February 17, 1999


A trial plot of tomatoes and capsicums is being harvested at Hermannsburg in what a local businessman says could be the start of a multi million dollar business.Tony Alicastro, the Italian born managing director of Rosario & Antonio, a vegetable and fruit processing company in Alice Springs, says the community west of the town has all it takes to start a booming industry - plenty of land, lots of sunshine, good water and an abundance of labour.Mr Alicastro says Italy's famous world-wide exports of this type of product come from a total area of just 75 square kilometres."Space, land - that's the key issue," says Mr Alicastro.Negotiations for a joint venture between Rosario & Antonio and Ngurratjuta, an investment company representing traditional owners in the Hermannsburg region, broke down last year.However, neither party appear to have given up hope that a large scale primary industry can be developed in that region.Ngurratjuta CEO Daryl Kantawara, who also runs the CDEP "work for the dole" scheme in Hermannsburg with more than 300 people on its books, says 400 tomato plants put in last September are doing well."We are seeking funding from ATSIC and the Indigenous Land Corporation for two more paddocks to grow other vegies," he says."It's up to the workers how much more we do."The pilot project, set up with assistance from Mr Alicastro, currently employs five workers.Mr Kantawara says the produce will initially be for local consumption, but there is much scope for expansion."We have plenty of water. "That's not a problem," he says.However, the joint venture proposal is now "back to square one".Neither Mr Alicastro nor Mr Kantawara would disclose why the negotiations have broken down.Ngurratjuta, whose investments include Glen Helen Lodge, is now drawing up a new proposal, says Mr Kantawara, "to make the project more attractive to funding bodies".He says the scheme has the support of the Ntaria Council, Hermannsburg's local government body.Mr Alicastro, whose plant has been operating in Alice Springs for two and a half years, says the abundance of sunshine and the low humidity create conditions for the dried produce industry better than almost anywhere else in the world. At present he imports nearly all his requirements, some 300,000 kilograms a year, from SA, Victoria and Queensland, at a freight cost of 25 to 30 cents a kilogram.The produce - mainly tomatoes but also capsicums, chilies, artichokes and olives - are laid out in the sun to dry for between three and seven days.The produce loses 90 per cent of its weight - 10 kilograms of fresh tomatoes yield one kilogram of final product, worth up to $15.Mr Alicastro exports to all Australian states, but says the demand overseas is practically unlimited."It's impossible to estimate market," he says."It's just starting. "Two to three million kilograms for Asia would be a very conservative estimate."Mr Alicastro says a million kilograms of tomatoes, yielding 100,000 kilograms of dried product, worth at least $1m, can be produced from 250,000 plants on just 25 hectares.Once the land is prepared, about 10 people would be needed for planting, and 25 for harvesting.Just three full-time workers would be needed to keep up the drip irrigation and other maintenance.Tomatoes, for example, take three months to ripen. About one third of the crop would be suitable for the table market, at a price to the grower of $1 to $1.50 a kilogram. The remainder would go to processing, at a price of 50 cents a kilogram. Mr Alicastro says a community such as Hermannsburg could also embark on a semi processing industry, pealing egg plants, removing the stalks from chilies or the outside leaves from artichokes, and then packaging the produce into reusable plastic drums with preservatives.These tasks can be performed by semi-skilled workers. This would increase the value of the produce four-fold, says Mr Alicastro, and is a multi-billion dollar industry in Europe.Crops would need to be grown on a rotation system so that various nutrients are returned to the soil on a regular basis.

TODD RIVER WOES. Part two of guest editorial by MURRAY NECK.

Like many of the Hartley Street Primary School kids, I learnt to swim during the late ‘thirties in the Middle Park waterhole located where the northern tip of Spencer Hill touches the Todd River, about three quarters of a kilometre downstream from the Telegraph Station. Our waterhole was not as large, or as deep, as that of the Telegraph Station but it was quite sufficient for our meagre needs. The Telegraph Station, known to us then as "The Bungalow", was out of bounds to the town kids as it was a part-Aboriginal institute and housed and educated children who had been separated from their full-blooded Aboriginal parent. Nevertheless, we often found an opportunity to meet with some of "The Bungalow" kids.We would normally cycle up to Middle Park for a swim after school but of a weekend we would hike there either across the hills, behind where St Philip's College stands now, or over the top of Spencer Hill. We had located, and given a name, to every cave, flat rock, interesting gully, cycad and pine tree in these hills and were very much aware of the way nature changed as the seasons changed. The most exciting times of course followed heavy rain when both the flora and fauna suddenly sprang to life.It was during this time that we observed that couch grass, which had escaped from the Telegraph Station lawns had followed along the Todd River banks down to Middle Park. By the mid ‘forties it was well established along the banks at the St Philip's site and during the next 20 or so years it slowly proceeded downstream through the town to Heavitree Gap. I cannot ever recall couch grass being considered a menace while it spread along the river banks, but when it became established in the creek bed during the big rainfall years of 1973 to 1978 when we received an average of 545 mm (2182 points) per year, more than double the annual average, we had the beginning of a major problem. Rich silt from subsequent floods top dressed the couch grass and so established what was to become ever expanding watercourse clogging islands. If this wasn't a big enough problem, those prolific rainy years also saw the germination and establishment of a huge growth of rivergum saplings in the stream bed. They found a protective bed mate amongst the couch grass to become a formidable channel choking combination. I feel that I would not be exaggerating if I claimed that the number of gums in the Todd River between Spencer Hill and Heavitree Gap had doubled during the past 30 years.All the while that nature was taking its unrestricted course, a succession of engineers were establishing carriage ways across the river as the town's population quickly grew east of the Todd.In last week's article I wrote of my concern that the Tuncks Road causeway had been the cause of the creek bed rising between two and three feet in this location. The other three causeways at Schwartz Crescent, Wills Terrace and