July 25, 2001.


No government has performed satisfactorily over the years, but the Territory government has done "as well as anyone and better than most" in trying to help Indigenous job seekers, says Federal Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, Tony Abbott.In Alice Springs to launch this year's Structured Training and Employment Project (STEP), together with MLA John Elferink for the NT Government, Mr Abbott was frank in his assessment of Indigenous employment in the Territory but declined to criticise the Territory government's performance.He said there were more jobs for Indigenous people 30 years ago than there are today.He described the "disappointing" fact of it being possible to live in "a town like Alice" and have nothing to do with Indigenous people:"This is because they are not present in the shops, the service industries, all the places ordinary people have to go to live a life."We will never have true reconciliation unless it becomes unremarkable to see Indigenous people in the full range of positions, not just in Indigenous organisations, but in the mainstream, in a proportion fitting to their proportion in the population," he said.The STEP program has seen eight out of its 12 participants in 2000 gain full-time employment, three with the Alice Springs Hospital. (See separate story on page 2). Without wanting to detract from this positive result, the Alice News asked Mr Abbott if it didn't seem like little rather late, given that the Territory Government receives per capita funding at a level five times greater than other jurisdictions precisely because of our "disabilities", including Indigenous needs.Mr Abbott: "I think all of us have made mistakes, mistakes of aspiration, mistakes of implementation, mistakes at times of motivation. "But the Territory Government along with every other Australian government is full of good will and determination to succeed. "If they've made mistakes they're the sort of mistakes that every Australian government has made. "The fact that we've now got a Territory instrumentality such as the hospital here making enormous efforts to get more Indigenous people on staff is very important and very commendable."He said the Territory Government is working closely with the Commonwealth on the issue of Indigenous employment, citing a package to "try to ensure" that at least 100 Indigenous people are employed in the Alice to Darwin railway line construction workforce. (The railway will lead to 1300 direct jobs during construction; 100 jobs amounts to under eight per cent.) Among the "lot of good things" done by the Territory Government have been the commissioning of the Collins report on Indigenous education, and the Reeves report on landholding arrangements "that might enable Indigenous communities to move forward faster", according to Mr Abbott."The Territory Government is probably more familiar with Indigenous issues on a day to day practical level than any other government in Australia and I think that it's important for the Commonwealth to learn from them and we do."The News asked him if he is satisfied with the targeting of Territory Government funds towards Indigenous needs?Mr Abbott: "I have no information before me that would cause me to be dissatisfied."And I'm encouraged that in the health system, the national parks system, an enormous effort is being made to ensure that Indigenous people are being given a fair go in employment."He said Parks and Wildlife at the Desert Park have just taken on four Indigenous trainees, with funding assistance from the Federal Government."Their objective is to try to ensure that they make the most of Indigenous talent because they understand that tourists to the Territory often expect to have some insights into the Indigenous perspective on our natural history and heritage."The News put to Mr Abbott that CDEP ("work for the dole") continues to absorb a lot of Indigenous unemployment, but does little to alter economic disadvantage. (CDEP programs run by Arrernte Council, Tangentyere Council and Ingkerreke Council provide part-time employment – and some full-time employment, through "top-ups" – to over 500 local Aboriginal people.)Mr Abbott: "The idea of CDEP is that it should be a stepping stone rather than a resting place. "In its recent budget the Federal Government has committed about $31m over the next four years to try to ensure that in areas with viable labour markets, such as Alice Springs and Darwin, CDEPs start to be a pathway into full mainstream employment, rather than something people do for years and years and years."Does that mean in remote communities there's no other solution seen at the moment?Mr Abbott: "The problem of Indigenous unemployment in remote communities is inextricably bound up with the problem of finding an economic base. "It's not easy to suddenly create jobs in remote areas, and I'm not sure that that is a problem that will ever be solved to everyone's satisfaction. "Tourism has potential, there is no doubt abut that, but tourism is not a magic wand, it is not the solution to everybody's problem."


