Closing the
Gap funds of over $90,000 have been granted for governance capacity
development for local board members.
Note: The Central Desert Shire sits in a rough arc north of Alice
Springs, stretching from the Queensland to WA borders. It takes in nine
major communities: Atitjere (Harts Range), Engawala, Ti Tree, Laramba,
Yuelamu, Nyirripi, Willowra, Yuendumu, Lajamanu and numerous
outstations as well as pastoral leases. Major languages spoken amongst
its 4500 residents are Alyawarr, Anmatyerr and Warlpiri, with English
often a second, third or fourth language.
Crime stats: Government scratches to
find good news, Opposition crows over bad.
Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, Delia Lawrie (Labor) says
crime and justice figures released on June 8 show significant drops in
sexual assault, robbery, homicide and property crime across the
Territory in the September quarter of 2010, with a moderate overall
increase in assaults.
Ms Lawrie (pictured at left) says while welcoming the drops in these
areas, the number of alcohol-related assaults was too high.
Despite a year on year drop of 20% in sexual assaults and decreases in
property crime in the last two quarters, recorded assaults increased 9%
in the year to September, with 61% being alcohol related.
The increase in recorded assaults is in part due to increased
reporting, due to the Territory Government’s mandatory reporting laws
on domestic violence and proactive policing initiatives.
However alcohol has an integral role of in the growing majority of
assault cases, and this underlines the importance of the Territory
Government’s ‘Enough is Enough’ alcohol reforms, which will turn
problem drinkers off-tap and mandate treatment for the first time,
Alcohol abuse is costing the Territory $642 million a year,
contributing to more deaths and hospitalisations in the Territory than
anywhere else in Australia.
With the Banned Drinkers Register being rolled out from July 1, the
Territory Government will continue to work with Police and Industry to
get problem drinkers off the street and into treatment where they
cannot harm their families and their community.
I welcome a 9% drop in property offences over the June quarter of 2010,
to post a 17% improvement from the March quarter.
It is a testament to the diligence of the Territory police force that
while attempted break-ins at Commercial premises are up, actual
break-ins are down 8%.
This shows people are listening to the advice of Police and Justice
Agencies and locking up, while Police are catching more would-be
thieves in the act.
The Crime and Justice Statistics for the September 2011 quarter are
based on offences recorded in the Territory Police case management
Opposition Leader, Terry Mills (Country Liberals) says the belated
release of the September quarter crime statistics shows Labor is losing
the war against violent assaults and property crime.
Mr Mills (pictured at right) says the figures show crime is out of
control, and point to a Government clutching at straws to find a
It’s no wonder Labor refused to release these figures because they
paint a damning picture of the Government’s failure to reduce crime.
The assault figures make stark reading, with 562 more assaults across
the Territory in the 12 months to 2010 than in the previous year.
The 6678 assaults in the year to September meant, on average, there
were more than 18 serious assaults in the Territory every day.
Since 2005, violent assaults in the Territory have increased by 70%.
House break-ins are up by 30% and motor vehicle theft by 14%.
Commercial break-ins fell marginally in the 12 months to September, but
increased by 58% since September 2005.
The decline in sexual assaults is welcome.
In Darwin there were 1609 assaults, up by 10% on the previous year and
927 house break-ins, a 28% increase.
Once again Alice Springs recorded more assaults than Darwin – an
appalling statistic given the town is approximately a third the size.
There were 1688 assaults in the year to September – a 25% increase –
and 385 house break-ins, an 80% increase.
The increase in assaults in Alice Springs challenges the Government’s
claim that its alcohol bans will reduce violent crime.
Despite grog restrictions in Katherine and Tennant Creek, violent
assaults have increased substantially over the past few years. The
slight reduction in Katherine in the year to September comes off an
appallingly high base.
Instead of Territory-wide grog restrictions, the Government should be
ratcheting up rehabilitation services and focusing on punishing violent
offenders through tougher sentencing.
If the Government could show categorically their alcohol bans worked,
the Country Liberals would support them. Instead, it’s fixated on
implementing Territory-wide bans that have been in place in three major
centres for years, while violent crime has continued to rise.
Alice is the land of opportunity,
say youthful leaders. By KIERAN FINNANE.
Amidst the widespread gloom about Alice Springs it was buoying to hear
a more optimistic take on the town's future from four young people at a
forum organised by Desert Knowledge Australia and the four senior high
schools last week.
The older two of the four – David Quan and Kristy Bloomfield – are
participants in the DKA Desert Leadership program. The younger two are
still at school, Lucinda Reinhard in Year 12 at St Philip's College,
and Alfie Lowe in Year 10 at Centralian College.
Alfie is a participant in the Youth Desert Leadership Program, a fresh
initiative of DKA and the four schools. This year it involves six Year
10 students from each, 24 all up. Eventually it will involve students
across Years 10, 11 and 12.
Also on the forum panel were Eddie Fabijan, principal at Centralian,
and Reg Hatch, manager of Family and Youth Services at Tangentyere
Council and CEO of YMCA Central Australia.
The panel was asked to answer the question, "What's your dream
for Alice Springs?"
David Quan has only lived in Alice since 2007, but has found it a
"welcoming place", an assessment he has held on to despite the last 12
months of "bad press". He said after a "particularly bad summer" he is
confident things will be "getting better". He plans to stay here and
raise a family, emphasising the work opportunities the town offers.
