July 26, 2000


Liquor licensees are up in arms over the report on alcohol abuse in Central Australia.Thirty traders and staff attended a meeting called by the Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday, saying the document should be "thrown out" because it is "totally out of control", lacks credibility because of its "hatchet approach", advocates "Big Brother" measures, brands licensees as "criminals".A licensee who asked not to be named claimed the town would be "wiped off the map" as a tourist destination.SUBMISSIONA further meeting will be held next Wednesday to draft a submission to Liquor Commission chairman Peter Allen.The licensee reported to the meeting that he had been told by a Liquor Commissioner that it was most likely the report's recommendations will be put "out to the broader community" before a decision is made.The report, proposing a take-away free day each week and a raft of other sale restrictions, as well as broad community action and heavy penalties for offending traders (Alice Springs News, July 12 and 19), was subject to scathing criticism from several speakers.The licensee said the study's assertion of consumption in Alice Springs being two and a half times greater than the national average is – wrongly – based on liquor purchases in the town, as well as its population.He said if the clientele from outlying areas and tourists are taken into account, the ratio would be more like 1.4 times the national average, "not uncommon in country towns".Dr Marge Hauritz, who headed the study, refutes that assertion.She says her report relies in part on the study titled "Regional Variation in Alcohol Consumption in the Northern Territory" by Professor Dennis Gray, of the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, Perth. Dr Hauritz says Prof. Gray "used total counts of the 1996 Census where the Census coincides with the peak in the tourist season. "So this means that tourists [and visitors from outlying communities] are included on the census count. "Use of the total count provides a conservative estimate of per capita consumption which does not vary greatly from the visitor adjusted estimates of population."Dr Hauritz says "most important is the harm that stays in Alice Springs arising from consumption of alcohol."She says a report to the NT Liquor Commission from the Alcohol Reference Group and ATSIC Regional Office, in December "estimated consumption figures for Alice Springs in 1987-88 as 27.1 litres of absolute alcohol per year per person aged 15 and over. AVERAGE"During this period, this was nearly 38 per cent higher than for Territorians generally, and nearly two and a half times the Australian average of 11.1 litres per year."[Co-author] Lyon notes that wine sales contributed significantly to the extremely high level of consumption in Alice Springs, and that per capita wine consumption had increased some 123 per cent between 1980-81 and 1987-88. "This pattern of increased wine sales continues to the present."REPRESENTATIVEThe licensee also alleged the people questioned by the researchers were not representative: "407 voices are deciding the town's future," he said.The licensee said a "rampage of sly grogging" would be the result of further trading restrictionsThe "Thirsty Thursday" experiment at Tennant Creek was a failure, he asserted, as had been shown by rising consumption of fortified wines, more broken glass litter and a growing push for the reintroduction of cask wine.Cheyne Southam (Hoppy's) said at last Wednesday's meeting that the report cannot claim to be representative of the community – a key requirement for Liquor Commission action – because it was telling "only one side of the story, not a whole community view".Mr Southam said the notion of "summary arrests" of licensees and their staff is not acceptable. Liquor traders would become "lone operators" because no-one would be prepared to work for them.The notion of container deposit legislation had been "tossed around" for some 20 years.In other states, charity groups are raising significant amounts of money collecting refundable containers, but instead of introducing it, the Territory is still "waffling on" about it.Worst of all, said Mr Southam, the report was proposing "very little" to help the problem drinker, who has been "idle and drunk for years"; instead it was just "an excuse to forget him".Diane Lochiel (Todd Tavern) said the proposal to cap wholesale purchases at present-day levels would fly in the face of normal business objectives to improve and expand.Veteran roadhouse operator Peter Severin, whose bar at Curtin Springs, 80 kilometres from Ayers Rock, has a policy, sanctioned by the Human Rights Commission, not to serve local Aborigines, said the $52,000 for the report would have been better spent on rehabilitation for the core group of problem drinkers.Mr Michael Pawelski (Foodland) stepped down as the chairman of the Liquor Licensees' Association during the meeting, and was succeeded by Ms Lochiel. Mr Pawelski said he would continue to play an active part on the committee.He told the meeting he had earlier this year agreed to some voluntary restrictions only "to get more sense into the issue".In fact, he said at last Wednesday's meeting, he does "not endorse a Thirsty Thursday" – a concept he described as "archaic".Several speakers complained about access to the report being difficult and expensive ($60 for a full copy).Meanwhile the cost of the report has been revealed to be far greater than the $52,000 reported earlier.A town council spokesperson says the NT Government had contributed $57,000, the town council, $20,000 and Tangentyere, $5000, a total of $82,000.