Even as he turned the first sod, for Prime Minister John Howard the railway remained more an article of faith, than a matter of mere economic good judgment."In the end I always believed in it," he told the crowd of dignitaries, enthusiasts and demonstrators. "I never accepted that you should make all of the judgments on things like this on pure economics. "Every so often a government has got to take a punt, it's got to invest public resources in something that may not have an immediate economic return, but over a period of time it's going to have an economic return."Territory Chief Minister Denis Burke, however, is confident of profitability in a reasonably short term. He told the gathering that "the number of containers being shipped around the world is expected to double in the next 10 years"."The mainstays of this increase in trade will be seafood, meat, cut flowers and fruit and vegetables, most of which feature as the Territory's developing industries. "As they say in the freight forwarding business, the Adelaide to Darwin railway will be a ‘just in time product'," he said.The vision, as expressed in the government-issued media kit, is to match electronic commerce with "an equally seamless supply chain" linked with regular shipping services, with containers performing the role of "mobile warehouses". At the next big party in three years' time, when the railway reaches the "multimodal cargo terminal" at Darwin's East Arm Port, the way will be paved for Darwin "to achieve its potential as a gateway to Asia"."Within 15 years Australia's northern capital will be a linchpin in trade, communications and transport, linking Australia and importantly South Australia, with the dynamic markets of Asia."Although regional areas in the Territory and South Australia are supposed to "gain a new lease of life" from the project, it's hard to find out from the reams of fact sheets in the media kit, what that claim is based on beyond the obvious impacts of the construction phase, which in particular will benefit Whyalla (SA), Tennant Creek and Katherine. When the railway is operational, Port Augusta (SA) will develop " as a major distribution hub", linking the north-south rail to the east-west line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.What is spelt out is that the future for Darwin looks bright! The main argument for the viability of the railway is that goods will be able to be sent from Adelaide to Darwin in 40 hours and it will cut transit times of goods from Asia into Australia. Thus, the railway and the East Arm port, which will be operated by the consortium, are "the foundation stones" of Darwin as "a significant centre for the consolidation and distribution of Australian containerised imports and exports".As we all know, Darwin is also looking forward to "$13.7b worth of projects associated with oil and gas developments in the Timor Sea". These will foster a new manufacturing sector in the city, including a methanol plant. It seems if you were going to respond to Mr Burke's invitation to get "on board" for a thriving 21st century in the Northern Territory, you'd do it in Darwin.Beyond the construction phase, during which Alice Springs can look forward to being "a logistics and supply centre", the main longer term benefit to the town would seem to be from increased tourism when the line opens to passenger traffic. According to the media kit, "Great Southern Railway, operators of The Ghan, expects passengers on its service to double once the line is extended to Darwin. "Packages are planned to encourage tourists to spend time at regional centres along the way, which should generate significant flow-on effects."The Ghan has started a Top End Club which will provide preferential bookings for members once the Ghan is operating to Darwin."The kit identifies long-term regional benefits as: an unspecified number of operations jobs, skills development (including Aboriginal people), cheaper freight, better access to markets for mining and agriculture, increased tourism and new industrial developments. Alice Springs does not get a specific mention under this heading.However, towns "such as Tennant Creek will become a road-rail interchange centre for road transport along the Barkly Highway, servicing the mining and pastoral industries as far east as the Gulf of Carpentaria". And "the railway is expected to boost a growing agribusiness centre at Katherine, which will serve as a road-rail interchange for the Victoria Highway".The consortium will conduct "an economic study of Central Australia to identify opportunities for businesses along the corridor during railway operations".One of the main concerns in Alice has been about the