June 13, 2001.


Licensing Commission chairman Peter Allen will get a "please explain" from the People's Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC), the prime lobby for measures against alcohol abuse in Alice Springs. This follows reports that Mr Allen had been in a closed meeting with some executive members of the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA) just days before it published open letters urging the public to oppose liquor sale restrictions. PAAC's Dr John Boffa says the group will "raise the matter direct with Mr Allen" after discussing it at a special meeting this week. Mr Allen, who two weeks ago announced that his commission will not be introducing a proposed reduction of liquor take-away hours, nor a ban on wine in casks greater than two litres, declined to answer questions from the Alice News. The commission's decision came in the wake of CATIA's open letter published prominently in local print media and following an extension by Mr Allen of the deadline for public comment. The current furore started when more than 50 CATIA members attended a special general meeting on Tuesday last week, five days after Mr Allen made public the commission's decision. According to reports from CATIA members at the meeting, a former chairwoman of the tourism lobby, Libby Prell, asked why the group's executive had published the open letters. Ms Prell would not discuss the answer she received from present chairwoman, Cate Moodie, but several others at the meeting spoke freely about her response. Tour operator Charlie Carter said Ms Moodie claimed the open letters were published after "meeting with Allen, at which Allen spoke at length alleging that restrictions do not work."Dr Carter, who says there was "vigorous criticism from some members" at the CATIA general meeting, says in a letter to the Alice News: "It is my understanding that there is strong, independent, scientific evidence" that restrictions do work. "May I ask, through your paper, if Mr. Allen was reported correctly [by Ms Moodie]? "If so on what evidence did [Mr Allen] base his view? "Why is he not putting that evidence to the public?" A woman at the meeting who did not wish to be named says Dr Carter's report of Ms Moodie's statements was "absolutely accurate." Another woman at the meeting, who also did not wish to be named, recounts Ms Moodie's report to the meeting in this way: " Peter Allen told [the executive] all the reasons why restrictions would not work, and gave them statistics against restrictions, and encouraged them to make their opinions heard." Colin Cowell, who also attended the general meeting, says he was "quite stunned" when he heard Ms Moodie's report of the executive's meeting with Mr Allen: "She virtually said that Allen told them in a closed session that the alcohol restrictions in Tennant Creek did not work." Ms Moodie, when asked for a comment by the Alice News, said CATIA was opposed to alcohol restrictions before meeting with Mr Allen. She said Mr Allen "did not speak at length but said [the restrictions] were not the best solution to the problem". "His indication to us was that other communities where liquor restrictions had been put in place had not taken up the opportunities to put in support mechanisms. "Peter Allen did not entice, encourage nor recommend that we make public comment." Mr Allen extended the deadline for public comment from Wednesday to Friday in the week CATIA published its open letters, which appeared on the Tuesday and Wednesday. Alice News editor Erwin Chlanda emailed the following questions to Mr Allen last week:- • You had a meeting with members of the CATIA executive in the week preceding publication by that organisation of an open letter. What exactly did you tell these executive members? • I am told by a reliable source that early responses [from the public to the survey ultimately generating 2500 replies] were 70-30 in favour of the proposed restrictions. Is that true? At what point did the balance change [to about 50-50]? Was it after the extension of the deadline? As Mr Allen had been unavailable for comment after he handed down the commission's decision on May 31, the News also emailed the following questions:- • The Alice Town Council and other bodies, over the years, commissioned alcohol studies at an aggregate cost of several hundred thousand dollars, enlisting the support of volunteers, and relying on the generosity of hundreds of survey respondents, indeed encouraging them to believe they are making an important contribution to solving a problem dramatically affecting their lives. Why did you not tell all these people the commission would not be taking into account the results of their efforts when formulating its decision? This would have saved the public a lot of time and money. [Mr Allen announced that the commission had been guided only by the 2500 responses to its own survey.]• You said you now have an "extensive database of comments and suggestions drawn from the detailed correspondence ... and will make this information available on an anonymous basis to whatever competent forum emerges". I take this to mean the correspondence will remain secret; edited versions only will be made available and only to a group considered by you to be competent; you believe no such competent group exists at the moment, including the town council, Menzies School of Health Research, The Central Australian Division of Primary Health Care, Tangentyere Council and PAAC; whatever information you may be releasing, at the commission's sole discretion, will not permit conclusions as to which comments came from people linked to the liquor industry. Are my assumptions correct? Mr Allen replied: "I will not be responding to your questions and the allegations implied therein. "Please feel free to print whatever you like mindful of course that it will be at your risk."


