June 7, 2000


There is a significant increase in reported cannabis use in Alice Springs, with a preference for specially bred varieties such as "skunk" five times more powerful than the dope smoked in the 'seventies.Although the users are mainly the young, sometimes becoming violent and turning to crime to support their habit, there is no official treatment program for people under 17, and information services are inadequate.Nick Gill, manager of the local Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA), says the problem is so bad that his and four other major drug services will be holding a public meeting at the Centralian College on June 21.Mr Gill says: "I've had clients here in Alice Springs, people under the age of 20, smoking 60 to 80 cones of cannabis a day."These people are in serious difficulty."They don't do anything else."It's extremely expensive, and of course, like any drug of addiction, if you haven't got the money for it you're going to be led to criminal activities in order to raise the money."If you are a high level chronic dope smoker then you're almost certainly going to need medical, professional assistance in stopping."This is available in Alice Springs, although not for people under the age of 17, which is a problem."Mr Gill says there are no reliable figures about how many of the users are under 17."I've worked with clients of ASYASS, all of whom were over 17, but they reported they had been smoking for several years."Detoxification is available for people over 17: DASA offers a 10 day program in association with the Mental Health Unit at the hospital."People withdrawing from heavy cannabis use become extremely disturbed and agitated, and may well become very aggressive," says Mr Gill."It is normally a good idea that they receive some sort of tranquillising medication during that period of initial withdrawal."He says the addiction and its treatment are not dissimilar to heroin treatment."Many people think of cannabis as a mind drug that causes relaxation, feelings of peace and unity with the universe."If you were smoking dope in the 1970s this was probably correct."The active substance in dope is Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC."The concentration of THC in street dope in the 1970s was between four and seven per cent."Hydroponically grown and specially bred varieties have appeared over the last 10 years."Skunk is one of them, probably the best known."Samples of skunk can have up to 25 to 30 per cent THC."The analogy is if someone was smoking dope in the 1970s every day, that was the equivalent perhaps to drinking a bottle of beer every day, not enormously harmful," says Mr Gill."Today if someone is smoking a joint of skunk every day they're doing the equivalent of drinking a bottle of Scotch every day, and that is harmful, by anybody's standards."The regular use of THC makes people paranoid. "They become extremely suspicious. They will believe people are plotting against them."You become irritable and anxious."I had one mother talking to me last week about her son who regularly would threaten violence against her, was smashing the doors in his room, behaving in a way we would normally associate with alcohol."I was working with a 19 year old recently. "It was four days since he'd had a smoke. "He came in for a session with me and his knuckles were all lacerated very badly, because he had been pounding the walls. "He felt so angry. This is directly related to his use of cannabis and his attempts to stop." Mr Gill says marked changes of behaviour are often the first signs of addiction: "The absolutely classic one I hear about once a week is, my son or daughter was a really high achiever, up until about two years ago, he or she was heavily involved in team sports, and was doing really well, was really popular, had lots of friends, was involved in lots of activities."And now he just sits at home, locks himself into his room, listens to loud music, he's got one or two friends who look awful."He's become angry, he's always pestering us for money, he's given up any idea of further study, he's not looking for a job."And I don't know what's happening to him."Mr Gill says: "What I ask people who ring me up like this is, well, do you know if he's smoking dope."I suggest parents could open the subject of drugs with their child."Australian studies show that about 40 per cent of school children will have tried cannabis by the time they're 14 years old."We have no reason to believe that the figures are any different in Alice Springs."What we also know from the National Research Council is that about one in 10 people who ever try cannabis will become dependent on it."Up until a few years ago you would hear people, even professionals in the field, saying, well, you can only become psychologically dependent on cannabis."This is not true," says Mr Gill"It's been known for several years now that cannabis has a physiologically addictive effect which is very similar to heroin or alcohol."There has not been good information provision for people in Alice Springs about cannabis."That means the parents don't know what to do, and this is very worrying when you see something happening to your child and you don't know what it is that's happening, whether you ought to be worried about it, what you can do to help."Mr Gill says parents should open the issue for discussion, and react to the child's drug use in a "non-judgmental way so that your child is going to feel safe talking to you about it."You need to inform yourself."There's no point in setting yourself up and saying, you shouldn't be smoking cannabis, that's dangerous, when your child can see that you yourself are going off and getting drunk twice a week."Teenagers react very badly to hypocrisy, or what they perceive as hypocrisy."Booklets are available from DASA and Holyoake "so that your child can make their own assessment of whether the cannabis they're using is harming them."Mr Gill says DASA administers the RAAOSS scheme, the Remote Areas Alcohol and Other Substance Strategy.A field officer has recently been visiting bush communities throughout Central Australia."We were hearing that bush communities were becoming concerned about not just the young people, but other people under the age of 30 smoking ganja."The result of this was domestic violence."Again we're seeing a pattern where people are becoming dependent on the drug, and will commit violence against their spouses and other family members in order the get money to obtain the drug."Involvement in work schemes and other activities in some communities are "dropping right down or failing because the people are sitting around smoking dope".This is not happening on every community but the field officer observed a "great difference" when compared with an earlier survey"Three years ago ganja was not being named as a problem on the communities," says Mr Gill."Now it is."Elders are aware of this. Suddenly somebody has returned the community and 10, 15 of the community members are sitting down for the next week."Mr Gill says the view that dope may be less harmful than grog "is a little bit like saying shooting yourself in the head is a better way to commit suicide than taking a bottle of pills."The damage to the community, the individual, the family is the same."He estimates that 80 per cent of the drug money comes from other family members, "stolen from mother's purse, that's the story I'm hearing again and again". "With middle class kids, if the parents have set up a savings account for the child, they will suddenly discover one day that savings account is empty, and it's been used for dope."He says the majority of the drug is imported."Most people are interested in good quality drugs, skunk, hydro [hydroponically grown], and as far as I know there is not a large hydro industry in Alice Springs."In Adelaide there certainly is, and in the other capitals."He says he would not "point the finger" at any likely dealing locations in Alice Springs but "you can safely say that wherever young people gather that you will see dope exchange going on".Before coming to The Alice nearly a year ago Mr Gill was running Australia's first residential cannabis dependency treatment program, funded by the Australian Illicit Drug Strategy, at Port Adelaide.[The public information session will be in the Centralian College theaterette at 7 pm on June 21. Presenters include Lorraine Liddle (CAAAPU), Jay Easterby-Wood (CAAAODS), Sharon Burns (Congress), Mary Prunty (Holyoake) and Mr Gill.For more information, contact Mr Gill at DASA on 8952 8419.]