Heavitree Gap are also responsible in varying degrees for siltation of the river bed and the consequent restriction of channel flow. But the biggest engineering disaster of all, the Casino Causeway has been a bone of contention since the first flood after its construction. I understand it has been recommended for demolition in the floodplain management plan, as soon as an alternative road is built over Sadadeen Range near the Power House to allow traffic from the Stephens Road area and the Golf Course Estate to have access to the Stott Terrace bridge during times of flood. Meanwhile, it remains a major restriction to floodwater and a great concern to those who live in its vicinity.One wonders what briefing engineers would have received before they built these obstructions. In their defence, perhaps they had only recently arrived and had no briefing at all. This excuse does not apply to those responsible for designing council car parks in the river for there is no excuse for this folly. The proposers of levee banks to protect east side residences should remember that east side with the exception of the Alice Springs Resort area is already much higher than the town side. In the event of a major flood, certainly a levee bank on east side would protect that area but it would also multiply the problems across the river.Our last big flood occurred in 1988. Statistics show that during that flood, two people were drowned, 228 residential and 35 commercial properties were damaged and the Territory Insurance Office , as they keep reminding us, paid out $3.5 million in flood claims. TIO customers would have been immensely relieved to know that they had been automatically covered by flood insurance. I strongly recommend that everyone very carefully assesses their flood insurance requirements now rather than later when it may be too late.A similar sized flood today would mean a payout of at least an additional $1 million. If the river level was only slightly higher then I estimate the payout would be doubled. But, any payout doesn't compensate for loss of precious personal affects nor the associated trauma that these disasters always cause.I maintain, however, that the flood of 1988 could have been avoided had man made obstructions in the river bed been more carefully designed, and nature's obstructions been tidied up.The Charles River usually, but not always, flows strongly at the same time as the Todd. I can recall, as the result of a huge thunderstorm that blew in from the south-west one summer afternoon around 1946, that the Charles flowed over the Stuart Highway in the vicinity of the council depot in a stream 50 metres wide. The Charles, like the Todd, had also been a source of building sand but in recent years has also silted up. Although the Stuart Highway is higher now than the original road, a similar occurrence is inevitable.I am tempted to tell you about the night the Todd came down a banker, and my grandmother, Annie Meyers, who owned a boarding house, a vegetable garden and a large poultry run where the Department of Lands building is now located, discovered the next morning that half of her chooks were drowned. But that's another story. As is that of Eddie Baldaserra's Dad being stranded on the wrong side of the river after a flash flood separated him from his new bride of a few hours.So what is to be done and by whom, to fix the problem of town flooding.? Let's first write off the Alice Springs Town Council. Neither it nor our elected councillors past and present have ever shown any more than passive recognition of the problem, let alone tried to rectify it. Surely rate payers who suffered in the 1988 flood deserve better support, considering that they will be amongst the first to be affected in the next flood.There has also been little action by the Territory Government. In its favour, it did commission the Alice Springs Floodplain Management Plan, but that is now three years old and its implementation seemingly has a very low priority. The Regional Director for the Southern Division of the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment, Peter McDonald, in a brief media release a few months ago alluded to the fact that something was happening but was not very specific.The Department of Transport and Works is responsible for river crossings and they must have a major rethink to correct their past blunders.The NT Parks and Wildlife Commission have the responsibility of managing and studying flora, so their input on the couch grass and sapling problem will be necessary.There are other government instrumentalities with minor roles involving the Todd River but they are not significantly involved with the flooding problem.Last, but not least, are the Aboriginal concerns. As traditional owners of the Todd and Charles river corridors, the Arrernte and Mparntwerinya councils must first agree with any proposed alteration to the water courses. Currently there is a native title claim, soon to be adjudicated, on vacant crown land within the town boundaries, which includes the two rivers. Whatever the outcome of this, it is in everyone's interests to carefully consider the facts and negotiate a sensible and practical plan to correct the river drainage problem. The signing of the agreement on the railway corridor acquisition between the Territory Government and the Aboriginal land councils is a very positive step in co-operation and warrants optimism for a fruitful agreement about addressing the river system problems.Negotiation here will have to be handled far more tactfully than the "bull in a china shop" method used by past politicians such as in the Todd dam affair. I feel it is a great pity that an agreement wasn't reached in this case and would recommend that future negotiators should include some local people with a better understanding of Aboriginal concerns and requirements.Perhaps the new regime under Denis Burke will be more positive about the needs of Central Australians and it is to be expected that our local MLAs will not only ensure that the Government is fully aware of our flood concerns but demand urgent action.We are fortunate to live in a vibrant town in a superb area of a wonderful country. Yes, we have problems which won't go away unless they are faced and a solution found. If you call Alice Springs "home" then be a contributor and help make it a better and more secure place to live in. If you have persevered in reading my article to this point and you are as concerned as I am about future flooding then make your feelings known. I have not intended to attack anyone personally in any of my criticisms - rather my anger is about the systems, past and present, and about the inaction on this long known and escalating problem.If I may conclude on a somewhat higher plain, I recall that President Roosevelt (or was it President Kennedy?) said in a stirring speech to the American people: "Think not of what your country can do for you , think what you can do for your country". In our case, it's what each of us can do for our town.


