June 23, 1999


Education Minister Peter Adamson is proposing a super campus for Alice Springs, accommodating training organisations servicing Aboriginal people.He says talks are under way with the world renowned Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) and Batchelor College, but negotiations with the Institute for Aboriginal Development have broken down.Sources says there is already an agreement between Batchelor and CAT, and four possible sites have been identified.However, Mr Adamson says despite an agreement some two months ago with the IAD director Donna Ah Chee and chairman Merv Franey, to continue negotiations, IAD's "door has been firmly shut".He says: "IAD are now continuing to refuse to talk, and I think that's quite disappointing."Mr Franey says IAD has been trying to meet with Chief Minister Denis Burke and he is expecting to get an appointment in the near future.Mr Franey says Mr Burke has expressed his willingness to talk with IAD. The wrangle started some three years ago, says Mr Franey, when Mr Adamson refused to release Federal funds for new facilities which IAD wants to build on its present site, in South Terrace, where the organisation currently uses old houses and demountables.Mr Adamson, who describes the site as "totally unsuitable", wanted IAD to move to Centralian College. IAD declined, fearing a loss of identity.Mr Adamson says the Centralian site had now been "put aside".He says: "Let's look at [IAD's] current other site and let's also look at other sites" - including one south of The Gap.He says Batchelor and CAT are "not in purpose built facilities and need an upgrade sooner or later, either on their present sites or elsewhere."Those organisations are only too willing to have the dialogue."There needs to be a "central, strategic approach to where we are going, as we're trying to do with arts".IAD had been offered a co-location with Centralian College because "some of its facilities, quite frankly, are under utilised now."Alice Springs has several "very good resources, very spread out and quite a lot of them underutilised."Why can't we use existing facilities more while retaining individual identities (of the organisations)."It makes perfect sense as far as I am concerned."Mr Franey says a co-location with CAT and Batchelor is "another issue altogether" and he did not wish to comment on the merits or otherwise of the proposal.Mr Adamson was in town last Saturday to open the Desert Mob art exhibition at Araluen, and to celebrate its 15th birthday, featuring Warlukur-langu Artists perform a Ngapa Water Dreaming dance (photo above).Mr Adamson claimed there is broad misunderstanding of the NT Government's policy on bilingual education.Its phasing out has sparked a national controversy and has attracted condemnation even from overseas.At present about 20 schools in Aboriginal communities, with an enrolment of more than 3700 students, teach partly in the local languages.Mr Adamson says although the bilingual program in its present form will end, teaching of local vernacular will not only continue, but will also be used for other teaching where necessary, especially where children have English as their second language.He says bilingual education isn't working in its present form, and the row surrounding it is distracting from the real problems: poor attendance and early dropping out. "The main issue remains attendance," he says."If anyone's denying education to a student out in the communities at the moment, it's the mums and the dads who choose not to send their children to school."If we could transfer the passion that has taken place with the bilingual debate, into getting kids into school in the first place, and having them healthy, then we would be advancing education enormously out there."Mr Adamson says he disagrees with the reasoning that it's better to first acquaint children with the learning process in their own language, and then ease them into the use of English."That would be a worthwhile argument if you're talking about a student staying in the system for 10 to 12 years."There have been comparisons with overseas bilingual programs, in Ireland and Scotland, where you are getting students for 10 or 12 years at school. There you can concentrate on the local vernacular and then make that transition."The problem [in Territory bush communities] is, that not long after age eight, nine or 10, most of these kids don't attend school. They stay home, kick the footy around, get into trouble."He says the schools need to teach them English "while we've still got them, and let's give them some options."Let's give these kids the same options that everyone should have. At the moment they are not getting these options."Mr Adamson denies claims that parents are more likely to send their children to bilingual schools."The facts show that the more functional a community is, the more likely the kids are to go to school."He says there is "very little difference in terms of attendance" between bilingual and non-bilingual schools."We looked at the statistics and bilingual communities, on average, are performing worse overall, and certainly in terms of numeracy and literacy specifically, compared to non-bilingual schools."We're talking about tests overall ... the normal tests that every student has to go through, that's reported as part of the national school reports every year, the normal tests that children will undergo, whether they are in Alice Springs or out in a remote community."All we're really doing is trying to target English literacy and numeracy at an earlier age."But we've also said all along that language and the vernacular and the culture of the individual communities can remain, as they do in the communities with non-bilingual schools."Claims that Aboriginal languages, under the new government scheme, will play no role in the education process are "nothing short of a lie."Language and culture have a very big part to pay in non bilingual community schools, and that can continue in the schools we currently call bilingual."He says teaching of language and culture "can be done on a daily basis with the community members and depending on what the community wants it can be done in a more official way by the teaching staff."It's happening in non-bilingual schools now, and the majority of Aboriginal schools have chosen to be non-bilingual schools."We have 250 Aboriginal teachers, specifically paid for by the Territory and the Commonwealth governments, teaching culture, teaching language, and most of those are in communities without bilingual schools," says Mr Adamson."It's acknowledged that you couldn't walk in from day one to a community that is basically speaking their own vernacular and immediately start in English, it's simply not possible."He says the term "bilingual" is confusing and should be dropped.Under NT Government policies, all schools will retain the options not only of teaching traditional languages, but also to do the teaching in those languages: "It's unfortunate that this message isn't getting out."Mr Adamson says his government will not be introducing new legislation in the wake of media allegations that there is wide-spread fraud in Aboriginal art.He claims existing laws including those dealing with copyright are adequate.


