THEATRE IN THE ALICE GETS A RAW DEAL FROM THE GOVERNMENT
Members and supporters of Centre Stage Theatre will get their gear off to raise money for their impoverished organisation - Full Monty style.Director Bryn Williams says they'll be baring all in a show at Lasseter's Casino because NT government funding for the group is unbearable.The group, working exclusively with young people, in the past few months staged at Araluen two outstanding productions, "Romeo and Juliet" and "Evita", and more recently, "Hamlet".Centre stage put on 203 shows in the last five years, involving 1000 young people.The current membership is 127.Centre Stage, in the 1996-97 allocations from the NT Government's Arts and Museums Minister, received just $8700.Their Darwin counterpart, the Brown's Mart Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre, collected $164,025 in the same period - nearly 19 times the amount paid to Centre Stage.Taking into account the $15,000 allocated to the Araluen Youth Theatre, Darwin based theatre for young people received nearly seven times as much as Alice Springs from Daryl Manzie's department.The Araluen Youth Theatre has since since folded because of lack of funds. Its highly talented director, Scott Casley, and his equally artistic wife, Karen Rickards, have moved to New Zealand.Compared with Centre Stage, the Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre's projects are much smaller in scale and effort.Last year's principal efforts were:-
Four young women each designed an internet web page, some incorporating videos.
A performance at Palmerston and Nightcliffe for the NT Youth Festival and the Australian Youth Dance Festival, with 17 dancers, explored how young people are perceived.
Five artists took part in a project with the Aboriginal community at Groote Eylandt.
In June, two days of workshops, exhibitions and concerts marked the opening of the theatre's move to its new Nightcliffe premises.The Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre has 150 members. It employs two full time and one part time employees.Mr Williams, born in Alice Springs and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, directs, teaches and runs Centre Stage entirely as a volunteer.With a small team of helpers - also unpaid - his work on complex and highly acclaimed productions ranges from organising the props to directing.He operates out of a ramshackle office in the Youth Centre, equally starved for funds, and additionally to his artistic work, frequently needs to come up with fund raising projects to keep Centre Stage viable.
ALLIED HEALTH SERVICES HAVE BEEN A MESS FOR YEARS. Comment by GERARD WATERFORD
I hold grave concerns about the response by the Minister of Territory Health Service to recommendations of the interim report on allied health professional staff in Central Australia (Alice News, April 22).I have been involved in the management and delivery of allied health services as the program manager of Aged and Disability Service in Alice Springs between 1992 and 1995, and since then as a consultant in aged care.I was a founding member of the Allied Health Professional Group of Alice Springs and retain close links with this group.The response of the Minister would indicate that he has not been made aware of other reports and review findings that entirely support the current interim report findings. Allied health professionals are a key component of the delivery of effective health care services. They contribute to the longer term prevention of illness and disability.They have a vital role in the early detection and treatment of disease. They can assist with the effective management and delivery of recuperative and restorative aftercare. The lack of sufficient allied health professional positions in the key areas of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology has contributed to the development of high cost, ineffective and inappropriate health and hospital services across Central Australia.Review after review during the 1990s recommended additional physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology positions.The latest Territory Health funded review into Central Australian allied health professional services, currently being debated in the media, follows in a long line of publicly funded reviews that have not been adequately implemented.This includes the Central Australian Aged Care Three Year Strategic Plan completed in March 1997.That plan recommended increased corporatisation and devolvement of health service delivery in Alice Springs.The community health centre is one of five agencies delivering parts of a home support service.It is by far the most expensive service. For example, Red Cross Community Services has "additional costs above salaries" of less than 20 per cent. The figures for the Territory Health Service was 67 per cent.The report recommended all services being integrated into two community based home support service providers.This would have led to a significantly reduced role for Territory Health. It recommended additional allied health professional positions in remote areas, and the need to improve the management and resources within Alice Springs.It also notes the need to act on the findings of the Territory Independence and Mobility Equipment Scheme [TIMES] Review [Karen Marchant, 1993], Adult Guardianship Review [David Gornall, 1994] and the HACC Training Program Review [Agnes Rinaldi, 1993]. Corporatisation is not a universally popular concept in health services