October 4, 2000


Officialdom's interference with "bush camping" – the buzzword among the large and well organized motor home fraternity – put a dampener on the modern day wanderers' annual rally in Alice Springs.Expecting to enjoy The Centre's wide open spaces, several of the 1400 visitors camped near Emily Gap before the event. They claim they were thrown off Crown Land.They say they were first confronted by a town council staffer, and when he discovered the spot was outside the municipal area, a government official arrived and told them to move. Says Don Eldred, an executive member of the Campervan Motorhome Club of Australia: "This is not meant as threat in any way, because I honour the right of any community to set up their own rules."But if a town becomes unfriendly, we've got very long ranges in these vehicles, all right, we'll go on to the next town that is more friendly."It's as simple as that."We have large statistics to prove that every time one of these vehicles stays for a week, the average that goes into that community is $300."Says one of the rally organisers, Richard Harridene: "We park anywhere in Australia on Crown Land, freepark over night, by a river or a creek."It's just absurd what happened here."The club has 24,000 members owning 12,000 "rigs" – some worth more than $300,000 – and is growing at the rate of 500 members a month. An estimated 5000 motor homes are in the Territory during the tourist season. Yet a questionnaire circulated by the NT Government and the tourist commission to rally participants last week fails to explore the vexed question of camping outside caravan parks.Mr Eldred is typical of the club members who see themselves as travellers, not tourists: after retirement as the director of biomedical engineering at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide, and as an executive of British Aerospace, he now devotes his time and skills to promoting the cause of motor home travel, as well as a code of conduct for it.He runs the club's site on the world wide web and says Australia is seen around the globe as one of the last frontiers where camping without regimentation is still possible. The dominant reason why a lot of people come here is the space, the scenery."He says he has contact with many overseas visitors and "their love is bush camping". "It's the only place left in the world where you can do it."Can they do it legally? My answer would have to be, I suspect, no."There is an [opposing] attitude that as long as there is no harm done, and you don't upset anybody, and nothing stupid is done to raise attention, the answer is, yes."You're miles from anywhere, there's a track, with nothing in any direction, and I think the principle is, the council isn't going to pay for a ranger to go right out there to say you can''t park there." Eldred says most motor home travellers seeking a spot for the night go up to 15km off the bitumen, "to a national park, a state forest – they are very popular – because you camp in a casual manner."You're not herded all in neat rows, where you can open your window only by kind permission of the bloke next door."It's a big turn-off when that is enforced."A lot of the foreign visitors get very frustrated when they have to camp in that format because they came over here to camp in an inherent freedom which is almost becoming unique to Australia."On Aboriginal land there are terms and conditions, although they are not sign posted."Councils, on the other hand, are getting very worried about the health act."They tend to forget that all these vehicles, and most of the hire vehicles, have got their own showers, toilets and so on."There is a very strong case to put to councils, don't worry about self-contained vehicles because everything we need is on board."The other aspect that is a pity, and it's a communication thing, the caravan park proprietor sees himself as having set up a business and he feels that the council should protect his business, and they do that by ensuring you can't stop in the land and area they control."Mr Eldred says the club has an ongoing program of documenting member's spending, based on shopping dockets that most members collect meticulously."Our Roma rally put $3.5m into that town. "We put $1.5m into Townsville." And while they readily support local charities with fund raising, members try to avoid spending up to $25 a night for caravan parks, and rather use the roadside rest areas and other locations.Says Peg Lawson, who with husband Ray has been on the road for 13 years: "It costs us $47 a day, for your insurance, tyres, petrol and your food."When we first started 13 years ago it was $24 dollars a day."From the time we left Brisbane we've got it all in a book."If there is a freebie and it says you can stay there 24 hours we'll be there at 10am for morning tea and then we