"REAL" STATEHOOD PROCESS MAY START AFTER SHOCK REFERENDUM LOSS. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
A task force should be set up to establish a "new, inclusive" process to obtain statehood, according to Alice Deputy Mayor Fran Erlich, who says no time should be lost to revive the push for making the Northern Territory Australia’s seventh state.She says the almost certain defeat of the statehood proposal in Saturday's referendum is no obstacle to a new campaign.Meanwhile, there are indications of a significantly stronger disenchantment in Alice Springs with the NT Government's process for statehood: a substantial proportion of voters for Nick Dondas, the CLP candidate for the House of Representatives, appear to have voted "no" to statehood.[The Territory seat, with Warren Snowdon as the ALP candidate, remained undecided early this week, but Mr Snowdon had a lead of more than 2000 votes with pre-poll and postal votes yet to be counted.]Ms Erlich says the task force should include former Chief Minister Steve Hatton, her father, the former CLP Senator Bernie Kilgariff, as well as Territory Labor's deputy leader, John Bailey.Ms Erlich is a member of Territorians for Democratic Statehood, which spearheaded the urban "no" campaign for Saturday's referendum. She also wants a say in a new campaign for statehood.Ms Erlich says the poor "yes" vote was an "indictment of the process, the way things have been managed, and, in part, of the attitude of Chief Minister Shane Stone".She says: "Territorians will not be railroaded into a decision on which they had no input."Too many questions have not been adequately answered by the government."It must have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a very emotive advertising blitz, but never actually explained why statehood is good for the NT."She says Mr Kilgariff has been fighting for statehood for 40 years.The task force should oversee a new process that has "the support of all Territorians because I believe most Territorians, despite this polling, really want statehood," says Ms Erlich."The result shows that Territorians are standing up for democracy."Mr Stone is trying to blame Aboriginal interests, the Labor Party, and people's conservatism, but the bottom line is that Shane Stone lost the statehood referendum."With nearly 80 per cent of the votes counted by early this week, it is clear that a slim majority of urban voters favoured statehood, but the scales were tipped in the "bush" where the Aboriginal land councils waged a determined "no" campaign.The remote vote, about a quarter of the electors, was roughly 75 per cent "no".In Alice Springs, dominated by the CLP, the "yes" vote was substantially lower than the vote for Mr Dondas (see table on page 2).This sign that even many conservative voters objected to statehood can be seen as a strong reprimand for the Chief Minister. A selection of urban Darwin booths, by contrast, shows the "yes" vote there to be slightly greater than the polling by Mr Dondas.
FOOTNOTE: Political discourse, Northern Territory style, last Sunday afternoon, with a CLP front bencher.
Alice News: Hello, this is Erwin Chlanda from the Alice Springs News. Is that Barry Coulter?
Alice News: Are you Chief Minister yet?
Coulter: Don't talk shit. [Hangs up.]
COMMENT: WHAT STONE GOT WRONG ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION.
The constitution that ordinary Territorians were allowed to have no say in is, in my opinion, not what is required to guarantee Territorians a safe, tolerant, viable and exciting future.It contains no guarantees of:-
a parliamentary public accounts committee to provide parliamentary oversight of government expenditure;
an auditor-general to audit government accounts and oversight their procedures and practices;
the rights of ordinary people to information about government decisions made which affect them personally;
the rights of individuals, small business people and community groups to go to the courts to have government actions judicially reviewed;
freedom of speech, to protest, to assemble, to hold political discussion, access to creeks, rivers, the sea;
the accountability of government to the people for its actions at the ballot box;
an upper house which can review government action, debate policy and give those who do not belong to the major parties a say, especially the disadvantaged and other minorities;
the supervisory and appellate jurisdiction of the courts over all tribunals and independent decision making authorities;
the right to change the constitution even if politicians don't agree;
the rights of citizens to initiate their own referendums;
the rights of citizens to legal representation before courts and tribunals;
the rights of all citizens equally to access to the justice system.These are just some of the omissions from the constitution.If the statehood convention had been democratic, we would all have supported the outcome, even if we might have disagreed with some of it.A "yes" vote in last Saturday's referendum would have meant that unless the Federal Parliament intervened, the draft constitution would have been all we were going to get.The strong "no" vote will force the Government to convene a democratic constitutional convention so that Territorians can have their say.There's still plenty of time to get statehood on the turn of the millennium; I for one really want to see the Territory become a state. But I do think it was the right of all Territorians to participate in the processes, and I do think that can still happen.[By LEX SILVESTER, a Darwin barrister, recreational fisherman and rural resident. Comment courtesy of the Litchfield Times.]
