September 13, 2000


A man ran for his life through an Aboriginal town camp in Alice Springs, pursued by several attackers armed with knives and nulla nullas (fighting sticks), on Saturday evening.They caught him on the bank of the Todd River, across South Terrace from Abbott's Camp, and slashed his right thigh in what camp leaders say was a payback.The man, 19, who also suffered a stab wound to the scalp, received emergency surgery at the Alice Springs Hospital.Another man and a woman were also injured in the melee. Police say the man, 20, was stabbed in the thigh, arm and cheek, and the woman, 45, was stabbed twice in the back and once to the thigh and scalp.All three also suffered various abrasions.Camp leader Kevin Wirri and his wife, Doris Abbott, issued a desperate plea for outsiders to stay away from their living area and "fight in Hermannsburg".Mr Wirri and Mrs Abbott said: "Payback comes to the centre of this town."They should have respect for this camp."We want no more visitors to come 'round."They are not welcome."Mr Wirri says none of the people involved in the stabbings were residents of Abbott's Camp, and most of the visitors were drunk.He says so far as he knows, the "wrong" people had been attacked because the "right" ones were in the Alice Springs prison following alleged crimes at Hermannsburg recently."They should wait for them," says Mr Wirri.He fears the payback will continue: "It will happen later on."Mr Wirri says the injured woman had run up to him and clung to him, pleading for protection, leaving blood stains on his shirt: "I didn't know what to do," he says.Camp president Leslie Brokus observed part of the chase. He says the man who received the most serious injuries had entered the camp through the northern gate in the high metal fence, crashed to the ground, gotten up again, and left the camp through the main gate, chased by men and women.There was a "big mob of cars from Hermanns-burg" stopped outside the camp. The man's pursuers caught up with him across the road and when Mr Brokus saw him again, "there was blood all over his right thigh".DRYMrs Abbott, Mr Wirri and Mr Brokus have made two applications to the Liquor Commission to declare the camp dry under NT Liquor laws, but both were rejected.At the time of going to press no arrests had been made and no charges laid.Police say investigations are continuing. The 19 year old man suffered serious blood loss but his injuries are not life threatening.

LETTERS: Brooke wrong on liquor, says Elferink.

Sir,- I am writing to you about a comment made by the Labor Candidate for Braitling, Peter Brooke in your lead article of last week's issue (Sept 6). He makes a comment about me running dead on the liquor issue in Alice Springs after the report "Dollars made from broken spirits" was made public. I have been interviewed several times since then and indeed a front page story in your own newspaper covered the topic with me making a contribution at some length shortly after the release of the report. Mr Brooke has simply taken this opportunity to do what has become a common trait in Labor ranks and that is to lie or to be ignorant and uninformed.My advice to the Labor candidate is if he is lying, don't. If he is merely ignorant keep his mouth shut until he is informed.
John Elferink
MLA for MacDonnell
Alice Springs