Sir,- For reconciliation to take place, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want us all to remember the past, with its wars and struggles and massacres, and to acknowledge it and move on. They are told by the Prime Minister and many others "You shouldn't dwell on the past. Let us forget the past and move on into the future together. Forget it!".But in our wider Australian society we don't forget. We have a great slogan, "Lest we forget". We remember, and teach our children to honour the past and the men who fought and suffered, those who died, the wounded, and the psychologically shattered. It is part of our identity. We recognise now the trauma that is passed on to many children of veterans from the wars in which Australia has been involved.Vietnam veterans suffered more than most. Sent to a war about which our nation was greatly divided, they returned home to rejection and sometimes abuse. They suffered a double trauma for 25 years or more. Studies have been done since, both here and in the US, and the Post Trauma Stress Syndrome has been recognised. We now know clearly that those veterans were scarred. The rate of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, marriage break-up, ill health and suicides were considerably higher amongst them and their children, than in the rest of society.It was not until we acknowledged their suffering and the rejection which they felt that they began to heal; not until we held parades and other celebrations of their courage and the fact that they suffered on our behalf, and that we as a people and a Government had screwed up, did they begin to heal.We received them with honour and included them again.Myself and others who have worked intensively with Aboriginal people for up to 40 years have seen the same Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome amongst them and their children; the same patterns of anguish, violence, illness, suicide and acting out behaviour because society generally doesn't want to listen, to know, or to accept what has happened to them.Just like the Vietnam veterans, the healing of the hurt and suffering of Aboriginal people will not happen until they and the whole of society can remember and acknowledge the past, express our sorrow for it, then move on together. It is not about blame. It is not about compensation. It is recognising the truth of our history so that it can be dealt with and put behind us. If our Prime Minister, other leaders and we ourselves are big enough in spirit, we will have reconciliation, and our healing and growth as a nation will be speeded.
Rev. Jim Downing A.M.

Sir,- I refer to the mention of me in the story about secrecy in last week's edition.What I actually said was "Mr Slander - by name and by nature," and you seem to understand very clearly why that remark was justified.My remark was both well-founded and fair. You have not at any time contacted me concerning an apology.In the original story on April 5 you published information about me which reflected on my professional integrity, when you knew that information was false.I did not sack Mr Bloomfield.You had in your possession a letter to Mr Bloomfield from his employer and you chose to conceal the relevant aspects from your readers.As Mr Bloomfield has taken legal proceedings against his employer I am not able to make further comment on that issue.I did not have knowledge of the contents of the article or any opportunity whatsoever to comment on it before it was published.In the past you have called me and faxed me at home or at the office when you wanted free legal advice or information, yet you made no attempt to call me and bring the article to my attention.Both of my telephone numbers are listed.You kept the story secret from me.You seem to suggest that I knew you were going to publish a story about cattle stealing allegations in the future, which had nothing to do with me, and that my remarks were motivated by that.I am not a clairvoyant.On the topic of allegations of cattle stealing, I suspect that most Central Australian pastoralists who had 600-700 cattle removed from their properties without a single cent being paid to them for the cattle, might regard that as theft.I stand by the accuracy of my remark to you, which you so kindly published. Although it is generally rather mean to make a play on someone's name, in this instance it was well deserved.You will not get any apology from me.
David Avery
Alice Springs
ED:- A demand for an apology was faxed care of the media section of the Central Land Council (CLC), Mr Avery's employer, at 9.10am on May 4.Our reports were based on documents shown to us by Mr Bloomfield and others. We concealed nothing of relevance from our readers.We concealed nothing from Mr Avery. Prior to publishing any of the reports referred to by him we invited the CLC, via its media section, to comment or provide information which would or could have included Mr Avery's role in the matters reported on.On every occasion the CLC declined to comment. If the CLC media section chooses not to inform one of its key employees about our intention to publish a report that relates to his work, then Mr Avery may need to take this up with his media section.While the Alice News, in almost all cases, faxes story drafts to its contacts, ahead of publication, for the sake of accuracy, we see no point in doing so when we get a "no comment" answer to our initial enquiries.I have never sought free legal advice from Mr Avery except in connection with the Alice Springs Rural Areas Association Inc, a volunteer organisation of which we are both members.Mr Avery's conduct is disgraceful and entirely inappropriate for a senior employee of an important organisation. I will do my level best to live with his refusal to apologise.
