Story Archive » Volume 19 » Issue 23 »

June 7, 2012

It’s official, the dingo did take and kill Azaria Chamberlain: Coroner

 

After 32 years it’s official: a dingo or dingoes took baby Azaria Chamberlain from her family’s tent at Ayers Rock on August 17, 1980, and the cause of her death was “the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo.”
This was the finding of Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris this morning, with mother Lindy Chamberlain Creighton and father Michael Chamberlain – now separated – in the Darwin courtroom for the fourth inquest into the sensational case.
It was flawed by faulty forensic work, and had seen Lindy convicted and jailed for murder of her daughter.
She was exonerated, but officially the cause of Azaria’s death remained open until today.
Coroner Morris, after handing down the finding, her voice shaking, gave her “sincere sympathy” to the family, for the loss of their “special and loved daughter and sister, Azaria. I am so sorry for your loss.”
Recent evidence, especially dingo attacks elsewhere in Australia, moved Coroner Morris, on the balance of probability, to come to the “adequate, clear, cogent and exact” finding that “a dingo or dingoes took Azaria,” a conclusion further supported by finding dog or dingo hairs in tent at the base of Ayers Rock.
The full text of the coronial finding is here.
The photos are from an ABC Four Corners documentary produced and filmed by Alice Springs News editor ERWIN CHLANDA. This included a re-enactment, at Ayers Rock, by the Chamberlains from which these photos are taken. Chlanda was the first reporter on the scene, and then covered the case for television and print in Australia and around the world for several years.

NT Attorney General Rob Knight did not apologize to the Chamberlains.
All he could say in a media release this morning, as an affair came to an end that had put the Territory’s legal and police processes in disrepute the world over, was to thank Coroner Morris for “bringing this matter to what should be the end of the legal process.
“My thoughts go out to Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and Michael Chamberlain and their families and hope that today’s decision helps deal with the tragic loss of their child.” FULL STORY »

Move for town council to manage the aquatic centre

The town council may manage the aquatic center in its own right, according to a well informed source.

This follows the collapse of the arrangement with the YWCA which withdrew from the job, scheduled to run until 2014, saying it had substantially under-quoted.

The source says the council is looking at expressions of interest so far received from organisations around Australia.

The council has been managing the landfill since the collapse of the Subloo contract, and public opinion seems to be that the council staff running the dump now are doing a fine job.

If ratepayers’ money can be saved, keeping the pool management in-house may be a good idea, says the source. ERWIN CHLANDA 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 »

Mid-field placing for Chinese racers, and big win for Alice

 

“Where is the dunny?”
This was the first question asked by Chinese Rally Champion Xiao Fa Guo when he arrived in Finke.
He had to use sign language because he doesn’t speak a word of English. He thought the Finke Desert Race would have a toilet stop half-way.
Alice Mayor Damien Ryan later explained, through an interpreter no doubt, that the local custom out bush is to have a dingo’s breakfast: a pee and a good look around.

A swag and billy tea were subsequent local discoveries for the driving champion.
Anyway, that’s how Alice photographer and businessman Steve Strike tells the story.
Mr Strike has an office in Guangzhou, southern China, and it was his brainchild to invite Mr Xiao and navigator Xie Jin Lin, plus a crew of around 15, to the Finke.
Their performance in the tough race was nothing short of outstanding: driving a 6 litre Chev V8 truck after just 20 minutes of practice they came 29th outright and third in their class.
The vehicle was borrowed from Top End pollie Ross Bohlin, MLA for Drysdale.
Mr Xiao announced he wanted buy a top-of-the-line buggy and was told they go for around $450,000.
“No worries,” replied Mr Xiao – or whatever the Chinese equivalent is.
While the visitors finished mid-field, The Centre had a great victory: a TV crew for a Guangzhou sports channel with an audience of 100 million is tagging along, says Mr Strike, shooting not just the race but the competitors’ visits to the full gamut of local attractions – including the Reptile Centre, Flying Doctor, hot air ballooning and the School of the Air in town, and Glen Helen, Palm Valley, Hermannsburg and Ayers Rock Resort further afield. Photos STEVE STRIKE. L- R Navigator  46 yr old Xie Jin Lin and 52 yr old Driver Xiao Fa Guo from Gaungzhou in Southern China.  It was their first attempt at an international race and said they will be back next year with more experience. 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 »

Shires: either revenue must go up or expectations, down

Revenues either have to go up or expectations of shire councils have to go down. If neither happens, shire councils cannot achieve financial sustainability. That’s the broad conclusion of the Deloitte review of the NT shire councils, released today by Local Government Minister Malarndirri McCarthy .

The situation regarding roads within the shires is one illustration of the immensity of the task facing the councils and the paucity of current revenues to help them achieve it.

As always, the interest of the Alice Springs News Online is particularly in the two shires surrounding Alice Springs and having their headquarters here, Central Desert Shire and MacDonnell Shire.

What would it take to bring the roads in and around the Growth Towns in those shires up to a standard expected elsewhere in regional Australia?

There are two Growth Towns in Central Desert Shire – Lajamanu and Yuendumu. Yuendumu is better off than Lajamanu, for which over 90% of the roads with a 50km radius are deemed in poor condition (about 15% for Yuemdumu).

