August 11, 1999


A "user pays" system at the landfill is flagged as an option for the Alice Town Council, and more effective controls over dumping of dangerous and noxious wastes are being introduced.In the next two weeks, the council will prohibit the disposal of waste oil at the landfill unless consumers have a written statement from the two local buyers of waste oil, confirming they are unable to accept the product.And taking to the tip as much garbage as you like at no additional charge may come to an end as the council is gearing up to comply, by early next year, with the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act 1998.One option is to install a weigh bridge and charge per kilogram, or to issue vouchers for ratepayers, entitling them to a limited number of trailer loads per year."Dumping as much as you like is a luxury we can no longer afford," says Ald Geoff Miers, chairman of the council's committee for planning, infrastructure and environmental services.Complying with the new requirements is likely to double to current price tag of $400,000 a year for running the dump, but a more reliable estimate will be available when a consultant hands in his report in about one month's time.There is concern that cost recovery other than through garbage rates may lead to indiscriminate dumping.On the other hand, higher charges are likely to stimulate recycling and waste minimisation, according to Ald Miers. He says the waste oil initiative is a first step.At present, the companies Hannons and Grease Monkeys accept waste oil from time to time.These and one other firm are each looking at setting up a bulk receiving depot at the landfill as part of the present restructuring.At present the price paid for waste oil interstate, which fluctuates between 20 cents and 80 cents, influences whether or not the product is accepted in Alice Springs.Ald Miers says he has no hard evidence that dangerous substances, such as asbestos, are being indiscriminately taken to the town tip, but admits that present monitoring may be inadequate to uncover such activities.He does not rule out industry reports that waste from interstate is being taken to Alice Springs where disposal is still free of effective monitoring.For example, removing of asbestos from building is strictly regulated, and heavy fines now apply to pouring contaminants down drains.Although the new rules and much heavier fines are now in place, the current system at the land fill makes it difficult to enforce them at the tip face.The Alice News has been told that in some states it costs hundred of thousands of dollars to dispose of certain toxic wastes.Even dumping tires can cost from $5 for a car tire to $20 for a truck tire and $200 for a tire from an earth moving machine.Council Director of Planning and Infrastructure Roger Bottrall says he's been told that some road train drivers change their tires in Alice Springs, and dump their old ones here, to save disposal fees interstate.He says it appears there are more tires being taken to the local dump than one would expect for a town the size of Alice Springs.Ald Miers says current rates include an annual rubbish disposal fee of $68 (up from $60 last year), but this entitles private people to use the dump without limit. (Companies are assessed as to their needs and pay a rate accordingly. The ceiling of $2000 has now been removed.)Mr Bottrall says the current review has several objectives.The landfill construction and operation will need to be designed so that it will be known what the landfill will look like in the future "rather than decided in an ad-hoc fashion".There will be standards for dust, odour and landfill gas emissions. Storm water, litter, noise and amenity loss will be brought under control. Compliance with set standards will be monitored by an independent party."The landfill will change into a waste management centre for Alice Springs."Upon completion the landfill will be rehabilitated to ensure integration into the environment," says Mr Bottrall."Council will remain responsible for the landfill once the site has been closed."There are no present plans for relocating the landfill.

ALICE NEWS UNDER SIEGE. Comment by the Editor.

Two real estate agents, The Professionals and Framptons, who have placed their print advertising exclusively with the Alice Springs News since the beginning of March this year, are this week advertising in the Centralian Advocate.This follows what appears to be an unprecedented collusion between the Murdoch-controlled newspaper and an instrumentality of the Territory Government.The agents informed us late last week that the government has demanded that advertising for auctions of former Housing Commission real estate must be done in the Advocate, or else the agent currently holding the auction contract, The Professionals, would lose it.Government land auction advertising has been a regular part of The Professionals' advertising in the Alice News, which is entirely Alice Springs owned and operated, and has by far the biggest circulation (11,000, audited by the Circulations Audit Board).We have informed NT Chief Minister Denis Burke, and asked for his intervention.Simultaneously, the Advocate has introduced massive discounts for real estate advertising, according to the agents. This advertising is both overt and disguised as editorial content.The Alice News has requested the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to enquire whether a misuse of market power and predatory pricing is taking place, and to lodge a prosecution if appropriate.Framptons and The Professionals told us that they were satisfied with the level of service provided by the Alice News, as well as with the results of their advertising with us so far, but they were offered an unbeatable deal by the Advocate, one which is uneconomic and can only be achieved with the resources of a large corporation.The Alice News, the Territory's largest independent newspaper, is now in its sixth year of weekly publication, the first ever sustained challenge to the previous Murdoch monopoly in the town.As a free circulation publication, the Alice News relies for income on advertising. Advertising from Framptons and The Professionals has been a vital part of our expansion and we look forward to getting it back.– EDITOR


