Story Archive » Volume 19 » Issue 22 »

May 31, 2012

Nature delivers what tourists want: the numbers

But Alice could sell itself better: A third of visitors would have extended their stay had they been aware of the range of things to see and do.

 Anzac Hill at sunset: 57% of visitors to Central Australia make Anzac Hill part of their experience. 


 

Why do visitors want to come to Central Australia? The main reason is that it is seen as an iconic Australian destination and it is made so by its natural attractions. This is the case for the majority of the region’s international and domestic visitors. And nature delivers, exceeding expectations for both categories.

The questions are fundamental and the answers clear in the Central Australia Visitor Profile and Satisfaction (VPS) project, undertaken by Tourism Research Australia in partnership with Tourism NT, with its most recent survey conducted in two waves in May and August 2011, to capture both shoulder and peak season visitors.

The local debate is very attuned to international perceptions and responses, but the majority of our visitors – 75% – continue to be domestic, who are more likely to have other reasons as well for visiting.

It’s interesting to see what counts as a ‘natural’ experience. In Alice it’s a visit to Anzac Hill – 57% of visitors to Central Australia do that. That’s more than visit Watarrka (Kings Canyon) – 47% – but fewer than visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) – 76%. KIERAN FINNANE reports.  FULL STORY »

Resources boom opportunities for Aboriginal workforce

In The Centre, Newmont Gold Mine is looking to double its intake of Aboriginal workersWill locals, like Jeffrey Matthews from Lajamanu (at left), respond to the opportunity?  He’s been at Newmont for nearly three years.  He started doing contract work around the mine as part of a program called the YAPA Crew and moved from there into full-time employment with Newmont.

 

Skills shortages and the resources boom – they’re the mantra when it comes to talking about Australian employment opportunities and all levels of government would like to see Indigenous people responding. In Alice Springs Martin Glass is working on “lining up the ducks”.

He’s a former Commanding Officer of Norforce, northern Australia’s Specialist Reconnaissance and Surveillance Regiment, an Army Reserve unit. That position gave him a lot of experience working with Aboriginal soldiers who are “unbeatable”, he says, “when they’re well trained and operating in their own country”.

The Norforce model is a good one for many Aborigines in remote Australia, says Mr Glass. It’s well paid, attractive work for them and while part-time, they can do up to 150 days a year, which makes a real difference financially for them and their families. It might be something that the mining industry could look at, he says, particularly the new mines coming on stream and the various exploration endeavours.

In the meantime, with the backing of his steering committee, he is looking to double within the next 12 months the number of NT locals working at Newmont Gold Mine in the Tanami Desert.  The committee is made up of representatives of the three tiers of government and industry, formed as a result of an MOU signed between the Australian Government and the Minerals Council of Australia. KIERAN FINNANE reports.   FULL STORY »

Backpackers: beauty of country trumps fear for safety

Backpackers Zoé Mulliez and Maxime (Max for short)  Delattre, political science students from Rennes in France, ignored poor advance publicity about Alice Springs and decided to make it part of their Central Australian visit earlier this month. Introduced to them by a mutual friend, the Alice Springs News Online asked them to write a frank account of their experience, why they had come, what they had found, and what they thought about it on reflection. It’s not all pretty but the good news is that they still want to come back.

 

After a one-week journey that had taken us from Sydney to Adelaide, we were getting ready to our next step: Alice Springs. As European backpackers and through our different connections in Australia, we had received several feedbacks about the city which were, to say the least, fairly derogatory. Were we only content with the impressions we had heard, we would have expected to come across a ghost city inhabited by an Aboriginal community believed to be hostile to white people. However, Alice Springs, well known by travelers to be a stop-by city to access the Red Centre, sounded anyway attractive to us. We really wanted to get an understanding of the life-style of the inhabitants of the Outback as well as the Aboriginal culture and this way, be able to form our own opinion. Zoé Mulliez and Maxime Delattre comment.