We were English-only speakers, asking these multi-lingual men and women of Papunya if the traditional stories they have made famous around the world could be told and painted in English?Among the 30 or so gathered in the library at Papunya School last Thursday were the community's most celebrated painter, Michael Nelson, as well as two of the Papunya-Tula painting movement's founding artists, Paddy Carroll and Dinny Nolan.Our deliberately naive question caused quiet hilarity: Michael Nelson just smiled and shook his head.Keith Jurra burst out: "Oh yes! We could paint English culture - sheep, bullock, windmill!"The exchange went to the core of the matter: language allows us to learn about our world, and Pintupi-Luritja is the language for learning that world of outstanding beauty and, for us, mystery that Papunya belongs to. English describes another world, whence issue at varying intervals, apart from the odd bullock, ( mostly monolingual) teachers, journalists and committees of review.Papunya was visited in 1998 by the Education Review team, upon whose recommendation NT Education Minister Peter Adamson made his now infamous decision to phase out bilingual programs by the year 2000.The visit has been a source of embarrassment to the community, because others have suspected that it was they who told the review team that bilingual education was not working and should be replaced by English only learning.Nothing could be further from the truth.The organisation that oversees planning in the community - the Anangu Tjuta Nintirrikupayi Aboriginal Corporation - has issued a statement saying: "Papunya was not asked about these matters, and Papunya has a great deal of wisdom and knowledge about teaching in a bilingual context."As Keith Jurra put it: "Aboriginal people have got more expertise in two way learning than white people."We can understand your language, English."White man only understands one single European culture."A perplexed Michael Nelson wondered "why the Education Minister doesn't even come to talk to us."Bilingual programs are very strong in our communities," he said.Undoubtedly one of the things the community would want the Minister to consider is why there have been, in the last six and a half years, 50 different non-Aboriginal teachers at Papunya School, with most of those arriving fresh from their teacher training course.Until recently the average length of stay for a non-Aboriginal teacher in the Alice Springs rural region was six months. Now it is even less: just four and a half months.Perhaps perceived inadequacies of the bilingual program may also be related to a "phasing out" already begun in 1991 when Papunya lost three staff positions in its Literature Production Centre. Such centres are obviously indispensable to an effective bilingual program.In the past 10 years the NT Department of Education has also cut the number of full-time linguists attached to Literacy Production Centres from five in the Alice Springs region to 0.5.But the story goes deeper. Papunya School is returning from the brink of complete collapse. After the unhappy resignation in 1993 of a much loved local educator, Narlie Nakamarra, one of the enduring presences at the school for over 20 years, the community effectively boycotted the school. Attendance was down to as few as 18 pupils.Following the arrival six and a half years ago of a new principal, Diane de Vere, and the reinstatement of Narlie Nakamarra, the school has been remaking itself "in a flat structure with Anangu staff in a leadership role"."It is a culturally welcoming school and the students are coming," says Ms de Vere.With well over 100 students at school each day, the attendance is in itself a success story, and others are emerging from Papunya: a student in the secondary age program last year attained a B in Year 10 mainstream English; a longtime educator at the school, Linda Anderson, excelled in her teacher training course at Batchelor College, becoming "the first Anangu to graduate as a teacher in this region."The school, while already trialling a new curriculum, developed by the whole community and reflecting their aspirations for better two way learning, is also negotiating a model of teacher training for other Aboriginal staff which will recognise their prior attainments, while focussing on areas of need, among them improved English literacy and oracy.At Yuendumu - just a 20 minute flight from Papunya, but home to a quite distinct people, the Warlpiri - one of the Territory's oldest bilingual programs has been in place since 1974.Emerging from it, a group of seven determined Warlpiri people have undertaken teacher training, with most of them graduating in 1996 and ‘97. This allowed the school for the first time at the beginning of 1998 to have first language Warlpiri teachers at every level of the primary program.School principal, Andrew Mirtschin, says their employment as teachers (many of them had worked previously as teacher assistants) has brought "a turnaround" to the school."The school is now much more an extension of the community, and the children are far more settled," he says.In a letter to Mr Adamson, the school council wrote that this "high degree of Aboriginalisation" makes a bilingual program "the natural education program for Yuendumu CEC [Community Education Centre]". The language of instruction in the lower years particularly is naturally the first language of the children. "It is the language that makes the children feel comfortable; and so they listen and learn because they understand," says the school council in their letter.The Aboriginal teachers and community leaders were out in force last Thursday to express their unequivocal support for an ongoing bilingual program.Yuendumu was not visited by the Education Review team, and have not been consulted in any way about the future of their program.The meeting was scarcely underway when senior man Harry Nelson spoke out:"Japaljarri," he said, addressing MLA Peter Toyne, who lived at Yuendumu for 17 years, seven of which as principal of the school, and who was there to ascertain the community's wishes on this issue before legislative assembly sittings began this week."Japaljarri," said Harry Nelson, " it won't hurt the Minister to come here to listen to us. We don't want any working boys, they're a waste of time."Calls for the Minister himself to come were reiterated throughout the meeting.Lottie Robertson became visibly angry: "Mothers and grandmothers gathered here today, we want our bilingual program to be ongoing."If the Minister is going to be sitting up in big buildings, at big desks, he should come down where we can talk face to face."One of the teachers, Barbara Martin, asked: "Why don't they come out and see what we do? Why does the Government make a decision like that to spoil our bilingual program?"And we will have wasted all these years to get qualified at Batchelor, Stage Four, for our kids."I'm proud to be a teacher here."Dennis Nelson addressed the suggestion voiced by the Minister and others that teaching children their Aboriginal languages is the province of the parents, at home: "A long time before Captain Cook came, the tribes spoke our languages without interference. "Now there is too much TV, videos, CDs. That's why we need the written language. It's going to be really hard in the future for kids to speak our language unless it is in the written form." Otto Simms thought "the Government should look very carefully at how bilingual programs are working in the Territory. It brings white and Aboriginal people together, it unites everyone and that's the way it should be."Aboriginal health worker Connie Rice spoke with great sadness about an unimaginable future for children who grow up without their Warlpiri language: "What will their future be like? We won't be around for them."The Government should leave us alone, we're thinking about our kids, we need time."I say this from my heart, not from my mouth."Perhaps the final word should be given to senior woman Lucy Napaljarri Kennedy: "When a baby born, first language Warlpiri, second language English. No more changing. Like mother and father."All mothers been born Warlpiri way. We not born from hospital. No. How much country we been walking around [pointing near and far in every direction]. This is our country."Don't interfere Government, nothing. I don't like that, sorry. We got our own language." Under pressure from indigenous leaders and supporters of bilingual education and human rights from around Australia and the world, the Government has said that they will now conduct a three month consultation with the communities about the future of bilingual education in the Territory.The question is, will they really listen?