COMMENT: YEST TO STATEHOOD, NOT TO STONEHOOD. By ERWIN CHLANDA.
Chief Minister Shane Stone seems set to go down in Northern Territory history as the man who couldn't even sell motherhood - sorry - statehood. Early this year overwhelming support for statehood was a foregone conclusion: no-one except a lunatic fringe would have been expected to vote against it! Then Mr Stone put his autocratic stamp on the process and wrested defeat from the jaws of victory. First came the Statehood Convention. Not trusting Territorians to democratically elect delegates, Mr Stone hastily orchestrated a sham: a good number of delegates were appointed by his government, and Mr Stone tried to fool the public by claiming that the remainder were "elected".The fact was that all were hand-picked because the "elected" ones were chosen by organisations hand-picked by Mr Stone. To their credit, the delegates worked hard in an indecently short time to make the best of a miserable situation. They came up with a draft constitution, and the recommendation that the referendum should ask three questions:
Do we want to be a state?
Do we approve of the constitution?
What should be the name of the new state?Having already dumped on the general public, Mr Stone now proceeded to dump on the convention delegates.He modified their constitution, now known as a "minimal" model, rammed it through the Legislative Assembly, and cut the number of referendum questions back to one, tacking on the now infamous preamble.That made the question illegal, according to prominent constitutional lawyers, because it was ambiguous and prone to conflicting interpretations (Alice News, September 30).Clearly, Mr Stone relied on the fear his bully boy regime has instilled in potential litigants, who have ample cause to worry that any failed court action may result in punitive cost orders sought by the NT Government. Little wonder no-one dared to challenge in court the mess which was finally put before the public last Saturday.What was left was minimal, all right: tailor made for the kind of administration Mr Stone likes, providing practically no checks on the excesses of power which characterise his style of government.By last Saturday Mr Stone had spent an estimated half a million dollars of taxpayers' money (his office won't disclose the actual figure) on propaganda to achieve a "yes" vote which could have been his for the asking had the process not been so disgracefully flawed.And yes, by then the Parliamentary Labor Party, in a spineless display, had given its unanimous sanction to Mr Stone's antics.The Chief Minister himself, with the greatest of ease, had flipped from "if you don't like the constitution vote against statehood", to "never mind the constitution, just vote yes to statehood".And in a final, desperate bid, he pushed the line that this will be a "once in a lifetime" opportunity. That was last week. This week he's suddenly the only one who can still salvage statehood. Mr Stone's credibility is at zero. His claims are baloney. It's not up to Mr Stone to give us statehood, but up to Canberra.Territorians have shown they won't be led around by the nose. They have displayed a robust and profound appreciation of democratic principles. They won't be bamboozled by slick propaganda. They absorbed the information provided by the relatively under-resourced community-based "no" campaigns, and acted accordingly, unimpressed by the CLP juggernaut.In The Alice, where four CLP Members of Parliament reign supreme, the urban vote was 48.52 per cent against statehood, with the rural electors tipping the scales. A significant proportion of people voting for Nick Dondas voted against statehood. (see report this edition).Where to from here? Canberra must be informed that the referendum vote was not against statehood, but against "Stonehood". Prime Minister John Howard, who fought an honest and able campaign, must be told urgently that we wish to embark on a proper statehood process. And we want to do it now. Statehood is not Stone dead. Today should be Day One in our quest for equal rights within the nation. And as for Mr Stone, the Alice News said it last week - four days BEFORE the referendum - he no longer has a place in Territory politics. We're happy to restate that opinion today, whether or not he's eating "humble pie" - which is his line this week, after a caning by his Parliamentary wing.
ARE WE BECOMING THE STATE OF CONFUSION? COMMENT by JUNE TUZEWSKI.
