June 24, 1998


In the chair of ATSIC's Alice Springs Regional Council for just a week, Eileen Hoosan says that she is determined to make the organisation “a more open advocate” of Aboriginal interests in the region.With a budget of over $17m last year - similar in size to that of the Alice Springs Town Council - the ATSIC regional council should become a forum where all the issues, including the most complex and controversial, are "put on the table" and solutions found, says Mrs Hoosan.Out of 35 regional councils in Australia, only six are headed by women. Mrs Hoosan has come to the position via a long "on the job" training in many of the Aboriginal organisations in town.A Yangkuntjatjarra woman, born in Aputula (Finke), she was raised by Arrernte family in Alice Springs. She completed four years of secondary education before doing some business studies and started work for the Institute of Aboriginal Development (IAD) in the early ‘seventies.She was just 18 years old when she first joined the board of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress.She remembers those "good old days" as an exciting time for Aboriginal leaders, and is concerned that there are no young people taking up the relay today. "Their interests are somewhere else," she says. One of the first tasks in her new job is to bring to completion a new Alice Springs ATSIC regional plan. A three day workshop, held in conjunction with the Papunya Regional Council, recently thrashed out a wide range of issues, with the ultimate goal of gaining greater regional autonomy in the management of funding and the delivery of programs. Development of a Regional Agreement, similar to the one achieved in the Torres Strait region, would be a precondition to direct management of Commonwealth funding.In the preliminary draft regional plan currently being widely circulated for comment, first cab off the "issues" rank is the ongoing challenge of housing for indigenous people. The massive investment by government in the area is acknowledged, but the reality of many people's grossly inadequate housing remains pressing.A key contributing factor identified in the draft is the massive shortfall in funding to meet repairs and maintenance requirements.In Alice Springs, the draft says the pool of public housing available to Aboriginal tenants is shrinking, and argues that Aboriginal access to public housing must be protected.The draft also calls for identification of specific and culturally appropriate housing needs of, for instance, large families, the chronically ill and the aged. Mrs Hoosan says the need for youth housing was also identified at the workshop.With health, the draft tells a similar story: massive investment, yet continuing massive problems, with Aboriginal life expectancy in the region around 20 years less than that of non-Aboriginal Australians.The way forward is obvious, says the draft: a major shift in the decentralisation of services and investment in preventative health measures.Specifically, the draft recommends the inclusion of Alice Springs town camps and outstations in the Alice Springs Remote Health Services' proposed remote health strategy, and equitable representation on the proposed Remote Health Board.The draft also points to the link between housing and settlement design and health.Further, under the heading infrastructure, the draft points to the added risk to Aboriginal people of inadequate provision of telephone services, which coupled with limited transport, can become a serious health and safety issue.Among several strategies is one to document the failure of Telstra to meet its statutory obligations to provide universal service, and to take appropriate action.Heading up problems in the social category are the increasing numbers of people staying in Alice Springs to access health services which has contributed to the "critical breakdown of some social services"; the impact of mandatory sentencing laws; and the significant barriers in access to all programs.The draft says the lack of provision of interpreter services is a major "equity and access" issue, in particular in the legal area.The draft identifies an urgent need to provide assistance to young people:"Youth suicide is a critical issue, exacerbated as young people struggle to meet the demands of urban living, finding themselves unable to fit into mainstream expectations and becoming alienated from traditional life and values."Strategies include the provision of 24 hour crisis services; establishing protocols for the support of Aboriginal people, especially the young, following arrest; increasing the level of support to night patrols and youth night patrols; seeking the establishment of an Aboriginal Justice Advisory Service (on par with the States and in line with Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations); and support for organisations assisting families visiting Alice Springs. Mrs Hoosan further mentions supporting visitors to return to their communities at the end of their visit.CDEP organisations, and Tangentyere and Arrernte Councils are the most significant full time employers of Aboriginal people, followed by Aboriginal service provider organisations.However, the draft says CDEP participation should not be seen as full time employment, although there are job creation opportunities arising out of CDEP enterprises, which should be developed with funding through the Indigenous Business Incentives Program.Other strategies include the establishment of a support agency to help growth of Aboriginal tourism enterprises and to support artists in asserting their legal rights and developing direct marketing strategies via the Internet.Part Two of the draft is titled "Building the capacity of our people to do things for themselves".It sees an opportunity presented by competing agencies' keenness to attract student numbers, but a danger in the agencies' promising what they can't deliver.It calls for training needs analyses at local levels, linked to CDEP planning and development.The draft identifies effective staffing of community organisations as an issue, stating that poor recruitment processes can result in the employment of staff "who do not perform well". It also states that "in some cases staff have been corrupt, and have stolen funds leaving organisations with huge debts".Strategies in the area include provision of advice to organisations on legal procedures for taking disciplinary action against staff, and encouraging, as a condition of employment