Sir,- I write in support of Alderman Geoff Harris in his effort to have the Alice Springs Town Council address the social injustice that Mandatory Sentencing is now inflicting on our town. Unless a local authority begins to assume real responsibility in this matter, Alice Springs will be forced to carry an ever increasing level of crime.I have written to the Chief Minister, and his predecessor, expressing my concern with this law. I see it as a travesty of justice doing nothing to combat or reduce crime. All it will do is further alienate an already disaffected sector of our town.The belated responses received from both Chief Ministers expressed no concern for those being locked up. Their responses were saying that the goods and chattels of some are of a higher priority than the lives of others. These others are the young people being consigned to the prison system because of Mandatory Sentencing, and at too early an age. They are being prepared for membership in a system that is near impossible to break free from, even after formal release.And as far as payment for such goes, us tax payers are having to pay for the ineptitude of the Northern Territory Government. Instead of making any real effort to tackle the social problems of unemployment, truancy, poor retention rates, youth suicide etc, now part of life all over the NT, our government foists on us this draconian legislation and reckons they are addressing the problems. They might be deluding themselves, but they are not fooling me for a moment. Action such as this I see as a heartless expression of ineptitude.A few weeks back, when the council took action on this matter via the community workshop, I was really encouraged. I kick myself know because I didn't write and encourage them all. Would a letter of encouragement then, from a long term Centralian, have seen more aldermen supporting Geoff?The aforementioned social problems are really symptoms of a sick body. Now this sickness can be attended to by concentrating on different ones of the symptoms as they appear, a common modern day approach. In time however, if the real cause of the sickness is not addressed, the whole body begins to decay.I strongly encourage the Alice Springs Council to show real leadership before it is to late. And building a flash conference centre will only increase the symptoms of this sickness.
John Pettit
Alice Springs

Sir,- The NT Government's assertions that the Aboriginal bilingual education programs are not working in either language are based on what evidence? What criteria are being applied? How is this measured? Have matriculation levels dropped in comparison to the time when there was no bilingual program? Perhaps the government needs to look at this issue from a different perspective and use different criteria to measure the success of a bilingual program. It could start with a person's pride in their own culture – there is a raft of studies in cultural psychology that demonstrate very clearly the advantages to an adopted culture (white Australian) resulting from an individual's strong identification with their own culture (in this case Aboriginal). Educate yourselves, NT members of parliament, and look them up. On another level, ask yourselves to what extent does a global interest in the Aboriginal people and their unique culture translate into tourist dollars? With the right marketing the bilingual Aboriginal culture could generate big dollars simply because it is unique in a world of fake cultures and a MacDonald's on every corner. It is its very difference that makes it valuable. Wake up to yourselves, boys, and recognise that your government has a golden opportunity that can be realised only by maintaining a successful bilingual education program for Aboriginal people. What you need to do to make it successful is put in enough funding and expertise to guarantee it works. It's a gilt-edged investment for all Australians.
Reid Moule

Sir, – I note that the "musos" of Alice Springs now have their own gossip column, courtesy of the witty reportage of Graeme Peter (Alice News , August 4.)Graeme's interview with the enduring and hirsute jazz man Herman Marcic provided an insider's view of the problems facing local practitioners of the music industry.Herman says they face discrimination from venue managers, who "treat musos as lower than cleaners."Well at least most cleaners and musos do not have to contend with the added burden of a physical disability, although I've heard some members of the latter professional class often do get legless.I must therefore object to the Musos' Joke of the Week, which referred to a deception exercised by musos to obtain a disabled parking space, that is, they leave their sticks on the dashboard.This joke is not even funny if you're someone who isn't entitled to use a disability park. I cannot imagine how it would be received by those who actually need and rely on one. And any offence is sure to be even more keenly felt, considering that the disability lobby is forced to complain continually about people using these parking spaces without the proper entitlement.To my mind the joke is in poor taste and is certain to offend. I hope Graeme's contributions do not generate similar reactions as they proceed to occupy a chunk of a page in future editions of your newspaper.It would not be music to our ears.
Meredith Campbell
Alice Springs


