July 14, 1999


Residents in the Rangeview Estate rural area fear a dog baiter is at work, after Sandy Crogan found her neighbours' dog dead in her carport, with froth around her mouth.Her neighbours told her that they had only let the dog out an hour earlier and were shocked to discover it was dead.They in turn had heard from their neighbours that their dog had died mysteriously in their house a few days earlier, and another dog in their neighbourhood is missing. Pathology samples were taken from the dog found by Mrs Crogan but the results will not be known for 30 days.Police have conducted patrols in the area and will continue to do so until the results are known, but to date have nothing further to report.Mrs Crogan says her concern is also for children who may pick up a bait, and even if they don't eat it, may put their fingers in their mouth and get sick.Former police chief, now Alice Springs' Mayor, Andy McNeill says "the Alice Springs dog baiter" has been in existence for all of his 41 years in the Territory."A common headline particularly in the ‘seventies and early ‘eighties was ‘Alice Springs dog baiter strikes again', but I reckon he had a lot of mates," says Mr McNeill."The minute there was a bit of publicity, anyone who wanted to get rid of a dog would bait it."Baits were a part of life here in those days. There were always notices in the paper about dingo baits being laid on station land surrounding Alice Springs."It's possible that some dogs picked up bait from there."No dog baiter was ever arrested to my knowledge. "All they have to do is throw something over a fence, so it would take a lot of luck to catch one."That's not to say it can't happen. People talk and no one's immune from prosecution."If anyone was ever convicted they should get the maximum penalty because of the cruelty to the animal."People always worry about children picking up bait, but I have never heard of a child being affected."I think people talk about it as a way of appealing to a baiter's conscience," says Mr McNeill.Longtime Alice businessman Reg Harris remembers "dog baiter" stories flying in the early ‘fifties.A certain man who did odd jobs around town would go out dingo baiting on the weekends, and the people's suspicions fell upon him.When the pet bull dog of a tough police sergeant was poisoned, Mr Harris says the dingo baiter was threatened with exposure, and "lo and behold the baiting stopped".Mr Harris also recalls a local businessman being "exposed" by his own children who reported to their school mates that their father had taken them for a drive down the back lanes of the Old Eastside, "throwing stuff over fences".Once again, nothing was ever proven.Local historian Jose Petrick's pet "bitser" Snoopy was baited in 1979. She noticed him running around in circles madly and was lucky enough to be able to induce vomiting and the dog recovered.By coincidence, Mrs Crogan, flicking though an old Australasian Post, dated June 10, 1954, found a report about dog baiting in the Alice by the late Alan Wauchope.WATCHDOGSMr Wauchope wrote of a 200 pound reward that had been on offer for the previous four years, for information leading to the arrest of the baiter."Every year about this time the ‘dog poisoner' gets going, and children's pets, faithful watchdogs – and strangely enough only a few strays – meet a painful end as the result of a bait."With my own eyes last Saturday I saw a lovely little dog stiffen and die in the main shopping area of the town, on the footpath outside one of our largest stores."The reward is still standing and the unfortunate dogs are still falling. Nice thought, isn't it?" wrote Mr Wauchope.


Universal Constructions has closed its doors in Alice Springs after more than 30 years as the second major building company in the town, with a loss of seven permanent jobs and casual employment for dozens of sub-contractors.Manager Peter Cheel, who has moved to Perth to work with Universal's parent company there, says the decision to close has been made because there are few prospects for major projects – government or private – in the near future."It's been dwindling over the past 12 to 18 months," says Mr Cheel.He says the Darwin railway is still uncertain and even if it eventuates, the likely beneficiaries are the construction companies linked to the recently selected consortium, none of them represented in Alice Springs.The Sid Ross and Hetti Perkins hostels, worth $5m and both funded mainly from Federal sources, were the last two projects for Universal.Universal's closure leaves Sitzler Brothers as the sole local construction company capable of tackling multi million dollar contracts.Mr Cheel says there is still no certainty about the ‘on again, off again' refurbishment of the Alice hospital: no master plan has yet been produced.There are no other Territory Government projects on the go.It's a far cry from the boom times which brought Universal Constructions to the Alice, with the abattoir in Smith Street as its first "job" in 1962.This was followed by Yirara College, the Alice Springs High School, the police station, CSIRO, the town library and last year, the St Philip's College hall, as well as a string of smaller projects.Minister for Central Australia Loraine Braham commented that Universal's closure was disappointing, but "Alice Springs is a competitive marketplace and it has to be accepted that some players will drop out"."Despite the closure, business confidence in Central Australia is still strong with more than $40m worth of development projects underway," said Mrs Braham.These projects include the $10m Ghan Estate and Western Precinct subdivisions, the $10m expansion of Lasseters Casino and internet gaming operation, and the $5m expansion of the Alice Springs Pacific Resort."Planned Government projects include the $5m relocation of the Tourism and Hospitality Training Centre to Centralian College, $14m Alice Springs Hospital redevelopment, $1.1m sealing of the Alice Springs to Kings Canyon tourist loop road and the $310,000 Larapinta preschool extension." Government has increased its budget allocation for first home owners to $23m Territory-wide to encourage the housing industry," said Mrs Braham.


