Liz, Brendan and the new town council’s balance of power

 

If the new town council’s Gang of Four – Steve Brown, Eli Melky, Dave Douglas and Geoff Booth – act as block they will need an extra vote to achieve a majority and that vote is most likely to come from Liz Martin (at left) or Brendan Heenan (above).
Both were re-elected, clearly are of a similar mindset to the Four on many issues, and also operate businesses.
In fact they are top performers in the vital yet currently seriously depressed tourism industry: Councillor (Cr) Martin runs the National Road Transport Hall of Fame. While last year saw the shutters going down for many businesses in the CBD, Cr Martin says the Hall had its best year ever. She’s just signed a $1m deal to build a display hall for Mack and Volvo trucks, rivaling the existing Kenworth complex. And Cr Heenan’s MacDonnell Range Tourist Park is like a small, very well run town that wins Brolgas year after year.
At least one council project, spending the $5m NT Government grant for rejigging the CBD, is facing delays not of council making: no-one knows where many of the underground water, electricity and sewage mains are located, so there’s no start date in sight for any digging. How could the new council break though on that front and what else can we expect from the holders of the balance of power in the 12th Town Council? ERWIN CHLANDA talked with them over the Easter weekend.

 

ALCOHOL RESTRICTIONS

 

HEENAN: They are not working, have never worked. All they do is putting a bandaid on it.
People are killing themselves – and other people – in domestic violence. It doesn’t matter what the floor price is. If an alcoholic wants alcohol he will get it, no matter what price he has to pay. He’ll break into a home.
There are statistics that less alcohol is being sold now. I don’t believe them. Go to the post office and watch how much alcohol comes in, pallets and pallets of mail orders [which are not captured in the local alcohol sales statistics] from south now, tonnes of the stuff, every day.
The worst thing was getting rid of the casks. Bundy and Jack Daniels bottles have very thick glass which can be turned into weapons. One of the rangers told me if you drive down the Todd River now you’ve got to be careful not to stake a tyre. There is so much glass in the river now. There is no way you’d walk there in your bare feet. Same with the footpaths. People are just breaking glass and I think that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened with the restrictions.
You remember the flagons many years ago? They were weapons. At least the cardboard casks disintegrate after a while and you can blow up the bladder and use it as a pillow.
Our pensioners in town are relying on their casks to have a glass of wine.
What should be done?
We need a tribunal or a special court, and if you get picked up three times in six months – and I’ve been saying this for 10 years – you go into mandatory rehab. It could be run by an NGO, or by several of them. It’s not voluntary.
These people have to be locked up, but you can teach them horticulture, woodwork, art, a bit like a work camp. A lot of them might be illiterate. We could make them literate.
Confinement could be for up to two years, three months to begin with, but if they’re picked up again it should be six months.
This would take the pressure off domestic violence, police, hospital, courts and gaol.
This way we’re looking after the health of those people. With restrictions they can and will still get alcohol.
MARTIN: Law and Order is firstly an NT Government issue but we also need to take the Federal Government to task. A lot of the issues come from the Intervention and the urban drift it is causing.
Some of these people are beyond rehabilitation.
There needs to be a place for them where they can be safe for the rest of their lives because they have no hope for rehabilitation.
If need be they should they be kept there against their wish?
Yeah, I think so. They really do want to be taken somewhere and looked after because they get sick of wandering around in limboland.
People tend to get themselves into a rut they can’t get out of and they need to have their environment changed.
Trouble is when they come out they are still sleeping rough or on someone’s floor, and nine times out of ten they’re in trouble again three months later. I’ve seen 14 year olds becoming 28 year olds and they’re back and back and back, into the same environment.

 

 

A THIRSTY THURSDAY FOR ALICE?

 

MARTIN: No. In Tennant Creek it put the drunks on the road. They were going down to Wauchope and up to Renner Springs and even down here to Alice Springs to get grog. They were actually drunk and driving on the road. It did give some relief to the emergency services and the nurses and the doctors and police but the mayhem started again the next day. To me it’s like a temporary measure. We need to get much more serious with dealing at a grassroots level.
A floor price I can live with, it doesn’t impact on me at all. But they are not drinking the cheap grog anyway. They are still drinking Jim Beam, Bundy, VB. What a floor price would do is reduce the tax on a bottle of Moet by 800% and reduce it on VB by about 7%.
We should not have gotten rid of casks. We had a lady out here the other day stabbed in the face with a bottle. People are starting to complain to council again about glass in the parks and the river.
HEENAN: No, no way. It didn’t work in Tennant Creek.
What I’d like to see is takeaway opening up at 9am. Why should we be any different to Darwin? We’re all Territorians.