Olive Pink (1884-1975) was one of our town's more colourful personalities. Born in Hobart, she became well known in scientific circles for her work as an anthropologist and botanist. Moving to the Centre in the early ‘30s and living out bush on various small study grants, she became a staunch believer that Aboriginal people should be left alone and allowed to live a traditional lifestyle. She was a strident critic of government, particularly over Aboriginal policy matters. A prolific letter writer to officials, she would underline in pink the points that she particularly wanted noted. The telephone also became a useful way of keeping officialdom on its toes. It was by telephone that I had my first contact with this Miss Pink, although I was unaware of her background at the time. Under normal circumstances a newly arrived, young office worker would have been unlikely to cross paths with Miss Pink, even though the town was much smaller in the late ‘60s than now. However, I worked for Kevin Sweet, the Chief Engineer and CEO of the Commonwealth Works Department. Mr Sweet was very much a VIP in the town. New to my job, I picked up the phone one morning to a curt but polite request to speak to my boss. I explained he was not in his office. Quick as a flash came back the response: "I suppose he's having coffee and cognac with those Americans". (Pine Gap had just been established.) I explained he was in a meeting, but could be disturbed if it was important. Did she wish to hold the line for it might take a little time for him to reach the phone, or would she like me to have him call her back? She indicated that she would wait and I went to fetch my boss. Returning with Mr Sweet who wanted to take the call in his office, I discovered that she had hung up. Later that afternoon the phone rang again and Miss Pink's voice came over the line requesting to speak to the Chief Engineer. I told her she had put in a most difficult position earlier in the day and had made me look incompetent in my new position. That, I thought ,was the end of the matter The next day, however, who should arrive in the reception area but Miss Pink. A small but upright woman, very neatly dressed in a cream blouse, long black skirt and broad brimmed hat, she carefully placed a box on the counter. Introducing herself, she asked if I was the young woman to whom she had spoken on the phone the day before. Replying in the affirmative she then presented me with the box. It was overflowing with grapes and Sturt Desert Peas. She had not wished to put me in an awkward position with Mr Sweet, she said; and then proceeded to talk about the flowers planted at the front of the building. Mr Sweet was totally amazed. Miss Pink, supposedly, never apologised to anyone. I learned of this fiercely independent woman and the difficulties she caused politicians, the public service and other notables; also, of how certain people tried to keep an eye on her welfare. Although she had little financial support, Miss Pink would not take anything that even hinted at charity. The Botanic Gardens, which today bear her name and are a tribute to her life and work, was an area of land given to her where she grew and experimented with growing arid zone trees and plants. It also became her home. My boss told me of how Miss Pink named some of the trees she planted after various people - usually people of influence. If they were doing things that pleased her, the tree named after that individual would be well looked after, but if they were in her bad books, they did not get watered. Which makes me wonder how she would have viewed the Territory's quest for statehood. I doubt that either Chief Minister, Shane Stone or Opposition Leader, Maggie Hickey would have gained her approval. While the CLP may have mishandled the process, the ALP's support of the "yes" case was abysmal. With the referendum on statehood delivering a "no" vote, the question is "where to, now?" There has been much talk that the vote was a protest against Shane Stone, in the same way that governments lose a by-election. There will be strong pressure on the Chief Minister in the Party Room. Some media are even speculating on a leadership challenge. There are many who believe we can make a fresh start in the move towards becoming a state. This comes from those who supported the "no" case, but say they really wanted statehood. Shane Stone believes that it is up to him to convince John Howard to put it back on the national agenda. Whatever the lobbying, the Prime Minister elect is going to need some convincing to keep statehood moving forward. While Federation took several referendums and some time to achieve, Territorians need to be really clear and in agreement about the next steps, otherwise we run the risk of being called the State of Confusion instead of the State of the Northern Territory.
WORKERS NEED NEW CITY CAR PARKING.
