December 22, 1999


Bushwalkers say cattle in significant numbers are runing wild in the Western MacDonnells National Park and at the Ruby Gorge Nature Park. Cattle and fresh droppings have also been sighted between the Telegraph Station and the Charles Creek Bridge and particularly around Wiggly's Waterhole - conservation reserve land - on numerous occasions over the last nine months. Parks and Wildlife confirm that cattle "do get in" from time to time. "When that happens we negotiate with the neighbouring landowners to get them off," a spokesperson told the Alice News. According to the spokesperson the cattle in the Old Telegraph Station Reserve will be removed "pretty soon", but the removal of those in the Western MacDonnells National Park is still "under negotiation". What the complication is there, the spokesperson declined to say. Charlie Carter, whose company Trek Larapinta offers one day and overnight bushwalks along the Larapinta Trail, says cattle have been watering throughout the walking season (April to October) along the Finke River, from the ranges to the south of Glen Helen Lodge through to Redbank Gorge, all of which is national park land. They are also congregating around a waterhole on the Davenport Creek whose course is followed by a section of the Larapinta Trail. He says the land around the waterhole has been "trashed". "You are walking through dust for half a kilometre on either side. "It doesn't create a great impression with walkers. They question it and all you can say is ╬the cattle shouldn't be there'," says Dr Carter. CATIA General Manager, Mike Gunn says that cattle in these areas are "definitely not a tourist attraction" and "as representatives of the tourism industry, we'd offer Parks and Wildlife every encouragement to get rid of them". Meanwhile, the deadlock over the construction of the Larapinta Trail, delayed because sections of it are on Owen Springs pastoral lease, and the barring of campers from of Benstead Creek, have raised questions of public access to cattle station land. Tenure over it is not freehold but leasehold, conferring upon pastora-lists not the ownership of the land but - in essence - ownership of the cattle fodder growing on it. Under the Pastoral Land Act the public has, without the station lessee's permission, the right of access to "perennial natural water (including the sea) on or surrounded by ... pastoral land", and may camp near such waters for up to two weeks. The Act does not define "perennial" but according to the New Collins Concise English Dictionary, it means "lasting throughout the year or throughout many years". The legislation does not define the size of such "perennial natural water" nor whether it is on the surface or beneath it. It is estimated that there are hundreds of such sites on Central Australian pastoral leases, and it appears that public access to them is currently denied more through bluff than legal right. Central Australians' favourite pastime of "going bush" has further been frustrated over the years by onerous restrictions on the use of national parks land, with only a handful of camping sites officially available. The Pastoral Land Act says if a lessee "nominates a reasonably practicable route ... access to the water may be obtained by members of the public, without the specific permission of the pastoral lessee, only by that route". If the lessee has not done so, the Pastoral Land Board may "nominate such a route ... and members of the public may use the route accordingly". The legislation appears to be silent about what happens if neither the pastoralist nor the board declare a route, but it seems clear that the Act establishes a right of public access to perennial natural water. The Act further says that "a person may camp temporarily on land within the prescribed distance" - 50 meters - of perennial natural water so long as the camp is not█ within a radius of two kilometres of a homestead or other residential premises on pastoral land;█ within a radius of one kilometre of a dam or other constructed stock watering point on pastoral land; or█ within 500 meters of every usual point of access for stock or wildlife to natural water.Furthermore, there are provisions for "access to features of public interest" which the Minister of Lands may declare and provide public access to them.