  FULL STORY »

Sharona’s world of work

I first met Sharona Richardson (pictured) in 2007 when she and another young local woman were staffing the Centrelink agency at Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre, just outside Hermannsburg where she’s from. I couldn’t help but notice her again when she stood up at IAD’s First Friday series of presentations and confidently spoke about the interpreters’ code of ethics, emphasising the professionalism of Aboriginal Interpreter Services for whom she’s working now.

Back in 2007 I’d been struck by her initiative – a feature of her working life was that at one stage she had gone off to work in a tuna factory in Port Lincoln. And at the time, with the encouragement of the local police sergeant, she was considering taking a job as an ACPO (Aboriginal Community Police Officer).

She told me on Friday that she did begin the training but a five-year-old incident that had given her a record prevented her going further with it. Meantime the shires had been established and their night patrol programs were underway.

“The sergeant looked at me again,” she said. She became team leader for night patrol at Hermannsburg, staying in the position for a year.

She left because she was expecting a baby. A healthy boy arrived in August 2009 and she called him Mathias.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got a baby, now I need a job’,” she recalls. She had already done six months’ training as an interpreter at IAD (Institute of Aboriginal Development). She heard that Aboriginal Interpreter Services had vacancies and they took her on as a casual. Then a full-time permanent position came up as a community-based interpreter. She’s being supported to finish her studies on two days of the week. For the other three she’s on call to attend wherever interpreter services are needed. KIERAN FINNANE reports.  FULL STORY »

Mall works to start in August but more than bricks and mortar is needed

Make yourself at home: that’s the message to the public in Melbourne’s Federation Square, with deckchairs provided so you can chase the sun, or cushions to make sitting on the stairs more comfortable. Is there a lesson here for Alice?

 

Most of the services located underground in Todd Mall have now been identified and August is the expected start date for the first stage of redevelopment works.

These will focus on Parsons Street – widening the southern footpath, resurfacing the footpaths and road, redoing the stormwater drainage which will feed a water feature, introducing trees.

Pedestrian areas will not be affected in the lead-up to Christmas, with the works stopping short of the bandstand.

The sails and bandstand will be removed starting mid-January 2013, and roadworks will continue, creating the bend that will ultimately connect with the road into the northern end of the mall from Wills Terrace. At this stage public art and shade structures, the design of which has not yet been completed, will also begin to be installed.

Roadworks at the north end are planned to start in mid-February 2013.

Meanwhile, Alice Springs will pass through another tourist season and head into another summer. Is there something to do other than wait?

Report, comment and photos by KIERAN FINNANE.

 

Pictured above: A former newstand converted into a coffee stall, adding to the liveliness and appeal of Swanston Street in Melbourne. Could council call for expressions of interest in running something like this after hours in the mall, when  the cafes close? FULL STORY »

Artist’s meditation on the East MacDonnells

Terra firma (detail) by Henry Smith 
Henry Smith’s Slow Burn opened at Araluen last night. Smith has lived in The Centre for 16 years, exhibiting regularly both sculpture and two-dimensional work – paintings and drawings. His venture into abstraction is a new direction for him, or perhaps the next step in a decade-long direction:
“There are so many realistic paintings out there already. I challenged myself to come up with something different, a fresh point of view. Each one would start as a landscape. Then I developed a composition of shapes, textures and patterns, using different palettes, depending on the seasons. Play and chance came into it quite a bit and in some cases I reworked a piece three or four times until I felt it was strong.”

Fellow artist and author ROD MOSS shared his thoughts about the work with the opening night audience:-

Let me introduce this exhibition of Henry’s by paraphrasing something I wrote about his first show at Araluen a decade ago: FULL STORY »

Those of us who have sought inspiration from living close to nature in Alice Springs can no longer make art reflecting its landscape without awareness of the political and spiritual connections that its indigenous custodians express in their representations. The proliferation of these has helped shape ecological debates. The great desert artists need no further endorsement. But there are those, like Henry who have sought political and spiritual connections themselves in relocating to this remarkable place.
For this landscape artist, that general statement remains pertinent. Though Henry has sought to re-invent his ‘picturing forth’ he is still himself. His interests, his curiosities, his devotions and sensibility continue on track. What might seem initially a radical change regards his approach is in essence a deepening of those intrinsic interests as he channels them into freer, more fantastic realms.
And from our archive: February 6, 2002. Henry Smith: The land is a mirror of life’s struggle. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.

