July 16, 1997
Three people have died from heroin overdoses in Alice Springs in the past 12 months, according to Police Superintendent George Owen, in charge of the Crime Division for the Southern Region.
Another young man is in a critical condition in the intensive care unit at the Alice Springs Hospital because of a suspected heroin overdose.
Supt Owen says the dead people were aged between 20 and 30, one woman and two men. Two of them were known users.
The heroin appears to have been stronger than normal, with fatal consequences.
Supt Owen believes the drug was obtained locally and says there are a number of people who deal heroin in Alice Springs.
Supt Owen says one can only guess at the extent of local heroin use.
Police have closed their investigations into the deaths and submitted their files to the Coroner.
Meanwhile, several "significant drug raids" have been carried out in Alice Springs recently.
"On July 3 we executed some search warrants out along the Gap Road area and finished by locking up a couple of chaps," says Supt Owen. "One fellow had 1.295 kilos of cannabis, 16 grams of seed and 87 LSD tablets.
"At the same time we went into another place, a hotel room, and confiscated 25 bags of cannabis, weighing 665 grams.
"They were both commercial quantities which carries, I understand, 14 years gaol," says Supt Owen.
"We like to make life as difficult as possible for these people."
Cannabis use was not at all evident in the full-blood Aboriginal world, he said, but was more in use among part-Aborigines.
"People of mixed backgrounds seem to be involved in the use and dealing of drugs."
Kava use is not a problem in the Alice Springs region, but is more confined to the Top End.
"Petrol sniffing, although it's not a crime as such, is probably observed a lot more by those who do night patrols around town.
"Sniffing has always been a problem at places like Papunya and Yuendumu, and it has been for the past 22 years, to my knowledge. It seems to come and go.
"It tends to lead to behaviour that finishes up being illegal, such as break ins after food.
"With sniffers there have also been instances of kids actually catching on fire.
"Our drug intelligence unit goes after drug dealers. We don't just sit around waiting for information to come in and then go and execute a warrant on them.
"We are actively getting information about who's dealing and then going after them before they get a chance to start supplying.
"We are after these people. If they are going to deal, look out, they are heading for big trouble, no mistake about that."

The Old Ghan Society (OGS), once plagued with internal and monetary problems, is regaining its composure and planning for the historic rail operation's future development as a major Centralian tourist attraction. OGS maintenance supervisor, Charlie Poole, says there have been important recent meetings between themselves and the National Rail Corporation who currently run the freight rail operation between Alice Springs and the south. According to Mr Poole the NRC have agreed to assist the OGS with restoring damaged areas of the old railway line. The NRC are going to set up a base camp at Mt Ertiva in mid August to start restorative work. Mr Poole says the NRC was formed about two years ago by the Federal Government and private companies to take over operations of freight systems in the NT and Victoria. "They are going to use their personnel and some of their heavy machinery to help us," says Mr Poole. They will be supported by moneys raised by the NRC's social club as well as the OGS and some businesses in the Alice. "It's good to see the NRC getting behind the Alice Springs community, and they will also attract other local companies to come in to assist us." David Kerr, the NRC's regional operations manager, is reputed to have "very good rapport with Alice Springs business people," Mr Poole says. "So far the support from the town has been very encouraging. To use a cliche, the Old Ghan has another lease on life." Major damage to some of the bridges and earth works along the track were caused by heavy rains earlier this year. Repair to the damage has been beyond the financial capacity of the Society. "In 1988, when we experienced similar sorts of problems, the whole town got behind us and became heavily involved. Now they are responding again, thank goodness," says Mr Poole. Recent internal conflicts have now settled down, Mr Poole says. The newly-elected committee are methodically working through logistical difficulties. "The Road Transport Hall of Fame and the Old Ghan Society had a joint board of management, but that didn't seem to work out too well. "Nowadays, both groups are working independently, and there's a positive atmosphere of co-operation between us. "It's a very friendly association these days and we're both better off for it." Mr Poole says the OGS enjoys a positive relationship with the Department of Correctional Services who have contributed a team of prisoners to assist with regular maintenance chores. "We have a group of about eight Aboriginal day-release prisoners working with us Monday to Friday. The blokes love it. "They are good workers. Everyone is very friendly and we enjoy having them here." Tourist numbers had been a worry to the OGS, he says, but lately the numbers have increased. "We had to run a second train last week because of the tourist coaches that were bombarding us. " You should have been here on Show Day. I reckon we had more tourists' cars parked here than they had out at the showgrounds." PICTURED at right is Old Ghan maintenance chief, Charlie Poole, with a train carriage.