Money,money! Sometimes there just isn't enough to do what you want to do.We have all been in that situation before.We can just accept it , or look for other ways to increase our income and make savings.Council is in this situation, faced with ever-increasing costs and our income declining through lack of growth in the town and an increase in the number of Aboriginal organizations being exempted from paying rates as they are claiming status as "Public Benevolent Institutions". What is to be done? Increase rates? Why not?The new council feels strongly that ratepayers are entitled to value for money so if there was to be an increase, it should be for added benefits.How else can we increase our income?There are Federal and Territory grants available for projects for disadvantaged and isolated areas. Some elected members have identified areas for which we may be able to access these grants, for the benefit of our town.On the other side of the budget equation is expenditure. There have been cuts here but they will have no impact on the staff delivering services to the people of our town and very little impact on the majority of ratepayers.The story of the budget and a zero rate increase does not end here nor should it. Council reviews the budget each month through its financial reports and is to have a review on the Economic and Community Development department. We will be looking for savings and identifying needs.The new council had only been sworn in for two weeks when we where given the task of reviewing and setting the budget, so while many of the elected members feel we would have liked to have been more enterprising, with the time constraints we feel a responsible budget has been presented.The next step is to revisit the strategic plan and ensure we have action and outcomes.Copies of the budget are available from the council offices.


Assaults on young Aboriginal women, between 15 and 24 years of age, have more than doubled in the last three years, according to inpatient statistics collected at the Alice Springs Hospital.Further, the overall assault rate continues to rise, most particularly amongst Aboriginal people.Statistics published in the Alcohol in Alice report – "Dollars Made from Broken Spirits" – show a substantial rise over five years of assault-related admissions of Aboriginal women and girls: from 183 in 1994-95 to 268 in 1998-99. Assault-related admissions of Aboriginal men in the same period went from 116 to 156. However, during two years the male admissions dropped significantly to 86 and 77, whereas the female admissions have never dropped below 150.During the same period, assault-related admissions of non- Aboriginal women have never been higher than three per year; of non-Aboriginal men, never higher than 15.Although the report presents the admissions as alcohol related, the role alcohol played is not fully known, says Executive Director of Nursing Services and Associate Professor, Ged Williams, who collected the statistics.He says alcohol or other drugs were present in the system of 60 per cent of victims but there is no correlated information available about the perpetrators.Mr Williams says Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data on assaults and sexual assaults is far more comprehensive than the data kept in Central Australia: it records when and where the incident took place, correlates information about victim and perpetrator and gives a demographic picture of both, allowing policy makers to target their prevention efforts more precisely.Says Mr Williams: "We will always find the resources to respond to a crisis, and at the hospital we do more than patch people up, but despite our best efforts, things are getting worse, especially for very vulnerable young Aboriginal women."Mr Williams says Territory Health Services and the hospital have increased the number of Aboriginal liaison officers who work closely with assault victims. He says Family and Community Services also do a lot of follow up work, especially with the young. The hospital refers patients with habitual high alcohol consumption to CAAODS (Central Australian Alcohol and Other Drugs Services), who, provided the patient is in agreement, work with him or her both inside and outside the hospital to implement lifestyle changes."These are all positive strategies that have been demonstrated to work, but they need a greater level of support," says Mr Williams."There may also be strategies that we are not using but should be trialling."Mr Williams proposes that all agencies concerned with alcohol and violence should reach consensus about the type of data they should be mandatorily collecting to put before policy makers.Two groups of people need to be involved, says Mr Williams: professionals from the hospital, police, schools and welfare agencies who would collect shared data and propose strategies collaboratively; and community leaders, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, who would monitor the appropriateness and effectiveness of the campaigns."We need to look for the best model interventions, implement them and then be able to watch our statistics, to see whether they move," says Mr Williams."I am speaking out of absolute concern for the victims. It is intolerable to watch such a large number of people, in particular young women, being viciously assaulted."We don't mind treating people and helping them, that's our job, but we do mind seeing our resources consumed by something that is clearly preventable."We know that we have a disproportionate incidence of assault here: it is unlike any other place that we are aware of."The Alcohol in Alice in report makes a number of recommendations in relation to greater protection of vulnerable members of the community. These include extending the Tangentyere Night Patrol to a 24 hour service; extending the Tangentyere Warden/Return to Country program; extending CAAAPU's services; the creation of a sobering up and detox centre for young people; the creation of separate safe houses for men, women and children at risk of alcohol-related violence; the creation (by outlying communities) of short-term accommodation in Alice Springs for community members needing to access services; and, the development of safe, alcohol-free day and night entertainment activities for young people. The report also recommends the collation and publication of monthly trend data for alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm in Alice Springs, which would allow the community to see whether efforts to curb both are working.