Alleged grog running cabbie may lose car; passenger who bought grog fined $120.

UPDATE 1:30 May 28: Police have now disclosed that the taxi’s passenger, described as a 34 year old female, was issued with a liquor infringement notice, an on-the-spot fine. That means the owner and purchaser of the liquor was fined $100 plus $20 victim levy under Section 75(1)(c) of the NT Liquor Act targeting anyone who “consumes, sells, supplies or otherwise disposes of liquor in a general restricted area.”

Meanwhile, forfeiture of the car may be part of the penalty the driver is facing.

 

UPDATE 10:10 May 24: Police are now seeking legal advice about the responsibilities of taxi drivers carrying passengers who have alcohol in their possession.

The Alice Springs News Online this morning put the following question to Police Commissioner John McRoberts: “If – say – a German tourist and his wife took a taxi, bought a bottle of champagne in a bottle shop, and then went to Anzac Hill to watch the sunset over a glass of bubbly, would the taxi driver be obliged to stop them from doing so?

“What would he be required to do? What would the police do to him if he did not act as the police requires?

Bear in mind that Alice Springs is also a prescribed town [with large signs at the entrance] where drinking in public is prohibited.”

A spokesperson for the Commissioner replied: “The Police are currently seeking legal advice. Once there is a clearer position, I can let all the enquiring media know.”

 

Police will be seeking the forfeiture of a taxi whose driver is alleged to have taken alcohol to a “prescribed area” in Alice Springs.

They have seized the taxi under the Commonwealth Emergency Response Legislation and charged the cabbie.

“The 50 year-old man was followed by police after his taxi was observed at a drive through bottle shop just after 2pm yesterday,” says Superintendent Catherine Bennett.

“The whole community must take responsibility for minimising harm done in the town.
“Police will allege the driver of the taxi was aware the town camp was a dry area and chose to ignore the large sign at the entrance. “

 

UPDATE: Samih Habib Bitar, director of Alice Springs Taxis and former alderman (pictured right), says all drivers know that it is illegal for grog to be taken into town camps. He says sometimes people try to hide grog amongst their groceries. “It’s up to the driver to check,” he says, “to make sure their boot is clean. The company tells everyone to check.”

On the possible penalty for a breach, he says “we all must pay for our mistakes” and hopes everyone “learns a lesson” . FULL STORY »

Tourism promoters sit on their hands as Alice feeds Venus transit images to the world

 

It appears NT tourism promoters have fumbled an opportunity to capitalise on free world-wide publicity for Alice Springs when Venus transited the sun today.
The American space agency NASA picked The Alice as one of two sites around the globe to record a live feed of images on the internet, motivated in part by our great weather – the sun being in clear view.
Did Tourism NT (TNT) and Tourism Central Australia (TCA) explore opportunities for hammering home, in connection with the transit, the point about The Centre’s great weather?
It doesn’t appear so. A major chance for “leveraging” – that favorite buzzword – has clearly been missed. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.

IMAGE: The black dot is Venus. Photo by Alice Springs photographer MIKE GILLAM. See also his comment on the FULL STORY page. FULL STORY »

