June 25, 1997
Alice magistrate Warren Donald, who has presided over the local court for two years, said he has not noticed any increase in alcohol-related offences during that time.
In Tennant Creek, because of the alcohol restrictions imposed, there has certainly been a drop in crime statistics.
"However, I havenÍt noticed any change, up or down, in Alice Springs."
"The reason for this is, I think, because the majority of alcohol abusers do not finish up in court and therefore I do not know about it, [unless they're] arrested for other offences."
"He had noticed a marked increase in petrol sniffing, but he could not elaborate due to a current inquiry."
Inhalant abuse is certainly increasing.
"From my perspective, sitting on the bench, I think there has also been an increase in drug-related offences, mainly cannabis.
There seem to have been more prosecutions lately for the growing and use of cannabis."
"The offenders are mainly Caucasian people, not Aborigines.
Mr Donald said he had not noticed any increase in the combined use of alcohol and drug abuse: "I'm not saying it doesnt happen. It's not one of the things that springs to mind."
"I think many of the people I see use cannabis instead of alcohol. Most of the substance abuse around the Alice seems to be confined to cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and petrol."
"There are the odd cases of paint and glue sniffing, and sometimes harder types of drugs, such as heroin, but these are very much in the minority."
Mr Donald says he thought the Quit program had been worthwhile and so had some of the anti-alcohol strategies, having the suitable effect on youngsters.
He says: "There need to be increased facilities for Aborigines who abuse alcohol."
"In Tennant there's an organisation known as BRADAAG, which I have visited, and I have high regard for the results with those who have a very bad addiction that has often been associated with criminal activities."
"I think they are a marvellous organisation. As far as I know, we do not have anything like it in Alice Springs."
"I have seen certain people who have come before me in court, sadly ravaged by alcohol, and then I have seen them six months later and I've noticed a visible difference in them."
"The facilities we have in Alice Springs are accepting people for five days to sober up and detox. But as far as an on-going rehabilitation in-house program, we don't have anything."
"Magistrates live in the community, too. Our kids go to school here. We are part of community organisations. At the same time it should be realised we are as hamstrung as everyone else by the lack of facilities."

Local businessman Samih Habib has offered to buy the old gaol and turn it into a bus terminal and tourist centre.
Mr Habib, who has previously sought to establish a similar facility on the vacant land adjacent to the town council offices, says he's aware of the now defunct prison's heritage value.
He says in his application to the Department of Lands: "We will be happy to preserve [the old prison] as a very important piece of our history."
Mr Habib says apart from the bus terminal and coach parking he's planning to create entertainment and rest facilities, including showers; an information centre with a mini theatre, and a cultural centre.
Present coach terminal facilities, in Gregory Terrace and at the Melanka low-budget accommodation in Todd Street, have frequently been criticised as inadequate, giving unfair advantages to certain business interests, and as dangerous to traffic.
Meanwhile, the Alice Plaza Hotel, built by the NT Government as the five star Sheraton and later sold to Ludwig Berger, has been downgraded to three and a half stars.
The Plaza's manager, John Kendall, declined an invitation to comment.
Malcolm Pash, the general manager of the Automobile Association of the NT (AANT), which carries out the ratings, says the Plaza has refused to accept the rating, and will not be listed in the association's guide.
Meanwhile, the Diplomat Hotel in the town's centre, now on the market, and Lasseter's Casino have been upgraded from three and a half to four and a half stars (out of a possible five).
The Alice Pacific, owned by the Ayers Rock Resort Company, went from four to four and a half stars, and the All Season's Oasis, from three to four and a half.
At Ayers Rock, the former five-star Sheraton - now the Sails - is pegged at four stars, while the Garden and the Outback Pioneer have three stars.
All ratings at the resort are unchanged from last year.
Mr Pash says the AANT in 1996 became fully qualified to carry out the rating assessments, used widely as a guide by tourists.
An AANT inspector visits the motels and hotels once a year and checks the standards of facilities and service in accordance with nationally accepted criteria. Automobile associations in all states carry out the surveys, using a checklist identical in all states.
The Plaza in Alice Springs has 235 rooms and is managed by the Rydges group which runs 27 hotels in Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Berger, who is understood to have bought the hotel from the NT Government at well below replacement cost, also owns a hotel in Darwin.