planning. However it can reduce administrative on-costs, improve management structures and the ability for services to target groups of clients.One look at the costly management structure that exists in the community health centre is a very persuasive argument in favour of a new corporatised model.You have a regional manager, Alice Springs Urban Manager, Community Health manager, program manager positions and a nurse co-ordinator before you get to anyone who delivers a service to the community.All these positions attract salaries in excess of $40,000. Most are paid at better than $50000.Have all these levels of management improved the recruitment, support and retention of staff? No. Have they managed to develop a system for charging joint defence staff for access to specialised services? I suspect not. Red Cross has a local manager that has responsibilities to the blood bank service and community services.It has a community services co-ordinator / assessor. Neither position is paid anywhere near $40000.Both are hands on staff. Red Cross partially recovers costs for most services it provides. Tangentyere Council has a community services manager with responsibilities for housing, banking and other community services.It has a Homemakers and Old People's Service co-ordinator. Neither position attract large salaries. Tangentyere partially recovers costs for all its services. There are award and other historical issues that determine Territory Health structures and salaries.This short comment is a simplistic examination of cost effectiveness of home support services.However, I have few fears that a more detailed examination of service provision models, as recommended in the Central Australian Aged Care Plan, would conclude that a corporatised system, devolved to community based agencies, would be the most effective model for developing good quality services. I have been involved in numerous public and professional health service forums.The issue of the lack of adequate allied professional positions has featured heavily on many occasions.In particular, the minutes of the annual Very Very Remote Area Allied Health Professional Group have constantly supported increased positions. These have been well circulated and commented on at all levels of management of the Territory Health Service. The failure to provide adequate allied health services leads to increased disability and hospitalisation.The figures quoted in the paper on the high level of amputation that could have been prevented with improved preventative and follow up care is entirely believable.This point has been made in numerous reports and documents presented at National and local forums.Diabetes is a major cause of amputations in Central Australia. Adequate diabetes workers and improved follow up treatment for clients requiring artificial limbs would significantly reduce the need for high cost hospitalisation and surgery. The lack of allied health professional positions is not just an issue ignored by the Territory Health Service.It is a problem that no funding exists for physiotherapy, occupational therapy or speech pathology positions within any of the Central Australian Aboriginal community controlled health services, (except for a recent physiotherapy position created in the Cross Border Region under the NPY Women's Council). Territory Health Service has acknowledged the need for allied health professional positions by the creation in 1996 of occupational therapy and speech pathology positions in the Barkly Health District.The current report provides a timely reminder that these positions were also needed in the Remote Areas region.The six positions recommended by the report equate to recommendations in other reviews and forums.In the Central Australian Remote Area district, a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist are covering preventative, educational, assessment and post hospital treatment for adults and children for the about 20 major Central Australian communities and 60 plus outstations, more than 10,000 people spread over an enormous geographic area. Both positions have been intermittently vacant for considerable time.This system has never worked effectively and has no hope of making a real difference to the high levels of disability and morbidity of groups in these communities.Of about 40 people in disability accommodation in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, at a cost of more than $40000 per person, more than 90 per cent are Aborigines, most from remote areas. Hospitalisation rates and rehospitalisation rates for preventative causes will continue to be very high until allied health and follow up care is available on the communities.NATIONAL FORUMSThe issues of local Territory Health Services mismanagement of the recruitment, professional development and retention of allied health staff has also been well documented in local and national forums.A survey of Central Australian allied health professional positions within the Territory Health Services and NT Education Department was undertaken in 1997.Poor management within the Alice Springs health sector area was noted. A lack of acknowledgement of allied health professional work was given as a major reason for unusually high staff turnover.Mismanagement, failure to recruit to key positions, unworkable client loads were also noted. Eight out of 17 therapists interviewed stated they intended leaving their positions within three months, with the vast majority of these being health