After a quarter of a century at Ayers Rock, the family business VIP Tours annually snares 8000 top-spending tourists from around the world and contributes $6m to Australia's export earnings. The key to this success are a team of drivers and guides hired for their outstanding ability to mix with the rich. Founder Ren Kelly says he's developed his formula in the "university of hard knocks": none was harder than the 1989 pilot's dispute when there were no airline flights to The Rock for 110 days, threatening the future Kelly "empire" which till then had consisted mainly of the Red Sands Motel, at the old tourism site, and the lease over the Ernest Giles Tavern, in the newly-built Yulara resort. The company has since grown to 100 employees Territory-wide. It has more than 50 vehicles ranging from five star touring coaches worth more than $500,000 each, to large 4WDs and 7 Series BMW limousines. The Kelly family, soon to extend to three generations, courtesy daughter Tory, relies almost entirely on its own marketing, with Ren himself "door knocking" in Europe and Asia six times a year. Other company members scour other regions of the globe for business, and VIP has permanent representatives in Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Singapore, London and Paris. Just five per cent of their clientele is Australian. VIP's immediate targets are the wholesale travel agencies, "the people who put the brochures together for the product that is sold through the retail travel agencies", says Ren. "Packages we put together today will be in tour brochures that will be in the streets in 2000 and 2001 for travel in 2001 and 2002. That's how far ahead we work. "At the same time as we're forward selling we're also consolidating and looking at numbers of passengers on tours we sold last year, that are coming to fruition now or in the next six months. "If you were making potato peelers you'd call it research and development." VIP unashamedly caters to the very wealthy: "We're aiming at the top socio economic group, the people who can afford a four, five star package, the professional people, the doctors, lawyers, the factory managers. "It's a big market, but these people are discriminating. "You're not selling to a fool. "A three day package may cost $1000 a head, and that doesn't include accommodation. "These people are not hard to get but hard to get to," says Ren. "There's a wholesaler in Italy called Gastaldi. "They have about 1000 travel agents. "We fought tooth and nail to get into their catalogue, 200 pages of good, colourful glossy and beautiful material. "I knocked on their door in Milan, I reckon, 20 times. "Finally, the woman in charge said I give up, we'll put one tour in it for you, because I'm having trouble in the Northern Territory getting good drivers and good guides. "I'll try you out. "That was in 1993. "Now she says to me, Ren, what do you want in my brochure?" Word of mouth is the best advertising, says Ren. "We deliver what we undertake to deliver in the glossy brochure. "We're not looking at selling to the backpacker, self-drive or economy market. "There are other operators who're looking after these areas and do it very well. "In our sector of the market you've got to have competent, professional drivers. "You've got to have tour guides who have a better than normal grasp of the guest's language, and a very good understanding of the culture and the mind set of those people. "How do I find the staff? With difficulty. "Over the years we've built up a very good international network." VIP now has links to leading tourism colleges in several European countries. "They would say to us, we've got two people here among our top 10 students whom we consider could be an asset to your company. "They've got good language and people skills, good manners, they come from the class of person they'd be dealing with. "They've got to be peers, on the same level. "A person from Liverpool is unlikely to be speaking the same language as a person from Double Bay. "It's sad, but it's true." Characteristics to be taken into account by no means stop with the language. Guides dealing with Japanese need to relate to young honeymoon couples, and to speak "carefully, and with courtesy and kindness" to the "silvers". Every international market has its own needs and wants. "At Ayers Rock, a Japanese person is interested in seeing nature, the sunrise and the sunset, the wildlife. "They'll get out of bed at 4am to watch the sunrise. If you didn't wake them on time it would be a problem. "If you woke an Italian person at 4am, mate, they'd kill you! "An Italian couple want to get out of bed at 9am, 9.30, go and have a very strong espresso coffee, sit around the pool for an hour, and then maybe do a tour in the afternoon before coming home and having a fine wine and a fine dinner. "It's totally different." Is there training available in Alice Springs to bring tour guides to that level of understanding? "No, there is not. "Sometimes I get frustrated at the training programs that are in place. "They're giving people certificates or accreditation and they really are quite often not capable of doing the job. "You can't teach guiding from a text book. "There's a push to require accreditation for drivers and guides. "Anybody can pick up a text book, sit down and read it and become accredited, but some of them are not employable people." Ren isn't looking to government instrumen-talities for marketing services. He says the NT and the Australian Tourist Commissions "keep us up to date with movements in the wholesale industry and promote the destination." Austrade frequently provide financial assistance with brochures and international marketing, and provides "very useful market information", says Ren. Ren, his wife Joy, and children Tory and Sedge, and their growing team, are doing the nuts and bolts work.


