November 19, 1997

Yulara town clerk Bernie McCarthy says he has no doubt that the dissolution of the Yulara town council - on its fifth birthday - was the result of a deal with the new owners of the Ayers Rock Resort, General Property Trust (GPT).
A spokesman for Local Government Minister Tim Baldwin says any arrangement of this kind would be a matter for Treasurer Mike Reed, who did not respond to a request for information from the Alice News.
GPT hotel investment manager Neil Tobin says the council's dissolution was discussed between the NT Government and the company after the deal was made.
Mr Tobin says the company supports the decision but would make no further comment.
Yulara council president Anne Smith, as well as Mr McCarthy, says the timing of events and the financial implications make the assertions by the government and the company difficult to believe.
The sale of the resort to GPT for $220m was announced on November 3.
Without any consultation with the council or the public, the government announced the dissolution of the council on Friday last week (November 14).
Mr Tobin told the Alice News last Monday that the company had taken on most present functions of the council. This means that for the running of the oval, the library, recreation complex, child care and newsletter alone, GPT would be up for $130,000 a year at present costs - without getting any compensation for it.
BURDEN It appears unlikely that a company would take on such a burden just a fortnight after signing a comprehensive agreement, no doubt negotiated over several months.
Mr Tobin says he expects the new functions would be "revenue and expense neutral" and there would be no increase in charges.
Meanwhile the council is scheduled to be shut down on November 28, by a special Act of Parliament.
Residents of Yulara will be attending a protest meeting at 7.30 pm tonight (Wednesday) to consider action.


How long will the rage be maintained?
For at least three and a half years when the next election is due, are hoping a growing number of people.
They include Fran Erlich (promoter of a new political party, see page 2), people who can't believe what the NT government wanted to do to Redbank Gorge, the disenfranchised Yulara population deprived of local government, and locals who've pledged nearly $20,000 to help fight their own government in court and are spending hundreds of manhours protecting the historic - yes, the historic - old Alice gaol from bulldozers making way for whatever it is the government isn't telling us about.
The flip side of this litany of disgraceful acts is that the town - reeling from yet another decrease of tourist numbers - is more united than it's been for a decade, and thumbing one's nose at the government has become a general pastime.
Respected citizens, breaking INTO the gaol, are playing hide and seek with the police.
Right wingers are munching sausage sandwiches with left wingers at the "tent embassy" guarding the gaol, delighted that a Supreme Court injunction has put the demolition of the building on hold for at least another few days.
Public servants are happily leaking information to the media and the guardians of our heritage, that, for example, police were put on stand-by for the demolition job scheduled for 4.30 am last Saturday (police deny this).
The last time a developer conducted a night raid on a treasured building, Turner House, he became a byword for disgraceful behaviour.
Will our "democratic" government be putting itself into that same category?
Rumour has it that Simon Holding, of Inkblack Pty Ltd, has taken on the demolition contract, and that he's a member of the CLP's central council (he will not confirm nor deny either assertion).
A new push for high rise is linked with another rumour, that a hotel chain is keen on the gaol site, and that a secret deal is in place.
Meanwhile Housing and Local Government Minister Tim Baldwin, who according to president Anne Smith discussed the future of the Yulara Town Council with her on October 24 without so much as mentioning its impending annihilation, announces that Rock residents can buy dwellings through Homenorth ELSEWHERE in the NT: the government has flogged off for a song the place where they live - including nearly 400 former Housing Commission homes and the 100 square kilometres of land around it - to a southern company.
Stand by for the self-coronation of our own little Napoleon, Shane Stone, QC.


When it comes to true blue Country Liberal Party breeding you can't get much better than Fran Erlich.
Yet she's going all out to end the CLP's 20-years plus hegemony in the Territory by founding a political party, because, she says, after Redbank Gorge, the old gaol and the killing off of the Yulara Town Council, "the level of frustration in Alice Springs has reached new heights".