Alice Springs rider Michael Vroom made amends for last year's broken shoulder by taking outright victory in this year's Finke Desert Race. He hit the front when Desert City Motors team mate and race favorite Stephen Greenfield withdrew after sparring with a tree en route to Finke.On Day Two Vroom defied sheets of water, mud, slush and a ripped up track to hold off the challenge of the cars. On board the first one across the line was another local entry, Dave Fellows and Tony Pinto. It was a case of sweet revenge for Fellows, as victory had eluded him since 1992 when he navigated for Greg Schlein. Fellows did not finish last year, was second in 1999 and third in 1998. Saturday's prelude saw national off road champion Terry Rose and navigator Colin Cuell claim poll position. In the bikes section local Mark Espie took the honors. On Day One of the race he made every post a winner with no dust in his face, "Greenie" catching up from the second row on his big Honda 650. But Greenfield swiped a tree, damaged his clutch and had to withdraw. Vroom came into the picture when Espie, too, had to withdraw. Vroom led the bikes into Finke some four minutes in front of the buggies. Nearly seven minutes off the pace and sitting in second place for bikes was KTM's champion Brad Williscroft, from NSW, followed by South Australia's Ashley Cook also on a KTM.In the four wheel dash Dave Fellows and Tony Pinto led the charge into the half way mark. In their Southern Cross 2500cc buggy they headed Brian Robertson and Paul Currie from WA with Victoria's Paul Simpson in his single seater in third place, followed by Yulara legends Kurt Johannsen and Paul Gower. Reigning buggy champions Mark Burrows and Michael Shannon held on in fifth place. Among the casualties was Peter Kittle, who this year continued his DNF record by striking differential trouble in the Mt Squires region. Earlier in the race Chris Schembri and Danny Reidy rolled near Deep Well ; Stuart Pritchard and Gen Geyer withdrew with front end trouble; and for Dion Simpson it was the rear end that put him out of the race. Overnight rain continued as Fellows and Pinto led the cars back out of Finke. They recorded a slick time along the sandy Rumbalara straight before encountering the heavy going of the Mt Squires to Bundooma section. Heavy thunder storms, and sheet water on the track, particularly in the Rodinga region, took toll on the field as Burrows and Shannon; Johannsen and Gower; and the Mowbrays led the growing list of retirees. In a time almost 18 minutes slower than the trip to Finke, Fellows and Pinto eventually crossed the line first, in a water stressed Southern Cross 2500cc, powered by a V6 Honda motor, tested to the limit by mother nature. Half an hour later a battered Wayne Attard in his big Chev approached the final loop only to lose control, bog, and lose a front tyre. In a dazzling performance, the legendary Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki in their Jackaroo passed the crippled Attard to be second home. On three wheels Attard then staggered to the line, just ahead of Eric Schmidt in his Volks-wagen. Starting at 11am from Finke Vroom had six minutes up his sleeve on his KTM opponent Brad Williscroft. Despite the water soaked track torn up by the cars, and more rain imminent, Vroom maintained his lead, and although he "lost" the bike in the loops prior to the finishing straight, he was able to take the checkered flag . The big improver of the run home was fellow Honda CR500 rider, Mark Sladek who climbed from fourth to second place. Close behind followed the KTM trio Brad Williscroft, Jason Hill, and Ashley Cook.