If they're not painting a picture they're acting in one. Janganpa Artists, increasingly making their mark through their performance work, have established, in collaboration with Desart, a studio cum showcase in the former Repco building, opposite Billygoat Hill. A group of Warlpiri families, many of whom are long term residents of Alice Springs, formed Janampa five years ago with a view to creating income opportunities. In association with Peter Yates of Visual Arts and Specialist Tours (VAST), they have stepped into a largely unoccupied niche in the local Aboriginal arts market, much in evidence during the last year with their traditional singing and dancing at community occasions. Less visible to the general public but more significant in terms of their enterprise aspirations, has been their film work. Pictured above left, on the job during the 1998 production of Kings and Grass Castles (Baron Films) are, from left, Johnny Brown Japaljarri, Wally Dodd and Teddy Egan Jangala, drawing on their skills as former stockmen for this tale of the frontier, based on the novel by Mary Durack. In their role as traditional men (above right) for a recent documentary are, from left, Teddy Egan Jangala, Frankie Japanangka, Willy Salty, Jimmy Collins Jangala and Johnny Possum Japaljarri. Ten members of the group have just returned from a stint as extras in a new feature film, Serenades (Southern Star Productions), starring David Gulpilil, David Noombajarra and English actor Billy Bunting. Janampa will use the shopfront of their new base as a showcase for their work (alongside the work of other art centres under the Desart umbrella), while the large warehouse area at the back will be set up as a studio space and art and craft centre. Mr Yates says without a base it has been difficult for the group to take advantage of all the work opportunities on offer. This should change now and they are hoping to involve more people and in particular to train young people in performance and acting skills. To date, Janampa has been entirely independent, generating their own income. However, Mr Yates says they are hoping now for some assistance from the funding bodies.


Teachers are blaming themselves over continuous theft at Centralian College. Money and credit cards have been the sought after items, rather than other nearby valuables. In each instance, the theft took place when the individual who occupied the office was teaching. This seemed to point to an inside job either by a student or a visiting worker. Each crime was reported to the resident constable, the college principal and the police within hours of it being discovered. One teacher, Peter Sonsie, had a fair chance of having the culprits apprehended because of video surveillance and accounts by two eyewitnesses. However, the offenders could not be identified. Mr Sonsie's credit cards had been stolen around 11.30am and used an hour later to purchase goods around town. Mr Sonsie initially felt sorry for the thief that they had come to "a stage of such desperation" and thought that the theft "could have been for a very legitimate reason". However, he changed his mind when he learnt that his money was used to buy a Playstation and a game. The security around Centralian College is now being questioned. Teachers are advised to keep their personal belongings in a safe place, with many resorting to locking them in a filing cabinet. In an attempt to deter unwanted visitors, signs have been posted on office doors stating "Stop! You can not enter this area without a teacher". When asked whether this was enough security, Melissa Valdez from the Business Department said no. Mrs Valdez suggested the school use security cameras. "That way if somebody reports a purse stolen, they could pinpoint the time and pull out the film to review it." A surveillance camera has been operating in the library foyer for some time now, but so far has been of little help in preventing thefts and identifying culprits. The thefts around Centralian College have taught both Mr Sonsie and Mrs Valdez an important lesson about protecting their belongings. The teachers have blamed themselves for "acting like a victim", and for not removing the opportunity for theft. Mr Sonsie says the thefts are "not a comment on society as there have always been thieves around", but wants strong measures to be taken so that "you don't have to suspect everyone walking past your door". [ED:- Sara Tye is a member of our youth editorial team based at Centralian College. We look forward to more from them in the New Year.]