He's a firefighter and, with energy to burn (no pun intended), has also
worked at the Juvenile Detention Centre and as a teacher's aide with
the Irrkerlantye unit at Bradshaw Primary School.
Later his wife, Monica, spoke from the floor. She was raised in Alice,
went away to university and has come back, for the "great community"
and the job opportunities, about both of which the town should "blow
its horn". She said her career would be nowhere near where it is if she
weren't in Alice Springs.
Kristy Bloomfield spoke of the "quality of life for all" in town – the
access to housing, health, education and employment – but
stressed the need for people to "grab the opportunities". She referred
to people coming into town not taking the opportunity to get educated,
suggesting they need to be both "encouraged" and "pushed" to do so.
Reg Hatch took up this point later, talking of the role of parents in
keeping their kids home at night so that they'd be ready for school the
next day: "Our weakness for our kids is our parents," he said, to
murmurings of approval. "I'm happy to be shot at for [saying] that."
Lucinda agreed about the plentiful opportunities but spoke of the need
for them to better promoted. She suggested that young people can simply
not know where or how to seek out the opportunities.
Alfie Lowe agreed with her, saying most young people are "too scared"
to seek opportunities. He said he had a lot of hope for the future, but
that it was important to take that hope and turn it into action, not
just talk. Commenting on a question about how to better prepare
Aboriginal people for mainstream employment, he said, "as an Aboriginal
student in mainstream, it's that much different to being a white
student if you've got the desire to learn".
Lucinda Reinhard spoke of "a culture" amongst Alice youth around plans
to leave Alice Springs, but said that the job opportunities, the
possibilities for making money, draw many back.
Kristy said she had left Alice to live in Cairns for three years and
that young cousins of hers are wanting to leave, to go to boarding
school and experience life elsewhere. She said her time in Cairns
helped her realise that there are problems "all over the nation" and
that she was motivated to come back to try to make a difference in her
home town. She saw this as possible through even the small acts of
assistance that she can render in her job as an Indigenous Court
Officer for the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service.
The panel was asked about ways to help people "grow in harmony".
Kristy suggested the reinstatement of inter-school sports days as they
existed when she went to school. She said she got to know "heaps of
people in that way". This was responded to positively as something
achievable, by Donna O'Brien, Year Eight coordinator at Centralian
Middle School, present in the audience.
Lucinda agreed that the schools don't interact much "for the size of
the town". But even within schools she said people tend to stick to
their own groups. She suggested confidence programs, leadership
programs to break this down.
Alfie wanted to see more events that "everyone is interested in", like
the recent impromptu visit to Centralian by Justice Crew, a street
dance group from Sydney. This would allow young people to learn about
"the things that are the same" for all of them, "not the differences".
He saw this as also part of the answer to underage drinking. This issue
was raised by a young person from the floor, who spoke of students
going home during school hours "to have a few beers – how ridiculous is
Lucinda, who spent some time recently living in Melbourne, said young
people there drink and smoke a lot too, putting it down to seeing their
"idols" drink and smoke.
Picking up on a comment by Eddie Fabijan about drinking as a "rite of
passage", David spoke of his experience with some of the inmates of the
Juvenile Detention Centre. They might be aware at some level of the bad
consequences of their actions, he suggested, but until they get through
the experience and "something clicks", better choices can't be forced
The panel was asked to identify the things that "fill them with
confidence" for Alice Springs.
The people, especially peers and colleagues got several mentions, with
Lucinda coming back to opportunity, a sense and experience of things
being possible: "It's a really cool place to grow up."
Punch and piñata at Alice's
favourite picnic spot.
MOZZIE BITES with
As most of us know, Alice Springs is an especially transient town. We
have the mixed blessing of being the stop off point for one of the
world’s greatest tourist destinations, have temporary workers in many
fields, and are the only major town close to the centre of this vast
Because of this it is always hard to measure and then assert being a
‘local’. You may only have been here for six months and
feel like one, or lived here for 27 years and feel still unable to
claim the title. It is said that to be considered one of these ‘highly
respected and loyal people’ one has to have seen the Todd River flow
three times. Seeing as Alice Springs, in fact most parts of Australia,
has had a rain soaked year, can this still be considered an effective
It was a third birthday party that took me back to the Telegraph
Station this weekend. The children frolicked in the unusually warm
weather and the adults laughed with punch and picnic finger food.
Whilst hitting the piñata tied to a white gum, I started to
remember the long list of birthdays and celebrations I’d had at the ol’
Telegraph Station. Not a year has gone by, without barbeques, walks, or
play dates set up in this reliable place.
Birthday celebrations in the centre of Australia probably only began
with the occupation of this first settlement. It is funny to think that
in the 1870s Bradshaw and his people were perhaps marking the first
birthday parties here, in fact probably the first on Arrernte land.
I looked about at the matchbox cars, plastic plates and various lollies
on Sunday and reflected on the history of the buildings and grounds, on
what wonderful events they must have seen.
I only just remember a child’s birthday party, when I was a child
myself and discovered the cave up on the hill for the first time. What
excitement! And then early this year, at the Red Bull Backyard Jam,
where I saw British India rock out in front of that huge cascading rock
that plunges into the waterhole ... when it exists!
So many good times that we, locals and many visitors also, have all
experienced. If you’ve lived in Alice Springs then it can be assumed
you’ve had your own, a family member’s, or friend’s festive gathering
here. And if you haven’t?! Well, I say to become a local, a Telegraph
Station party is required.