Officers of the Commonwealth and Territory governments have been assigned to sort out the Aranda House crisis while the manager of the youth refuge, Allen Furber, has taken two weeks' leave.The Federal Department of Family and Community Services is carrying out a "mapping exercise" of all Commonwealth funds money directed into Alice Springs, with particular reference to youth. And Territory Health says it is providing support through the secondment of a project officer.Although Aranda House has again failed to answer questions, it is understood that the main activities of the facility remain shut down, although funding has been provided until the end of this month.Several former staff members are understood to be preparing action over unfair dismissal.Meanwhile a spokesman for NT Health Minister Steve Dunham says the NT Government wouldn't hold an enquiry into Aranda House, as suggested by sacked committee member Ray Cochrane, because ATSIC is the main funding body.The spokesman says Mr Dunham's view is that Aranda House should continue to receive a "cocktail of funding" from NT and Federal sources, including ATSIC.He says discussions are under way now between ATSIC, the Commonwealth Department of Family Services, the NT Office of Aboriginal Development, Territory Health, the police, Correctional Services and Centrelink.They have so far resolved that Aranda House should draw up a business plan and make submissions for ongoing and recurrent funding.ATSIC may assist in that process.Mr Dunham's spokesman says the NT's ongoing support for Aranda House is "firm" and while the Minister acknowledges some responsibility, he says there is "no way ATSIC can walk away from this".He says the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and other studies have pointed out there needs to be "appropriate placement" for young Aborigines at risk.Meanwhile according to ATSIC's local regional council head, Eileen Hoosan, ATSIC's Central Office in Canberra is now dealing with any new applications Aranda House may be putting forward, not the Alice region, as in the past.Territory Health has been funding five "guaranteed beds" at Aranda House since July last year for "young people identified at high risk" by Family and Children's Services, a branch of Territory Health.The NT, apart from providing the Aranda House premises in South Terrace at a peppercorn rent, kicks in $73,000 annually, which includes funding for a youth counsellor and allied costs.The Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services pays $159,000 to the Aboriginal Child Care Agency Service, the parent organisation of Aranda House. This pays for a foster care worker, director, receptionist and a finance officer.Aboriginal Hostels contribute $135,000 for services in part supplied by Territory Health.According to Mr Cochrane, this was earmarked for a cook and assistant manager who were never hired.ATSIC paid $195,000 during 1998/99 for a "24 hour crisis supported accommodation" for children aged 10 to 17.This is the funding at risk at the moment, putting in jeopardy eight staff places.It is understood that prior to 1998 ATSIC funded this service to the tune of $480,000 per year, providing 40 places for young people, but making it clear at the time that this was to be a "once off" grant.