employees. Many of the failures in health management have systemic roots.Medical and nursing staff dominate all health service management structures.They have very strong and entrenched professional associations.They also have a bad record in developing effective and innovative health service delivery.This is the same at the local level where doctors and nurses control nearly all executive management positions.The report has recommended an allied health executive management position. I would support this innovation, particularly if it was accompanied by reduced executive management positions in other areas.Central Australia has more executive management positions than most large States.It tends to be a truism that the more managers you have, the less decisive the leadership, and the more tedious becomes the process of even committing to obvious areas of change.The health care area is under continuing financial pressure from both levels of government.It's undoubtable that this has contributed to poor local management decision making.But you do not save money in health care by reducing staff in the low cost community health areas.This leads to an explosive increase in preventable hospitalisation and reduced client independence and functioning.Alice Springs Hospital costs between $500 and $1000 a day per patient. It is running at dangerous occupancy levels.This must be closely linked to the lack of good quality health education, early detection and post acute care in the community.In particular Aboriginal clients make up over 65 per cent of the total days spent in a hospital bed.The continuing appalling mortality and morbidity figures of remote area Aboriginal community groups demonstrates the need additional allied health professional positions.A failure to implement this report will lead to the need to build a bigger hospital.But it does not always cost more money to provide a better mix of health services in Central Australia.Rather it requires a commitment to national best practice models of health care and the development of primary health care initiatives.Good quality leadership and a commitment to effectively manage the change from a hospital and medical model to a case mix model that supports continuity of care is essential.Territory Health Service is to undertake a continuity of care pilot study. This is to be applauded. As a health services consultant it is very disappointing to see the Minister for Territory Health Service taking departmental advice to "shoot the messenger".The report findings are timely, and in line with numerous recent reviews and reports undertaken internally or independently through funding from the Territory Health Service.We can't all be wrong. It would be good to see the Minister take another look at the report.If he is concerned about the potential costs of the recommendations he may care to examine the multiple levels of over management that contributes to poor functioning of the department.Enough savings exist there to revamp the entire service. Too little of the current expenditure goes into direct client services that support good quality care in the community.People often get very little value out of extremely expensive hospital and surgical treatment for the lack of reasonable after care.[Mr Waterford is a member of Counselling and Advocacy Services of Central Australia, a business partnership of health professionals.]
WHEN THE APEX CLUB WAS RUNNING THE NORTHERN TERRITORY. Comment by JUNE TUZEWSKI
I never cease to be amazed by the number of people who mention this column to me - from all walks of life and across the Territory. I'm not a journalist, just a Territorian who's been here a number of years and enjoys the lifestyle, and I find the tenacity of Centralians, past and present, especially fascinating. This brings me to last week's article. Many people have asked for further information about Hamilton Downs. Firstly, let me sincerely apologise to the Prior and Miller families for any embarrassment which I may have inadvertently caused. Bill Prior took up the position of station manager of Hamilton Downs Station in the early 50's. However, the old homestead was, in fact, donated to the community by Centralian Pastoralist, Damien Miller.Information provided by the management committee reveals that Hamilton Downs Station is named after George Hamilton, a South Australian, who provided support to the well known explorer, John McDouall Stuart.The station was established in the early 1900's by Sid Stanes Jnr and Ted Harris. The first buildings were a timber and galvanised iron hut and a meat house, both of which are still standing today.The first substantial homestead was built in 1913, and is still used today as the camp kitchen and dining area. Ten years later the stone house, which is now used as the main bunkhouse, was built by Jack Williams, a well known Centralian Builder. In the Alice he built Adelaide House and the Stuart Town Jail.In 1948 a new homestead was built on another part of the station property and the old buildings fell into disuse until 1972 when the Apex Club of Central Australia undertook to develop the area as a youth camp. It was officially opened in March 1978 and today the operation of the facility is managed by a independent management committee.NT Government financial assistance allows for the employment of a caretaker and maintenance of the solar power and water supply by the Power and Water Authority.If you have a special interest in Central Australia and its past you may