Mrs Erlich says: "People from all walks of life think it's unhealthy for the CLP to have such a stranglehold on Territory politics, and they see that Labor, in the near future, will not be able to break that."
Mrs Erlich's father, Bernie Kilgariff, was a CLP Member of the Legislative Council, the Member for Alice Springs in the Legislative Assembly, later its Speaker, and became one of the NT's first two Senators.
Mrs Erlich, a town council alderman, spoke with Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.
News: What's your father saying?
Erlich: Tread quietly. He's one of the people responsible for founding the CLP. I guess he's feeling some sense of loss, but he can probably see why it's happening.
News: In what way is a party better than independents?
Erlich: Parties have discipline and their members vote as a block. They have policies so people know exactly how they stand on issues. It's safer to vote for a party than for independents.
News: What are your policies?
Erlich: No party can survive for long on being born out of frustration with the government. To be successful you have to be much more positive than to be just anti government. At the moment people are looking for more representation, for politicians who will listen and speak up for them. The main issue is communication. The mood in town is frustration and cynicism. People are saying, what else can you expect from that government? They don't listen to us. We're being kept in the dark. People are getting sick of fighting issues and not getting anywhere. For example, this wretched high rise is coming up again. In the next couple of weeks we'll have a public meeting to see who's interested in the new party and in what way. I think we need new industries producing high-tech, low bulk products, to create jobs and keep young people here. We need an international airport. In tourist promotion Alice sometimes is the second sister, and that's reflected in the tourist numbers. Other towns of our size go out and look for new industries. Why can't we do it so we're not so reliant on tourism.
News: What are the other issues?
Erlich: The government is ignoring native title, hoping it will go away. They should be talking to the Aboriginal groups, if nothing else. Nothing's ever going to be resolved by pretending it's not there, and by putting the blame on Aboriginal groups. Town planning is another issue that angers people. Many civil servants in Alice Springs are frustrated with their lack of autonomy, with the resources, decision making and manpower being centralised in Darwin. People feel that other areas are getting more than their fair share of government resources. It's obvious that not the same level of thought and energy is being put into developing Alice Springs [when compared with Darwin]. The government precludes discussion of the railway corridor which is going to run right through our town. They tell us it's just too bad.
News: How could your party make a difference? Erlich:
We need to be a thorn in the side of the CLP. It's 13 CLP against six Labor at the moment. If we could win three or four seats, and a couple more go to Labor, we'd hold the balance of power.
News: New parties have failed here before.
Erlich: The Nationals were seen as coming from outside, that was Joh Bjelke Petersen trying to set up his party. Our party could be a force because it comes from the people here. Locals are very proud of Alice Springs.
News: In terms of left and right, where would your party stand?
Erlich: Middle of the road would be my feeling. I think there are a lot of swinging voters. They go where they think they'll get the best advantage. They tend to vote CLP now, but given an alternative they would vote differently. I guess the ALP is seen to be reactive instead of proactive. They're a bit of a policy vacuum. Meanwhile Stuart's Peter Toyne, the ALP's only sitting Member in The Centre, says: "There are lots of thing we can do for each other against the common enemy of the Berrimah Line, and against a government that is proving less and less responsive to the needs of the town." "We'd always be prepared to sit down and work out a helpful alliance."


The idea of wet canteens on Aboriginal communities is not new.
It's been tried with disastrous results, say, on the one hand, Pastor Paul Albrecht and Gary Stoll of the Finke River Mission, and on the other, researcher Peter d'Abbs.
Mr d'Abbs, employed by the Menzies School of Health Research, is author of the 1987 review of the Northern Territory's Restricted Areas Legislation and more recently, formally evaluated with Ian Crundall the Tennant Creek Liquor Licensing Trial.
Mr d'Abbs says that in his experience most Aboriginal communities do have an understanding of the Liquor Act, and at some stage they have considered whether or not to apply for a liquor licence in their community.
The majority of them have decided that they do not want to have a licence.