Erwin Chlanda
Managing Editor, Alice News.

Sir,- While those of us who live close enough to the Todd River to be worried when it rains, wait yet again for the experts to debate, consult and chair meetings on possible flood mitigation, we would like some useful information before the next flood.It is rumoured that monitoring gauges exist in the catchment area and records might possibly exist which could be useful in predicting flooding. There might even be computer modelling available. How did the police know whom to evacuate and when to do so?If some "authority" told them, could this information be shared, so those of us who might be affected by flooding could make plans. What radio/TV station is reporting the latest official information, predicted height and time of peak flow in the Alice, type of flood (eg,1 in 20) and areas needing evacuation? The station name, band/channel, frequency and time of reports (ie, on the half hour) would also be necessary. Could this be published in your paper, sent to each dwelling or erected on signs near the river?I have seen Alice Springs maps with lines drawn showing the 1 in 20, 1 in 50 etc. flood levels. What I really need to know is the predicted depth in my house, so I can minimise flood damage by piling things to waist level or higher, if I have enough warning.I have done this twice in the 30 years I have lived along the Todd and both times it was fortunately not necessary the most recent flood was not one of them. The older I get, the more difficult this will become and expert advice could save unnecessary effort. Special maps should be delivered to those in threatened areas.Information at meetings has failed to convince me that the "dam" at the Taffy Pick Crossing, aka the Casino Bridge or BV's Folly, hasn't made South Terrace more flood prone. It would at least be useful to the unfortunate residents on the wrong side of a flooding Todd to replace it immediately with a structure that at least acts like a bridge.If we could have the necessary reporting system, the informative maps and a useful bridge available before the next flood, we could probably endure the next round of discussion with a little less frustration.
Nancy Hall
Alice Springs

Sir,- Thanks for including the request from the Salvation Army for oranges andmandarins. I had one response from a lady with one small orange tree. We picked almost 400 large oranges from that tree! So that was brilliant!! Thanks and best wishes.
Andrea Holmen
for the Salvos

Sir,- I am a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia, Whyalla Campus and I am currently researching the phenomenon of romantic relationships developing on the Internet, and what impact they are having for those involved.As part of my PhD thesis, I am therefore seeking individuals to participate in my research. Issues being researched will include:
What are the reasons behind the development of romantic relationships on the Internet?
How does the Internet provide a medium for romantic relationships to develop?
What impact and outcomes are these romantic relationships having on those involved?V And, what do counselling professionals need to be aware of when developing intervention methods suitable for clients with issues relating to romantic relationships on the Internet?
I would therefore like to ask that any individuals interested in participating in the research, to visit the web page that has been developed which provides additional information about this topic.
The web page is located at:
Scheryl Hayhoe, BSW (Hons)
Whyalla, SA

Sir,- I am seeking your help in trying to find someone. A number of years ago a man from Australia on holidays here in Ireland telephoned us. He was tracing his relatives and had traced his way to us. The night he phoned we were on our way out but we did talk for some time. The next day we tried to contact him at his hotel but he had checked out shortly before and left no address or how to contact him. We believe him to be related to us and are trying to make contact with him again. Can any of your readers help ?I was very young at the time but to the best of my memory his name was Michael Tierney, definitely Tierney, he had relations in the Russell family also. He had been keeping contact with somebody in Thurles library and we are not sure but maybe he lived in the Western region. This is about ten years ago or more. If you have any information, please contact me Main Street, Templetuohy, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, or
Kenneth Tierney,Ireland


A $9m citrus growing project at Utopia north-east of Alice Springs seems set to break the deadlock in business investments on Aboriginal land.If successful, the scheme could show the way to a wide range of commercial activities in the bush, especially horticulture, providing income and employment on a large scale to people on communities currently with massive unemployment.The project is promoted by the Central Land Council (CLC) and involves a South Australian company as yet unnamed as a 50 per cent equity partner with Aboriginal traditional owners.The plantation will be set up on a 200 hectare lease."Inalienable" Aboriginal freehold land, created over roughly half of the Northern Territory under land rights, can't be used as collateral for loans because it cannot be sold.But the CLC's Economic Projects Officer Toly Sawenko says: "The lease over the land at Utopia for a given period could be considered as a collateral for a loan."The [Aboriginal] Land Trust will issue a lease to the joint venture, whose participants will be the Land Trust members themselves, and the company."We're looking at some long term lease arrangement which we're currently negotiating."In [the Central Land Council] area it's the first time we've issued a long term lease for a commercial venture on Aboriginal land other than a mining activity," says Mr Sawenko."We haven't agreed on the terms yet but it will be a longish term lease with options of renewal."You have to give a commercial venture the security to invest, and you have to protect the land owners' rights to exercise as much control as possible [over] what happens on their land."Any bank will look for some form of collateral security for the money they invest in a project."The Territory Department of Asian Relations and Trade has said that they have people interested in investing in this sort of activity on Aboriginal land, but they've never seen a model to do it with, so they've shied away."They said you can't get on to Aboriginal land, it's too difficult."It's an important thing for the land council to make these sorts of mechanisms available, to promote development."The land council has had a land acquisition mind set, it's had a sort of protection of rights mind set, and now it has an economic development and land management mind set."We've got a legislative formula in the Land Rights Act for working with mining developments but we haven't to date worked out a leasing approach to dealing with other forms of economic development."So, that's the direction we reckon we're now going in."The Utopia Citrus Project is seeking a multi million dollar investment from the company, which will contribute expertise and access to markets.The company's financial contribution will be matched equally with funds which the Aboriginal partners, who are providing the land and the water, are hoping to get from ATSIC and the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC).The joint venturers will