FINKE DESERT RACE SPARKS 'ALICE CAN DO' BONANZA. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
This long weekend's Finke Desert Race will be a triumph of Alice Springs' resourcefulness, determination, community spirit and Ð not in the least Ð sense of humour.Run entirely by volunteers, the event was in danger of folding after 1995 "because of a serious case of burnout among the the organisers," according to this year's race director, Jol Fleming.Among others, long time secretary Judy Hoare, who had worked tirelessly for the race, had had enough, but the foundations for an excellent event had been laid.In the following year a Melbourne based events promoter was brought in to "try a different approach to marketing", a venture which proved not entirely satisfactory.Today, "The Finke" is again entirely in local hands, with Fleming, president Dave Koch and vice president Rob Hall at the helm, harnessing and encouraging a huge variety of local talent and resources.The race is now firmly on the national motor racing calendar, with some 55 per cent of the 210 bikes and 92 four-wheeled entrants coming from out of town.Local entries are up one third on last year.Scheduling of the Hidden Valley V8 Supercars event in Darwin the week before the Finke has helped a lot."It's the biggest and best desert race in Australia," says Victorian Glenn Boxhall, an international gold medal winner in endurance riding, looking forward to his first Finke as a member of the Wayne Woodberry's Race Motorcycles team. As a newcomer to the town, he's amazed by how friendly and helpful even his competitors are.Communications has always been a major problem along the extremely remote track, 230 km along the abandoned "Old Ghan" railway line, to the Aboriginal community of Aputula (Finke).Yet fast and reliable transmission of information is crucial in a dangerous, high-speed race, with the winners averaging better than 100 km/h.Finke Desert Race Inc. now requires all four wheel competitors to carry UHF radios and, with the four recently installed repeater stations along the track, voice coverage communication is possible from almost any point.With the NT Emergency Services HF radio system as a backup, the overall safety of the race is incomparably better than in previous years.Satellite technology now allows the transfer of race data instantaneously from the checkpoints to Race Control.Further enhancing the safety of the race is a computer program, developed by the local company, Com-spec, which predicts Ð on the basis of their previous section times Ð when competitors are due at their next check point."The computer flags anyone who's five minutes overdue," says Fleming. "We can go looking for them straight away."This year there are two helicopters, each with a doctor on board. In previous years there was only one.While the organisers are honing the safety and management of the race, an army of professional and amateur mechanics around town are adapting their machines to the gruelling conditions of the track. High speed sections, where some will exceed 200 km/h, are interspersed with the notorious "whoops" Ð the sand bumps which have been the undoing of most big-name interstate competitors with hugely expensive equipment, including motor sports celebrities such as Peter Brock, Dick Johnson (twice) and Tony Longhurst, who will be fresh from Hidden Valley for this year's race.In 23 years, the King of the Desert has mostly been a local, and always a bike rider, although with improved technology the buggies have become an increasing threat.Local knowledge of the punishing conditions has kept local mechanical expertise in the forefront.GREAT SKILLSThe skills required to adapt vehicles to race off-road, especially for Central Australia's desert conditions, are inestimable.One of the front runners in this field is buggy builder Rod Smith, proprietor of Alice Autocraft.His showpiece this year is a "truggy" Ð a hybrid between a buggy and an off-road racing truck, with a full floating "live" axle at the rear.The machine is the only one of its type in Australia, and there are only a handful in the US.It is owned, driven and further developed by local aircraft engineer, Tony Byrnes.The mid-mounted, Motec fuel injected 350 Chev V8 develops in excess of 400 horsepower, channelled through a turbo 400 three speed automatic transmission, allowing Byrnes to keep both hands on the wheel most of the time.His truggy, using locally developed suspension, has 28 inches of travel in the rear and 22 in the front, tailor made for the "whoops". "It's really smooth," says Byrnes, who's had it up to 220 km/h during practice runs, but will gear it down for more acceleration and a top speed of about 180 kmh. He'll be racing against a string of high-powered competitors, as well as local Toyota dealer Peter Kittle, in his $100,000 plus, imported Scat V4 Jimco "super buggy". Ironically, Byrnes' navigator is Brendan Ryan, brother of Kittle's "go,go,go" man, Adam Ryan.And what's the "truggy" worth? "Ah, I'm not going to say," replies Byrnes. "I'll get into trouble with the missus."All information updates as well as an outline for next year's 25th race are available on the FDR website: www.finkedesertrace.com.au
ALICE CAREER WOMEN. Series by KIERAN FINNANE.