The proposed National Packaging Covenant, touted by the Beverage Industry Environment Council (BIEC) as a boost for litter control, is merely a ploy to stall the introduction of container deposit legislation, according to an Alice Springs alderman.Ald Geoff Harris says: "It looks like the only thing the covenant will achieve is to waste everyone's time, tying up the resources of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, of local government and state ministers."The beverage industry appears to be trying to fob off for a couple of years everybody who wants container legislation."Maree McCaskill, CEO of the BIEC, says if the Territory Government signs the covenant, "NT agencies will be able to access a share of $34.9m in new funding to boost litter and waste reduction programs."This could lead to an expansion of kerbside recycling services outside the Darwin city area and market development for recyclable materials."Half the money would come from beverage, packaging, supermarket, food, plastics and chemicals industries provided state governments meet the contribution on a dollar-for-dollar basis over three years.A spokesman for NT Environment Minister Tim Baldwin says the Minister hasn't yet made up his mind on the issue.He will be considering comments from interested "agencies" including local government currently being coordinated by the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment.The spokesman says Mr Baldwin is likely to make a decision "in the next few weeks".Meanwhile a failure by the NT to sign the covenant may "deprive regional Territorians of the recycling services that Darwin residents take for granted," says Ms McCaskill."New litter and waste reduction initiatives are also at risk." But Ald Harris, a member of the Alice Town Council's Waste Management Advisory Committee, is calling on NT Minister Tim Baldwin not to sign the covenantAnd Ald Harris says local government should keep up the pressure on the NT Government to bring in container deposit laws, now in force only in South Australia, the only effective way to encourage both recycling and litter control.He says all Territory councils want deposit laws, as does the Local Government Association of the NT (LGANT). Local governments across the country are unanimously opposed to the covenant, says Ald Harris.He claims it's been the experience for the past 15 years for the industry to fund minor programs which have little effect: "The councils will still be left to pick up the tab for litter, for clean-ups if people throw it away, of for burying it if they take it to the dump."Ald Harris says because of low population and low volume, recycling is less viable in remote areas without the consumers paying appropriate container deposits.In South Australia, the charge is five cents per container.Unless deposit legislation is accepted, any viability study of kerbside recycling is a waste of time.He says even drink container deposit laws may not be going far enough to solve litter problems."In Europe, supermarkets are obliged to accept excess packaging."The message there is, if you produce it you take responsibility for it."Here, the message is produce as much as you want, as big as you want, pump it out to remote areas, and local government has to pay for it."Or if it's recycled, councils have to pay for that as well, because at present it's not economic."Meanwhile, LGANT President Margaret Vigants has said that BIEC's assertion that $34.9m in funding will be accessible by Territory agencies is "a furphy".She says the funding was negotiated between representatives of the packaging industry and the NSW and Victorian Governments as a means of paying for a transition to stable and economically viable kerbside recycling systems."The [funding] package relates only to kerbside collection systems," says Ms Vigants.However, local governments may want to look at a variety of collection systems suitable to local conditions.According to Ms Vigants, the packaging industry has clearly said it will not fund:
* short term support for commodity price fluctuations;
* product and market development; and
* assistance to councils in making contractual shifts to preferred practices.
Costs of implementing these areas of ineligible grant activity total $29.7m (estimated national cost over three years for these programs) or 85 per cent of the total pool of funds, says Ms Vigants.LGANT also reports that the Australian Local Government Association has recently reaffirmed its position that the National Packaging Covenant is unacceptable.The Arid Lands Environment Centre is adding its voice to calls on the NT Government to say no to the covenant, and to carefully investigate its downfalls for the Territory.Upgrading current waste collection to "best practice" standard would be very costly in the Territory, but would not be supported under the Covenant, says ALEC coordinator Deborah Metters.Ms Metters also suggest that a "best practice" recycling service would probably be "a complete overkill service for Alice Springs""It is very difficult to see any real benefits for Territorians, as the costs and risks to local government simply do not match the perceived benefits," says Ms Metters."It would be especially disappointing for Alice Springs given the recent direction of the Town Council in establishing an Environment Officer's position and approving a very hopeful waste minimisation consultancy."