 

 

CURFEW

 

MARTIN: We need extra financial support for strategies dealing with kids on the streets at night, and perhaps for extra rangers.
We need more temporary accommodation for when the one we have already is full, or there are families in there which other families can’t stay with.
Everyone makes a big issue out of grog but we find in just as many instances people are breaking in to get food.
We’ve had $1800 worth of damage done here and all they took was bread and cheese.
Perhaps a soup kitchen is needed, a new thing done by council or added to an existing service. A lot of kids don’t know what services are available to them.
Many of them are from out of town, so they can’t tap into a school. Their parents are down the pub or out in a drinking camp somewhere and the kids are left to free range.
Is there a case for a facility where kids can be confined, not as a matter of choice, but against their will, if necessary?
I think so. I really do believe that, after seeing children here in the drinking camps, exposed not only to physical and sexual harm but also drugs and alcohol, use and abuse. I’ve been horrified at some of the things I have witnessed out here.
It’s something the council needs to take a lobbying role in. There’s been a thing in recent years where people are a bit paranoid about interfering because it’s politically incorrect to do so. But when it’s about protecting people we need to do it.
Would it be a taking children away strategy?
It don’t think it should be in the first instance, but if you play up three times, for example, you’ve got to be accountable.
I don’t like the word institution, it too has a negative connotation, but it needs to be a place where children can be kept while the family gets support.
I don’t like the term curfew. It also brings up negative connotations. I believe we have to get the kids off the streets and we need some sort of night strategy. A curfew for the sake of a curfew without having the programs behind it doesn’t make sense. One of the things I notice out here [at the Transport Hall of Fame] is the second they crack down in town I have 500 times more dramas out here. All it does is force them into another area. And I know it happens on the Northside and the Eastside. We need to cover the whole of the municipality, not just the CBD area.
HEENAN: I don’t believe in a curfew. Who’s going to run it? Who is going to pay the cost involved?
A curfew doesn’t solve the problem of getting the kids off the streets. If they see someone coming to pick them up they just run away. It doesn’t solve the problem.
What would?
The Youth Hub at the old Anzac Highschool, run by Matty Day, will make a big contribution. We need a facility to which the kids want to come along. If they can’t sleep at home we need a facility where they can sleep, where they feel safe and get a meal, and then get them to school the next day.
Half the break-ins in town are kids stealing food.
I’ve mentioned this to Damien Ryan, Steve Brown and a few others, we need a soup kitchen. Council would need to back it and maybe put in a bit of funding. It could be run by people like St Vincent de Paul, the Salvos or the Youth Hub. It could be a caravan. They can tow it wherever the kids are. We need to interact with the kids. Take them to basketball – something the kids want to come along to. It would be voluntary. Interact with them.
For example, the YMCA isn’t used at night. We need a facility like that somewhere.
It’s not a council responsibility but we should back it, or I would, anyway. The council could coordinate it, or certainly lobby the Government for funding.
Supermarkets could donate food approaching use-by its date.

 

 

ROUND TABLE, PORT AUGUSTA STYLE

 

Under Mayor Joy Baluch the Port Augusta council introduced monthly meetings of local state and Federal agencies, NGOs and others engaged in welfare and law and order work, to coordinate their activities and give account of them. The council employed a Safety Officer who checks on what these agencies do – or not do. Mayor Baluch says the council need to control this watchdog function because all that goes on in the town is council business, because council represents the people. Would you favour such a system in Alice Springs?
HEENAN: We have 57 agencies here. Some need amalgamating, so we get them down to eight or 10. There could be some overlapping and some gaps. We don’t really know.
Would the council make the assessment?
The council perhaps would not have the power.
Could it not start a monthly round-table conference?
We could probably do that, but you’d have 57 people ’round the table. It’s just not going to work.
Port Augusta has 15 or 16. You’d pick the major ones.
I’d be happy to do that. Council also has a subcommittee that meets with Tangentyere and Lhere Artepe.
What about the government and the major other NGOs? Some of them have a budget as big as the council’s. Should not the major ones be brought to the table?
That’s probably a good idea, just to see what’s happening, and where the gaps are. And we’d still need to know what the minor organisations are doing. Perhaps there is a great deal of money being wasted, people doing the same thing. What I’d like to see is amalgamate them until there are 10 or 12 or 15, so we can have a bit more control over them.
MARTIN: A round table? Yes, absolutely. It happens now with council staff and elected members doing their own research and monitoring. It would be good to have someone specifically doing it, a researcher.
In Alice Springs, with lots of Federal funding, people get very protective of their own little patches and sometimes they are not very willing to let out the information about what they are doing or not doing. There is a lot of duplication but also some gaps. The trouble I can see is that people may not recognise the need to report back to local government when they are funded by another level of government.
What would you say to them?
This is our town. We represent the town and we are the government closest to the people. And people are on the phone to us when they want to whinge. Yep, that’s something I would really like to see happen.