like to contact Mandy McLean at the Town Library, who has responsibility for the Alice Springs Collection.Among the calls: Apex Clubs - What's happened to Apex? Well, I'm please to report that Apex is alive and well, although there is now only one club in town - The Apex Club of Central Australia.Apex Clubs have been well known around Australia as Young Men's Service Clubs. While some clubs and organisation have broadened their membership to include women, this has not been a requirement for Apex because of the way its constitution was originally written. A similar situation exists in reverse for Zonta, which is not required to accept male members.Apex holds the distinction of being the town's first service club (established in 1953). It was the service club that brought the Rodeo to town in 1969, although this is now run by the Rough Riders Association. The first rodeo yards were made of wood donated by local pastoralists and collected by Apexians. Later the yards were upgraded and Jim Luedi, now president of the Rotary Club of Alice Springs-Mbantua. Jim is still haunted by the story of welding his welder to the steel posts.Chances are, if you live in an older part of town, that the corner playground near your house was part of an Apex service project. Today, it's local Apexians who are there marking the curbside with your house-number, looking after the security at the Alice Springs Show and helping out, with many others, at events such as The Masters Games.Apex in the Centre has also played a major part in our political life. Chief Ministers Paul Everingham (originally from the Alice) and Ian Tuxworth (from Tennant Creek) were past-Apexians, as were Jim Robertson (former Member for Gillen) and Ray Hanrahan (former Member for Flynn).Erwin Chlanda, owner and editor of this newspaper, who plays no small part in keeping our politicians on their toes, was also a member of Apex. This list is not all inclusive. In fact, the role of service organisations in preparing people for public life across Australia must be considerable.If you're male and under 40, not necessarily looking for a career in politics, but looking for a way to make a contribution to the local community, Apex may be just the right club for you. The local contact is Tim Jennison on 8952 5500 (bh) or 8953 2953 (ah). Meetings take place on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at the Memorial Club in Gap Road.
CHIEF MINISTER SHANE STONE'S DOUBLE STANDARDS ON ABORIGINAL NATIVE TITLE. Comment by ERWIN CHLANDA
Bashing blacks is clearly too good an electoral strategy for the Stone Government to allow even the most significant developments to interfere.When the Alice News broke the story about an historic agreement between a land developer and Aboriginal native title claimants that could increase the supply of residential land, the price of which has reached absurd heights in the past few years, Mr Stone and his Central Australian mouthpiece, Richard Lim, swiftly went to work.In a twisting of facts that would make Pauline Hanson envious, Mr Stone turned an initiative of major potential benefit to the Alice Springs home buyer, into yet another grab by Aborigines for our back yards.The story so far: developer Jim Watson and the Alice native title claimants, headed by Aboriginal businessman Bob Liddle, are getting close to a joint venture deal for the development of some 100 blocks initially, and potentially more later, in the Mt Johns Valley.The area is explicitly identified for future urban use in the government's land use objectives for Alice Springs.Clearly, the consent of the NT Government will be required, as the area is Crown Land, a fact acknowledged by Mr Liddle whom we quoted as saying that the government "must be a party to the agreement". There are certainly precedents for direct sales to developers: the "retirement village" land in Cromwell Drive is one example.Without offering a shred of proof, Dr Lim attacked the Alice News for "publishing half truths".Then last week his master went the whole hog in the Assembly. Asked by Labor's John Ah Kit whether he supported this "major real estate development", Mr Stone said "the answer is a big, big no! It is not their land. It is our land, the people's land, Territorians' land".You see, it's just another land grab, according to Mr Stone: "Imagine that you are the owner of a property and a real estate developer says that it looks a pretty good piece of land to him," Mr Stone intoned in the Assembly."There are also some Aboriginal claimants who say they have an affiliation with that land and will make a claim over it. The Aboriginal claimants and the real estate developer get together."And here comes the sleight of hand: "They do not include you in the loop even though you are the owner of the land." Baloney. The land's ownership by the Crown has always been explicitly acknowledged.Mr Stone goes on: "The Member for Arnhem [an Aborigine, of course!] has asked whether or not I would support that happening."Mr Ah Kit hasn't done anything of the sort."The answer is an unequivocal no."Mr Stone and Dr Lim could have been celebrating a breakthrough in Alice Springs race relations, and gratefully joining and promoting an initiative that could provide reasonably priced land for their constituents. They're clearly intent on doing neither.So, when next you pay $70,000 to $100,000 for a vacant house block in this desert town, and you're told it's the "blackfellers" who are to blame, you'll know how cynical that assertion is.
