It’s always profoundly disappointing to read stories of this nature …

Comment on Sit-down money: Pointless jobs for the dole by Alex Nelson.

It’s always profoundly disappointing to read stories of this nature but not at all surprising. Today we have Labor Opposition NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy attacking the failure of the Community Development Program (CDP) for which NT CLP Senator Nigel Scullion is responsible as Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Over three decades ago essentially the same story was played out in the media but the roles of the respective political parties were reversed: “The Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) is floundering in many areas of the Northern Territory, CLP Senator Bernie Kilgariff told the Senate last week.
“He claimed in some settlements, Aborigines are listed as being in the workforce and are being paid accordingly, but in reality not attending work or carrying out their duties.
“This is causing a great deal of discontent among those Aborigines who are working for their pay,” the Senator said. “They are angry that others are receiving the same amount of money for doing nothing.
“In this situation the CDEP is nothing more than another form of unemployment benefit,” he said.
“Senator Kilgariff said he had asked the Federal Government what plans it had for encouraging increased Aboriginal employment in the remote areas and has suggested that funding for employment be channelled into areas such as fishing, garden plantations, animal husbandry and abattoirs.
“He said lately funds had been unavailable for such projects despite their ability to be high employment initiators” (CDEP ‘floundering’, Centralian Advocate, October 12, 1983).
The CDEP program was stoutly defended by Labor MLA Neil Bell, Member for MacDonnell, who “this week attacked comments made by Territory CLP Senator Bernie Kilgariff on the Community Development Employment Programs for remote Aboriginal communities.
“There are certainly problems with administration of CDEP’s [but] the CDEP schemes are an attempt to address the short-term and long-term effects of epidemic unemployment on these communities’, he said.
“He said the public should be aware CDEP schemes were funded essentially out of money which would otherwise have been paid out in unemployment benefits. He said the schemes were a valuable form of job creation” (Centralian Advocate, December 16, 1983).
So, here it is, exactly 33 years to the day between publication of Neil Bell’s comments and the latest story on Alice Springs News Online – and there has been no shortage of similar stories on the same and related themes between the decades.
Nearly two decades ago I had my own personal experience of working on the CDEP. I witnessed and recorded first-hand the deliberate rorting and corruption of the program administered by the (subsequently defunct) Arrernte Council of Central Australia but there was no response from any of the government organisations (including police) or mainstream media (notably the ABC) about the information I presented to them (His life on jobs for the dole – On one occasion I confronted one person about this situation, only to be rebuffed “if everyone else can do it, why can’t we?”
It’s particularly telling that Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion now maintains a studied silence on these kinds of issues. This wasn’t the case in 2008-9 when, as an Opposition senator, he was at the forefront of a Senate inquiry into Centrecorp chaired by then Shadow Attorney General George Brandis: “The News has been covering the Centrecorp controversy in 44 reports and comment pieces since April 1998, and a dossier of Alice News reports was a substantial part of the briefing NT Senator Nigel Scullion gave Senator Brandis” (Alice Springs News, November 8, 2008).
(The subsequent report on Centrecorp would rank as one of the greatest exercises in white-washing I’ve ever seen).
Senator Scullion was also vociferous in his criticism of the NT Government at the time: “Billions of dollars in Federal funding earmarked for Aborigines and disabled people has been misspent by the Territory Government, a Federal politician said.
“And he has called on his colleagues to join him in his strident demands for an inquiry to find out where the money went.
“NT Senator Nigel Scullion last night said he had ‘deep suspicions’ the Territory Government had misspent the funding.
“[He said] There is more than $2.5 billion in GST revenue being given to the Territory Government. The spending of this money should reflect the Commonwealth Grants Commission formula.
“There are also other grants which are tied – the money is specifically for indigenous and disabled Territorians. But I’ve been looking around and I can’t see that there’s anything different or that anything’s been improved for them” (Centralian Advocate, September 5, 2008).
Conveniently, the NT Government was then Labor including Malarndirri McCarthy, Minister for Children and Families (amongst other portfolios). How the wheels turn!
All this endless circularity reminds me of the dialogue between two US paratroopers depicted in the episode “Carentan” (Band of Brothers, 2001) when 1st Lt. Harry Welsh jumps into a foxhole with Pt. Albert Blithe, who had earlier been traumatised in battle.
Welsh: What happened at the aid station today?
Blithe: Doc Roe, he called it hysterical blindness.
Welsh: It’s a game, Blithe. That’s all. We’re just moving the ball forward one yard at a time. Nothing but a game.
Blithe: What is, sir?
Welsh: This. The whole thing. Just a game.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Master plan for town, reconciliation plan for Australia Day
@ Domenico Pecorari and @ Steve Brown: The first site chosen for the Anzac Memorial was to be an area set aside at the (then) new cemetery established west of town in 1933 – today’s Alice Springs General Cemetery on Memorial Drive.
There were objections to this location, mainly that it was a considerable distance out of town and access was via a very rough track.
According to an account published in 1952, a veteran by the name of Jack Novice suggested that the top of View Hill (or Stott Hill) next to Wills Terrace would be a good location for the memorial. This idea was challenged on the basis it would be too difficult and costly to transport materials to the top of the hill but Novice claimed he had been able to drive his vehicle to the summit easily enough although there was no track at the time.
Dr D R Brown tested this claim by driving his A-Model Ford to the top of the hill without difficulty whereupon the decision was taken to proceed with construction of the war memorial on that site.
The energetic Reverend Harry Griffiths became the driving force behind this project, designing the obelisk and presiding over its official dedication on Anzac Day of 1934 on the top of what now became Anzac Hill.
I’m unaware that any Traditional Owners were consulted about this project – this was an era and time when such considerations just didn’t arise; moreover, Aboriginal people required permits to enter the town area at the time and had no right to be present within the town at all after sunset each day.
If there is permission from TOs for the Anzac Memorial now, it’s almost certainly been obtained long after the fact of its existence.