also be seeking bank loans.It is planned to plant 100,000 trees producing 10,000 tonnes of citrus a year, providing full time employment for 15 people, and 50 to 60 casual jobs during three months a year for picking and related tasks.The trees will take four years to grow to maturity; during the following eight years the loans will be repaid, and after that each partner can expect an annual profit of $1m.The trees have a life of 40 years.Mr Sawenko says the Utopia Citrus project is the lead project in the CLC Aboriginal Horticulture Development strategy which the CLC has developed in consultation with ATSIC, the ILC and Northern Territory Government departments including Department of Primary Industry And Fisheries, Department of Industry and Business, Lands Planning and Environment, and Trade and Asian Relations. "The goal of the strategy is to develop joint venture commercial scale horticulture projects on at least seven water basins which exist on Aboriginal land in central Australia. "The CLC and other agencies have established a Working Group which meets regularly to advance the Aboriginal horticulture development process."The CLC believes that negotiations for the agreement to establish the Utopia Citrus project will be finalised in the latter part of this year."Mr Sawenko says the CLC has identified several water basins in Central Australia, presenting opportunities for other horticulture projects. The basins are at Willowra and Mt Barkly; the well known one at Ti Tree, already supporting a thriving table grapes industry established in about 1987; one including most of the southern half of Singleton Station as well as Ali Curung (south of Tennant Creek); a "sizable one" east of Utopia, earmarked for the citrus project; the Great Artesian Basin, covering much of the western Simpson Desert, east of Finke, where there is "great potential for growing dates"; plus one basin each north-east and south-west of Tennant Creek, covered by Aboriginal Land Trust areas."Half of them we know enough about to be confident to say we can do commercial horticulture there, and you can probably do it on between 200 and 600 hectares on some of them."So when you do your sums you can end up with something like a $50m Aboriginal horticulture industry within the next five to 10 years."It could be more than that if you do the detailed work on those basins, and work out where the water is."The Ti Tree and Pine Hill grape farms are now "heading towards a $14m a year table grape production," says Mr Sawenko.(According to the Territory Business Magazine - First Quarter 2000, the total harvest for the 1999/2000 table grape crop in Central Australia, at Pine Hill and TiTree, is estimated to come in at 2400 tonnes with the crop worth an estimated $14.5 million.)Mr Sawenko recently led a delegation of traditional owners, ATSIC members and officers of the Territory Department of Primary Industries to Israel, "the world leaders in desert horticulture".The trip was largely financed by the Pratt Foundation.Says Mr Sawenko: "All that Negev desert area in the southern half of Israel is actually harsher, drier and more forbidding than the country we've got here, and has less water to work with," says Mr Sawenko."The Israelis have actually succeeded in more difficult circumstances than we have here."That's a real encouragement to the [Aboriginal] land owners. "We can do it here. We actually have some things in our favour."The Aboriginal people have the land and the water. "They don't have the management expertise, the necessary capital nor the access to the markets to do commercial scale horticulture. That's obvious."Mr Sawenko says the project will be aiming to "achieve an early season market advantage which overcomes the disadvantage of the distance from the consumers."The success of the Ti Tree grape growers, for example, is based on getting their grapes on the dinner table in the southern capitals for Christmas.This "converts to citrus", he says: there are good markets for early season navel oranges, both domestic and export, although the orange juice industry has been hit hard in the past 10 years by imports of cheap concentrate from Brazil.EMPLOYMENTMr Sawenko says the citrus project is more likely to attract Aboriginal labour than is the case with the established grape plantations at Ti Tree, where despite massive unemployment on nearby communities the seasonal picking is done each year by workers brought in from interstate."The anecdotal stories are that the grape industry was trying to attract Aboriginal labour," he says."That may well be the case. "I think that more could be done to work with the Aboriginal communities in the region, and look at a plan at bringing them into the project not only as unskilled labour, but to look at the potential to train people."The [grape farms] need seasonal pickers and they need them right on time. "They can't leave anything to chance."You can understand why they imported their own labour, and they continue to do that."That labour needs to be tuned into the project, needs to be work ready, it has to be motivated to want to work in that industry, and that doesn't happen over night. "We found that here with the mining industry, with our mining employment program."It's one thing for a company to say, yes, it's a good idea to employ Aboriginal people. "It's another thing to recruit the right people, making sure they understand the industry, they want to work in it, keeping them in there once they have started, and meeting any problems they may have with working there."The first thing is having an exposure to what the work involves."The attempts to involve the Aborigines have only occurred once or twice. "There was no response so [the industry] moved on [to other labour sources], as you'd expect, because they need to run their industry."That's also true of the mining industry."Over the years they've had some problems retaining Aboriginal employees but no one actually addressed what the problems were."There may be more suitable Aboriginal people who could work in that industry, with more suitable backgrounds and work experience and skills."They haven't had the incentive and probably not the knowledge of how to recruit Aboriginal labour."Mr Sawenko says audits of locally available skills will be part of the preparatory work for the citrus project.He says there are locals with earth moving and maintenance skills "who could walk into jobs in the citrus project from day one"."Quite a lot of people are interested in doing the casual and seasonal work because they're in their own community, they don't have to go away from home."You look at young people and say, here's an industry on your doorstep, and here are some of the opportunities."It's that mentality, too, always falling back on social security when there are job opportunities."In my mind the only way of making work more attractive is when the money is better."It's quite conceivable that if nobody wants to work in the project and commercial considerations say you have to pick the crop, we'll bring in outside labour."In that scenario the benefits the land owners will get are the profits from the project."But we think we can do a lot better than that."He says the size of the Utopia project had been determined by the "minimum scale which could warrant the economic operation of a packing shed in Alice Springs" a proposal for which the NT Government has already shown interest in providing assistance with land and infrastructure.