After years of under-achieving, tourism promoters say they are getting cracking

Last week’s Territory deputation, headed up by Tourism Minister Malarndirri McCarthy and including Alice Mayor Damien Ryan, to the Australian Tourist Commission has a familiar ring to it: If something goes wrong we run to the Feds to bail us out.
The Feds’ contribution to the Territory is almost five times the national average, allowing a level of funding for our government tourism body that is the envy of its interstate peers. Yet Tourism NT’s sustained underachieving is still failing to halt the industry’s decline or turn it around.
Tourism Australia, Tourism NT, and Tourism Central Australia – the supposed watchdog – all seem to be the best of buddies, set to do great things real soon, dodging answers as to why these haven’t been done much sooner.
Meanwhile all the NT Opposition, three months out from the election, and some four years after the Global Financial Crisis began to nudge our biggest private industry towards oblivion, still has not disclosed its policy on tourism.
ERWIN CHLANDA spoke to some of the players and looked at some of the numbers. Ms McCarthy did not respond to a request for an interview. PHOTOS: The Qantas counter at the Alice airport where the airline has a monopoly. Ormiston Gorge in flood. FULL STORY »

Another Hermannsburg hero acknowledged

 

Warren H Williams – singer, musician and song writer from Hermannsburg in Central Australia – has won the $50,000 Red Ochre Award for his outstanding contribution to Indigenous arts. This is Australia’s highest peer-assessed award for an Indigenous artist presented by The Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board.

The award was made today at the 5th National Indigenous Arts Awards, held at the Sydney Opera House.

While known widely as a country musician, Warren H brings together many threads of the contemporary Australian sound, merging Aboriginal music with country and rock, bringing these musical genres onto a world stage.

“Warren plays a vital and unique role in the Australian music industry,” says Lee-Ann Buckskin, who was appointed Chair of the Australia Council ATSIA Board this week. “He’s a quiet achiever who not only shows young people the way to have a successful career in the music industry, but also dedicates his energy to issues of health, Aboriginal rights and the environment.”

 

Source: Australia Council media release. Photo by Karen Steains. FULL STORY »

The elusive ‘Port Augusta model’

As police continue their law and order blitz in Alice, the Town Council stumbles towards a bigger picture approach.

 

At last night’s meeting councillors appeared to vote for something they did not want.

Instead of a report on how the Port Augusta council calls governments and bureaucrats to account for their policies and actions in that town,  councillors instructed, by formal vote, the Director of Corporate and Community Services to engage a consultant to evaluate the Port Augusta Alcohol Management Group and its community alcohol management plan.

This is despite their determination in the committee meeting a fortnight ago that what they wanted to understand about Port Augusta went well beyond how that town manages alcohol issues. At that committee meeting Councillor Liz Martin said she was looking for something far more “holistic”. Cr Steve Brown, who originally got the ball rolling on the “Port Augusta model”, also made clear a fortnight ago that his interest was not specifically about alcohol, but rather the overall management of the town. KIERAN FINNANE reports. FULL STORY »

Watercolour artists make the country sing

Ormiston Gorge by Douglas Abbott.

 

The watercolour tradition known as the Hermannsburg School and established by Albert Namatjira is alive and well. An exhibition of current exponents at Talapi in Todd Mall shows their distinct approaches and leaves an impression of artists fanning out into the country in all directions, capturing it in many moods.

A superb large painting by Douglas Kwarlpe Abbott takes you into Ormiston Gorge, in the glow of late afternoon, when the gorge is full of water and golden lighten, the tree tops molten lime and and cliff-faces softly radiant in mauves and reddish-pinks. A feast of colour without tipping towards too much, this painting is so seductive of the senses that you can almost hear the hum of early summer.

Other smaller works by the same artist are all but on fire with the intense reds of sunstruck rockfaces, such as his rendering of Standley Chasm, a subject made familiar by his artistic forebears, Namatjira and Rex Battarbee.

Peter Taylor in contrast captures the bright white light defining the edges of things and structuring his compositions like the bones of a hand.  The dazzle becomes more diffuse across the sweeping valleys and dancing ranges rendered by Hubert Pareroultja or Gloria Paanka, while Elton Wirri brings out the shadows that firmly ground the landscape features. By KIERAN FINNANE FULL STORY »

‘Out of date’ and ‘unpopular’ books go as library prepares for a facelift

UPDATE, June 4, 4.15pm:  Reader comment that up to a quarter of the Public Library’s current holdings has been “weeded” is firmly rejected by Manager of Library Services, Georgina Davison. “No way!” she says, and reiterates that there is no target figure.

