ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
October 9, 1997
CLEVER USE OF THE NET HELPS BLACK COMPANY TO WITH
NATIONAL TOURISM AWARD
Report by ERWIN CHLANDA and GRETTA SCADDING
"Oh hell, what have we done?" was his first reaction to winning one of
the nation's top tourism awards, says Paul Ah Chee, manager of the
Alice-based Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre.
"We were absolutely exhilarated, but realised immediately that the hard
work is just beginning.
"Now that we're the leader of the pack we have to live up to the
expectations we've created."
The art and tour business won the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
section of the National Tourism Awards last Friday after winning a
Territory Brolga in July.
Mr Ah Chee says there was powerful competition: The Tjapukai Aboriginal
Cultural Park in Queensland, the Tobwabba Cultural Centre in NWS, Camp
Coorong in SA, the Brambuk Cultural Centre in Victoria and the
Cooljaman resort in Cape Leveque, WA.
He says the national judges were obviously impressed on several scores:
the centre's extensive use of the internet, the fact that all the
company's 16 employees are Aborigines, that most of the staff undergo
continuing training, and the range of services offered, including a
gallery in Todd Street and a cultural tour business offering excursions
ranging from half a day to a fortnight.
"Our trading record and expansion was also a factor," says Mr Ah Chee,
"and how we tie in with the community."
The centre's energetic approach to promoting Aboriginal art and culture
has led it to embrace new technologies.
Its web site, at http://aboriginalart.com.au, is contacted by an
astonishing average of 1600 people a day from around 75 different
The site, set up by Collin Cowell, started as one page 12 months ago
and has now grown to 50 pages.
Through it people can access written information as well as video and
audio presentations, even take a didgeridoo lesson from the comfort of
their own home.
From your ten year old computer whiz kid to famous customers such as
Tracey Chapman, Aboriginal culture appeals to a wide variety of people.
Of the 180 Aboriginal web sites in existence, 120 are owned by
The Art and Culture Centre's web site has found itself ranked in the
top ten Aboriginal sites contacted by people in America.
Mr Ah Chee suggests the reason for such popularity is attributable to
the presentation of cultural information, over and above making "hard
Although the centre does make sales through the Internet, its site is
not purely profit orientated.
The centre employs one person specifically to reply to the 60 Emails
they receive each day from people with topical questions which can be
As computers and the Internet become a way of life in today's society,
it seems obvious that Alice Springs will have to take advantage of the
incredible opportunities they offer for international exposure and
The Arts and Culture Centre has proved that distance is no obstacle if
you're "on line".
They also emphasise that this system does not only benefit the retail
It knows no boundaries and offers potential for every industry in the
It also offers a perfect foundation for business interaction and
In the words of Mr Ah Chee: "Alice Springs cannot simply rely on people
walking through the door, it has to market itself internationally."
EMPLOY ALICE: STEADY AS SHE GOES
GRETTA SCADDING reports
While the Employ Alice Springs scheme, designed to help curb alcohol
abuse, may not have made the instant breakthrough claimed by its
instigators, it is making progress.
Last week president of the Drug and Alcohol Services Association, Iain
Morrison, told the Alice News that 22 people had already been employed
under the scheme and a further 24 were being interviewed.
Mr Morrison has now revealed that he only "understood" that information
to be true.
He had heard these figures in an informal discussion at a DASA Board of
Shane Arnfield, who also took part in this discussion, says he supports
the validity of these figures, but will not say which people are
involved, nor where he got the information from.
"What's the point of upsetting these people by hounding them?" asks Mr
"You have to understand the culture. These people are shy. Some of the
employees have indicated they are afraid of media attention.
"When accepting the job, they didn't think they would be placed under a
media microscope. "Many have also declined to be interviewed by
"We don't want the media jumping ahead of the negotiation stage."
Mr Arnfield says the Employ Alice Springs committee has been approached
by one employer "keen to employ 60 Aboriginal individuals" and that
there is also an organisation north of Alice asking for six to 12
Antony Yoffa, at the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), confirms
this. He also says that 15 job vacancies have been lodged through the
CES, but employers are still in the process of short listing and
"There are not 22 Aboriginals employed at this stage," says Mr Yoffa
Officially, there are eight Aboriginal people employed through the
Of the eight, half were referred by Tangentyere Council and half by the
Mr Yoffa says the CES had hoped to fill 20 positions by now, and expect
to exceed that number eventually.
"We are still doing employer visits at the moment," he says.
Rob Murray of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry says: "I can say
that if everybody who expressed an interest goes ahead with it, there
should be 80 or 90 vacancies lodged before long.
"Obviously a percentage of those will not go ahead, as a 10-15 per cent
drop out rate is expected," he says.
Are the jobs being advertised as specifically for Aboriginal people?
Mr Yoffa says: "We are holding the jobs back specifically for
Aboriginals. We avoid conflict by not lodging these jobs on the
computer. This saves other applicants wasting their time. "We take
prospective employees for these jobs from those who have registered
with us. When a suitable applicant can't be found we go to Tangentyere,
or the CDEP scheme at Arrernte Council."