By BRIAN DEVLIN, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, NT University
When Treasurer Mike Reed and Minister for Education Peter Adamson announced in the NT Parliament on December 1 last year that bilingual education would be phased out in favour of the "further development of ESL programs", they referred to the "overwhelming concern" expressed by Aboriginal communities "about the operation of the bilingual program" and the need to improve students' English language skills. They assured those affected by the decision that current funding and employment levels would be maintained where possible. On January 28 the NT Department of Education then released a folder of materials which summarised several policy changes including the decision to wind up bilingual education on the grounds that the students in those programs were not attaining better literacy and numeracy scores than their peers in non-bilingual schools; in fact they were said to be doing slightly worse. So the phasing out of bilingual programs was justified with reference to adverse community opinion and poorer academic results.Both of these reasons have since been strongly contested (see, for example, the messages submitted to the website cited at the end of this article).Have bilingual programs had a negative impact on students' acquisition of English literacy? Is there any research evidence available to help us answer this question? These are two questions I propose to take up in this brief article. Since the first few bilingual programs were established in 1973 one of the challenges facing the education department has been the need to gauge their effectiveness. As previously pointed out (Devlin, 1995) the department relied at first on outside technical experts (1973 - 1978), then it introduced accreditation by central-office staff (1979 - 1987) and, finally, community-based appraisal (1988 to the present). In the accreditation phase bilingual programs at schools such as Yirrkala, St Therese's, Milingimbi and Oenpelli were evaluated with reference to the NT's official aims for bilingual education. Participating schools were advised that accreditation would confer two main benefits: official recognition and a permanent allocation of additional resources.Students in Years 5, 6 and 7 were assessed using criterion-referenced English and Maths tests and their results were compared with those obtained from a basket of six non-bilingual schools. Three schools were eventually accredited: Yirrkala, St Therese's and Shepherdson College. What the accreditation team found when they analysed the test results was that bilingually educated pupils had performed as well on the English and Maths tests as pupils in the reference group of non-bilingual schools and in some cases they had performed better (Devlin,1995). It was found that a higher percentage of Year 5 students in the bilingual program at Yirrkala obtained mastery in the English tasks compared to students in the reference group.Shepherdson College pupils "performed significantly better in enough areas, particularly in Years 5 and 7, to suggest that overall they [had] greater proficiency in school work than pupils in Reference Group schools." (Markwick-Smith, quoted in Devlin, 1985).Accreditation was replaced by a scheme known as appraisal, or moderated self-appraisal in which each school with a bilingual program was required to compile a detailed self-appraisal report which was then moderated by a team comprising the Regional Superintendent, an Aboriginal community representative, the Principal Education Officer (PEO) for Bilingual Education and a Feppi representative who spoke the local Aboriginal language.A briefing prepared for the Minister of Education on July 31, 1990 explained that each school report would be "a valid representation of the activities of the school program. This involved checking the Student Progress section of the reports to ensure that results from the Primary Assessment Program (PAP) were included".However, throughout the 1988 - 1995 period school appraisal reports did not include student performance data, making it difficult to judge whether student learning outcomes were improving or not in these schools. Despite the valuable qualitative information contained in these short reports, their usefulness as evaluation documents was limited by the lack of detail about students' academic progress.In 1993 the PEO Aboriginal Languages / Bilingual Education observed, in a paper on bilingual education: "It would appear that in some schools, student outcomes in Western Mathematics and English have declined. This is a personal impression I gained from observations of programs undertaking the Appraisal/Accreditation process. It was difficult to verify this because most schools have not implemented long term assessment and evaluation strategies."Although this report from a credible observer identified a major concern, what was almost as worrying was the apparent lack of verifiable data that would enable teachers to report progress with confidence. This situation changed as schools began to implement outcomes-based assessment. Fran Murray has since reported that: "Quite a number of Bilingual schools, when examining their results from the Multi Assessment Program (MAP) have noted that they are achieving above average results in literacy and numeracy compared to other schools in the non-urban cohort." (Murray, 1999).In the absence of other data, the Department's Multilevel Assessment Program results might seem to provide a useful way of comparing groups of schools, provided permission is given, but there are some associated risks. Where different assessment tasks are set for urban and non-urban students, comparisons between them are invalid. If students in bilingual programs are compared with their peers in non-bilingual programs, the available research suggests that Year 7 would be a better comparison year than Year 3 or Year 5, because it allows the "catch up" time needed by those students who bridge to English literacy in the middle primary years. Furthermore, comparisons should be based on trend analysis rather than cross sectional data; we might worry, for example, if the decision to axe bilingual programs was just based only on comparative data for one year. It would be timely therefore for the Department of Education to make available the relevant student assessment data so that independent appraisals of the evidence can be made.In any event it remains to be seen whether unilaterally changing the language of instruction in schools is likely to be a more effective way to achieve better educational outcomes than, say, improving attendance rates, alleviating poverty or tackling problems relating to health and nutrition. An allied question is whether this new, centralised approach to policy making will yield better dividends than encouraging community innovation, participation and control.
Black, P. (1999). Bilingual education in the NT. WWW document. URI

Bubb, P. (1993). Bilingual Education and current implications for literacy. Typescript.Devlin, B. (1995).
The evaluation of bilingual programs in the Northern Territory, 1973-1993. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 113, 25-41.