Sir,- I write in response to Samih Habib's comment (Alice News, July 19), particularly to his recommendation for a liquor outlet in Larapinta.Larapinta residents be warned, there are two supermarkets already in Larapinta, neither of which have liquor licenses. What Mr Habib is suggesting effectively is that both of these places become just like too many others around town, with an increase in litter, stinking of urine and other refuse, hazardous therefore with disease and violence. Our friendly shop proprietors who are friends to many of us will have to increase insurance premiums, employ "crowd controllers", weather the cyclical barrage of break-ins, attempted break-ins, comatose bodies, intimidated customers, disgusted tourists, phoning for police, discerning drunks and underage kids, ad nauseum.Excuse me, but doesn't Mr Habib own land in Larapinta, on the corner of Lyndavale and Larapinta Drives? I've seen there's vacant land there, room enough for a lucrative little bottle shop, perhaps."Alice's alcohol problem is a social problem," Mr Habib says, "not a commercial problem." Well, don't bring your social problems out here to Larapinta, thank you.Mr Editor, is it possible to print for us the successes and failures Hauritz and Associates have had in their 20 years experience? Hopefully, Hauritz and Assoc. do know what they are talking about, so we can take their report seriously.Mr Habib, whatever it is that you mean by "standing in Rome's flames", don't throw in liquor – it only fuels the fire.
T. Bird
Alice Springs
ED:- We have emailed Mr Bird's letter to Hauritz and Associates and hope to have a response next week.

Sir,- With regard to the alcohol problem, I have to side with Alderman Samih Habib. Being a licensee most of my life, I think he is spot on with most of his views about restaurants and new licenses for a small town. We have too few take-away licenses and we definitely need one in the Larapinta area. The problem is social. If only Senator Graham Richardson had listened when it was put forward to make part of the welfare cheque a food voucher, this problem would not be so great.When I first visited the Territory, you could get a jail sentence for serving "grog" to Aboriginals. What a pity the government changed the rules and alcohol became a death sentence for our Aboriginal brothers.
G. D. Govnor
Alice Springs

Sir,- There was a time when the thrilling exploits of "Deadwood Dick" unfolded in weekly serial form at the drive-in. Every weekend, Dick would battle against his wild west adversaries and despite the overwhelming odds he would, to the delight of the audience, always prevail.In more recent days, another drama has played out at the drive- in. This time, the action has not danced across the screen but rather against the backdrop of the corrugated iron fence. In a way, what has transpired is a parable of life in our town.This time, the adversaries can loosely be described as "the Hippies" and "the Yobbos".In episode one, the Hippies painstakingly create a stunning mural transforming a drab fence into a brilliant scene alerting the passing audience to the dangers of letting "ignorance and greed" dictate our creed.In episode two, enter the Yobbos. Choosing their own portion of fence, they slap up some indiscriminate slander deriding some less than favourable physical attributes that they ascribe to Hippies.Episode three sees the Hippies cover the offensive drivel with a gorgeous array of patterns and pictures.Once again, action generates reaction and the Yobbos, or an equally destructive third party, are having none of this, and cover the mural, and in the final stanza, erase the patterned images with green dirge.The themes that emerge from this drama are perhaps a little more complex than a rough ‘n' tumble "Deadwood Dick" serial. Issues such as accommodating diversity, respecting a range of views as well as appreciating the merit of expressing a viewpoint attractively and creatively.In "Deadwood Dick", the audience were under no illusions as to who were the Goodies and the Baddies. In this sad little saga, I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Paul McLoughlin
Alice Springs