A rift has developed on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara (AP) executive over a proposed mining access agreement concerning the Pitjantjatjara Lands.While the "done deal", claimed by Musgrave Block Holdings (MBH) to be between itself and AP on behalf of traditional owners, has been signed by five members of the executive, another five have come out challenging the process by which the agreement was reached.The executive consists of 10 elected members and a chairman.The effect of the proposed agreement, the Pitjantjatjara Land Future Access Facilitation Deed, would appear to be to break AP's existing "one by one" policy in relation to the consideration of mining exploration applications, opening up access and hastening processing, which would be directly managed by MBH.MBH's Andrew Drummond says his company would "put resources into AP and onto The Lands" to educate people about mining, and would also use strategies such as clustering applications over adjacent areas, and not waiting for one application to reach final resolution before considering another.While Mr Drummond describes The Lands as "the last unexplored frontier in Australia", the Alice News understands that 10 exploration applications have been approved since The Lands passed into the hands of traditional owners under the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act of 1981.Little activity has resulted from the exploration, although the News understands that this has been for commercial reasons rather than due to opposition by AP.Mr Drummond says he understands that only four granted applications are "alive" at present, with approximately 56 applications outstanding, the last approval having been made in 1996.Bebe Ramzan from Anilalya Homelands, one of the five AP executive members who are challenging MBH's actions and their spokesperson, says they are not against mining per se."We are not saying no, we are saying do it the right way," says Ms Ramzan, whose mother is a traditional owner on The Lands.The other dissenting executive members are Roger Kayipi from Fregon, Rupert Peters from Irintata Homelands, Gordon Inkatji also from Anilalya, and Adrian Intjalki from Ernabella.The five who signed the agreement are AP Chairman Trevor Adamson from Nyapiri, Vice-Chairman Kenneth Ken, Lee Brady and Michael Mitakiki from Amata, and Alby Burton from Pipalyatjara.Ms Ramzan says each mining exploration application should be considered on its merits, after consultation with traditional owners, for which AP have always used the services of the legal and anthropology sections of the Pitjantjatjara Council.The News understands that consultation to ascertain the wishes of traditional owners as many as 40 in any one designated area is a meticulous process which has taken up to two years in some cases, while others, such as a recent application for quarry mining, have been completed in less than 12 months."By neglecting this process, AP as a body corporate, would be denying the rights of traditional owners, and therefore not acting in their best interests," says the statement issued by Ms Ramzan and others.In the long term this is their concern with the proposed deed, but in the short term they are objecting to the by-passing of what they understand to be the proper processes under the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act to reach agreement with AP."We cannot deviate from the Act to do things in a different way without being in breach of the Act," says Ms Ramzan.The five signatures on the disputed deed were obtained at a special general meeting held at Amata on April 29, 1999.According to Ms Ramzan, such a meeting can pass a resolution, but is not authorised to conclude an agreement.She says only a properly convened and minuted meeting of the full executive could consider and endorse the proposed deed.However, Mr Drummond says the special general meeting was properly convened, with every community in The Lands notified in advance of its date, place and agenda, and about 100 people ultimately attending.He says under Section 11 of the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act, the executive cannot do anything but endorse the decisions of AP, as made at general meetings, and it is therefore incumbent upon them to execute the deed.Another point of controversy over the Amata meeting concerns the legal advice available to the executive members and traditional owners present. The News understands that Pitjantjat-jara Council's principal legal officer, Mark Ascione, had only commenced employment the day before the Amata meeting and was unavailable to attend.Mr Drummond who describes the non-attendance as "a boycott", says that AP were thus forced to employ their own lawyers.However, Ms Ramzan says hiring lawyers has to be the subject of an executive decision."Where are the resolution and the minutes relating to this?" she asks.The News also has been told that there is no minuted record of discussion at executive meetings of MBH's proposals over the last two and half years.While discussion and negotiation may have taken place with individual executive members, they have no authority to act on behalf of AP, according to Ms Ramzan. Mr Drummond argues that, according to the provisions of the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act, a quorum of five executive members can make an executive decision, and that the five members present at the Amata meeting had properly ascertained the wishes of traditional owners."We have done a deal with the people," says Mr Drummond. The deed would allow an expansion of exploration, in return for which Aboriginal people on The Lands would become "direct equity owners" of any resulting mining venture. He says that under the terms of the deed each and every licence application would still have to be agreed to by the traditional owners whose land is affected, and no exploration activity would be undertaken without a sacred sites clearance by recognised and independent anthropologists.Any subsequent mining would then, as now, be subject to separate agreement with traditional owners and carried out entirely within the provisions of the South Australian Mining Act and the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act. Mr Drummond says negotiations were initiated by some individuals on the Pitjantjatjara Council with the support of some traditional owners.He says well known Aboriginal businessman Charlie Perkins and "some Sydney financial people" established the Pitjantjatjara Mining Company (PMC) and transferred it as a trust company to traditional owners on The Lands.Mr Perkins and others have remained involved through their interest in the exploration company Taliwell Pty Ltd, which, upon an investment of $5m in exploration, will earn a 50 per cent equity in the PMC's 12 exploration licences. Taliwell is a party to the disputed deed, together with MBH and, as they claim, AP.However, according to Mr Drummond, Taliwell has not been able to raise the necessary $5m to carry out exploration and MBH has a purchase agreement with Taliwell to make it a subsidiary of MBH.PMC, as a result of its joint venture with Taliwell, has also negotiated for itself five million shares and five million options in MBH.The deed signed by the five executive members at Amata has yet to have AP's common seal affixed to it. Mr Drummond says an executive meeting has been scheduled for early July, and if the Pitjantjatjara Council's legal service does not comply with the wishes of the executive and affix the common seal, "there will be some interesting developments".However, the News understands that while the controversial deed is on the agenda for discussion at the meeting, it will not be a meeting for determination. At the time of going to press, the AP Chairman had not responded to a request to contact the News.


