December 10, 1997
People seeking to preserve the old Alice gaol say the NT government is bent on demolishing it and only a hard-nosed commercial approach can save the historic complex.
Heritage architect Domenico Pecorari, who says he has the support of the National Trust as well as other local groups and individuals, has drawn up a plan to subdivide and sell portions of the land to a variety of users.
Under the plan, the major buildings, some of which date back to 1938 and are monuments to the townÍs social history, would be retained.
Mr Pecorari says his proposal expects to realise $1.56m for the government.
His proposal is for the land included in the heritage precinct only and does not include the vacant southern one-third which will remain available for hospital extensions or other purposes.
Mr Pecorari says it's clear the government has no ambitions of enhancing the town heritage precinct at its own cost, nor to make cheap accommodation available for artists and crafts people.
His preparations are still being frustrated by denial of free access to the gaol.
Mr Pecorari said on Monday that although the government wants to sell the complex, it has not let prospective buyers in to look at it.
He says data and photographs he has available to date were gathered in illegal visits, after climbing over the wall.
Mr Pecorari says the historically significant old gaol buildings are tightly grouped to the front of the prison grounds and occupy a relatively small portion of the land.
The site should be subdivided or strata-titled into seven parcels, some including the older prison buildings of historic importance.
They are (the numbers correspond with those on the map; prices are estimates of value; suggested uses are noted):- [1] Old Gaoler's Residence, 1938, heritage listed, $220,000; suitable for interpretive centre, restaurant or professional office.
[2] Prison Officers' Club, recently built, not heritage listed, $160,000; cafe, restaurant or professional offices.
[3] Vacant land, $240,000; coach depot or artists' workshops.
[4] Original cells, old stone building and original women's cells, 1938, heritage listed, $150,000; tourist retail, exhibition spaces.
[5] Original cells, old office building and warder's cells, 1938, heritage listed, $150,000; tourist retail, exhibition spaces.
[6] Original cells, 1938, heritage listed, also including the dining room with wall paintings (not listed), $300,000; backpacker or hostel accommodation.
[7] Vacant land, $160,000; any tourist related activity.
[8] Car parking area, $180,000, of possible interest to the town council.

The NT Government's obvious eagerness to bulldoze the old Alice gaol may be rooted in its notorious reputation.
CLP politicians no doubt want to get rid of this monument to their failure - over decades - to improve conditions described by international organisations as barely human.
Built for 110 inmates, the gaol at times held 260 prisoners - especially when drunkenness was an offence and perpetrators were sentenced by the hundreds, in court hearings that lasted barely two minutes a case.
The following is an excerpt from an Amnesty International report in 1993.
In one prison Amnesty International did observe conditions which could well be judged unacceptable according to international standards. Alice Springs Prison in the Northern Territory is a generally miserable and cramped prison which is significantly overcrowded.
The bulk of the accomodation comprises three dormitories with places for about 40 prisoners in each.
Amnesty International visited one of these dormitories at midday on a Sunday when the staff shift change was taking place.
The prisoners were all locked up and only a skeleton staff was present.
We were informed that the other two dormitories were of a similar character.
The dormitory Amnesty International visited occupied a whole building beneath a single roof with solid walls but spaces below the eaves for ventilation.
The interior was entirely open plan but was sub-divided by mesh wire into seven or eight sections in each of which were six or seven beds (bunks and singles), an unscreened urinal and a cold water tap.
There were no facilities, nor indeed space for prisoners to keep personal possessions.
Because the sub-divisions were made of wire it was possible for the prisoners to see and have contact, if they shouted, with any other prisoner in the building.
DORMITORY The dormitory we saw contained approximately 40 prisoners, all of them Aboriginal people.
Amnesty International was informed that about 80 per cent of the Alice Springs prison population is Aboriginal.
It was hot and, despite the open eaves, smelled strongly of sweat and urine.
The Alice Springs Prison is designed to accommodate about 120 prisoners, but it reportedly is often significantly overcrowded.