 

 

SHOULD PARKS BE SOLD?

 

MARTIN: I’m against it now. I would be prepared to look at it again, in view of the current housing crisis, but with Kilgariff and other developments coming up, I say definitely “no” to the sale of parks at the moment.
HEENAN: Selling parks is not an issue.

 

 

ARE LEAKS A BAD THING?

 

MARTIN: What we find that usually gets leaked isn’t the full story. You’d like to correct it but you can’t [because it is in “confidential”].
Cr Martin says matters concerning staff members, salaries and unresolved tenders should remain under wraps.
Most things I supported to be kept in confidential had a personal aspect in it. Sometimes 90% could go out there but it’s the rest that needs to be kept under wraps. That’s something I’m happy to look at with Hal Duell [see his comment on this site that proposes a new approach to matters in confidential].
At times information is kept confidential until the facts are checked.
HEENAN: Unresolved tenders, matters that can be detrimental to other people, personal issues. There is not a lot else that should be in confidential.
What about the pool story the Alice Springs News Online broke after a leak? No personal issues were involved, no tender, it was simply about public money being spent?
There were negotiations going on. That should not have been released.

 

 

SHOULD THE COUNCIL GET TOWN PLANNING POWERS?

 

HEENAN: We want town planning but we’d need $2m a year from the NT Government to run it.
At present two council nominees are on the Development Consent Authority (DCA) – you are one of them – but they are not allowed to take instructions from the council, nor represent it. They are sitting as individuals in their own right. And in any case, the Minister can do what he likes.
At the moment the DCA meets monthly just after the council so the council does not have the information until the Monday after the DCA meeting.
Could the council not be a “submittor”, same as any other citizen in town, who can make a submission for or against a proposal, and the Minister, if he disregarded it, would be seen to be going against the town’s elected representatives?
Yes, he would certainly have to give weight to it.
[Cr Heenan says car parking is a big issue: Developers can make a one-off payment of $6800 for each obligatory car parking space they don’t build. In Darwin that figure is around $20,000.]
MARTIN: I would like to see it as a council responsibility. It is Australia-wide. But to do it all at once it would be a huge burden on the ratepayer. We need to take it step by step and we would need government funding. And I don’t think the NT Government wants to let go of it. Nor would a Country Liberal Government. Ultimately, 10, 20, 30 years down the track, the council should have full responsibility. I would like to see it happen sooner but I can’t see it in the very near future.

 

 

SHOULD THE COUNCIL PAY FOR GRAFFITI CLEAN-UPS?

 

MARTIN: I would have supported Eli Melky’s stand except for the three words he had at the end of his motion: “In its totality”. I believe corporate and national companies need to have some responsibility when they leave an empty building.
Sometimes landlords … when they are not here they don’t care. Council has support in place for removing graffiti, particularly for pensioners and others experiencing difficulties. We need to better promote these mechanisms.
HEENAN: It’s not only youths, adults are doing it, too. We need spaces where people can practice graffiti as an art. There is some really fantastic stuff – look at the Youth Hub and the skatepark. There are little laneways in Melbourne being brought to life with aerosol art, which makes these laneways safer. More people coming to look at it.
What about the mandatory removal of graffiti from private properties: Should the owners continue to have to pay for it?
Yes. It’s costing the ratepayers $100,000 a year now. Homeowners can get a voucher from the council for materials to remove graffiti.

 

 

IS CCTV WORKING?