of non-Aboriginal staff, that replacement Aboriginal staff be trained and mentored over a two year period. Another critical issue is the effective operation of community government councils. The draft raises concerns over pressure from the Northern Territory Government to amalgamate community councils into larger conglomerate organisations, and the prevention of the formation of new councils by communities with a population of less than 500 people, arguing that these moves may lead to the loss of community support.The draft calls for a review of the service obligations of governments in providing local government funding.It says: "Funding levels need to recognise that many community governments provide outsourcing for other government agencies without being appropriately reimbursed." Another interesting issue addressed in the draft is the collection of data about Aboriginal communities. The draft argues that current data is often misleading because of poor collection skills or techniques, yet is used as a basis for decisions which have a huge impact on the region as a whole.It says: "There are some areas of data collection which are currently neglected, despite there being a high priority for this data amongst Aboriginal people. This includes data about social behaviour, which is essential to demolish widely held but mythical beliefs about Aboriginal people amongst the non-Aboriginal public."The draft calls for community-based data collection, with the necessary training and coordination.The final and third part of the draft argues for a regional agreement which would lead to greater autonomy for Aboriginal people and their organisations.The first step towards such an agreement is to increase Aboriginal representation in organisations making decisions about their lives, including the Alice Town Council, the Hospital Board, IAD, the Rural Health Training Board, the proposed Remote Health Board, the Central Australian Rural Health Planning Forum, Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, and Congress.The draft also calls for, where appropriate, the development of strategies and organisations that operate across ATSIC boundaries, obviously requiring the support and collaboration of the Papunya and Yapa-kurlangu regional councils.


Many readers have approached me since last week's column asking about the Women's Shelter, and its early history is worth recounting.While I was not involved with setting up the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) in the early ‘seventies (busy as I was having babies and helping my husband run a business), it was certainly something of which I was aware. Women who gave time to the organisation during its life-span were the late Colleen Hombsh, Shirley Lithgow, Pam Tacey, Trish Mooney-Smith, Margaret McCosker and Carol Davies to name just a few. WEL was instrumental in more than just lobbying politicians and the media.Locally, they were active in organising the first child care centre (now known as Alice Springs Child Care Centre) and also a Women's Centre.The Women's Centre, which was an old house kindly donated by the Housing Commission at 53 Bath Street, did not initially act as a refuge.Services provided by volunteers gave emergency help for drug and alcohol problems, personal and family crisis, including domestic arguments. The concern over the number of women living in violent relationships who sought help then led to looking for emergency accommodation. Over a period of time WEL membership declined and in 1977 the local group disbanded, but the Child Care and Women's Centres continued.The Women's Centre functioned reasonably well with various voluntary and management collectives. The NT Government, under Chief Minister Paul Everingham, provided operational funding, with assistance from the Commonwealth. Changes in Housing Commission policy did lead to emergency accommodation being provided. However, it all fell in a heap when a small group of radical feminists who had no management skills, literally muscled in‚ and took over the Centre. Not only was the necessary paper work ignored but even the most basic hygiene standards were not enforced.Most women seeking to use the refuge were so repelled by the conditions that they returned home if they could not find help elsewhere. When it came to the notice of the broader community, a public meeting attracted some 200 Alice Springs women. This was an unprecedented event.So serious was the situation that Everingham sent Ian Tuxworth, who I believe was Health Minister at the time, to the Alice, for follow-up investigations. The result was that funds were immediately stopped and the house was bull-dozed shortly after.Valued community organisations such as the Salvation Army and YWCA, rose to the occasion to provide interim emergency accommodation as and when they could. There was even one story of a woman declaring she would sleep in a cell at the Police Station rather than return home.Eventually, the Territory Government allocated land where the current Women's Shelter is located, together with several large demountables. A new constitution and management structure was put in place. To this day the Annual General Meeting of the Alice Springs Women's Shelter is open to all women residents of the town. The current purpose-built shelter was completed in September 1990 with special funds provided by the Housing Commission.One problem that arose from clearing the Bath Street block was the demolition also of the large garage used on a regular basis by one of the first playgroups in town. Another problem was that the original Women's Collective had entered an agreement with the Federal Government, in the late ‘seventies, to act as sponsor for the establishment of a Family Day Care (FDC) Scheme. Approaches to the Town Council failed to gain their support to act as replacement sponsor. However, in true Centralian spirit a small group of people battled on to get it going. A Management Committee was organised from the first group of parents and carers. They drew up a constitution, and became one of only two self-sponsored FDC schemes in Australia at that time. Jenny Wilson, who now overseas the daily management of the scheme, was also one of its founders and initiators.In bringing the past to the present, Happy Days Child Minding Centre run by Pat Day must surely be the longest running, private centre in the Alice.I am happy to report that Pat is back from her short interstate visit and is now open for business as usual.