Two very different personalities, Janine Kinloch and Toni Elferink have some things in common: they both knew while still at school what they wanted to do when they left, and they have both achieved their goals.They are also both graduates of Alice Springs high schools.Janine says she knew from Year 11 that she wanted to make her career in science: "I think that helps."Other people at school didn't know and were trying to keep their options open. At least I had a goal to go for."Janine obtained her science degree from Adelaide University in 1989 and returned home to make her career with the CSIRO as a technical officer. Toni, on the other hand, was only 10 years old when she joined St John's Ambulance as a cadet.Some 15 years later she emerged as a paramedic level three intensive care officer.The two women, along with Director of the Institute of Aboriginal Development, Donna Ah Chee, and plumber Amanda Dean, recently spoke about their experiences at the launch of the BPW (Business and Professional Women) Young Career Woman of the Year awards. The aim of the awards is simple, says BPW secretary Julie Ross: "We want young women to realise that they can do anything they want to do."The options are not limited."Janine says she was always studious."And I was a quiet person. I think that affected me socially, more than being studious."Also in a small community it can be harder to find people who have similar interests to you and a similar approach to life."However, she was not alone as a girl interested in science. In her ASHS' science class there were three girls out of about ten.She got a good grounding in the maths, physics and chemistry areas, but at university she concentrated on the botany and zoology areas. Women were in the majority in those courses, she says.She lived in a university college and enjoyed it."I was ready to get out of Alice Springs. I had a greater range of people to be with, and I think I was really needing it at that time."After graduating, she came home to have somewhere cheap to live while she looked for a job. "But I thought too that I would enjoy working in the rangelands." However, there were not many jobs in science around, and nine months went by before she landed the CSIRO position."I think part of the reason I got it was that I was living in Alice Springs and was available to be interviewed straight away," she says. In fact, Janine was the first local (born and bred) to be employed on the scientific staff at the Alice CSIRO lab. More recently she has been joined by Joe Breen, computer programmer and IT manager, who did some of his schooling in Alice Springs. For the first seven years Janine worked as a technical officer alongside ecologist Margaret Friedel. "The major work we were doing was looking at the impact of grazing on some of the areas south of Alice Springs, going out and doing vegetation resource surveys usually every six months. "I was very fortunate Ð you can do projects in which there are just one off surveys, but if you go back periodically you get to understand the dynamics of the ecology and how it changes through time." While in the same position, Janine is now part of a larger team working on different projects."No job in science is ever the same because every time a new project comes along, whether you are at my level or at the research level, you learn new skills. CSIRO lets you develop quite well, there's lots of scope within the position."How was it socially, coming back to Alice Springs after a few years away?"A bit different" she says, and more enjoyable now than when she was in her early twenties."I did get a totally new group of friends. A lot of my old friends were no longer here. "You can't really blame young people for not coming back to Alice because often there are not the jobs available. I was lucky to get this job. "I think Alice Springs could try harder to get its young people back, even if it's after a time of them working in a city or interstate, get them back as people who've had experience in their field. "I think employers would have a more stable workforce if they could employ people who were from Alice Springs or from regional Australia, who know what it is like to live in a small to medium sized community."Toni Elferink has also come back to Alice, more than once.Born in Queensland, she first travelled through here with her parents in 1974, the family coming back to settle five years later.She was among the first group of students to go through Catholic High, dropping out of Year 11 at Sadadeen Secondary (now Centralian College ) following a burns accident."I was also 17 years old, going through that rebellious hormonal phase, and I just wanted to get out into the world and to stop being told what to do."Although her interest in First Aid throughout her teenage years had taken her on to represent Alice Springs and later the Territory and Australia in First Aid competitions, she didn't settle straight away on a paramedic's career.She spent a year on a traineeship with the then Conservation Commission, and another year as a cadet with the police force."I thought that would be my vocation, but after 12 months l decided it wasn't for me. "At 18 to 19 years of age I couldn't really analyse it, I just didn't like it."She then started a traineeship with St John's in 1989, in Darwin: little did she know that this path would lead her to the open seas.MORE NEXT WEEK.
AMENDED MANDATORY SENTENCING LAWS HELP JUST A FEW.