Murray, F. (1999). Flaws in argument by Acting Minister of Education. WWW document. URI


Alderman Meredith Campbell will stand as an independent for the Legislative Assembly seat of Araluen currently held by Eric Poole.Her announcement comes little more than a week after new Chief Minister Denis Burke reshuffled cabinet, dropping Mr Poole from the ministry. This has prompted speculation Mr Poole may not stand at the next NT election or may even resign earlier, causing a by-election.In an interview with the Alice News Ald Campbell was asked why she was announcing her candidature now.Ms Campbell: I think it is timely given recent announcements about the cabinet reshuffle, and the expectation people of Central Australia continue to have of proper representation from the CLP. It could be argued, with Dr Lim losing his parliamentary secretary appointment and Mr Poole losing his ministerial responsibilities, that we have even reduced representation from Central Australia within the ministry. There are all sorts of rumours going around about Mr Poole's future, considering the nature of his demotion from the cabinet and comments made about him by the new Chief Minister in his press release. It seems that Mr Poole is a nowhere man and may well be considering his resignation very seriously. I'm thinking that announcement may come very soon and I want to contest Araluen at a by-election or in the next general election. News: What has inspired you to stand?Ms Campbell: I have been thinking about the seat of Araluen for a while and about representing it as an independent. A number of issues have come up which to me indicate a gulf between policy and action undertaken by the CLP government in Darwin in relation to how Alice Springs is served. We need a stronger voice, a stronger series of voices in Central Australia to stand up for Central Australian issues in the Darwin Parliament. I have lived in this electorate for seven years, I am very familiar with the issues in the town generally through my service on the town council, and I believe the electorate is more than ready to have an active representative who can serve them 365 days a year with no party affiliation or commitments in Darwin.News: How difficult would it be to win the seat?Ms Campbell: Since the elevation of Denis Burke as Chief Minister, the CLP has a new soft image as a more user friendly CLP. However, I think people in the electorate of Araluen know that they haven't had much service or action from their sitting member for many years now. He has been an elected member for the CLP from the late 1980s and I think he hasn't been there for the big issues he should have been active on. Most principally, in 1997, was the proposed demolition of the old gaol, which happens to fall in the electorate of Araluen. Where was Mr Poole? Absolutely nowhere. We didn't get any representation from him or any of the other CLP members. Interestingly Dr Lim has just emerged now to accompany Mr Baldwin to support the preservation of the gaol. He wasn't around before when Mick Palmer [former Planning Minister] said it would go. That's one of the issues where I think we need a stronger voice for Central Australia.News: That was the catalyst for you standing?Ms Campbell: It was one of the catalysts.I was buoyed and heartened by the strength of support on the issue from the people of Central Australia and the wise counsel and action of my colleague on council, Fran Erlich. I was with Fran during most of the phases of that action and I think she and I accurately read the voice of the people. They reacted strongly to the way that announcement was made and the impact on the heritage value and look and shape and feel of their town. It was imposed from Darwin with no consultation. That has been the style of the Government and who knows if it will change in the future?News: Around that same time decisions about the NT's Constitutional Convention were being made. What were your feelings about that?Ms Campbell: During that time I got the feeling that people were running scared and that they couldn't indicate what their real feelings were. They didn't want to support statehood under Shane Stone's terms but, apart from brave souls like Ted Egan and Territorians for Democratic Statehood, it was very hard for people to indicate they were against statehood because it almost seemed unpatriotic, un-Territorian. I wasn't so surprised by the results of the Statehood Referendum. A couple of weeks before, it became clear there was a ground swell of negative feeling generally around the agenda that Shane Stone proposed. Not that it was particularly a Central Australian issue, but it did indicate how out of touch the CLP Government was with the electorate. I think what also got people riled was Mr Stone's self appointment as a QC. That was the start of the rot, along with, in 1998, the dismantling of local government in Yulara.News: How important is the Darwin railway as an issue?Ms Campbell: That is a huge issue and I am extremely worried about it. It means a huge impact on social and environmental amenity in term of things like visual disruption, noise pollution, air pollution, traffic disruption and disruption to essential services. I'm very worried about it because I live within 800 metres of the railway line and there are people in this neighbourhood, if the town by-pass is not pursued, whose quality of life will sink dramatically. It doesn't seem that anyone is listening. There is a big national glow about the grand plan and in the middle of it is the little town of Alice Springs. If the railway goes through town in the next 20 years we will be another dusty industrial town. I think local members need to address this seriously and talk about it with their constituents. The report that the council commissioned last December indicates that something seriously needs to be done. I mean there has been comment since 1978 indicating that a freight line through town was going to adversely affect the quality of life in Alice Springs. To put it simply, people will be worried if they think that at the four railway crossings north of Heavitree Gap they are going to have to endure a wait of up to 20 minutes. John Elferink (Member for MacDonnell) is on the record as saying, well, other people put up with it in towns, we just have to live with it. Well, I don't think we do have to live with it if there is an opportunity not to have to go through with it. It is not too late to look at a railway by-pass and that has been factored in to the towns of Pine Creek and Katherine. It will not go through Tennant Creek and it will not go through the heart of Darwin. Bill Lowe, an environmental scientist who helped the consultants, talked about 10 trains a day at a length of 1.8 km with 20 minute tie ups through town at the major intersections. So the eastern by-pass option, which would take the line 20 km east of town through a break in the Heavitree Range, should be pursued. I think it is one of the greatest quality of life issues this town will ever face, especially for those who live near the railway line.News: Why not continue to fight for Alice Springs through the town council?Ms Campbell: Having been on the town council for two years I can say there is quite a degree of frustration within the council about how irrelevant the council is in the view of the CLP government. Our town council is not factored in as a body of people who have a substantial stake in the future of the town. I'm aware of the development of a major document called "Alice in Ten", which indicates future infrastructure and town development directions. It is entirely under the purview of a group of senior public servants here in town and the town council haven't had a whiff of it. Considering that we have an annual budget of $14m and have money to spend on plans for infrastructure development, it would be good if both parties were proceeding along the same track.I think it would be more effective if I could represent Araluen in parliament. Then I could proceed with the plan to ask