 

MARTIN: Since it has been monitored in Darwin there have been some charges laid, more than when it was done from here. I’d like to see some more cameras around the CBD but also more lighting. There are some really dark corners. The kids aren’t stupid, they see a cop car and they head straight for a dark corner.
HEENAN: I’d like to see more CCTV in certain hotspots. Police are solving a lot of crime through CCTV now that is being monitored in Darwin. Trained people watching it all the time can recognise behavior and prevent crime. But it must be very frustrating for police to be picking up people and then for the courts to go and release them. I know the jails are full but we can talk about bracelets, for the soft areas of crime. These people can still be working and supporting their families and be under a 6pm to 6am home detention.

We need more lights in some areas currently too dark.

 

 

SEVEN OF THE NINE ELECTED MEMBERS OWN OR RUN A BUSINESS: SHOULD THEIR SKILLS BE APPLIED TO SOCIAL OBJECTIVES?

 

MARTIN: There’s plenty of work and plenty of education but we need to have some sort of transitional thing get the long term jobless into real employment. I don’t know what it should be, maybe a four months support program?
I’m a firm believer in the dole so long as they work for it. We’ve got plenty of rubbish to pick up, lots of pensioners who need their fence painted.
But could the council not be instrumental in providing real work, for example, in horticulture? We have plenty of land, plenty of water and certainly, lots of manpower.
It is outside the square. There are lots of good ideas in the council but Alice Springs has a small rate paying base and whatever we do within the current structure is going to come as a sacrifice from the rate payer, and to the benefit of people who are not rate payers.
The NT Government fumbled the horticultural project on AZRI land. Could the councillors who are in business not apply their talents to making something like this work, as a money making venture?
There is lots of opportunity for council if we were given the manpower and finances. The staff would have to come on board with that. I would be very wary of going into competition with private enterprise. Plus you need to go through the process of meetings. What takes the council 60 days takes me six days here (at the Transport Hall of Fame). I just do it. That part was frustrating for me in the beginning.
The council has enormous powers. And all you need is five votes to have a majority in council.
I’d be happy to look at anything that may get people into work. The council has some very good business brains. I hope people will put issues behind them and work together.

 

 

HOW CAN WE RE-VITALISE THE CBD?

 

HEENAN: We need to bring people into the mall, people living as well as tourism in the CBD. The old Commonwealth Bank and the Melanka proposal, both five stories, should bring people to the town centre. The Melanka project has been altered so much I think it has to go back to town planning. There are no underground car parks now because they are too expensive. There are more single-room apartments. I suppose that’s going to be good for tourism and investment buyers and young couples.
Land is getting too expensive to go to just three storeys.
Cr Heenan says the $5m grant from the NT Government for the CBD revitalisation was received late last year. The major initiatives have been worked out while finer details are still subject to public consultation. But a major hiccup is that the exact location of underground services – water, sewerage and electricity – is not known, and the major road works will have to wait. It is not known how long the survey of the services will take, how much it will cost and who is going to pay for it.
When you start digging you’ve got to know what’s under there. It’s going to take quite a few months.
We will probably do a section at the time but it will be 18 months at least from when we start and we still need to liaise with the shopkeepers.
MARTIN: This is a legacy of how the Territory used to be: “Bugger the paperwork, we’re doing it our way.” When I was a kid and you wanted to build a shed you just built a shed. In the last 20 years we had to play catch-up to the rest of Australia. It’s going to be big dollars. Power and Water will have to pay for it. They have not said yes yet.

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS & WISH LIST

 

MARTIN: The council should be gifted land in Kilgariff, for uses ranging from depots to playgrounds. Sports grounds should be upgraded to engage youth. The library needs an outreach service: Sit in the park and read to the kids. Solar Cities should continue its link with Watersmart. Take the Berrimah Line down a few rungs.
Minister for Central Australia Karl Hampton: I’ve more to do with the other Ministers who are Darwin based, and that does make it hard. I’m not a very sporty person and I believe that is where he has his primary emphasis.
Has Cr HEENAN been buttonholed yet for his game changing vote? No, not yet. We might be surprised who comes up with what!

Cr HEENAN’s wish list (the first three were presented by the council to the current NT Government, and the Opposition Leader):-

• From the NT Government, another $5m for the next phase of the CBD revitalisation.

• Also from the NT Government, $2m for an all-ability park which disabled kids can use as well.

• A big block for a council machinery depot.

• At least 150 blocks to be released in stage one of Kilgariff with at least 20 to 30 for first home buyers “at cost” – around $70,000 each. They would need to be built on within two years or else the land would need to be sold back to the government, for the price paid for it.