"The notion that Aboriginal communities have a responsibility to have drinking clubs in their communities is pernicious," says Mr d'Abbs. "There is at least one Melbourne municipality that I know of, Box Hill, that has refused to have a pub within its boundaries for a very long time," he says.
"Nobody ever questions that. "It is the right of every elected council to say no to having licensed premises in their area."
His 1987 inquiry into "dry" areas legislation found that: "Proposals to establish licensed clubs on communities as a means of reducing the number of Aborigines visiting towns and drinking are not supported by available evidence, and constitute an inappropriate response to the problems associated with urban Aboriginal alcohol abuse.
"Such problems need to be addressed in the context in which they occur, which mean that appropriate services must be provided in the towns." Mr d'Abbs says his research has also found that licensed clubs in Aboriginal communities, among them the two set up to provide so-called "controlled drinking environments" in the uranium mining areas of the West Arnhem region, consistently lead to very high levels of consumption, chronic drinking rather than binge drinking.
In these circumstances, whatever the effect on the incidence of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour, the impact on the drinkers' health is undoubtedly worse, he says.
Pastor Albrecht and Mr Stoll are concerned that people in positions of authority, pushing for wet canteens, are not "doing their homework", that is, looking at past failures and understanding them.
The two men were working at the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg when a wet canteen was introduced there in the seventies.
It lasted for about 12 months.
"The lessons we learnt from this experiment are still valid," says Pastor Albrecht, "because the factors which caused the experiment to fail are still present on all the artificial communities we have created through earlier establishment of missions and government settlements."
The early policy of the mission favoured prohibition.
However, after first Albert Namatjira and then, in 1965, all Aboriginal people gained "drinking rights", it was only a matter of time before ever increasing quantities of alcohol were being brought into Hermannsburg.
Attempts by the mission to stop the traffic failed and they started to look at a different approach.
They proposed the idea of a wet canteen - "we talked them into it," says Mr Stoll - which would be regulated by the community itself, with the agreement of the local magistrate (the licensing authority at the time) and the chief of police in Alice Springs.
Over a number of years, the community, through its democratically elected council, decided that they would prosecute any individuals who brought alcohol into the community, while at the same time making limited quantities of beer available for local consumption on six evenings of the week.
It worked well for the first couple of weeks. "They started with a two cans limit," says Mr Stoll.
"Then it went to three, then it went to four under pressure, then the council members insisted that they stick to four but when they closed the canteen for the night, the council members themselves would take a couple of cartons down to the creek."
In the meantime, according to Pastor Albrecht, wine and some spirits were also brought into the mission without the council prosecuting anyone.
"The other interesting thing that I observed," adds Mr Stoll, "is that because there were two cans up there for everybody, a lot of the women who had never had a drink before, came up and claimed these two cans and they'd drink them.
"They got onto the grog that way." In the end, the council members involved with the canteen found themselves under intolerable pressure within the community and were often themselves the worst grog runners, according to Pastor Albrecht.
"As far as the mission achieving its objective of helping the Hermannsburg community deal with its alcohol problem, the experiment was a complete failure," he says.
"The basic reason is that people living at Hermannsburg did not form a community.
"Their own form of social organisation placed them in different autonomous descent groups who had their own leaders, their own body of knowledge and their own land.
"There were no traditional, nor as yet learned mechanisms, for the groups to work together, except for those relating to ceremonial gatherings, and these were appropriate only to that function.
"Within this context democratically elected councils did not fit and could not work.
"Nor did the individuals or councils given responsibility via the democratic process, see themselves as responsible or accountable even when they were involved and part of the process." "It goes further than that," says Mr Stoll.
"One of the things that's sacrosanct in Aboriginal society is what you think. People think Aborigines have a communal life and that everybody's got the same ideas.
"But an Aboriginal never asks another Aboriginal what he thinks and one group can't tell another group what to do. "The individual has freedom, providing it's within the parameters set by the society, and there aren't any when it comes to alcohol-related behaviour.
"The only time I've seen an Aboriginal person 'drop' somebody was when they were starting to say or sing things that would threaten that whole family, that they weren't supposed to hear.
