June 4, 1997
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 callers.
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 Farrow.
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 society.
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 of CAAC.
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.'
PRESSURES "Conversely, reputable businesses and organisations refrain from applying commercial pressures to influence a news medium's editorial decisions.
"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.

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 will decrease.
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 Braham.
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 that subject.
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!"

Two Alice Springs men, amongst many "taken away" children here, are reacting to the national agony about the Stolen Generation in diverging ways.
One is a founding member of Arrernte Council, Herbie Laughton, 70, and the other is Harold Furber, 44, deputy director of Central Land Council.
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 different.
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 from.
"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 siblings.
"I was lucky because I got sent north, and I always knew where I came from."
"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 water hole.
"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 death.
"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 the island.
"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 system."
"I had to grow up with this - people disappearing and not knowing where they were."
For Herbie Laughton, emerging from The Bungalow at age 14, there was a last chance at formal education when he started attending the Hartley Street School. 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.
REPATRIATED 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 South Australia."
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 from Europe.
Herbie recalls that world famous aviator Amy Johnson was one of the fliers.
"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, lost.
"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 Aboriginality.
"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 Stolen Generation.

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