The cull is larger than normal in the lead-up to the introduction of electronic tagging and because it has not been done for a while. She says if shelves look a little empty it is because library staff are waiting for the electronic tagging before putting out new items.

New items are ordered all the time and are reported on in the monthly update to the Town Council. One recent month saw 1200 new items arrive; another, 700. Go to FULL STORY for more.

 

 

Work at the town’s Public Library is a matter of renewal, not significant change, says the Town Council’s Director of Corporate and Community Services, Craig Catchlove.  Redevelopment of the library is a long-term high cost item in the council’s Municipal Plan but to date, council has not been successful in obtaining funds, despite a number of applications. So instead of a $22m new library, the town is getting a $240,000 refreshed library.

Part of this modest overhaul involves moving the front entrance to the garden facing the river, certainly more attractive than the current ‘tradesmen’s’ entrance that takes library visitors straight past the toilets.

Perhaps of more interest to library users is what will happen inside. The library’s holdings are currently being “weeded”, always a bit of a worry for booklovers. Will they throw out that precious book that you don’t even know you want to read yet but in years to come will be delighted to find on the shelves? Well, maybe. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Photo: This part of a library officer’s work will go with electronic tagging of all items being introduced: Felicity Thorne at the circulation desk this week. In the background, visitors use the internet and computer services, one of the ways libraries have changed over the years. FULL STORY »

A glimpse of what it’s like living on a handful of rice

The proverbial handful of rice became, briefly, a reality for  students and staff of St Philip’s College.
By far the largest group, 76% of the 600 students taking part, had nothing else for lunch yesterday: eating just boiled rice, they represented the third world populations who mostly go hungry.
A second group had MacDonald’s fare – hamburger and icecream: they represented the well-fed first world. It was the smallest group, 7% of the participants.
And the group in the middle, 17%, had fried rice with vegies.
This World at Lunch initiative was organised by Year 12 students Jessica Sullivan and Caroline McClure and members of the Senior Round Square Committee.
It made us aware how lucky we are, and we should all do more to help, said the students the Alice News spoke to.
Some encouraged other schools to hold a World at Lunch as well.
PICTURED are Ross Cairns, 13, and Round Square Prefect Caroline McClure, 17, with their handfuls of rice. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. FULL STORY »

When heating takes more than the flick of a switch

The weather forecast last week predicted some fairly cold weather with nighttime lows down to a terrifying zero. This got me to thinking (perhaps dramatically) about humankind’s development as a struggle against the elements in a constant search for optimal temperature comfort. From palm fronds as fans to campfires for warmth to huts and heaters, buildings and air conditioning, I was entertaining a different paradigm from which to view the history of the whole world through!

Melodramatic, you may think, but picture this: coming home from work one afternoon so cold I found myself sitting on my bed wrapped in a blanket holding my cat. I sat there thinking all this through and wondering how to get some wood.

Now I had earlier in the week phoned around and found prices for wood too expensive. I had been up the back of the hill and gathered what I could that didn’t need a chainsaw. Following that I had a friend drop by and make short work of a branch in the back yard. That lasted all of two nights and then we were back out on a limb, if only it were of the flammable kind … FULL STORY »

Do these two people live in the same country?

From two media releases today …

 

As National Reconciliation Week activities kicked off today across the nation, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, encouraged all Australians to have a conversation about reconciliation and constitutional recognition.

Reconciliation Week is an important time to celebrate the contributions, cultures and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their place in our nation [and] a great opportunity for Australians to continue the conversation about recognising Indigenous people in the Constitution.

 

To our brothers and sisters … we say to you, we are with you and we will stand with you as one peoples against the Australian Federal Government Stronger Futures Bills and Northern Territory Policies.
We call on the Federal Government to scrap the Stronger Futures laws [and] we call for full return of our land rights. We say no to further mining exploration, and we withdraw support of all new mines.
Richard Downs
Alyawarr spokesperson, Central Australia
FULL STORY »