Sir,- The Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO) welcomes the renewed commitment to public education expressed by the ALP Platform.We welcome this positive statement of directions. This is the clearest commitment we have heard from the Labor Party to the central importance of government funding for government schools in many years. We also welcome the promise to abolish Dr Kemp's unfair and unjustified Enrollment Benchmark Adjustment, which discriminates against government schools.The contrast between these policy directions, and Dr Kemp's increasing emphasis on competition and choice, and markets and privatisation in schooling is particularly clear.We also welcome the positive policies on disadvantaged schools and areas, which stress increased Commonwealth funding, Commonwealth-State collaboration and the mobilisation of communities.The contrast to Dr Kemp's promotion of more rapid increases in funding for private schools than for government schools as an equity policy is also particularly clear. This policy makes no sense, given that the major equity target groups in Australia students from low socio-economic status families, students of Indigenous origin, students from rural and remote areas, and students with disabilities are overwhelmingly enrolled in government schools.What we need now from Labor is much more detail on the programs proposed, and more detail on the dollars. The Labor Party has to its credit on education policy the highs of the Whitlam period. On the debit side, it has the major decline in national investment in education which took place under Hawke and Keating. Only when we see the detailed commitments will we be able to feel confident about what the new policy is likely to mean in practice.But at least we now know that the broad policy directions proposed by Labor are acceptable. This lays down a clear challenge to the Coalition.Will it follow Dr Kemp's ideologically obsessive pursuit of markets, when overseas experience shows that they fail to deliver increased standards, and increased equity? Or will it return to its former policies, which meant that there was, until recently, bi-partisan support for a strong government school sector as an essential part of Australia's social fabric?The outcome of the next election could well depend on its answer to these questions.Meanwhile, ACSSO endorses Dr Kemp's call for the States and Territories to increase funding for government schools, but criticises Dr Kemp for his blatantly biased interpretation of the data on funding.Dr Kemp is quite correct in calling on the States and Territories to increase funding for government schools, even though we reject his argument that the Commonwealth's primary responsibility is to non-government schools.There will need to be a coordinated approach to lifting the national investment in schooling to the levels of 20 years ago. If the percentage of GDP spent on schooling is to be restored, Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments are collectively going to have to find around $6 billion a year in increased funding. State and Territory Governments are going to have to play their part.If the States and Territories are going to receive major increases in funding from GST revenue, it is crucial that there be a nationally agreed approach to funding schools. This has to be the major challenge for the Ministerial Council on Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). As Chair of MCEETYA, Dr Kemp should be showing national leadership, not playing a blatantly political game.
Dr Ian Morgan
ACCSO President

Sir,- I'm trying to find two of my friends who left my home town of Bridport, England, 40 years ago with their father and mother.At the time they were about nine to ten years old. Their names where Sally and Beverley Welch when they left. By now they may have got married and I do not know their married names.I do hope your readers can help me as I would so much like to hear from them.
Allan Ferguson

Sir,- I was in Alice Springs in late March or early April, 1977 when I had the good fortune to run into the American film star, Burt Lancaster while purchasing a stamp in a little general store and postal outlet. It was him and my observation was confirmed when I happened to see a man frantically writing out a telegram bearing the message : "Lancaster furious. Will send details later." to a Sydney press agency. A mate from Sydney and I later cornered the poor man and had a conversation and autograph session with him. I never did find out why he was in Alice and after 23 years I still wonder from time to time. Does anyone there know?I rather enjoyed your online newspaper!
P. Marcy
PO Box 7731,
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7K 4R5

Sir,- As I was checking the status of the world down under, I hit your web site and was very pleasantly reminded of Alice Springs. Although my visit to the Northern Territory in October of 1997 resulted in destroying my knee in a fall at Ormiston Gorge, I hold dear memories of your city and country.Please extend my greetings to the staff at your community hospital in Alice Springs. Without them, I would not have been able to move to physical rehabilitation and regain a major (though not total) recovery.My wife and I plan on returning to OZ in 2001 for a holiday. I hope to return to "The Alice" and if any of the hospital staff are still there, personally thank them for everything they did for me. I will never forget my experience in Alice Springs, or the rest of OZ for that matter. As I love my native America, I will always hold Australia dearly in my heart. Upon completion of a 1997 business assignment in OZ, I was asked what I would like to have as a farewell gift ... beyond all else, I desired an Australian flag. My request was honored, and when the Olympics begin in September, I will proudly fly the Red, White and Blue of the United States and Australia!
Don Sprinkle
Cary, Nth Carolina, USA

Sir,- My name is Butch Wolfleg from the province of Alberta in Canada. I'm a Blackfoot Indian (Native Canadian) who did some work with CAAAPU back in 1993 - 94. I would appreciate your printing my letter in your newspaper so that friends that I made in Alice Springs and the surrounding area could contact me. My web site is at I'm still working in the Addictions area with 'Nechi Training, Research & Health Promotions Institute: P.O. Box 34007, Kingsway Mall P.O. Edmonton, Alberta CANADA T5G 3G4 or called directly on 1 - 800 - 459 - 1884. I visit the websites and try to keep up on the latest news and developments in Alice Springs about my Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal friends and relatives. I was adopted into a clan which I still carry with me. Now I would appreciate some direct correspondence.
Butch Wolfleg
Alberta, Canada