future of the trucking industry. During the construction phase, the industry should be kept busy, transporting material from the railhead in Alice to construction camps in Tennant Creek and Katherine.COMPETITIONIn the long-term, says the media kit, the railway will provide competition to the trucking industry, "but it is not expected to replace this important transport sector". "After all, trains and trucks compete on existing routes throughout Australia, including the Adelaide to Alice Springs line."Road and rail suit different types of freight. Road is good for door to door, short-haul freight in particular. Rail is good for long-haul, high bulk freight, including minerals."The railway is expected to generate new freight, for both road and rail, as well as competition for existing domestic road freight. "For example, the presence of the railway corridor should generate east-west road freight around the hubs of Katherine (for freight from the Ord River Irrigation Area and Douglas / Daly agricultural areas) and Tennant Creek from Mt Isa and the Carpentaria region."Once again, no specific mention of trucking in Alice, but "while the trucking industry will be changed by the advent of a proper railway service, with a shift to more short-haul freight, the Northern Territory Government does not expect overall job losses". Another concern has been about benefits to Aboriginal people. The Aborigines demonstrating at last Tuesday's ceremony made clear that they supported the railway. They were using the occasion to express their disappointment at the Prime Minister's stance other issues. His acknowledgemeűn the contribution made by past Territory Chief Ministers to the success of the railway, was answered by a chorus of loud boos from the demonstrators. "This is interesting, this feels like a real political rally," he quipped, to laughter from the non-demonstrating section of the crowd.The media kit says Aboriginal clans whose land is crossed by the railway corridor have been paid $8.4 million in compensation by the NT Government, and Aboriginal sites of significance have been protected.The consortium has committed itself to regular consultation with Aboriginal communities affected by construction, will provide cross-cultural training to staff, and has employed Aboriginal liaison officers.It has also agreed to a Local Industry and Aboriginal Participation Plan (LIAPP), which includes commitments to providing jobs and contracts to Aboriginal people in the communities along the railway corridor. "Skills development should provide a legacy of skills that can be used on other projects when the railway is built," says the kit.


"We were promised something and then it was taken away, people got distressed," says Arrernte woman Pat Dodds, speaking for the Arrernte people and supporters who protested at last week's "turning of the sod" ceremony. Mrs Dodds stressed that the protesters support the railway: "It's important for Aboriginal people and this town," she said.But they wanted to talk to the Prime Minister about their concerns with other issues."How often do we get the Prime Minister of Australia coming to Alice Springs?" She says the protest was quite peaceful throughout the ceremony. According to Mrs Dodds, the police, having spoken to one of the PM's minders, had promised them that they would be able to speak to the PM but "we were blocked by Mr Burke". Concerning Mr Burke's "apology on behalf of all Territorians" to traditional owner Max Stuart, an official guest, about the "disrespect" being shown him, Mrs Dodds says, "Mr Burke doesn't know what happened."She says Mr Stuart's apparent distancing of himself from the protesters (on the ABC's 7.30 report) was only "his way of trying to deal with the media". Mrs Dodds remains confident of Mr Stuart's support for the concerns being expressed by the protesters. These are about ongoing issues such as "the sorry issue". "It's very important. I'm one of the stolen generations, so were my parents, it's not the past, it's still with us."Mrs Dodds was removed from her family in Ti-Tree and brought up at St Mary's, while her parents were taken to be raised in The Bungalow, at Jay Creek and later at the Telegraph Station. She says the protesters also wanted to confront Mr Howard about his lack of support for the reconciliation process; for negotiating a treaty "which other indigenous peoples have, and we were promised in 1988 at Barunga"; and, for failing to take a stand against mandatory sentencing. "The Burke government is alienating us, pushing us out of town, putting us in gaol."Mandatory sentencing is supposed to be for everyone but it has most affected Aboriginal people," says Mrs Dodds.


