September 15, 1999


Nearly two thirds of secondary students in Alice Springs would prefer to do their tertiary studies interstate even if the town had its own university, or if distance education was upgraded to a level that would allow achieving any degree.The Alice News spoke to 57 students during last week's Youth Expo: 36 of them, or 63 per cent, said they would prefer to study in another state although more than 80 per cent of the students spoken to said they would need to find a job to make ends meet.Among those who wished to stay in town were many Aboriginal students who said having the support from their families and friends was a major consideration.But the majority of respondents claimed there was “nothing to do” in Alice Springs and thought study opportunities interstate were superior.The expo, with stalls representing mainly government instrumentalities, included three universities touting for business, the NTU from Darwin, as well as the University of South Australia and Flinders University, both from Adelaide.Meanwhile the Centralian College offers, in connection with the NTU, degree courses in business and fine arts in Alice Springs, and limited support for external students from other universities.All 55 participants in the Bachelor of Business course are adults, most of them people in employment.On the campus of the Institute of Aboriginal Development (IAD) in Alice Springs, University of SA offers Bachelor of Arts courses in an "external mode", mainly Aboriginal Affairs Administration, Aboriginal Studies as well as health and early childhood education.All 20-odd students are adults. Local educator Louise Lowson is the only permanent staff member in The Alice, employed as a lecturer and counsellor.It appears that Alice Springs – including the nearly one third of students who wish to get their "uni" education here – is missing out on what the University of SA's Anne Dunstan calls "flexible learning, the big catch phrase of the decade".Her university offers, mainly via the internet, a large range of degrees to 4000 students all over the world, especially Asia.She says her university is a leader in the field.This rapidly expanding style of studying, increasingly profitable for the teaching institutions, is supplemented by teleconferencing, web "chat lines" and sometimes two-way video links which make attending at the university itself almost superfluous.Distance students need, apart from a big dose of commitment and self-discipline, a computer with world wide web access, a not inconsiderable financial investment.At present, students have limited access to computers at Centralian College, if they join the library or enrol in a computer course.However, they can use them only during certain hours.There are no plans by the college to add to the NTU courses available now, nor to broaden the public use of its computers.


Over 300 people gathered on the council lawns on Saturday morning to show their concern about the bloodshed and terror perpetrated by militia and the Indonesian Army in East Timor since the August 30 vote for independence.The weekend meeting was called by the Alice Springs Friends of East Timor, formed in 1991 after the massacre of hundreds of people at the Santa Cruz Cemetery in East Timor's capital, Dili.People at the meeting gave just under $3000 to an appeal by the group for donations. The money will be passed on to the National Council of Timorese Resistance, the broad coalition of East Timorese independence organisations led by Xanana Gusmao.The money will be used for food and medical supplies for internal refugees in East Timor, many reported to be facing starvation.They will also be used for maintaining communication between East Timor and the outside world; and for assisting the evacuation of East Timorese throughout Indonesia.
The Friends group urged Territorians to:
• boycott all Indonesian products and services;
• suspend all cultural, commercial and academic links with the Indonesian government and its agencies;
• write, phone, fax or email the United Nations, the Australian, United States and Indonesian governments with their concerns;
• to donate generously to support humanitarian aid and the East Timorese independence movement.
A vigil is now being kept outside Flynn Church on Todd Mall – on weekdays from 5-6pm, on weekends from 12-1pm – to raise awareness of events in East Timor as they unfold and of the ways in which Alice Springs residents can help.Meanwhile, local MLA Peter Toyne says Territorians must move to "adopt" the East Timorese community, with refugees likely to come to the Territory, many of whom are likely to be deeply traumatised."Apart from doing everything we can to get a peace-keeping force into East Timor, we need to offer simple human support to the families here, many of whom are out of their minds with worry over what is happening to their friends and relatives back home," says Mr Toyne. While people in Darwin will be able to act directly, he says people in Alice Springs can work to build public awareness, and to raise money and possibly collect donations of clothing and personal goods."Alice Springs has to weigh in like we did after the floods in Katherine. This is far more serious and as much on our doorstep as Katherine was," says Mr Toyne.On Monday Senator Grant Tambling moved an urgent motion at the National Party of Australia Federal Council meeting, calling on the National Party to acknowledge the validity of East Timor's vote for independence.The motion was passed and will be conveyed to the Ambassadors of Indonesia and the United States.Sen Tambling said: "There is an evil and contagious malicious virus within the Indonesian military establishment and the violence we are seeing is nothing short of totally abhorrent. The CLP is appalled by the trauma and tragedy in our neighborhood."