The festive season with its drinking and partying can be far from jolly for the families and friends of alcoholics. There is a self-help group meeting weekly in Alice Springs specifically for these people, who say they understand one another like no one else can, and that there is hope even if a person's alcoholic friend or relative is still drinking. Known as Al-Anon, it is one of many thousands of such groups in more than 100 countries around the world, guided by a common set of principles and traditions, including that of anonymity. The Alice News spoke to two Al-Anon members who will be known here as Kate and Joe. Says Kate: "We stress total anonymity. We don't discuss each other outside meetings with Al-Anon members or with anyone else. "It's important for people to know their privacy will be respected." Kate speaks of Al-Anon as her "spiritual home". Al-Anon is not a religious organisation but one of its tenets is belief in a "Power greater than ourselves". Al-Anon also proposes a practice of prayer and meditation, although for Kate and Joe the most powerful support appears to have come from the fellowship of the group. Although members are united by the experience of having a relative or friend who is an alcoholic, their focus is not on changing the alcoholic, but rather on changing themselves. Says Kate: "When you are caught up in a relationship with an alcoholic, you can forget to live your own life, you lurch from crisis to crisis. "The alcoholic moulds your life, but you can't change that person and you are not responsible for their illness. "Al-Anon helps you start to focus on your own life, what you like, what you need, what you should avoid." How helpful is that for a person who is living with a very destructive alcoholic? Joe says Al-Anon has no position on whether a person stays in or leaves a destructive relationship, but "whether you stay or leave there are still things that you need to do about yourself". These things "won't go away just because you leave". What sort of things have they been able to change in themselves? Says Kate: "I've learnt to get over the need to control other people's behaviour. "For example, I always used to try to stop family fights, but now I go into another room or go for a walk. "When I get back it's usually all over, whereas if I'd intervened it would have escalated into a huge barney. "Now I detach myself and in that way I'm not adding to the situation. "It's simple but I never knew. I've also learnt to detach from my own feelings if now is not a suitable time to deal with them. I put them aside and come back to deal with them when I'm ready." Kate and Joe have both had a long involvement with Al-Anon. Do members get to a point where they no longer need the group? Says Joe: "It doesn't take all that long to learn the principles of Al-Anon but putting them into practice is a life-long task. "For example I can know that I should avoid word-games and fights, but the situations that trigger those responses can keep coming up and it requires a big effort to change your response. "I keep going to Al-Anon to get the energy to change my old patterns." Says Kate: "I'm not ╬addicted' to the group but I need to touch base, to hear the Al-Anon message which helps reinforce good habits and overcome bad ones. "Until I started going to the group I had never experienced unconditional acceptance. I was so ashamed, I had such low self-esteem. Somehow I kept coming back. Each time people would smile. If I spoke they would listen. No one ever gives any advice. Just acceptance and listening. "It helped break down my isolation. I used to want to draw the curtains, take the phone off the hook. It was easier to be on my own than to be with people. "Al-Anon helped me overcome that reaction, at first in the group, and now outside of the group, so that I can live in the world with all its pleasures and challenges." If you need more information, no matter how old or young you are and whether you can attend regular meetings or not, ring 8952 5875 or 8955 5075.

YEAR 2000: WHAT'S AHEAD? Four comment pieces.

Health means mainly getting off the grog. By BARRY ABBOTT.

