Very sorry to hear this Markus – your VISION, energy, …

Comment on Alice Beat Festival no longer wanted? by Ruth Apelt.

Very sorry to hear this Markus – your VISION, energy, creativity, commitment and relationships to the children throughout NT, and of course your musicianship and talent – is outstanding – and will be sorely missed. Hopefully NT Music can find a way to keep you. My son playing the alto sax, has learned so much from you and been stretched each year by the ambition of Alice Beat. Fantastic. We are both shocked to hear this news. As Jason says: “onwards and upwards” for you. It is our loss.
Thank you!

Recent Comments by Ruth Apelt

Artist’s Woomera warning: live bombs
Thanks Kieran for this excellent review, overview and update of the situation. I’m sorry I missed the exhibition opening. Such an important issue and we know so little about this creeping. Such impressive effort and work by the artist and great to have it at Araluen for a few weeks – as you say. I’ve shared this.


‘This beautiful body of knowledge’ at the Strehlow Centre
Thanks Alice Springs News Online for reproducing this inspiring speech by Shaun Angeles.


Pine Gap: protection or threat?
Thanks Alice Springs News Online for the excellent summary of Saturday IPAN talks. Returning home from Sunday’s picnic at Pine Gap, me and the kids stopped at the Kuyunba Conservation Reserve, which lies alongside the outer perimeter of the Base’s extensive land parcel. My 12yo friend claimed there is camera surveillance at this sacred site. To my astonishment, a few minutes after we arrived we were joined by a remote-controlled spy camera which hovered 10-15m above us for a good 5 minutes – with a menacing buzzing sound – as we wandered along the public section of the walking track. So much for us Alice mob feeling like we are living in the middle of nowhere! I understood for the first time that we are, in fact, living next to Pine Gap. The IPAN Conference and your article explains why this defines us. (Move over Neville Shute, you ain’t the right shoot).

It is important to recognise also that it was the discovery in 1965 of big water at the Roe Creek aquifer, 15km south of Alice Springs in same direction, which opened the way for locating the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap. What a happy coincidence with the CIA’s need for a remote satellite base (as Prof Tanter explains in your article). Prior to that, Alice Springs was a small town of 5000 people reliant on water from the town basin directly beneath us. Water pretty much ran out in 1964 and the discovery of huge water reserves at Roe Creek was a Eureka moment for sure. So enthusiastic were the Australian Government’s notions for Alice Springs that the subsequent pumping station was built with capacity for a town of 100,000 people! That enthusiasm was surely underwritten by the signing of the Australian-US defence treaty and plans for Pine Gap in 1966. To this day, only 25% of that pumping capacity is used.

This new water opened up Alice Springs, but the establishment of Pine Gap drove the subsequent rapid growth of the town, which had quadrupled to pop 20,000 by the early 1980s. (Perhaps ASN regular contributors would care to comment here?)

Today, Alice Springs is a government town with two nodes: services to vast Central Australia and military spending by the AU and USA governments. Tourism is small fry by comparison. But we forget until peace activists make their irregular pilgrimages to remind all Australians that Pine Gap continues to exist and grow, secretly, insidiously, ignored, unnoticed, undebated.

I was surprised again on the weekend to hear a young IPAN activist report that in Melbourne planning meetings, some student activists were heard to ask, “Pine Gap, what’s that?” So I appreciated, also for the first time, the importance of peaceful Australians’ efforts to simply get Pine Gap into the national consciousness from time to time. Thanks guys!

But how “The Base” is woven into the Alice Springs economy and community is a question that is difficult for locals to ask. Apart from the conversation killer when we inadvertently ask someone who works there what they do for a quid … just how much does our local economy sit upon The Base?


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