It reportedly holds more than 150 inmates at certain times.
Prisoners are confined to the dormitories for 16 hours a day, from 5 pm to 8 am and from 12 noon to 1 pm.
During these periods of confinement prisoners are obliged to use toilet facilities within their caged sub-divisions with little or no privacy. Amnesty International is concerned that conditions of detention in Alice Springs Prison may violate the rights of Aboriginal people to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person", as set out in Article 10 of the ICCPR, and that in some cases this may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Commission unequivocally condemned the use of dormitories of the sort still in use at Alice Springs and Wyndham prisons, and being phased out but still in existence at Townsville and Broome prisons.
SUITABLE However some prison administrators told Amnesty International that such dormitories are eminently suitable for Aboriginal prisoners because, they said, Aboriginal people prefer to sleep communally and are reluctant to be alone in a cell.
In fact, most prisons catering largely for Aboriginal people relied heavily, if not exclusively, on dormitory accommodation until very recently. At the same time, one prison superintendent stated that a non-Aboriginal prisoner would not be able to cope with such prison conditions. Whatever may be the validity of these assertions, Amnesty International is concerned that such cultural suppositions should not be used as an excuse to provide grossly inadequate, overcrowded or degrading communal accomodation specifically for Aboriginal people.

Chief Minister Shane Stone claims to listen to youth, but about what?
His Round Table of Young Territorians does not have a position on mandatory sentencing, arguably the harshest youth justice regime in Australia.
During this, the Round Table's first year, most of their time has been spent on laying the groundwork for future Round Tables.
Outgoing President Mathew Smith acknowledges mandatory sentencing of juveniles as an important issue, but says the Round Table did not have enough time nor information to reach a consensus on it. He is confident, however, that next year's Round Table will take it up. In an interview in last week's Alice Springs News, Mr Smith expressed his personal view that detention of rural youth in the Don Dale Detention Centre in Darwin is a ñbig problem".
Again speaking as an individual, he also distinguished between the cases of chronic repeat offenders and of those who ñsteal mattresses or break in to try to feed themselves", although the sentencing law does not.
Mandatory sentencing in the latter cases could be seen as ñfairly harsh", he said.
While members of the Round Table feel that they can say anything they want to in their meetings, Mr Smith says their public statements cannot be unfettered.
This is Part Two of an interview by KIERAN FINNANE.
Mathew Smith : It has to be remembered that it is the Chief Minister's Round Table of Young Territorians.
In 99.9 per cent of cases you can say whatever you like.
The point one per cent, as long as you're saying it as an individual, it's fine.
I wouldn't like one of the other members to speak on behalf of the Round Table if they hadn't asked me personally what my view was.
News : Is there a full cross section of youth represented?
In particular, are indigenous youth from bush communities and town lease areas represented?
Smith : I'd have to say yes for this year, we've got two indigenous representatives [James Swan, now based in Darwin, and Graham Smith from Tennant Creek] out of 16, which is not a bad percentage.
I'd like to have the opportunity to encourage young indigenous people to apply because they just don't.
They really should be encouraged, people who have access to the communities and to the youth here in Alice, they should be encouraging them to apply.
Next year there may be a difficulty because we just didn't have enough applicants, only a couple.
They stand a 100 per cent better chance of being selected than the people in Darwin, simply to make the Round Table representative.
We do it demographically, and look for different backgrounds, cultures, living areas, living conditions, to get 16 completely different people. News : How genuinely interested is the Chief Minister in what you have to say?
If it's something clearly against his line of thinking, how much would it count for?
Has that ever occurred?
Smith : Yes, it has. I won't say what it was on.
The beauty of it is, Shane will come in and you can say whatever you like, once you walk out of the meeting room he doesn't hold anything against you
He made the point in the first meeting, whatever is on your mind, you have to broach it with him, because you are there to represent Territory youth, and if you don't tell him you think something is wrong, you are not doing your job as a representative.