Aranda House manager Allen Furber says operations at the youth refuge had to be scaled down well before the end of June when public funding, mainly from ATSIC, came to an end.He says heavy demand on the services of Aranda House earlier in the year had depleted resources.Former staff members had claimed that because of mismanagement, the money had run out well before the end of the fiscal year, and the facility had been all but defunct since about early May."This is incorrect," says Mr Furber. "We did operate with ATSIC funding until the end of June."He provided to the Alice News the following figures for overnight admissions: December 209, January 192, February 354, March 674, April 233, May 77 and June 50.Mr Furber said admissions in the final two months were sharply lower because "high client numbers in the months leading up to April" had created a "financial burden": The ideal staff to client ratio is seven to one, he says, and because extra hours had to be worked in March and April, the operations had to be scaled down in May and June.Mr Furber says some children had to be refused admission during the final two months because there was not enough money to pay staff.He says an ATSIC "allocation of $196,000, the major component, was to be utilised for group workers" making it necessary to "rationalise the operations of Aranda House until further funding became available".The overnight admission figures include referrals to Aranda House by Territory Health, which were separately funding five places at the refuge.Mr Furber was unable to say how many of the overnight stays were the result of referrals from Territory Health; the Alice News has asked Territory Health for information.Meanwhile Anne Ronberg, who chairs the Central Australian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (CAACCA), says there is still no response from ATSIC in Canberra about any further funding. The application has now been taken out of the hands of the Alice Springs Regional ATSIC committee, which declined to comment.ATSIC had earlier indicated that its contributions towards the running of Aranda House had been an interim measure only, and ATSIC had made no undertaking for ongoing support.ATSIC sources had also claimed that the funding of the refuge was a responsibility of the NT Government, under Section 69 of its own Welfare Act, requiring it to care for Aboriginal children in need.A spokesman for NT Health Minister Steve Dunham said it was his view that Aranda House should continue to receive "a cocktail of funding" from Territory and Federal sources, including ATSIC (Alice News, June 23.)As reported by the Alice News, Federal and Territory officials are now assisting Aranda House and CAACCA to find a solution to the crisis which has left dozens of children in need without assistance.Ms Ronberg would not reveal the reasons for the dismissal of committee member Ray Cochrane, claiming this to be a confidential matter.However, in an interview with the Alice News, Mr Furber and Ms Ronberg produced a letter from the Federal Department of Family and Community Services dealing with the expenditure for a new office in Hartley Street.Former members of Aranda House staff and management had alleged to the Alice News that up to $70,000 had been wasted on the new office in the CBD, while there was ample office space at Aranda House itself, and at a time when the refuge was about to close its doors because of a lack of money.The letter from the Federal Department of Family and Community Services says, in part, that "the surplus that is referred to ... is an amount of $60,000" and "while Aranda House is in crisis, the grant could not be used to support Aranda House".Mr Furber told the Alice News that $29,000 had been spent on the new office, including $12,000 for annual rent.Aranda House, which is the property of the NT Government, is available to the organisation for a "peppercorn rent".The Alice News has asked the Federal Minister of Family and Community Services, Senator Jocelyn Newman, why she is apparently providing substantial funding for an office whose principal purpose is the administration of a facility that now no longer exists, or at least whose future is in grave doubt.This is apparently not the sole problem with the Aranda House funding which came from a mix of Federal and Territory sources.In reply to an allegation by sacked board member Ray Cochrane, that no cook or assistant manager had been hired (Alice News, June 23), Mr Furber says these positions had in fact been filled.[See this archive section for previous reports on the Aranda House controversy.]


