Forty years ago Alice Springs was presented with a choice …

Comment on Local government: A lot of action beyond the 3Rs by Alex Nelson.

Forty years ago Alice Springs was presented with a choice – a national museum about outback life in Australia, or a casino.
We lost the opportunity for the former but the NT Government, and many in the business community, thought a casino would be a great asset to complement The Alice’s then burgeoning tourism industry.
There was also considerable local opposition to the casino but the NT Government over-ruled these objections.
So Longreach ended up with the unique Stockman’s Hall of Fame – “nowhere else has one” – while Alice Springs got Australia’s first mainland casino (Tasmania got Wrest Point in 1973), quickly followed by Darwin and then every other capital city in the country, all of which (unlike Alice Springs) are serviced by international flights.
Once again we are confronted by a similar situation. We’ve got the National Road Transport Hall of Fame (nowhere else has one) but this major attraction for our town is on the verge of leaving, with a number of other centres reportedly clamouring to host it.
Meanwhile, even as we face the prospect of losing this major attraction, the NT Government is pushing ahead with a “National Iconic Indigenous Art Gallery”.
However, there is nothing to prevent all the major capital cities of Australia following suit with similar attractions, built at greater expense than we can afford for ours and far more readily accessible to visitors from overseas.
The current NT Labor Government is in grave danger of repeating history, making exactly the same kind of decisions that the new CLP Government made at the beginning of Self-Government 40 years ago, and leaving us with the bitter after-taste of missed opportunities and bungled priorities.
Nothing has changed.

Alex Nelson Also Commented

Local government: A lot of action beyond the 3Rs
Sadly it would appear that Murray Bridge has just taken an enormous hit to its economy, with the news of a major industrial fire taking hold in the town’s abattoir.


Local government: A lot of action beyond the 3Rs
@ Leigh Childs (Posted December 18, 2017 at 8:05 pm): I’ve never been to Broken Hill but am certainly aware of that town’s approach to solving its problems, courtesy of Erwin Chlanda’s report published five years ago – http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2012/03/01/do-it-yourself-rescue-of-battling-outback-town/
It’s perhaps not surprising that the National Road Transport Hall of Fame is considering its options in relocating from Alice Springs to Broken Hill.
Another place worth checking out for its efforts to rejuvenate its fortunes is Albany, WA, according to an article I read about three years ago.
More recently there was a very interesting report by Kieran Finnane about the effort being made to re-invigorate Katherine (http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2017/11/02/katherine-plans-for-childrens-children-lessons-for-alice/) by that town’s CEO Robert Jennings, who I understand did make a presentation for the Alice Springs Town Council attended by some of our councillors.
There’s also the example provided by Domenico Pecorari about his home town of Petritoli in Italy (http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2017/10/30/how-vision-and-planning-reversed-a-small-towns-fortunes/)
There appears to be lots of examples of how towns of similar size to Alice Springs have or are succeeding in improving their economies and liveability.
However, for some reason Alice Springs, which has been wrestling with these issues for some decades now, seems peculiarly resistant to learning and adapting from all these other examples – but, crikey, we sure do like to argue about it!


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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