ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
August 13, 1997
ABORIGINAL LAND CLAIM PUTS GLEN HELEN DEVELOPMENT ON
Development of the Glen Helen resort, vital to the Alice Springs
tourism industry, has been delayed by the Aboriginal land claim over
the West MacDonnell National Park.
The Aboriginal owned resort was reopened on the week-end as a roadhouse
style operation, but a program of comprehensive upgrading and expansion
is on hold.
Glen Helen, some 126 km west of Alice Springs, was bought by the
Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation in 1993 in a multi-million dollar
The association will not disclose the amount.
The accommodation section of the former award winning lodge - its
restaurant was once declared the best in Australia - was shut down in
October 1996, and the lodge closed its doors completely in February
The former homestead, on the banks of the Finke River, has a
spectacular red rock wall as its backdrop, and has long been a
favourite spot for locals and visitors alike.
Previous owner Di Byrnes used to call the historic buildings "the Mt
Sonder Safari Lodge".
The complex is on freehold land but in order to carry out urgent
improvements to water and sewerage facilities, as well as to upgrade
the camping ground, more land "about the size of four football ovals"
is needed, according to a Ngurratjuta spokesman.
He says about two thirds of the additional area needed is in the
national park; the remainder is on the Glen Helen pastoral lease, and
portions of that are under claim from Aborigines seeking a living area
The spokesman described the situation as "extremely complex".
Negotiations to acquire the additional land were near conclusion when
in late June the Central Land Council (CLC) lodged a land claim over
the entire West MacDonnells national park, some 2000 square kilometres.
Land Minister Mike Reed said at the time that all developments in the
park are now "on hold" indefinitely.
However, the Ngurratjuta spokesman says the CLC has indicated that a
solution could be found "if all parties are in agreement".
Meanwhile, NT Tourist Commission managing director Tony Mayell says:
"Glen Helen is absolutely critical to the success of tourism in Central
"I'm shattered that it's closed.
"Glen Helen is important to the repositioning of Alice Springs as a
destination in its own right.
"Without it there is a big gap out there, particularly if you're
concentrating on the West MacDonnells.
"Glen Helen is the linchpin for that whole [Mereenie loop road] touring
"We had all the wheels rolling, everyone was going in the right
direction, including the community, they were supportive, and all of a
sudden the Central Land Council lodged the claim.
"That's brought everything to a complete standstill."
Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation is a self-supporting investment
business owned by Western Arrernte people.
The seed capital came from royalties from the Mereenie oil and Palm
Valley gas deals.
The NT Government has a major investment in the Kings Canyon resort -
also part-owned by Aboriginal interests.
About $5m of the $17m resort, opened in 1991, came from the NT
Government, paying for power, water, electricity and the camp ground.
The Kings Canyon camp ground will be sold to the resort in 2001.
The Ngurratjuta spokesman says while negotiations about Glen Helen are
still in progress, it is unlikely that the government will become
involved to the same extent as it did at King's Canyon.
However, all departments had been eager to assist with advice: "The
government has been positive but has not committed any money."
The spokesman says it is clear that the present impasse "cannot be
resolved in five minutes.
"We've opened parts of Glen Helen as a good will gesture to the
tourists and the tourism industry.
"We're open now for fuel, drinks, toilets and basic food.
"There's no accommodation, no dining room. We're now a roadhouse style
"We're aware that some CATIA members are suffering because Glen Helen
"We want to help the regional industry. It will probably cost us money.
"We'll be happy to be breaking even."
WHAT THE NATION THINKS OF ALICE SPRINGS: SHOCK
FINDINGS OF TOURISM SURVEY
Looking at the NT Tourist Commission's latest initiative one could be
forgiven for thinking that tourism is a brand new industry in The
The latest drive is based on "qualitative research" with seven
"consumer segments" ranging from singles to "empty nesters" and
Several factors were found to be preventing people from firm
commitments to visit the NT:-
´ A "widespread" feeling that if you are going "all that way" you
should see it all in one go, making the trip "time consuming, expensive
and potentially quite arduous."
