ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
June 4, 1997
ALLEGED DRUG DEALS AT THE ALICE SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL
UNDER POLICE INVESTIGATION
Alice Springs Police Supt George Owen says inquiries into the alleged
sale of cannabis at the Alice Springs High School are under way.
He would neither confirm nor deny any link between this investigation
and possible drug-related charges against John Liddle, the head of the
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) reported in the Alice
News on May 21.
The high schoolÍs principal, Don Zoellner, would not comment on
allegations of drug sales at or near the school, and referred our
enquiries to the police.
Although police had not laid charges against Mr Liddle as of Monday
this week, when asked if charges may be dropped, Supt Owen told the
News that investigations in the case were continuing.
Our original report was sparked by tipoffs on May 19 from two anonymous
Judging by their manner of speaking, one was an Aboriginal woman, the
other a non-Aboriginal man.
Both claimed that cannabis allegedly grown on Mr Liddle's rural
residential block had allegedly been sold to students at the Alice
Springs High School.
Following up these leads, the News spoke to three senior police
officers and the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Ray
He said criminal charges against Mr Liddle would be laid that week, but
would give no further details.
We also rang Mr Liddle, to offer him an opportunity of reply, and the
response he gave us was reported in the story of our May 21 edition.
We did not, at that time, publish the allegations of drug sales at the
high school, (although they were known to us) as we expected to follow
up the story once the matter was before the court.
Alice News managing editor, Erwin Chlanda, in response to a letter from
CAAC employees, says he decided to run the report prominently on the
front page for a number of reasons: "We are confident of having by far
the biggest circulation of any print medium within the local Aboriginal
We deliver bundles of papers to the seven biggest town lease areas and
the nine biggest bush communities in The Centre.
The several thousand Aboriginal people living there are a significant
part of the public the News aims to inform.
CAAC gets public funding amounting to several million dollars a year,
in 1994-95, more than $3.6m from ATSIC alone.
CAAC's various health services play a vital role in strategies to
improve the generally parlous health of indigenous people.
Congress, which also runs a child care centre, is a major public
facility, and Mr Liddle is its head."
The May 21 report in the Alice News sparked a letter to the editor
(published in our May 28 edition).
It was submitted on six duplicated sheets, all bearing the same text,
and carried signatures or names from people described as staff members
The letter accused the News of "attacking Aboriginal people" and
asserted that our decision to publish "these rumours in the manner and
at the time you did" as "irresponsible and harmful".
The letter included the names of Bruce Elder, described as the Human
Resource Manager, and Liz Hart, described as his deputy.
Alongside Elder's name is a hand written note: "We will never advertise
with you again;" and alongside Hart's: "Ditto."
Mr Chlanda says: "The journalists' code of ethics requires that
journalists ïshall not allow advertising or commercial
considerations to influence them in their professional duties.'
"Conversely, reputable businesses and organisations refrain from
applying commercial pressures to influence a news medium's editorial
"Violations of that principle are hardly ever perpetrated as openly as
by CAAC on this occasion.
"Such actions are the subject of extreme concern and debate in
Australia and most other democratic nations."
At the time of going to press CAAC had not followed an invitation from
the Alice News to comment on the latest developments in this issue.
POLICE OFFICER JOHN ELFERINK TAKES ON NEIL BELL IN
LABOR'S SAFEST SEAT, MacDONNELL
The battle for MacDonnell will be an election in its own right, says
the CLP's new candidate for the Assembly seat, John Elferink.
"Neil Bell, the sitting Member and Australia's longest serving
opposition politician, will be on trial for the goods he hasn't
delivered," claims the 31-year-old policeman who says he'll pursue his
objectives "with the passion a younger man can bring to the job".
He sees the improvement of health and the development of communities as
the principal aims in this mainly Aboriginal electorate, and self-help
as the way to accomplish them.
"We need to encourage the people there to rely on their own resources -
their human resources," says John.
They should emulate some outstanding success stories in the region, for
example, the Wallace Rockhole and Areyonga communities.
"They are shining examples. They are nice places to be. The people
there have a dignity that is remarkable."
John says once local people combat the root causes of ill health and
petrol sniffing themselves, the current pressure on health services
His preselection for MacDonnell last week-end came as a surprise to
John: He'd put his hat in the ring for Braitling, against Loraine
He says the party took his very public challenge of a sitting CLP
Member without bitterness.