Barry Abbott became a legend in the western Alice Springs districts for the tough but caring and successful way he has looked after more than 200 troubled young Aboriginal people. For more than 20 years he has taken youngsters under his wing after they've gotten into trouble through drinking and sniffing petrol, giving them a stable home and a good dose of discipline for periods ranging from several months to a few years. Mr Abbott has founded two model communities, Wallace Rockhole, repeatedly winner of Tidy Towns awards, and now Illamurta Springs, on the Finke River, south-west of Alice Springs. The 55-year-old's ways are rooted in his own tough upbringing and his life-long dedication to hard work. He was born at Henbury Station: "That's my dreaming," he says, through the affiliation to the area of his grandfather and his mother. At age six he was "track riding" with his grandfather, "Chimney", keeping cattle under control before boundary fences were erected. He was 10 when his grandfather passed away. Mr Abbott took a job at nearby Idracowra, being promoted by lessee Leo Murphy to head stockman at age 16, working a total of 20 years for him. Later Mr Abbott worked as a mechanic at Papunya, other cattle stations and with earth moving and concreting contractors in Alice Springs, including Joe Favaro, John Ferrari and Guido Dussin, and as a field officer for Aboriginal Legal Aid in its first years, with Ross Howie as the solicitor. Mr Abbott was instrumental in negotiating a truce during a week-log bloody feud at Hermanns-burg last November, involving dozens of people. At least two of them were seriously injured, the clinic was vandalised and its staff evacuated. Mr Abbott spoke to the Alice News last week:- The most important thing is Aboriginal health which means mainly getting off the grog. All the food stores and supermarkets have liquor in them. They should all give their liquor licenses back to the government. And the pubs, we should cut them down on Coolibah, all the casks they are selling now, left right and centre, carloads and taxi loads of the stuff. The only way to save more Aborigines is by cutting them down on grog. I know it's going to be hard, the government is going to say it's not right, it's prejudice. It is not prejudice the way we look at it. Even people half my age, they look older than me, they're just killing themselves. In education, the teachers need to stand up to the kids. Now we've got too many child support and welfare agencies, and we need them because people bash kids when they're drunk. But kids going to school these days, you can't even look at them sideways. The kids walk out. Their mother and father can't do anything about them, because under the law kids go to welfare or some other authorities, and then mother and father face the court but they only want to do good for the kids, put them on the right track. We're losing a lot of kids now because they can go home any time they want to. One of them was mine, because the teacher told him off for playing up and fighting at the school. The kids just say, well, we go, and you can't do anything about it. Walked out. The government should bring the rule back that teachers control the kids, even if they have to get a cane ╬round them. It's the only way kids learn discipline because now kids don't learn any discipline at all. They're putting one over the school teachers. When the parents tell the teachers, look, give them them a bit of a strap ╬round the bottom, ah, we can't do that, we go to court straight off. But you've got permission from the parents. Yeah, but the authorities! Who are the authorities? They should not step in when the kids are playing up at school and have no respect for the teacher, not even to the police. When they come out the kids say, "Here come the pigs". The kids can say things but people can't do anything about it. The ATSIC regional councillors should have more control, more power to put the money where it is needed for the people. Now they're just dishing out a little bit because the councillors haven't got full power and authority to spend the money where they want. The politicians, all the higher people, they still have to sign the release for the money. The Regional Council doesn't have much power at all. The community should have a say, they are the ones who are going to live there, they know what has to be improved and where the money should go, instead of somebody telling you, no, you must spend the money on that. I was in ATSIC for a long time. I'll have nothing to do with the land council, to tell you the truth. The land council is still running the people. When they buy land for Aboriginal people it is controlled by the land council. The people can't do what they want to on their cattle stations or whatever. Two uncles of mine own Tempe Downs. Their cattle were dying in the drought and my uncles wanted to agist the stock on Loves Creek. They agreed to put some cattle there for some payment, you give us so many cows and we'll put your cattle on our land, and every 12 months, instead of money, we'll take calves. We got mucked around that much by the land council and people got sick of it, even the people at Loves Creek, which is also owned by Aboriginal people, and cattle were dying more and more. The land council said the paper work must be done, and there's some clause in it, nothing was done for about five months and they lost more and more cattle. Why the hell they do it? They don't know nothing. All they know is the legal side. They should butt right out. They've got the lawyers and if Aboriginal people want to buy some land the land council are the only ones who've got some money. They should buy the station and then say, right-o, run it as a station or as a business, and then let the people do it, you can run it the way you want it, for the people, because you people belong to the place and that's good enough. Make a go of it! Don't go back to the government and say, we need money for this and for that. The whitefellers never went back to the government, we're losing money, cattle are dying, can we have money to keep the place going, or to keep the wages up. That's a load of crap. The government keeps giving them money for all the bores and fences when they don't know how to run the station. They're getting spoiled more and more. That's wrong. Look how many people are employed on some of those stations. They're getting CDEP or unemployment and are still getting government money. I worked on stations all my life. I've seen it. The people battled on, they made a go of it.

A shared relationship in this beautiful environment. By PETER TOYNE MLA.

As I look around me in Central Australia at the change of the millennium I see a community with a largely intact environment, exciting prospects and much remaining to be resolved. Looking back in time, I see two sets of footprints. One is long, almost beyond measure. Our Aboriginal people have seen upwards of forty millennia pass by in the land over which they have custody. While major changes to the natural environment, and even the geology of the land, have occurred during this long custodianship, Aboriginal people had adapted to, rather than dominated, our landscape. The other footprints are short, reaching back one hundred years or so. These mark the history of the Europeans and others whose adventurous spirit, inventiveness, unschooled brashness, and domineering ways have brought rapid changes to the region. All the requirements for a new, more material lifestyle have been imported into Central Australia, in return for the export of the productive outputs of the land and the people. New demarcations of roads, railways and fencelines, and boundaries of private property ownership now overlay the ancient boundaries of custodianship. Less visible, but equally powerful, are the new rules of law, politics, and economics which demarcate us as a community. After a short history of co-existence the ways of life of people in Central Australia are far from reconciled. In the new millennium we must accept the challenge of doing this if we are to escape a future of increasing social impairment and the escalating cost of social repair work under public spending. So what are the paths forward? Few Aboriginal people would want to abandon their unique culture, nor would many want to return to the old ways. New expressions of their culture are therefore needed. Other Central Australians see our terrific environment and availability of good jobs as an initial attraction but take time to realise that, to build a permanent place in the region, deeper understandings of the Central Australian community and its broader environment are needed. Herein lies the real promise in the long path forward into the next millennium. If we can achieve, over the many generations to come, a shared and sustainable relationship with this beautiful environment and a sense of common interest in what we do as a community, we will have achieved something very special. To do this we must respect the only culture which has so far proved it can sustain a long term relationship with the Central Australian environment. To do this we must take lessons honestly from our history without feeling personally ashamed of it. To do this we must move beyond the political and personal acting out of division and sectorial interest and act toward the common good, accepting that no community can prosper in the face of extremes of inequality. These are the great challenges of the next millennium in Central Australia. Some we share with humanity as a whole, some are ours to solve uniquely.

