June 10, 1998


The Alice Town Council is taking a fresh look at its purpose and objectives, and at the needs and expectations of the community it is serving.Reaching well beyond "rates, roads and rubbish", the council is expanding its functions to defining the needs and hopes of the community generally.It will be playing a key role in social and economic development, and acting as an advocate for the town when measures are required from other governments or commercial interests."Council's role is to ensure that services are available to people in the community."It doesn't worry me whether they're provided by private enterprise, a central government or by local government," says CEO Nick Scarvelis, who presented the "strategic plan" at a breakfast today."It's more a matter of what the community's needs are, and looking at ways of getting those needs met."It's not just about identifying what council should deliver."Mr Scarvelis says the council has a key role in "providing advocacy to central governments and the business sector", enabling the community to participate in decision making."Local government should be as independent as possible."The key to influencing other levels of government is to provide the solutions."You can't go into any situation with simply a wish list, and you're not an effective advocate if all you do is complain."You must be prepared to be part of the solution, but the extent to which you are involved in the solution, beyond facilitating the process, is dependent on what your core business is all about."Quite often our role might simply be to act as an advocate. We need to be involved in developing the solution, but that doesn't mean we're entirely in a position to fund a solution."Mr Scarvelis, who took on the CEO position in October last year, says the last comprehensive community needs analysis was done in 1985."It serves as a benchmark for the massive changes that have taken place in the town in the meantime."He says a needs analysis "will look at the make-up of our community, what makes it tick, what services are available, how people access them, what their needs are, where the town is going."You need a healthy social environment to facilitate your economic development."It's a fantastic opportunity."He says the council's Economic Development Committee isn't compiling "just another report" but creating a data base about "where the opportunities are in the town".One area of study will be potential "value added industries".Mr Scarvelis says the council will be looking at opportunities "outside tourism", for example, "a value added food industry".The council has resolved to support Cailler Distributors who are looking at packaging food in the town for local restaurants and food outlets, using food both grown in the region or imported from outside.He says in bids to stimulate industry, the council could provide seed money, or funding for feasibility studies, and seek further subsidies from the NT government, for enterprises identified by the council as suitable.Advance Alice, an initiative included in the plan, would "work in partnership with other key stake holders, not duplicate."But it's more than just tourism. It's promoting Alice Springs as a place to work, play, run a business.""We want to influence and add value to whatever the Tourist Commission and CATIA are doing.The Todd Mall Traders committee "will be focussing more on promoting the businesses, while the council will attract people into the mall", says Mr Scarvelis.The council will spend an additional $50,000 on "sprucing up" the mall, in addition to the $250,000 budgeted for urban enhancement in the CBD."Council's business is getting people into the town and into the mall. The traders then need to get them into the door."The council will be reviewing by-laws affecting the mall, in consultation with the traders.Mr Scarvelis says the council expects that new NT legislation will impose much tougher guidelines on the running of rubbish tips, regulating what may or may not be dumped, as well as prescribing fencing and landscaping of the areas.Mr Scarvelis says Commonwealth legislation imposes targets for waste minimisation by the year 2000.The Territory Government Pollution Control Bill seeks to impose higher standards in the management of dumps.However, "the prices for recyclables have plummeted", says Mr Scarvelis."Some of the big councils on the eastern seaboard are threatening to pull out of recycling."The issue for us is to see how we can turn this to our advantage."What business opportunities are there for developing products which might be used both within the region or become exports, to take some pressure off the dump?"You need to strike a balance between the feel good component of recycling and opportunities for good, green business. If we only take out of our landfill 10 per cent, but that 10 per cent creates three or four very viable businesses in the town, then I would say we've been very successful."There's no point in having a recycling industry only to find that it's costing you more to freight the stuff out, or that it's got to be dumped because there isn't a market for it."Mr Scarvelis says the council office is also a major focus for change - both inside and outside.The four departments - planning and environment; infrastructure and maintenance; economic and community development; and corporate services - will collaborate on most issues, rather than function as separate units."We've now got a management team that's working together," says Mr Scarvelis.And the council building is likely to soon see major changes as well: proposals for a major refurbishing of the offices and the chambers, as well as a coach terminal, a "multi purpose centre" for the community and conventions, will be considered by the council in November.The popular council lawns, the town's favourite site for rallies of all kinds, will be promoted as a major community facility: "Have the town band here once a week, for example."Promotion of the "lawns" as a civic meeting place and a gathering spot for tourists will also promote business in the council end of Todd Street, says Mr Scarvelis.


