There are several issues when it comes to sacred trees …

Comment on Old tree danger: council was told two years ago by Smithy.

There are several issues when it comes to sacred trees in Alice Springs that the public need to be made aware of.
The fact that some trees have totemic or associated stories is just that, a fact.
These trees may be landmarks that indicate where something significant happened, either in the altyerre or in the distant past, an individual’s conception place, or like the Ntyalke tree near the library roundabout, be of the sacred nature.
One of the main problems has been that the public has just been told that any mature redgum tree is sacred; that it cannot be touched, trimmed or interfered with, even if it is on their residential block or falling onto business premises, endangering the public’s safety.
Just look at the picture in the article. My question to the senior custodian(s) is, how can you expect the broader public to understand or respect sacred trees, when no traditional names / interpretations are given on signs for these trees (bar a couple and very limited info at that), no public stories are told and generally, the community are shut out to how important these sites really are?
Some of the trees in question in the past cannot have been more than 40 to 50 years old, but the community are told as a blanket rule, they are all sacred? Well if so, educate us!
What about the twin trees at Traeger Park that were deliberately killed and, will likely fall some day? The immediate site is important, no doubt, but why hasn’t the removal of these dead trees and then respectful replanting of the same species taken place?
The public’s understanding of sites in general in Alice Springs is so limited, yet Aboriginal people just expect that the community should respect them.
Well, while sites have gates up (Judge’s Hill) that make a once special place appear like a dungeon (with weed / buffel infestations), the public who don’t understand Aboriginal relationship to land will not respect it.
The many, many sites in Alice Springs clearly show the current TOs and caretakers are doing nothing to protect / respect these places and it’s time that these people take steps to ensure these special locations are looked after.
They need to be maintained and cleaned and not wait for Government to fund these activities, but just do it because that’s what the people before you did.

Smithy Also Commented

Old tree danger: council was told two years ago
@ Just saying;
You make some interesting and valid points, but I think in some ways you are just reinforcing what the actual problem/issue is.
One only needs to look at the recent article on this site about the Claypans Group who have taken positive action, gotten organised, their hands dirty and started to remove rubbish from the claypans. All voluntarily. The group should be commended.

What you are saying is that sites cannot be maintained without the approval of AAPA; or in other terms, AAPA are now the custodians, removing responsibility and accountability.

Your point that identifying sites leads to desecration is true and we see examples of that all over Australia. However, many of these trees or sites have been identified through media (such as this site) or publications, yet the only information the public gets is ‘it’s a sacred tree’. The public hear or know about many special sites in town but when they resemble rubbish tips or badly kept gardens, or have barbed wire around them it is not a good look.

While buffel was not a factor in pre-European days, it’s highly likely that sites were maintained through weeding to prevent overgrowth and risk of fire. We all know that fire was a constant in this landscape to maintain and protect land, so to prevent site desecration from fire, TOs had responsibility to ensure these places were not destroyed; just as they do now. Ranger groups throughout central Australia take similar measures to prevent wildfire destroying sacred places. Why can’t the Mparntarenye? Rock art was also touched up and repainted over generations and we are lucky enough to see the fruits of the previous generations labours at rock art sites close to town. How long till these paintings fade out?

If we put up more fences, or have to ask an outside body like AAPA to do anything with our sites, while allowing them to slowly rot and be damaged, then responsibility for their neglect can only lie with the current generation.


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Do you really believe an elected Price will sort out social issues in this town?
Heck, even the most conservative know she’s a rogue with no answers, no track record and will yield no results.


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@ Erwin: Is this not the same Shane Lindner that a few months ago was featured in a story with other Arrernte men about the need for respect, safety and correct conduct of people who come to town from outlying communities?
A contradiction of sorts he stands against violence and negative behaviours yet is now charged with assault.
Shane. Olden day Arrernte men conducted themselves with dignity and respect towards their families and culture. You have a long way to go.
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Thank you Steve for your considered and thoughtful points of view.
It is refreshing to hear from non-Aboriginal people with real solutions and ideas to help our town and make it a safe place for all citizens.


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Thanks Chansey for a very considered point of view.
Utilising children as a political football for self-promotion or notoriety is abhorrent. It is not enough to haphazardly go on media and call for another Intervention or paternalistic approach.
Failed policy experiments like the aforementioned have been a major contributing factor to the complete social disengagement we are seeing.
The Intervention for example wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and had no outcomes in any key social indicators for remote Aboriginal people.
Where are Howard and Brough in all of this? Stronger Futures, Closing the Gap?
The failure of these experiments is not the fault of Aboriginal communities, but poorly implemented policies from Government, complete lack of an informed remote engagement policy and comes down to the simplest of things like devaluing the use of First Languages as a tool to properly engage.
The list is endless. We know that by the time these billions have been spent, only the small change actually makes it on ground in remote areas. Yet, Aboriginal people are blamed for the failure.
It has been argued for decades that while infrastructure, overcrowding, inept public housing, community wide ill-health, lack of employment and education opportunities etc. etc. etc., continue in remote areas we will continue to see the ever increasing trend towards substance abuse, disengagement, unemployment, movement to town and abject poverty.
These factors obviously lead to the endangering of our children, wives and families. All the while people like Tony Abbott talk “lifestyle choices” and call for the closure of remote communities.
There is a significant problem in our communities that we as men need to be accountable for a take action accordingly.
There are programs like Codes for Life (Desert Knowledge) and Akwerrene Mwerre Arnkentye (Good Spirit Men’s Place) that are recently established and that have the ability to do make a major shift in the health of men, our roles in this community and responsibility towards our families and ourselves.
They don’t sugar coat these issues.
There is a significant unaddressed issue with mental health and well-being of Aboriginal men that has multifaceted, inter-generational causes.
Many Aboriginal men were victims of violence in the home, without key role models and while not making excuses, it’s paramount these are addressed on an individual and community level to prevent some of the repulsive behavior we are seeing.
Behaviours that have nothing to do with traditional desert cultures. Such programs need the support of people who have a voice or speak for Central Australia and I encourage those who do to get behind them.
The notion that only one person in Alice Springs has the courage to talk up against issues like family violence is ridiculous.
Female leaders within the Arrernte (and other) desert communities have been advocating for change and speaking to Government for decades, this is nothing new. They have been ignored.
They have told Government that we need children and families to grow up strong with culture and language, because we know that a person with strong identity and grounding is likely to have a better sense of identity and well-being throughout their life. This requires investment.
They have argued for better housing on communities, jobs, restriction on the sales of alcohol and investment in land management and cultural programs that have proven physical, social and employment outcomes.
I agree wholeheartedly with Chansey that the finger pointing must stop.
I encourage those with a public profile, those appearing on national television and media outlets; come up with real solutions to these very real problems.
Don’t throw slang that supports the closeted ignorant ideologies within Alice Springs and Australia and that will lead to future punitive measures that serve to further compound these social problems.
Engage with local Arrernte men and women. Talk to our brilliant older women. Hear what they are saying and advocate for the change they have spoken of for decades.
Talk to men! That’s what’s really needed.
Joel Liddle Perrurle. Alice Springs.


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