´ The belief that it won't be an easy holiday - "you need to
psyche yourself up for the trip".
´ The excuse that "I can always do it some other time".
According to the commission, people don't see Alice Springs as a
destination in its own right but as a place from which to visit Ayers
Rock, still perceived as being quite close to town.
"At worst, and quite frequently," says the commission, Alice Springs
was seen as expensive to get to and stay in; hot, dusty, humid; with
plagues of flies; having problems between "locals and Aborigines" (the
latter are apparently not "locals").
Other impressions are poor standards of food and accommodation; lots of
boring travel to get anywhere of interest; non existing night life, and
no really good day time attractions apart from Ayers Rock.
This throws up the question of what the NT Tourist Commission (NTTC)
has been doing in the past two decades.
With a current annual budget of $26.5m it is - per capita of population
- by far the most lavishly funded in Australia.
Former Central Australian Tony Mayell, who took the NTTC's reins as
managing director last October, says the expenditure split is roughly
half each for The Centre (Tennant Creek and south) and the Top End
(Katherine and north), but he's uncertain of how much of The Centre's
budget has benefited especially the Ayers Rock Resort, in which the NT
Government has a controlling interest.
"The Rock resort is treated no differently to any other potential
cooperative marketing partner," he says.
The commission has a series of press advertisements ready to go,
promoting Alice Springs as a civilised town, as well as such activities
as ballooning, the new Desert Park, the Old Ghan and camel riding.
But Mr Mayell says TV commercials due to be filmed later in the year
will also promote scenic attractions in The Centre, especially the
MacDonnell National Park.
Mr Mayell says the thrust of the campaign will be to entice people to
stay longer, with the Mereenie loop road linking the West MacDonnells,
the booming King's Canyon resort and Ayers Rock as a major feature.
Mr Mayell says between 75 and 80 per cent of visitors are Australians,
and more international promotion is needed.
For example, 170,000 Germans visit Bali every year - just a brief
flight from Darwin - but only 54,000 come to the NT.
[See also interview with Mr Mayell below.]
A NEW DIRECTION IN PROMOTION FOR THE TERRITORY
NT Tourist Commission Managing Director TONY MAYELL spoke with Alice
News Editor ERWIN CHLANDA about new promotion strategies pushing the
Desert Park, ballooning and the Old Ghan - and the apparently little
known fact that you CAN be comfortable in Alice Springs.
News: Don't we lose marketing opportunities by failing to push our main
assets - the blue sky, the wide open spaces, no pollution, no crowds?
Would you come all the way from Europe to see the Old Ghan, the Desert
Park or go for a fly in a balloon?
Mayell: A lot of those products, the
way they are presented now individually aren't strong enough to drag
any business from anywhere.
News: So why don't we use the strong ones? We've got 2000 square
kilometres of Western MacDonnells National Park. It doesn't get a
mention in your new newspaper campaign. I have a friend who's just done
a three day walk on the Larapinta Trail through the Western
MacDonnells. He says for access to a trail of such magnificence
anywhere else in the world you'd have to book years ahead. He didn't
see a single person.
Mayell: The type of product you've just mentioned is exactly spot on,
the sort of thing we need to push but we need to have an operator who
can deliver the product. Particularly with natural attractions it's
very well to say it's there but we've got to have the access to the
product as well.
Trek Gondwana are doing that sort of walking type
What we've seen over the last few years is a very fundamental shift by
the Tourist Commission.
When I was in Alice Springs 12 years ago, the
very strong visual images of the Territory that the commission pushed
in those days were very much centred around the Western MacDonnells.
News: So how are they being promoted at the moment?
Mayell: Well, I think, they've been forgotten, to be honest. The West
Macs are a tremendous asset we need to push in front of the public
again, both international and domestic.
News: Yet the West Macs aren't prominent in the present campaign.
Mayell: Not in the press inserts, but the scripts for the [planned] TV
campaign actually open with the West Macs.