Last year's statehood referendum has proven to be a real watershed in Territory politics. The defeat of Shane Stone's statehood proposal ended his career as Chief Minister and destroyed the aura of invincibility which has surrounded the CLP since self-government. The genie of democracy is abroad in the Territory – we politicians must learn to serve her. There is no better indication of the pressure this is going to create than Denis Burke's responses to the recommendations of the statehood committee enquiry into the future pursuit of statehood. The Chief Minister began, in the last sittings of parliament, by picking up the call for a public education program to clarify the issues involved. This was to be followed by a referendum which, if successful, was to lead directly to an approach to the Commonwealth Parliament in order to negotiate the granting of statehood. A Committee recommendation to allow the staging of a democratically-elected constitutional convention to allow Territorians to shape our constitution was merely noted, with the Chief Minister proffering the view that it would be more expedient to allow the Commonwealth Parliament to develop a constitution for us through amendments to the NT Self-government Act. A recommendation to sit down with Aboriginal people and develop a framework agreement based on the important statements produced by the de facto Aboriginal conventions at Kalkaringi and Batchelor was similarly noted but not immediately adopted. When pressed on the matter, the Chief Minister could only give a vague promise of "good faith negotiations" over Aboriginal concerns and failed to retract earlier refusals to consider the statements. This starting position would have doomed any further progress on the statehood issue because it would have immediately alienated the two key groups who had supported the No vote in the last referendum. Following a chat with the Prime Minister and further probing by the media and opposition, we are now hearing that a democratically-elected convention is a possibility and that a series of referenda will be necessary to mandate each part of the emerging statehood proposal. These are significant concessions and move the process much closer to that recommended by Territorians through their submissions to the statehood committee. If an acceptable proposal can now be put forward for the inclusion of Aboriginal interests in the development of the proposal then we may have a ball game. This final step, by returning the process to full compliance with the wishes of the people, would also ensure a fully bipartisan process as the Labor party has already offered full support for the process outlined by the Committee through its recommendations. A people-led process presents all sorts of exciting possibilities, many of which lie beyond the constraints of party politics. The original statehood committee report referred options to the people's convention such as a Bill of Rights to protect citizens from the excesses of government, multi-member electorates to give more balanced representation in the new Parliament, and the recognition of Aboriginal customary law. Such innovations have the power to create a unique and powerful expression of democracy in our part of the world. The achievement of consensus between the various sectors the Territory's population would in itself represent a significant new sense of unity. Perhaps this is our chance to leave behind the years of combative social relations and divisive politics which have held back our development. Such outcomes will only be achieved if a large proportion of Territorians take an active role in the process. Only an informed and involved population can give full expression to the complex matters which need to be resolved. This is not a job for the self-interested or the self-important. We have to arrive at a definition of our future community which works in our households, workplaces and remote communities as well as it works in our halls of wealth and power. The person who must step up and take this on could be you or one of your neighbours. Politicians have a support role to play but they must be left in no doubt as to who is calling the shots. Later on, we all must work to prevent the Commonwealth Parliament taking a popularly-based proposal and turning it into a chook's breakfast. The genie of democracy is abroad in the Territory, set loose by the vote at the last referendum. She serves the people, not narrow sectarian interests or governments trying to keep themselves in power. I look forward to the times ahead.[ED – CLP Minister for Central Australia Loraine Braham did not respond to an invitation from the Alice News to provide her views on the subject.]