"I don't like the word challenge," he says.
"My aim was always simply to offer the party a choice."
"My application for preselection in Braitling wasn't a reflection on
Loraine's excellent performance."
John says he will be seeking a detailed briefing from Treasurer Mike
Reed on the the Ayers Rock resort and declines to make any comment on
John, a police sergeant based in The Alice, is a Territory resident
since age three, and is currently in his final year of an arts degree,
majoring in politics, history and English.
Asked to rate his chances in view of the Labor Member's consistently
massive vote (some 70 per cent), John says: "The Cunard Line once
claimed to have an unsinkable ship.
"We all know what happened to the Titanic!"
THE AGONY OF BEING "TAKEN AWAY" - Series by JOHN
McBEATH (Part One)
Two Alice Springs men, amongst many "taken away" children
are reacting to the national agony about the Stolen Generation in
One is a founding member of Arrernte Council, Herbie Laughton, 70, and
the other is Harold Furber, 44, deputy director of Central Land
Although the stories of the dispossession of these two men as
youngsters have broad parallels, their views on a wide range of
Aboriginal issues, intertwined with questions about the era when
"welfare" forcibly took children from their families, are quite
Herbie Laughton: "Some people say, give the stolen children back their
land as compensation, but a lot of them don't know where they come
"Records weren't kept."
"My bitterness is gone now, and I don't blame the white people for what
your ancestors did, but you have to acknowledge that it was done."
"Some people may want compensation because they were dispossessed of
many things. My Aboriginal great grandfather owned Alice Springs, but I
don't even have a block of land I could call my own."
Harold Furber: "Something's got to be done about the stolen children."
Even if they just repatriated my own family to this area.
The state took them away, and the state should bring them back.
"What's the problem with compensating our people for this?"
People are compensated for all sorts of other things.
"Why not compensate our women who are alive today, who had their
children stolen from them?
"Perhaps funding family get togethers, getting some identity back."
"The issue has now been termed genocide, but what hits us as Aboriginal
people is: where have these white people been?
"We've seen people crying over this in parliament. Where have they been
all these years?"
"I cannot understand why Australians do not know their own history."
Herbie Laughton, whose father was a white miner, was incarcerated, at
first with his teenage Aboriginal mother in the Ida Standley home,
which stood where the present Alice Police Station is located.
It was 1928 and Herbie was less than 12 months old.
Later that year he was removed from his mother and taken to Jay Creek,
then sent to the Old Telegraph Station the year it was opened as an
Aboriginal children's home, named "The Bungalow," in 1932.
Herbie was four.
He remembers "around 40 young kids living at The Bungalow, and patrols
were continually picking up more from as far away as Katherine and
bringing them in there.
"I can remember crying with these young children who'd been taken from
their parents. They were about my age and we'd cry together over the
loss of our mothers."
Harold Furber and his younger sister were taken away from their mother
in Alice Springs in 1957 and sent to a Methodist Mission on Croker
Island, West Arnhemland when Harold was four and a half years of age;
his sister was two and a half.
An older sister managed to avoid the authorities and stayed here.
Harold says: "My previous generation had been broken up too.
My mother ran away, but her brothers and sisters got sent to Garden
Point on Melville Island and grew up there.
"I was eventually sent to high school in Darwin, and returned to Croker
during the holidays. All up I spent over 10 years there."
"The best way I can describe it is to say people were yarded like
cattle, especially here in the Centre.
"Patrols went out, grabbing kids from their families, including
separating kids not only from their mothers, but also from their
"I was lucky because I got sent north, and I always knew where I came
"But it was eight years before I saw Alice again."
Tracker Tilmouth (another of the stolen children) and I came back for a
short break in 1965 just before we were sent to high school in Darwin."
There were beef cattle slaughtered twice weekly on Croker Island, and
generally food and conditions, according to Harold, "weren't too bad.
We had plenty of meat and heaps of fish."
At The Bungalow in Alice in the 1930s there was little organised for
the children to do, but Herbie Laughton recalls playing hockey and
cricket with sticks made from gum tree branches and swimming in the
"Sometimes we could get hold of an old motor tyre and we'd bowl it
along with someone sitting inside."