Newly installed Centralian College Council chairman, John McBride, is passionate about education in Central Australia.He sees no reason why one day in the future Alice Springs could not be a centre of learning, attracting people from all over the world to come here to study.He is passionate too about what education can do for the individual – "It empowers us, we know it."Irish born, he says the Irish have a special understanding of the power of education.He sees it as a way forward for the indigenous people of the Centre.One third of the college's enrolled students are of Aboriginal descent, a fact of which Mr McBride says the college is "very proud".With many of these students in Years 11 and 12, the college will this year establish a homework centre to help them work towards graduation."We are very sensitive to their needs because they make up such a large proportion of our community."We are constantly endeavouring to cater for the types of courses and subjects that the students wish to pursue and that are relevant to them," says Mr McBride.There is a representative from the ASSPA (Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness) Committee on the council.Council is also looking at setting up a sub-committee to help meet the needs of Aboriginal students. "We're not telling students what they need, we want them to inform us," says Mr McBride."This college has to listen, learn and then provide the best possible venue and opportunity for students to undertake and complete their courses."Mr McBride was approached to join the council three years ago because of his profession as a solicitor."There is a need for the college to have people from various walks of life on their council, who have an interest in education and are aware of and can express what the community's concerns about educational issues might be," says Mr McBride."It's rare that serious concerns come up, but if you have a broad representation of the community on the council then you are in a better position to know what they are."The college is unique, catering for the educational needs of a very diverse and large community, demographically and geographically speaking. "As an integrated college incorporating senior secondary, TAFE and higher education, it has tackled education in a very progressive way."It goes to the marketplace, it looks for what is needed."It is involved on national bodies, visits other campuses, has hosted and will continue to host national conventions in various facets of education aligned to what the college is providing. "Although it's geographically remote it keeps itself right in the middle of all those activities."It's very well equipped from the IT point of view."We just had delivered to us a whole new bank of computers, we're on line, we see that as very important to the future."A major project for the college over the next couple of years will be the relocation of Gillen House.Capital works money is available and the plans are now being developed.It will have "state of the art facilities" for tourism and hospitality training, including in the butchery, catering and commercial accommodation sectors.Will prospective butchers still be able to do an apprenticeship at Centralian College?"To my knowledge, yes," says Mr McBride."The facilities will be more integrated than at Gillen House, but that is just a matter of utilising scarce resources more efficiently."Will there be an expansion of the Northern Territory University presence at the college?EXPANDMr McBride says he is "not in a position to comment" but "we want to expand each and every aspect of learning at the three levels as best we can"."I'd love to see Alice Springs being provided with a uni campus but there has to be a demand for it. The population isn't big enough as yet, but by collaboration with NTU now, we are laying the groundwork."It will grow in time."A "highly successful" undertaking by the college has been the Enterprise Centre, "a commercial arm whereby the college provides training tailored to the specific needs of business houses on a fee for service basis".Mr McBride says it has been "modestly profitable" with the profits pumped straight back into improving the college's resources.He says the council "continuously evaluates the college's performance in terms of results, the choices on offer and the sensitivities of the community to what's on offer at every level".He says the college's senior secondary students have had "tremendous success academically" in the past few years.He says a survey of national senior secondary education has shown a trend to deliver it in the context of a multi-sector college, which is "what we are doing now".This means offering traditional Year 11 and Year 12 courses but also allowing students to pursue TAFE and even higher education courses. "They can do that if time permits and enthusiasm allows," says Mr McBride. "Senior secondary students are of an age where they have a choice about whether to receive education or not. "A more disciplined and regimented style of instruction is a style that is disappearing, students have to be motivated to want to learn by what's on offer."Mr McBride says Alice Springs residents no longer need to leave the town to get a good education."It should be and has to be available here, in this community."We are at a crossroads educationally because of the computer age, and we have the technology within the college to be as good as any institution in the country."I would like in the future for people to say of education in Alice Springs that is it second to none, and that it equips people with skills and knowledge that will enable them to go anywhere in the world. "I think we are already doing that at the levels where we operate."