There was a strong call for shade and canopies over play equipment and for other uses in parks from locals attending the town council's community consultation on open spaces last Saturday.The informal public meeting was part of a consultancy being carried out by Clouston, landscape architects and planners, to assist the council to prepare an Open Space Planning Strategy for Alice Springs.Alderman Geoff Harris says council has already agreed to a shade program over five years and has allocated $70,000 to it this financial year which will be used specifically to shade council playgrounds.However, when the work will actually be "on the ground" is unclear. Why has it taken so long to get action on an obvious and much-discussed need?Ald Harris: "I can't answer for previous councils. I've been on council for three years and I've been pushing this for three years. "This year is the first time we have had a significant budget allocation for shade over playground equipment. "In the past three years we have been carrying out a tree planting program but it's obviously not enough for the needs of people using the parks."So now we are having a look at it in a more comprehensive way which is why we have engaged the consultants."If we were just talking about providing shade we wouldn't need a consultancy. But we are talking about much more than shade; we are talking about maximising the use of existing parks and open spaces, and looking at meeting residents' needs to a greater extent than we do now. "One of the things the consultancy will do is to make sure we plant and build structures that are in keeping with the location of the park and the surrounding landscape. We don't want to build ugly, we want to provide both the functional side of things like shade, but also make sure that it looks good."Ald Harris says the Frank McEllister Park alongside the Araluen Centre is a priority for providing shade over play equipment. He could not say whether council would remove the existing ugly shade structures near the popular playground.He says people have also expressed concern about the toilets in that park being too far away from the playground area.He says support for a skating park was reiterated on Saturday.While the need for more picnic areas was not raised on Saturday, Ald Harris says "the need for an outdoor picnic area has been recognised"."Council has been looking at how to better utilise the Todd River area adjacent to the CBD for recreational purposes," he says."The emphasis in Alice has been on developing sporting facilities, not a lot on picnic grounds, or family use areas that work really well."The Frank McEllister Park is almost there, it just needs a bit of shade which it is going to get."Some people feel that the big sports grounds, such as Traeger Park and Anzac Oval, should not be closed to public access."They are probably the best watered and maintained lawn areas in town, and there is a feeling that there should be access to them when they are not being used for organised sport. Sporting groups have acknowledged the issue and are looking at what can be done, " says Ald Harris.There was concern expressed about the council watering during daytime. People also suggested that a survey be conducted about park use, what the limitations are, what's missing, how to better work what is there, with some support expressed for using the town's many open drains as well as the river for linear parks, with cycle paths and walking tracks."There has been comment that the cycle paths we have are really good – something positive about council. We have introduced a five year cycle path program and people are pleased with that," says Ald Harris.Other issues of open space that residents felt strongly about were:• protecting the town's hills, and the native vegetation on them, and protecting the sight lines to the hills;• using local native plants unless there's a good reason not to, such as continuing an already established theme in older areas;• having an educational approach to plantings, so that householders could learn from the council's approach; • using materials with textures and colours that work with the landscape;• having stronger links and cooperation between council and different government departments responsible for the town's public spaces;• planning for open space that works in new subdivisions. On the latter Ald Harris says: "Just about every new subdivision in Alice Springs has a different approach to open space. Sometimes it's been that a parcel of land is no good for building on, so let's call it a park; sometimes a concept that has been the latest buzz word down south has been translated up here and hasn't worked. "It's obvious we need to have a sensible program for open space in new subdivisions."Council was also looking for feedback on the maintenance of verges.Says Ald Harris: "There's general acknowledgement in council that verges aren't being maintained to an adequate level. "They take a lot of resources, in terms of mowing, planting, pruning, watering. Council needs to look at options for managing them. One suggestion on Saturday was to have an ‘adopt a verge' program."At the moment some households maintain their own verge but council still goes around doing maintenance a couple of times a year. "The feedback that we've got is that it is not working to public expectation. "People are also concerned about access. If residents landscape their verges and there is no longer a footpath, that's a problem. We need to make sure those basic things are still there."Meanwhile, residents had an opportunity last Friday night to – yet again – put forward their "hopes, visions and ideas" about waste minimisation and recycling in Alice Springs.Consultants Maunsell McIntyre are developing Landfill Management and Waste Minimisation Plans for the town council.The Alice News asked Ald Harris if there had not been enough studies, consultancies, and meetings on these issues? Why the need for more?Ald Harris: "I have to say that I'm personally frustrated with how long it has taken the council to do things on the ground with waste minimisation and recycling. "I've been pushing the issue on council, and before I was on council. The problem has been that council hasn't before developed a coherent proposal on these fast-moving areas."There are new technologies, new ways of doing things, and some councils on the east coast have had their fingers burned with recycling initiatives because markets fluctuate. That's been a big barrier in people's minds. "It's a complex issue, we're a small town, isolated, we need to set things up so that the incentives are right and so that we are initiating recycling businesses as much as possible locally. "As an elected member of council I need a proposal with options that I can vote on, and we haven't had that before. "The consultancy is the way we have chosen to get a proposal that we can vote on."More than 30 people attended Friday's meeting, giving a clear message to council that its current method of managing waste is grossly inadequate. There were demands to council to vastly improve its leadership and commitment on waste minimisation and resource recovery. No one argued against the need for more recycling and waste minimisation. Ald Harris says a new landfill management contract is due by next April, and this could provide the target date for reorganising council's management of waste."We are looking at writing waste minimisation criteria into the new contract so that the incentives are there on a broader level," says Ald Harris.