With the forthcoming Federal election in the spotlight, the story of how the NT came to have two seats in the Senate is an interesting one, and highlights how Territory politicians, irrespective of party allegiances, put the NT first.Jock Nelson (Labor) was in the frustrating position of being in opposition as the Territory Member of the House of Representatives during the long period of Prime Minister Menzies' government, which had consistently opposed Senate representation for the NT.Jock, however, was a staunch advocate of increasing our representation and was most influential in ensuring that this became part of the Labor Party platform. Once official party policy, the Labor Party, under Whitlam, endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to present Bills to the Parliament on two occasions. However, the fight was won following the 1974 Double Dissolution election: the issue was put before the first ever national joint sitting of the Australian Parliament on August 6. Sam Calder, our local Member of the House of Reps at the time, crossed the floor, despite his Country Party background, and made sure his vote gave us seats in the Senate. The Act was subjected to some legal challenges but survived to see Bernie Kilgariff (CLP) from Alice Springs, and Ted Robertson (Labor) elected Senators the following December.Moving to the present, the CLP has chosen its second Senate candidate, and I recently had the opportunity to catch up with her. Maisie Austin is well known in Darwin for many reasons, and if you're into sport - particularly basketball or hockey - her name will also be familiar to you in The Alice. She is a regular participant at the Honda Masters Games.Her family background is fascinating. Maisie's mother and great grandmother were born in the Territory of Aboriginal, white American, Filipino and Chinese heritage. As was the case with many Darwin families in 1942, just prior to the bombing of Darwin, her mother's family was evacuated to Queensland. There, her mother met and married Charles Adams of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Indonesian heritage. Maisie was born on Thursday Island just three months before her parents returned to Darwin.The fifth child in a family of 13 children, Maisie grew up in cramped and unhygienic conditions in a corrugated iron hut in the ex-Army camp then known as Parap Camp. Maisie has since written a book reflecting on this period of life in postwar Darwin. A history and tribute to the many families of that era, it is titled "The Quality of Life", and is now used as course material by a number of educational institutions. Her link and tribute to that time is continued as organiser of the Parap Camp and Old Darwin Residents reunions. At secondary school she excelled in commercial subjects which she put to good use in later life, at various times having owned and operated three retail outlets. In 1969 Maisie was employed by an insurance loss adjusting firm and eventually completed studies by correspondence to become the first and only female Associate of The Australian Insurance Institute in the Territory. She stayed in Darwin during the aftermath of Cyclone Tracey and later ran an insurance loss adjustment company with her husband.Speaking of the significance of number 13 in her life she told me that it was at the age of 13 that she commenced her sporting career, initially playing basketball and hockey, then later competing in softball, tennis and netball. She and her husband also ran a Martial Arts School for eight years.Her sporting achievements are amazing and left me wondering how she had time for all the other things in her life. Representing the Territory in hockey and basketball as a player, coach, referee and administrator on numerous occasions, she was chairperson of the inaugural Arafura Sports Festival in 1991. In 1993 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her contributions to sport.She coordinated and organised the 5th National ATSIC Sports Awards in Darwin in 1995 and a year later chaired the Women in Sport and Recreation (WISAR) event. No wonder Charlie Perkins asked her to become an Indigenous Sports Mentor at the Australian Sports Commission.Throughout our conversation Maisie emphasised that her motivation is to encourage people to motivate themselves, set goals, achieve and thereby enjoy a better lifestyle. In addition to her current activities she is in the process of writing another book. She is aware of the very great difficulty in being elected as the second Senate candidate. However, I would hope that even if Maisie is unsuccessful, that she seeks preselection at some time in the future, either at a Territory election or Federally, if Senator Grant Tambling should retire. More importantly, the CLP should ensure that she is endorsed. The Territory needs people like Maisie Austin in political life. Her grit, determination, compassion and sense of humour are an example to us all.