News: How do you think the Parks and Wildlife Commission are performing
in that respect? They're the managers of the West Macs park, but a very
large percentage of their staff are tied up in the Desert Park which is
Mayell: The response we've had about the Desert Park is very positive.
We've always said that we see the Desert Park as a tourist asset as
well as having tremendous educational and scientific value. We see
Parks and Wildlife as great operators.
News: Do you think there is a case for The Centre to say, the Tourist
Commission's getting $26.5m a year; give us half and then do what you
like in the Top End with the rest?
Mayell: That's the sort of thing I would have said 10 years ago
[laughs]. I don't think the Territory will ever be as successful as it
can be unless we have a totally integrated approach to marketing it as
a complete destination.
What I am very keen on doing is establishing
Alice Springs as the southern gateway to the Territory, and Darwin as
the northern. The product the two areas offer is totally complementary.
Put together it's an absolutely tremendous Australian product. It would
be a tragic mistake if we would head off in different directions and be
competing for the same tourist dollar.
News: We've got this marvellous place, yet our tourist accommodation -
caravan parks and backpacker's lodges excepted - is half empty. Your
commission gets funding 10 times greater, per head of population, when
compared with South Australia.
Why isn't our industry booming?
Mayell: Over the last decade the Territory market has continued to
grow. If you're looking at The Rock, there's obviously a unique
News: But Alice Springs has been stagnating.
Mayell: I look at it from a Territory perspective. The market has
News: Why then has Alice Springs missed out?
Mayell: Alice has suffered a little bit because there's been a
tremendous amount of resources and effort pushed into The Rock, not
necessarily by government but by industry itself. [Ten years ago]
people had to come to Alice Springs to see Ayers Rock.
Now that's not
the case. When I was on the executive committee of the Central
Australian Tourism Association in those days I remember saying, the
greatest danger Alice Springs was facing was not looking at the way
Ayers Rock would develop. They had to come up with a strategy to
address that. [The fact that the commission] went to Cabinet and fought
to get extra money [$750,000] was really to say, this place has some
tremendous assets, let's see how we can position them so that they
become part of a "must see" holiday.
But let's also accept the fact
that people come to Central Australia basically expecting to see Ayers
Rock. We can't try and turn people off that.
We've got to give the
market what they want. The Rock is an opportunity for Alice Springs.
News: Going bush 10, 15 years ago was pretty easy. You'd take your
swag, jump into a four wheel drive and head off. Now there are many
What's your commission doing, for example, about urging
the Parks and Wildlife Commission to open up the West Macs to camping
in a much bigger way?
Unregimented bush experiences are expected by
most visitors, yet they're increasingly harder to get.
Mayell: I sit on the board of the Parks and Wildlife Commission and we
are very aware of the tourism aspect.
News: Well, what are they doing?
Mayell: Their primary concern has to be land management and
conservation. One of the great dangers of unstructured tourism is that
a lot of those conservation values are in danger.
News: But isn't it the Parks and Wildlife Commission's obligation to
make bush experiences possible in an acceptable manner?
Mayell: We've just looked at a couple of parks in the last week or so.
There's a plan of management for these parks, and tourism is a big
element of it. Exactly what you're saying is what they're considering.
How to make the experience a quality one for the visitor.
News: Are these parks in the Top End?
Mayell: Yes, I haven't seen any Central Australian ones, but I've only
been to four board meetings. Now that you've raised it I'm happy to go
back and have a look at what the issues are in Central Australia.
News: Aboriginal tourism - you're saying you're looking for a
"professional product". Hermann Malbunka, at Ipolera west of
Hermannsburg, had a fascinating operation - a great camping area,
spectacular country, authentic traditional Aboriginal experiences.
it all folded - it seems to me - because the management skills were
inadequate. From its $26.5m budget, could the Tourist Commission not
find money to set up an advice and management service to make
operations like Hermann's viable, providing what's without a doubt the
prime interest for people visiting the region?
Mayell: I don't think that's a role for the commission. There are other
agencies for that, such as the Department for Asian Relations, Trade
and Industry. There are also Federal schemes which support that sort of
News: Have you encouraged people like Hermann?