"The only rules and laws that people have got a commitment to are the ones that were handed down or given by the ancestors.
There aren't any authority figures as such in Aboriginal society, only the people who know the law and pass it on, but they're passing on the law, not their ideas, and the authority for the law is in the past.
"I always say that one of the reasons why Christianity took on reasonably well is that a similar thing applies. The authority that Pastor Albrecht has is only the Word, God's word that he handed down.
"One of the reasons why Aboriginal councils have got no authority, is because their activities, including running the canteen, are outside of this body of laws.
"There is an authority structure, but it's not elected, it's inherited.
A person who becomes a senior traditional owner, is only there because of his grandfather and his great-grandfather.
You can by-pass people if they're not capable and teach the next one down, but you can't work your way up and you can't elect people.
"We're observing that the basic outlook on life hasn't changed since we've been around over the last 40 years.
"When we twigged to the whole kinship and land-holding system at Hermannsburg, I suddenly realised that all the people that had been put in or elected to the different councils at Hermannsburg, none of them were ever the leaders of their families.
"The council system comes in handy to get money from the government and when it suits them they'll go along with it, but when it doesn't, they don't.
Now, people don't drink to enjoy their drink, they drink to get drunk and the quicker the better.
We all know that alcohol changes behaviour in all societies, but when there aren't any prohibitions, any rules that anyone can appeal to, it's awful.
"When Aboriginal people get drunk they do things that no way in the world they would do in certain kin relationships.
For example, an Aboriginal man wouldn't ever think of hitting his, what we class as, nephew."
Mr Stoll relates one such incident that he had personal experience of, where a drunk man seriously injured his nephew.
The intervention of two Aboriginal pastors averted payback deaths but conflict within the family remained unresolved for four years.
"When the government decided that Aborigines should have drinking rights, nobody was educated, nobody knew what was going to hit them, that it would be such a big problem and that the graves would open up."
Pastor Albrecht and Mr Stoll argue that the Dry Areas Legislation has been the only recourse for Aboriginal people in their struggle with grog. They say that many drinkers in fact support dry areas as they prefer that there not be a pressure to drink all the time.
Why cannot some authority on the question of alcohol consumption derive from the church? Says Pastor Albrecht: "Because it would be seen as the pastor's decision, it would not be seen as a prohibition from the Almighty God, which it isn't.
You can't say that God said you should not drink alcohol if you accept that God created the world and all that's in it.
"The scripture is equally clear that you shouldn't be a drunkard.
They're aware of that but it doesn't mean that they're gong to abide by it.
"It's like their own rules, they don't always abide by them, but there's a core to which you can appeal at any time and say this is what ought to be. But you can't say that for introduced things, like a council making rules for alcohol."
Adds Mr Stoll: "Jesus made wine out of water!" So why does the decision to have a dry community have authority?
Mr Stoll: "The authority is that of our government: it's an offence then to bring alcohol onto the community and the police can do something about it."
Pastor Albrecht: "They are saying, 'You introduced it, it's your problem, you fix it'." Mr Stoll: "They need some help, that's what they're saying."

A letter from a former liquor commissioner

Sir,- The coroner's findings in relation to road deaths is the law of the land and we must stick with it, and fully agree with his remarks about take away alcohol from roadhouses.
However, regarding endorsement of wet canteens on dry Aboriginal communities, it would not be the first time that a part of judicial thinking appears out of step with public thinking.
About 17 years ago, I conducted the hearing at Docker River when application was made for a restricted area.
The restriction was granted only, repeat only, after extensive discussion involving the community.
I strongly suggest that anyone interested should discuss the results of that particular decision with the Department of Health or with the recently retired health sister who was in charge for many years before and after restriction.
On the June 15, 1981 after receiving an application for a liquor licence I conducted a hearing in Alice Springs involving Erldunda Roadhouse, situated on the turn off from the Stuart Highway onto the Lasseters Highway.