Against a background of economic rationalism and the "user pays" push in higher education, there is some nervousness abroad about the future of the Diploma of Applied and Creative Art at Centralian College.While College Council Chairman Fred Hockley says the diploma is fully funded until the end of 1999 and "the expectation is that it will continue to be funded", informed sources within the College say that internal meetings have put a dismantling of the diploma on the table.The suggestion has been that the diploma is a "hobby" course and as such should be offered on a "user pays" basis, while public funds are diverted to meet what are perceived as more specific industry requirements, such as the training of Aboriginal artists on remote communities.Questions to the relevant Industry Training Advisory Board, CREATE, ran into a brick wall: its Darwin-based head Barbara Pittman said she was "not interested" in doing an interview about which she felt "uncomfortable".The Alice News asked Ms Pittman: "What is known about the current client base of the diploma at Centralian? Has there been any kind of detailed study of who they are and why they are in this field of study?"And: "Has there ever been a tracking project undertaken to see how graduates of the diploma apply their qualifications?"With no answers forthcoming, the News asked some present and past students of the diploma about their expectations and experience of the course.After a drawing class on Todd Mall, student Liz Wauchope said: "I'm a textile artist, that's how I make my living, but at the moment it's really hard to sell textiles, they're not all that popular, so I need to be doing new things in order to build my sales up again."A piece by Liz entitled Lizard Skin was acquired in this year's Alice Craft Acquisition, described by judge Michael Griggs as "a very, very significant and successful art piece".However, Liz feels that she needs, in particular, to improve her drawing skills because she wants to do more representational work. "I also need new inspiration, so I want to do the whole course, not just the drawing."Everything you do in terms of art can feed back in direct ways or indirect ways. I'd like to learn ceramics, and print-making is even more directly relevant because I could move from textiles into works on paper for instance, which might keep me solvent. "Even pottery or jewellery could give me new ideas, new thoughts about the world and how to represent it in textiles."If the diploma course were not available in Alice, what would Liz do?"There are people at the Craft Council who might be able to spend some time with me. But it's not the same level of teaching, it's all just one-off workshops."Mardijah Simpson has been a community worker for 20 years and raised a family. Now she wants to get back into creative arts, her original career path."I'm interested in community arts as an effective way for communities to develop. "I'm good at organising but I think I need more skills on the arts side so I can effectively run programs, or initiate programs and offer skills as well. "Technology has come a long way since I trained in England, and, as well, I need to polish up my basic drawing and painting, which is just what this course can offer, not just this year but the second and third year as well."I hope as I develop my skills, I'll also be able to start creating my own arts and crafts, silk painting and maybe some pottery, which could have an outlet at galleries in Alice and Yulara. "I believe as I get older, instead of being dependent on the state, I'll be able to support myself to some extent through my own creative products. "I think my path is common to the way a lot of women learn. Because of family responsibilities and other issues in their lives, women don't necessarily get everything done in one year or three years, they may need to do it over a quarter of a lifetime. That doesn't invalidate their right to have access to that course of study."Denise Bowden is a young Aboriginal mother of two children. She says she's using the course as a stepping stone to work experience in the Aboriginal art galleries in town. "I'm only at the first stages at the moment but it's looking very positive," she says."I've approached two galleries here in town. If I walked in there and said I'm doing this on my own, that would probably be OK, but some sort of education behind it makes it weigh more. "They said they would probably put me on in another year or so."I feel good in the course, in that I get a lot of feedback. If you're on your own, you don't get that sort of feedback."I also like the fact that it opens my eyes to other ways of doing things."If it wasn't available I would try to do it on my own, but you tend to be a bit slack on your own, whereas here you're in a controlled environment and it gets you going." Mike Mattys, recently retrenched from full-time employment, is planning, together with his wife, Lyn, to move into designing web pages and doing computer graphic design."The course is giving me a tremendous background and foundation to be able to do that sort of work," he says. "With the computer experience that I've got and the art experience that I'm learning here, I can put the two together."What would the couple do if the course wasn't available?"We'd be in trouble," says Lyn. "To do a good job in this sort of work you can't just have a computer background , you've got to have artistic training as well. Without that you're not going to be anywhere near as successful."The News asked head of department and well-known Alice Springs artist Rod Moss what the diploma course aims to offer its students:"Adaptability, flexibility, associative thinking, these are the kinds of things that we hope to encourage in the program."The first year is a smorgasbord of the visual arts offerings, film and television, graphics, photography, painting, print-making, sculpture, ceramics, and the history of art."The courses are written in modules with seven or eight learning outcomes for each one, which actually encourage very specific, specialist kind of behaviour. "It doesn't have anything about the creative process written into it, but that's the glue we add that holds the whole thing together."In the second year students major in a specialist field. The most popular choices are print-making, sculpture, ceramics