The review estimates an expenditure of $205.12million – a sum many times the entire shire budget – would be required for upgrades and major repairs, with a further $4.57million required annually for the ongoing repairs and maintenance. The review stresses that this backlog estimate does not include all communities within the shire, only the Growth Towns. KIERAN FINNANE reports.

 

Pictured: Google earth view of ‘Territory Growth Road’ Lajamanu: over 90% of its roads within a 50km radius are in poor condition.  The price tag to fix: over $200m. 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.

A powerhouse of endeavour with a very human face

 

 

It’s a place where none of us wants to be.

Every day it fights battles of life and death.
It is one of the town’s biggest employers, a $150m a year operation of extreme complexity, drawing its highly skilled staff from all corners of the globe.
Last week I got a first-hand look at the Alice Springs hospital, getting a new left hip (that’s me pictured, getting back on my feet a couple of days later).
It was the small things that touched me most: “Hi, I’m Annie, I’ll be looking after you for the next few hours. Do you need anything? OK, if you need me, just ring the bell.”
To a person, the nursing staff start their shifts in this way. It takes around 30 seconds to say these or similar words, but they make all the difference: I wasn’t an object having things done to it. I was a person and I was with people who cared. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. 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 »

The Magic Roundabout of Alice in Blunderland

Recently installed – at a cost to the ratepayer – traffic islands at the intersection of Undoolya Road and Sturt Terrace will make way for a new roundabout – at a cost to the taxpayer. L’il Antz childcare centre is on the left corner, Casa Nostra pizzeria on the right.

The announcement that Alice Springs is getting a new roundabout at the intersection of Undoolya Road and Sturt Terrace, costing $300,000 warrants careful scrutiny, argues ALEX NELSON. Do safety issues at the intersection really require this expensive infrastructure? Is a bridge to cross the river at this point still on the cards, as mooted during the time of the 11th Alice Sprints Town Council? If so, the roundabout would have to go. In any case, traffic islands at the intersection installed at ratepayers’ expense will have to go. Wouldn’t a simpler and cheaper solution achieve the same results in terms of safety for the childcare centre on the corner. It came some time ago from Greatorex MLA Matt Conlan but he seems to have forgotten all about it. The decisions to build the roundabout is “symptomatic of what is wrong with the governance and administration of Alice Springs and Central Australia”, says Mr Nelson. 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 »

Angela Pamela u-mine core message in Greatorex campaign?

 

Rowan Foley and wife Michelle with supporters – from left, Andre Burgess, Sandra Ball, Andrew Ferguson, Barbara Ferguson (obscured), and Paul Acfield – at a community barbecue where he wanted to hear from Greatorex residents about their concerns.

Labor candidate for Greatorex Rowan Foley has chosen a possible future uranium mine at Angela Pamela, 23 kms south of Alice Springs, as the point of difference between him and Country Liberals incumbent Matt Conlan. Apart from the “I love Alice” tag, opposition to the mine is the dominant message of Mr Foley’s initial campaign flyer.

As a core campaign message it seems to turn back the clock to the 2010 Araluen by-election campaign when the Labor Government, a little more than a week out from polling day, announced it would not allow a uranium mine to proceed so close to Alice Springs. Labor candidate Adam Findlay claimed that the government had listened to the views of the electorate but any bounce for him was nullified by the Country Liberals following suit, and their Robyn Lambley going on to win the by-election.

How much currency does the issue have now? With the Territory Labor Government on a knife edge, relying on the vote of independent MLA Gerry Wood, every seat counts. Labor has obviously judged this as an issue where the Country Liberals (CLP) are exposed in Alice Springs and especially in the seat of Greatorex. KIERAN FINNANE talks to Mr Foley and to independent candidate Phil Walcott, who is also opposed to a uranium mine so close to town. CLP incumbent Matt Conlan did not respond to the invitation to answer questions.


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 »

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 »

From ‘roo tail and damper to fine art and short films

Outside, the scent of woodsmoke and roasted ‘roo meat; inside, editioned etchings and the colourfully stitched soft sculptures that have become the signature work for Yarrenyty-Arltere Artists from Larapinta Valley Town Camp in Alice Springs. Everywhere, excited children and then after dark, as they settle down, the screening of films that give you a glimpse of everyday life at the camp as you warm up with a steamy cup of tea and hot damper and jam.

It’s that time of year again (next Wednesday, June 13, from 4.30pm) when the town camp hosts the annual Art, Film and Music Night at its Learning Centre. There’s always an atmosphere of celebration. That’s partly in recognition of the centre’s achievements over the year, but it’s also a response to the opportunity for the town and camp to come together, people getting to know one another – being shown how to cook ‘roo tail in the hot ashes, talking about the art, laughing at the same jokes in the films, which perhaps contrary to expectations, are often very humorous.

This isn’t the occasion for the art centre to launch new editioned prints – you’ll have to wait until Desert Mob for that – but work from older editions will be for sale. Meanwhile, each soft sculpture is unique and it will be an occasion to buy or admire more of their delightful birds and dolls. – KIERAN FINNANE

 

Pictured, above left:  Small circle doll by Contsance Robinja. • Above right: Bird by Dulcie Sharpe. Photos courtesy Yarrenyty-Arltere Artists. FULL STORY »