Is Alice Springs getting its fair share in the NT Budget? Judging by capital work spending, certainly not. In fact, we should be getting nearly twice as much. Treasurer Mike Reed says Alice is being "supported in every possible way" but this is challenged by local Chamber of Commerce head Neil Ross. The Alice News checked the 2000-01 Capital Works Program for each department and added up all the projects over $150,000 in the urban area of Alice Springs, and compared the spend here with that in the urban areas of Darwin and Palmerston. Given that Alice has 25,000 people, and the northern centres, a combined 75,000, we should be getting a dollar for every three they're getting – or a 25 to 75 per cent split. In fact, the Top Enders are getting 86.42 per cent of the $137m cake, and we're getting just 13.58 per cent. We showed our method of calculating both to the Treasurer Mike Reed and Minister for Central Australia Richard Lim, and neither raised any objection about our figures. However, Mr Reed had plenty to say about our approach to the subject, calling it "an exceedingly simplistic measure in terms of the population pressure and what's happening, for example, in terms of gas". Said Mr Reed: "We have to position ourselves now, when we're starting the infrastructure, to be able to have industries to develop onshore utilising offshore gas. "Notwithstanding that, what's going to be spent in Darwin is going to have benefits for Territorians. "It's going to deliver cheaper electricity prices. "Show me a government elsewhere in Australia that's spending somewhere between $60m and $90m in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs on a railway. It's massive injections of economic activity. "What isn't so evident in the Budget is the ongoing cost of maintaining government services [in Alice Springs], tens and tens of millions. "You can always scratch ‘round and find a negative side of the story. "In terms of looking at what infrastructure is needed, keeping progressing, making sure that Alice Springs is supported in every possible way, we're doing it," says Mr Reed. "You are wrong. You're exceedingly stupid [in the way] you are interpreting the figures. "You always interpret them in this way and find the negatives whereas the business people I speak to are always exceedingly happy." "Happy" isn't how one would describe Mr Ross' reaction.He says on the figures we presented to him "Alice Springs certainly looks like it's missing out on some of these capital works projects. "I'm aware of some of the problems we're having. We had a big power cut the other day so obviously they have long way to go on that one. The town's infrastructure is showing signs of age and it would be nice if the government could have been prepared to spend a bit more on it," says Mr Ross. "I would certainly hope that they will be providing more in future Budgets than what we're getting today. "The government has been certainly trying over recent months to convince us that the Berrimah Line is no more, and I think they are actually right about that. "I think it's now become the Palmerston line. "When you look at the allocations for public works I could be forgiven for thinking that."


Preventing homelessness before it happens, by helping families stay together, is the aim of Reconnect, a new service operating out of the Gap Youth Centre (GYC). It's part of the Commonwealth funded National Reconnect Program, with its target in Alice Springs being young Indigenous people. The idea is to help them and their families to solve their problems so that the young person doesn't leave home. The service can offer mediation and counselling, but GYC manager Joanne Miller says that other Reconnect services around Australia have found that assistance with practical matters is often the most valuable. That can be helping to reestablish income support, which may have been reduced or cut off because paperwork wasn't completed properly. Or it can be acting as an advocate for the family with a housing agency. "Basically, we'll do whatever we can to meet people's needs," says Mrs Miller. "The service is designed to be very flexible."Is there a comparable service, or need for one, for non- Indigenous youth?Mrs Miller says that after extensive consultation the Commonwealth decided on a service for Indigenous clients, "but we'll always find a way to help any young person, usually by referring them to another appropriate agency". What if a family is dysfunctional and the young person better off leaving home?Each situation has to be looked at individually, says Mrs Miller. A priority is to ensure that the young person is safe, and other services may have to be brought in."But our basic belief is that in most cases it's best for families to stay together even though we know it's not always possible." Reconnect can be approached either by a young person or their family, which makes it different from other youth support services. "It's the hardest job in the world to be a parent," says Mrs Miller, herself a mother of teenage daughters. "We can validate how parents feel by offering a non-judgmental, caring and confidential service." It may be that some families need information and training in parenting skills, drugs and alcohol matters, or conflict resolution – "any of those issues which impact on parenting".Reconnect is based on "action research" and "outreach" models: adapting the service to meet the needs of the community, and actively finding out what those needs are. In this way it is hoped to prevent people who don't fit into neat definitions from "falling through the cracks".Mrs Miller says it will be important to discuss what " homelessness" means to many young Indigenous people, who may not think of just one particular street address as the place where they're "at home". At least one difference in local needs has been identified, in that the service caters for 10 to 18 year olds, whereas in most other places, the starting age is 12 years. Mrs Miller says the service has already had some referrals from primary schools.Part of their strategy is to develop a peer support network, and some young people have also been referring others to the service. Youth and family workers Dee Sabey and Natasha McAdam are the people to call on 8953 6344.