Sir Galahad quickly comes to mind when one comes face to face with the president of Chief Minister Shane Stone's Round Table of Young Territorians. Tall, lean, fit, clean-cut and almost constantly smiling, Mathew Smith, 25, is the son of pastoral lease holder Francis "Boof" Smith of New Crown Station. A private pilot, horseman and motorbike racer (he rides in the Finke Desert Race), Mathew was educated partly at Adelaide's Prince Alfred College. When King Shane strode into the Diplomat Hotel meeting room on Show Day, trailed by most members of his Court, the idea - according to the Palace sources - was for the Monarch and his Ministers to "speak directly" with the members of the Round Table, and for them to "express opinions and ideas and discuss a range of issues". Considering that, the encounter was brief and one-directional: King Shane introduced his entourage, spoke a few well chosen words about his reign, briefly partook of tea and bikkies - and strode off. What, if anything, was discussed, expressed and exchanged was not clear to the assembled media until they spoke to Sir Galahad. "Drugs, alcohol and street safety are the three biggest - and boredom" - these are the issues facing young people in The Alice, pronounced Mathew. Well, in fact, "boredom's been the biggest problem. "Low-cost, high-entertainment activities in town are difficult to come up with." What's wrong with playing footy, going bush, hiking and camping - isn't The Centre the paradise that hundreds of thousands of people world wide would give their eye teeth for? "I suppose, a lot of it is. It's just an awareness problem," said Mathew. Does it take THAT much to work it out? "What pleases some doesn't please others. I live on a cattle station and I personally don't have enough hours in the day to do what I want to do. But it's different in the town - both in Darwin and in Alice Springs." Well then, is there a lack of initiative amongst young people? "I don't think so. There's plenty of imagination out there, plenty of initiative - but just not a whole lot of drive. People get together but they're stifled by either peer group pressure or laws - saying they just can't do things." Such as? "Well, if a group of young people are together, and it's getting late at night, if the police come along they tend to try and move them along. "This has been suggested by a couple of groups of teenagers in town. "We want to work together [with the police] and say, if they're not causing a problem, leave them, maybe just keep an eye on them. "If they're not drinking, not doing drugs, well then I can't really see a problem with them." Why should the government spend taxpayers' money entertaining young people? "I think they should. They spend plenty of taxpayers' money on entertaining older people." What specifically should the government spend money on? "We're not sure yet. We'll come up with a few solutions for you a bit later. "You can find one sort of entertainment that will only please one little group, and you don't want to be seen to be entertaining minority groups. "You want broad spectrum entertainment." Looking around the room one gets the impression that most of the youngsters are from well-off, middle class, white backgrounds. Mathew explains that only three of them are members of the Round Table, Moria O'Brian and Kylie Andrews, apart from himself. The others are unsuccessful applicants for the Round Table and now form a youth forum. Says Mathew: "If you're walking into the room today you may get that impression, but when you see who's been selected for the Round Table, they age from 12 to 25, we have indigenous representatives like James Swan, or Graham Smith from Tennant Creek, there's us, the Europeans, Romina's the vice chair, she's from an ethnic background, we have Greeks, we have people who didn't even finish school, to those in their fourth year of uni. "There's the whole spectrum there!" The Chief Minister and just about the entire Cabinet's here. How come you haven't got anything specific to put to them? "The idea of having them here today is so that they can mingle with the young people. The role of the Round Table is to listen to the whole of the 25 here today." So what are you putting to them? This is your opportunity - look, here they go! They're leaving! Led by King Shane, the Royal Court was departing, after barely 20 minutes in the room, most of which had been taken up by a careful photo opportunity for which the Young People were tastefully arranged around the Ministers. What a great image that will make for the election campaign! "Well, I hope they [the Round Table members] had a go at them," says Mathew. But what specific ideas? Since the Round Table's been going "we got the youth festival off the ground, in September. "There are going to be bands, stands for career opportunities, sport, like an expo combined with a festival. "We want to make it educational as well as having a good time. "People should come away with something. Keep them off the streets and learn something at the same time." What else did the Round Table members put to Mr Stone? "I'm working on business opportunities. "Shane Stone was going to release $3000 grants for young people wanting to start their own businesses. "We didn't think that would really work, so we proposed matching dollar for dollar, otherwise they'd just go for the money. "If they have to put up their own money, it's more inclined to work. "Maybe the government could up the grant to $5000. A $10,000 base would be a reasonable start." What sort of business? "You have to have a business plan, you certainly have to show that there's a fair chance that it's going to work, something that's concrete, maybe a young people's cafe, a cinema, certainly not a band or something that could break up in three months and disappear." What else? "There are hundreds and hundreds of scholarships offered, and when you talk to a lot of the uni students, they've never even heard of half of them. "We propose to get a booklet together that lists every single scholarship, apprenticeship, traineeship." Great ideas - but it seems it will take a while yet until King Shane's Round Table turns The Alice into Camelot.