Birds Australia has reached its fundraising target to allow the purchase Newhaven Station, four hours' drive north-west of Alice Springs, site of one of the most recent sightings of the elusive Night Parrot, considered extinct until a road kill specimen was found in 1990.Birds Australia was offered first refusal to buy the 650,000 acre cattle station by its current owners. The station would otherwise have been sold for commercial grazing.Once the sale is finalised, Birds Australia intends to turn the land into a conservation reserve of international significance.When the organisation applied its biodiversity scoring system to Newhaven, it scored an exceptionally high 91 per cent, slightly more than Gluepot Station in South Australia, acquired in 1997 (it scored 88 per cent).The area has many of the characteristics of the Great Sandy Desert, yet it is readily accessible. It is home to at least 15 nationally threatened species of animals and plants; boasts 10 vegetation communities and a wide array of landforms ranging from parallel dunes in the south to salt lakes, claypans, plains country and rocky ranges none of which are well represented in existing reserves. The calcerous grasslands, open woodland and open shrublands associated with these landforms provide the diversity which supports a wide variety of birds, mammals and reptiles.Habitat suitable to the Night Parrot remains intact and abundant thanks to low stocking rates and the sensitive management of the land by the current owners.Despite being in a region of naturally low bird diversity, 138 species of bird have been recorded so far at Newhaven. All of the major bird groups are well represented and five nationally threatened species are present (the Grey Falcon, Night Parrot, Princess Parrot, Grey Honeyeater and Striated Grasswren).The nationally threatened mammals so far recorded at Newhaven by the Parks and Wildlife Commission include the Mulgara, the Black-footed Rock-wallaby and the Marsupial Mole.To date, 107 species of plants have been recorded on the property, 18 of which are not represented on any NT reserve and seven of which are of special conservation significance. These include the Mallee Copper Burr or Small-flower Saltbush and the Desert Broom-bush.Newhaven is surrounded by Aboriginal Freehold land and contains six registered sacred sites. Aboriginal people from the Warlpiri, Luritja and Anmatyerre language groups have strong associations with the land. Birds Australia says the Central Land Council supports a reserve being established there.