Mr Pash says some of the hotel's standards have slipped since it was built 12 or 13 years ago, and some "maintenance items reflect badly" on the establishment. Mr Pash says even when the hotel was new it was "only just" five star.
Mr Pash says the former Yulara Sheraton, although promoted by the NT Government as a five star hotel, was worth only a four and a half star rating when it was opened.
Meanwhile the Diplomat Hotel, on the site of Ly Underdown's legendary Alice Springs Hotel, is being offered for sale.
Rob Williamson, speaking for the selling agents, JLW Trans Act, says the 81 room hotel is expected to fetch between $5m and $6m.
He says the occupancy rate is "excellent" and average room rates have grown from $82 to $87 last year.
The average room tariff was $71 at the end of last year, up 4.2 per cent over 1995.
Mr Williamson says hotel room supply in Alice Springs has been "fairly steady" with 22 hotels and motels offering 1578 rooms in 1996.

The distraught father of a 24 year old woman who twice attempted suicide over a three-day period, alleges the Alice Spring Hospital released her without after-care.
The parent, who has requested anonymity, expressed his dismay that his suicidal daughter could be dismissed from a health institution without safety precautions being in place.
He says "Mary", after returning to Alice from Darwin, took an overdose of sleeping tablets given to her by a doctor for insomnia.
"The first time it happened she admitted herself to the hospital and, after treatment, they let her go home without really offering any sort of back-up," he says. "She should have been kept in Ward One for observation.
"Last year, again after my daughter attempted suicide, she went to hospital and the same thing happened: she was released without any sort of after-care."
"I asked the police to get involved, but nothing much happened "No one wants to be involved.
My son notified the police one time when she wandered off and the police came here to ask questions but no one's doing anything to help."
"Nobody seems to care and I don't think that's good enough. She needs to be kept in hospital under surveillance," says the woman's father.
He does not intend to contact the police over his daughter's latest suicide attempt as he feels there would be no interest from that quarter.
"The only time the police get involved is if Mary' is admitted after court action."
"The hospital only seem to have social workers on their staff to look after these sort of cases, but Mary' only saw the social worker once and after that she was released," says the father.
He understands there are rehabilitation centres at Tennant Creek, Darwin and Adelaide, but the family have to meet all expenses.
A spokesperson for the police in Alice Springs told the Alice News that suicide attempts were not considered an offence, and for that reason there was no need for police involvement.
The director for the Central Australian Region of Territory Health Services, Sue Korner, says that when members of the public attend the hospital's accident and emergency area, requiring mental health services, they are assessed by the medical officer who can summon a mental health crisis worker.
If necessary, the Senior Psychiatric Medical Officer is also called in to assess the patient and decide on the appropriate course of action.
To admit such clients against their will requires that the client must be considered to be in immediate danger to either themselves or others.
They must be - or thought to be - suffering from mental illness, or the client must be suffering from a treatable condition.
The preference was to admit clients on a voluntary basis.
A Section 8 Mental Health Act restraining order was only used for seriously mentally ill people who were considered to be a danger to themselves or others. With respect to "Mary", the Regional Director says: "The client was not considered to be a danger to herself or others and was not initially assessed as having a mental illness."
"When the client re-presented at the hospital, accompanied by her father, she agreed to be admitted as a voluntary patient."
Routine post-treatment includes a follow up appointment with a psychiatrist or psychiatric registrar.
SUPPORT Support is provided by the Community Health Team.
The police are notified if a client being held under a restraining order absconds from the hospital's care.
Program Coordinator of Holyoake Alice Springs Inc, Janet Sherrah, said those who had over-dosed could go to her organisation for counselling.
"This young person would fit the criteria. We would be quite happy to see her."
"I am also quite sure the hospital would have support systems in place for the referral of such people."


The new Alice gaol is expensive, doesn't offer meaningful rehabilitation and breaches recommendations of the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, according to Correctional Services Shadow Minister, Clare Martin.
She says the gaol is to accommodate the bulk of the NT's criminals in the years ahead: "This wasn't the original intention."
"It's something that has grown from the fact that the old Alice Springs gaol needed to be replaced. It was grotty."
"The replacement gaol somehow grew into becoming the major correctional facility in the NT."
"It isn't only myself who is saying this is absurd. The Auditor-General, in his yearly report, agreed with me, saying the government have created a more expensive correction system."