Fran Erlich, new Mayor of Alice Springs by a margin of just nine votes, says she will give it "everything I've got" for four years, but after that "who knows".Mrs Erlich continues to refuse to rule out running as an independent candidate for a Legislative Assembly seat at some time in the future.Meanwhile, she says she can be "very useful for Alice Springs as an independent Mayor"."Not only the Mayor but the whole council, as leaders in town, have a responsibility to speak out on matters affecting the town, even if they are not strictly related to local government."We shouldn't try to usurp the role of the Northern Territory Government in Alice Springs, but sometimes good governorship will require that myself and Aldermen speak out on government matters."Town planning will be one such area. While the town council can nominate two Aldermen to sit on the new Development Consent Authority, Mrs Erlich says council's role has been considerably reduced. She says the Minister has made it clear that Aldermen are not there to represent council views, and that if council has discussed a particular development application, then the Aldermen must declare a conflict of interest."This is a very retrograde step and is something that the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory will be taking up," says Mrs Erlich.Aldermen may also want to speak out on heritage matters. Mrs Erlich defends her independence in this area. In relation to the demolition of the late Lizzie Milnes' house in Bath Street, for example, she says she did not think that it was worth preserving from a heritage point of view."It was not unique, there are other houses and gardens in a similar style."And while Mrs Milnes was a very well known person, I don't think she met the heritage criteria of having made a significant contribution to Territory history and culture."Mrs Erlich was the only council candidate to nominate racial harmony as one of her chief areas of concern.She says council can take a lead in breaking down racial stereotypes by contributing to a resolution of public drunkenness and disorderly behaviour.She is confident of the new council's willingness to act in this area, as other candidates, including her closest rival for position of Mayor, Jenny Mostran, put forward this issue as a priority during their campaigns.Mrs Erlich also expressed her determination to work towards getting at least two Aboriginal people on to council at the next election."Under the present system of voting this will be very difficult, because, while Aboriginal candidates start well with their primary votes, the preferential system means that the votes of all the people who don't want them kick in."Without a change to the voting system, I don't know quite how to achieve Aboriginal representation, but it is an issue that I want to start work on early in my term."Aboriginal people make up at least a quarter of the town's population and use local government services like the roads, footpaths, sporting facilities, the library, like the rest of us."Aboriginal representation is just as important as having women on council."MORE WOMENThere are five women to six men on the new council (compared to four women to seven men on the previous council).However, uppermost in Mrs Erlich's mind in the immediate term is to help ensure that the new council can work effectively as a team."Each elected member must have the chance to put forward their desires for the town, the issues they put to the people who voted for them."She says a "professional development" workshop for Aldermen will be run in the near future, with expert trainers brought into town, rather than the Aldermen being sent away, as has happened in the past."This could be extremely good in terms of building a team morale, as will be the development of council's annual strategic plan."This involves sitting down and thrashing out our priorities, and through that process realising where we all agree."Mrs Erlich says each issue before council should be considered on its merit, and not within the framework of any preexisting political views.


