August 23, 2000


Two web-based gaming organisations in Alice Springs, Lasseters Casino and Centrebet, look like falling outside the ban on "new" internet gambling sought by a Federal Bill introduced last week. The one year moratorium to May 19 next year may be a windfall for the local firm, Centrebet: it may be the only Australian betting organisation permitted to accept from Australians "cyber" bets on the Olympics.Centrebet's Gerard Daffy says his firm took wagers via the internet during the 1996 Olympics consequently this is not a "new" business for them.And Lasseters' "cyber casino" was up and running by May 19 this year.Meanwhile Lasseters CEO Peter Bridge says he is meeting with Communications Minister Richard Alston this week to "convince him of the merits" of the Alice Springs casino's internet gaming facility which now turns over about $20m a month.Mr Bridge will be accompanied by Sydney-based Centrebet general manager, Piers Morgan.Mr Bridge says the casino's proposed $40m share float is in limbo "because we're hesitant to attract investors in an uncertain climate, given the unknown fate of the proposed moratorium" on internet gaming.The company is also planning to make its high security systems available to local businesses for electronic commerce, but these plans, too, are now in doubt. Mr Bridge says shutting down government licensed sites and Lasseters is Australia's first would simply drive players to unregulated offshore facilities with the risk of wide spread credit card fraud by "Dodgy Brothers Incorporated".He questioned how "casino gaming legal in the physical world could be illegal in the virtual world".And any government efforts to block "billions of online access requests" to gaming sites would be expensive, unreliable, raise service provider rates and slow down internet traffic.The proposed one-year moratorium could become a ban on cyber gambling when the Bill is discussed in December.However, Labor has slammed the suspension because it doesn't offer a solution to the nation's overall gambling problems, according to Information Technology Shadow Minister Kate Lundy.And the Democrats are opposed to a moratorium if it merely disguises a ban, says Mr Bridge.Senator Alston last week described as "silly" Mr Bridge's suggestion that the government's attacks on cyber gaming are merely a diversion from problems linked to poker machines in the eastern states.Senator Alston says interactive "gambling [is] using technologies [with] a capacity to deliver a 'quantum leap in accessibility' as the Productivity Commission quite rightly predicts".Mr Bridge says 80,000 players from around the world have so far used Lasseters web site, and the turnover since its launch in April last year has been about $134m.At five per cent odds that translates to a profit of $6.7m of which the NT Government gets eight per cent the same rate it collects from casino gaming "on the ground".On a recent Saturday the site turned over $1m.Mr Bridge says the casino's internet facility, developed at a cost of $10m, is potentially a great asset for small businesses.He says the high level of security would allow customers to use their credit cards without risk.For example, buyers in remote areas could order goods from businesses in the town, make a credit card payment via Lasseters, which in turn would advise the trader to dispatch the merchandise, and remit the payment.Mr Daffy, Centrebet's Sports Betting Manager, says the industry is gravely concerned about proposed changes to web based gaming and other gambling restrictions Canberra may be introducing: "Who knows where they are going to stop," asks Mr Daffy."The gaming and wagering industry is Australia's third biggest employer."Some 80 per cent of Australians enjoy a bet and only two per cent have a problem."Mr Daffy says some 95 per cent of internet bets taken by Australian operators are from overseas, bringing "money into the country".Besides, problem gamblers are unlikely to "have a $3000 computer sitting on their desk to bet via the internet" it's likely they would have sold the equipment, says Mr Daffy.