A HEART AND MIND TO MATCH A BIG COUNTRY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE on the Queen's Birthday Honours.

In an age of increasing specialisation, Dick Kimber stands out for the exceptional range of his expert knowledge.Best known in Alice Springs as a historian, and as a trusted transmitter of knowledge about Western Desert Aboriginal culture, on Monday Dick was made a Mmber of the Order of Australia for "the recording of information of national interest" not only in the areas of history, anthropology, and Aboriginal art, but also in ecology and land management practices in Central Australia. He himself says he's "interested in everything", he admits to " reading widely", but will just as happily "yarn" to passers-by in front of the post office, or "carry water" at local Aussie Rules matches. His conversation is peppered with respects paid to authors he's been lucky to read, to people he has had the privilege of meeting and getting to know, from his grandparents, parents and teachers to senior Aboriginal men, some of Australia's most eminent scholars, and among them, his wife, ecologist Margaret Friedel. When I ask Dick about where, for instance, his interest in ecology began, he starts with a memory of Christmas, 1948: he and his brother were given the book What Bird Is That? Dick grew up on the River Murray, in Renmark and Barmera. His father was a bank manager, and his maternal grandfather an engineer, responsible for the pumping stations along the river. Dick and his brothers loved country boys' pastimes. Their heroes were the log choppers they saw competing at agricultural shows, and they thrilled to be taken "stump grubbing" by their uncle, picking up the mallee stumps from cleared land. "You learn a lot about wood by learning to chop it and picking up stumps."The boys would work alongside the men, taking the opportunity as well to trap rabbits, learning to gut and skin them, and to look for birds' nests. What Bird Is That? converted them to bird watchers rather than nesters.A second book – Flying Fox and Drifting Sand by Francis Ratcliffe – which Dick read when he was 10, as well as school geography classes and one teacher in particular, Hartley Pitman, also stimulated his awareness of Australia's land management problems: the impact of rabbits, the importance of protecting the land from deforestation and erosion, the tension between pastoralism and farming as viable economic activities and the degree of damage they could cause. He remains deeply attached to the landscape of his childhood. He talks with great affection of memories like seeing the last journey of a paddle-steamer on the river, of the light on the water, the vision of the passing boat. Then, with fervour he talks of the restoration of the Murray-Darling River system as Australia's number one environmental challenge. "If that system fails, then South Australia fails, and parts of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria along with it," he warns. The Centre though has come to occupy an equal place in his heart and perhaps a greater place in his mind.He arrived in Alice in 1970, working first as a school teacher and then, in 1974, became the first Territory-appointed sacred sites officer.In this capacity, then later as coordinator of Papunya Tula Artists, and continuing intensively until 1983, he travelled with senior Warlpiri and Pintupi men into the western-most parts of the Tanami and the Sandy Desert.He was quick to realise the importance of this exceptional opportunity, recording everything he saw in notebooks and photographs. In particular, he was fascinated by what his companions were doing with fire, burning old growth spinifex. He had already come across a paper titled "Firestick Farming" by archeologist Rhys Jones, published in 1969, which had "sparked, no pun intended" his interest and that of archeologists world- wide. "My travels with Pintupi and Warlpiri men, firing country from motor vehicles, using matches, was the closest equivalent to what had happened in the past."I was encouraged by scientists I knew – Graham Griffin, Peter Latz and American anthropologist Hank Lewis – to write up my observations." Dick presented his paper titled "Black Lightening" to the ANZAAS science congress in 1981. He was subsequently asked by historian and archeologist John Mulvaney to contribute to the 1988 multi-volumed bicentennial history.Together with archeologist Mike Smith, Dick wrote a chapter on Aboriginal land management, the sort of controls exercised on population movement and water supply that allowed Aboriginal people in the past to