When Tangentyere Council Wardens started work four years ago, they counted around 400 semi-permanent illegal campers along the Todd River in Alice Springs, from Mt Nancy to almost as far as Amoonguna.Today, they say it's down to around 40.Keeping it at that level requires constant vigilance and returns an important social benefit to the whole town, says Mike Bowden, Manager for the Community Development Division of Tangentyere Council.This has been recognised by the Alice in Ten Quality of Life Committee, and Minister for Health, Steve Dunham, has confirmed the NT Government's support for the scheme.Mr Dunham last Friday clarified uncertainty about funding for the Wardens service and for the coordination of Remote Area Night Patrols, derived from the wine cask levy administered through Territory Health's Alcohol and Other Drugs unit.Both projects have been granted interim funding until the end of September, while changes are put in place to the way funding is delivered and accounted for.According to Mr Bowden, Wardens Eddie Taylor and Tony Kells deal with 15-20 people each day, starting at 5am in the morning, visiting illegal camps, explaining to people that they can't remain there, and when necessary assisting them to return home.From five to a dozen people are given help to go "back to country" every week.Mr Bowden says the people who receive help are "indigent" utterly impoverished.They come to town for a whole range of reasons family visits, funerals, medical treatment, court appearances, a break from community life but with limited resources can become trapped here.They are at risk of alcohol abuse, assault, sexual abuse, and after sleeping out for several days, especially in cold weather, are vulnerable to illness and hospitalisation. Sending them home returns them to family and support networks, and limits the drain on services in Alice Springs.It also removes the opportunity for non-Aboriginal people to become angry and critical about Aboriginal lifestyle, the context of which they have little understanding of."It removes a factor which exacerbates racial tension in the town," says Mr Bowden. "And by also reducing social harm, it is a service which is in the interest of the whole of the community."Is there not a risk of the scheme actually encouraging people to come to town without the resources to look after themselves?Mr Bowden says that is "an acknowledged side effect", but argues that it is outweighed by the overall value of the scheme. At the same time, Mr Bowden points out that the Wardens' "clean-up" of public areas around town has contributed to the problems of over-crowding in many Aboriginal homes and town camps."It is not the panacea of all our social problems. We know of many houses where there are 20 people sleeping at night, some of them just sharing a blanket on the floor."The scheme costs $195,000 a year, which includes the lease fees and running and maintenance costs of a 22 seater bus, and a 4WD twin cab utility.An on-going problem for the scheme is the availability of appropriate vehicles.The ute is used to patrol areas around the town.A 22 seater bus has been used in the past to return people home. However, the 2WD vehicle is not made for the dirt roads of the outback, and has been off the road with a range of mechanical problems for the last six months.The Wardens have had to be innovative, often using commercial bus services where available, and coordinating with communities to meet their members at the nearest set-down points.This is one of the occasions when the extensive network built up by Tangentyere's Remote Area Night Patrol service comes into play.While remote area residents are not Tangentyere's traditional client group, Mr Bowden argues that contributing to improved living conditions on communities indirectly contributes to the welfare of Alice Springs."If the community night patrols are working well, the communities are more harmonious and we don't get their refugees here in town."The RANP coordinator Blair McFarland and manager Jenny Walker help the communities to establish and support their own night patrol services and other "harm reduction strategies".They promote exchange of information and ideas between communities, help develop applications for funding (for things like torches, warm clothing, radios and vehicles), and deliver NTETA accredited training packages.Staff travel across vast distances of the Territory, from the far-flung communities west of Alice, up to Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria, to deliver the service, They communicate between visits by circulating newsletters on video.Their annual budget, including salaries and vehicles, is around $100,000.


The announcement of a jellyfish plant for the waters of the Gulf Region was greeted with interest and trepidation.The promise of infrastructure and jobs, but skepticism about government intervention, weighed heavily on the minds of local residents. "Twenty five jobs was the promise from Minister Mick Palmer. So far there are some 13 Chinese and NO Borroloola resident employed in this operation," said Elliot McAdam, ALP candidate for the Barkly.Benjamin Ding (David Glory Group, permit holder for the plant) claimed that the Minister told him to bypass Borroloola and go to the Fishing Club.This has been denied by the Minister. So broken promises and somebody being liberal with the truth? Is this whole thing a good idea or just another disaster? The jellyfish plant has been set up at the King Ash Bay Fishing Club (it used to be the Borroloola Fishing Club), with no town power, no water, no sewerage system. No environmental impact study, no planning, no nothing, just go in, do as you please. A 12 month lease has been signed between Benjamin Ding and Chris Davies, Madeline Miles and Angela Biltoft from the Fishing Club. Members have been complaining about this, but fear speaking out. People have received letters gagging then from talking to the press, but most members approached don't want the thing. It was agreed by the committee, with no meeting of all members. It was agreed by the government, with no planning or building codes.The lease agrees that the David Glory Group must pay $100 nominal weekly payment. The lease is due for renewal on June 23 and it has been alleged that this figure will increase to $400 a week.What price for unknown permanent damage to the river system and the environmental impact of the building, salt and chemicals and other unknown problems? Many members have claimed that the Fishing Club should remain for the purpose of its Crown land lease, that being for tourism, recreation, camping and ancillary purposes. The jellyfish plant certainly doesn't belong at the Fishing Club, as per the current lease conditions. However the government has the right to do as they please. The Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment, Tim Baldwin, in a letter to the Gulf News claimed the following :- No planning controls exist over the leased land in terms of development (Fishing Club Crown land lease); The Northern Territory Building Act