By Dr Alistair Heatley, Lecturer, NT University
On July 1, a significant milestone in the Territory's history will be reached - the 20th anniversary of self-government.So, what has been the experience of self-government and what are the prospects for a further constitutional advance to statehood?Given the relative youth of the Territory's population, its sizable growth in the last 20 years and its transient character, only a small number of present residents are in a position to compare the self-government era with the time before, when the Territory was effectively controlled by the Commonwealth and its bureaucracy.There may be a few who still hanker for a return but, at least from my personal observation of the non-Aboriginal community, most of that group judge self- government to have been a success.Most current Territorians do not have that comparative perspective and they take self-government for granted.Their evaluation of the Territory system of governance depends on their partisan, group or individual viewpoints or by reference to where they came from in Australia or overseas.While there is no shortage of local critics of the government, that should not be construed, even in the Aboriginal community, as a rejection of Territory self-government.Even if the Territory's economy remains narrowly-based, fragile and vulnerable, it has been developed considerably since 1978.Population has increased significantly, economic growth has been considerable and infrastructure has been vastly upgraded. While there were inevitable fluctuations, the general health of the Territory economy has been sound. There is little doubt that the pace and scale of economic change have been products of self-government; local control of the regional economy, limited as it might be, has enhanced growth and diversification.The self-government period has also seen the provision of a larger and higher quality range of social and cultural services. The benefits have, however, not been shared equally; there are marked regional differences both between urban and rural areas and between Darwin and communities "down the track".In general, Aborigines have not fared as well as other Territorians. Whether, of course, those imbalances are lesser or greater as a consequence of the institution of self-government is an arguable matter.While the level has dropped since 1978, the Territory is still very dependent on Commonwealth grants to fund government activities. The largess provided by Canberra from 1978 to 1985 was a prime factor in establishing the legitimacy of and public support for the new regime.With Commonwealth funding being reduced after 1985, the cost of self-government was increasingly felt by Territory residents as state-type taxes and charges rose to, and sometimes above, national standards. But, with its link to the Grants Commission which establishes the needs of the states, the Territory has received, since 1978, certainly far more assistance than it would have if it had remained subject to Canberra's full control.Politically, the self-government period has been dominated by the Country-Liberal Party (CLP), and its policies, approaches and behaviour have determined the contemporary political culture of the Territory.Its populism, its aggressive and adversarial nature, its developmentalism and its "Territorianism", all of which have played some part in sustaining its hold on government, have become identified as the defining characteristics of Territory politics.The CLP's conflict with partisan opponents, with federal governments (the so-called "Canberra-bashing") and with Aboriginal elites has been an enduring feature of the last 20 years. One does not, however, have to be a supporter of the CLP or its political style to appreciate that it has been the prime architect of the achievements in the self-governing era. If the standard of judgment is with state administrations over the same period and if partisan attitudes are set aside, it is reasonable to conclude that the record of the CLP government since 1978 has not been bad. Since 1978, the Territory has developed into a "quasi-state". Its government is responsible for most of the functions which the states administer, its institutional arrangements and processes resemble those in other states, it is funded on a state-type basis and it is fully integrated into the prevailing federal system.For most purposes in federal relationships, both the Commonwealth and the states now accept the Territory as a full partner.But, in terms of functional parity, legislative