May 19, 1999


A girl in her late teens committed suicide in November last year after being banned from Aranda House.This was revealed by former staff members of the youth refuge which is currently the target of financial mismanagement allegations.The allegations have now sparked demands by a management committee member for a public enquiry, and ATSIC has released a curt letter, essentially telling the management of the refuge to get its act together.The dead girl was mentioned in a report commissioned by ATSIC (Alice News, May 12).The report’s author, Anne Bunning, severely criticised practices at Aranda House.She says during her investigations, earlier last year, she joined the Youth Night Patrol (YNP) – which is part of the Aranda House operation – on several evenings and observed two girls being picked up on successive nights.The former staff members, sacked during the current upheavals at Aranda House, say the dead girl was one of those two teenagers.Meanwhile Ray Cochrane, a committee member of the Central Australian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (CAACCA), which manages Aranda House, has called for an enquiry by the Northern Territory Government into the running of the refuge, as well as a public meeting to discuss the current turmoil.It was triggered by revelations that the management is setting up an office in the Central Business District – at a cost claimed to be of up to $70,000 – while the refuge itself has run out of money.Mr Cochrane and former staff members say up 50 young people at risk, some likely to be committing criminal offences around the town, have been thrown into the streets because funds have been diverted from the hostel.Neither director Allen Furber nor chairperson Anne Ronberg have responded to invitations for comment.Mr Cochrane is a teacher with the "Detour" program for children from the Aboriginal town lease areas, and holds a degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Australia.He says the CAACCA management – which received about $500,000 from ATSIC, the NT government, and other agencies this fiscal year – needs to answer questions about its competence.He says it was known almost two years ago that ATSIC funding would run out yet it seems no steps were taken to safeguard the future of Aranda House."Any director worth his salt would have secured funding."It's not fair on the kids," says Mr Cochrane."They were turfed out when the doors of Aranda House closed."The money now being used to set up another office should have been used to keep Aranda House open. "There is ample office space at Aranda House itself."Mr Cochrane says he himself has now been suspended from the committee, by the executive, according to a letter signed by Mr Furber and Mrs Ronberg.Mr Cochrane says he will be contesting the suspension, in part because Mr Furber is not a member of the executive.Mr Cochrane says he's been given no reasons for his suspension, except that the letter says it was done because of his "actions and behaviour".Meanwhile the chairperson of ATSIC's Alice Springs Regional Council, Eileen Hoosan, has released to the Alice News a copy of a letter to Mrs Ronberg, dated March 23.In the letter, following a meeting with CAACCA, Mrs Hoosan says the planned discontinuation of ATSIC funding for Aranda House was known since at least June last year."To claim, as was done at our meeting, that no one was aware of the problem is totally misleading."Your organisation was advised in June 1998 that the problem was then two months old."Your staff also made much of the fact that due to the changes in the ATSIC method of funding that they automatically assumed that the organisation was going to receive three year funding from ATSIC."‘NO COMMITMENT'Mrs Hoosan says Aranda House was told in writing in July last year that the allocation would be for one year only and "does not imply any commitment to further funding."I fail to see how anyone could assume such clear statements as an automatic commitment to ongoing funding."Mrs Hoosan says despite an invitation from ATSIC to apply for funds under its Law and Justice Program, CAACCA had failed to do so and merely resubmitted earlier applications already rejected.Mrs Hoosan said ATSIC is only a "supplementary funder" and CAACCA should seek assistance from the NT Government which has "a statutory responsibility in these areas".


