Exactly as anticipated all along. …

Comment on Old Melanka site for sale – again by Alex Nelson.

Exactly as anticipated all along.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Old Melanka site for sale – again
Yes, the NT Government sold an existing property to the private sector which was originally financed by the Commonwealth and constructed under contract by Barclay Brothers, a Queensland firm (the same construction company also built the Commonwealth-financed redevelopment of the Alice Springs Hospital from 1972).
There were various alterations to Melanka over the years but it was essentially the original building complex built by the Commonwealth.
The only “contribution” the private sector has made to this site is to demolish nearly a decade ago what was a functioning property and asset to the tourism industry and the town’s economy, and replaced it with a vacant lot used as a de facto carpark overshadowed by deteriorating and dying trees, a sad left-over from the Melanka days.
This grand achievement is a result of the visionaries of our commercial sector who have all too often blighted Alice Springs with other empty lots and various properties that have long been propped up by government rent, in the vain expectation of superior developments that obviously don’t stack up.
Since the ideology of economic rationalism gained prominence in the 1980s we’ve long been sold on the notion that the private sector is inherently more efficient than government in generating and maintaining economic development.
Alice Springs provides a convincing example that this approach is deeply flawed, and the Melanka site is spectacularly symbolic of this realization.


Old Melanka site for sale – again
Stott House is where my parents first met. It was a government employees hostel which was originally established by the military during WW 2.
The Commonwealth replaced Stott and Todd Houses with the Melanka Lodge, officially opened in 1971.
As Australia’s national economy began to deteriorate after 1979, the Fraser Government’s “razor gang” ceased funding for Commonwealth hostel accommodation for public servants, and control of Melanka was transferred to the NT Government in 1981.
In turn the NT Government leased Melanka to private operators.
This short history shows that there has never been any major private sector development of that site – and it’s clear that will most likely remain the case.


Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

How does a future in opera sound?
There is an intriguing link between the Sydney Opera House and a singer who got her big break in Alice Springs.
In 1958 a young couple and their family in NSW came to live in the Alice, they were Tom and Lorna Oliphant. Judging from a street address published on one occasion, which was in the (then new) railway cottages precinct just to the west of the town’s centre, Tom Oliphant must have worked for the Central Australian Railway.
Lorna Oliphant (nee Beulah) was a Wiradjuri woman originally from Forbes, NSW. Both were accomplished singers and soon became the stars of the newly formed Centralian Musical Society from about 1960 onwards.
In 1962 Lorna Oliphant entered a national talent quest held for that year’s NADOC week (as it was then known). Mrs Oliphant, who entered the competition by submitting a tape with three songs, won first prize which led to her gaining a scholarship at the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
The family was given a big send-off with a variety concert held at the Alice Springs Youth Centre later that year; and in time Lorna Beulah, who came to be known as The Nightingale, became a renowned opera singer performing in concerts around the world.
It was her voice that was used to test the acoustics of the brand new Sydney Opera House prior to its official opening in 1973.
Strangely she is now barely remembered. She passed away in 2012.


Sweet Country, a voice demanding to be heard
I’m looking forward to seeing this film, to study it as much as to just watch it. For this reason I will probably see it twice because there’s always too much to take in from a single viewing of a well made film.
I noted with interest Pip McManus’ observation: “The camera rarely moves above eye level, in fact it most often looks upward from ground level and focuses on rich grainy detail of flesh or rock, hand gesture or marks in the sand. Elders Archie and Sam know they are witnessing the desecration of country, the potential loss of sacred knowledge.”
I will be intently watching the landscape, especially the vegetation, to see if and how often buffel grass can be observed.
I anticipate the scenery, as much as the story, will tell us how much we really know of our recent history, of how much has changed and is still in the process of being lost.
Another point worth noting: “While Sweet Country does adhere to many of the tropes of the Hollywood Western genre – wide open spaces contrasting with close shots and dark claustrophobic interiors, silhouetted sunsets and liquor-sodden saloons – there is a determined turning of the tables.”
It’s worth remembering that amongst Aboriginal people across regional Australia for much of last century by far the most popular film genre was the Hollywood Western, of cowboys versus red indians as often as not – exemplified on February 19, 1942, when Tiwi islander Matthias Ulungara seized the pistol of crash-landed Japanese fighter pilot Hajime Toyoshima and reputedly ordered him to “stick ’em up allasame ‘Opalong Cassitty” thereby capturing the first prisoner of war on Australian soil.
A final point to keep in mind is “that signature blackfella humour and playfulness” which is as much alive today as it’s ever been, and is often deployed against the unwitting amongst us. It is used to great effect in the mainstream media, creating impressions that aren’t necessarily accurate.
None of this is to deny or downplay the conflict and confusion that did arise as Europeans encroached upon the territories of indigenous people. Sweet Country seems likely to offer much food for thought.


NT News interfered with reporting to protect ad income from NT Government: Allegation
This situation has been going on now for 30 years.
It commenced from July 1988 when the Centralian Advocate had the temerity to publish a scathing front page editorial after the CLP dumped Chief Minister Steve Hatton and replaced him with Marshall Perron.
This was the fourth leadership change in government in as many years and the Advocate didn’t pull its punches in its savage criticism of the CLP.
During this period the CLP was rocked by the resignation of Deputy CM Ray Hanrahan from all his portfolios and then from the CLP, finally resigning from politics in August 1988.
This was followed by the Flynn by-election of September 10, 1988, in which the CLP suffered a 21 % swing against it in what was formerly a safe seat.
It was clearly evident from this result that the CLP could no longer rely on any seat in the NT being safe and its hold on power was at great risk.
It was exactly at this time there was a sudden change of management of the Centralian Advocate, when accomplished reporter and long-serving editor Bob Watts was replaced by Gary Shipway and sent to do mostly court reporting for the NT News until his retirement in 2005.
(For his part, from about 1991 onwards, Shipway went on to serve as the chief media advisor to the CLP for many years – he is now a reporter for the NT News).
In the late 1980s the CLP cultivated extremely close relations with the management of News Corp in the NT, to both sides mutual advantage. It was a crucial factor for the success of the CLP during its “bonus decade” in power of the 1990s.
This situation has largely continued to the present day, with News Corp essentially prostituting itself to whichever political party happens to be in government; with the notable exception of the self-destructing Giles Government with which it was impossible to be seen in public support of it.
I am able to provide evidence to verify my claims. There is no doubt that the independence of the media in the Northern Territory (not just News Corp) has long been severely compromised to the overall detriment of good government of the Territory.


Telling the stories of war: we could do so much better
It’s worth noting that many of the plaques that “stud the walking path along the river” as a major component of the “Australian Armed Forces Commemorative Walk” might be described as “understated.”
Recently I walked along part of that pathway and found that many are now so faded they are barely legible.
All that public expense in their production and installation – only a little over two years ago – appears to be well on the way to being wasted.
Perhaps it’s in keeping with the demise of the RSL Club on the north side of Anzac Hill, which couldn’t sustain the attempt to revive its operation at the time. The whole exercise seems to have been badly mishandled.


To die for country
Two Centralian veterans of mixed race parentage, Harold and Milton Liddle, were prominent in the years following World War Two in highlighting the injustice to people who, such as themselves, who had fought in the war but were denied equal rights as citizens of Australia.
Together with another prominent Australian veteran, London-born Jim Bowditch, who from 1950 to early 1954 was the editor of the Centralian Advocate, they succeeded in gaining citizenship in 1953 for part-Aboriginal people and some full-bloods (the terminology then officially in use) in the Northern Territory.
This is an important part of Central Australian history that is largely overlooked.


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