competence, constitutional equality and representation in the national parliament, it is not an equal participant.That was most starkly demonstrated by the overturning of the Territory's euthanasia legislation in 1997. If the Territory had been a state, then the Commonwealth could not have used its overriding power (s. 122 of the Australian Constitution) to terminate a local law.Although the quest for statehood has long been a CLP objective, it has only been actively pursued in two periods - from 1985 until mid-1988 and since 1995. The first attempt was an abject failure and the second awaits the verdict of history. But the task of winning statehood now, even with the qualified support given locally by the Labor Party and outside by state premiers and the Prime Minister, faces almost as many formidable obstacles as did the campaign in the 1980s.One immediate problem is in convincing Territorians of the need for statehood. Despite recent reports that popular support for statehood has risen, it is by no means certain that the referendum, scheduled for later this year, will succeed. If it includes a question relating to approval of a constitution, particularly the minimalist one which was endorsed by the Statehood Convention in April, statehood's chances of clearing that hurdle will be even more problematical.It has always been difficult to persuade Territorians of the benefits which statehood would bring to them and fears about the consequences of constitutional change, especially financial ones, persist. Attaining statehood would certainly increase the status and power of the Territory government but, precisely for that reason, voters might be reluctant to fall into line. In a referendum, groups fearful of the move to statehood will mobilise in opposition. It must be expected that the Aboriginal interests, especially the major Land Councils, will mount a strong campaign against any proposal to transfer responsibility over Aboriginal land and Kakadu / Uluru to a Territory government. For this part, the CLP would not accept a form of statehood which left those functions outside local control. A "second class" or "Clayton's" state, which left the Territory with less that the full functional competence of other states, would be rejected as it would represent little substantive advance on the current territorial constitutional status.Even if the referendum hurdle is cleared, gaining agreement in Canberra for an acceptable grant of statehood will not be easy. A prime motivation for the present push for statehood has been the favourable political climate presented by the coincidence of non-Labor governments in Canberra and in most of the states. If that "window of opportunity" remains, a reasonable offer, including the thorny matter of Senate representation, might be made. But the legislation admitting the Territory to statehood is certain to be defeated in the Senate. For a number of reasons, among them concern about the transfer of Aboriginal matters, uranium and national parks and the conviction that the Territory is not fit for or does not deserve statehood, the non-government majority there will not be accommodating. The Federal Labor Party, the Australian Democrats and the Greens are no friends of Territory statehood, probably under any conditions. In the case of Labor, the recent comments made by Kim Beazley in Darwin and Alice Springs give a good indication of his party's position. If Labor succeed in regaining office at the federal election this year or next, a prospect which some pundits see as increasingly possible, the current statehood aspirations of Shane Stone and the CLP will be finished. For those who share my strong support for Territory statehood, the dim prospect of it happening in the foreseeable future must be considered sad. I believe that the Territory has served its apprenticeship in a "halfway" constitutional position well and that it warrants a promotion now to full statehood. In 1978, the Commonwealth had both the will and the opportunity to endow self-government. As regards statehood 20 years later, one side of federal politics has perhaps the will but not the opportunity while the other lacks the will completely. It must be remembered that, within the Territory, the grant of self-government at the time was controversial and subject to strong opposition by sections of the Territory population. It soon, however, became if not embraced than at least tolerated. It is likely that statehood, if it were to be given, would experience the same process of legitimation and support.