Police have twice opposed applications to declare as a "dry area" Abbott's Camp, on South Terrace, which is by most standards a model Aboriginal urban community.The Liquor Commission declined the application each time despite strong evidence from leading residents of the town lease area, and prominent other witnesses, that it should be granted.The police case, in both instances, can be summarized as an objection to additional work.This is an astonishing attitude considering the size of the force three times as many officers per head of population, compared to the national average as well as the wide-spread anguish caused by grog abuse in the town.The other amazing aspect is that the second hearing, in essence an appeal against the first one, was heard by the immediate peers of the Licensing Commission chairman, Peter Allen, who decided the first application on his own: three fellow commissioners (all Darwin residents) sat on hearing number two.Even more bizarre is that the police was represented at hearing number one by Superintendent Iain Morrison, chairman at that time of the Drug and Alcohol Association (DASA): he was arguing against fellow substance abuse campaigner Tanya Witts, of the Central Australian Alcohol and Other Drugs Services, who told Mr Allen she "fully supports active community initiatives that will lead to a reduction in alcohol related harm".The town council and the departments of health and education the only other witnesses had no objections to the application.Mr Allen conceded that it was clear to him the applicants Doris and Louise Abbott and Kevin Wirri "have worked hard to improve the unhappy situation that arises from the import of liquor into their camp" but Mr Allen and his colleagues at the subsequent hearing chose to accept the police argument.Essentially it puts forward that the Trespass Act and the Police Administration Act provide all the protection the camp needs. Mr Allen, who handed down his decision on December 13 last year, blithely accepts as "important" the police argument that under dry areas laws police can act only if someone is carrying liquor.Surely, all the other laws, under which police can also act, are not suspended if an area is declared dry?Judging by the second decision, handed down by Licensing Commissioner John Withnall on August 8, the case was argued in more detail.This time the police and the town camp were the only two " appearances", and both represented by solicitors.Police again claimed that the Trespass Act was the most suitable remedy, despite evidence that the camp committee found the system of trespass notices "cumbersome and stressful": a notice must be written (or a proforma filled in) and served on the person intended to be denied access. The person doing the serving must sign a statement indicating where and when the notice was served, and that statement needs to be filed with the police.The key issue for the camp committee seems to be that any action under the Trespass Act is initiated by the complainant and that may put him or her in difficult personal conflicts, exacerbated in Aboriginal society by cultural obligations.By contrast, a breach of the Liquor Act is a crime and police are obliged to act in their own right.This is how Mr Withnall summarized Mr Wirri's position: "It would be good for him to be able to say that the camp was dry area not because he says so but because the police say so, and if people try to bring in grog in a car boot, it would be good to have police seize the vehicle."Mr Withnall summarizes the police position as follows: the causes for alcohol abuse are "complex" and a restricted area would be no panacea; a restricted area in an urban setting is " inappropriate" because liquor is readily available; "broader strategies and initiatives" are needed; and here's the rub " declaration of the camp as a restricted area will place an additional and impractical burden on police resources."He also says: "It is not unreasonable of the police to view the application as attempting to have them provide in part a private security service."Any callout on a complaint related to Part VIII of the Liquor Act, or for that matter any resolution of a disturbance by utilization of powers under the Liquor Act, has to be followed up and finalized."Such callout must be attempted to be followed up by summons and Court process, and would be flagged an outstanding job until so finished."In other words, the cops would need to be doing a job rather more complex than carting off drunks to the cells or the drying-out shelter.Despite the convoluted language of the decision it seems that such extra burdens and their associated costs are not something the Licensing Commission wishes to see imposed on the taxpaying public and its servants: "The applicants are seeking to be able to enlist some additional form of aid from the police, over and above that available to other urban residents of Alice Springs, and in that situation it surely cannot behoove the applicants to be so dismissive of the expressions of disquiet from those on whom will fall the responsibility of meeting the applicant's expectations of enhanced protection."Under what rock have Mr Allen and Mr Withnall been these last few months while the town has been agonizing over our booze mayhem? As the Hauritz Report asserts, the majority in Alice want practical and firm action at the grass roots and from the authorities. Their disquiet is with inaction and impotence. When the Alice News called at Mr Wirri's camp last Saturday morning he was out, attending a funeral. There were several groups of men and women, up to 20 people in each, sitting in various places around the lease. Most were drinking wine, decanted into soft drink bottles. Several empty wine casks and their bladders were lying on the ground. Small children were playing among the drinkers.Meanwhile the Alice Alcohol Representative Committee Committee reconvened last Friday, and will meet again this week to formulate a response to the Hauritz Report. The response will be submitted to the Licensing Commission, according to a spokesman.