A local consortium is "exploring the possibility" of building a multi-storey car park in the Central Business District (CBD), either above or below the ground, possibly on the site of the present Hartley Street car park.Frampton First National Real Estate's Andrew Doyle, who is advising the consortium, says while shoppers are well catered for, the availability of car parking for people working in the CBD has reached crisis point and may lead to some businesses deserting the area.Meanwhile Ald Geoff Miers has found in a week-long survey that nearly half the parking spaces adjacent to Anzac Oval and in Leichhardt Terrace are vacant, and the council's town planner, Eugene Barry, says there will be 150 places in the Western Precinct business area which is being developed at present.Mr Doyle agrees that there are spaces on the periphery of the CBD but says these are not within comfortable walking distance in an outback town where the temperature is often over 40 degrees and where people expect to be free from the inconveniences of big cities.Mr Doyle says the big shopping centres - Yeperenye, Coles, K-Mart and Alice Plaza - cater well for customers but generally provide limited parking for each tenant business.He says Yeperenye has about 240 staff but the 300 available car parks are mainly for customers.He says some 100 people work in the Centrepoint Building and 60 in Reg Harris Lane - without any day-long parking for them close by.Dozens of people work in the FAI Building, Heenan House and Helm House.It's not uncommon that people working in one shopping centre park in another, much to the annoyance of the managers.Mr Doyle says businesses may be "pushed out of the CBD" by the crisis, moving south in Gap Road or into the heritage precinct near Stott Terrace.Mr Doyle says safety of vehicles parked along the Todd is another issue: when he was working for a bank in the CBD some years ago, six to eight of his colleagues had their windscreens smashed each year, and were forced to find a spot for their vehicles elsewhere.Ald Miers conducted his survey between Tuesday, September 22 and Friday, September 25, between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.He found that at the Anzac Oval car park, an average of 55.5 per cent of parking spaces were vacant, while 35 per cent were vacant in the Leichhardt Terrace car park.Meanwhile Mr Barry says the current requirement for developers of office space is to provide 2.5 parking spaces for every 100 square metres. For shops, six spaces per 100 square metres must be provided.However, since 1990 this requirement can be waived by the Planning Authority - for a fee of $5300 per space, payable to the town council.Mr Barry says this opportunity has not been used frequently because all major office and retail developments in the town predate 1990.All three shopping centres have the required amount of parking.Partial waivers have been obtained by the cinema complex and Puccini's Restaurant in the former Ansett complex.The council has received about $70,000 in waiver fees so far; of that $50,000 has been spent on car parks and $20,000 remains "in the kitty".Mr Barry says the NT Government has given the council 4000 square metres of land adjacent to the Western Precinct development, on former railway land, to build 150 car parks.Mr Barry says there are plans to extend Parsons Street across the Stuart Highway, with a traffic light intersection, to create access to the Western Precinct development.Mr Barry also says there is currently plenty of all-day parking in Railway Terrace.Ald Miers says a proposal for a multi-storey facility near the historic Hartley Street school is likely to run into difficulties: "The council could not even build a heritage-style toilet block there," he says.Apart from the Western Precinct, the only option he can see is the civic centre block - the site of the council chambers - now subject to public comment on any future development.
CULTURAL PRECINCT GETS $2.5m FROM FEDS BUT ONLY THE MINISTER IS ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT IT.
National party leader Tim Fisher came to Alice Springs last week, a pork barrel under his arm.He announced just four days before the Federal election, that Alice Springs' Araluen Centre will benefit from a $2.3m Federation Fund grant to build a new art gallery, housing the Albert Namatjira and Rex Battarbee Collections.When the Alice Springs News phoned Araluen Director David Whitney for further details about the proposed gallery, we were told that enquiries about that matter had to be referred to NT Arts and Museums Minister Daryl Manzie. The News objects to this interference by the Minister in news gathering that is not of a political nature, but simply a matter of adding detail to our already extensive coverage of the development of the cultural precinct, in our past two editions.Our sources for this report have been the Alice-based directors of the three principal organisations involved: the Araluen Centre, the Museum of Central Australia and the Strehlow Research Centre.In our view, enquiries concerning the running and development of those organisations are most appropriately directed to their heads, as people who presumably have been recruited for their expertise in their respective areas.We're happy to refer matters of policy and departmental performance to the Darwin-based Minister. Mr Manzie might want to play political games with the arts, and money that's not even from resources he administers, but we decline to join in.This is Part Three of a report by KIERAN FINNANE - without "input" from Mr Manzie.