"Two-thirds of the prisoners come from the Top End, so when a considerable number are moved between the Alice Springs goal and the Darwin court, that is not at all economical in terms of transport costs."
Despite recommendations by the commission that being close to relatives is a key requirement for black prisoners, many tribal Aborigines are moved away from their basic support systems to be housed in a strange place among unfriendly tribal people from other areas.
"One of the principles of the correction service is that we do have rehabilitation as well as punishment," says Ms Martin.
"When prisoners are released, we want them to be healthy, law-abiding citizens, hopefully. If we are going to remove some people from the support systems through which these objectives are realised, we are not going to serve our correction system well."
"People from the Top End, whether they be traditional Aboriginal people or non-Aboriginal, if they are taken a long way from their families and supporting links, I can't see how this is sensible policy."
"I've had so many complaints from those who say, I am the only relative this (prisoner) has. He has a two year gaol sentence. I will not be able to go to Alice Springs to see him.'"
"I think people should be punished for their crimes. That's why they are in gaol."
"But we've got to make sure while they are in gaol, we are not doing what all the research seems to indicate is happening in gaol - that is, they become better criminals, rather than people we can send back into our community who will not break the law again."
"Having the only major gaol in the Centre is not only going to be more expensive, but it's also making it harder, I think, to get people out the other end of the system and safely returned to society."
"With the Top End Aboriginal inmates, the only contact they will get is through video conferencing, and society is going to have to bear the cost."
"Video conferencing does not come cheaply, I can assure you."
"There are other financial problems with telephone use, there are problems with court appearances in Darwin, there are appeals to deal with, transporting of legal representatives - all these things, and it shouldn't have happened in the first place."
"The concern has often been expressed to me about the potential conflicts between Aboriginal people from different areas. We haven't seen any conflicts yet, but it is a worry to some people."
Ms Martin says Correctional Services Minister Steve Hatton has said he will continue to transfer all Top End prisoners to Alice Springs.
"He says it's not a holiday camp.
Basically, Darwin is being seen more as a remand place for short termers."
Is Darwin getting rid of its social problems by transferring them to Alice Springs?
"The philosophy is, those who are to serve longer terms will go to the Alice to do their time, as this is now the major prison in the NT."
"Also the maximum security internees go to the Alice Springs prison as well."
Ms Martin says rehabilitation programs are hampered by lack of resources: "Currently, we are struggling with prison officer numbers.
Unless these are brought up to a reasonable standard, we can't do a great deal.
"Until now, prisoners have been locked up for 18 or 19 hours per day."
"You can't do much with people who are kept locked up for such long periods of time. That's got to be sorted out."
"Essentially, in Darwin, the prison has closed down. Alice Springs gaol really hasn't got itself started yet."
"In South Australia the prison industry section is really focused. The inmates are occupied during the day, learning skills, producing things to be sold, such as demountable cages for sporting activities that can be put up and taken down wherever there is the space."
"They make lights, card tables, there's a large welding area, they're making chairs."
"I think low security prisoners should be out doing the grotty jobs in the community, like picking up rubbish, painting out graffiti. This should happen regularly. In the Alice the prisoners did the Larapinta walking trail. They could always be helping with government department projects or helping non-profit organisations." "In SA, they have bush camps where the prisoners make concrete slabs for the Flying Doctor, clean up litter, and so on.
"So there's plenty of things they could do, but it all depends on prison officer numbers."
Ms Martin says recruiting good prison officers isn't easy: "It could be a popular job with certain types of people, but perhaps those certain types are not the sort of people you want."
"In SA, the official attitude is: You are not just a paramilitary organisation.
You are here as professionals.
You are actually involved in the process of rehabilitation, rather than than just being their warder.
"I really believe if a person is not dangerous, they should be out there contributing something positive to the community instead of just sitting in a cell, doing nothing."
At the time of going to press Minister Hatton had not responded to a request from the Alice News for comment.

Corrections Shadow Minister Clare Martin is questioning a blow-out of $8m in Correctional Services spending, blaming overtime payments to prison officers because of under staffing.
"I will be looking closely at the amount of money spent on overtime, particularly in Alice Springs and Darwin Correctional Centres."
"Last year the department's overtime budget stood at $1.4m. At the time the Minister [Steve Hatton] pledged to significantly reduce that amount."