The latter goes past Mt Ebenezer (where the local Aboriginal community had requested and were granted a six can limit take away per person, per day), to Curtin Springs onto Ayers Rock and then Dockers River.
After inspecting the proposed licensed premises, I granted a licence in principle subject to certain requirements; I refused a take away licence. However, when I was no longer involved in the Liquor Commission, an application was made for the take away licence which was granted by the then Chairman of the Commission who resided in Darwin.
I was not contacted regarding this matter although my reasons were known.
It appears the granting of a take away as a condition of the licence would have been to the delight of the liquor industry and others.
I am extremely opposed and concerned for any wet canteens on any Aboriginal community as I do not believe it is the answer to the problem especially as employment is missing.
To allow this, it could be a one-sided benefit, and is dangerous.
Why some 18 years on, things are not getting better, but worse, is beyond me.
Maybe this could be because when members of the Liquor Commission start to see some light at the end of the tunnel, the licensing commission is turned over to start again.
Sometimes, I really wonder when previous decisions involving roadhouses and the like are turned over. To my knowledge, previous members or Commissioners have never been directly approached or called on either by the Minister responsible or the Liquor Commission to discuss reasons for decisions or for knowledge gained while a member of the Commission.
Surely this would be plain ordinary common sense; let's get serious about a terrible problem.
John McMahon,
former Liquor Commissioner,
Alice Springs.

Betty Pearce, 65, is an Arrernte woman whose mother, Ruth Vincent, from the Borroloola area, was an articulate, knowledgeable woman, highly regarded in the Aboriginal community.
Mrs Pearce's father was Tommy Williams, the legendary drover, prospector and raconteur.
Mrs Pearce herself has had a long career in white as well as black politics and administration, and has a network of family and friends spanning the width and breadth of the Northern Territory.
Last week she was elected as the first woman president of Tangentyere, Alice Springs' biggest and potentially most important Aboriginal organisation, and the town's most highly funded, with an estimated budget of $7m (including $4.7m from ATSIC).
Mrs Pearce takes the reins of Tangentyere at a time when the organisation is deeply troubled.
An ATSIC-ordered consultant's report has suggested substantial "downsizing, shedding activities not receiving direct government funding, and said the organisation needs a "multi skilledî executive officer.
As a result, says Mrs Pearce, the executive had a discussion with Mr Shaw who agreed to step down, despite a statement to the contrary from a Tangentyere spokesman last week.
For the past couple of years Tangentyere has been run under a veil of secrecy.
For example, the so-called annual reports released to the public do not include income and expenditure information; last week, when asked for details, a spokesman said it is "not necessary" to reveal the magnitude of alleged Government cut-backs, and their effect on the organisation. Earlier this year, Tangentyere lost an estimated $600,000 in a failed business venture, Territory Business Suppliers. (Mrs Pearce says she cannot comment on that matter because of impending legal action.)
Most importantly of all, the organisation's 250-odd CDEP "work for the dole employees are grossly under-utilised, both in terms of quantity and quality of the work they're doing.
As a player in the town's administration and development, says Mrs Pearce, Tangentyere is a token rather than real participant.
The grandmother, town camp resident (Mt Nancy) and long-term executive member of Tangentyere is determined to tackle a huge agenda.
She spoke with Alice News editor Erwin Chlanda.
News: You're planning to allocate portfolios to the six executive members. You're taking on finance and CDEP. What is CDEP doing?
Pearce: I have no idea what they are doing at the moment. The executive is told they're doing town council type of work, tidying up the camps outside the fences of the individual homes. That's not enough. To me that's like doing my own kind of work at home. It doesn't have a vision, achieving something in the end. They are having training but I can't see where that training will take people. It should be taken into a direction where people can be self-reliant, working in the field of tourism, for example, or child minding in the camps. In tourism they could take people around town and tell visitors the stories from an Aboriginal point of view. I have been doing this from time to time, and people are absolutely fascinated, hearing the stories from the people who are the actual custodians. The men and women who have the stories could tell them, not the whole stories, but the surface stories, those which wouldn't create complications. For example, my own story about the Yeperenye [caterpillar] starts at Jupiter Well, in WA, west of Kiwirrkurra. A geologist told me the mound where my story starts has exactly the same geological make-up as the MacDonnell Ranges. We've known that for thousands of years.