Education Minister Peter Adamson says the NT Government will be spending $15m or more on facilities for the world-renowned Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) and Batchelor College in Alice Springs.And Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron, who last week was present at the signing of an agreement of collaboration between the two institutions, foreshadowed the "support of the Commonwealth government".Meanwhile, Mr Adamson says the hand-over of a $2.6m Federal grant, now under his control, for the reconstruction of the Institute of Aboriginal Development (IAD) campus has been delayed further following talks last week.Despite what are understood to be clear recommendations from consultants, IAD has pulled out from a link-up with CAT and Batchelor although their objectives – enhancing Aboriginal education and lifestyles – are similar.IAD, fearing the loss of its identity, has for some time been in a bitter confrontation with Mr Adamson who initially tied the hand-over of the money to IAD's relocation to the vicinity of Centralian College.Mr Adamson says he no longer regards that as a condition, and while he hopes that IAD will join the consortium "I didn't threaten IAD if you don't join up with the consortium then you lose the money".He says: "The door is always open for other discussions to take place, with not only IAD but anyone else, for that matter."Mr Adamson says IAD had agreed to have "further dialogue", and he sees joining the consortium and remaining on the present site "as separate issues".He says the consortium is setting its own agenda. At this stage the NT Government is about to provide $150,000 for an executive officer and other expenses to assist with planning.The multi-million dollar expenditure is likely to be spread over several years.Mr Adamson says discussions "at officer level" are taking place this week, and IAD had suggested "we should look at no more than a month or so".Says Mr Adamson: "The fact is we almost lost the money earlier this year, and we fought to keep that till the end of the year. "I've done my best to keep the [Commonwealth] offer on the table."The fact is that offer will probably run out at the end of the year, simply because they take the money off us, anyway."I didn't make this as a threat to them, that was the reality. "It's a Commonwealth deadline, and I don't think we can get an extension."The issue all along has been an over duplication of facilities in Alice Springs."I've said that while my initial strong position was co-location with the Centralian College, I have in the spirit of compromise backed down from that position," says Mr Adamson."Let's look elsewhere."What we don't want in Alice Springs is a series of under utilised facilities which we do have, to an extent, now."We'd like to have a strategy so we don't do things piecemeal."Asked whether the three campuses – IAD, Batchelor and CAT – need to be in the same location, Mr Adamson said: "Not necessarily, and certainly, that was never the intent of the consortium."What I've also said to IAD was that if they believe their current site, even with the new land, is big enough, then they're setting their sights too low."In addition to classrooms there are other allied events that you could have coinciding with an education facility."I have certainly not said today that you must move to this new site."We don't even have a new site yet."We still have some very attractive potential options."I've never said it must all be on one particular site, even with the consortium. No-one is merging, everyone retains their own individual identities."The consortium will give us a strategic focus."