Ms Martin says the CLP administration had failed to handle the cost of the NT Correctional Services efficiently or effectively.
The most contentious area was staffing, she said, where the CLP's administration had let down prison officers through under-staffing and forcing excessive overtime, resulting in significant sick leave for officers, and stress leave.

The Alice Springs Correctional Centre should have a maximum operational capacity for holding 500 prisoners, the Auditor-General, Ian Summers, has stated in his mid-1997 report.
The centre should eventually become the primary adult custodial centre in the NT.
Mr Summers said: "In November, 1995, the government approved the expenditure of a further $2.13m to incorporate most of the recommendations to improve the prison's operations."
"The approved capital construction cost [is] $29.03m."
Additional to that amount was an approval to Correctional Services for $2.4 m for start-up costs, including new equipment and infrastructure in the prison.
In August, 1996, when the newly-erected Alice Springs Correctional Centre was officially opened, the Gunn Point prison, near Darwin, was closed.
At that time the custodial capacity was 200 in Darwin and 400 in Alice Springs.
Prisoner numbers during 1995-96 in the NT averaged 467, with a maximum of 488 internees.
"While the prisoner population trend line prepared in 1995-96 ... expected that it would be the year 2004 before numbers would reach 600, prisoner numbers were expected to increase."
"However, in response to the mandatory sentencing legislated enacted in ... 1996, the 600 prisoner population is now expected to be exceeded in the immediate future."
"The end result ... is that the prison with the largest prisoner capacity in the NT is not located in the highest population centre."
"In the short term, pending the expected build up of prisoner numbers generally in the NT, this is expected to contribute higher operational costs to custodial services activities than may otherwise have arisen if the prison capacities in the Top End and Central Australian regions reflected population levels."
"While we have sighted evidence that the final cost of the centre compares favourably, on a cost per prisoner basis, with the cost of recently constructed prisons elsewhere in Australia, a more strategic needs analysis at the outset of the project would have provided a better basis for the subsequent management of the costing and construction of the facility."

Alice Springs director of the Prison Fellowship of Australia, the Rev.
Lloyd Ollerenshaw, is a man deeply concerned for the welfare of locally-based prisoners.
He has recently launched a subsidised bus service between town and the gaol to assist families in providing moral support for inmates during their period of incarceration.
"We have linked up with Prison Fellowship International to help us get credibility so we can say to the gaol, look, we are a responsible group who are trying to help wherever possible."
"It has taken a while for the prison to give us a little trust and respect because they are naturally wary of traditional do-gooders who want to save the world." Being a new gaol, with a lot of pressures and problems, the Prison Fellowship concept has had to peck away' to establish the message that lay people were genuinely trying to help in a practical manner.
He estimates that eighty to ninety per cent of the gaol's inmates are Aborigines, with an unknown percentage of this number originating from the Top End.
"It is very sad to see that it has been decided to bring the Top Enders down here."
"I don't think it is fair to take people away from their families and tribal affiliations, and I think the gaol officials are beginning to realise this."
For visitors to travel to the Alice from Darwin, having paid an air or bus fare down, they then have to pay out $50 for a taxi fare out to the new gaol on the Stuart Highway.
"Our bus, which is on loan from the Tangentyere Council for a one month trial, costs each adult $10 and $2 for school-aged children."
Throughout Australia, the Prison Fellowship movement assist prisoners with a variety of their problems, but this has so far not been possible at the Alice Springs gaol.
"The authorities have their own programs they want to put into place."
"There are not many in place at the moment. So, as things are, a fellow could be locked up in a maximum security section one day and, if his time is up, he is thrown out on to the street."
"They want to have rehabilitation programs, and the Probation mob are working on this, but there are a lot of things still on their wish list."
"We haven't been asked to be involved, mainly because we are unproven, and I think they are hoping to be able to do it all themselves."
If the Rev.
Ollerenshaw had his way, he'd like to bring experienced staff to the Alice from interstate who are familiar with the typical problems of prisoners, here to supervise training sessions with local Prison Fellowship members.
"At this stage, all we can offer is getting to know prisoners, their families and friends, and get them to realise that we're not Correctional Service staff, not policemen - we are just people you can trust, just friends who are concerned, and if we can help we'll be there."
SUPPORT In the past, prisoners released from gaol who needed practical every-day support, such as finding them reasonable accommodation, or help with shopping or travel arrangements, banking and so on, have been happily assisted by the Prison Fellowship.