go the next morning at 8am."Queensland has very good freebies. "They have them in the road maps and you can stop there for 24 hours."Chinchilla – you can stop there for two days, power for nothing, That's pretty good! We do our shopping in the towns."Mt Isa, for example, invited members travelling to the Alice rally to stay, free of charge, at the show grounds for as long as they liked.According to a council source, members spent about $150,000 in local shops and organised a BBQ for a local charity.Mr Eldred says using "punitive measures" in a bid to force people into caravan parks are counterproductive.Some 20 per cent of the club's vehicles rely on 240 volt power."If we put a town on the map then the caravan parks are going to get the spill over from the people who cannot bush camp because they are not self contained."Very often people will travel together, because of break- downs, illness, that sort of thing."One of them will need a caravan park and the other one will bush camp, and then they meet up again."So, by default, the caravan park owners will get more business."However, costs and preferences are changing the camping industry from the ground up.MARKETSays Mr Eldred: "Market forces will always work. "There is an economic value and cost of fuel is doubling this effect. "The economic value of caravan parks has gone out the window."What the caravan park owners are saying to me is we're supplying you with a swimming pool, tennis courts, playground, somewhere for you to watch television, a lounge, a games room, a shop, and so on."And what he's also saying is all these facilities you must buy."Because I sell them you must buy them."The only variation is power or no power."There is a change happening."There's hardly a caravan going on the road that doesn't have facilities, from Portapotty and quick-erect shower, at the lower end of the scale, to fully self-contained with every luxury you can think of."And this is just in caravans."It's all changing."I'm not prepared to pay $22 for a tap and a piece of ground to stand on."I can sympathize with the caravan park owner. "He's probably spent hundreds of thousands of dollars raising the standard of his park."But the vast majority don't come into the outback for the manicured lawns and the gardens."We come out to get back to nature."Mr Eldred says areas with minimal facilities should be set aside for the motor home traveller."There is plenty of Crown Land. All you need is just a track and an area."Once an area is cleaned it will stay clean. "If it's filthy it will get filthier. If nobody cares, nobody will care."If councils say, go 20 km out of town, turn right, and there is 100 hectares out there, bring your rubbish back into town and we'll put a bin at the edge of town, it will work."They can even put a notice up, ‘self contained vehicles only'."But don't flip it the other way, with toilets and shower blocks, designated parking bays, because then it's a caravan park."


It's a bit like the Good Old Days: a medium-size commuter plane owned by an Alice Springs based airline flying tourists to The Rock.But in the Connair era getting on a De Havilland Heron or DC3 was the only way to fly "commercial" to the monolith, and The Alice was pretty well the only place you could do it from.Remember Chief Minister Paul "Porky" Everingham's hand-on-heart assurance when he built Yulara: "There will never be any direct flights to Ayers Rock."Well, today are some 40 direct flights a week from interstate and Yulara gets more tourists than Alice Springs.So when the 30-seat Air North Brazilia took off last Saturday on its inaugural day-return charter by Ren Kelly's VIP Tours, it was more a matter of The Rock giving The Alice a shot in the arm, rather than the other way ‘round.Ren, whose Rock-based family business now employs nearly 100 people and runs 80 luxury vehicles, is offering day trips from Alice for $485, the price you pay just for a room in the resort.It's a long day – starting at 5am and finishing at around 9pm – but what Ren offers is the flights, "doing" the Rock and the Olgas by luxury coach, all food and park fees.He says the option is attractive as accommodation at Yulara is increasingly difficult to get and the prices are a multiple of those in The Alice.In the middle of the day the Brazilia, contracted to Ansett, does at least one more Alice-Rock return trip.Ren says this will give people on either end a range of options.Freed from the need of meeting connecting flights, visitors can spend a few hours at either the Rock or in Alice, taking in the sights or shops.The turbo-prop Brazilia does the trip almost as fast as a jet (45 minutes), cruises at levels unaffected by turbulence, and affords great views, with two of the three rows of seats being next to windows.The new flights and tours are now run as a three months trial.