Comment by Labor Party Senator Trish Crossin
The Northern Territory should and will become the seventh state of Australia.Territorians deserve to belong to a state, with a range of rights other Australians already enjoy. Territorians also deserve a modern constitution, which provides us with a better, more democratic system of government.The Labor Party National Conference in February unanimously supported a resolution, proposing statehood for the Northern Territory, but the road to statehood began back in the 1920s. Self government was granted in 1978, making the Territory almost equal, but last year's overturning of its euthanasia legislation, reminded Territorians that its laws, unlike those of the states, could be struck down. The Territory does not control the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act, which has transferred half of the NT to indigenous controls, and the NT has no control over Uluru and Kakadu National Parks. The Territory Government is pushing for statehood by the centenary of Federation in 2001.However, not everybody agrees the Territory is ready. It's not the number of senators or the size of the population seen as a possible stumbling block for statehood; rather, the main impediment is the system of government. The Territory government is the only state or territory in Australia with no Freedom of Information Act, and has been operating behind closed doors for 20 years. A recent article in The Age on statehood asked: "Will Australia, through lack of interest, admit a state, which, at its core, disenfranchises a quarter of its people and at its heart, relies on racial division for its legitimacy?"A former high ranking adviser to the CLP, Andrew Coward, claims the Commonwealth Parliament has the constitutional responsibility to order a Royal Commission into the workings of the Territory government before putting the Territory's bid for statehood to the national referendum.Mr Coward said a Royal Commission might also explore what he called the political, social and racial divide in the Territory. He said: "New Territorians live well, dominate the electoral process and have shared in billions provided by the Australian taxpayer. "However the Aboriginal ‘true Territorians' who number one in four of the population have never had a voice in their governance and still live in squalor after 20 years in self government."While I don't agree with asking the Federal Government to again intervene in our affairs, I do believe the CLP administration should be more open to public scrutiny. As Mr Coward pointed out, the CLP has managed to squirrel away money into trust accounts and so called "hollow logs", to be produced in election years.The CLP has also created a gerrymander. Research shows the urban non-Aboriginal voters of greater Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs control the political destiny of the Northern Territory.The Territory's Aboriginal population is the largest in the nation, yet their concentration in a half dozen seats has meant that they have minimal impact on urban voting patterns.Traditional Territorians have seen little improvement in their lifestyles. The CLP has failed to try and close the divide, by not educating new Territorians on the legitimacy of land rights, the statutory right of the land councils to exist, the validity and reason for the permit laws which apply to Aboriginal land, and the encouragement of respect for rural Aboriginal aspirations.Territorians should be putting their differences aside to come up with a draft constitution. Unfortunately, the Country Liberal Party is not in favour of public input.In December last year the Chief Minister threw out the recommendations of the parliamentary committee for a consensus driven move to statehood. Mr Stone said the Parliament, currently controlled by him, will be the primary body to draft the new constitution.We should have had a people's convention as the primary body to determine the content of the Territory's new constitution, with popularly elected delegates.The Territory Government has excluded the overwhelming majority of Territorians from the process, with NT Electoral Office statistics showing only one percent of Territorians voted for convention delegates.I believe our new constitution should have the overwhelming support of the people of the Northern Territory. Our constitution should secure rights and entitlements for its people and ensure those rights cannot be taken away on a whim of politicians of the day. Our constitution should provide a system of government which is democratic and accountable to the people.The diversity of the Territory is something to be proud of. Nearly 20 per cent of Territorians were born overseas and more than 25 percent of the Territory's population is of Aboriginal descent.The rights and aspirations of these people must also be included in the constitution, not excluded. This has to be the first step towards a united state, where all sectors have the opportunities to benefit equally.A fundamental requirement should then be that a draft constitution is put before the people in a referendum. The people of the Northern Territory must have the final say.

Comment by MHR Nick Dondas (CLP)
As the march towards statehood continues, the remarkable achievements of the Territory since self-government are obvious.When I think back to 1978, and the heady days of the first Territory Legislative Assembly, I am very proud of what we have achieved.There is still some way to go, but with the support of the Federal Coalition, statehood is imminent.Territorians have been actively involved in the preparation for statehood since 1974. The Government is aware that an important element of statehood for the Northern Territory will be national support.Statehood for the Northern Territory is about gaining constitutional equality within the Australian federation. It is about having the rights and responsibilities that citizens living in Australia currently enjoy.It is about protecting the integrity of our parliament and the democratic ideals on which it is established. We've had some hiccups along the way, hiccups which make the push for statehood even more important. The overturning of a piece of Territory legislation by the Federal Parliament last year made it patently clear to all Territorians that without statehood our rights as Territorians are always threatened.Following