THE PUBLIC SCORES A VICTORY ON HIGHWAY PLANTS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
There will be no oleanders, lantana or buffel grass planted in the enhancement of the North Stuart Highway.Responding to concern expressed in submissions from the public and a strong leaning towards the use of native species, the Department of Transport and Works will engage an independent consultant to review this aspect of the draft Alice Springs road landscape strategy, according to Transport and Works regional director John Baskerville.Deputy Mayor and horticulturalist Geoff Miers has greeted the decision as a "100 per cent win for the community".Arid Lands Environment Centre coordinator Deborah Metters also welcomes the move.However, she says ALEC remains concerned about the future of the exotic species already propagated."We understand that they are to be used elsewhere in the Territory, but dwarf oleanders, in particular, are not appropriate species anywhere here. They are noxious weeds, environmentally dangerous and a health hazard."We don't want to see our problems simply transplanted elsewhere."Ms Metters also says water conservation issues remain a concern.Mr Baskerville told the Alice News that he expects the consultant to start the review at the beginning of May, and finish before the end of the month, in time hopefully "to get some plants into the ground" before the onset of winter frosts."However, I need to make sure that the strategy is what the people of Alice Springs want," said Mr Baskerville.He said the best way to ensure this is to have an independent review taking into account the more than 100 submissions received from the public, and that a local consultant would be preferred to carry it out.He said he was not dissatisfied with the original consultants, Gillespies Asia Pacific based in Darwin, whose overall strategy was good in his view, but it had some problems in its plant selection.He expects that the end result for the North Stuart Highway will now be landscaping similar to that existing in Larapinta Drive, and along the Stuart Highway from Wills Terrace to Stott Terrace.That landscaping was done by local Transport and Works teams and "reflects the environment well," said Mr Baskerville."I would like to see what we do along the highways to be compatible with what has been done around town," he said, citing as examples the enhancement at the foot of Billygoat Hill, at the back of the Post Office and in the adjacent car park.He said the water conservation issues raised in the public debate over the strategy were separate issues, although at the end of the day "everything marries together".Donning his Power and Water Authority chief's hat, he said at an estimated cost of $400,000 it is simply too expensive at this point to extend the non-potable water supply from the town basin to the North Stuart Highway, although this is identified as an eventual project in the authority's forward works.In the meantime PAWA can compensate, by replacing the use of Roe Creek water with non-potable water in areas where the connection will not be as costly.ENHANCEMENTHe said the total project of enhancement of the North Stuart highway is costed at $1.5m.Meanwhile, Ald Miers comments that the Transport & Works strategy could be broadened to encourage the development of a local horticultural industry.Funds could be made available to the Olive Pink Flora Reserve for the propagation of local species, which could then be promoted to the public by increased use in public landscaping."So many of our species have never hit the market," says Ald Miers, "because the buying public is not aware of them. The Government could help create a demand, which would then lead to their commercial propagation."I see no reason why we shouldn't export our local plants."I know Eremophila nivea, for example, is sold in Victoria, grafted onto another root stock to make it suitable for their denser soils."There are people from South Australia who fly in here and take cuttings of our plants which they then go back and propagate."The irony is that some of these plants are then imported to Central Australia!"There are opportunities there waiting to happen."