Alice author Kenny Laughton dedicates his autobiographical novel, Not Quite Men, No Longer Boys to the mates he made on his two tours of duty in Vietnam, "the finest bunch of men one could ever wish to serve with".In the poem that acts as a prologue to the novel he asks "But will they remember us, the ‘Tunnel Rats of Phuoc Tuy'?" In page after page of his novel, by evoking the particular qualities, escapades and achievements of these men, he endeavours to ensure that we do (see Alice News, July 28).While Laughton brought these cherished friendships back from Vietnam, he also brought back the trauma of war, both physical and mental. From the novel, it would appear that the army's main strategy to help soldiers in the field cope with stress was to supply ridiculously cheap and plentiful beer and cigarettes. But now Repat Hospitals are picking up the pieces, with many of "our boys in the fifties age group all crashing", according to Laughton. How much healing did he have to do?Laughton: "My healing has been very recent, it's only happened since 1996 when I stopped work and I had to go to the Repat Hospital in Adelaide. "In the last three years I probably spent a year and a half in the psych ward down there getting my head sorted out with the shrinks. I'm not intimidated by that anymore. "When I first heard I was going to a psych ward I got freaked out, I thought I was going to be in with all these crazies, turned out I'm crazy anyway so it didn't matter. "I was in there with all the other vets, it was like being on R & R for me, and the other vets would say the same, that's been the best medicine for all of us, the company of other veterans. "But we can't do that stuff on our own, we need the help of the psychiatrists to pull us through and get it out."A lot of us didn't know we had this sort of stuff to deal with."Laughton wrote the last chapter of his novel in the psych ward when he "was starting to feel that healing thing coming through."With the book and its successful reception behind him, Laughton now says that "in some ways it was a blessing getting sick".The experience has shown him that there is "something else he can do".He has already written four chapters of his next novel, a family saga of the Centre, drawn from the past three generations of his family:"I just fund out very recently that my great grandfather on my Dad's side, Frederick Mescher, was born in Berlin in 1854 and he came out here for the gold rushes. He's buried out at Arltunga."I'm going to take the novel back over his story and the old grandfather's story, Jim Laughton, one of the founding members of the Turf Club here, with old Ted Hayes, and another old uncle, Charlie Dubois."They even had a Melbourne Cup horse once, won the 1922 Melbourne Cup, born and bred at Huckitta – the old grandfather had the station back in them days."The last bit is going to be about Dad because he was part of the stolen generation, old Herbie."When I told him I was going to write this second book, he was so rapt."I've been trying for years to get him to write his memoirs, he's written about 200 hundred pages now on that era, at Arltunga and Huckitta, that's going to be a great resource for the next book. He can talk about the pastoralists' side, the missionaries' side, the blackfella side, the European side as far as the gold rush is concerned."He's also written a lot about the town side. Our family's no different to a lot of families here because when he got taken away, he lost contact with his parents and never got them back. They told him his old Mum had gone mad, that wasn't true, they'd sent her as a domestic over to Queensland or somewhere, he was never able to trace any of that stuff."When you lose contact with your family, you lose all your cultural history too."I haven't had the advantage of some people who have had that contact all the way through from their parents and grandparents."They've been able to glean their cultural history, but there's a big gap missing from our family, you can't pick all of that back up. You can go and learn a language but it's not like getting it from those cultural teachers, the old people. I never knew 'em."Laughton is also working on a taboo-breaking pantomime about life in the army.One day, when he considers he is skilled enough, he wants to embark on a series of 10 or 12 novels "from the Dreamtime to when Cook first came". For the time being, Laughton will continue to live in Adelaide.Is it good for his writing to be away from Alice?He misses his family very much, but when he became ill he was finding the demands of life in Alice "very, very hard to cope with"."I've got the security of the hospital down there."Whenever I feel a bit no good, I just go down to ward 17, all the vets boys are there and I feel as safe as houses. In that sense Adelaide has been very good. But one day I may come back this way, it's still country, you know."Not Quite Men, No Longer Boys is published by IAD Press under its Jukurrpa Books imprint. Available at bookshops.