Putting cultural artifacts in context will be a hallmark of the Alice Springs cultural precinct. The natural history display to be housed in the Strehlow Centre will make links with the Desert Park and some of the conservation parks in the MacDonnell Ranges. "It will all have a complete interrelated look, feel and function," says museum director Peter Murray. While the subject matter will be much the same as exists now, it will be presented more attractively and imaginatively.The display will start with the night sky."We'll have an Aboriginal mythological reference as well as modern cosmological views," says Dr Murray."Our design consultants will come up with some good ideas to represent a really accurate night sky, perhaps using a small planetarium projector."A key feature of Central Australia are meteorite craters, and the museum has a good collection of meteorites, so we intend having a good display on ‘visitors' from outer space."The very famous astro-geologist Eugene Schumacher died on the road here last year and we'd like to do a display on his contributions to Central Australian astro-geology."We'll have a Michener-like approach to the early development of Central Australia, using the best examples we can get of highlights in this two billion year expanse of time."We'll present evidence for that whole sequence of events, including the passing of the inland sea. It's an amazing story."The problem will be how to fit all of this into the Strehlow space. It's a beautiful space but difficult, crescent-shaped. This is why we need professional designers to match the presentation to the style of architecture."The consultants Dr Murray hopes to engage have been working on displays in Sydney and Adelaide museums."While our museum will be unique, we want it to have some relationship and similarities with other state museums, a comparable level of presentation and technology."The museum information services will be located in an office at Araluen, and eventually Dr Murray would like to relocate his own laboratory, at present in the Sitzler Building on the North Stuart Highway, onto the site."The museum is a service-oriented organisation," he says."Field trips and talks are all part of the museum program. We have a commitment to work with other government agencies and community organisations, so that they can benefit from the overall pool of knowledge that we have."Mr Whitney says that in particular school and tour groups will find access to the museum easier and more attractive on the new site, for bus-parking space and for planning a cultural "one stop shop".Access to the Strehlow building will be redesigned, so that it is approached from the west, exposing to full view the rammed earth wall of the building, with entry via the ramp directly into the display area.With so much happening on the site, the need for a cafe is more pressing than ever.Mr Whitney agrees but says the Government does not want to be involved in cafes or restaurants: "In the past they have become a financial drain, and really, arts money should go towards arts activities, not into underwriting a cafe or restaurant."He says the issue remains a hot one within Araluen's advisory committee, the Friends of Araluen and the Crafts Council. "With the development of the cultural precinct the opportunities for a cafe will become much stronger."Those organisations should be able to come up with the right package to attract a commercial operator," says Mr Whitney.All of the kitchen equipment in Witchetty's is still in place, but Witchetty's itself is ruled out as a location, as it now well used for a variety of cultural and community activities.Mr Whitney says a couple of locations for a cafe are under discussion, one in the Araluen foyer, one in another building on the site.The Araluen advisory committee, which unlike many other government advisory committees, is made up of community elected representatives, will be retained."It's very easy for arts centres to be isolated from their community. The committee is one way of reducing that isolation," says Mr Whitney.He says that the 28 community groups Araluen works with have a much more comfortable relationship with the arts centre than was sometimes the case in the past.
RUGBY WILL SEE THE LIGHT.
The Central Australian Rugby Union is poised to reap the benefit of a decade of gradual growth when they make Anzac Oval their headquarters this season. The heady days of Rugby becoming an established sport in Alice Springs began at the Verdi ground, and with sponsorship of pure zest from the heart of players, officials, and spectators. Since then the CARU has steadily concentrated on forming an administrative base and competitive teams.The parent body in Darwin have played a significant part in the CARU growth especially through the efforts of current General Manager, Bill Davies. This season Centralians can look forward to seeing an NT Representative side take on Papua New Guinea in November. Then, while the Aussies play the Kiwis in the traditional Footrot Flats challenge on January 26, a side is expected to travel north to compete in the Territory Sevens at Marrara.This is a marvellous opportunity for Alice Springs players as they will have the chance to face the likes of teams from Singapore and Japan.In late October Kym Thurban from the NT Institute of Sport will be in Alice to conduct Level One Courses and take coaching sessions. Rugby Union Development officer Daniel Lewis will also be in town to ensure another junior competition is in place.In addition the NTRU have committed themselves to having Wallabies in Alice during the season for both coaching sessions and sportsmen's evenings.On the home front, play this week begins at Ross Park with the opening round of the season. Kiwis will play the Cubs and Federal will take on the Eagles.The Kiwis as usual will be hot favourites to take the flag, but could well start the season in a low key. In opposition the Cubs have obtained the services of AJ Doige as their coach. No other player has made as much impact on the sport as AJ in recent years. His appointment will give him the chance to step up another notch, and transfer his innate understanding of the game to younger players.The Eagles go into the pipe opener with Craig Hamilton as their coach. While he has not committed himself to the position for the year, his experience will be well appreciated. Meanwhile in the Federal quarter, they also have a new coach. Nick Bennett has been around the traps and knows what is needed in the Devils' rooms to see them fulfil their potential. Play starts at Ross Park at 4.30pm on Saturday.