We can be a dynamo that has to be taken seriously because when Alice Springs talks, people have to listen. By JOHN ELFERINK MLA.

Time is one of the few things left that is not at our command: it drives forward inexorably and we can either be its victims or it can serve us. When I think about Alice Springs today I sense a town that is not unlike Darwin was in the mid to late ╬seventies. At that time there was an indeterminable but very present feeling that everything was in place to make the city something special. When self government was achieved, the blurred vision became a sharp and clear picture with direction and vibrant colour. All that was required was the right will and the right orientation. For this reason I feel comfortable here because the same sense is present and for good reason. We have a diversity of industries that will keep the town alive and kicking well into the future: tourism, mining, transport and a burgeoning horticultural industry that has a very promising future. Nevertheless, there is one word which I am weary of hearing and that is potential. Why isn't it actual? Alice Springs is at a crucial stage of its development. It may very well remain a rural community that suffers at the whims of governments based elsewhere, including the NT Government, or it can serve as a dynamo that has to be taken seriously because when Alice Springs talks people have to listen. That is up to the people of this community and the community of Central Australia as a whole. In the book, A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute describes not a dusty outback place but rather an oasis. A place that stands in defiance of a harsh and uncompromising environment. There is no reason why that shouldn't stand as a real description of the town as well as a metaphor. It is very easy to allow ourselves to be ruled by sentiment and nostalgia when is comes to our town. But the fact remains that we have to live and work here and create a comfortable place for ourselves. Eyes frosted over with romance do not make for an electric community. I'm not advocating an obliteration of what was but if the potential is to be realised we cannot afford to resist change. And I don't think we will. In terms of the divisions between black and white, there will continue to be challenges on both sides but as the economic drivers begin to take over where contrition, institutionalised guilt and pure old racism exists today, then even those schisms will wain and become meaningless. The future for Alice Springs is as bright as a button. We can wallow in self pity as a reaction to our splendid isolation, as I have seen some individuals do in the past, or we can rise (as I know we will) to a brilliant future with Alice Springs rising out of the desert as a shining monument to the tenacity and drive of all those who contribute to her common wealth. Time will be our friend because we will use it to make those who compete with us throw up their hands and complain that they'll never have enough to challenge us.

Pointers to a better future. By Alice News editor ERWIN CHLANDA.