• Five to 10 acres for a big rose garden “so we can have a rose festival every year, and encourage people to smarten up their gardens. We have the beautiful climate for roses here”.

 

PHOTOS (from top): CCTV in the mall • Town park sales not on the agenda for Cr Martin and Cr Heenan • Drinkers’ debris on one of the picturesque hills of the Eastside • Cr Martin with a Volvo truck soon to be displayed in a new $1m display area at the booming National Road Transport Hall of Fame • Police rounding up alleged illegal drinkers at the base of Anzac Hill.

 

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. John Reid
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for those positive words of support. In reference to the comments made by Steve, you did openly state in a public forum that you supported social inclusion and law and order; all this was said in the one breath.
    Now that you are an officially elected Councillor, who openly praised the virtues of a socially inclusive agenda, which needs to be rolled out within the governance framework of the Local Government Act over the next four years – I look forward with interest to see how you aim to combine the two ideologies into a strategic and operational action plan to deal with some of those vexed social problems you so elegantly articulated in your campaign that is afflicting the community of Alice Springs. I dare say, that the rest of the township will also be looking for your leadership qualities to shine through in this area.
    Good luck!

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  2. Russell Guy
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    John, Steve Brown asks you to consider how the research literature to which you refer got onto the web. As if he’s the font of his own wisdom. Apart from revealing an ignorance of acculturation and socialisation through the ages, he has had several people writing his posts, both during the election campaign and, I suspect, this latest piece of post-votecatching gobbledegook.
    The idea which you post that people respond to someone caring about them is reflected in “Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution”. It’s been observed by missionaries, Aboriginal and European, throughout the history of Colonial Australian dispossession. I’m sure Steve means well, but his ideas for social inclusion, unlike yours, are punitive.

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  3. Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    @2 – thanks, John Reid, for your continuing emphasis on what is required if we as a community are to grow forward. Your intelligent, informed, evidence-based views are a terrific addition to this debate.
    This is part of the model I’m taking to the people of Greatorex over the next 17 weeks in my attempts to be independently elected to the 12th Legislative Assembly on 25th August. I’ll be encouraging the debate and opportunities that will help develop policies and practices into the next parliament and beyond. Focusing on positives is a far better option that the alternative. Social inclusion has evolved from love, compassion, humanity and justice.
    I look forward to meeting with you over the next few weeks, John. I’m impressed by where you’re coming from.

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  4. Steve Brown
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Why is that some find it necessary to claim ownership of a particular concept by giving it a name? Sorry John, I agree with a lot of what you have written, but to be frank didn’t you ever wonder how that stuff got on the Govt. website?
    While you’ve been reading web sites, researching and analysing the meaning of life most of us have been involved on the ground dealing with the devastation bought about by the world’s worst form of racism, “paternalism” and its army of interdependents who extract their living from it. The the sort of policies that can be labelled “Socially Inclusive”, are absolutely the values many of us, “including I would have thought”, Liz and Brendan, have been pushing for years. “John”, Law and Order is a fundamental part of “Social Inclusion”! One cannot exist without the other!
    Real “Social inclusion” is not a paternal culture of welcoming while making excuses for, quietly bowing our heads, turning the other cheek and accepting the failings of others because underneath we simply don’t recognise them as equals. Real “Social Inclusion” isn’t the right to patronise, to maintain the cultures of dependency and victim-hood, upon which many who argue its case are also dependent.
    Real “Social Inclusion” happens only when people accept each other as “Equal” human beings, each capable of determining their own passage through life and each equally responsible for the path they choose. Matters of background and culture are above and aside all this, they are simply the trappings that an equal human may choose they should be accepted and respected as long as they don’t infringe the rights of others.
    “Social inclusion” John, is a movement of the people, it began long before it ever made a government website! It began long before someone gave it a name! It has grown out of the dislocation, mayhem and misery created in our communities by patronising governmental interference. It has left our town facing an escalating internal refugee crisis which can only be resolved by “Social Inclusion”!
    To assist this, Government must provide the infrastructure needed to cope with the movement of people caused by their failed policies! They must put to rest forever the concept of externally applied Paternal Policies based on race! In short, they need to provide the infrastructure, butt out, and allow the people on the ground through Social Inclusion to do the rest.