Sir,- I have been prompted to write by Russell Naismith and his prison team painting out the anti-nuclear mural on the old drive- in fence. I felt the mural provided an important reminder to the people of Alice Springs of our role in the global nuclear industry.The mural was painted by a bunch of people calling themselves Earth-dreamers. They are an interesting sub-culture (in the same way bikies are) who travel around Australia raising awareness about the dangers of the global nuclear industry. They believe that it is unsustainable and cannot be responsibly managed by governments or corporations in the long-term.Earthdreamers have been protesting at Beverley and Honeymoon uranium mines in South Australia, and many of them are now in Alice Springs continuing to spread their anti-nuclear message.Their message is simple to grasp: Australia continues to supply the world with raw uranium; most of this ends up in nuclear power plants; many plants are old now, and the possibility of another Chernobyl is real. Indonesia is still keen to construct nuclear power plants on earthquake-ridden Java. A wet season accident would see nuclear fallout on Darwin and the Top End. Locally, both Honeymoon and Beverley uranium mines will use in- situ acid leach technology to remove uranium from underground. This is extremely environmentally damaging. Acid is pumped into uranium-bearing underground water and rocks, uranium dissolves into the acid, then is pumped back to the surface. Once uranium is extracted, the contaminated water is pumped back underground for disposal. Unfortunately both operations are likely to impact permanently on the water quality of the Great Artesian Basin, one of our greatest natural resources. In-situ acid leach mining is banned in North America because of its environmental impact, and yet the American owners of both mines have no qualms doing it here. It has many similarities to the recent Romanian cyanide disaster perpetrated by an Australian gold mining company. As less developed nations plan more nuclear power stations, Germany is phasing out its nuclear power industry totally, decommissioning and carefully deconstructing 21 nuclear power plants, having decided that the associated risks are unacceptable.It is unlikely but possible that some Australian uranium ends up in nuclear weapons. America is now wanting to develop a National Missile Defence system (Star Wars) to protect itself against rogue countries or terrorists launching nuclear missiles into the USA, and the escalation of weapons and weapons technology world-wide races on to keep pace. A key component of the National Missile Defence system is early warning provided by Pine Gap. It can therefore be assumed that if a country wanted to launch nuclear missiles against America, then Pine Gap would also be a target to destroy. Hence Alice Springs could still be a nuclear target, as it undoubtedly once was in the Cold War days. The anti-nuclear mural painted by Earthdreamers on the old drive- in fence relates directly to the issues above. It is healthy for Alice Springs to be reminded that Pine Gap is intimately tied to the nuclear industry. We should be discussing the implications of such a facility here. The heat went out of Pine Gap with the end of the Cold War, but it remains a major player in global nuclear issues. A colourful, anti-nuclear mural with an important message has been removed from a drab fence outside of Alice Springs. I think that's a sad loss.
Glenn Marshall
Co-ordinator, Arid Lands Environment Centre
Alice Springs


Town camp children attending public schools will continue to be picked up and dropped off by Tangentyere Council's school busses following an offer of financial help to Tangen-tyere by the NT Department of Education.Says Mike Bowden, Tangentyere's Community Development Manager: " The department has accepted and agreed that an important part of improving Aboriginal participation in education is actually getting the kids to school."The service, resumed yesterday for the start of term, will be closely monitored, with weekly reports being made to the department. Mr Bowden says Tangentyere is "very pleased".Meanwhile, NTDE has also offered temporary funding to the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre – a joint project of Tangentyere Council, NTDE and Territory Health Services – in order to maintain the employment of the centre's Community Development Officer, Peter Brown, until the end of the year. WHOLE FAMILYIrrkerlantye has developed an inter-generational, whole family approach to learning: education and training are oriented towards what the centre's Arrernte families aspire to for a better life (see Alice News, June 28).Mr Brown's job is to work with the families to define their aspirations and to plan around and implement them.