gather in large numbers for ceremonies, and on the way they used fire. He drew on oral history researches he had conducted, particularly with Walter Smith (the "Man from Arltunga" of Arabana and Welsh descent), as well as on his studies with the Warlpiri and Pintupi. The same sort of researches also helped him to understand why local extinctions of certain native species had occurred. He knew from his historical reading that the range of the mallee fowl, for instance, had once extended into the Centre. The late M. Namari Tjapaltjarri had also painted the mallee fowl "dreaming", and Walter Smith and Southern Arrernte man Fred Ward had known the bird in the region. Dick attributes the major cause of its local extinction to rabbits. The first rabbits were released in South Australia in 1894. Their spread was extremely rapid, reaching the Tanami by 1909, in their greatest density in the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara lands, where they were recorded as "in their millions" around the turn of the century. Their numbers would drop dramatically in times of drought but their ability to recover was remarkable, far more so than that of native animals.Dick was able to match historical knowledge of severe drought periods with evidence from his Aboriginal interlocutors to establish that with each "pulse" of rabbits into new areas – bringing with them foxes and feral cats – local extinctions followed some 15 to 20 years later. NIGHT PARROTAnother possibly extinct species to attract Dick's particular interest has been the night parrot, known as "Australia's most mysterious bird". The only evidence of the bird in the vicinity of Alice Springs was recorded by the Horn Expedition in 1894: Frank Gillen had preserved a specimen killed by his cat at the Telegraph Station. It has never been seen in the area since, despite the intense interest of ornithologists.Dick says Aboriginal songs tell of it in country north-west of Alice, and also in the Hermannsburg area. He believes the bird may still survive in areas of two former recorded sightings, at Lake Killapaninna east of Lake Eyre, and in WA, in the southern Canning stock route area.He himself thought he had seen one and photographed it, but that bird was eventually identified as a blue wing parrot some 500 kilometres off course."Sometimes you see what you want to see," he says, a little ruefully. But his oft-mentioned "good fortune"and "privilege" have combined with Dick's insatiable curiosity and generous spirit to allow him to indeed see much, and through his eyes, we are greatly enriched.

A TOUGH MAN'S WORK FOR GOD! Report by KIERAN FINNANE on the Queen's Birthday Honours.

If Brother Edward Bennett, this week awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, is grateful to "the good Lord" for his gifts, then the good Lord must have been grateful the day the young jackeroo realised his vocation.Recognised for his service to religion and particularly, through the Catholic Church, to the communities of Melville Island and Alice Springs, Brother Ed's calling has meant years of hard labour to support the Mission of the Sacred Heart (MSC) in the Territory.He arrived in Alice in January 1936 in the peak of summer. The heat didn't worry him: he already knew all about it from his work on stations around Roma and St George in outback Queensland. He had grown up a practising Catholic in the suburb of Randwick in Sydney. His first job at the age of 14 was as a jackeroo in central NSW.The city boy quickly learnt all about "droving, mustering, road- building, ring-barking – you name it".His ambition then, and as far back as he can remember, was to settle on the land, but once he decided to join the brotherhood this translated into a readiness for mission work.Of his vocation, he will only say "it came to me in a very simple way, as these things often do"."I didn't know what had been handed to me, I didn't have a clue until I'd settled down into religious life."All I knew was that I had to have a crack at it."In Alice Springs, he joined Father Pat Moloney, starting what was to become the Little Flower Mission in the backyard of the parish house.The work began with looking after Aboriginal children while their parents worked in the township.Numbers attending the elementary kindergarten began to grow and Fr Moloney sought a grant of land at Charles Creek. Brother Ed's chief job was then to find water for the settlement."I had a pretty good idea of what to do from my jackerooing days, and I found a limited supply, enough to make a start."His savvy was just what was needed to make another start, far to