In the wake of a number of controversies over authenticity in the Aboriginal art market, and another program in production by Four Corners, a new documentary, to be aired on ABC television next Tuesday, questions the motivation for painting of a number of Aboriginal artists from Central Australia.Titled Art from the Heart?, the program was originally scheduled for April 13, but was replaced on that date by an alternative program about a Belgrade family who have taken refuge in Melbourne from the Balkan conflict . ABC TV publicity says Art from the Heart? was rescheduled only to make way for the more topical program, that it was not pulled.However, a controversy over the program has been raging behind the scenes since mid-March when some of the participants in the film were sent a copy for viewing prior to broadcast, as had been agreed by the producers.Susan Congreve, former coordinator for Warlukurlangu Artists at Yuendumu, and now a project officer with ANKAAA (Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists), accuses producers, Richard Moore and Jeremy Eccles of RM Films, of "breaches of trust".She is particularly concerned over the addition of a question mark to the title of the film, as well as the incorporation of a graphic of a two dollar coin into the title. She says when she and artists at Yuendumu signed releases to give the producers the right to use footage of them, the title was not represented in this way. The producers, responding in a letter to her criticisms, say that "as filmmakers we believe that the question is a very real and legitimate one"."You could say we went out looking for art from the heart and ended up finding a question mark," the producers told her.She believes the implication that Aboriginal artists paint only for money is "arrogant and patronising" and that white artists would never be approached in the way Aboriginal artists are in the film.The producers respond that Aboriginal artists Barbara Weir and Gloria Petyarre, as well as Melbourne-based dealer Hank Ebes, make the point in the film that there is nothing unusual about people painting for money, that white people are doing the same thing.Ms Congreve says the film fails to recognise the importance of Aboriginal art "beyond the dollar world of auctions and galleries", and fails to respect art centres on Aboriginal communities "as Aboriginal owned and controlled organisations", sustained by "thousands of Aboriginal hours and dollars", not only by government subsidy.At Warlukurlangu, for example, she says for every dollar of funding, the art centre makes four dollars for the artists."The artists have year after year matched government money with their own income to keep the centre running," says Ms Congreve.She also argues that while government funding of the centres has been slashed in recent times, the overall incomes of art centres have increased.Ms Congreve says she would never have participated in the film had she known that it would take a questioning or critical approach to Aboriginal artists' motivations for painting.Another participant, Felicity Wright, a project coordinator for Desart (representing over 20 art centres in Central Australia), feels similarly. She told the Alice Springs News: "At no point did I realise the subject of the film was going to be an expose of the alleged motives of artists for painting."That is such a culturally loaded issue it makes my head spin. "There are so many cultural assumptions of the dominant Anglo materialistic culture implicit in the way the subject has been approached – yet the producers seem blissfully unaware of this. "We're talking two completely different world views and nowhere is this more evident than in attitudes to money and materialism." Ms Wright, like Ms Congreve, has put her concerns in writing to the producers and to the ABC, in particular alleging misrepresentation of her views, and expressing disappointment with the production process. To date, the ABC has not replied to her letter.To the producers, Ms Wright wrote in part: "I seriously question your motives in seeking any of my ‘expertise' during the research and development phase, because there doesn't appear to be much sign of you taking on board the concerns I articulated about the industry – you manage to find a bunch of self-interested dealers to espouse their own. I am also very disappointed that you snuck the question mark into the title, long after the consultation period had finished. It certainly would have made your agenda clearer."Ms Congreve is angry that the producers did not provide copies to participating art centres in time to allow consultation and feedback over its content.Indeed, according to Ms Congreve, and contrary to assurances from the producers that copies were sent after legal clearance, some of the participating art centres have still not received a copy of the final film. She says Warlukurlangu have seen a rough copy but not the final cut, that neither Balgo nor Waringarri have received a copy, and that Jilimara have only seen a copy provided from another source.Ms Congreve says it has not been possible, in the little time given, for the artists to organise a response to defend their reputations.While Ms Congreve feels that the film "fits the model of so many other films made about Aboriginal people, lots of white talking heads and little in depth discussion with yapa", the producers say they tried to include "as many artists' voices as possible".They told Ms Congreve: "Throughout Art from the Heart? we wanted to present Aboriginal artists as real people with real problems to match their artistic and cultural talents – as a counterpoint to forums that might render Aboriginal people as either invisible or as anthropological specimens".In terms of in depth discussion with yapa, they told Ms Congreve: "Interviewers can only pose the questions. Are you now holding us responsible for the content of the answers?"Ms Wright wonders how the producers would feel about a documentary on how they spend their ABC pay packets, " especially if they were being gently lead into responding to questions being posed by interviewers from another culture in a language other than their native tongue ?"The producers, in their letter to Ms Congreve, say they believe "that the production indicates some empathy for the artists – in particular the unfortunate social conditions of some of them – ie the market casualties."They also express the hope that the film "will help to get some constructive debate about what we perceive to be a dysfunctional industry and marketplace".However, Ms Congreve asks how can the debate be constructive when copies of the film have not been sent to the artists, to allow promised consultation?"There will be debate because that film exists," she says, "but there would have been better ways to do it. It's a shame that a bad piece of filming and research, that's confusing to watch and ethically shonky, will become the basis of debate."Ms Wright agrees: "There are so many worthwhile things the film could have addressed that would have enlarged our understanding of issues, but I suppose they wouldn't have been half as newsworthy and sensational." Art from the Heart? screens on Inside Story this Tuesday, May 25, at 8.30pm.