Desert Mob, the joint exhibition presented annually by Araluen, towards which many of Central Australia's Aboriginal art centres work over the year, is once again a triumphant expression of a vigorous culture finding new forms of expression.Apart from outstanding individual works, and a general brilliance of one or another art centre that tends to vary from year to year, the attraction of the successive shows has always also been the sheer scope and abundance of the work, and the pleasure of seeing new artists, and art and craft forms, emerge as the art movement spreads from community to community.In this, the show's ninth year, it is particularly welcome to see fine art works hold their own, after a spate of negative media attention, some of which has questioned Aboriginal art's very core, its motivation "from the heart".Several artists practising in the art centres which have established a name for themselves around the world in particular, Papunya Tula (the oldest, now servicing Kintore, Kiwirrkurra, Mt Liebig and Papunya), Ikuntji (Haasts Bluff) and Warlayirti (Balgo) assert themselves in Desert Mob as fully in command of their means and driven by a clear and compelling vision.In the case of Ikuntji, to take one example, their artistic success has been matched by market demand, leading to an astonishing 68 per cent increase in turnover in the last financial year. This performance relies mostly on the work of a consistent group of seven artists. Ikuntji art centre coordinator Una Rey says there are probably another seven who paint less consistently, and still others who paint occasionally, but more resources are needed to support the development of new artists.Two other centres, Hermannsburg Potters and Warumpi Arts, recently reviewed by ATSIC, the principal funding body for Aboriginal art centres Australia-wide, have also demonstrated a jump in turnover of more than 40 per cent.These results are extremely encouraging both for the centres and their umbrella body, Desart, whose executive officer Ron Brien says the centres appear to be on a roll since their positive AGM earlier in the year."People can see a whole future out there for them in the Aboriginal art industry and it has an impact on their art there seems to be a resurgence in the work," says Mr Brien.He says an exciting new painting style developed by artists from Kaltjiti Arts and Crafts in Fregon, about 500 kilometres southwest of Alice, in the Pitjantjatjara Lands, will be launched later this year at the Rainbow Serpent Gallery, in partnership with Desart, in Sydney's Fox Studios.Meanwhile, Kaltjiti is well represented in Desert Mob by its boldly graphic screen printed fabrics.Kaltjiti and Jukurrpa Artists (based in Alice Springs, and who are exhibiting a new range of painted glass vases in Desert Mob)) have just signed a licensing agreement for the reproduction of their designs on t-shirts and small pewter objects. Desart has also been able to generate, through fees for its services, the necessary $9000 to sample up a clothing range using licensed designs by four art centres in the region.Work from the art centres will be exhibited in the Gift Fair in Sydney in September, and the national tour of Straight from the Heart, a show of works from Araluen's and the art centres' own collections, has led to requests for a similar touring exhibition of works for sale.As important as these achievements are, perhaps more fundamental is the progress Desart is making in the area of industry policy.Detailed work on developing a quality assurance label has begun. The label, which will be used in conjunction with the national authenticity label, will eventually be available to all art centres and individual artists meeting its requirements in the Top End, Central Australia and the Pitjantjatjara Lands.Susan Congreve, ANKAAA project officer working on the development of the label, says it will be implemented in phases.The first phase will involve the education of the art centres and the public in industry best practice from production to sales.This will include information about standard contracts and base rates for commissions and licensing fees.Ms Congreve says the project is huge, involving a large working group including representatives from the NT Government's Departments of Arts and Museums, and of Industry and Business, who are offering in kind support and advice.She says the project wants to promote an awareness of art centres as Aboriginal owned community organisations operating on a sound ethical basis."We want people to know that not all of the industry is in the hands of middle people," says Ms Congreve."The label will eventually allow buyers to discriminate between works produced and marketed in an ethical context and works produced in conditions outside of any guidelines or acceptable standards."

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