and painting."Most of those people are interested in working in the fine arts industry."One such graduate is Siamak Fallah, who did the diploma full-time in the early ‘nineties.He recently returned to Alice for a visit, and spoke to the News about his career:"The course enabled me to continue with my studies in Adelaide. I had a folio of the works I had done here, got accreditation for them, and went on to do a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Underdale campus of University of South Australia. "While I was doing that I managed to establish a relationship with some galleries [such as the front line Contemporary Art Space and the Greenaway Gallery], and it has led on from there."While Siamak sells work "every now and then", it is not enough to make his living from. Like a good many artists before him, he takes jobs such as dish-washing, to pay his rent and buy the materials that he needs."This gives me freedom to do my art practice," he says.In retrospect, what he valued most about the course at Centralian was "the attitude the staff have towards their own practice.""The lecturers are all practising, it's not common," he says. "In other places lecturers are lecturers and they don't have a practising life."Here they were always willing to exchange ideas and willing to learn from their students, that is very impressive."They were always accessible, there to give you the criticism, but always constructive. "Underdale was good for conceptual and theoretical development, but the thing about this course in Alice Springs which is so precious, is that the staff can you give you technical advice which comes from their ‘hands on' experience."In other places, the approach is very theoretical and you might never come across those traditional techniques that are really useful."Here too you are allowed to say that things are beautiful, in the cities that's a big no-no."I only wish that they offered a post-graduate course and I would be back to do more study."Three other former diploma students told the News about how the course helped them get into their present areas of employment.Charlie Lawrence started the diploma in 1989, doing units in graphic design, drawing, sculpture and photography. His ambition was to get into graphic design and on the basis of the portfolio that he assembled while doing the diploma, and including some work from his school years, after just six months he got an apprenticeship with the local printing company Asprint.He now owns his own highly successful business in Alice Springs, Dunnart Advertising, and going full circle, returned to the College last year as a part-time graphics tutor."In my case I was lucky," he says, "I had a good folio which led me into employment, but now that I'm in the business, I think aspiring graphics artists need to do the full course, not just get skills from workshops or modules here and there."Alan Dowler did various components of the course in 1989 and 1990, including two years of media studies. He says this gave him the skills to be accepted as a trainee cameraman with Imparja Television, starting in 1991. He now works full-time at the station as senior cameraman.As well, Alan says the course was the key to developing his art work, which he sells through the Dreamtime Art Gallery in Todd Mall.He had been painting realist landscapes but the course led him to explore techniques that helped him realise new images inspired by ancient Aboriginal rock art.Leigh Heers graduated from the diploma in the mid-nineties with a double major in painting and media studies. His career continues in a dual strand with professional assignments in the film and television industry (including a year floor managing the studio at Imparja), and solo exhibitions of his paintings in Adelaide and Melbourne, where he now lives.He recently returned to Alice Springs to shoot library footage for the Northern Territory Tourist Commission, on Betacam SP gear. He has also had assignments in The Centre from SBS, ABC and Channel 10 Sport.Before doing the diploma, Leigh had been working as a photo journalist. The diploma gave him the opportunity to redirect his talent, "most worthwhile", he says.Current and intending students may be comforted by Mr Hockley's statement that the aim of the College Council is "to support local students as much as possible".Meanwhile, Mr Moss is calling for past students who can identify how the diploma has placed them in the arts industry to call him at the college.


"I didn't do it," said a furious Troy Dann, television star and general all-rounder, who last week came under suspicion of illegal use of - wait for it - a camel.
"My show is seen by three and a half million people, it's a huge promotion for this area, and that's all the thanks I'm getting.
"I just don't understand this town."
He wasn't the only one to complain about lack of gratitude: Troy's father Gary, owner of Amburla Station north-west of The Alice, said: "I'm really mad at this bloke. He's just not with it."The bloke in question is Denis Wickham, legendary camel man who crisscrossed Australia in a gypsy wagon pulled by the now so controversial beast.
Denis has been struck down by the degenerative motor neurone disease, and now lives in a small flat in The Alice.
Denis, so he swears, saw pictures in two publications of his very own Huchang, together with Troy.Denis claims a 21-year-old male "draught camel" is an extremely rare creature in Australia.
"Nonsense" (in fact, it was a stronger word), says Noel Fullerton, father of camel racing in Central Australia: "I've got a working camel which is 33 years old."
The escalating drama began when Gary offered to agist some of Denis' camels on Amburla.Gary says Alice butcher Ricky Anderson, and his brother, Smacker, are running 300 to 400 camels on One Hump Downs, a 253 square kilometre paddock on Amburla.
However, says Gary, the three camels owned by Denis were put into the Snake Paddock, which is smaller, has better pasture because it gets the run-off from the hills, and is more accessible.
"Troy never used camels belonging to Denis," says Gary. "We agisted them free of charge. We looked after them.
"That's the thanks we're getting."
When it was pout to Gary that in the old days he would have laughed it off, he said "no way": "We would have had our shirts off and sorted it out there and then."