In Alice Springs the questions "how long have you been here" and "why are you here" are commonly asked to gauge your credibility and general worth, the second one frequently seeking to elicit what you may be running away from "down south".So, if length of stay does in fact enhance someone's bona fides, you were in excellent company if you attended the annual dinner last week organised by the indomitable Margaret Baker, with town council support, for people who've been in the Territory for at least 25 years.It's a great occasion to reflect on the past and look into the future. This year, Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA – as a 1974 arrival in The Alice qualifying for the first time – went along to The Settlers and talked to some of the 160 "locals" attending.
Bid Rose, born in Alice, lived "up and down the Territory": I always thought I'd move interstate but the jobs are always here, and my family is always here. Opportunities were always here for young people, there's no hierarchy, having to serve your time ... if you have the get up and go, they let you have a chance in the Territory.I want the Territory to achieve statehood, and I want the various cultures, particularly Aboriginal and white, to come closer in their level of living. Hopefully, some more industry will be developing here, to keep young people in the Territory. There should be manufacturing, something outside tourism and agriculture. The Darwin railway? Alice has already got it, but it will have a big impact on my former home town, Tennant Creek, and on Darwin.
Allan Page, winner of The Centralian of the Year, the NT Achiever and the Rotary's Paul Harris awards: All for community service, they're probably the highlights of his life in The Centre. What does he hope for the future? "Ah, I'd just like to see things keeping going as they are."
Tom Ganley, accountant: Alice Springs has provided a good career path. I was educated in the NT education system, and went to NTU. There are great sporting facilities in Alice Springs, for a town of 25,000 to 28,000 people it provides a lot of opportunities. If you're prepared to make the commitment to the town you'll be rewarded.I suppose I'm a bit selfish in one respect, hope Alice Springs doesn't get too much bigger. I think we're at a manageable size, where lots of people know each other and can care for each other. We've got no manufacturing base in Alice Springs, so that's an untapped opportunity. We're gradually entering into agriculture. I think hydroponics is one [potential growth] area. Maybe we can get more self sufficient in our own produce, certainly we are in livestock and meat.We rely to a huge degree on tourism, so it may be a good idea to diversify into other opportunities.
Kathryn Perry, third generation: I was born into a working class background, my grandfather was an early pioneer in the Territory. He came to Tennant Creek in the early 1900s. I have achieved a law degree in the NT University, something I wanted to do since I was 10, and I achieved that when I was 27. I've now been a solicitor for four years, and the opportunities that have been given to me are something I would have never hoped for when I was younger.My parents gave me these opportunities.I'd like to see the Territory to continue to grow, and I think it will. I think there needs to be more support of one another and of the unique environment we're living in. The Territory is a very special place, and I think it needs to be treated as a special place.I haven't formed an opinion on statehood. I think we need to focus on the education of our younger people, teach them what's actually happening. I've studied constitutional law through my degree and I still don't grasp the full concept of statehood.I have [formed an opinion] on the railway. I think it will be good for some aspects but I'm concerned for the Alice Springs community. We have a huge transport industry here, what will they do? I don't know whether it's been properly thought through.Pine Gap, which now has a huge presence in Alice Springs, from what I hear hasn't got long term goals for us; obviously it's all rumour because nobody will tell you anything.I definitely don't agree with mandatory sentencing. I think taking away judicial discretion is wrong. You cannot impose a mandatory sentence of 14 days on people committing a first offence, putting a black mark on people's names for something wrong they did as a young person.
Nadine Collier (born in Darwin): I came to Alice for a month three years ago and decided to stay. I'm a lawyer and have just become a partner with Bowden, Turner and Deane, which is soon to become Bowden, Collier and Deane.The best part of growing up in the Territory is to suddenly feel proud of your identity.When I was younger, growing up in Darwin, you almost went through a stage of pretending you came from somewhere else because people your age came from interstate, and they thought it was a bit strange you were born in Darwin. Territorians are a wonderful species of people, very different from people interstate, they're friendly, unpretentious. The Territory gives you a go. You can come here, you can achieve what you would never achieve interstate. Especially as young person you have those opportunities. I don't think I would have reached the point I've now reached with my career if I were interstate. The NT welcomes people with initiative, who have the courage to make a difference. It's just great being a young person here! What are we doing wrong? The Territory probably could have handled issues affecting Aboriginal people a bit differently, that's a big issue. It's a problem that's been around for a long time, that hasn't really been resolved, after a lot of time, money and effort. Maybe that's no-one's fault, but that's just how it seems to me.Alice should get a bit bigger, self-sustaining. Statehood isn't a bad idea, it was a bit rushed the last time, people became a bit afraid of it, but it would be nice to be recognized as part of Australia. We tend to get left off the map.