News: And how have they responded?
Mayell: That's an area in which we can work a little more closely with
those other agencies. We just haven't started that dialogue to any
great degree as yet.
"WE LISTEN" SAYS LABOR. "TO US" SAYS THE CLP. THE
ELECTION CAMPAIGN GETS INTO FULL SWING.
Labor says it's listening to the people on issues of anti-social
behaviour but the CLP counters that the Opposition is merely copying NT
Labor's policy statement for Central Australia, released last week, is
largely based on majority responses to the recent anti-social behaviour
survey (to which 1000 people responded), door-knocking of 3500
households in Alice Springs and the meeting of Aboriginal groups and
communities at Hamilton Downs.
It has a strong law and order thrust, involving increasing police
resources in order to enforce laws "for all people, without
The statement puts lack of enforcement of the 2km law, for instance,
down to insufficient police resources.
The Alice News asked Stuart MLA Peter Toyne whether public drinking,
being apparently one of the easier laws to police because its breaches
are so visible, needs to be tackled from a different angle?
"I think we
should try different angles," says Mr Toyne, "but we have to be honest
with what people have said to us, to start from where they are at.
"We've had to make decisions about to what extent we can lead opinion
and to what extent we have to respond to what we're hearing."
He stressed that many Aboriginal families want to take "a fairly hard
line" on public drinking and anti-social behaviour.
He also commented that anecdotal evidence suggests that public drinking
is not an easy area to police.
Mr Toyne is currently concerned about the fate of a Warlpiri man who
faces charges of arising out of his role in a brawl between police and
The man, says Mr Toyne, had an absolute obligation, under Aboriginal
kinship laws, to get involved on behalf of his relatives.
"These situations can be explosive and are not as simple as they look.
That's why we want to give more support to night patrols and increase
the number of the wardens from two to four, as well as more training to
police so that they can understand the social framework in which they
have to operate.
"With an increase in resources we are committing ourselves to that more
"We're not working on a simple law enforcement model, but across a
whole repertoire of law and order guarantees.
"If 50 things will help, then we'll do 50 things!"
Other law and order initiatives outlined in the policy statement
´ establishing a Specialist Juveniles Squad;
a Police Strength Formula, with the needs of community policing built
into that formula;
´ funding Aboriginal Community Police
´ introducing Community Safety Audits, a Streetsafe
scheme and a Park Warden Scheme , involving Neighbourhood Watch, which
will be strengthened in a number of ways;
´ introducing a Homesecure scheme (subsidised security
arrangements for older people).
The policy statement also looks at longer term changes:
´ Labor will bring communities together to "increase
understanding of behaviour standards that are acceptable or not
acceptable in urban areas".
´ Truancy will be tackled with a number of initiatives, including
a trial attendance centre in Alice Springs, aimed at bringing school
authorities, parents and students together.
´ Employment and training will also attract a number of
initiatives, especially for Aboriginal people and youth.
"We want to see an end to the passive welfare era for Aboriginal
people," says Mr Toyne, who is involved as a facilitator for a single
bid by the major Aboriginal councils of the region for the Federal
Government's new labour market programs funding.
"This is the essential next stage beyond land rights," says Mr Toyne.
"Aboriginal people need to secure for themselves a contemporary future
with viable, appropriate economic development."
´ Sporting facilities and programs will receive a boost, in bush
communities and in Alice Springs.
´ Labor will support Homemaker programs (to overcome problems
arising out of cultural differences in suburban neighbourhoods).
´ They will establish substance abuse facilities in Central
Australia, especially targeting petrol sniffing.
´ They will address the needs of youth (in a policy soon to be
However, Central Australia's three CLP Members, Loraine Braham, Richard
Lim and Eric Poole, said in a joint statement to the Alice News that
the Opposition's policy statements are vague, uncosted and short on
"Furthermore, virtually everything Labor says it will do is already
being done by the Northern Territory Government," they say.