Last Saturday I was in a group of about 30 arriving at the Uluru Park cultural centre's cafeteria just after 5pm. Three managed to buy a drink and a snack and the rest of us had the door slammed in our face. This prompted irritated speculation about when some of the people running the park will finally get real.It is now prohibited to take ANY photos of ANYTHING in the centre, not even the building itself, for which the taxpayer has coughed up $5m, and which has remarkable design features. Give me a break.It is common knowledge that some Aboriginal stories are secret and sacred, and no reasonable person would even ask about these. Other elements of their traditions are cleared by the elders for the general public, a display of Aboriginal peoples' intense pride in their culture.Traditional paintings attract world wide acclaim, and public ceremonies at fixtures ranging from the Yuendumu sports weekend to the Olympic Games opening ceremony acquaint the wider community with the world's oldest living culture.Snapping pictures is a pleasure for the tourists, who spend a fortune to see The Rock. It could also be a medium for spreading a message, in this case black-white Reconciliation. Time for a rethink?


"It was inevitable, it was going to happen, it was a matter of when."Chairman of the Institute for Aboriginal Development, Greg McAdam last week formally joined IAD to the consortium known as the Desert Peoples Centre, formed last year by Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and the Centre for Appropriate Technology."If we weren't going to be part of this we were going to back ourselves into a corner," said Mr McAdam."We were going to be fighting over money, we were going to be fighting over resources, we were going to be fighting over clients."One of the goals of the consortium is to develop a new Indigenous education campus, as all three existing campuses are crowded and land-locked.Yet work has already begun on Stage One of the redevelopment of IAD's South Terrace campus, the focus until earlier this year of a stand-off between IAD and the NT Government.The South Terrace campus will remain IAD's home, but may also be used as a town annexe by the other members of the consortium. Its proximity to health infrastructure, for example, could make it useful as a base for Batchelor's heath care students. (More than half of Batchelor's recent crop of graduates in Central Australia were from its School of Health.)Similarly, an expanded program at IAD could see some of its students using facilities owned by Batchelor or CAT, or future consortium facilities.It's early days yet for detail on exactly how the Desert Peoples Centre will operate, but, for IAD, one of its most welcome features will be the expansion it will allow into remote areas.At present IAD caters for students in town as well as in 10 to 15 outstations and small communities around Alice Springs, says IAD Director Richard Hayes. However, they often receive inquiries about their courses from remote areas of the Territory as well as from communities in Western Australia and South Australia.On their own they don't have the resources to deliver courses so far afield, says Mr Hayes.Another important goal for the consortium is to improve and develop study centres in remote communities, which students from all three institutions will be able to use. Such centres would offer a space to gather and work, some access to electronic communications, as well as telephone and fax facilities.Improved delivery of education to students is at the heart of the consortium move. As Greg McAdam says: "It's not about three Aboriginal organisations, it's about producing a quality product, a product of excellence for Centralian Aboriginal people."The three organisations are identifying their specialist areas and will work on rationalising areas where they duplicate services. An obvious one, apart from administration, is in basic literacy and numeracy training, which both Batchelor and IAD offer.Clear specialisations are, for Batchelor, the training of Aboriginal health workers; for IAD, training in Aboriginal languages and cultural awareness, as well as landcare.CAT offers technical training in areas not covered by the other two, but Director Bruce Walker says CAT looks forward to a more integrated delivery in collaboration with its consortium partners."It's one thing to be literate and numerate, it's another to be ‘ technate'," says Dr Walker. "It's just as necessary in today's communities to stay on top of technical processes."He cites recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data which revealed that in cases of failed water supply in Top End communities, some 90 per cent were due to mechanical breakdown of equipment, not to actual availability of water."Infrastructure in communities is of increasing technical complexity, and if you can't stay on top of it, you'll remain dependent and poverty stricken," says Dr Walker.Richard Hayes says education and training must be driven by community needs, "rather than by us pushing an agenda"."We don't want to offer training for training's sake."The community has to be ready and they have to know what they want."An advantage of the consortium will be the "one stop shop" it will make possible. Instead of students having