Master plan for town, reconciliation plan for Australia Day
The flags were installed on Anzac Hill in 1989 as part of a major upgrade of the memorial. It was late that year the Central Land Council first suggested the Aboriginal flag also be flown there but this was rejected by the Alice Springs Town Council and met with local opposition.
It’s relevant to recall the long-running heated debate over Aboriginal affairs at the time, with many contentious issues such as the replacement of the Sacred Sites Authority with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, excisions for living areas on stock routes, agitation for separate smaller land councils, and control of the Strehlow Collection.
All of this controversy generated public enmity that wasn’t favourably disposed towards the suggestion of the Aboriginal flag flying on Anzac Hill that was first made 28 years ago.

Hundreds of empty plastic wine bottles in Todd
@ Laurence (Posted October 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm): Your comment reminds me of an anecdote from 1969 about a major shopping centre development project for the Todd River bank beside the town centre proposed by a South Australian business consortium.
The proposed development was discussed at a meeting of the Town Management Board which was attended by the managing director of the company Allumba Development who was seeking approval for this project.
District Officer Dan Conway inquired about the origin of the name “Allumba Town Centre” for this development proposal, to which the company’s director responded vaguely that “he thought somebody looked up the name and it had something to do with water in arid places.”
TMB member and prominent local businessman Reg Harris quipped in reply: “Why don’t you call it Tintara Park after all the flagons in that part of the river?”
Ah huh, that’s almost 50 years ago.

Saving, reopening Pitchi Richi: another step forward
Pitchi Richi certainly deserves to be restored as a significant visitor attraction for its historical and natural values.
It’s worth noting this site in its former role as a nature sanctuary predates Olive Pink’s Flora Reserve (as it was) by one year – both places are contemporaneous and outstanding for their importance to the character of Alice Springs (not least for their connections with the Indigenous people of this region); and in my opinion are complementary to each other, both sharing locations on the east bank of the Todd River either side of the main range.
William Ricketts’ sculptures are immensely important for one very significant reason, in my opinion, as with some of them he captured the faces of elderly Indigenous people who had witnessed changes in their country from the earliest European encroachment to the onset of modern technological advances which in essence still remain with us. As far as I’m aware there is no other place on Earth where people witnessed and experienced such massive changes within a single lifetime – that gives those sculptures and Pitchi Richi a significance of international stature.
Pop Chapman’s significance shouldn’t be overlooked, either. For example, it was at this site he established a citrus grove and table grape vineyard and was the first to promote the potential of a viable horticulture industry in Central Australia.
Chapman was a tough man of his times but he was undeniably a visionary, and proven to be a man ahead of his time.
One correction to note, however – Chapman’s House isn’t the first double-storey building of our town, that honour goes to Adelaide House in 1926 followed by the original Catholic presbytery in the early 1930s.

Home from the fire front
A special hello to Miss Tourism 1967, Central Australia’s first tourist queen!
Wow, two months of sunshine without rain during the summer in Vancouver – meanwhile, last week we had a tantalising sprinkle of rain in Alice Springs for the first time since the beginning of February.
I bet that brings back some memories for you, Ursula.
Great to hear from you.

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