When Deputy Chief Minister Mike Reed rose to explain the purpose of his Government's amendments (now law) to its mandatory minimum sentencing provisions, not a single mention was made of crime reduction or crime prevention.Speaking in the Legislative Assembly last week, Mr Reed summarised the purpose of the legislation as making "the punishment fit the crime", thus reflecting "the will of Territorians as demonstrated in the last Territory election".A word that occurred with frequency in his speech was "community": ¥ "There is considerable concern in the community about the level of break and enters, property damage and theft".¥ "There was also a great deal of dissatisfaction in the community about the perceived leniency of the courts when sentencing for these offences."¥ "Mandatory minimum sentencing is all about providing a base line below which the courts cannot go because it is unacceptable to the community."While those in the community who find mandatory sentencing itself unacceptable Ð from the NT Council of Churches, through a range of legal services and professional bodies, to the Territory Greens Ð were ignored, an exceptional circumstances clause was proposed , recognising "that there may be a very narrow and clearly defined category of cases where the community [again] does not think a jail sentence is appropriate".While in every other case, Mr or Ms Offender is an "individual" who must accept "responsibility" but does not deserve any particular character-isation, Mr Reed was quite eloquent about the type of person who could expect to plead "exceptional circumstances":"Imagine a young man, a good student or apprentice with a bright future who has never been in trouble in his life. One day he discovers that his partner has just walked out on him. In a fit of uncharacteristic frustration and despair he hits and breaks a window of a car parked in the street."The young man, immediately sorry for what he has done, knocks on doors until he finds the owner of the car, apologises and undertakes to pay for the damage."If prosecuted this young man may be able to establish special circumstances."Like this young man, offenders who can make out exceptional circumstances will be truly worthy of removal from the mandatory minimum sentencing regime."This is the most "substantial" discretion provided to the courts by the present amendments. Apart from eliminating anomalies and confusion, the Bills otherwise extend the regime to cover sexual offenders, who must serve part of a jail sentence, "no second chances", and to violent offenders, who for a second and subsequent offence must serve a prison sentence, "one chance only".For juveniles Ð 15 and 16 year olds Ð reference to a "diversionary program" adds "an element of flexibility" to sentencing options for a second offence."It is intended that the first program will be based on victim/offender conferencing," said Mr Reed."However before being accepted into a program, offenders will be required to admit their guilt, accept responsibility for their actions and agree to participate in the program ..."[Restitution] might include making monetary payments or providing a service such as mowing a victim's lawn for an agreed number of weeks or months."The aim of the diversionary program is to give 15 and 16 year old offenders one last chance before they face certain gaol ..."This is not an easy option."Indeed experience with similar programs elsewhere indicates that juveniles find participation in such programs very difficult. "Many juvenile offenders have never before considered either consequences of their actions or the effects their actions may have on others ..."... the diversionary program is well and truly the last chance. If the juvenile commits another property offence, he or she will face a minimum term of detention of 28 days ..."It must be remembered that a 15 or 16 year old facing court for a second offence is likely to have already had numerous chances to mend his or her ways."This is where we could perhaps do with another little life story, but Mr Reed does not get into profiling repeat offenders.But there is a major report, prepared for the National Anti-Crime Strategy under the leadership of criminologist Professor Ross Homel of Griffith University, that does.Called Pathways to prevention, the report acknowledges "a great deal of concern about crime, especially juvenile crime, in Australia", with official statistics pointing to "some worrying trends".For example, "there is increasing involvement of juveniles in offences against the person, and increasing involvement of females in all forms of juvenile offending."There is evidence from overseas that the peak age of offending is increasing, and that the usual rate of desistance from offending in the late teenage years is declining."Seeking to provide some answers to what the societal response should be to these problems, the report goes, not unexpectedly, to the roots which are "complex and cumulative, and are embedded in social as well as personal histories".This has been made clear in very recent years by "scientifically persuasive evidence" that "interventions early in life can have long term impacts on crime and other social problems such as substance abuse".These interventions are based on a developmental approach which does not see life as "one steady march toward adulthood that is set early in life", but rather as a series of "life phases, "points of change" and "transitions".Underlying these life phases and transitions are risk factors identified as associated with antisocial and criminal behaviour. The child factors are listed as: prematurity, low birth weight, disability, prenatal brain damage, birth injury, low intelligence, difficult temperament, chronic illness, insecure attachment, poor problem solving, beliefs about aggression, poor social skills, low self esteem, lack of empathy, alienation, hyperactivity/disruptive behaviour, and impulsivity.FACTORSThe community and cultural factors are listed as: socioeconomic disadvantage, population density and housing conditions, urban area, neighbourhood violence and crime, cultural norms concerning violence as an acceptable response to frustration, media portrayal of violence, lack of support services, social or cultural discrimination.The depressing lists go on under the headings of family, school and life events.From these burdened backgrounds emerge the repeat offenders, the ones Mr Reed thinks have had "numerous chances" to mend their ways, and unlikely to be the fine fellows with "bright futures" who would ever be able to plead "exceptional circumstances".The Federal Government has taken on board the report. In her foreword, Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone hopes that policy makers will find the report helpful for considering ways in which "we can work together to create a child friendly environment that will ultimately reduce levels of crime and violence in our society".The Commonwealth is making "significant funding" available "for a new program focused on youth crime and supporting families".The report provides an overview of programs that have been successful, but emphasises that there is no single solution:"A key theme of the full report is that implementation is inextricably linked to social context, and that interventions should target not only the behaviours, attitudes and knowledge of people but also the nature of their circumstances."Note: Author of Pathways to prevention, Prof Homel was recently a guest speaker, along with Sir Ronald Wilson, at a public forum on mandatory sentencing organised by the NT Council of Churches in Darwin.The report, available also in summary form, can be ordered from National Crime Prevention, phone 02 6250 6666, or found on the website: www.ncavac.gov.au
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