It costs at least $100,000 a year to look after a brain- injured person needing residential care, and until the problem of inhalant abuse petrol, paint and glue sniffing is curbed, the number of such people will grow.And that's not to mention the cost in terms of human misery, social strife and wasted potential.Territory Health estimates that there are some 500 "sniffers" in the Territory, 200 to 300 of those in Central Australia, particularly in the area to the west and south-west of Alice Springs. Other sources estimate that there are 200 to 300 more sniffers over the borders, in Western Australia and South Australia.Habitual sniffers, those at high risk of acquired brain injury, are a small minority. Anne Mosey, who has worked in remote communities on substance abuse issues for over 10 years, says that in those communities where sniffing occurs there are only ever one or two "who will do anything to be able to sniff". She says there is usually another group of 10 to 20 who are "opportunistic sniffers", that is they're easily recruited if it's around. Then there will be another group of 10 to 20 who sniff occasionally, perhaps once every three to four months.Ms Mosey strongly supports a call to place youth workers in communities, as part of a solution to the problem. The call has been made by the Central Australian Inhalant Substance Abuse Network (CAISAN), made up of representatives of a wide range of government and non-government agencies.CAISAN coordinator Bob Durnan makes the distinction between professionals trained in youth advocacy, service delivery and counselling, and sport and recreation officers. "At the moment, most communities are devoid of youth advocacy," says Mr Durnan. "Young people's needs are lost on the periphery."Ms Mosey agrees. She says sport and recreation officers are not youth identified positions and tend to have their energies absorbed by the community footy team. They also tend not to work at night or on weekends, the times when sniffing is most likely to take place.They have little affect on committed sniffers, who sleep most of the day, and even if they were to draw them in, Ms Mosey says it is undesirable for habitual sniffers to do demanding physical exercise, because of their already damaged heart and lungs.Mr Durnan cites the positive impact of a youth worker employed by the NPY Women's Council at Fregon, South Australia, drawing on funds from the Commonwealth's National Illicit Drug Strategy.However, a similar position in Amata, further to the west, remains unfilled, despite national advertising."Although a good salary is being offered, these are very difficult circumstances to work in, and such a position would generally not be seen as a good career move," says Mr Durnan."It's a bad time, in terms of human resources, to be trying to address the problem."Sue Korner, Regional Director for Territory Health in Central Australia, agrees that there would be value in having youth workers on communities, but sees a problem with always relying for a solution on "external supports"."The success of that strategy would still be reliant on who those youth workers are, what their personal skills are, what their motivation is. "There still needs to be something that you can grow in the community, instead of always having external supports coming in and doing their thing."How do you grow the people in the community to take on that role?" she asks.A number of reports on petrol sniffing there is said to be a wheelbarrow load of them refer to the success of strong disciplinary interventions by families and senior community members, but Ms Korner suggests discipline is not enough:"At the end of the day young people need to find meaningful activities to be involved with. A lot of substance abuse is about boredom, it's about wanting to take risks risk-taking is common for teenagers anywhere."In town, where there are "more eyes" and it's easier to know "what's going on", Territory Health have put resources into the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre and into a life skills program at IAD "for a number of town-based young people who've been sniffing".The result has been "a marked drop in the number of sniffers", says Ms Korner. "The trick is to make sure these programs can be sustained. If they stop, then the same conditions will exist that led to the sniffing in the first place."Ms Korner is hopeful that under a "new robust global strategy" developed by Bob Durnan for an interdepartmental committee, which includes representation from the Commonwealth, and is supported by additional Commonwealth funds a "more coherent and sustainable approach" will be taken on petrol sniffing, which she says is not possible to isolate from the whole gamut of substance abuse issues, and their underlying causes.(The Framework Agreement by states and territories with the Commonwealth on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health requires there to be coordinated action to address substance misuse, but until now there has been no operational plan for Central Australia.NT Manager for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, Leonie Young, says the new plan the one being developed by Mr Durnan will have a dedicated strategy for inhalant misuse, and will emphasise prevention and support of general youth programs. It is expected to be completed by the end of this month.) For remote communities, Territory Health hope that, for their part, they've come up with the goods.Ms Korner says five positions within the Central Australian Alcohol and Other Drugs Service (CAAODS) have been "redesigned" to create a "capacity building team".She says the team will aim to support and strengthen community responses "like the Mt Theos" [Mt Theo is an outstation to where sniffers from Yuendumu are removed for rehabilitation; the program is funded by the Commonwealth.] but will also work with the community "to see if circumstances can be changed, so that when the young people come back there are not the same set of conditions that lead to sniffing". "Capacity building" is "an empowering community development process"; it's about "sitting down and working out with the families, the community, the individuals what sort of things they can do, and keeping them in touch with information about the issues and about resources"."We're trying to get away from the old ways where we'd say 'you come to us and we'll fix you'. "Now we say 'we'll do this, we can increase access, and try to improve supports, however we can't really end up fixing you unless there is a partnership arrangement. "There has to be mutual involvement in any intervention."Ms Korner cites the "strong women, strong babies, strong culture" program and its positive impact on low birth weights and poor nutrition of infants as a successful example of the newer approach.The CAAODS team has also been united under one manager with the Remote Area Mental Health Service, so that there is cross-referral between the two and "an enhanced ability to prioritise and focus" the efforts of both.There are two Life Promotion Officers as well, who aim help with the emotional and social development of young people living in remote areas. Their positions have been created to having an impact particularly on youth suicide.NEXT WEEK: Have community councils been consulted?