Season's greetings to all our readers and advertisers! To paraphrase the famous Peter Sellers movie, 1998 was the year the mouse began to roar - getting ready to bite in 1999. Alice Springs is making it plain that it's had a gutful of being treated as a second-rate colonial outpost by the rulers in Darwin. Oops, sorry, that's what we said a year ago - but then nothing much has changed, has it? Local discontent has escalated but the invisible Eric Poole, foot-in-the-mouth Richard Lim and the Minister for Official Openings, Loraine Braham, still see their role as keeping the natives under control, under orders from their masters in Darwin. The attitude of these "representatives" moved into even sharper focus when they were told to promote the Darwin railway, at best of dubious value to The Alice. Mrs Braham, Mr Poole and Dr Lim did nothing about the NT Government's blatant disregard of local demands for a town bypass of the line, nor for tangible economic benefits to businesses here: Tennant Creek's going to be doing much better than us! What's the CLP done in terms of making the town planning system more democratic, when is it finally going to spend some REAL dollars in Central Australia, when will it do more than pay lip service to stopping the rampant "anti social behaviour" in this town? Not while they can be sure that their hapless Members will get another easy ride at the next election. Labor hasn't performed much better: When have candidates Peter Brooke and Peter Kavanagh last made a noteworthy public statement? Who are their candidates for MacDonnell or Araluen? Only John Elferink (CLP, MacDonnell) and Peter Toyne (Labor, Stuart), with their visions, willingness to listen to their electorates, hard work and (almost) independent approaches to the issues close to our hearts have kept our trust in politics alive. There are other positive signs for the new millennium. The Ayers Rock Resort and VIP Tours there are showing our tourism industry that operators who get off their backsides and promote vigorously are doing extremely well. While the tourist trade in The Alice had a good year, we're still only just scratching the surface in terms of the region's full potential. Although massive public funds continue to flow to a gaggle of Aboriginal organisations, some of which have been around for a quarter of a century, Aboriginal health, employment and education remain at disastrous levels. Poor performance by the organisations has been sadly matched by Territory government departments with responsibilities in the same areas. But - and that's a very big but - Aboriginal art is continuing its headlong march into national and global fame, a source of immense pride and considerable income. And the Desert Knowledge Consortium, spearheaded by the Centre for Appropriate Technology in Alice Springs, has launched a visionary initiative whose potential world wide is immense. What's more, the consortium is taking aim at tasks in which The Alice can excel, rather than being second-best in endeavours alien to our people and our environment.


The resourcefulness of the human mind and the determination and dedication of the human spirit are the "heroes" of Bill "Swampy" Marsh's new book, Great Flying Doctor Stories. The book contains more than 50 stories told to Swampy by people who have had first hand experience with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) whether as pilots, nurses, support staff, patients or others. The stories come from all over Australia, from Tasmania to Western Australia, from the Top End to South Australia And the stories take place in all sorts of weather and flying conditions, from floods to high winds to very, very dry. These conditions affect not only flying but also the various airstrips, many of them makeshift, which the pilots have had no choice but to use. Great Flying Doctor Stories also gives the reader a feeling of "time and place" and the sense of isolation which prevailed and still can in many areas of Australia where the only contact with the outside world came via a little transistor radio or by tuning into the RFDS Base. The stories encompass a wide range of human reactions - fear in face of danger, humour, concern, passion and, of course, ingenuity in unanticipated emergencies. One example of the latter is the story of how a pilot, flying in abominable weather in an effort to reach a critically ill person, navigated by the intensity of lightning! Some of the experiences and "flying routines" recounted in the book might not be today's "recommended procedures" but they illustrate the great capacity of the human mind when faced with what seem like insurmountable odds. And in many ways Great Flying Doctor Stories proves yet again the old adage, "fact is often stranger than fiction". One of the nicest stories, which has historical significance too, is about Jock McNamara and his rescue by the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) in 1928. Upon his recovery, he passed his hat around the local pub saying, "Dig deep, fellers, it's for Flynn's Inland Mission ... saved me life, they did ... who knows, it could be yours next". Another story of historical significance is "The Pedal Radio Man" about Alf Traeger and his constant "fiddling" to try to make improvements to his radio equipment. And there is a story provided by Fred McKay about AIM in the late 1930s before John Flynn died and Fred McKay took over. A prevalent theme in many of the book's stories is the importance of skills and team work: whether one is a doctor, pilot, nurse, radio technician or mechanic or whatever, the critical thing is to work together, to respect one another's knowledge and experience. There are many "yarns" as only "old Aussie blokes" can tell them. Among the best is the one about the "gaggle of doctors standing around a prostrate figure" unable to figure out how to treat him when along comes a bloke who gives him "a swift boot in the bum" and the bloke gets up and goes on about his way. Another "good one" is about the "chief chook minder" who travelled from Uluru to the Gold Coast with the Great Camel Race, a fund-raising event for the RFDS, and who "hobbled" his chook friends when he let them out for exercise so they would not wander off. And yet another "good one" is when a pilot asked one of his passengers if it was safe for him (the pilot) to open his eyes now after a particular daring feat of flying. Information and photographs of some of the aircraft used by the RFDS and of people and events, as well as illustrations by artist Howard William Steer add to the book's enjoyment. (However it would have been nice if the editor had realised the artist signed his work Howard William Steer and not referred to him as William Howard Steer on several occasions. The credit in the front of the book does identify him correctly.) The book is organised alphabetically by story title and does not provide the name of the person telling the story. This arrangement becomes frustrating to the reader when the same characters come up or the language of the storyteller reappears here and there throughout the book. One finds oneself looking back to see where those characters or phrases had appeared previously and if there is in any continuity in the story telling. And although using the vernacular of the story teller enhances the flavour of "yarn spinning", a glossary of terms might have helped the book appeal to a wider audience. An index, even a very general one, might also have helped, especially those readers who want to refer back to a particular event or to a particular location. Time reference would also have been useful for the reader to put the incident recounted in some historical context, and to realise that some stories are of events occurring more recently than one might have thought. However, despite these limitations, the reader comes away with a tremendous appreciation of the efforts people of the Outback have made in trying to help their fellow man. Great Flying Doctor Stories makes one long for the days when such excuses as "the computer is down" or "if I help and do the wrong thing, I might get sued" did not exist.