Outside of the meeting that's a different matter, but he certainly encourages us to say whatever we like to him or his Ministers.
I've been doing interviews for next year's Round Table, together with the Director of the Office of Youth Affairs.
We'll make recommendations and I imagine the Chief Minister will take our recommendations into account but the final decision is his.
News : Have you identified an agenda for next year?
Smith : What we started this year will roll on, because the members who are continuing have a personal interest in those issues.
Juveniles in the justice system is one of those.
But they really have to formulate their own Round Table.


In outback Central Australia sixty years ago there was no electricity.
 That meant no refrigeration in the home - which might have been only a bush shed with an earthen floor, roofed and even walled with boughs and spinifex.
A few sheets of iron usually covered the dining table and stove.
Stone houses , though surrounded by open verandas, would have been hot in summer, with a fire in the wood-burning stove to heat flat irons, bake bread or cook a roast dinner.
Roast dinners and meals made of steak were luxuries, for fresh (unsalted) meat would keep only for a few days after a beast was killed.
Weeks of boiled, dry salted beef would follow, accompanied by whatever vegetables the lady of the house was able to grow - little enough during hot weather.
Then even a good supply of potatoes and onions brought in from the South might perish. Patties made from cooked meat, stews and curries with plenty of rice and dried peas disguised the taste of old, salty corned beef.
By day the raw beef was hung in a jute flour bag securely tied against flies.
A stray blowfly in the hessian-sided drip safe with the cooked food was not unknown, and a maggot on a dinner plate was brushed away without too much concern!
PUNGENT ANTS Ants, with their pungent smell, were worse than flies, for they clung determinedly to food, resisting all efforts to dislodge them.
The safe, like any other food cupboard, probably stood in pots of water, but the odd ant might float across on a hair or a speck of dust.
Tinned butter from South was often rancid on arrival.
A herd of goats solved the fresh milk problem: boiled milk produced scalding cream.
A separator enabled butter to be made.
Goat mutton was welcome on the menu, too.
Making bread from hop yeast meant setting the yeast first.
When that had risen after about six hours a batch of bread was mixed and set in a warm place to rise, usually overnight.
Next day the dough was kneaded, cut into loaves and set to rise again in greased tins before baking.
At this stage pieces of bread dough might be fried in fat to be eaten hot with jam for breakfast.
Dried fruit, sugar, fat and spice and to bread dough made a fruit loaf called Brownie.
"Bread kept in air-tight crocks in hot weather soon went soft and mushy - ropey."
In a calico flour bag it became dry, but remained edible for days.
Jam was made from pie-melons, rosellas, tomatoes and cape gooseberries, all cultivated in Central Australian gardens.
The fruit was washed and podded or, in the case of melon, peeled and diced by knife on a wooden chopping board, the seeds removed.
Jam was boiled and stirred over a low fire for hours, in a large pot on the stove.
Jars were washed, dried and warmed in the oven before the hot jam was ladled in.
Cakes were made with fat rather than butter, and there was no electric blender to mix them!
Instead of ice cream there was rice pudding, vermicelli or bread and butter custard if the chooks were laying well.
Gingernuts made without eggs were popular for smokos, though likely to crack your teeth if you didn't dunk them in tea!
There was often no water on tap at outback places sixty years ago.
When her husband was away a battler's wife might have to draw water by windlass and bucket from the well.
A station manager's lady would have someone to draw and carry it to the house for her.
She would also have Aboriginal women to help with the housework.
Additional staff meant more cooking!
There would be a little tin wurley or bough hut up the flat, hiding a pit topped with a wooden seat: an old newspaper stuck in the wall, a bucket of ashes and a tin to scatter them downwards.
The nearest thing to a bathroom was a bucket of water, a dish and a cake of home-made soap on a packing case outside the kitchen door.
If a woman wanted to swill more than her face and hands she used a tin tub after dark - in front of the kitchen stove perhaps, in winter.
Men took a bucket of water, soap and towel to the vegie patch at night.