does not apply in this area.When controversy started over the sub-leasing of land for the purpose of building a petrol station, Minister Baldwin said: "The Crown Lands Act provides for such a sublease with my consent." This makes a mockery of the government's commitment to cooperate with local communities, in regards to planning. So the jellyfish plant has been given government approval to build on the land. According to Mr Ding, they are only building a temporary shed. According to Mr Palmer, they are only building a shade structure. Who's right? What they don't say is that there will be two sheds, some 50 tanks, a jetty, a conveyor belt, accommodation blocks and a toilet facility, taking in an area of 115m x 100m of prime recreational land. They have been told to provide basic toilet facilities, ie, pit or chemical, on the said land. What about showers, fresh water, rubbish removals, sewerage run off areas, and on and on?The lease also instructs the David Glory Group: "No structure or earth moving is to be carried out by the David Glory Group that could in anyway contribute to the erosion of the riverbank."Well, trees have been knocked down, jetties have been built and the tanks will be on a dirt floor what effect will this have on the riverbank when they are emptied and the salt and chemicals are poured back into the McArthur River?It is accepted that the whole process has been set up to suit a favourable resolution for the CLP, at the expense of Labor controlled township of Borroloola? There is plenty of industrial land in Borroloola, in fact only two months ago some industrial blocks were passed in at auction. Borroloola also has bitumen roads, town power, town water, on hand staffing and controls over the building of structures. Maybe this is why they went to the Fishing Club, because the government allows them to do as they please, whereas the people of Borroloola would demand the same conditions for them as we have to live under.At the time of the lease agreement, the Fishing Club was CLP led. It is now understood that the Fisheries Manager for the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries will be charged with overviewing the jellyfish plant. This could be a problem as this person is also a member of the Fishing Club committee.The jellyfish plant will be overviewed by a person under the employ of Mick Palmer and also under instructions from the committee in charge of the lease.The other concern is the lack of answers to the public's questions. Tim Baldwin's office has refused permission, on two occasions, for the Gulf News to ask the Minister any questions.A list of some 20 odd questions are with the Chief Minister: a response is still awaited. Member for the Barkly, Maggie Hickey, has continually asked questions, over the past five years, and is still awaiting a response. When asked by Mrs Hickey, in the recent sittings "Why haven't the normal government approvals and environmental safe guards been a part of this development?" Mr Palmer responded: "In relation to any environmental effects from processing, it is merely salt water running out of the jellyfish back into salt water."We sent the proponents to the Department of Lands, Planning and Environment in relation to a water discharge license and they informed the proponents that the water discharge license is not required."There is absolutely no indication that the taking of a few jellyfish is going to impact upon the turtle stock."How does the Minister know? The permit allows for 1.5 tons of jellyfish to be removed. Is this considered "a few"? This issue was also severely tested recently, when 15 100 metre nets were confiscated from the grounds of the David Glory Group's allocated land. This matter is being dealt with in Darwin, as we couldn't locate an interpreter, who can speak Chinese and English, to find out what was going on.Mr Ding and Mr Palmer have both claimed that the jellyfish would be caught in dip or scoop nets. There certainly hasn't been any mention of 1.5 kms of illegal 11.5cm nets.According to Patrick O'Leary of the Marine and Coastal Community Network, the jellyfish fishery in the NT is new and there still remains a great deal that is unknown about their biology and the way they interact with environment . Some research has been done on one of the two species being fished for at Borroloola (Catostylus) but there is almost nothing known about the other one (Lobonema). We do know that Leatherback Turtles, which are in decline globally, feed on these jellyfish but at this stage it is not known what the fishery impact will be on them. For many, if not most, commercial fisheries in Australia, there is a lack of very basic information on the impacts of the fishery on the ecosystem. For instance, it is known, in the USA, that some species of coastal fish use jellyfish swarms as a kind of "nursery habitat". Often this kind of information is not obvious until much research has been done. With the jellyfish fishery in Borroloola, the Territory Government restricted the net type allowed to hand held dip nets.The reason behind this was to limit the amount of non target catch or by-catch being caught and killed. If larger nets were to be used, there may be a risk of significant negative impacts not only on jellyfish stocks but potentially on other fish, turtles and wildlife in the area. New Federal fisheries legislation that is soon to be finalised will mean that governments will be looking at ways to environmentally assess fishery impacts on a broad scale for the first time in Australia. Fisheries like the jellyfish plant, based on little studied species in remote areas which makes monitoring and enforcement difficult, will be a particular challenge for the regulators, says Mr O'Leary.Mr Ding claims that the jellyfish operation won't have any impact on the environment because they've got a license in Victoria and Queensland. He further claims that all the research has been done, all in other states, it's new to the Territory but it's not new in other states.When contacted, Victoria's and Queensland's fisheries departments have both said no research has been or is being done. If the police had not stumbled upon the illegal nets, what damage would have been done?How many other types of fish would have been dragged out of the water?Are there any guarantees that other netting won't be shipped in later?At the end of the day, what damage will this cause to the Gulf waters, which are the second largest fished waters in the Territory.Will it be good in five years time to say that this wasn't a good idea, but at least we now have research showing the damage jellyfish fisheries have on water ways? This will be too late to save the McArthur and Carrington Rivers around Borroloola. In five years time we could be in a situation where nobody comes to Borroloola anymore because the fishing is crap!! Not only will this damage the pleasure of recreational fishing people, but it will send Borroloola down a rocky road to oblivion. The greed for money shouldn't overtake the right to a lifestyle. Who would benefit from this?