Member for Stuart Peter Toyne says he agrees wholeheartedly with leading CLP figure Herman Weber over the "sudden transfer to an obscure unit" of Alice Springs Hospital Head Joyce Bowden, after 11 years in the job (see Alice News, July 18)."Mr Weber is quoted in the media as being ‘flabbergasted'. This further example of Berrimah Line behaviour from the CLP is totally unacceptable," says Dr Toyne."Mrs Bowden's ‘crime' was to tell the truth about the effects of on going alcohol related trauma and disease on hospital staff to the ABC's 7.30 report. The "punishment" was swift, brutal and there was no consultation with the Hospital Board." Dr Toyne said."This was seen as a Minister sanctioned Berrimah Line decision that appointed a Darwin based replacement without advertising the position," Mr Toyne said.However, CEO for Territory Health Services Paul Bartholomew says he is "disappointed" at the attempt by Dr Toyne to " politicise [his] decision to second Joyce Bowden to a new position in Territory Health Services.""The attempt to link Ms Bowden's transfer to her recent interview on the ABC's 7.30pm report is ludicrous. I personally requested Ms Bowden to undertake this interview and was pleased with her performance.""Ms Bowden has not been transferred to an "obscure unit" in THS as claimed by Mr Toyne. In fact, because of her experience and skills, I have asked her to take personal responsibility over the next two years for a range of major Territory wide issues.""They include the development of an extended hours GP service in Alice Springs and implementation of a range of strategies to improve recruitment and retention of our nurses," says Mr Bartholomew.He also says there was no requirement to advertise the position nor that of Ms Bowden's temporary replacement as neither gained any salary advancement as a result of the changes.


By KIERAN FINNANEMike Bowden, erstwhile AFL footballer, Alice resident of 14 years, local ALP member since the early 90s, spokesperson on indigenous issues, general manager of Tangen-tyere Council, holding a Master's degree in education, father of seven, will stand for Labor in Araluen at the imminent Territory elections, replacing Liz Scott.Ms Scott has withdrawn following recent separation from her husband."It was a very difficult decision but one that I've decided I must make in the interest of my young children," says Ms Scott.Her rapid replacement by Mr Bowden has shown that "the party can pull together and we've got very good people to draw on," says Ms Scott.Will the late change be damaging for Labor?Mr Bowden himself was a preselected candidate in the last election but had to withdraw owing to his wife's then ill health. "It happened to me, now it's happened to Liz. "From time to time everybody's life is confronted by issues which mean that we have to pull back, slow down, change direction, that's just part of how society and families are organised. This just humanises the party, it's no detriment." Until now, the Araluen contest was between three strong women, and had something of a feminist stamp on it. Mr Bowden's presence obviously changes that. How does he think his image as an ex-footballer with an ongoing passion for sport, a "man's man", will affect the campaign? "I suppose it gives people the opportunity to reflect on some stereotypes."I'm married to a very powerful woman who has educated me over a long period about the relative roles and rights of gender in our society and I don't think of myself as having any views that would be contradictory to the major views of feminists."But I've been looking at the statements of the candidates up till now and I haven't thought that they have been couched in feminist terms, they've been couched in family terms, in terms of the whole community. "I see family as the fundamental issue for people in Alice Springs, raising families, providing for them, educating and ensuring their health and well-being, they'll be the issues I'll be promoting."Araluen is a conservative electorate, where the CLP has until now enjoyed a very healthy majority. Does he think his strong association with the Aboriginal community through his work with Tangentyere Council will be a problem for this electorate ?Mr Bowden: "I hope not, I hope the community is mature enough to recognise that the contribution I have hoped to make through my employment is a contribution to the whole community. "To bring about reconciliation, to bring about an improvement in the quality of life of Aboriginal people, is to benefit the whole community. "While Aboriginal people remain marginalised, they remain a burden on the community. And Aboriginal people are not the