Every bit of beef or goat fat was rendered and kept for making soap.
VOLATILE A mixture of fat, water, caustic soda and resin made a volatile brew that boiled over the moment the housewife's back was turned. It demanded a low fire, a watchful eye and endless stirring until it reached the right consistency, forming golden strings and droplets that hung rather than fell from the raised copper stick.
The mixture was left to set overnight, then tipped out next day, solid, though soft, and cut into blocks to become iron hard as time passed. Kerosene lamps partially lit the main room (the kitchen) for a few hours after dark.
Useless in wind, they popped and flared, blackened their glasses and often went out.
With no radio or television, people read, played cards or the wind up gramophone, or sat outdoors yarning of an evening.
Without fly wire to keep insects away, lamplight attracted every moth and flying ant in the vicinity.
When mosquitoes and flies were particularly annoying after rain a smoke bucket" of smouldering cow dung gave some relief.
On winter evenings the woman might sew, mend or darn beside the kitchen stove.
The treadle sewing machine assembled clothes for most of the family.
CORRESPONDENCE By day there were correspondence lessons to teach the children: bottles of ink and pens with scratchy nibs!
The woman dispensed medicine, diagnosed and bandaged to the best of her ability - mashed soap and sugar for boils and infected wounds, condys crystals as antiseptic.
Orphaned animals were hand reared; laundry was boiled with scraped soap in the wood-fired copper, or scrubbed against corrugated glass or metal wash boards.
Mail days brought half a dozen copies of the South Australian weekly farming paper, The Chronicle", all at once.
Imagine all those births, marriages and deaths columns to scan for news of city friends and relatives!
There were the Country Women's pages, and Madam Wu ... There was no time for a Central Australian housewife to feel bored or lonely. There were never enough hours in any woman's day. But today, life's a lot easier!

In 1937 a Dodge Buckboard made its way north from Adelaide to Alice Springs with an exciting cargo on board: the Centre's first radios.
Until that time the only form of rapid communication between Alice Springs and the outside world was Morse code.
At the wheel of the Buckboard was David Neck, who had an agency to sell the radios, thus establishing the Neck family's foothold in the infant electronics industry.
In 1997, his son Murray is able to look back on 60 years in the business of retailing electronics: "I've seen this industry develop from the most basic product to the very sophisticated product that we have today.
"Our family business has acted as a service organisation in that industry, a supplier of product to the community.
"We've introduced to Central Australia almost every product that we've ever sold, from the first radios and fridges to electric irons, toasters and jugs, the microwave oven, the mobile phone."
Such is the pace of research and development in electronics, the future is hard to predict.
"Nothing stays still," says Murray. "We're always looking for ways to improve our business. "Technology-based service has not been developed in Alice Springs nearly as much as it could and it seems a logical direction for expansion.
We can offer the community, government departments, and businesses a whole rage of technology based products: home theatre, surveillance systems, public address systems, in fact a huge range of services, some very technical, some not so technical, and some applicable to motor vehicles such as car audio and car security."
These services were unimaginable in the 1929 town of just a few hundred inhabitants when Murray arrived as a babe in arms.
The railway line had just been extended from Oodnadatta to Stuart, as Alice Springs was then known.
Murray's family already had connections with the town.
His grandmother, born Annie Williams in Cornwall, England, had come out to Australia on a sailing ship as a child, with her family.
They settled, along with many Cornish people, in the copper-mining town of Moonta, on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.
Moonta was known as Little Cornwall, as it had been established by Cornish people who, Murray says, were reputed as the best copper miners in the world.
As a young woman, Annie arrived in Stuart to stay with Moonta people, friends of the family who had just opened the Stuart Arms.
There she met Murray's grandfather, Charlie Meyers, who had travelled from the Barossa Valley, bringing stock up to the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg.
Charlie liked the area so much that he took out a pastoral lease at Redbank, now part of Glen Helen Station. He later sold the lease, moving into Stuart, where he opened a saddler's shop.