A young refugee from Sudan with two small children is about to celebrate her first western-style Christmas in Alice Springs. The 24-year old woman, who arrived in Alice in June, spent 10 years in a refugee camp. When members of the Business and Professional Women (BPW) Club in Alice Springs heard about her, they decided to break with their typical focus on local and Territory issues, and help out. "We are a lobbying organisation, not a fundraising one," said club vice president Sonja Kerr. "But this year we've heard so much about refugees in places such as Sudan and Timor, we decided to make an exception. "We put together a Christmas hamper and when we heard Migrant Resource Centre's Marguerite Rooke talk about this young woman, we decided to give the hamper to her." Marguerite, MRC's Community Settlement Service worker said the young woman arrived in Alice Springs with an 18-month old child and pregnant with her second child who was born in Australia in August. She is hopeful that her husband, who is still in the refugee camp which shelters 20,000 people, will be able to join her sometime next year. "This Christmas will be her first Christmas in Australia and her first outside the refugee camp," Marguerite said. "She was 14 years old when she entered the camp. There were nine in her family and the only one she has been able to locate is a brother who is living in Canada." Sonja added: "Marguerite told us that the young woman became a Christian in the refugee camp but she has never before experienced the Christmas ritual with all the decorations and festivities. "Her story really touched our hearts. "We wanted her to feel welcomed by the Australia people." Marguerite said the young woman speaks English, has joined an Alice Springs church and is looking forward to singing in a choir. She learned English in the refugee camp and taught school there, helping the younger children. She is well-educated and is hoping to go to TAFE to further her education. BPW is an organisation of women working for women. The Alice BPW was chartered five years ago and has more than 30 members.


I never knew Lorrie could sing that early in the day, in fact I've never seen Loz up at that time, but there she was along with the cream of Alice Springs's own entertainers to help raise money for the Salvation Army outside Coles last Saturday morning. Exactly $2,207.70 was raised in only three hours (without government assistance) and I would like to thank on behalf of The Salvation Army and myself the following artists: Herman Marcic, M'liss Scott, Jane Hughes, Digger Dan Haynes, Fiona O'Lough-lin, Pete Lowson, Ron Hodgkinson, Doug Corby, Lorrie Hunt, Shauna Hartig and guitarist, Mike Steller, Matt Scullion, Chris Scott , Scott Dann, Tania, Andre Jarret, Ben Heaslip, Mike Kelly, Dave Earea and his bass player (I still don't know his name), and Tracy Sargent. A big thanks to Paul Hasset, Chris Tangey, Sun FM, Centralian Advocate (did I say that?), 8CCC, Coles and Alice Sound Systems. The largest single contribution was from the auction professionally called by Paul and made possible by donations from the following: Beames Newsagency, Lasseters Casino, Scotty's Tavern, Leonards Chicken, Todd Tavern, Rydges Plaza, Mobil Palms, Forresters Pharmacy, Tandys, Bob Jane, Aboriginal Desert Art Gallery, Gourmet Bakehouse, Jenny Cook, Alice Coffee Services, AAT Kings, Qantas, Book City, Murray Neck Music World, Alice Springs Cinemas, Crepe Expectations, Bar Doppio and Hollow Log. If I've forgotten anyone I apologise but my short term memory ain't what it used to be, especially seeing it's Christmas! Speaking of which, have a good one!

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