"But perhaps most importantly, Territorians should not trust Labor to
fulfil its promises because much of what Labor promises to do now, it
"The NT Government has always been pro-active in responding to public
concerns over law and order issues. It has taken a hard-line approach
to enforcing laws to deal with anti-social behaviour.
But while Labor
has consistently criticised the Government for being too tough in
reacting to public demand, its policy reflects a knee-jerk reaction.
"The Opposition has often criticised the Government's laws, such as
mandatory sentencing, which Labor leader Maggie Hickey now says she
When the 2km Law was introduced, Labor opposed it. Now,
as a result of the Government's success with the law, the Opposition
has once again changed its mind and in this policy, supports the Law.
"The Opposition has previously been critical of Government's threats to
enforce truancy laws, but again Labor has changed its mind and now
supports the Government line," say Mrs Braham, Mr Poole and Dr Lim.
"The NT Government has already recently embarked on a program which
will put 150 extra police on the beat. Last month, 30 new police
auxiliaries and 31 new police constables graduated in the Territory.
"Another 48 police recruits are now in training and when they graduate
another 48 will begin training. In its policy, Labor now wants to put
on an extra 150 police.
"Is Labor just copying Government again, or has it gone overboard with
plans, without any costings, to put on an additional 300 police?"
BOREDOM, NOT NEED, DRIVES PETTY CRIME IN ALICE
SPRINGS. Report by GRETTA SCADDING.
"We were bored, we didn't want the car, we just wanted something to do.
"It was a bit of fun, better than just walking around, you get to move
fast, use your skills, get a buzz."
The thieving kids of Alice need to be noticed.
This is the only way they know how, the only way they think they can be
heroes, be someone.
The culprits, five of them aged between 12 and 15, encircled me to be
interviewed. Smartly dressed in clean sports gear they competed to be
heard as they leant over shiny new mountain bikes.
They couldn't wait
to reveal their identities.
"I've done two break-ins, stolen two cars, AND got away with it."
The eldest kid managed to assert some authority: Bob (not his real
name), around 15, has made thieving his passion.
He sleeps late so he
can muster the energy to perfect his art. Then, as the day progresses
nicely past noon, he's ready to strike.
The stories are told excitedly: "We were at the Casino, we smashed the
[car] window, there was no alarm, so we did it.
"We made sure that there was no-one around first. We managed to drive
everywhere until the car ran out of petrol by the train-station.
"Then we abandoned it and walked back."
Police stress the importance of security. It's obviously a deterrent:
when a car has an alarm they look for an easier target.
impatient to carry on with his story: "Then we broke into a taxi, it
had money in it as well.
"Before you smash the window you can see a red light.
"We only do cars without alarms.
The driver caught us at the 24 Hour
and got the money back.
"We enjoyed running away though, it was fun."
These kids even break into their friends' houses.
"The other day, we stole some gear from the back of a house
"We didn't have to break in, we jumped the fence, and ran before they
could get us.
"But we often get the keys to houses. One girl picked up the key to a
mate's house whilst she was there and kept it.
"We just walked in one
evening and got loads of stuff. "Jewellery, food, grog. We often just
walk into properties at night and snoop around looking for signs."
The loot doesn't seem to be as important as the thrill of "getting
away". For Bob it's almost an after-thought. Radios and CDs are the
"They are the best, you can sell them at second-hand shops around
"A lot of people know it's stolen, but take it off us anyway.
"We keep it if we like it. Once we found three boxes full of opals, we
hid them away at once but couldn't remember where we'd put them.
"We couldn't find them but we didn't care."
These kids want to feel needed - useful within their peer group.
Breaking-in is also a way of feeling alive, making something happen in
Les Smith, an ex-policeman who now co-ordinates the CDEP at Arrernte
Council, reaffirms this.
"I know one guy who'd go out and do breaks and then ring me up and tell
me about them.
"He'd end up giving all the property back, he was just trying to prove
Les stresses that the kids he's in charge of now, at the Arrernte
Council, are not criminals.
He's speaking about his days in the police
The kids don't steal to survive.
"I'm not short of money," admitted Bob. "My parents give me $40 a week.