Annie and Charlie married and went on to have three children, the eldest of whom was Murray's mother Dorothy, born in 1898.
At the time of Dorothy's birth Annie was the only white woman living in Stuart.
As the end of her pregnancy approached, she travelled by dray to Oodnadatta, then by train to the nearest midwife in Port Augusta, and then all the way back with her newborn baby.
Later Annie and Mrs Bradshaw at the Telegraph Station were to help each other in childbirth.
Annie took her family to be educated in Adelaide, where Dorothy attended Muirden College.
Later she joined the staff of Charles Moore, then the biggest emporium in South Australia.
During the First World War she met Murray's father David.
The war ended before David saw active service, and he and Dorothy were married in the early 1920s.
Murray's sister Heather was their firstborn.
She is now Heather Clough, and lives at Epenarra Station, north of Hatches Creek.
The Neck family were originally Dutch, had migrated to England, and then to South Australia.
One of Murray's jobs in retirement will be to find out more of their history.
David had been the sales manager of a real estate company called Catt & Catt, but towards the end of the 1920s, with the Depression on its way, he was looking to the north for new opportunities.
Before working in sales, he had been a market gardener.
"He was a pretty hard worker, he could turn his hand to anything," says Murray. "But he was a particularly good sales person. "I've inherited that, and so have my children."
Annie and Charlie had separated, with Annie returning to Stuart to run a boarding house.
She had aspirations of building a hotel and asked her son-in-law to come up and help.
"Right from the start my grandmother and my father didn't hit it off," says Murray.
"She was pretty volatile, and my Dad was probably impatient."
David, however, had more than one string to his bow.
He had come with some commission agencies, and started selling for Harris Scarfe.
Murray remembers spending many childhood hours pouring over the Harris Scarfe catalogue: "It was a Bible, like the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a big thick glossy-covered, leather bound book, full of pictures of all sorts of things, leather goods, furniture, grain, food items."
It was not long before David bought a block of land on Todd Street, the site where Dymocks Bookshop now stands, paying 250 pounds.
There he established an iceworks and a cordial factory, and later opened a milkbar where the family sold their own home-made icecream.
At the same time David continued selling as a commission agent for Harris Scarfe.
In 1932 the Telegraph Station was moved into Stuart, and the town was renamed Alice Springs in the following year.
Trains were scheduled to arrive once a week, with a fortnightly passenger service.
The "off train" was for goods only.
News of the outside world came via the newspapers, always at least a week old.
Murray started at the Alice Springs Primary School in Hartley Street at the age of four: "It was just across the road from where our family was living in a corrugated iron home, on the corner diagonally opposite where the Diplomat Hotel is now. There were only two rooms at the school, with the four junior classes in one room, and the three senior classes in the other. My first teacher was Joyce Jameson."
She later married Ron Donellan and they brought up a family in Alice Springs.
The headmistress at the time was Maisie Robb." Running a household at this time was an arduous job."
Murray's mother, like everyone else, did the washing using a wood-heated copper in the backyard.
Washdays were once a week.
She cooked on a Metters wood stove, and the only means of keeping food cool was a homemade, hessian-sided cool safe.
Butter was tinned and didn't last long.
Goats' milk was delivered daily.
With the demise of the camel trains, a number of Afghan families settled in Alice Springs, establishing goat herds and fruit gardens.
"Their fig trees were absolutely huge," recalls Murray, "and we could climb them like monkeys."
Murray's grandmother Annie had her own herd of goats, a big poultry run, grew her own vegetables and a lot of fruit to supply her boarding house.
Murray's father, being an ex-market gardener, also grew vegetables, particularly during the winter months.
Eventually a butcher's shop opened and beef appeared more often on the Necks' dinner table, as an alternative to goat's meat.
They could also buy groceries from Wallis Fogarty.
The family's iceworks became quite popular.
They delivered to customers on a daily basis.
The cool chest, an improvement on the cool safe, had been developed.
NEXT WEEK: Home comforts take back seat as WW II breaks out.

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