"We let them know we don't mind putting in a bit of time and effort if they have made up their minds they are going to try to do the right thing."
"We have found a couple of people who have really appreciated our friendship."
One inmate, the parent of a teenage son, asked if Prison Fellowship could assist his boy to fill in government forms so he could get social security payments. "That gives the parent peace of mind, knowing there is someone outside helping his son, says the Rev.
"You can lock people away and punish them, but there must also be restorative justice so they can be returned to the community."
"We want to help individuals and their families to relocate themselves back into society and back into a family situation."
"We start the friendships inside the gaol, and we keep it going after they are released so they can feel they belong again."
Alcohol rehabilitation and job-search programs needed to be conducted in the Alice Springs gaol, he says, but with a membership of 20 volunteers it was already a difficult task to operate the visitor's centre at the gaol, plus the weekend bus service.
When desert-based Aboriginal prisoners were imprisoned at Darwin, they experienced the same feelings of disorientation as are now faced by Arnhem Landers being gaoled at Alice Springs.
"It's not only isolation from their kinship system, but it's also a different culture, different spirits, a different social life.
"It's chalk and cheese. For our desert people to be sent up to the Top End, as used to be the case, that was, in itself, worse than going to gaol, it's banishment. In fact, I think it was used as an added punishment."
"The Top End people who come down here not only freeze to death, but they are brought into contact with a desert Aboriginal who is completely different, and I am sure they must feel really cut off from life in general."
BELONGING "Spiritually, Aboriginal people need to feel they belong to the country."
"I'm sure the Top Enders don't feel this sense of relationship when they are brought to the Alice."
Internees literally follow around what rays of sunlight peep into their cells, the Rev. Ollerenshaw says.
"You can't see the sun, you can't see the stars. It's a miserable existence."
"Being cut off from your origins and networks, it must be very hard for them to live through."
"I can imagine some prisoners getting very depressed, and that sort of depression, loneliness and frustration could quite easily lead to deaths in custody." Family contact and moral support from beyond the barb wired walls was a vital factor in successful rehabilitation, and this was the all-important factor motivating his team of Prison Fellowship volunteers.

While the Australia Council and other states' arts bodies have introduced peer assessment for their arts grants systems, in the Territory the Minister still has the final say.
Territory Labor's Shadow Minister for the Arts Clare Martin says it's about time that the process was moved to arm's length from the Minister.
"In such a small society as the Territory, we can't afford to have our arts grants depend on the whim of the Minister," says Ms Martin.
While declining to name names, she says that people she speaks to in the arts consistently raise this as a problem.
"People are in trepidation of doing anything adventurous, let alone political, because they are worried about not getting their next grant."
"A peer assessment system would not be easy to put in place, but not impossible either." Look at the building industry."
"Their contract accreditation system involves peer assessment. If it's possible for them why not for the arts?"
"In my view, the present system is not encouraging innovation, in particular among young and emerging artists with, for example, multi-media proposals," says Ms Martin.
She says that while admitting that his Department's advice is professional and sound, Minister Daryl Manzie still keeps to himself "the regal power to ïsign off' on whether an arts group gets sponsorship or not."
She says Mr Manzie also admits that he has had his Department reassess their recommendations, although he did not reveal which ones.
Mr Manzie did not respond to the Alice News' invitation to comment.
Meanwhile Alice Springs artists and community groups can start applying for the 1997-98 round of Araluen Community Access Development Grants.
This scheme, funded by the Alice Springs Town Council, provided more than $30,000 in the past year to assist community events at Araluen.
Beneficiaries included artists Paton Forster, Jenny Taylor and Robert Kleinboonschate, the Alice Springs Steiner Association, the Alice Springs Music Teachers Association, the Old Timers Retirement Village and the Alice Springs Scout Group as well as regular events like Carols by Candlelight, the Advocate Art Award, the Alice Prize and performances by the Alice Springs Ballet Company.
PICTURED: The Arts for Young Children project is a recent recipient of an Office of the Arts grant.
The project will present an arts program, including theatre, puppetry, music, dance and movement, art and crafts as well as cross-cultural and multi-cultural sessions, for young children on Wednesday mornings from July 23 to September 24.
For more information contact Jo on 89528116 after 5pm weekdays.
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