Chair of the Senate Committee of Inquiry into Indigenous Education, Senator Jacinta Collins, says she and other senators were shocked to see the poor state of school buildings and resources at Papunya, when they visited last week."The Commonwealth puts a lot of money into indigenous education, but Papunya is a clear example of the money not getting to where it is needed," said Sen Collins."The school was built in the ‘sixties and needs things as basic as re-wiring."Sen Collins said the committee's half day at Papunya was too short to fully understand the history and scope of the school's difficulties but that there seemed to be a problem of "interface" between the community and the Northern Territory Government, that dates back to the dispute over power charges a few years ago.The committee, whose report will offer advice to the Commonwealth on how best to deploy resources in the area of indigenous education, do not want to produce yet another raft of recommendations that do not get implemented or are not effective."We are hearing in submissions that there has been inquiry after inquiry but no effective change, we don't want to repeat that," said Sen Collins. At Yuendumu School, where the facilities are better than at Papunya, concern was expressed to the committee about inadequate support for the on-going training of indigenous teachers."This is too vulnerable an area to depend on marginal funding," said Sen Collins.Training and employment of indigenous teachers has been a shared priority across the communities visited by the committee, but in general, says Sen Collins, the committee has been struck by heterogeneous experience and needs of communities, which points to the need for flexible funding arrangements to allow local solutions for local problems."For instance, the Commonwealth has funded homework centres but we have heard that in many instances they are not working. What would appear to be more effective is in-class tutoring," said Sen Collins.Social and cultural backgrounds also vary enormously across Aboriginal Australia.The committee has learnt that hearing problems decrease the more urban the community.In areas where traditional cultures are strong, cross-cultural factors contribute to poor attendance."The system expects students not to attend, for example, at Easter, but then to attend during times that may be culturally significant for them," said the Senator.Torres Strait Islanders have suffered less dislocation than many mainland Aboriginal peoples, and in this respect appear to be less disadvantaged.The picture in outback New South wales, however, was "quite depressing", said the Senator, for the level of racism that indigenous people contend with.In one town a virtual apartheid exists with almost every white child enrolled at the Catholic school, while the state school has become almost exclusively Aboriginal.Bilingual education has been raised as an important issue by Territory communities. Sen Collins said the committee is concerned that the Territory Government had announced its decision on bilingual education before the Bob Collins review even started.The committee is due to table its report in the Senate in September.


The fifth World Solar Car Challenge, between Darwin and Adelaide, will be held again this year between October 17 and 26, with the first car expected to arrive in Adelaide on October 20.At least 42 cars, worth millions of dollars, will compete in the race which is recognised internationally as the ultimate event for solar cars.At least two thirds of the field will be coming from overseas, including 12 cars from Japan, 10 from the USA (including the University of Missouri, winner of the American event, Sunrayce 99), two from France, two from Canada and one each from Denmark, England, Germany, Italy and Singapore.Australia will have 12 cars taking part, with the Northern Territory well represented by three entries – from Dripstone High School, Kormilda College and the Northern Territory University.The race is being billed as "The Last Great Adventure of the Millennium", andorganisers say that's a fair assessment of the event , considering the cars will cover more than 3000 kilometres, on energy provided by the sun. It's been estimated that the cars use about six dollars worth of energy to make the journey.However, that's only half the story: the day after the cars leave Darwin, about 26solar powered cycles, again from all over the world, will leave Alice Springs bound for the finish line in Adelaide in the ETSA Power World Solar Cycle Challenge.Unlike the car challenge, the cycle event is staged over seven days, with the cycles completing daily stages, to arrive at the finish in close proximity to one another on October 24.The solar car teams, on the other hand, will go as far as they can each day, camping on the side of the road after 5 pm.The people of Alice Springs will be in the box seat for both events, with the solar cycles setting out from the Red Centre Resort and the cars making a mandatory control stop at the same place.The inaugural solar challenge was held in 1987, four years after adventurer Hans Tholstrup and racing driver Larry Perkins made their historic journey across Australia in a solar powered vehicle named "Quiet Achiever".

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