Police in the whole of the Territory's southern division are reviewing all files concerning juvenile offenders to see who can be diverted from going before the courts.Under the new regime for juveniles which got underway on September 1, minor offences and property offences where the property is valued at less than $100 must be diverted from the courts.The changes result from an agreement between Chief Minister Denis Burke and Prime Minister John Howard earlier this year, in response to national controversy over the Northern Territory's mandatory sentencing laws.For more serious offences by juveniles, police now have the discretion to make, according to the type of offence, a verbal caution, a written caution, a formal warning or a recommendation that the offender be involved in diversionary conferencing (with the victim) or attend a community-based diversionary program.A variety of factors are taken into consideration, including the seriousness of the offence; whether or not it is a first offence; whether or not the accused is the main offender or an accomplice; the willingness of the accused to admit the offence; and, if it is a property offence, the value of the property.Recommendations will be reviewed by the shift officer or the superintendent in charge of the division.Some offenders may still go before the courts.In the Barkly the changed regime has meant that of 24 juvenile offenders involved in 40 current matters, eight offenders are suitable for diversionary conferen-cing. In Alice Springs, there are 79 files concerning juvenile offenders, from which, in a "first cut", 12 have been taken out for diversion.Superintendent Max Pope, at present Acting Commander in Alice Springs, will personally conduct a review of the remaining 16 offenders in the Barkly, to see who else may be diverted from the courts.In Alice Springs, Supt Pope says all matters coming before the courts concerning juvenile offenders are being adjourned while the review of their files is being completed. Supt Pope described the situation as "encouraging", since prior to the changed regime, as well as prior to the introduction of mandatory sentencing laws in 1997, all 24 offenders in the Barkly, for instance, would have gone before the courts.The officer's caution option which was available prior to mandatory sentencing legislation was applicable only in the case of a first offence where the juvenile admitted his or her involvement.Supt Pope says the new regime has a much broader application. Central Australian Youth Justice (CAYJ) has welcomed the review of police caution procedures, but spokesperson Teresa O''Sullivan says that these procedures are only one form of diversion; CAYJ is yet to see detailed information on diversionary programs.In its submission to the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments, following the Howard-Burke agreement, CAYJ outlined the principles of diversionary programs:
Diversionary programs can never be fully effective in the context of a mandatory sentencing regime, which is fundamentally inconsistent with the underlying approach of diversionary programs. That approach embodies flexibility, the use of discretion, and regard to the particular circumstances of each person, and each case.
Diversionary programs can never work well in communities which lack basic community services, facilities and programs, without which the underlying conditions which lead young people from such communities to offend can not be addressed.
Diversionary programs, which can only be accessed by offenders after an offence has been committed, must not be provided as a substitute for basic community services, facilities and programs, which must be accessible to all, at any time.
The implementation of diversionary programs where basic services do not exist has the potential to create a culture in which criminal conduct will be the only avenue to access such services. This will in turn create cycles of crime which will further damage community and family structures and lock individuals into a pattern of destructive behaviour.
Diversionary programs are no substitute for the development and implementation of a crime prevention strategy for the Northern Territory.
The $5m of Federal money will not pay for diversionary programs throughout the Northern Territory, and the funds should be carefully targeted at pilot programs with the aim of establishing appropriate and successful best practice models for the future.
Ms O'Sullivan says diversionary programs in New South Wales were developed over many years and are supported by multi- million dollar funding. CAYJ, which remains opposed to mandatory sentencing, is calling for well thought out and well funded programs in the Territory, "set up not to fail, but to succeed".Supt Pope says a special police unit to deal with diversion of juveniles headed by a senior sergeant will be established in Alice Springs in the near future. The sergeant and two other officers were in Darwin last week for training.Diversionary programs approved in August 1999, coordinated by Correctional Services, and famously never yet accessed in the southern region, will be accessed as the need arises, says Supt Pope.There has been no consultation with the providers of the programs, and there is as yet no timetable for such a consultation.However, Supt Pope says the need is not pressing: the court's workload is such that a juvenile who committed an offence last week would be unlikely to come before the court until November.He expects consultations with interested organisations will take place later this month.In the Top End, things appear to be moving more quickly: according to the Chief Minister, 30 Aboriginal community leaders were briefed about the new pre-court diversion policy by the NT Police Commissioner in Katherine at the end of August. Meanwhile, the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS), also subject of the agreement between the Prime Minister and Mr Burke, has been "implemented", says Mr Burke.In Alice Springs the service, operated by the Office of Aboriginal Development, is located in the Lands and Housing building on Gregory Terrace. It is temporarily staffed by Nora Kempster, until the coordinating position, advertised two weeks ago, is permanently filled.OAD's Barbara Weis said the service is concentrating on building a relationship with the Institute of Aboriginal Development, rather than competing with them.Once the AIS receives a request for a service, they contact IAD first and only if IAD cannot provide an interpreter does AIS then contact interpreters on their list.Ms Weis says the Police, the Courts, and the Director of Public Prosecutions have all been using the service. While she does not have figures for Central Australia,161 jobs had been done in the whole of the Territory since the service started on April 10 this year. "There have not been as many jobs in Central Australia as we would like but we are still in our infancy," says Ms Weis.All government agencies in the medical and legal areas are funded by the government to access the service. Ms Weis says all of the Central Australian languages can be catered for. Across the Territory 56 languages are catered for.Ninety three interpreters have registered with the AIS, including 26 accredited interpreters."And that does not include all the interpreters who are registered with Aboriginal language centres, to whom we sub- contract for services," says Ms Weis.She says training courses for interpreters will be offered in communities throughout the Territory from October, targeting initially all those people who have already registered with the AIS.The AIS pays the interpreter immediately a job is done and then bills the client.There is no variance in pay according to qualifications. Says Ms Weis: "A lot of Aboriginal people have excellent oral skills, but not necessarily written skills. We are paying for their oral skills in bilingual, bicultural exchanges, rather than for their ability to get a qualification."The service can be accessed by anyone, not just by government agencies "as long as they are prepared to pay the interpreter at a professional rate". Ms Weis says quite a few private lawyers have already accessed the service.