An important part of Centralian heritage is in a danger of being lost with the vandalising of many of the sculptures at the Pitchi Richi sanctuary in Alice Springs. Caretaker-manager, Frank Ansell, who took over at the museum in 1990, is trying to restore a cracked piece of statuary with a commercial hole-filling compound, but the damage needs the skilled attention of an expert craftsman. "Vandals get in at night," he says, "and they just go around breaking things. I can't understand them." According to Mr Ansell, many of the sculptures, by William Ricketts (1899-1993), have also gone missing. He suspects - but is not sure - some pieces could have been deliberately destroyed by tribal elders as they were likenesses of people who had died. Pitchi Richi, which is said to mean "a break in the range" - a reference to Heavitree Gap to its north - was originally settled in the 1940s by the founder of Alice Springs first newspaper, Charles Henry "Pop" Chapman, on the site of an old lime kiln. He called it "The Pearly Gates." Above the entrance, says local historian Max Cartwright, was a figurine of St Peter. Chapman died in 1971. Long time Alice resident Bill Muddle says: "As I understand it, the land was originally pegged as a mining lease. "I don't think they were mining anything. "In the 1930s it was one way of getting hold of a block of land without actually paying for it. There were a number of those strange arrangements around the Territory. "You just took out a miner's right, made out you were going to work it, paid maybe five shillings, and you had a block forever." The land then came into the possession of Leo Corbet who founded the Pitchi Richi sanctuary in 1955. Ricketts came to Central Australia from Victoria in the same era, in search of a spiritual home. He was a strange, elusive man, seen by some as a rebel, outspoken, one-eyed and an egomaniac. Some of the Pitchi Richi sculptures portray his face and youthful form. Ricketts told the Centralian Advocate: "When Captain Cook arrived with a gun in his hands, Australia was betrayed." He insisted he was definitely not a Christian, claiming his spiritual beliefs were greater than any church. Spiritually, Ricketts regarded himself as a transformed indigenous tribesman. Advocate editor, Jim Bowditch, quoted the sculptor as saying: "We (the Aboriginal people) stand for gentleness and the preservation of life ... while you stand for brutality and destruction." Ricketts underwent the initiation rites of the Pitjantjatjara tribe and his remarkable works in rock and clay portrayed naked Aboriginal figures and totemic symbols. Many of these works were handed over to his friend, Leo Corbet, to be preserved for posterity in the Pitchi Richi landscape, mounted in natural Centralian rock formations. The sculptor told the Advocate: "As I try to understand the deepest meaning of life, I have become inspired by the unique growth of love for the Australian bush. "Because of that powerful love, I have become an integral part of my environment: bird, animal, forest, mountain, desert, rock, water - everything, everywhere, at one time." Ricketts died in Victoria in 1993. The Advocate reported in 1992 that the NT government had approved a grant of $26,600 to the Pitchi Richi sanctuary on the understanding that ATSIC would approve other funding for "refurbishment" work costing $250,000. ATSIC spokesperson Francine Chinn confirmed that ATSIC funds had been paid to the Pitchi Richi management but would not disclose the amount, saying it was confidential. Corbet left the property and its sculptural works "for the benefit of the local Aboriginal community." At the time local Aboriginal interests were reported as having established the "Pitchi Richi Charitable Trust," all profits under the arrangement "to go towards Aboriginal alcohol rehabilitation programs and services." Today the unwatered lawns are dead. Painted signs to guide and enlighten visitors are faded and sometimes unreadable. Nonetheless, entry fees are $15 for adults and $10 for children. Ricketts' inspired sculptures that seem to grow out of the raw Centralian rocks as ancient apparitions are often weathered and broken. Victorian tourist, Vivian Rowbotham, sighed over a damaged piece, saying: "Who in their right mind could do something like this to a thing so beautiful? I find it personally offensive. Why can't the authorities, or someone, do something to protect these invaluable works?" Elsa Corbet, widow of Leo Corbet, who still lives on the property, said she was not at all surprised over the reports of vandalism: "That's been going on for years. We've had it forever, since it was started back in the 50s. Didn't you know that some people destroy things if they don't like them? "About 20 years ago the artist, Ann Marshall, spent months helping to patch them up for us." Mrs Corbet said Ricketts' sculptures were beyond financial valuation: "How could you put a price on thing like that? But, at the same time, there are very few of Ricketts' works that haven't been vandalised." Perhaps the old sculptor himself predicted an element of ultimate realities. Before his death at the age of 86, he wrote: "One glance at the so-called progress ... is enough to understand the cataclysm of violence that awaits us at the end of the present road we are now upon."