I'm not bothered how much I get for the stuff, it gets a bit of grog or
It is these stimulants (along with the thrills of thieving) which make
them forget about what isn't happening in their lives.
I asked Bob if
he was looking forward to the prospects of work. He gets all excited
"Yeah, I'll have a job soon, out bush, fencing. I'll stop nicking stuff
then. I won't have the time."
Many seem to lack essential attention from their parents. Some didn't
even know what their parents did.
"My dad has a job ... I think ... I don't know what he does."
run by Les, has been a positive step towards increasing work
opportunities and occupying the youth of Alice.
"The whole youth crime scene was so frustrating when I was in the
police-force, though working with juveniles can be very rewarding.
"They have so much energy, it just needs to find a direction.
I saw a
lot of kids come off the street, get married, get jobs.
"When I left I found it far more satisfying being able to do something
positive, finding work for these people."
Certainly, the figures show that crime in Alice decreases whenever the
unemployment figures drop, according to a Police spokesperson.
"Unlawful entry to a dwelling" dropped from 396 in 1995 to 286 in 1996,
and reported stolen cars fell from 293 in 1995 to 237 in 1996.
"One of the hardest things to understand from my experience is that a
lot of the kids are from good homes," says Les.
"But their listless behaviour, frittering away money on pin-ball
machines and dope shows lack of motivation."
The CDEP scheme only offers opportunities to kids aged 16 and over.
Many of the offenders are younger than this and it is school which
They talk of just wanting to get out bush and work.
Academic subjects do not suit everyone.
"If there was a break-in that day, I'd go and knock on the door of the
kid who hadn't turned up at school, always a fail-proof method," says
There are two main factors in local crime: The difficult "no man's
land," around the ages of 15 and 16, between school and work, and those
long days of intense summer heat.
Thieving increases dramatically at this time: In February 1996, there
were 51 break-ins compared to only 9 in June. An astounding 74 bicycles
were reported missing in the same month, the peak time for the theft of
the single most often stolen item in the town, though there are always
70 bikes at any one time waiting to be claimed.
"The heat builds up, and all that bottled-up energy without a positive
outlet boils over in the form of aggression and frustration," says Les.
"At 4 am in the summer, there are hundreds of kids still walking around
the streets waiting for something to happen."
He says sport has often been suggested as a way of diverting that
pent-up energy. Says Bob: "Yeah, I play Aussie Rules, but still get
bored, there's nothing to do in the summer, except walk around."
Les used to run the Boxing Club at the youth centre, and far from
making kids more more violent, it gave them an outlet.
"I noticed vast differences when teaching boxing to these kids. It's
perfect, it gets rid of their frustrations and aggression.
"It teaches discipline, respect and control."
A term in prison doesn't seem to have the same effect, says Bob: "I
have a couple of mates in prison but nothing's ever happened to me. My
mates still steal stuff when they get out of prison.
"I go home, go to sleep, and know I can get away with doing it
"The only time I've been punished was when I was fined for not wearing
a helmet on my push-bike, that I just nicked.
With such a mindset, the new mandatory custodial sentences will not
alter the thieving mentality: "I may get punished" obviously does
figure when a life is empty.
Says Les: "Money is not really the motive to thieving in Alice, the way
the houses and cars are trashed is a sign of resentment."
The kids are trying to make an impact in a town which they feel has no
place for them. Their energy is being wasted.
They are like wasps
hovering around a closed jam jar.
PETER ADAMSON, THE TERRITORY'S NEW EDUCATION
MINISTER, CLAIMS FULL MARKS FOR HIMSELF. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The Australian Education Union's Chris Sharpe claims the Territory will
suffer as a result of a predicted shortfall of 4,700 teachers
nationwide at the start of next year.
The figures come from the Deans of Education survey which, he says, has
always been considered an authority on this issue.
This is a huge
increase on the figures for the start of this year, which stood at 400
nationwide,explained, he says, by the effect of the Victorian surplus
wearing off, a small turn-off of graduating teachers and an aging
Mr Adamson says: "None of the states or the ACT are experiencing any
significant shortfalls at this stage and, in the Territory, our 1997
staffing pattern has been quite normal."