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  5. John Reid
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:57 am

    First let me begin by congratulating Liz Martin and Brendan Heenan along with Damien Ryan in being re-elected as councillors and mayor of the town, as well as the election of the other six councillors of the 12th Alice Springs Town Council (ASTC), who will hopefully work in a more conciliatory and collaborative way to get the job done over the next four years for the benefit of the whole community.
    Nonetheless, in retrospect, it is interesting to note that when the campaign for Mayoral and Councillor positions first began some four weeks ago, only one person launched his run for office on a “social inclusion” policy; me. However, in the final days of the electioneering process, some of the other candidates had incorporated the ideology of a social inclusiveness into their own political agenda; which in anyone’s language was a significant paradigm shift from the usual rhetoric they were espousing through the media – all of this commentary is out there in the public domain for others to critically reflect and analyse.
    When first encouraged to nominate as a candidate for a councillor position on the ASTC, my main priority was to get the public to look at a different approach to dealing with some of the complex social and economic issues confronting this community; problems that arose due to a number of external factors beyond the control of our municipal council. As a researcher currently involved in two mobility studies through Flinders University, I am only too aware of the change in demographics of the town, due in part to decisions of other tiers of government – all of which has conspired to put pressure and stress on the town’s existing programs and operations.
    While others who were campaigning chose to run on law and order issues, which in the main remained outside of the governance framework of the Local Government Act, I could see their point of view, which is why I decided that social inclusion could become the panacea for dealing with law and order concerns, such as anti social behaviour, and other manifestations of criminality within the community. I understood that the “lock-em up and throw away the key” approach could not work (even the acting Superintendent of the NT Police agreed with this analysis), and that another way of working through these problems must be used-social inclusion was that way.
    What is social inclusion?
    A direct quote from the Australian Governments website states: “The Australian Government’s vision of a socially inclusive society is one in which all Australians feel valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of our society.”
    Achieving this vision means that all Australians will have the resources, opportunities and capability to:
    • Learn by participating in education and training;
    • Work by participating in employment, in voluntary work and in family and caring;
    • Engage by connecting with people and using their local community’s resources; and
    • Have a voice so that they can influence decisions that affect them. http://www.socialinclusion.gov.au/
    The sentiments of the Commonwealth Government’s social inclusion agenda is the embodiment of the slogan I used to underpin my election campaign, which reads as follows: “Invest in people and the town gets rich. A policy that values everyone in the community will give us rewards that money can’t buy.” This philosophy is the essence of what social inclusivity means at the grass roots, at the community level, where it is relevant to everyday people on the streets.
    Social inclusion, social capital, social and economic wellbeing
    Social inclusion is primarily focused on enhancing the social capital of the community, by investing in individuals – those people in society who feel marginalised and without a voice; such as the homeless, long term unemployed, the disabled or many who suffer from mental health issues. Social capital sometimes means relating to others to build trust, by developing a sense of reciprocity in looking after common interest of the community. Social capital impacts the social and economic wellbeing of a community. For example, the World Bank no less, states there is strong evidence to indicate a causal relationship between a society’s (community) social wellbeing and economic wellbeing. Social wellbeing is about participation and connections and relationships which give people a sense of belonging, which can become the momentum for groups and individuals to work together to build sustainable economies. (Optimum Consulting and Training; 2000).
    In plain language, if the majority of people in the region feel valued, then they will contribute to the positive growth of their community’s social capital. The development of social capital equates to the growth and sustainability of economic capital.
    This is backed up by a number of studies that show, when workers within a particular industry are happy, feel valued, and respected, then productivity increases greatly, which grows the economy of the company and the community. It is an idea that has been used successfully in other municipal jurisdictions such as Port Augusta, which were devastated by the closure of the ANR (railways) and downsizing of ETSA (Electricity Trust of SA) back in the early 1980s; but they recovered and profited through the use of a socially inclusive agenda, which was driven by the Town Council and the Social Policy Coordinating Committee, and other groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.
    To discount the advice of the World Bank, who makes reference to the identified relationships between social capital / social wellbeing and economic capital / economic wellbeing, would be detrimental to the aspirations of municipal town councils such as Alice Springs, because to “grow up the town” socially and economically we need to incorporate the voices of those from the margins in the decisions making process of how to move this community forward harmoniously, yet productively.
    So, to those newly elected Councillors who included social inclusion into their political agenda towards the end of the campaign, they must now be held accountable by the public. Most of these candidates ran on a law and order platform initially, in an attempt to win office – now they have to work out how to incorporate social inclusion into their law and order mantra. It can be done, and done effectively – one needs only to look towards the Port Augusta “Social Vision and Action Plan” to find ideas that can be customised for use within the community of Central Australia. Notwithstanding the existing programs such as the Alice Springs “Community Action Plan”, and “Transformation Plan”, both of which need to be given oxygen if as social inclusion programs, they are to realise their true potential. In fact if one analyses the current policies and programs of the ASTC, one could identify social inclusion strategies and activities already woven through the fabric of these processes.
    Vision and work of new Councillors
    Liz and Brendan, who I personally believe are more in tune with community aspirations and expectations, speak in a commonsense approach to dealing with very confronting issues for the new ASTC to deal with over the next four years. I know that they are already using social inclusion strategies within the operational scope of their own professional agenda to help some of the young people of the region learn and internalise attributes that will make them functional and contributing members to the community of Central Australia. Programs and processes that aim to engage the youth in the decision making process, which is well resourced and grounded helps develop the social capital of that group as well as the community; therefore a very worthwhile endeavour for others to consider.
    Recommendation:
    As I mentioned previously, social inclusion is a fundamental principle of the NT Local Government Act, and as a consequence I believe it is incumbent on those people who have been elected onto the 12th ASTC to promote this policy and practice at every opportunity. I therefore in closing recommend that the council sponsors a public forum to engage the community in an education and awareness process that explains what this policy means and how it can be used to change the thinking and behaviours of citizens of this town to work more collaboratively for better outcomes for all of us; not just some of us. I would be willing to assist in anyway if requested.
    “You have to stand for something, or you will fall for anything.”
    John Reid
    References: Optimum Consulting and Training; 2000 “Port Augusta: Shaping the future”, volume 1: A Social Vision and Action Plan for Port Augusta.