The Central Australian Australian Rules 50th Season is reaching crescendo level with official celebrations only weeks away. On August 3 the CAFL will field a representative side for the first time in over a decade. The tyranny of distance has always been an obstacle to regular representative games and it will be a proud day when the CAFL hosts the game against the Cairns Australian Rules Football League. Co-coaches for the Alice side are Roy Arbon and Lance White, who also have their Pioneer side sitting undefeated at the top of the local ladder. They, along with the League, are keen to give the town's youth a chance to show their skills, and so are selecting players from a squad of Under 25s. On this basis all clubs should be represented on the big day. As a curtain raiser there will be a Super Rules exhibition game for players over the age of 35. This is an ideal chance to put some truth into the old adage that "the older you get, the better you were." Already names like Dick Kimber, Barry Freeman and Terry Weeks are being bandied around. It should be a great way to salute those players who over the past fifty years have entertained the crowds at Traeger Park. Anyone interested in playing should ring the CAFL office on 89521670. Coinciding with the Weekend of Celebration the Rover Football Club will conduct a reunion, from August 1-4. It is expected that there will be an excellent response from the mail drop to some 175 ex-players throughout the country. At the reunion a Rovers' Hall of Fame will be established, honouring 50 of the Rover Greats. At junior level the AFL have sanctioned the opening match of their Under 16 Championships being held at Traeger Park. This match between Victoria's Metropolitan and South Australia is to be held on Saturday August 9 and should be the blue ribband game of that Championship. From a cultural point of view the CAFL have commissioned local historian Dick Kimber to publish a history of the CAFL. All followers of the code eagerly await Dick's little local bible on the game they play at Traeger Park. This weekend should be a great pipe opener to the celebrations ahead, when the two top sides, Pioneer and West clash. Both sides are coached by astute coaches who blend youth with experience in moulding their sides. Pioneer have a host of young runners, who feed off Craig Turner and Terry Duckford as they stream into the forward zone. Wests on the other hand have a stoic defence. Jason Bertrand should share aerial honours with the Eagles, and Russell Old with Silas Laidlaw should hold the fort in reasonable comfort. In Wests' forward line David Llewellen and Mick Kelly provide the fleet of foot forwards with a moving target in front of goals and both can convert with accuracy. The power of West to pull away from centre through Steve Lowe and Rory Chapple should be up to matching the explosive team game of the Eagle machine. Pioneer will start favourites, but with the Bloods sniffing a Grand Final chance, it should be a real thriller of a game. In the late game Rovers are scheduled to play South. There are a number of ifs and buts attached to this match. Rovers are yearning for a fully fit complement of A Grade players. And Souths are showing glimmers of a return to their 1996 form. Big games from the South household names - the Tilmouths, Maher, Abbotts and Brauns - could see the Roos put the Blues in the stew. In last weekend's matches Federal triumphed over South, 120 to 88. Goal scorers for Federal were Donald Richards 4, Daniel Palmer 4, Gorey Farrin 2, Cliff Taylor 2, and one each for Shaun Cusack, Jamie Smith, Victor Dobson, Ralph Turner and Paul Dalton. Best players were Peter Thompson, Palmer, Smith, Turner, Ian Taylor and Brett Burdett. Goal scorers for South were Trevor Presley 5, Hayden O'Donahue 2 and one each for Patrick Nandy, Darren Talbot, Willie Tilmouth, Steven Booth, Terry Braun and Andrew Walker. Best players for South were Kelvin Maher, Walker, Nandy, Tilmouth, Randall Williams and Wayne Scrutton. In the late match Pioneer trounced Rovers 99 to 7. Goal scorers for Pioneer were Steven Hayes 5, Simon Djana 4, Terry Duckford 2, and one each for Ben Kopp, Shane Hayes, Peter Sevallos and Craig Turner. Best players were Bradley Peris, Kopp, Steven Hayes, Lachlan Ross, Kenny Cole and Shaun Angeles. Sole goal scorer for Rovers was George Cooper 1. Best players were Robert Cameron, Shane Catford, Jamie Mitchell, Murray Taylor, Jeremy Watkins. Meanwhile, in the Country Football Competition's Ngurratjuta Cup, Western Aranda drew with Areyonga, 85 all, and Walungurru forfeited their match against Anmatjerre. In the Heenan Cup, Western Aranda defeated Areyonga, 68 to 65, and again Walungurru forfeited to Anmatjerre.

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