the Commonwealth's intervention in Territory legislation, I called on the Coalition to take the necessary action to create the seventh state of Australia by granting the Northern Territory statehood as soon as possible. This is an issue that has been going on for 24 years, and for most of that time we have been self-governing. It is time the Commonwealth's residual powers with regard to the Northern Territory are removed, to give our parliament the assurance necessary to make laws for Territorians without the threat of Commonwealth intervention.The management of our parks is another issue which needs to be addressed. The Territory Government has the runs on the board when it comes to park management, with many successful parks to their credit.This is about management, not ownership, of our parks, and the right of all Territorians to have access to their national parks, Kakadu and Uluru Kata-Tjuta. We have always said we would like to have management of these parks.Perhaps one of the best illustrations of why we should become a state is what happens at a national referendum. If we were to vote in a national referendum tomorrow, Territorians' votes would only be counted once. Our brothers or sisters living in Melbourne or Sydney would get two votes. First they would be counted as a majority or minority of the people and then as a majority or minority of the states.Statehood will mean equality. It will mean greater constitutional status, giving the Territory a stronger voice both nationally and in our region.It will mean that our property rights will be protected and that we will never again be treated as second class citizens in our own nation.One of the myths put around by opposers of statehood is that we can't afford it. The reality is, it costs nothing to become the seventh state of Australia. Financially, we are treated as a state of the Commonwealth, and have been since 1988. We are assessed according to need, the same as the other states.The Territory has come a long way since self-government. We can be proud of our economic success. We are the fastest growing of any jurisdiction, have the strongest economic performance and the highest productivity in the nation.Territorians must now continue the push for statehood. In this 20th year of self government, I think we can say we have earned the right to statehood.I believe the Territory should become the State of the Northern Territory at the centenary of Federation. What more fitting time to admit a new state than 2001? We must continue the momentum and not let anyone get in our way. Territorians deserve to have equality with other Australians.But Territorians also deserve to have a say about statehood. I fully support a referendum on the issue of statehood. We're all Territorians, and we all have the right to determine our future.It's been a long road to statehood, a long time since we were granted self-government in 1978. But as a member of that first Territory Government, I think we've done a good job. The Northern Territory is a great place to live, a great place to work and the lifestyle we've created for ourselves is the best in the world.

Comment by Senator Grant Tambling (CLP)
(The Territory's CLP Senator for the past 11 years, Grant Tambling, has been associated with all levels of government in the NT since 1972. He was an Alderman of the Darwin City Council, a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly, the Federal Member in the House of Representatives. He is the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Security.)
The Northern Territory is well on track to achieve statehood by the Centenary of Federation in 2001. Australians are familiar with the Territory's record of 20 years of responsible self-government and are receptive to the message that the Territory has proven itself more than a worthy candidate for statehood.A recent visit to the United Kingdom consolidated my view. During the visit, as a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegate, I was able to study the constitutional change currently being undertaken in the UK, particularly in relation to the House of Lords and devolution from Westminster to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The constitutional changes being proposed for Scotland and Wales are insignificant when compared to the present system of self-government enjoyed by the Territory (under the Northern Territory Self-Government Act 1978). I wasn't impressed with the UK models and I believe the advances made by the Territory are more constitutionally meaningful and are far in advance of what is being proposed in the UK.Under the political autonomy granted to the Territory at self-government in 1978 successive CLP administrations have proven their maturity in responsible self-government. Under Commonwealth arrangements the Territory is funded under the same formula as a state and CLP Governments have a successful track record of financial management which has projected the Territory to a position of favoured investment for many national and multi-national companies. The Territory's expanding population and growing prosperity can only strengthen our statehood bid.The next step for the Territory is to finalise a draft constitution. Political history has demonstrated that the pivotal moment in Australia's social and political development was the establishment of the Australian Constitution. During the course of this century the constitution shaped Australia and allowed it develop into a proudly independent nation. Finalising the Territory's own constitution will further demonstrate to the rest of Australia the Territory's preparedness for statehood.The convening of the Convention on Territory Statehood in February advanced this objective. The final draft of a Territory constitution will be scrutinised in detail before it is accepted by the Federal Parliament, and particularly, I suspect, by the Senate. Therefore it must be reflective of the views and attitudes of all contemporary Territorians. For this reason, I wrote to all delegates at the Convention on Territory statehood, suggesting they read the preamble to the South African Constitution as part of their deliberations. The document canvassed a range of policy and cultural issues relevant to the Territory experience. These are the issues that will have to be adequately addressed in our constitution for it to gain universal acceptance.