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  6. Hal Duell
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Alcohol restrictions and the possibility of a day without take-away sales were hot topics during the last election. Given the make-up of our newly elected council, it looks like the electorate has answered no to both.
    I can live with that, even if I still think closing the bottle shops on one day a week would do us no harm at all.
    I do agree that taking the wine casks off the shelves was poorly considered. The glass on the streets, verges and sidewalks and in the Todd and along the railway corridor has now become a significant threat to public health. I hope the Liquor Licensing Commission will admit its error and remove that restriction.
    I am encouraged by what I hope will be a strong new council. I look forward to taking up my seat in the gallery, and I encourage all readers of this site to consider joining me.
    Following council debates is helped if 1) you familiarize yourself with the agenda posted on council’s website on the Friday before each public meeting, and 2) you enjoy test cricket.

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  7. Russell Guy
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Councillor Heenan’s statement that alcohol restrictions “are not working, have never worked” flies in the face of the 7.5% reduction in consumption in the first year of Thirsty Thursday.
    Having made an opening error, he continues to track through a thicket of “bandaid” solutions, covert racism and unsubstantiated claims, e.g. “tonnes of the stuff, every day” in reference to mail-order import of grog to the town.
    His reactionary remarks on the situation regarding casks and glass is an agenda-driven bluff designed to impress us with his singular authority, but he comes across as an expert sociologist on a complex issue – one that those involved at a State government level have said is a multi-disciplined issue.
    Councillor Heenan conflates the withdrawal of casks and broken glass as “the worst thing that’s happened with restrictions” and reminds us that pensioners rely on casks to have a glass of wine. All this without a single pathological statistic on the excessive consumption of alcohol which has Alice leading the nation by twice the average and the NT some of the worst alcohol-related stats in Australia.
    But the worst is yet to come as he moves into his silver-bullet, mandatory rehabilitation solution to the seven days per week take-away supply regime. It’s all so fabulously laid out, just like the streets in his caravan park – a nice, neat little plan to lock people (he means Aboriginal) up, as he quaintly informs us, for years, if need be.
    And then comes Liz Martin saying that “there needs to be a place for them where they can be safe for the rest of their lives because they have no hope for rehabilitation.” Not while the grog flows seven days a week, that’s for sure, Liz.
    Councillor Martin believes that they should be kept there against their wish. “Yeah, I think so,” she says. All of this while the UK government, Australian states, towns and remote communities are increasing restrictions.
    On the subject of Thirsty Thursday, Councillor Heenan concludes, “It didn’t work in Tennant Creek … so let’s open take-away at 9AM. Why should we be any different to Darwin? We’re all Territorians.”
    Such flabbergasting logic that Councillor Steve Brown must be scratching his head.

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