News: Some say CDEP is a success.
Pearce: The government is claiming success for CDEP inasmuch as people are registered as working.
News: There are 250 half-time workers in the Tangentyere CDEP program. That's the equivalent of 125 full time staff - one of the town's biggest work forces. Are we getting adequate results?
Pearce: People working in the old people's and the home maker services, and in the secondary-age education program, Detour, are producing positive results. Some are making sure that people are receiving their social security payments and pensions, all this is positive stuff - but it's not enough, 20 or 30 people can do that kind of work. News: What are the other portfolios you will be allocating to executive members? Pearce: I'd like to see a social behaviour program to be reintroduced, encouraging people to respect each other as Aboriginal people, respecting Aboriginal culture.
News: That raises the alcohol issue. What should happen there?
Pearce: At this moment I have no idea. I don't believe in restrictions. I believe it's up to the person to learn to control themselves. The abuse is worse now than it ever was. Most of the programs say grog is evil, grog is this or grog is that. It's not the grog. I have yet to see a can of grog jump up and grab a person by the neck. The big problem is that the government has shovelled money at the problem when it was too late. You've got to get to the kids before they get into trouble. Tangentyere should be looking at this. To this point there hasn't been anything. Tangen-tyere's focus has been on rehabilitation. All my four kids have known what alcohol is all about since they were tiny. None of the four are drunks.
News: What other portfolios are there?
Pearce: There's community development, the old people's service, the home makers' service and the bus run, taking people to the food outlets before they wonder off and get drunk. These services are OK now, but they can be better.
News: The Alice town council occasionally makes the point that it consults with the Aboriginal people through Tangentyere.
Pearce: It's all tokenism. We're not listened to in a meaningful way. They're using us when they want to show that the town council has had consultation with an Aboriginal organisation. Tangentyere and the town council should be working parallel to each other but in support of each other. I've become quite cynical and can't be bothered wasting my time with them. They don't want to listen to us, so why should we say anything to them? [The town council has been a three times loser in protracted court battles seeking rate payments from the town camps.]
News: Standing for town council elections seems to be a waste of time for Aborigines.
Pearce: Because of the preferential voting system there's just no chance of an Aboriginal person getting in, and I'm not sure Alice Springs is big enough for a ward system. Yet the two councils can work together fairly effectively, as the Todd River wardens system shows. I'd like to see much more of that. News: Why?
Pearce: Somehow Aboriginal people have to rebuild their pride in themselves. How we're going to do that I don't know. The problem is, rules are being put in place but they aren't adhered to. For example, I have rules that a drunk person doesn't come into my house, and people don't bring more than six cans or one bottle of wine to my place, and they share them. I've stuck to that. It's been absolute hell but these are my standards. It took 10 years but for the last five people have accepted it. People will say, you can't come to Auntie Betty's place because you're drunk. You have to stick to these rules and you can't deviate from them. I won't give money for grog. I'll give food any time, but not for grog. Everyone knows that. I won't give money for gambling.
News: Is there too much gambling?
Pearce: Yes, casino gambling is becoming very serious. [By contrast] the card playing in the camps is more a social gathering and the money stays in that community. Whoever's winning usually finishes up buying the food for the rest of the mob, anyway.
News: Tangentyere bought a share in the Milner Road store which has a liquor department. Was that the right thing to do?
Pearce: I defend that. In connection with Territory Health the store runs good food days. We've had a drink sense day. The store is making money. We're upgrading the food section. People using food vouchers [provided by Tangentyere in exchange for welfare payments, under a voluntary scheme] can't buy grog or cigarettes with them, nor a range of junk food. The people can decide what they want that shop to provide.

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