like-minded individuals who are going to stand up for Alice Springs to seek candidacy as independents, whose principle aim would be to promote Central Australia and community development.News: You would prefer to seek election as an independent rather than as a member of a Centralian Party?Ms Campbell: I am thinking practically. Even though the idea has been around for more than a year, I don't think a Centralian Party can develop until it has some resources to form it. Once an alliance of independents thought it was feasible and needed to form a party then we would do it.News: You stood in 1987 for the Labor Party, why not continue with them?Ms Campbell: Yes, I stood in 1987 in Sadadeen. Certainly philosophically my views remain closer to Labor than to the CLP. However, I believe I can do more in parliament as an independent, especially with an alliance of independents who have direct Central Australian allegiance. I also believe, given the returns in the last six or seven elections in Araluen, that being an ALP candidate would probably be a liability.News: How did you go in the 1987 election?Ms Campbell: I was beaten by the then independent, Dennis Collins. You may recall he had just been dumped by the CLP party machine to enable Shane Stone, then a new comer to the Territory, to stand as a CLP candidate. Mr Collins won, I came second, Mr Stone third and Lynne Peterkin for the Nationals fourth.News: What is your history in the Centre?Ms Campbell: I've lived in Alice Springs since 1980 and in the electorate of Araluen since 1992. I'm married with two children who go to Gillen Primary School. My professional background is in public relations and broadcasting. In 1980 I came here to work in the office of Neville Perkins MLA, then the deputy leader of the opposition. I'm involved in various community groups, and on council one of my principle involvements is in alcohol controls and community management. Another strong interest is the development and management of the town pool which is one of my favourite places on earth!


Political hopeful Fran Erlich says she'll assess the performance of the new Burke Government before making a decision about standing as an independent, or forming a Central Australian party.Ald Erlich, a teacher at St Philip's College, is the Deputy Mayor of Alice Springs and a member of the influential Kilgariff family.Her father, Bernie, was a Senator and a founder of the Country Liberal Party (CLP) in the NT.Mrs Erlich is overtly delighted about the forced resignation of former Chief Minister Shane Stone. She describes his leadership as "not strong, but strong-arm, unwilling to listen" and says the political "atmosphere in the Territory has now changed".Ald Erlich says: "I'm willing to give Denis Burke a go."She says setting up the administration for a new party would be costly, and she is not optimistic about being able to gain financial support from corporate contributors currently overwhelmingly favouring the CLP (Alice News, Feb 10).However, Ald Erlich expects a new party would gain wide media attention, especially if it had "something different to sell".If she entered NT politics she would most likely do so as an independent candidate in a seat other than Araluen, for which her friend and fellow alderman, Meredith Campbell, is today announcing her candidacy (see report this issue). This clearly leaves Greatorex, currently held by Richard Lim - a casualty of the Stone demise: Dr Lim lost his position as cabinet secretary. Mrs Erlich lives in Greatorex and has a high profile there.Although she expects the CLP's overwhelming majority in the Assembly to continue for the foreseeable future, ruling out a Brian Harradine-style balance of power role for an independent in the Territory, Ald Erlich says there could be an important place for her: "In a political system where party discipline often overrides the interests of electorates, I would represent Alice Springs first and foremost," she says.With two years to the next Territory election, Ald Erlich says she's got plenty of time to make up her mind.


"I acknowledge that Central Australia needs more focus and I'm confident our local members will continue their hard work in bringing Central Australian issues to the attention of the Government," says the Territory's new Chief Minister, Denis Burke.New Labor leader Clare Martin says there are many issues in Central Australia that need "immediate attention".The Alice Springs News asked both leaders to outline what they intend to do for Central Australia.While Mr Burke sees himself as "lucky" in having "inherited an economy which is thriving, and growth which is envied by many other Australian centres", Ms Martin says the Alice Springs economy is stagnating under the Country Liberal Party's administration. "Labor is keen to kickstart projects which will keep Centralians working," she says.Both leaders emphasise the importance of working for all Territorians.Mr Burke singles out Aboriginal issues."I've always said there is still much to be done and I'll be seeking a more coordinated approach not just from government agencies but from other service deliverers and, of course, from the communities," says Mr Burke.On law and order, he says the Government is "committed to the mandatory sentencing regime, and the main focus of it will remain"."I will be seeking legal advice as to whether that legislation needs tightening up and I am also looking at expanding it to cover those offences which the community expects to be included, " says Mr Burke.He sees his priority task, however, as "bedding down" the changes brought in by the Planning for Growth process.Ms Martin describes it as the "Pruning for Growth" plan, which will "no doubt see government services centralised in Darwin and the loss of jobs in Central Australia".She says Labor "will continue to pursue the CLP on [the plan's] outcomes."She says her party is "currently undertaking a review of our polices and we are determined to get back to basics", with the issues of education, employment, housing and health "as important today as they ever were".Says Ms Martin: "We will lobby at Federal and Territory levels for regional development funding under the Federal Native Title Compensation Package."We will continue to oppose the privatisation of the Territory's five public hospitals and the Power and Water Authority."While we continue to support the project, we will work with the Alice Springs Town Council to examine the impact of the Alice to Darwin railway."We will continue to lobby at Federal and Territory levels for a suitable outcome to the ongoing dispute over funding for the Institute of Aboriginal Development."We will work with community, government and welfare organisations to solve the persistent problems of alcohol abuse and anti-social behaviour."Tourism is crucial to the Central Australian economy. Tourism promotion for Central Australia is good, but it can be better."The new Labor leadership team - with myself as leader, Syd Stirling as deputy andPeter Toyne as opposition whip - represents a good cross-section of quite diverseelectorates in the Northern Territory and we are in touch with Territorians."The combined resources of the Labor party will ensure that our relationship with Territorians continues to improve."Peter is a committed Centralian. His electorate of Stuart is as broad and diverse as they come and Peter has been the champion of many Centralian successes."A Federal Labor Party review of the ALP is currently underway and we are determined the outcome will position the party for government in the next millennium."Says Mr Burke: Like many, I came to the Territory for work and, like many, myself and my family decided to stay."As we face the new millennium, we need to focus clearly on our future and where we want to be placed."I know I want to see the Territory continue to grow and mature, to be the envy of the rest of the nation, to continue to lead the way in South-East Asian relations, to eventually take its rightful place as the seventh state of Australia."