FINKE DESERT RACE GETS SHOT IN THE ARM.
With nine months to go till the 24th Finke Desert Race, the Finke Race Committee has taken a giant step towards recognition of the race as an international event.In 1996, the 21st anniversary year,the committee recognised the need for professionalism. President Peter Harvey reported, "Whilst the past 20 years have been fun, in our 21st year we are getting serious."The committee duly appointed David Stoodley and his team from Melbourne to handle marketing and promotion. Lessons were learned from the experience, but the Finke as a major event certainly stepped up a cog.In 1997 and 1998 the committee continued the job of organising the race, marking the track, handling the tons of "administrivia", and promoting the event to a higher level. The last two years have again proved, Finke is great, but it demands much from precious few. Now Hidden Valley Promotions have been invited to assist in administration, promotion and sponsorship. At the centre of Hidden Valley Promotions is Paul Cattermole, the former Racing Secretary at Fanny Bay, who turned the Darwin Cup into the major national event that it is today. For a few short years Cattermole's expertise was applied to the Gold Coast horse racing world. But the draw of the Territory brought him home to Darwin in 1998, to assist in the organisation of the inaugural Shell Championship Series for touring cars.The Hidden Valley extravaganza was an absolute winner for not only "petrol heads", but the NT sport and tourism industries at large. Next year's Finke Desert Race, with Cattermole's assistance, will be able to capitalise on the Hidden Valley Championships to be held on the preceding weekend. This will present tourism bodies with the opportunity to package Territory wide deals to visiting motor sport buffs.In Alice Springs, visitors coming on from Hidden Valley will be spending up to a week in the Centre, with the Finke as the focus. Another window of opportunity through Hidden Valley Promotions will be the sale of television rights. In this day and age catering for armchair sport viewers is intrinsic to the success, and growth, of an event.Plans of this proportion are leap years in front of the 1996 concept of marketing and promotion.In riding on the Cattermole name, the Finke committee would also have to be confident of obtaining major sponsorship for the event. This would be in stark contrast to 1998 when the major support came from a beer baron generously donating what seemed to be a truck load of his product. This sponsorship was well appreciated, but for the Finke to evolve the vision must be "big picture".Too often great ideas remain the property of the interest group that initiate them. The idea in becoming a reality then becomes too much for the small band of volunteer organisers and problems set in. The Finke committee have shown vision in inviting Hidden Valley Promotions to be part of the action on the Old South Road.In being prepared to share their dream, Finke organisers like Peter Harvey, David Koch and Jol Fleming will ensure that crack international racers will nominate, along with the locals, for the prestige event. In time Territorians can look forward to seeing the Finke as a major tourist attraction, and an internationally televised sporting event.