the north. In 1941 he was sent to help Fr Bill Connors establish a mission for "half-caste children designated as Catholics" at Garden Point on Melville Island. The first group of boys, including some from the Bungalow in Alice Springs, arrived mid-year, and were put in Brother Ed's charge. A little later, a group of girls arrived in the care of Sacred Heart nuns. Brother Ed recalls their "civilising" effect on himself and the boys but it didn't last long: the first Japanese bombing raid on Darwin took place in February 1942 and the nuns and girls were evacuated.The men and boys stayed on. Brother Ed says he and Fr Connors felt that whatever happened, it was better to have a mission presence on the island. "She was a pretty rough life but good, the usual country style," he recalls. "We were self-sufficient in food, grew a garden and ate off the land, plenty of fish, turtle and dugong."They were good days for me, I was younger and more vigorous then."But Brother Ed's adaptability was to be further tested. The MSC had its own boat, the "St Francis", used to supply its missions at Bathurst and Melville islands and Port Keats, and they were looking for a skipper. TOUGH YEARSBrother Ed volunteered for the job and so began seven years at sea, heading up a four-man Tiwi crew, loading, unloading, maintaining and repairing, more than once caught in cyclones: "tough years" he says, physically and mentally, but all part of his vocation. "It so happened that I had a bent for that kind of work."At the end of the seven years Brother Ed needed a change. He was posted back to Melville Island for a year, then for a stint on Bathurst Island, in charge of a logging camp, and then finally back to the Centre, where he has been ever since apart from four years at mission headquarters in Darwin. The Little Flower Mission had moved to Santa Teresa, and in 1954 Brother Ed met up there with many of the children he had known at Charles Creek, now all grown up or growing up. Brother Ed still takes communion to some of them, now living at Old Timers. Times have changed and with them, there has been a change in how mission work is viewed. Brother Ed won't be drawn to talk about that but says he is still "good mates" with the people he knew when he sees them. At eighty-eight years of age, he will only admit to being semi- retired. He still does two communion rounds a week and makes himself useful around the parish house."I used to do a lot but the time comes when you have to pull up."About receiving his OAM, he says " if it weren't for the religious angle, it wouldn't have occurred". Brother Ed knows that plenty of men have worked as he has done, but accepts with pleasure "from a natural human point of view" the acknowledgement of his "mission of service".

LANGUAGE OPENED WHOLE NEW WORLD! Report by KIERAN FINNANE on the Queen's Birthday Honours.

When Paul Eckert arrived in November 1973 as a young relief teacher at Amata in the far north of South Australia , a "whole new world" opened up for him.He hadn't realised until then that there were still Aboriginal people in the state where he'd grown up who were speaking their own languages. Nearly 30 years later, Paul has been acknowledged in the Queen''s Birthday honours this week for his services to the Pitjantjatjara people as a linguist, translator and literacy specialist.After his four weeks' relief teaching at Amata was up, Paul knew he wanted to stay on. He returned in ‘74 as the permanent teacher and threw himself into learning to speak Pitjantjatjara. Two years later he was asked by the community of Pipalyatjara to start a school there.It was the start of a "wonderful period": the community was very isolated and he was able to really immerse himself in the language and culture."I learnt a great deal, I had very good teachers."Then there was no way, having learnt so much, that I could just leave."When other people came to work in the community they would always ask, ‘How long are you staying?'