MANDATORY SENTENCING GETS MIXED REPORT CARD. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
While Chief Minister Shane Stone has claimed victory for mandatory sentencing on the basis of a Territory-wide fall of nine per cent in crime reports covered by the laws, the picture in Alice Springs looks somewhat different.Statistics obtained from the Alice Springs police show a notable reduction in most categories covered by the mandatory sentencing laws introduced in March last year. However, Superintendent Iain Morrison says between June last year and March this year, 547 unlawful entries were reported, a sharp rise compared to 393 during the corresponding period a year before.Robberies also increased from five to eight.Other reported crimes against property in those periods were stealing 920 (1090 the earlier figure); criminal damage 501 (618); and unlawful use of motor vehicles 172 (210).Mr Morrison says it needs to be taken into account that some crimes may be committed by multiple offenders, who may each be committing dozens of offences.Their apprehension - or re-offending after release from prison - may significantly affect these statistics.In response to earlier enquiries, NT Police Media Liaison provided the Alice News with the following notes about interpreting property offence statistics: "Caution should be exercised when interpreting recorded crime statistics as only those offences becoming known to police are incorporated."An important point ... is the time lag for their entry onto the [Crime and Property System - CAPS] database. Not only can delays occur in data entry but also in the victims' reporting of the offence, given that they may be on holiday for some time."About property crime, Police Media Liaison had this to say: "Property related crime is perhaps the hardest group of offences for police to bring an investigation to successful fruition."The main reasons for the inherent difficulty lie in the nature of these offences. Police need, in order to successfully complete an investigation, reliable witnesses, sound forensic evidence or to catch the offender in the act."Property related crime tends to be an offence of opportunity for which, by its very nature, an offender is not usually caught in the act or witnessed."Thus, the only means for police to bring a investigation to completion is forensic evidence. "Complications with relying on forensic evidence include the fact that first time offenders are not recorded in police data banks and evidence cannot therefore be linked to a person, belying identification of the offender."Also, many offenders use precautions to preclude leaving any forensic evidence at crime scenes, thus nullifying attempts to identify them."Meanwhile, Mr Stone says his government is now considering the extent to which mandatory sentencing can be extended, to cover, for instance, crimes against the person, particularly sexual assault.
MIKE'S SHED - Part Two. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
While tin "sheds" were once the building norm in Alice Springs, they have now all but disappeared.One that has survived is the former Maskell's Welding workshop, painstakingly restored over the past two and a half years by owners Mike Gillam and Maria Giacon, with crucial help from some skilled local tradesmen. (See last week's Alice News.)A walk with Mike through the shed and on the block where it stands, at the foot of Teppa Hill, is a fascinating lesson in opening your eyes and letting the environment, whether built or natural, speak to you.
According to anecdotal evidence, the shed was originally a World War II Army officers' mess and other concrete slabs indicate a more extensive camp ground including possible mess kitchens. "That was an important period in the development of Alice Springs," says Mike. "The population increased tremendously, and there was major development of roads and buildings."There are concrete slabs hidden around town which define early army encampments, but not many buildings remain in situ."The shed's dimensions roughly follow those of a steel framed Sydney Williams hut, but it has a timber frame - mulga and a mixture of Eucalypt - which is why it nearly came to grief.This building was not designed to last. The sandstone chimney was added later though it's not sure by whom.The original mulga uprights, with their bark still on, have in fact stood up incredibly well to termites. The building had no footings: the mulga was simply shoved into holes in the dirt and the dirt packed back in.Termites only damaged the wood where it was underground and exposed to moisture. The damaged pieces were cut off, a steel plate was attached to the base of each post and encased in a concrete footing. A whole parade of characters have passed through since the Army days, bringing their personality and innovation to the building, but the most famous was undoubtedly the late Jack Maskell, father of Keith.He founded the welding works and in his time was well known as a folk sculptor. A task of the new owners is to trace and document Jack's work, especially some of his more artistically ambitious pieces.A delightful Jack Maskell touch can be found in a room which later served as a bedroom.There are a pair of adjustable windows in the room, with locking mechanisms made from coins. On one side you have Elizabeth, on the other - you guessed it - there's George."These are the unseen things usually buried by