Residents of the Eastside say current work on the drain between Burke Street to the Todd River points up again the inadequacies of the Territory Government's town planning procedures.Although the enlargement of the drain became necessary in part because of a residential development on the former Green-leaves caravan park site, there was no mention of the drain when the project came up for public comment about two years ago.Andre Burgess, the president of the Eastside Residents Association, says residents near the new subdivision, mainly in Burke Street, kept a close eye on it, but people living in Gosse Street - now bearing the brunt of the drain works - had not previously been made aware that they were going to be affected.Ms Burgess says all major projects should be required to furnish an environmental impact statement (EIS), spelling out the entire range of issues involved.However, town council planner Eugene Barry says the current doubling of the drain's capacity would have been necessary in any case.He says the subdivision is expected to add just five per cent to the water flow, and the public got a great deal because the developers - Sitzlers - are paying a third of the $250,000 cost.The council and the NT Government are sharing the balance in equal parts.FLURRYIt would have been a major undertaking for private citizens - or even a community association - to keep up with the flurry of planning applications, approvals, hearing and delegations in connection with the Greenleaves project.Between April 1996 and January this year, the project was dealt with at 12 Planning Authority meetings, including three subdivision applications, two rezonings and four cluster dwelling applications.Meanwhile, residents claim that the drain project is poorly managed, and will create an eyesore in one of the town's prettiest suburbs."The issue of increased danger [in times of flood] is also a major concern," says Ms Burgess.The widening of the drain at the foot of Spencer Hill has meant the bulldozing of trees planted by the residents late last year, in the town council's "Alice We Care Week".Ms Burgess says: "Residents are beginning to say, Alice, Who Cares?"Gosse Street resident John Boffa says the seedlings and a drip system had been provided by the town council which - just a few months later - is undoing work performed by local volunteers.Mr Barry says current NT legislation does not oblige the council to draw up an EIS for works on roads or drains."There are always issues relating to roads and drains when new subdivisions are built, but these issues are never advertised separately," he says.Alternatives to the large open drain had been canvassed but were found to be too expensive - a closed drain would cost around 10 times as much - or were ruled out by other factors.Mr Barry says the preferred option was a retardation basin upstream from Greenleaves, but this could not proceed because of Aboriginal sacred sites and the national park."Unanswered questions persist," says Ms Burgess. "For example, what pedestrian access will be provided from Eastside to the Telegraph Station across the drain."


The Desert Mob Show, which opened at Araluen on Sunday, with some 200 people waiting at the gallery doors in an atmosphere of anticipation, is once again a triumphant expression of the unique aesthetic language and artistry of Aboriginal people in Central Australia.The show, the eighth of its kind curated by Araluen, is the only opportunity in the country to see such a wealth and range of Aboriginal arts and crafts "in one hit".It is also an opportunity for the public collections housed at Araluen to be enriched. Among the acquisitions from this year's show is the dancing stick, Urretyane, made especially for the show by Keringke Arts' Kathleen Wallace. It is the first of its kind she has made since she was a young girl, and, for me, it is undoubtedly the most alluring object of the exhibition, for its graceful form endowed with the aura of its social and spiritual significance.Two paintings by Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) artists were acquired: one by the acknowledged major artist Long Tom Tjapanangka [see illustration page 5], the other by a relatively new artist, Alice Nampitjinpa.The town council's collection already has a work by Long Tom. This second acquisition, this time for the NT Government collection, is in line with the policy of acquiring more than one work by a major artist.Long Tom's style, choice of colour and subject matter combine to infuse his work with a feeling of optimism. It isn't surprising then, in the short biographical note published in Marina Strocchi's Ikuntji, to read that he is "a happy man, full of jokes, enthusiasm and new ideas." The presence of camels in the newly acquired painting make it a very outgoing work, one that appears to embrace a new reality of country for Aboriginal people.The Alice Nampitjinpa work, Talalpi, Porkupine Tjukurrpa, is far more inscrutable in its subject matter. However, it is fascinating for the subtlety of the way the artist works her colour. The red and yellow stripes are alternated first by cream, then by a very pale grey which creates a vibration of movement across the surface.Two works by emerging Tennant Creek artist Peggy Jones were also acquired: one an acrylic on canvas, Soakage; the other a screenprint on cotton, Bushtucker, made with Jessica Jones.The painting will possibly be a controversial choice, for its raw technique and composition, and colour that could be described as garish. However, Mrs Jones is about to have a solo exhibition in Melbourne, and Araluen curator Alison French says her work is establishing a reputation for its "energy, direct action and instinctive use of colour".Maraku Arts, based at Uluru, this year features the work of Niningka Lewis, and a number of her painted and carved wooden animal figures were acquired. The figures can