Enhancing the lifestyle in bush communities has become the buzzword in strategies to reduce "anti social behaviour" in Alice Springs, because much of the trouble is caused by people escaping the squalor of settlement existence, at least for a few days at a time.One major initiative, to provide better homes, has been boosted in the past year, but still the current housing stock will need to be doubled to meet the demand.What's more, the life span of a bush home – estimated by Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron at an average of just eight years – will need to be extended, so that the taxpayer isn't pouring money into a bottomless pit.On that front there's a lot more to be done, reports ERWIN CHLANDA in Part Two of this series.The key to preventing the trashing of bush homes, costing an average of $115,000, is to make sure local people help building them, says Ted Cross, manager of an Aboriginal-owned construction firm, the Aboriginal Building Corporation.It started as a training program for the Alatyeye community near Alcoota, north-east of Alice Springs, and has now about 40 employees.The Indigenous Housing Authority of the NT (IHANT) – one of the two main players in the field – says on its internet site that "all IHANT projects must contain an employment and accredited training strategy in contract arrangements with project managers."This will commence with the 1998/99 housing program."In reality, however, that requirement is far from being rigidly enforced, according to Mr Cross."We've got six or seven tenders [for IHANT bush houses] and there's is not one with employment and training required."We went to Titjikala [Maryvale, south of Alice Springs] three years ago."It was virtually a ghost town. We started a building program, employing the people on the community."Since then the community has doubled in size."We built eight houses, a basketball court, clinic, extensions to the administration centre and a shop."This year, because of the success, they're building five houses themselves."The first lot of houses we built three years ago are not damaged, no damage at all."Because they built them themselves you have no problem at all with vandalism," says Mr Cross.When his company first started at Titjikala, doors and windows were being smashed, but then the community started a form of neighbourhood watch."Kids who did any damage got a flogging,"Mr Cross says: "If people can get work on their own communities they go back to their communities. They're good workers."In Titjikala we've had the same trainees for three years."They do work, they do stand on their own feet. You've just got to give them a chance."Most builders in town use subbies, they go onto a community, work there for a few days and they shoot off."NO WORKMr Cross says people from remote areas often come to town because there's no work on communities.Nevertheless, he says the Territory-managed IHANT program has improved "out of sight" - especially with the involvement of the Department of Local Government, which encourages communities to collect rents in line with IHANT policies.In contrast to home building efforts in remote areas prior to land rights, at present any government control over the finished structures is limited: the houses are usually on inalienable Aboriginal freehold land, and become the property of the land trusts administering the areas, which means the traditional owners.Community housing associations (usually the councils) are expected to manage and maintain the houses, but there is no retrospective penalty for not doing so.The cost of homes has recently risen by some 20 per cent because new standards are being applied: for example, because of the usually large number of people occupying the houses from time to time, there are now two septic tanks with oversize plumbing.Some toilet bowls are now in stainless steel instead of porcelain, because of the greater resistance to damage, although the cost is some five times greater.In 1997-98, IHANT built 131 new houses at a cost of $15.6m, and carried out 211 major upgrades costing a total of $5.21m.The task to ensure proper maintenance of the homes, given what is essentially their private ownership, is complex.In order to prolong the life of existing houses, as mush as possible, IHANT has adopted a policy of rewarding good management by paying a $1700 additional subsidy per home per year to keep them in a "safe and manageable condition".Communities are required to charge and collect rent which must be used for housing purposes, and the communities must account for this money.How well this is being achieved is still unclear, as the surveys of housing standards have been running for less than a year.Compliance with rent obligations vary from community to community.Although standard fortnightly rents are low (a minimum of $60 for an old house and $100 for a new one), less than $5m of the $7m target rent has been collected.In 1997-98 there were 86 major organisations - mainly community governments - scheduled to collect housing rent: 15 exceeded their target, 27 collected between 50 and 100 per cent of their target; 23 collected less than 50 per cent; and 21 collected no rent at all.A source in the industry, who did not wish to be named, says there are problems with the housing program run by the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS), which runs parallel to the IHANT program, and had a budget of $41.4m this financial year, for the NT alone, all of it from ATSIC (Alice News, May 12)."NAHS take 12 months before they even award a contract, and then they say, these houses have to be built quickly," the source says, and this all but excludes the use of Aboriginal workers."Some of these communities have waited 10 years for a house, why not wait another few months."The IHANT board is meeting in Alice Springs this week.Tony Jack, its recently elected chairman, in a comment about the collection of rent from tenants, says the board is "reasonably happy" with the agreement and the contribution to the existing repair and maintenance programs on communities."It's a new process and will take some time to work," says Mr Jack.