."There was another teacher and myself who felt we didn't have a time limit."We took to saying ‘17 years', and their mouths would drop!"Little did we realise then how true that would be."At that time, all the schools in remote Aboriginal communities in SA were effectively bilingual. The SA Department of Education encouraged teachers to develop linguistic skills and paid for Paul to attend the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), then based in Sydney. For the first time, for 10 weeks over his summer holidays, Paul learnt about principles of writing an oral language down, of ascertaining its grammar, of translation and literacy, and met people from all over the world who were working as linguists, translators and literacy teachers with minority language groups."That was when I began to develop a vision of my work as a translator with Pitjantjatjara people," he says.Paul feels that his work responds to a call from God. He is a Christian but he doesn't identify exclusively with any one denomination: "My work serves all denominations though the Presbyterian and Uniting Churches have been my major sponsors." After his memorable summer at SIL, he returned to Pipalyatjara for another year's teaching, but he "had a sense of something new" – it was time to move on. When in 1977 he was approached by staff member Mike Last at Ernabella to become involved in a Bible translation project, he jumped at the chance. "I went to talk to the people and realised that the request was responding to the wishes of Pitjantjatjara Christians. I felt God would have me do that with them."The mission at Ernabella had begun this work in the 1940s. It continued for many years until the publication in 1969 of a volume containing about 60 per cent of the New Testament. Since 1978 the Pitjantjatjara Bible Translation Project – a team comprising Paul, his wife Ann, also a linguist, and many Pitjantjatjara translators, in particular Mike Williams, Margaret Dagg, Kunytjupai Armstrong and the late Raymand Tjilya and Alec Minutjukur – has retranslated earlier work, completed translation of the New Testament and translated parts of the Old Testament. This edition will be published next year.The new translation is "meaning based", rather than literal, and makes the message of the Bible far more accessible, says Paul. The work has been supported by SIL, itself a Christian organisation, and by sponsors from around the world.The project has also concerned itself with the production of vernacular story books, to expand the range of reading matter in Pitjantjatjara, thus encouraging greater vernacular literacy. Missionaries at Ernabella from the start had seen language learning and respect of the local culture as fundamental to their work. This meant that the level of vernacular literacy when Paul arrived was high, possibly the highest in Australia.One of Paul's most valuable early teachers was Anmanari Alice, literate only in Pitjantjatjara: "She was a wonderful lady, with a great command of her own language and a very creative mind," recalls Paul. Ann trained two other women, Margaret Dagg and Kunytjupai Armstrong, in translation principles. They became the first Aboriginal people in Australia to compete the Certificate in Translating and have worked with the translation project, "as its backbone", for more than a decade. Paul is convinced thŃat good vernacular literacy lays the basis for good literacy in a second language. He deeply regrets the demise of bilingual education, and fears that Aboriginal students will end up with poorer language skills in both their own languages and English."In Europe kids learn three languages or more. Why shouldn't Pitjantjatjara kids learn the vernacular, as well as English and, say, Indonesian?"Unless positive steps are taken now, there will come a time when Pitjantjatjara people will be talking about losing their language or having lost their language and that will be tragic." In that eventuality it will be invaluable that high quality resources exist, such as the Pitjantjatjara Dictionary edited by Cliff Goddard, to which Paul contributed, and "Wangka Wiru", a grammar he co-authored with Joyce Hudson. "When I was learning Pitjantjatjara, the only resources were a few roneoed vocabulary sheets with meagre meanings, and a small booklet outlining the grammar. I wanted to write a handbook for the student of Pitjantjatjara, I wanted to keep it very accessible and I think – and other people seem to agree – that it succeeds."Paul sees his life's work as "team effort" and as not greater than the work of many others here in Central Australia. He names linguists past and present whom he feels equally deserve acknowledgement: Amy Glass and Dorothy Hackett (Ngaanyatjarra); Ken and Lesley Hansen (Pintupi/Luritja); Steve Swartz (Warlpiri); and, Gary Stoll and Paul Albrecht, both now retired (Western Arrernte). He also hails his Pitjantjatjara colleagues as "the experts in their language".There are too many names to list, but apart from those mentioned above, they include Peter Nyaningu, Lyle Cooper, Muyuru O'Toole, Tjunkaya Paya, Imuna Kenta, Graham Kulyuru, Douglas Baker, and the late Roderick Munti, Roy O'Toole, and Kanyu Mervin.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.