only people who are disadvantaged in our society."I have a previous history working in education and also in addressing social justice issues across the board. "I believe I have been a powerful and insistent voice of advocacy, for everybody who has been left out of, been disadvantaged, been neglected by the CLP."I think that the town of Alice Springs is an example of that, the town has missed out on the focus of attention of the CLP Government."That focus appears to be directed north of the Berrimah line. I believe I will be able to be a powerful voice to redirect that attention."The election is widely tipped for August; his opponents' campaigns are well underway; Meredith Campbell has been a declared independent candidate for a long time; and Jodeen Carney has got CLP incumbency in her favour. Has he got enough time to mount an effective campaign? Mr Bowden: "I'll have to make the time. I've got a very active team of people who've indicated their support for me already. I don't think Jodeen Carney has got any incumbency advantages, I think she's got to overcome enormous difficulties caused by the irresponsible behaviour of the sitting member."And the CLP is a party divided amongst itself, very visibly. "Meredith has certainly got a profile, but it's the profile of a person who can't make much difference. "But electing a Labor government would make an enormous difference to public affairs in the Territory." Mr Bowden lives just outside the Araluen electorate, in the Albrecht Drive Larapinta area. However, he argues that that makes little difference to his understanding of the issues:"The electoral boundaries are very much artificial as we've seen in the latest electoral redistribution. People living in some parts of Alice have been in three electorates in the last 10 years."The issues that face the people in Alice Springs are first of all Alice Springs wide issues, and then they are even more local than the electorate."Within the electorate of Araluen there are at least three distinct sub-communities – Ilparpa, Gillen and The Gap – so if I lived in the electorate I might live in one of those communities but not in the other two. I'm thinking about the issues affecting all three." Across the board, housing, health and education are the big issues for all people living in Alice Springs today, says Mr Bowden.Top priority must got to producing better outcomes for Aboriginal students, especially in secondary schools; improving the ability of all people to get timely health care; and, to providing reasonable public housing options.On the last issue, he says the Territory Government has moved into a process of providing welfare housing, but there needs to be a better range of services for the clients of welfare housing, as well as an adequate provision of public housing as an alternative to private rental.In the electorate, the Ilparpa swamp issue needs urgent attention: "It's a concern for the health of residents and people passing through and now it's become a road and traffic hasard." The debate about liquor restrictions is also of major concern, as problems relating to liquor licensing come to a head in the Gap and CBD areas. Those problems contribute to anti-social behaviour, which he sees as "in fact a much broader and deeper issue which relies on the marginalisation of Aboriginal people"."The NT Government bears primary responsibility for addressing the issues of education and health, and to a degree employment. Those are areas where Aboriginal people need to be incorporated into the life of the whole community."We will continue to have anti-social behaviour flash points while we fail to address the substantive issues."He gives credit to the government for the Alice in 10 strategy but says a Labor government would do it better:"We'd be able to build better partnerships, because we would be able to talk to some of these agencies in a more conciliatory, respectful and more productive manner."We'd have workable partnerships drawing on the strengths, the knowledge, the insights of the region, and the sectors within it, to build policies which respond to local input."Couldn't the CLP claim the railway is an example of a highly productive partnership? "A future Territory Government will have to work very, very hard to ensure that the benefits of the railway actually accrue to the people of Alice Springs. "Let's recognise that the Alice Town Council have been extremely uncomfortable with the way the NT Government have imposed the siting of the railway. The previous mayor was outraged at the failure of the government to listen to the council about the implications of a major railway running through the town."