Year 11 students in Alice are finding out what work's all about, courtesy of 70 local employers.The new Wadu strategy, launched last week by Federal Education Minister David Kemp, wants to extend the approach into primary and junior secondary education to combat high Aboriginal unemployment.Pictured is David Martin, executive chef at Rydges Plaza, supervising Year 11 Centralian College students Kally Ansell (left) and Amanda Black as they make up a cheese platter for the hotel's Bradshaw Room restaurant. Mr Martin began his training at Lasseters Casino and did his first two trade school blocks at Gillen House, worked in a number of prestigious hotels in Australia and overseas, before coming full circle back to Alice – in a senior position at just 22 years of age and taking part in the VET in schools program.Says Mr Martin: "Having the girls here gave them a better understanding of what a kitchen's really like. They worked the hours that the kitchen operated, starting at two o'clock in the afternoon and working all the way through to 10.30 at night. "It's not a very glamorous job, working back of house. It's difficult, it's hot, it's dirty, it can involve very long hours, and has very low pay to start off with. "People need to know that before they start off in this job. If you can't thrive in an industry where people are yelling at you, you've got things cooking and 20 dockets up in front of you, don't even consider it. "That's what the girls got to see. I tried to explain the hierarchy and that it is a very long trip from the bottom to the top – four years as an apprentice at the bottom, then you get your papers, then you start again at the bottom of another ladder."Amanda, who wants to be a pastry chef, says she's not ready yet to work the long hours, but "I basically found what I expected. It was much the same as what we had learnt in Gillen House".She would like to run her own little restaurant one day but recognises the importance of knowing "how to do everything". After her experience, Kally is still keen to continue with her training but sees working in a hotel kitchen as "a pretty hard job".Workplace Coordinator Linda Chellew says there was a danger of the cookery course folding at the end of the first semester, but the four girls doing it (down from an original enrolment of 11), lobbied strongly for it to continue."Centralian responded and the class is now continuing in the second semester. That reflects the girls' commitment to their studies."


Trudy Hayes, in publishing her life story Beyond the Red Sandhills, presents herself as a "Central Australian pioneer's daughter".Her father was Danish born Gerhardt Johannsen who, with his wife Marie, born in the Barossa Valley to German migrant parents, came to work at the Hermannsburg mission in 1909, taking up a lease at Deep Well two years later.As Trudy tells it, her parents' story was typical of that of early battlers, as they struggled to make a living from cattle, mining, contract work and property, against the odds of a harsh environment, isolation and illness.Their memory will probably survive in history for being the parents of children who made a mark: Kurt most famously, as the inventor of the self-tracking apparatus which allowed the development of road trains, now an icon of outback Australia; Mona (Byrnes) and Myrtle (Noske), both as well-recognised artists.However, Trudy's story does not retell what is already known about the Johannsens. Rather, it humbly tells her own story, a chronicle of events, encounters and journeys in a long life that has been on the whole enjoyed.What is striking in Trudy's account of her childhood is its atmosphere of serenity, despite what we would today consider the family's precarious circumstances.If her parents felt worried or afraid, they appear to have been able to shield their children from it, and while the children had to work from an early age, they don't appear to have been oppressed by that. Trudy gives some lovely, simple accounts of herself and brother Kurt at play in the bush, where they apparently felt completely at home. Trudy does not make a single mention of heat or discomfort in her childhood.Although early in her text Trudy writes that she regrets never having asked her mother about how she felt about the circumstances of her life in the Centre, neither does she reflect upon feelings and thoughts when it comes to her own life. The reader simply gains an impression of quiet confidence, a readiness to respond to opportunities, a simple appreciation of life's pleasures, especially those offered by the natural world, and an acceptance of life's pain.Her confidence is in evidence, for instance, when she starts a photography business in Alice Springs in the 1930s. Most of her clients were "the part coloured people in town". Her most famous was Ted Strehlow who brought her all the films he took during his field work. Trudy writes in a matter of fact aside: "I never realised at the time how valuable these photographs were."Not only did she develop and print customers' films, but she also took many interesting photographs, which are reproduced as photocopies in the published typescript. It would be good to see these photographs in a properly mounted exhibition. They undoubtedly form an important part of Central Australia's visual archive.Trudy didn't stick with photography, however, taking instead the opportunity to try a different way of life in the "Big Smoke" – Adelaide. A willingness to move on, to see and experience what she can, marks her life both as a single woman, and then with her husband Alan.During her engagement she made what must have been a fascinating trip to Methodist missions in Arnhemland, where she travelled the waterways with "natives" in a dugout canoe. She reports that Alan would have "loved to come too", but, as they were not yet married, the minister didn't approve. So off Trudy went on her own, and thoroughly enjoyed herself.Another interesting trip was made in 1939 from Alice to Darwin in one of Kurt's mail trucks, together with his wife Kath, their baby Lindsay and a passenger, Janet Payne.Trudy includes in her text Miss Payne's diary record of the trip in which we are treated to an account of the baby's many nappy changes, feeds and "naughty" episodes, the conditions of showers, baths and furnishings along the track, a funny appraisal of rather unsavoury accommodation and food at Newcastle Waters, in short the precious details of daily life which are all too easily overlooked when writing for posterity. A good part of Trudy's adult life has been lived away from Alice Springs, in Darwin, and later with Alan in Pomonal, Victoria, where they ran a flower farm and orchard. After Alan's death, Trudy moved to Adelaide where she still lives. Quite a slab of the text is in consequence devoted to describing life in these parts of Australia and her travels to yet other parts.What makes of someone a traveller? Trudy's account doesn't provide answers, but it does provide evidence of someone who feels at home in many places in Australia. Put another way, it provides an image of a Euro-Australian whose sense of belonging is not tied to one place but to a country over which she has journeyed. Beyond the Red Sandhills was typed, edited and published by Trudy's eldest daughter, Claire Greenwell, who deserves credit for bringing to fruition what many people intend to do but never quite realise. Copies are available from the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame on the corner of Hartley Street and Parsons Street, and from local bookstores.