At the same time Mr Adamson
identifies staffing as a key issue for Territory education:
Territory schools must be staffed with "appropriately trained, skilled
and experienced teachers and other personnel" and their ability "to
attract such staff through appropriate salaries, conditions of service
and professional rewards" must be maintained.
He says predicted teacher shortages were considered at the recent
meeting of Education Ministers held in Darwin, with states and
territories and the Commonwealth agreeing to cooperate to develop a
national strategy to encourage entry to the teaching profession.
Minister for Education Peter Toyne says the Territory education system
needs to make a specific commitment to recognising and rewarding the
"This is the only way to counterbalance the relative difficulty we will
always have in recruitment because ïhome' for most teachers is and
will continue to be places far from here."
He adds: "I don't think the CLP have ever given education a high enough
It is a core area, essential for the next phase of our
community and economic development."
On Aboriginal education the Minister believes we are doing "a good
"Certainly we are providing significant resources for [Aboriginal
students]," he says.
"We should be continuing with our existing programs and exploiting new
ideas, initiatives and opportunities as they arise.
"We need to accept that we cannot achieve overnight the level of
outcomes that we want and we need to monitor our programs to ensure
that outcomes are continually improving.
Mr Adamson says not enough recognition is given to areas in Aboriginal
education where there is significant improvement, naming programs for
remote secondary age students as one example.
By contrast, Mr Toyne
says there should be a "sense of urgency" about improvement of
"We are trailing nationally on every parameter," says Mr Toyne, who in
June placed 180 questions to the Minister on notice, about details of
programs and outcomes in remote area education.
"I'm still waiting for the answers," says Mr Toyne, asserting that of
$450,000 paid by the Commonwealth for distance education delivery, less
than quarter "hit the workface".
The remainder was "swallowed up" by the administration in Darwin, says
The Minister emphasises the need for Aboriginal parents and communities
to give education a high priority and to encourage and support their
kids in the education process.
"We can't teach them much if they are not attending regularly," says Mr
However, he also says truancy is not a simple issue.
Fining parents and locking them up, as "the Opposition seems to think
we should", when their kids don't attend school would be impractical
and would not resolve the issue, says the Minister.
Furthermore, it would give people a negative attitude towards
The Minister says: "We have a wide range of positive programs designed
to accommodate all types of kids in schools and we employ many people
who have a prime task of encouraging attendance and removing barriers
"We have to continue with our parents as partners initiatives.
"There is too much good happening in our schools to have it degraded by
some bumbling approach to truancy," says Mr Adamson.
Mr Toyne says Labor's truancy policy is wrongly construed by the
He says action on truancy, amongst all the issues considered, received
the highest level of support from respondents to his recent anti-social
However, enforcing truancy laws should only be "a last resort",
according to Mr Toyne.
Labor advocates counselling for low level truancy, with a whole school
approach, including outreach programs and specially tailored streams of
study where the truancy level is higher.
"A truancy policy needs to be adaptive and sensitive, to deal with a
range of situations," says Mr Toyne, but action needs to be taken
"God help us if the horse has already bolted," he says. Mr Adamson
claims a role for Territory education as leader in information
technology and in the provision of services for students with special
learning needs and students with disabilities.
He acknowledges the current strong national interest in literacy and
numeracy but believes we cannot afford to concentrate on any essential
area at the expense of others.
He sees the Territory school curriculum as "well rounded" with the
balance "just about right".
A NEW ROW BREAKS OUT OVER BOOZE RESTRICTIONS
Claims of wide-spread support for alcohol sales restrictions sparked a
row when several members of the business community either withdrew or
qualified the position they had earlier expressed in writing.
Of five business people who had written to the People's Alcohol Action
Coalition (PAAC), three have confirmed their personal support, but
stressed that their companies - all of them national - do not have a
position on the issue.
While "something has to happen" on alcohol-related problems in Alice
Springs, restrictions on liquor sales are not the way to go, says Robin
Murray of Bob Jane T-Marts in Alice Springs.