be seen as naive on one level, says Ms French, but also as developed from close observation. In particular, the little group of birds pecking at seed have a very naturalistic gesture and stance.Alice Nampitjinpa's Talalpi is possibly the only work in the exhibition which received as much space as it deserved in its presentation. With more than 500 works, many of them very bold in form and colour, it is now a real challenge for Araluen to house the exhibition in a single gallery.Indeed, this year it has flowed into the foyer where Iwantja Arts and Crafts' linoprints, outstanding for their colour and design, are on display, and a few of Connie Lang's 15 works are also hanging.Mrs Lang, a Luritja woman in her seventies who lives at Undarana Outstation about 260 km west of Alice Springs, works primarily with linoblock prints, developing a distinctive technique which renders a kind of background shading integral to the design. This is used or discarded with unerring discernment: some prints, such as Kangaroo Dreaming, are clean and bold; some, such as Wild Bush Flowers, rely on the grace of finely drawn lines on black; other judiciously combine these effects with the hashed shading.Mrs Lang works prolifically and largely on her own, in her own home, resourced by the part-time coordinator for the Wilu Arts Group, Neville Field, who also editions her blocks in Alice Springs.Mr Field says Mrs Lang is an outstanding role model for younger artists of the Wilu Arts Group and of Ilura Arts, working out of the Tjuwanpa Resource Centre and participating in the show for the first time this year.At the opening, Ron Brien, executive officer of Desart, an umbrella body for Aboriginal art centres, announced the advent, for the first time, of a touring exhibition growing out of the Desert Mob Show, opening in Melbourne in October. It will include the public collection acquisitions from the current and past shows, and a host of new work from the region. Funding from Visions of Australia and the NT Department of Arts and Museums will also provide for a trainee Aboriginal curator's position.


It appears there will be a change for the better in the delivery of allied health services in Central Australia, but will there be a change for the better in the way the Northern Territory Government responds to criticism?Stuart MLA Peter Toyne welcomes the evidence in a leaked document that Territory Health Services (THS) is trying to fix management problems identified in a number of reports on allied health services, brought to public attention by Mr Toyne in the Legislative Assembly and the Alice Springs News [see issues of April 22 & 29, May 6 & 20].However, Mr Toyne asks: "Why, in order to achieve this result, does the consultant who is the author of the latest report have to come under threat of legal action and we, doing our job as an Opposition, and the media, be subject to months of vitriolic attacks?"Health Minister Denis Burke confirmed in the Legislative Assembly last week that legal advice had been sought relating to allegations of defamation by statements contained in an interim report on allied health services."These were directed at the consultants who prepared the report and at Territory Health Services for circulating copies of the interim report for comment," said Mr Burke."No legal costs have been paid but, to date, these are estimated to be in the vicinity of $5500."Mr Toyne asked if any further payments would be made to the consultants for "the fairly extensive rewriting of the report, which they have been asked to undertake?"Mr Burke replied that he was not aware of additional costs.The latest leaked document reveals that THS is not going to await the final report before taking action on future management structures for allied health services in Central Australia.The document says: "Adverse media attention, whilst occurring six weeks after the release of the interim report, may now have effectively stopped the likelihood of the final report ever being released."In the Assembly Mr Burke expressed himself more immoderately. He criticised Mr Toyne for using "the Alice Springs rag as his electorate newsletter".He said: "I recall one inquiry directly from you with regard to allied health services in Alice Springs. The rest of it has been run as a media campaign in that rag in Alice Springs, which has about as much status, I believe, as a Big Mac container. That is my opinion of Irwin Chandler [sic] and the sort of topics he runs."Mr Toyne says that the combined efforts of the Alice News and other media, and the Opposition, "all doing their proper jobs", have achieved a desired change, but the Government's reaction of shooting the messenger continues to illustrate the problems of democracy in the Territory."Public debate on anything less than good in the Territory is not welcomed by this Government," said Mr Toyne.The leaked document outlines four options for the structure of regional allied health services.The first - to maintain the status quo - is all but ruled out by key points, acknowledged in the document as including professional isolation, management problems and staff burnout.A second option takes up the proposal of the consultants, described as a regional structure, which would create a new senior allied health position and would separate allied health positions from the programs they currently work in. This option is seen as unlikely to be supported by outlying areas and the Barkly, according to the document.A third option is a "regional senior model", whereby there would be five regional senior positions representing each of the allied health disciplines.The model is seen as possibly too costly, depending on the remuneration of the positions.The fourth option is a hybrid model, which would be developed over a period of consultation, addressing all the issues raised in recent months.

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