ALICE SPRINGS NEWS,
November 19, 1997
HAS THE GOVERNMENT DONE A DEAL WITH THE NEW AYERS
ROCK RESORT OWNERS TO KILL OFF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AT YULARA?
Report by ERWIN CHLANDA
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
Mr Tobin says the company supports the decision but would make no
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
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.
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.
THE TERRITORY GOVERNMENT: IT'S FUN TO HATE IT!
COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
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
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
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
HER FATHER FOUNDED THE RULING PARTY: NOW SHE WANTS
ERWIN CHLANDA interviews FRAN ERLICH
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
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
Mrs Erlich, a town council alderman, spoke with Alice News editor ERWIN
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
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
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?
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
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."
BOOZE ON ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES WOULD OPEN THE
GRAVES, SAY LUTHERANS
KIERAN FINNANE reports
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
The majority of them have decided that they do not want to have a
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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,
"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'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
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
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
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
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.
former Liquor Commissioner,
NEW BROOM AT TANGENTYERE. Interview by ERWIN CHLANDA
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Return to main page