A new partnership between major tourism operators in Alice Springs will provide tourists with an Aboriginal cultural experience.The partnership is between the award winning Alice Springs Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre (AACC), Aurora, owners of the Red Centre Resort, and the tour company AAT Kings. The huge area behind the Red Centre Resort, between the conference centre and the Todd River, is being transformed into the new culture centre. Between the natural rock outcrops on the site are dotted piles of rich red dirt, ready for landscaping. AACC staff, Project Manager Daniel Forrester, George Holden, Raymond Doolan Russel Graham and Gary Armstrong are laying out pathways connecting bough shelters, sheds and performance areas. Large brickwork concentric circles connected to the paths recreate dot painting-style meeting places.The largest of these is in the centre of the bush tucker garden area where tourists will be introduced to the edible plants of Central Australia. The sheds are being converted to art galleries, performance spaces and places for elderly visitors to rest out of the sun.The plans bring together the venue provided by Aurora, the cross-cultural tourism expertise of the AACC, staffing subsidised by training initiatives and AAT kings' bus loads of tourists due to start arriving in April.Colin Cowell of AACC says: "It's long term, we can't do everything in the first year or we would fall over. "I think we got 10 trainees through the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) last year. So this is the first year, let's get the thing running as a training centre."Training is very important because you just can't wave a magic wand and put someone into hospitality or tour guiding. There has been no history of employment of Aboriginal people in tourism in Alice Springs."Aurora's Peter Yates added: "Our long term vision is to have Aboriginal staff also doing the waiting and food serving as well as having the performers themselves. "We want to get trainees to go through the hospitality course and be able to employ them at our other properties as well, at the Territory Inn or Heavitree Gap Resort."The expansion of the AACC has been spectacular since the gallery in Todd St was bought in 1995. AACC's Paul Ah Chee says: "Then it was mainly a retail shop, mainly art work and souvenirs. From there we made the decision to branch into tourism, developing half day and full day cultural tours. "From the success of the half day tour, because it was starting to get recognition, we won a Brolga award and an Australian tourism award. Then we started getting interest from some major operators. The biggest problem then for us was a venue to be able to cater for the bigger numbers. You needed tenure and facilities like decent ablution blocks for them."Mr Ah Chee discussed the concept with Tony Quatermass, general manager of the Aurora group last year. The idea developed further when the partners secured a three year contract with AAT Kings for delivering half day cultural tours.Mr Ah Chee says: "The growth has been strategically placed, it hasn't been ad hoc, we have been working towards securing ourselves with a major company. We have a good relationship with Aurora both on a business level and a personal level." AAT Kings Alice Springs Sales Manager Peter Kavanagh said: "AAT markets a complete Alice Springs experience, a component of which is cultural touring and no one is better qualified to provide that than the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre. "We will market the venture as a core activity of the Central Australian program. It will be packaged as part of two to three day modules for visitors to the region."Mr Ah Chee says there is huge demand for Aboriginal people in the hospitality industry and sees the venture at Red Centre Resort filling the gap by providing on the job training for students going through the tourism certificate course at IAD. Eight new CDEP workers were to start this week and Mr Ah Chee says up to 50 CDEP workers could be taken on through Arrernte Council.A decision may be made later over the future of the AACC's Todd Street outlet but Mr Ah Chee says it is very successful, with a lot of visitors to the gallery, and to dinners and performances there.He would not give details about the company's current level of profitability.AACC also sells via the internet. Mr Ah Chee says: "The internet is going really well. We have lots and lots of emails from lots and lots of people around the world. We sell quite a lot of art and our tourism products are going on the web also."We have one person who checks the emails and responds to them, but it needs someone working full time because it is starting to get really demanding."