A childhood spent running free is a cherished ideal, which makes the story of childhoods spent in hiding and on the run, told in Down the hole, a new children's book published by jukurrpa books (IAD Press), all the more chilling.Down the hole tells us about a number of fair-skinned Aboriginal children living with their families across inland South Australia from Coober Pedy and surrounding cattle stations to Ooldea on the Transcontinental Railway Line.In that vast territory there was only one safe place for them Lake Philipson, a place where "the State" didn't come to take them away.While their "Old People" were noodling (looking for opal in the over-burden from underground mines) these fair-skinned children were hidden down the holes."They used to chuck us in the piti before sunrise."The maru kids the dark kids they could play around."They would sit in the holes, quiet and frightened, waiting for "a feed" to be sent down on a rope. After their feed, they would go to sleep in "a big hole, bigger than the others" and in "the drive" (a tunnel).Only after sundown would the Old People pull them up.When they went to Ooldea, they were warned about Daisy Bates. The children were told to run away: as soon as the sun rose they had to go "and keep going"."All the little fair ones used to run along all together."That's no lie that's true!"Running ... from that old woman!"If they were caught, they were put in "a home" at Ooldea. The narrator declares: "I never lasted a month or two months in there."I was only in that home there for two weeks."And then I was gone!"This evocation is made sharper and sadder by a memory of freedom that came with being too old to be put in a home:"When we became young teenage girls only then we became free ... walking around."But at least, through their own and their families' resourcefulness and endurance, they had not been taken away. The narrator concludes on a triumphant note:"I never was touched; not me!"I been still hiding away and here I am today."The story is a simply told amalgam of the memories of two women, Edna Tantjingu Williams and Eileen Wani Wingfield.As a revealing and poignant document of the Stolen Generation, it is amplified by the additional material at the end of the book.Although Edna and Eileen managed to escape "the State people", we learn that Eileen's children were taken from her, by "the Welfare".Her husband was working at Iron Knob: "That's when they took our kids. Weightman and Ruby Cox from the Welfare just used to rush in and grab kids. I argued to see them. But it broke our hearts."Eileen writes that she is happy to make the book for her nine children, naming each of them, including Jennifer whom she never saw again.There is equally an account of the life of Edna, recently deceased, and of the illustrator, Kunyi June-Anne McInerny, herself taken away at the age of four or five, along with her seven brothers and sisters. Background information on why the children had to hide and a note about Daisy Bates are further useful aids to understanding the story more fully. Younger children in particular will need to have the story put into context, as it opens dramatically, without explanation, with the State people kidnapping children.The book is beautifully illustrated, which will only enhance its usefulness as a tool to introduce young readers to one of the saddest chapters of Australian history.It would also serve well as an introduction to the Aboriginal culture of its authors, peppered as it is with phrases and words from their Aboriginal languages. These are immediately translated in the text, and on the pages where they appear, there is a pronunciation guide in the margin, with a further explanatory note at the end of the book.We learn from the end notes that both Edna and Eileen became members of the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a corporation of senior Aboriginal women bent on keeping alive their traditional culture. This book it appears was just one of the efforts of these admirable women.


Cosi, by Australian playwright Louis Nowra, is this year's Centralian College Year 12 PES Drama.Cosi is set in a mental institution.Lewis (Daniel Ecenanro) is a young director who has been hired to produce and direct a play, Cosi Fan Tutte, which one of the "residents", Roy (Rouslun Churches) has envisioned.Roy is a manic depressive who is constantly egging on his fellow "not so voluntary" comrades.They are Ruth (Brooke DeSalvio), who is obsessive and compulsive; Cherry (Sarah Marshall), a loud-mouthed, knife-wielding, romantic; and Julie (Jessica Westbrook), a junkie whose parents have put her in a mental institution instead of rehab.Add characters, Zac (Janelle Driscol), a comatose musician who is always taking too much medication; Doug (Kurt Murray), a pyromaniac who gets a "gigantic hard on" from setting fires; and Harriet (Marni Southan) a stuttering ex-lawyer who is chronically shy and has been in institutions for most of her adult life; plus a romantic intrigue among the "residents" and you get a play where you never know what might happen next.Other characters include Lucy, director Lewis' girlfriend, played by Janelle Driscol, when she isn't playing Zac, and Nicky (Hedi Kurovec), a "slutty, flirtatious over-acting" friend of both Lucy and Lewis."The play is a bit funny, a bit of a drama and a little sad," student publicity officer Lynda McMeikan said."It was originally set in the 1970s in a Melbourne asylum with references to such things as the Vietnam War."We have adapted the work by changing some of the words and music so that audiences in the year 2000 will relate to it better."Lynda also has a part in the play, as June, a social worker.All aspects of the production will be assessed, back stage work, stage management, publicity, as well as the more obvious acting, set and costume design.Consequently some students have been working hard behind the scenes making sure nothing has been overlooked.Julia McCarthy has the onerous job of stage manager while Jacqui Bransgrove has been working on set design, lighting, special effects, and selecting music to use between scenes.The stage crew is Tom Sharpe while Marni Southan has worked on costume design in addition to her role as Harriett.Centralian College drama teacher Glenda Ward has directed the play and guided the students' work.Cosi will be presented on two nights only at the Centralian College Theatrette, Grevillea Drive, on Saturday, June 10 and Monday, June 12 at 7.30pm.Tickets are available at the door.

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