No one will be surprised that relationships and self-image were the main preoccupations of plays presented at the inaugural Central Australian Young Playwrights Festival last Saturday, but it was a delight to see these subjects treated, in both writing and performance, with humour, imagination and verve.The plays were presented, scripts in hand, by a lively group of young actors, some of whom are familiar from past Centre Stage productions, and who now have formed themselves into a company, known as Flying Feat.Krissy Moore rightly won the Playworks Australia trip to Sydney where she will take part in a professional reading of her play, "The Ceiling Painter". While the presentation of the play was a little cumbersome, its central act of imagination was so engaging that it overcame all small obstacles.It tells the story of an estranged adult son returning home to visit his parents, a common enough tale except that this son is ten feet tall. He has managed to find his place in the world as a ceiling painter in the tradition of Michelangelo, for which he is equipped not only by the artistic talent inherited from his oppressed mother, but also by his unique physical attribute. This is the humorous literal outcome of his giantism, but Moore knowingly also uses it as a metaphor for all the discomfort and conflict that can set in in the parent-child relationship.It is also the vehicle for the young man to express the often extreme pain of growing up and separating from one's parents.Kim Lehman's play benefited from a lighter touch in its staging, but on the other hand it didn't have the challenges of a ten foot tall character to contend with. Its central characters are a very recognisable young man, a little bit of a know-it-all, and an equally recognisable young woman, idealistic yet somewhat manipulative.They're falling for each other, but finding it scary. She talks it inside out with her girlfriends, while he tries to get it all happening in a rather controlling way. By giving her central young woman a poet for a father one who has abandoned his family and having her also harbour the desire to write, Lehman gives herself the opportunity to talk about writing and what a young woman might hope to gain from it. In a striking passage, the young woman reads a poem which for her says it all. It is about the man (a mixture of the father and the young man) who says he loves her but doesn't leave her the room to find out for herself what this love is all about. The young woman hopes the poem expresses in the most direct way possible what she means and that no one will be able to change its meaning. But she finds out that it is quite easily misunderstood.Careena Doherty's theme was a well-worn one about feminine body image and the way it can be used (and abused) but she gave it a humorous twist by setting her story behind doors at a Miss Australia Quest event. A somewhat aged quest aspirant has finally made into the quest, but only as a makeup artist, not an entrant. She manages to unhinge the entrant by her relentless focus on her own frustrated dreams and by, among other things, stealing her dress. The entrant ends up being not at all sure that winning the quest is what she really wants.The play, enhanced by the simplicity of unity of time and space, was also neatly presented in front of a backstage mirror: seeing the facial expressions of the young entrant in the mirror was somehow far more effective than seeing them front on.The stories by Dellina Lankin and Clara Fejo were shaped into a choreopoem but the staging somewhat overshadowed the material. It left a small opening onto the worlds of a couple of young Aboriginal women, rich in possibilities for further development. Lankin and Fejo were not present on the night, but hopefully they will remain in touch with programs like the Young Playwrights Festival to develop their work.Artistic director of the festival, Anne Harris, said audiences will have future opportunities to see fully rehearsed productions of the plays by these talented and thoughtful young women, and we can equally look forward to seeing more of Flying Feat.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.