If you believe petrol sniffing is something that takes place just in some remote communities, think again: it's happening here in Alice Springs, right under your nose.Milson Hayward, who runs the games arcade opposite the CATIA office in Gregory Terrace, daily witnesses the often lethal conduct.He won't let kids sniff on his premises, and when they come in with containers he confiscates them.But across the street, concealed in the passage ways and courtyards of the town council complex, he says sniffing goes on, and when the kids come back to play the noisy machines they reek of the fumes they have been inhaling.Mr Hayward (pictured at right) says the young people, all of them Aboriginal, use empty wine bladders and there's no shortage of them in the bed of the Todd, left behind by illegal drinkers.The kids cut a slot into the bladders and part-fill them with fuel or, more often, with aerosol spray paint, getting high on the propellant fumes. As "sniffing" isn't illegal the practice is of scant interest to the police unless, for course, the substances are obtained by breaking in. Two of the main sniffers, says Mr Hayward, "got into trouble" recently for repeatedly breaking into a hardware store.He says it's clear that their parents don't look after these children, and often they're too much of a handful for the grandparents.Meanwhile Wenten Rabuntja, a senior and highly respected Arrernte man in Alice Springs, who lives in the sprawling Larapinta town lease, says there are a number of sniffers in that area. He won't allow them to come on his part of the lease. Mr Rabuntja also says he is concerned that some young people on the lease are using illicit hard drugs.


Students in Alice Springs are learning how to help themselves and others solve problems in a training program called POOCH.P is for problems, O is for options, O is for outcomes, C is for choices, and H is for how things went, explained Alicia, was one of 11 Alice Springs High School students who took the NT Peer Skills training program last week.The students were chosen for the program by their peers because of their ability to be trusted, to listen, to treat problems seriously and with respect, and to be considerate of other people's feelings."In POOCH we learn to find out what the problem is, " Alicia said."We then talk about what options the person has and what outcomes may result from those options."Then we look at the choices and what outcomes may occur with each option and then how things went based on their choices.""We were given little POOCH cards which we can carry in our wallets to help us remember what to say," Kimberly said."The program helps us know what to say when others tell us about their problems," Vanessa added. The training is offered by Kids Help Line, an initiative of Australia's youth charity, Boys Town Family Care. Over two days the students covered such topics as values and attitudes, listening and responding, problem solving and self care, as well as who else can help."A lot of my friends did the course before," Kate said. "They said it was 'really cool' so when I was selected, I thought why not give it a go. We learn to listen to people and basically be there for them."We also learned how to gain a person's trust and how to let them talk to you."Research has shown that many young people turn to their friends and peers as sounding boards when they have a problem.Peer Skills training recognises this, aiming to train students to develop basic supporting skills, good communication, and problem solving strategies, and encourages them to seek out information about local professionals who may be able to assistThree Alice Springs facilitators, Val Sloan from the STAR (Students at Risk) Centre, Daryl Preston from Anzac Hill High School, and Barbara Low from Holyoake, conducted the program."We all trained in Darwin a couple years ago," Mrs Low said."Students at Anzac Hill, St Philip's College, and even Tennant Creek High School have participated in the program."Each group of students is trained with key support personnel from their school so that they have someone they can consult if they need support. And once the students are trained, we offer on-going support."Mrs Low said Anzac Hill students will do their training in early September, and St Philip's College students in late September.Kids Help Line also maintains a free national telephone counselling service for all Australian children. The toll free number is 1800 55 1800 around the clock.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.