bull-dozers," says Mike. "This is the work of Maskell Welding, no doubt about it. Jack was a lateral and creative thinker and Alice Springs hasn't seen many like him."Working within the tradition of the place, builder Hans Gram has since made up a new pair with ten cent coins to put on windows which in turn have been faithfully copied from the originals found lying on the ground."To me the site context adds to the value of the building," says Mike. "It's sitting in this peaceful backwater of old Alice Springs, at a time when uninspiring development has filled practically every available space in the town."It's a humble, resourceful building, and its owners were practical people who didn't have much money."In the houses on Railway Terrace for instance, you had the silvertails, the high society of Alice Springs. These people by contrast were the salt of the earth."The door in the northern wall is no longer serviceable. The frame has been severely attacked by termites. Mike and Maria looked at full restoration, but the cost pushed them towards a radical alternative.They have arrested the termite activity with arsenic powder, sought to preserve the termite dirt pillars (although they haven't yet found an adequate binding agent), and stabilised the structure with metal hoops and plating.Some non-structural internal timbers have received the same treatment.Says Mike: "We took an early decision not to use the chemical shotgun approach to termites."Arsenic powder has had a pretty good impact at the first run and there's since been a second treatment."It's a management situation, we expect to treat these termites on and off for a few years yet."There were about five nests to begin with and we're probably down to two."Whenever it's humid and wet we do a patrol around here with a torch and look for the winged elates coming out of the nest entrance hole - that's one way of locating them. "We've also had every sheet of iron off this building in the last two years and so we know where the termites are still active."When you face the eastern wall of the shed, it has what Mike describes as a "divided personality": the northern half evolved as a residence, with kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, living areas and relatively elaborate windows; the southern half is the mesh and iron workshop.Keith Maskell has supplied some missing window information and now all the windows have been restored.Paint scrapings have revealed the colour palette used over the year on the various window frames and doors. In our use of colours we have tried to retain the bold original colours used at different periods without going over the top and recreating Noddy's house. A couple of colours, for instance one of the greens and a fire engine red, have been eliminated because "we couldn't live with them", says Mike.They have nonetheless been recorded: dilapidated window frames hang in a row from butchers hooks in a little alcove on the western side of the building. Other original colours have been used, with the intensity of the new paint on one pair of yellow windows in the western wall being carefully balanced by "fading" on a second pair. A strategy with the same effect has been used for a slate blue, used boldly on one pair of northern windows, then toned down by the old rusty fly screen which covers the new louvre gallery frames in the same wall.In one wall where nothing had survived intact, modern louvre frames were installed so that people can clearly see what is not original.All the new timbers have been marked by a touch of silver paint for the same reason.Says Mike: "One of the things we did very early on was to walk around and try to articulate what we saw as the values of the building and we've been very careful not to change any of those things."It was this commitment that led Mike to swallow hard and use the original mission brown on the entrance door to the workshop but he has to admit, "on the shed it works surprisingly well."Typical plants from 50s Alice Springs have been used in old wash tubs, to add colour and soften the external iron walls.Inside, they have exposed the best example of the army period: an internal partition made out of waist high sheet iron, then chicken wire covered with tar paper and a flyscreen section at the very top.Once again, Keith Maskell was able to supply valuable information, remembering as a child that this particular room once had the sign "Colonel" above its door.The inside of the northern wall that had fallen out onto the ground is crazed with cracking and the weather has worked on the colour, originally a sharp blue-green."We won't paint over that," says Mike. "The patina is fantastic and in Alice Springs there are not many surfaces old enough to acquire such a look."Leaving it will also give us a record of the colour, but we will paint the rest of the room in lighter tones."The floors at present are bare as their former lino coverings were pretty rotten. Mike and Maria took them all outside, cleaned them up and cut the best pieces out. The newspapers used as underlay give each piece a date.The 1962 piece is a great example of atomic age design, followed by a more lyrical piece from 1967, complete with cigarette burns. There are three samples in all, each of which will be cut back into a corner of the room from where they came.
NEXT: Outside - the quandary of the athel pines.
Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.