NT Planning Minister Tim Baldwin refused last week to confirm that new tenders would be called for the old Alice Springs gaol site under the latest plan that will see most of the 1938 vintage buildings remain and the rest demolished by the government.The site is now to be cleared of later buildings, razor wire, part of the wall and many huge concrete slabs to give the Planning Minister a better idea of its potential before he makes a development decision. Mr Baldwin said he would call tenders if he has to. "We will ... have a look at the site and what best use can be made of the site. If I have to call for proposals, I will do that."Mr Baldwin was at the old gaol last Thursday, announcing the decision to preserve it that his predecessor, Mick Palmer, could have made 16 months ago. Instead Mr Palmer said the gaol would be bulldozed by Christmas 1997, prompting an outcry from Alice Springs residents, a vigil to protect the buildings and even talk of a rebel Centralian Party.Mr Baldwin said: "What remains is all of the main core buildings, the main cell block, the women's area, their cell block, the kitchen, all of the core buildings of that era, the facade, the entrance and some of the retaining wall around the perimeter. "But the things that are going are the (concrete) slabs, the ancillary attachments to those four heritage buildings. So we are here to look at how we can best clear it up and preserve the heritage of the area."There will be quite an area left for development use. That is the idea. We can now have a compatible use on this site, preserving the heritage buildings that are here but opening up the rest of the land for commercial development or even community use in the future." Of the isolation cells building standing awkwardly about 30 metres south of the other heritage buildings Mr Baldwin said: "The Heritage Advisory Council has said that that can go. I am now taking full advice from them, and the National Trust, and that is one of the buildings that will go but it will be recorded, I should say, for future record."Mr Baldwin was asked about the change of heart. "Well Government was supportive of demolishing the buildings, that has changed. "Now there is a different set of circumstances. We have had good advice from my Advisory Council and all of the others, we listened to the people of Alice Springs, listened to the local members, now we have got a win for everybody out of this."Despite public protests about the planned demolition, it may well have gone ahead but for the National Trust taking Supreme Court action to challenge the Planning Minister's right to destroy a heritage listed building. The National Trust's court victory was short lived as the Government soon passed the Heritage Conservation Amendment Act giving the Minister the power to "damage, destroy, desecrate or alter" (S39J) a heritage listed place or object. By then however the Government was having second thoughts about demolishing the gaol and the possible backlash against local members in the form of a Centralian Party.That possibility is obviously still a sensitive point with Greatorex MLA Richard Lim, the only Alice Springs MLA with Mr Baldwin during his press conference and walk through the gaol last Thursday. Dr Lim dismissed the reaction of Fran Erlich and others in floating a Centralian political party. "There are always people who are dissatisfied, Fran Erlich is one of those. I am surprised she is not here today. If this was such a big issue for her, where the heck is she?"To a suggestion she may be teaching, Mr Lim continued: "Well, the Minister is making a landmark decision for Central Australia, for Alice Springs, and if it was such an issue she would be here today. She is not, so you ask her where she prioritises the importance of the issue to Central Australia."Dr Lim said he had fought for a compromise over the gaol."It is a Government decision so you support the Government's decision. What you do behind closed doors is a different thing. And behind closed doors many of us were lobbying for the preservation of certain parts of the old gaol."Dr Lim said he had been consulted on the original decision to demolish the gaol. "As part of Government we get asked all sorts of questions and we have got our input and Government then comes along and decides on it, this typical consultation thing where you ask for advice, you take what you want and you don't take what you don't want and you come up with a decision."I knew many Alice Springs people wanted this preserved. I thought that preservation of everything in the site was really going too far and I think that this compromise that we have got is really terrific, a very good outcome for Alice Springs."Stuart MLA Peter Toyne said the gaol's reprieve was "one of those rare victories for the people". "This was clearly a very powerful grass roots process. People showed amazing diligence in sitting here day after day, week after week trying to convince the government they were deadly serious about this issue."


Painting in Central Australia, has, at least until recently and not surprisingly, been dominated by landscape painting. There is, however, very little presence of the landscape in Iain Campbell's work, gathered in a retrospective showing at the Araluen Centre until the end of the month.Campbell says he cannot do the landscape justice, but I question that - one of the many pleasures of this exhibition is to see Turkish Cemetery and Pukamani Poles - Melville Island, not really landscapes but certainly evidence that Campbell has the means at his disposal if not often the motivation.As an artist he is most often motivated by the rich figurative material of the alienated modern age, of the flight away from the world into the self, into the questions we have become for ourselves.It is this subject matter that makes a significant body of his work essential viewing for anyone wanting to think seriously about - as I wrote last week - what we Europeans are doing here, how we live in the centre of Australia.If many of us in making the journey to this place have retreated from the worst ravages of alienation, it is not evidenced in how we live collectively. No one walking through this town would have the impression that we live confidently in our environment, that the journey has been about an assertive redefinition of ourselves in the world, let alone that it's all been about a liberating return to nature. beyond glassCampbell paints the shut out landscape, beyond glassed, air conditioned rooms in Inside Looking Out, Outside Looking In; distant on the horizon in Pioneer Park; present but of little relevance to the Bowling Ladies of the Alice Springs Memo Club.But more often in Campbell's work the landscape is so shut out as to not be at all visible, and he paints us in our built environment, engaged - and he affectionately, compassionately with us, never the judge, but with a clarity of perception that can be devastating - engaged in the rituals of our secular culture, caged birds, puppets on strings, drinking, playing, loving as we can, until death do us part.Recent paintings, from this year and last year, have less locally specific settings. Of these Waiting is the standout work, with the prominence in the gallery that it deserves.It depicts a dinner table scene heavy with unspoken undercurrents between the parties. The riveting foreground figure, the waiting subject, borrows her stance from The Voice by the turn-of-the-century Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. However, where Munch painted a sensual young woman listening to the "call" of awakening desire, Campbell's woman is in her middle age. She too is listening, waiting, but for what? Death? Change? A new beginning? A return?What role do the other parties have to play? They could be her family of creation, an adult son and daughters, a grey haired husband. In any case, there is a certain estrangement between them and her and empty chairs in the foreground, waiting too. The chairs are given a compelling presence by the use of a Charles Rennie Macintosh design in their formal high backs., and they operate typically as a separating device.The mood of foreboding is enhanced by the sombre but beautiful dark blues and reds.This painting and, in my view, The Studio Table (pictured above) promise exciting new work by Campbell. As he says himself, in The Studio Table he seems to have found his sense of colour again. While weighted with a lot of black outline, the colours are exceptionally clear and vibrant. The figures are from the Campbell repertoire, a man and two women, young but not youthful, their dark-haired heads almost bowed, hands joined in prayer. We view them through the grid of the artist's easel and, again, a formal chair back. Behind them hang three portrait paintings, one of which is clearly a self-portrait from 1962 which you can see in the exhibition (Cat. No. 2). The whole composition has come together out of the realm of memory and rumination. It has nothing of the anecdote, it speaks of the work of the artist, of the "food" at his table. While I look forward to seeing more work like this, in the meantime Iain Campbell's retrospective guarantees one of the most important and rewarding viewing experiences of the year.

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