It was about a quarter of a century ago – …

Comment on Man in a hurry, surrounded by people who were not by Russell Guy.

It was about a quarter of a century ago – how time flies – a few years before I undertook a postgraduate Master of Social Science degree in sociology, anthropology and cross-cultural psychology (JCU, 2000), published the core of my thesis as BAPTISED AMONG CROCODILES: A History of the Daintree Aboriginal Mission 1940-1962 (Boolarong Press, Brisbane).
And it was before I did a further five years, primarily in alcohol dependency mentoring at a remote Central Australian community, this after 15 years of working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations around the country, mainly producing recordings and events for indigenous dance bands, that I thought that Alice Springs would become a kind of New York.
People from all over the US move to the Big Apple in search of greater opportunity for their dreams and aspirations and it’s no different among the Indigenous of Central Australia.
But I wonder if local town planners have factored this movement into their vision for the future?
Not so long ago, the too-often criticised police were talking about moving youth back to their communities, but the word is out that the purposelessness and abuse associated with these desert satellites is causing enough concern to render assisted passage to somewhere else.
These problems were first mooted, to my knowledge, by R M Williams in the 1930s who noted that the desert tribes were on a collision course with liberal alcohol supply.
Fast forward to the Gunner Government acting on most of the Riley Report recommendations (with the notable exception of banning Sunday takeaway).
It’s no coincidence that one of the most troubled neighbourhoods in Tennant Creek, where Sunday takeaway is currently under emergency extension, is referred to as “the Bronx.”
It’s early days in the implementation of various supply reduction measures, but 40 years of critical mass in the alcohol supply infrastructure cannot be exonerated for the Shakespearean tragedy of progressive Western values.
Beyond the alcohol plague, assuming that it will be reeled in, governments will have to give thought to how remote community families and former alcoholics will be accommodated in towns like Alice Springs, with attendant social support and employment opportunity.
The concept of safe or dry, no grog houses or Mandatory Rehabilitation Centres, will need to be extended to entire neighbourhoods, rising above the refugee or migrant settlements of yore.
This type of housing estate requires considerable financing, planning and input if it is to be built and assisted to succeed above the expectations of many of those who are complicit in causing the tragedy of lost generations and future opportunity.
It will transform the current vision of Alice Springs, but first of all, it needs to be put on the drawing board.
Ursula Le Guin, the novelist who passed away a couple of months ago, recently said: “I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope.
“We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”
Tracker was one. Surely, we can learn from what defeated his vision or the Enlightenment has bitten the dust.

Russell Guy Also Commented

Man in a hurry, surrounded by people who were not
I spoke to Tracker a few times during the Robert Tickner period. One of his more infamous quotes was referring to Aboriginal people as a farm for whitefellers to manage and be well paid for producing the current tragedy.
Quite a few informed commentators are now talking about assisting those who want to move from remote communities into towns where employment and education opportunities either exist or could be set up to end the hopelessness and various forms of abuse that can go with a purposeless life on a remote community.
More than one is talking about overcrowded housing as a major cause of dysfunction. I’m stating the obvious.
If Alice was to be a centre for remote community refugees to retrain, restart and realise a future, who would build the houses and where would they be built?
Who would pay the electricity bills while the transition is fostered?
Would Tangentyere and other organisations be resourced to manage this situation?
Could it even be done?
Tracker seemed to think so.
The Federal Government did it to resettle migrants.
I recall Bob Beadman saying a couple of years ago that alcoholism would bankrupt the NT, or words to that affect and finally, we have a floor price, but in moving from generational alcoholism to the provision of basic housing, it appears that there are too many hard questions not being asked or acted upon.


Recent Comments by Russell Guy

National Aboriginal gallery: Town Council’s action clear as mud
I took the Victoria Hotel tour in Goondiwindi recently, led by an eighty year old local who said that much of the old town had been knocked down by “multinationals” who didn’t care about its heritage.
“They just threw the old tin on the back of a truck and took it to the tip,” he said.
I stayed at the Victoria around 1990 as a break from the swag. It was a grand old building with a main street verandah in the Australian tradition, but fell into disrepair until a few years ago when the Council colluded with a local to bring it back.
Because of the memories, I took the tour, but the town hardly resembled the way it was 30 years ago. Kinda lost its soul. Grows cotton now for export to China mostly, where they make the clothes and ship ém back.
It’s easy to understand how multinationals and mall makers can knock heritage down, but not so easy when your own government does it.
There’s a plaque on a rock near Anzac Oval dedicated to George Wilkinson who managed Wallis Fogarty’s store in Alice in the early days.
If you look carefully, you can see lots of heritage around there.
Beats me why the NAAG can’t be build somewhere else.
The CBD is chockers as it is, whether functioning or not. This is a country town like Goondiwindi, not Las Vegas, yet.
It’s easy to lose a town’s soul, if you’re not careful.


Nanny state: Tennant alcohol restrictions for Alice?
The NT Government released a press release on September 3 announcing that it was inquiring into takeaway liquor licensing regulations in the Alice Springs region after conducting an inquiry in the Barkly.
Reducing harmful levels of alcohol consumption in the NT is not “going to send people packing”.
On the contrary, I suggest that it will increase the quality of life for everyone.
The problem is easy access to alcohol and takeaway has been the biggest culprit for decades.
There is no silver bullet: The BDR and a Floor Price are part of the goal of reducing the amount of excessive alcohol consumed and the cost to the public across many portfolios, including tourism, which suggests that a figure of 99% responsible consumers is inflated.
If 1% of the population can do so much damage, and it is a generational trauma, then the status quo needs changing.
Lulling people into complacency and allowing the alcohol industry to self-regulate while alcohol-related trauma continues is irresponsible.
A nanny state would do nothing about it.
Intervention is necessary.


SA budget allocation may put paid to Alice gallery: Higgins
@ Albert Diano: Thanks for your engagement, Albert.
I encouraged “Local Centralian” to engage with Alex Nelson’s post because Alex is making a similar point to yours.
I have made the point that nurturing and encouraging (financially) the jewels of community museums and other galleries in Alice is part of establishing a stable tourist economy, with benefits for the CBD and visitation accommodation alternatives for the growing Baby Boomer domestic market, versus the high end air fares on which the government’s proposal is based.
I suggest that more cross-engagement with thematic posting would be useful in debating the points made, with thanks to the Editor for his patronage.


Gallery: national reference group appointed
@ Local1. It’s called a thematic funding window or bucket of money in the vernacular.
In Mexico, photographic exhibitions are combined with music. How revolutionary! Should be exported to the colonies.


Gallery: national reference group appointed
“In my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far …” (Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles. 1979).


Be Sociable, Share!