Mr Arnfield describes this strategy as "positive discrimination".
The News spoke to one employer who has responded to the scheme.
Peter Ryan at Busymode Electronic Services has employed Jason Kennedy
as an apprentice technician.
Mr Kennedy has been with Busymode for three weeks. Mr Ryan says: "After
my wife attended the DASA breakfast forum, we were inspired to contact
the CES and request a job applicant.
"Although we didn't specify that we were interested in an Aboriginal
person we were very open to the idea after being impressed by an
Aboriginal who had worked for us previously."
Busymode is receiving a $100 per week subsidy for six weeks to train Mr
Mr Ryan says: "Of course, I usually would have preferred to get someone
already trained, this is a necessary incentive."
Mr Kennedy had been long-term unemployed and was glad to have a job
He was referred by his case manager at Tangentyere Council.
Mr Kennedy says: "I do not think these jobs will affect the alcohol
problem but they are giving Aboriginals without qualifications or an
education the chance to make something of themselves."
Eric Neil, who chairs the Employ Alice Springs committee says: "We've
made a positive step in the right direction, and the program will
continue to grow.
"Employment is an issue in the whole scheme of things, not just related
to alcohol. "You still have to get the right person for the right job."
ALICE ARTIST HALCYON LUCAS WINS NORTHERN TERRITORY
Review by KIERAN FINNANE
Halcyon Lucas has won the 1997 Northern Territory Art Award with her
abstract painting Talisman.
This is the third time that Mrs Lucas has claimed the award.
Work by her has also been acquired in several previous awards,
including last year's, for the permanent collection housed at Araluen.
Mrs Lucas believes she may be the only person who has exhibited every
year since the awards started in 1970.
She is also the only exhibitor who has been disqualified, when in 1977
the entry deadline was changed without her knowledge.
On opening night at the Museum of Central Australia Mrs Lucas told the
gathering of artists and friends: "In 1966 I stumbled with fear and
trembling into art.
"It was like searching the world for treasure and finding it in one's
"With no prior knowledge I just knew this was the treasure and I knew
how to swim.
"It was akin to an aquatic bird's first sight of real water, joy
"Joy unbounded" is exactly the feeling expressed in another entry by
Mrs Lucas in this year's award.
Called The Dancers it is a highly original sculpture of two
free-standing "figures", made from branches bound in fantastic
configurations, that evoke ethereal trees with a suggestion of the
human (definitely feminine) about them.
The branches are wound about with many-coloured wools, so while they
have solidity, they also look seductively soft.
Working in three dimensions gives Mrs Lucas a freedom of expression
which she seems to intuitively know how to live up to.
Interestingly Talisman , by contrast, is very much about boundaries.
Whatever the feelings here - they are more complex than joy - they are
going right to the edge, only just contained by the canvas and
occupying, as it were, all its planes.
Without wanting to read too much into the title, it perhaps gives a
clue: a talisman is used to invoke protection.
Here it would seem that the restrictions of the canvas, analogous to
the rational mind, are the protective shield from the powerful chaos of
emotion that has driven the hand, knife and brush.
Mrs Lucas says that while she loves abstract painting, she finds it
much harder, more demanding than figurative painting.
In the process, she closes off her mind and allows her hand to do the
work, guided by she knows not what.
The award exhibition also offers the chance to see other interesting
work, mostly by Alice Springs artists. There are noticeably few
Aboriginal artists - only Mary Anne Malbunka from Ipolera and Djapirri
Munungirritj from Yirrkala.
Among the judge's special mentions is a fine portrait (a little
undermined by its joke, I thought) of Iain Campbell by Homer Coderre.
It's worth comparing it with Mr Campbell's own entry and to realise
that there's only so much that a face reveals of what's going on in a
Sally Mumford's Road Story continues in the vein of her sympathetic yet
surreal narratives of Aboriginal life in the contemporary desert, a
teaser for her exhibition with Ben Ward, which opened at Watch This
Space last night (runs until October 15).
Not singled out by the judge but striking for me were two entries each
by Debra Boyd-Goggin and Alex Toyne.
Both these young artists, currently studying at Centralian College, are
also represented in the Fresh Eyes show at Araluen.
Debra is fully committed to a lurid surrealism drawing on youthful
experience - with titles like Adolescence, Family, and Moshpit.
Alex is more restrained but also hooked into the subconscious with a
singular vision of her environment - strange clusters of red rocks like
elongated loaves of bread, being squeezed out of existence by the
surrounding suburban environment.
Also intriguing is work by Rhys Burnie.
Again surrealism is an influence and again, the vision is singular:
alienated figures in subtly threatening environments.
Less subtle but forcefully threatening is Rhys's Pine Gap "golf ball"
metamorphosed into a giant black spider.
Fresh Eyes is a stimulating viewing experience, setting up
relationships between the work of young artists and works from
Araluen's permanent collection.
This Friday there will be an opportunity for young people to respond
with sounds to the art works, in a workshop with demonstrations and
assistance from the Junior Alice Springs Strings Group. At Araluen,
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