Here’s an invitation to celebrate this time of rest and reflection with an exchange of ideas about how to solve the problems – intractable so far – of this beautiful place we live in. It seems inevitable that some uncomfortable views will be articulated. Let’s have the courage to do it.
This invitation is directed to a panel of people whom we have found to have a keen commitment to Central Australia, as well as the ability to articulate ideas.
None of them are elected members from the three tiers of government. They have ample opportunity of stating their views in public and making a difference, although many choose to do neither.
The invitation to express views on some or all of the issues sketched below, by way of questions, also go to all our readers, as is the opportunity to comment on the opinions expressed by others in this series. Merry Christmas!
How much longer will the Federal Government pay the dole to people on the grounds that they are not work ready? Labour is hard to come by in The Alice, yet we financially reward the idleness of people who descend from some of the world’s toughest and most resourceful peoples?
Whatever happened to self-help? Should passive welfare (Noel Pearson’s term), unconditionally provided, be speedily phased out?
The lack of an authority that commands respect is much to blame for the conduct of some Aboriginal people here. Is Lhere Artepe not the logical body to control behaviour, from a traditional point of view? Yet the Federal Court decision to declare native title over Alice Springs on September 9, 1999, and to establish Lhere Artepe, was one of the most fateful mistakes impacting the town: The body’s three estate groups have been feuding bitterly for years. There is no general agreement about who is a native title holder and who is not.
The court’s determination says this in its Direction number two: “The persons who hold the common or group rights comprising the native title (the common law holders) are those Aboriginals who are descended from the original Arrernte inhabitants of the Mparntwe, Antulye and Irlpme estates who are recognised by the respective apmereke-artweye [pron. apmarra-katri – apologies if my phonetic spelling is way off the mark!] and kwertengerle [pron. kudumulla] of those estates under the traditional laws acknowledged and the traditional customs observed by them as having communal, group or individual rights and interests in relation to such estates.”
So why don’t we just ask the apmereke-artweye and kwertengerle exactly who the native title holders are, you ask.
Problem is, there is no general agreement about how many apmereke-artweye and kwertengerle there are, let alone who they are. This is according to a long-time Lhere Artepe contact of mine who says: “They set us up to fail. They set us up so we’re no longer hassling the government. Now we’re hassling each other.” This tallies precisely with my own observations during years of covering the soul destroying infighting in Lhere Artepe and the spectacular failures of its commercial operations. Was Judge Howard Olney not aware of this?
A question to long-time residents: looking back to three decades ago, what were the main reasons for living in or moving to Alice Springs?
How would that compare to now?
There is one remarkable remnant of the spirit that made The Alice great in the past: The Finke Desert Race. What an example of selfless volunteering, resourcefulness, courage, sporting skill, engineering brilliance – and just bloody good fun, drawing into its thrall thousands of locals every Queen’s Birthday weekend. How do they do it?
Elsewhere this community spirit has diminished: The Memo Club is dead, the Golf Club in trouble, numbers of service clubs and their members have dwindled, although many sporting organisations are still doing well. Which way are community groups heading?
Where is the drive and courage of elected members to make decisions? Why is the buck, so often, endlessly being passed to consultants, meetings, seminars and so on?
Why has the debate between factions in the town … greenies, rednecks, left, right, black, white … become so angry?
Is private enterprise in Alice dying? What percentage of the population draws its wages directly and indirectly from the public purse? Include here the three tiers of government, and the NGOs entirely or mostly funded from the public purse. Add to that the portion of earnings by private enterprise derived from government contracts.
– ERWIN CHLANDA