to shop around in an often confusing and competitive environment, they will be able to make a single approach with a statement of their needs. The consortium should also make it easier for a number of students from the same community to study at the same time, supporting each other, and travelling into Alice together when necessary."Our aim will be to organise an educational pathway for them, get them from A to Z as quickly and smoothly as possible," says Mr Hayes.He says people on communities are "sick and tired" of so many training providers competing for their interest.However, the consortium doesn't rule out all competition: Indigenous students made up nearly 35 per cent of Centralian College's 4954 course enrolments in 1999, a seven per cent increase on the previous year.While there is a dedicated support service (the Akaltye Centre) for Indigenous students on campus, there are an increasing number of off-campus services, including at the Irrkerlantye Learning Centre, in the town camps, at Yirara College, Orange Creek Station, Napperby, Utopia, and Intjartnama.Having inherited the resources of the disbanded NT Open College in 1995, Centralian also delivers programs in 22 remote communities, each approximately 350 kilometres from Alice, visited by itinerant lecturers on a rotational basis. They spend two to four days at a time in the communities depending on the program being offered.The programs include training in welding, auto mechanics and steel fabrication, conducted out of the Mobile Adult Learning Unit (MALU).Mr Hayes says there have been no discussions about possible cooperation between the consortium partners and Centralian College, but "having two providers out there is better than having four"."The MALU has been around for years. We're not trying to compete with it, we're trying to fill the gaps."Dr Walker comments: "The significant difference between Centralian College and the Desert Peoples Centre is the Aboriginal governance of the consortium. "This gives the consortium the ability to respond from within the cultural context of communities of Indigenous people to employment, education, training needs and regional services."


Conflict over separation or divorce does not always have to end up in the courts.A service offering mediation, called Resolve: Family Mediation NT, recently opened an office in Alice Springs. It's a division of Anglicare who have been offering a similar service in Darwin for many years. Mediation is a voluntary problem solving process where trained professional mediators assist separating couples to negotiate a solution to their conflicts or difficulties."The two most frequent difficulties involve the couple's children and/or what to do with joint property," Resolve mediator Jane Hartwig said."Mediation is not counselling; we are not trained to advise or to counsel relationships, we are trained to help couples work out areas where there seems to be no agreement."And mediation is totally confidential."The concept is not a new one. As Jane said, it dates back to the days when people lived in villages and would seek out an older person in the village for guidance.Resolve mediators are neutral; one male and one female are involved, so both sides are represented equally."Mediators manage the process but the couple control the content of the negotiations," said Jane."We listen and they talk," Jane said."We sit around the table and discuss the problem."We look at the options and outcomes and discuss what may happen if possible options do not work out; what are the alternatives."We test the reality of the different positions and offer choices."We ask, ‘Can you live with this?'."And we try to find out the story behind the problems and look at what is best for everyone."We look at the situation from all angles and encourage people to investigate fully so they are well informed in negotiations."Jane said if couples choose mediation, that does not close off a legal solution: "Court is always an option. And we encourage people to get legal advice along the way."Some cases have to go to court; but mediation provides an alternative."If there is some level of communication, often disputes can be mediated."We just try to open the situation up as wide as possible and look at the full range of facts."Sometimes there are influences involved in a situation which people are not aware of consciously."And if a couple reach an agreement through mediation, then Resolve can go to the lawyers and get the agreement drawn up. Mediation is usually less expensive than going to court and meetings can usually be arranged quickly. If an agreement cannot be worked out, they can always go to court."Originally from Adelaide, Jane came to the Territory in 1983 and worked in family law as a lawyer.But she prefers the philosophy of mediation in which she first trained in 1994."I like the idea that mediation is based on negotiating fairly and openly rather than in an adversarial manner. "Mediation is a positive thing in the sense that the people want something to be worked out, that they have a commitment in their own mind to reach some solution."Resolve's Alice office is at 8 Larapinta Drive, 8.30am to 1.30pm, Monday to Thursday, 24 hour free call on 1800 898 500.

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