The return to Alice Springs of the RAAF Roulettes tomorrow, coordinated by the Alice Town Council, brings back fond memories of a flight I had in the back seat of Roulette Six.I can't remember the year but I can remember just about every second of that 15 minute adventure, unforgettable even for an aviation enthusiast with more than 2000 hours in command of powered planes, 350 hours piloting gliders and 630 skydives.It began on the tarmac of the old Alice airport.In those days the Roulettes were flying Italian built Macchis, pure jets, while the machines used today are turbine powered propeller driven Pilatus PC9/As, built in Switzerland.The orange and white trainers were lined up in a row and the pilots, the creme de la creme of the Aussie air force, all instructors of instructors, were laconically propped against the leading edges of their planes' wings or were unhurriedly doing their daily inspections, surrounded by a gaggle of adulating TAA hosties.I was put into a flying suit which included G-pants whose purpose wasn't immediately clear to me.I noticed some dints in the cigar-shaped wing tip tanks and I asked one of the flying aces: "I guess someone's been a bit careless ground handling these planes?""Oh no," came the reply. "These dints were done in the air." I see.I was settled in the rear co-pilot's seat of the spartan cockpit and the ground staff assisting me pulled out several pins to my right."What are you doing?""I'm arming your ejection seat. When you hear the words, ‘Roulette Six, eject, eject, eject' it's no joke. You've got to go. The pilot can't do it for you."See this handle between your legs? There's another one behind your head – just feel it."You pull either of them and out you go."I kept my hands well clear of these handles.The ground officer also connected an air hose to my G-pants.A take-off in a military fighter trainer jet is a buzz second to few, and the climb-out is radical.Seconds later Roulette Six was over the town, the nose came up a little and we flipped into an inverted position, doing a few upside-down circuits over The Alice, looking up at the town and down at the sky.This was followed by a few loops.These start with a dive when the jet approached its VNE – Velocity Never Exceed. When the pilot pulled up sharply something grabbed both of my legs, frightening the hell out of me.I realised now the use of the G-pants: as the G forces increased my body weight four-fold the leg garment was being pressurised, preventing the blood draining from my head into the lower part of my body, which may have caused me to black out.My view changed from ground to horizon to sky.As we reached the top of the loop, the G-forces decreasing to less than one – horizon up-side down and I saw the ground again – I wondered if I was really too old to give up journalism and join the RAAF.By that time the rest of the jets were airborne and we joined the formation which, from the ground, looks amazingly rigid.It looked far from rigid from where I was sitting: there's constant relative movement between the aircraft.I realised how hard the pilots were working to hold their positions in the group, during the turns and twists it was flying.And I was thinking about the tip tanks dints.Our position was usually in the middle of the formation. My pilot wasn't taking his eyes off the jet exhaust barely three meters from our nose, and slightly above.The guys on our left and right had their eyes fixed on our tail and never took them off.This is why accidents of aerobatic teams can be catastrophic: if the leader goes in, so does everybody else, and they wouldn't even know it was happening.The only guy who was looking at where we were going was the leader, whose calm, casual voice I could hear over the intercom built into my flying helmet.All the mikes are "open" at all times. The only other sound in my headset was the quiet breathing of the pilots.The display ended with a Starburst: we climbed to about 8000 feet and then dived towards the crowd, peeling off into different directions at what seemed to me a hair s low altitude.There was no doubt left in my mind: flying with the Roulettes is the second-greatest thing you can do with your trousers on, just after skydiving.