KIERAN FINNANE continues her report on the distribution of the arts dollar in Alice Springs. See last week's issue for Part One.
NT Arts Minister Peter Adamson says Alice Springs is faring better than Darwin in the per capita distribution of arts dollars – by a margin of of $27.57 ($122.20 compared to $84.63).This has been made possible by the advent of the Regional Arts Fund (RAF), a matched contribution arrangement between the Territory and the Commonwealth, which has put $1m into arts in the regions over the last two years, and which has now been extended for another two years.On the ground, however, one can be forgiven for wondering where all this money has gone. Of course there is a lot of arts activity in Alice Springs – there is always a new exhibition somewhere and a show in the wings – but in some observable ways local arts seem worse off than they once were.There used to be a community arts worker based at Araluen; now there isn't. There used to be a youth theatre based at Araluen; now there isn't. The youth theatre that still exists (Centre Stage) is presently barred from funding.Araluen, despite its new role in the cultural precinct, has experienced the loss of some facilities. There is a Regional Development Officer, but this position has existed since 1996, before the advent of the RAF.Watch This Space, an artist-run initiative which has had a significant developmental impact on the visual arts scene here, has been unsuccessful in arguing for major arts organisation status and funding, and still has to get by from one small grant to the next.The Department's involvement in the Aboriginal arts industry has also been relatively minor given the flagship status of Aboriginal art in Central Australian culture. On the plus side, however, has been the funding for a part-time Youth Arts Coordinator, Virginia Heydon, for the Youth Arts Steering Committee which has been meeting regularly since the start of the year. (There has been a $50,050 expenditure on youth arts activity, for a total of 10 projects, in Alice Springs in the last financial year.)In a letter to the Alice News, Mr Adamson also notes: "Administrative support for the arts in general across Alice Springs has increased due to the Department's take-over of the Araluen Centre from the Alice Springs Town Council. "Appropriation provided by the Territory to the Council for the Araluen Centre in 1995/1996 was $623,000, compared to 1998/99 estimated expenditure of $1.811m, less $400,000 in receipts, for the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct through the Araluen Centre (excluding the Strehlow Centre)."He concludes: "You will agree that the support provided for arts and museums in Alice Springs is indeed significant, reflecting the Government's commitment to regions."All things, however, are relative.The Centre Stage versus Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre case has always seemed particularly pointed. If Centre Stage had had some funded administrative support and security, it would never have got into the difficulties that it did.In the year preceding Centre Stage's near closure when it received a total of $6,000 in grants for the performance of Hamlet and Evita, CIYT received from the Territory Government $62,000 for administration and operations, as well as $13,600 for two productions and $10,520 for a Youth Arts Consultancy.The 1997/98 Department of Arts and Museums' annual report reveals that CIYT, through Brown's Mart Community Arts Inc, is but one of 20 Darwin-based recipients of annual funding. Of these, half have a stated Territory-wide function. However, $981,035 of the total allocation of $1,506,235, was spent on administration and operations (projects were additionally funded) of organisations with Darwin responsibilities only.This was roughly equal to the allocation for Araluen that year, but did not include the allocation for Museums and Art Galleries of the NT of $3,995,000, out of which only $357,000 went to regional museums.Nobody wants arts money to be swallowed up in bureaucracies, but on the other hand adequate and ongoing funding of administration and operations of arts organisations means the development of significant expertise in arts administration and structures, while creative talent is freed to create.A reasonable security of funding also allows the development of long-term planning and vision, whereas hobbling from one small grant to the next keeps vision focussed on the short-term.While Mr Adamson's support for arts and museums in Alice Springs – a town that has, in some important respects, a place on the Australian and world cultural maps – may be "significant", is it adequate, and is it fair?

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