Basic schooling was provided, but Herbie, sitting shyly at the back of
the class and with a hearing problem, always said nothing.
When one day he got up courage to ask a question, he received a caning
for "not paying attention."
"After that" he says, "I went back into my shell and wouldn't talk. I
became a dunce. I learnt nothing."
The depression was biting, there wasn't enough food, none of the
children had shoes, there was no heating or cooling, and Herbie found
it nearly impossible to sleep in the corrugated iron dormitory in the
extremes of heat and cold.
"We used to sneak away from The Bungalow over to the town dump, which
was then near the North Stuart Highway, and scrounge there for food
like a mob of crows; smashed tomatoes, vegemite jars, anything."
One day Herbie discovered "a tube full of some sort of sweet tasting
food, which I kept inside my shirt, and took a suck at occasionally,
until one of the older boys caught me and said: That's not for eating,
it's for cleaning your teeth.'
"They all laughed and teased me about that for months."
The children caught and ate cicadas, made catapults out of rubber car
tubing and shot birds which they cooked over fires lit by focussing the
sun's rays through the glass bottom of a bottle.
But best of all, Herbie says, "was my Grandmother who knew we were
starving, and every three or four weeks would come with bush tucker for
us at night.
"She'd throw a stone onto the roof from outside as a signal, and we'd
sneak through the fence and collect the kangaroo meat or whatever.
It was like Christmas for us.
"She died before I left The Bungalow, and didn't I cry over that."
From Croker Island in the early sixties Harold Furber kept up contact
with his family by correspondence.
But he recalls: "My mother died in Alice when I was about 10, and even
though I was a ward of the state, I wasn't officially informed of her
"I found out about that when my older sister wrote to me from Alice.
"Probably the worst part of being at Croker - after having been sent
there, separated from our families, if you can come to grips with that
and maybe rationalise why - was my younger sister being taken away from
"She was sent to Queensland and fostered by a missionary type family.
That's where the adoption thing comes in and people get lost in the
"I had to grow up with this - people disappearing and not knowing where
For Herbie Laughton, emerging from The Bungalow at age 14, there was a
last chance at formal education when he started attending the Hartley
But, due to a misunderstanding over a game of marbles resulting in
another caning, as well as official neglect, Herbie did not stay long
at the school, and left without gaining any further learning.
It was 1942, after the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese, when Herbie
decided to leave Alice to join his mother who'd been "repatriated to
Looking for work before heading south, Herbie says he went to see
Colonel Rose who got him a temporary job guarding some light planes
which were landing at the Alice strip as part of a race to Australia
Herbie recalls that world famous aviator Amy Johnson was one of the
"They gave me a .32 revolver to guard the planes, but another bloke and
I went out shooting with the pistol.
"When the fella came back, I gave him the revolver, and he said
ïwhere's the bullets?'
"I said: Oh I lost them.' Lost them be dammed!" Herbie laughs.
"I shot them all off at rabbits - we got about four of them too."
Finally joining up with his mother, he began working on a property
outside Peterborough SA, droving sheep, the first of many station jobs
he worked at over the next five years which all had one thing in
common: he got no pay.
"I used to get board and keep, but no money," he says.
"Perhaps a lot of it might have been my own fault. I was a young moody
sort of a bloke, and often I'd walk off the bloody places.
"You'd work for weeks and weeks and get nothing for it, and I'd think
Oh blow it!
"I better go somewhere where I can get a bit of money.
"The first time I ever had shoes was when I was given riding boots to
work on horseback at one of the stations."
While Harold Furber, with the help of the Methodist Church, was able to
locate his adopted sister in Queensland, began writing to her, and
later met up with her, another younger sister remains, in a sense,
"She was taken south as a baby," says Harold.
"We've now located her and her foster parents, but unfortunately there
seems to be an identity problem, especially in the current climate in
Australia where people are reluctant and afraid to return to their
"We got a letter back from the foster parents saying my sister didn't
want to make contact and the comment made was: Such is life.'
"These are things we live with every day of the week. But in a way I
was lucky being sent to Croker Island," Harold says.
"I grew up with Aboriginal children who mostly came from the Centre,
and at least we knew where we came from and kept a sense of identity."
Concludes next week: The adult years.
Herbie writes some successful songs, Harold muses on reconciliation,
and both men give differing views on land claims, compensation, and the
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