Alice Springs writer Meg Mooney has won the Red Earth Poetry Award for her poem, Nungarrayi comes seed-collecting.The award is one of five Northern Territory Literary Awards administered by the NT University with assistance from the Cultural Development Division of the NT Department of Arts and Museums, and the NT Writers' Centre.The prize-winning poem tells a simple but marvellous story about the writer, who works for a program developing a seed bank for use in revegetation projects, waiting in an Aboriginal community for Nungarrayi to arrive, then going with her and other women to collect seeds.In just a few lines Mooney evokes a rather comfortless picture of "whitefella" existence on the community: "The photocopying teacher / stabs at buttons. / Her friend waits with a book / fat with yawns. / I make tea / with bore water matured in an urn./ Powdered milk aged to flour. / Throw it out."This contrasts with a picture of Aboriginal life in the same place, that slowly builds in its beauty: from the desultory interactions with people "sitting/ on warm raked ground,/ strolling among shadows" as she waits; through a delightful turning point when Nungarrayi arrives; to the discovery of country "full of seeds, / neat bunches and tangles of pods; / others hang single and straight / like petrified rain."; and the lyrical denouement of the women sitting and cleaning the seed.In "whitefella technology" this involves "a racket of threshers and sieves". Here, on the side of a track, it is done with chanting and a "raising and dropping" of arms: "raising / handfuls of seed and chaff, / seed dropping into her lap, / chaff taken by the wind."The poem ends with a "miracle of pure brown seed" poured into the collector's bucket.With Nungarrayi comes seed-collecting Mooney has created a distinctly Central Australian pastoral. With a light, empathetic touch she has contrasted two ways of life, each with a profoundly different set of relations to nature, and seen through the seed-collecting in one of their better moments of interaction.This kind of writing can only come from long familiarity with the bush and with Aboriginal people.Mooney, raised in Adelaide and a trained geologist, has lived in Central Australia for more than a decade. Her first job here was as a literature production supervisor at Papunya where she spent three and a half years. She describes as "very precious" the opportunity she had there of spending time with Aboriginal people who spoke their own language, continued to conduct ceremonies, to hunt, in short who maintained a culture which she had thought "no longer existed".Although not named in the poem, Papunya is its setting.Since leaving Papunya, Mooney has lived in Alice Springs, working both as a mother and in a range of jobs drawing on her skills as both a scientist and a writer (she did a professional writing course at the Canberra College of Advanced Education).She has long maintained a personal journal and written poetry and short stories both for public and private consumption.Her earlier poetry was mostly focussed on "emotional ups and downs" but Mooney says she has found other ways of dealing with those, and has shifted her focus to her experiences in the bush and with Aboriginal people, and also to the often humorous experiences of living in shared households in Adelaide in the ‘seventies.Of the award, she says, "I find it hard to have a sense of how my writing works for other people. Any encouragement like this makes me take my writing more seriously."Nungarrayi comes seed-collecting and all winning and commended entries in the awards have been published in a special issue of the journal Northern Perspectives.

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