With Corroboree 2000 still reverberating around the country – Tasmania saw its biggest ever demonstration on the weekend, in favour of reconciliation – historian TIM ROWSE (formerly Alice Springs based) continues his reflections on the development of the movement, outlining the shift in emphasis that has followed the emergence of the Stolen Generations. (See Part One in last week's Alice News.)
It seems to me that two things have happened since 1997 in relation to reconciliation. One is that we've gone from a Labor government to a more conservative government, that's an obvious one. The other is the emergence of what, for want of a better term, you might call "southern" Indigenous opinion, as a distinct form of political discourse, whose most important concept is that of healing.(The relationship between these two developments is an interesting one to speculate about. It's not the result of a conspiracy, but it's an interesting historical conjuncture which one could think about.) Up till 1997 the Stolen Generations were relatively marginal within the discourse of Indigenous political protest . They weren't completely forgotten, but since 1997 and the publication of Sir Ronald Wilson's and Mick Dodson's report, " Bringing them home", they have become quite central to many Australians' ideas of what is wrong with race relations in this country. The Stolen Generations have to some extent displaced land and land rights as the defining issue around which reconciliation must occur. I think that is a development that had to happen – and even if I didn't think so, it wouldn't matter because it has happened. I don't begrudge the Stolen Generations their movement to the centre of the discussion about the relationship of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Australia. We needed to hear what they have said. But I do want to note one unfortunate consequences of that development . This particularly refers to the way the Apology became central to the definition of reconciliation in the early months of the year 2000.There is a style of journalism which is very common in the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Canberra Times, the Age, what we might call the quality press in Australia, which is highly sentimental in its positive disposition towards reconciliation and Indigenous interest, and which has a lot of difficulty gaining purchase on the local and particular realities of Indigenous rights and Indigenous political development in all the different, far flung regions of Australia. This style of journalism is an institutional structure for the representation of Australian affairs which is highly focused on what city audiences can imagine about Australia. Unless you read, for example, the Alice Springs News on line every week, you're not, while sitting in Canberra or Melbourne, going to have a very good understanding of the ways in which the politics of race relations and reconciliation are playing out at a local level. And yet it is in places like Alice Springs that the most striking institutional innovations are being made. So what we get as a substitute for that in the press down south is a personalisation of the issue of reconciliation, and the quite genuine and thoroughly justified demand of the Stolen Generations for healing. This fits perfectly into styles of journalistic narrative which are about people making personal journeys back to their natural mothers; John Howard making or not making a personal journey towards recognition of Indigenous pain; all of the people walking across the bridge, making that into a metaphor of their journey towards reconciliation. The personal narrative of healing, of walking together, of journeying has become really potent in the kind of political discourse we get about reconciliation in Australia, and it has tended to disoblige everybody from thinking about the difficult nitty-gritty institutional questions that have to be addressed in genuine reform in Australia.To illustrate this point, I will refer firstly to the report on the work of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation from 1995 to 1997, which was prepared by the CAR in 1997 just after the change of government. It mentioned some things that were then on the agenda for reconciliation, some of the things that reconciliation might mean, that Pat Dodson and some other people were pointing to. ‘Pilot regional agreements'. If you look in "Roadmap for Reconciliation", issued last May, you don't find words like that. ‘Recognition of Aboriginal customary law': that is mentioned in the Roadmap very briefly. Commonwealth Grants Commission scrutiny of state and territory governments' expenditure of the money they get in respect of their responsibilities towards Aboriginal populations: there is nothing as technical as that mentioned in the Roadmap.My point is that the way in which the discourse of reconciliation has shifted – for instance, into the narrative of the person healing – has pushed into the background questions of institutional design, questions of political creativity, questions about what kind of political institutions Indigenous Australians might require in the next quarter century. These questions are not really to be found in the Roadmap.There is some discussion of how Aboriginal people might develop economically but there is no discussion of how Aboriginal people are to develop politically. Some state of political development is assumed every time this document uses the word "partnership", for instance. It assumes that there is such a thing as an Indigenous political entity with whom governments can have partnerships. Of course, in Alice Springs there are such things as these active partnerships: one that I've learnt about recently is a new partnership around the training of Aboriginal health workers which involves a number of government and non- government institutions, the latter being Aboriginal organisations. So there is in the consciousness of many people in Alice Springs a very high awareness of the necessity of local Aboriginal organisations. There is also an awareness of the possibility of those Aboriginal organisations going on and becoming possibly even stronger and even more important parts of the total apparatus of government in the Northern Territory. I find the absence in the Roadmap of questions of Indigenous political development worrying. By default, the definition of reconciliation is being pushed back to that older kind of liberalism, a liberalism that assumes that the existing institutions of the country are basically adequate; that assumes that the way they need to improve is to become less discriminatory and more inclusive.
NEXT: Do we need regional units of government?

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