TOP ARTIST PAINTS IN A GALLERY BUT LIVES IN THE CREEK. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
Winner of this year's Northern Territory Art Award, Dorothy Napan-gardi Robertson, is a Warlpiri woman who has been living and painting in Alice Springs for 10 years.She won the award with a deeply alluring work: a fretwork or lace, made up of white and mustard yellow dots, veils but does not conceal some kind of blue-black essence or meta-being.The work, titled simply Women's Dreaming, is obviously rooted in Dorothy's knowledge of her traditional country.It evokes to my Western eye the night sky on a moonless night, when your gaze is drawn further and further into space, and as it becomes accustomed to looking, more is revealed: an inspiring infinity beyond more immediate and tangible intricacies.Dorothy has worked towards this painting over four canvasses, all using the lacey grid of dots on a dark ground, with the award-winning work being the most complex and beautiful.In March of this year Dorothy had a one woman show at the Hogarth Gallery in Sydney. Another solo show is planned for Melbourne next year. In 1991 she won Best Painting in Western Media at the Telstra Art Awards, with a large work that now hangs in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin.One of the confounding details of contemporary Aboriginal life in Central Australia is that this artist of considerable attainment lives in a caravan in a creekbed on the northern edge of town.She sometimes paints in the creekbed, sitting on a blanket. However, she also now has the option of working in a studio, made available to her by owner-director of Gallery Gondwana, Roslyn Premont.The two women first met when Roslyn was manager of the government-owned Centre for Aboriginal Art in Todd Street (on the site now occupied by the Aboriginal-owned Aboriginal Arts and Culture Centre).A lot of Warlpiri women were painting at the centre, among them Rachel Napaltjarri, Rosie Nangala Flemming, Polly Napangardi Watson, Eunice Napangardi, and Peggy Naparrurla Poulson.Initially, Dorothy says she learnt with Rachel, painting small works.Later Eunice became a greater influence, leading Dorothy into the floral style for which Eunice became famous.It was a work in this style which won Dorothy the Telstra award.A turning point came in 1996 when Gallery Gondwana held a show of Dorothy's work."We hung it and I asked Dorothy what she thought," recalls Roslyn."She could see that once you start exhibiting and having your own shows you have to start thinking more about your work. "It needed to be more diverse. We told her not to worry, to not think about selling, to just paint whatever she wanted to. "It was very challenging for Dorothy, as it is for many artists, to break out from the confines of producing safe saleable art , but she did it, she started to experiment. "She was really interested in painting, looking at painting books, asking about where people were from, why they did certain things, did I like what they did? "We've travelled a bit together. I've taken a lot of artists away but Dorothy is one of the few who has asked a lot of questions about other people's work, indigenous and non-indigenous."Roslyn eventually felt impelled to get a studio because Dorothy often wanted to paint in the gallery, but there was not always room for that to happen.Dorothy and her kinship sister Polly Napangardi Watson, a previous NT Art Award winner and who also has a fine work in this year's award , now work alongside one another in the studio, often in the company of their children.Apart from being sheltered from the weather and other possible intrusions, a big advantage for the artists is that they can hang their work in progress on the studio walls and study it before proceeding.The relationship between Dorothy and the gallery is based on years of friendship and trust. Dorothy sells through the gallery on the basis of a 40 per cent commission, after the costs of the studio, materials and other quite extensive support are factored in. There is also a bonus system for works that attract a higher than expected sale price."In so many ways it's easier to work with artists whom you're friends with," says Roslyn."It's a symbiotic relationship, give and take on both sides. "Dorothy loves to paint, she can be here six days a week sometimes, more than any of us. Sometimes we have to chase her out of here."Dorothy saw her works hanging in the Hogarth Gallery in Sydney, she talked about them with the gallery director. All this is artist development. "Some of her best work has been done since she came back from that trip. She could understand where the works went, what ones sold, what ones came back."I've asked her what she thinks now about a show in America? Like for all of us, if she has a dream then she can really go for it. Her work is just singing, it speaks for itself. "That's because she's got the talent, the desire to paint and because she's feeling happy, contented in her work environment, and supported."For me, that's the only thing that can really fire my passion, to see development, to see growth."What if Dorothy's work was no longer sought after, as has happened to some of the biggest name artists in Central Australia? "We'd have to cross that bridge when we come to it," says Roslyn.Are there other artists knocking on Gallery Gondwana's door?"We're often asked, but we can't support everyone. Apart from Dorothy and Polly we also support Walala Tjapaltjarri, Walinpirrnga Tjapaltjarri and Doctor George Tjapaltjarri. "All of them are really loyal to the gallery. There's a mutual respect and relationship."We still buy works off other people of course."If someone was showing great promise we might think about taking them on."The NT Art Award is showing at Araluen until this Sunday, October 11.
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