Mr Murray initially signed a letter distributed by PAAC to businesses
and organisations throughout the town, calling for a trial of
restricted alcohol sales, including a ban on take-aways on Thursdays
and Sundays, and no front bar sales on Thursdays.
He has since withdrawn his support following, he says, a heated
discussion by family members around a barbecue: he realised then that
he would not like to be told to not sell tyres on a Thursday.
PAAC is calling for a six month trial of the bans.
"We cop a fair brunt on a Thursday, with people [under the influence of
alcohol] wandering through here," says Mr Murray.
"That's what made me jump when I first saw PAAC's letter.
"But restrictions aren't fair on the people trading, not unless it's
right across the board."
Rob Manning of AIB insurance brokers' Alice Springs office has also
He referred our enquiries to Glen Skipworth in AIB's Darwin office.
Mr Skipworth said that there had been a misunderstanding when Mr
Manning originally signed the document: he had understood that AIB had
already approved the letter.
"AIB could never agree with any move towards restrictions on trade.
"We are a free enterprise and we support free enterprise," said Mr
Skipworth, adding that there had been no outside pressure on the
Jeff Tubbenhauer, a financial planner and an agent for AMP in Alice
Springs, said that he as an individual and a businessman supports
PAAC's call for restrictions but that he never authorised the use of
the AMP company name in PAAC's letter.
Similarly, Barry Slattery says the name of his employer, Ansett
Australia, should not have been used in the PAAC letter.
However, as an individual, resident of the town for some 30 years, he
supports a trial of restrictions.
"From where I sit in my office [on Todd Mall] I see a lot of problems
associated with Aboriginal people who are drinking. "I think we should
try restrictions to help them control their drinking," says Mr
Beverly Ellis, owner of the Dymocks Books franchise in Alice Springs,
also says that the Dymocks name cannot be used to support PAAC's
"My personal feelings are another matter," says Mrs Ellis.
"I supported PAAC's call to the town council to act on PAAC's
Mrs Ellis was one of some 40 signatories to a letter to the town
council, dated April 10 this year.
PAAC's Barbara Curr describes the letter as historic because it had
broad-based support from both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
Ms Curr says PAAC has pursued a community-driven campaign for trial
restrictions in the wake of Tennant Creek's success and on the advice
of former Liquor Commissioner John Maley and his successor Peter Allen.
"Mr Allen attended a meeting of the former PAAG on November 21, 1996,"
says Ms Curr.
"He told us that we needed more substantial community support for our
campaign and even said that the Liquor Commission could play a role in
facilitating community discussions.
"We have also been advised separately that making formal complaints
about breaches of the Liquor Act is a costly and time-consuming
"We would have to employ lawyers and produce watertight evidence, such
as videotaped breaches."
On the "free trade" arguments, Ms Curr says that we do not and never
could have completely free trade.
"All trade is regulated to a certain extent, as is a great deal of our
"When people were first made to wear seat belts, many objected but now
most accept it as a reasonable restriction on our freedom in order to
achieve a greater good.
"Australians, in particular, Territorians, have not proved themselves
as the civilised drinkers of the world.
"We need alcohol availability to be restricted for our own good," says
Meanwhile both the Liquor Commission and the promoter of a petition
opposing restrictions are declining to give access to the document.
Shane Arnfield, the owner of a local computer business, last November
presented the petition, signed by 5500 people, to commission chairman
Ms Curr says she would like to see the document so that she could
verify the authenticity of the signatures, and ascertain how many had
come from local people and how many from tourists.
Mr Arnfield says the document is now the property of the Liquor
He says he has the names of the signatories on a data base but "I'm not
happy to distribute that data base" because of privacy considerations.
Liquor Commission registrar David Rice says the document is not
available for inspection because it "has not been formally tendered in
evidence" associated with a hearing.
Mr Rice says the petition "has not been made a public document".
Yet Mr Allen agreed to receive it in the commission's Alice Springs
office, with most local media present.
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