Ricky backs up Gary's claim: a sequence in Troy's TV show of him with a camel-drawn wagon was filmed at Ross River, east of Alice Springs, a tourist resort which has a mob of camels of its own.
"Why would they take camels to Ross River?" asks Ricky. "It would be like taking beer to Germany."
Ricky says the camel Denis saw in the photographs was the Andersons' Good Boy, not Huchang. In fact, Denis should know Good Boy because he himself renewed his nose peg.
Ricky disputes Denis' claim that he can recognise his own camel: "He's totally and utterly confused. I'd hate to be lost with him in Todd Street. He wouldn't recognise anything," says Ricky. "Unbelievable.
"If camels could talk Denis would owe us an apology - he does, anyway!"


Central Australian botanist Peter Latz this Sunday will take visitors on guided walks through the "jewel in the crown" of Ilparpa valley, its box coolibah forest.The walks and a sausage sizzle from 10am will launch the Ilparpa Valley Landcare Group, at present comprising about a dozen enthusiastic residents of the valley who hope, however, to attract support from townspeople.Spokesperson Roger Thompson says: "I don't know of another town in Australia with such a beautiful and richly varied area so close to town, yet we don't seem to realise the value of it."If something isn't done now to protect the area, it will become even more degraded and possibly irreparably spoilt."The idea for a landcare group grew out of a recent public meeting called by the Arid Lands Environment Centre to consider the recommendations made by their draft report on the area. Changes in the natural hydrology and incursions by off-road vehicles represent the biggest threats to the valley environment.While "off-roading" is not an approved land use, the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment (DLPE), responsible for vacant Crown land, told the meeting that, realistically, they cannot control access. Likewise the status of the land as a Wildlife Protected Area cannot realistically be enforced.Frustrated by the lack of concerted action, residents decided to form the landcare group and hope to pick up where the last communal clean-up of the claypans left off.One of the options under consideration is the fencing of the coolibah forest, taking in at least one claypan, to discourage off-roaders and give the area a chance to regenerate after the group removes rubbish and weeds.The area would then serve as a point of comparison with neighbouring unprotected areas and hopefully win public support for further protection of the valley.Says Mr Thompson: "We'd like visitors on Sunday to come with their thinking caps on and contribute ideas about how we should proceed from here."A display board on the site will give an overview of the ideas under consideration thus far.Regional Landcare Coordinator Ann Grattidge welcomes the formation of the group: "It's what that community has been looking for, for a long time."There's a core group of enthusiastic people and I think they will achieve a great deal."Some financial support could become available through the urban bushland project submitted jointly by Greening Australia and the Alice Springs Town Council to the National Heritage Trust. Ms Grattidge says that under this project the DLPE could contribute about $9,000 to rehabilitation work on Crown land around the town, and Ilparpa Valley could be one of the areas to benefit.


"We're just better in the desert."That's how Stephen Greenfield, after his back-to-back Finke victory, explained the supremacy of locals in the nation's greatest desert race.And again, a bike took out the race - but only just: had Greenfield - who rode the gruelling course in four hours, one minute and four seconds - not been blessed with a problem-free ride, a buggy driver and - Heaven forbid! - a southerner would have become the new King of the Desert.Victorian Mark Burrows with navigator Michael Shannon in a Cougar Turbo 2200cc, completed the 440 km course in 4 hr 9 min 4 sec, despite mechanical problems on the way back.They were more than five minutes faster that the second bike rider, Rick Hall.And buggy driver and fellow Victorian Paul Simpson wasn't far behind Burrows, despite having only one rear tyre on the last 30 km of the southbound leg.Simpson, last year's class winner, was clearly peeved at his bad luck, but Burrows was full of praise for the Finke, describing it as "by far the best desert race in Australia. A great event."With increased television interest, "she'll become big, I think", said Burrows.Touring car legends Tony Longhurst and Peter Brock, who flew in on the day of the prologue, did not finish even the southbound leg."It's a pretty rough sort of road, and it's a long way, so I'll be taking it easy," said Brock."With 600 horsepower you pay attention when you go up the road," he said before the race.It didn't work: he broke two axles on his six-litre Commodore ute.Greenfield will be back next year: "You can't go out on a win. I'll be there," he said.He described the track as "pretty rough. The cars chopped it up a bit."I backed off a little bit and took it easy on the last bit. I made sure I got here."About his advantage over visitors, he said: "A lot of track knowledge helps out. I've been up and down it a few times. I know where I'm going."Then local identity Billy Hayes, with a brilliant ride home, capped off a bikes trifecta for Central Australia.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.