While David Myers wants Central Queensland University Press to become THE publisher of outback books, the titles he has published thus far almost all look back to the outback of European explorers and the pioneering men and women of the cattle industry.This is as true for the most recent additions to the list which come from Alice Springs' authors Judy Robinson and Rose Rawlins Coppock, as it is for the several titles by CQUP's best selling author, Marie Mahood.KIERAN FINNANE asked Professor Myers, in Alice earlier this month to promote Mrs Robinson's and Mrs Coppock's books, if CQUP is also interested in contemporary experience of the outback?(See Part One of her interview in last week's Alice Springs News.)Prof. Myers says that to date the manuscripts he has received have been overwhelmingly about the past, suggesting that this is because of "a cry from the heart to remember" by an older generation facing rapid technological change accompanied by general rural depression.An exception to the rule is a new title by Bill Williams, Kumanjayi's Country, described in publicity material as a "controversial evocation of a contemporary indigenous community in the Gibson Desert". Prof. Myers is enthusiastic about the novel but worried about whether it will find readers in the market he has established for Outback Books."My audience are loyal people from the bush. They are avid readers, much better readers than the people of the cities where I do book launches, and they have wonderful enthusiasm for books about their lifestyle."They are also predominantly female and older – I haven't managed to reach a younger audience yet."Books about Aborigines find readers among city people and tourists. It's as yet an unknown market for me, and very tricky." Prof. Myers fears that books on contemporary bush issues may also too readily "get into the realm of party politics". "A lot of bush people feel they are under-represented politically," he says."Some of them have obviously demonstrated their disappointment in the National Party and voted for One Nation. That division is a very sad one. "Those contemporary issues end up in a political, contentious area and result in essays and diatribes."Nevertheless, Prof. Myers is confident that as the word spreads about the existence of Outback Books (CQUP's imprint), sooner or later he will get a "firebrand" manuscript with which to test tastes for the outback as it is, heading into the third millennium. Meanwhile, Bush Tracks and Desert Horizons by Rose Rawlins Coppock and Bushman of the Red Heart by Judy Robinson – both making for fascinating reading – are available from local bookshops and the National Trust.


How do we see ourselves? How do we present ourselves to the world?While there is no formal requirement – such as a preamble to a constitution – for the people of Alice Springs to answer these questions, the marketing of the town attempts to do so, and deserves some public scrutiny.KIERAN FINNANE continues her review of the proliferating signs and brochures that "interpret" Alice Springs, past and present. (See Part One in the Alice Springs News issue of March 17.)
The series of signs and brochures titled Discovering Alice Springs, launched last year, includes of course a brochure on Aboriginal Culture . Two entries in it deserve particular mention as fine examples of burying, rather than discovering.First, the entry on the Ntyarlkarle Tyaneme or Caterpillar Dreaming site on Barrett Drive which makes no mention of the deliberate destruction of the end of the ridge – the tail of the caterpillar – during the construction of Barret Drive in 1983, despite the protection of the site under the NT Government's own Aboriginal Sacred Sites Act and on-going negotiations with traditional owners, with a compromise solution being considered. This story – which has been mentioned more than once in the News over the years – is told in the small guide published by the Institute for Aboriginal Development, The Arrernte Landscape of Alice Springs.The guide comments: "Barrett Drive has become known as Broken Promise Drive among Arrernte people of Mparntwe [the Arrernte name for the land occupied by Alice Springs], and the incident is one of the most bitterly felt of recent years".There is a sign at the actual site which reads in part: "You will notice that the ‘tail' of the caterpillar is missing, in a sense run over by Barret Drive. It was unfortunate that agreement could not be reached between the government and the traditional custodians on how to protect the site before the road was built, as it was during construction of the road in 1983 that the tail section was damaged."Interestingly, the graphic used on the sign is sourced to the IAD publication, but the carefully ambiguous wording must be claimed as the sign-writers' very own. The brochure entry on Athereyurre Waterhole and The Bungalow is possibly even more deceptive: "The Alice Springs Telegraph Station was known for many years as The Bungalow. Aboriginal people have a long history of association with this site. Many Alice Springs people today were born or spent some of their early years at The Bungalow".Not so much as a hint that The Bungalow institutionalised Aboriginal children of mixed descent, nor of the removal by force of many from their families. At the Old Telegraph Station itself, where all trace of the built heritage of The Bungalow period has been removed, there is at least reference to the legislation establishing a racial hierarchy that underpinned the forcible removal of "half-caste" children for their supposed "upliftment". The above examples are of a similar order to misinformation elsewhere.The "Theme Shelter" (facing the western sun) for the Discovering Alice Springs Heritage trail is located in Hartley Street, opposite Yeperenye.It presents a panel on "local characters". There are the usual suspects – Charles Henry (Pop) Chapman, Sergeant Robert Stott, etcetera – but the sign-writers obviously felt they had to include an Aboriginal person.They chose the late renowned painter, E. Kngwarreye. While they do say she was from Utopia and identify her language group, they don't say where Utopia is. Remember this trail is supposed to be about Alice Springs. So, why not choose an Arrernte person? There are surely examples which abound.It is time for heritage discussions to go beyond bricks and mortar. We need a careful think about our history and identity: what do we want to remember, why and in the name of whom? What do we want to forget, and is it acceptable to do so?

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.