Remote area communities are missing out on service delivery from town-based Aboriginal organisations, says Central Arrernte woman, Margaret Lynch. She says one of the solutions would be broader representation on the boards of management of the organisations. This would go some way towards dealing with the "disharmony" in local communities which is "no secret", she told the recent NAIDOC rally. She spoke of the "total deception of self-determination and community control". "Aboriginal politics is destroying our people. "We are contributing to our own destruction," she said. Speaking afterwards to the Alice News, Ms Lynch said: "When they were first established the organisations were representative of many different tribal groups. "Slowly over the years that representation has disintegrated. "It's come to a point where organisations are just getting a locally based representation, particular groups for certain organisations. "That's not doing justice to the organisation nor to the service delivery of that organisation. "In particular it's the organisations saying they are the Central Australian Aboriginal what have you, Congress, Legal Aid, Institute for Aboriginal Development. "There's a group of people who go to the annual general meetings of these organisations. "The organisations will give notice for their meetings but there's no attempt within the management of the organisations to take invites out, to [make] seats available for people who are in the communities. "So you don't have that wide distribution of the Warlpiri, Pitjantjatjara, Luritja, Pintupi, Arrernte, it should involve all of our people in Central Australia. "These organisations were formed for all Aboriginal people, whether they're town-based or community based, they should be getting the same access to delivery of services. It should be fair and equal for everyone. "A lot of people on remote area communities don't see these organisations coming out to see them about service delivery. "Over the years the structure of the organisations has shown us there are too many chiefs on board and they're not giving us a positive direction for the future of our people. "We need to be exploring other avenues, we may be looking at one body that looks after the distribution of funds and service delivery to all our people. That may be the way into the future. "With the existing organisations I think we need a more sophisticated and more culturally appropriate structure that's going to suit our people. "I've worked over 20 years with the organisations based in town, and my experience tells me there's always been a lack of adhering to cultural protocol. "We need to consult with all our people about certain issues and all people need to be informed, proper consultation needs to be conducted closely, with all the traditional owners and all the people affected by issues. "Sometimes you go to meetings and you find there's only a trickle of people attending because the network hasn't got out to people, to say we're going to have a meeting to talk about these issues so please come to this meeting." But isn't that the same with politics everywhere? "Aboriginal way is we have to consult with our people," says Ms Lynch.
[The Alice News offered an opportunity to comment on Ms Lynch's statements to Congress, Aboriginal Legal Aid, and the Institute for Aboriginal Development, but they did not reply.]


I would have to say that at first, spending two weeks in the middle of nowhere and travelling 4000kms with my parents and two other families didn't appeal to me at all. I tried every possible excuse to wriggle my way out of the two week camping trip along the Gunbarrel Highway (which was made by a man called Len Beadell, who many say was the last great Aussie explorer), and through the Gibson Desert, but my attempts were in vain. I went with Mum, Dad, and my dog Chip along the Gunbarrel in our little Suzuki with our friends in their Toyota Troop Carriers – Michael, Andrea, Bronte and Gwen, as well as Chris and Paul with their two daughters Lucy and Gina. And boy did we have fun! Our journey started in Alice Springs and we travelled through Yulara and then along the road to Docker River. Then from Warakurna in WA, we travelled along the old Gunbarrel on the abandoned section to Warburton and then continued through the Gibson Desert to Carnegie and then Wiluna. It's amazing how much beautiful wildlife there is in Central and Western Australia. We all became keen camel finders.The first camels I saw were the ones we spotted while I was having a clandestine driving lesson – I was concentrating so hard on dodging the ruts and keeping the car steady on the sand that I almost had a heart attack when the spotter suddenly cried out, "Look over there!". We also saw heaps of birds (finches, budgies, ducks and a beautiful red-capped robin, to name just a few), kangaroos, emus, bush turkeys, dingos and two feral cats. We were quite amazed to see a white kangaroo bounding across the road – it was just a pity that we happened to drive between the kangaroo and a convoy of other travellers who were filming it... Oops! Perhaps the most intriguing thing was the dog we saw on the abandoned section of the Gunbarrel. The interesting things about it was, not only that it was there, so far away from everything, but also that it didn't look feral or like it wanted us to pick it up. The parents wanted to move past quickly but Lucy, Gina, Bronte and I all wanted to take it home! Every night (except one) we camped in a different camping spot and each was just as amazing as the last. LAKEOne night we camped next to a beautiful lake created by recent rains that was covered in ducks and surrounded by amazing sand dunes. If only we'd taken a boat! Of course, no matter where you go, you're bound to encounter problems. For us, the corrugations did devilish things to our cars. The trailer that our little Suzuki was pulling behind us broke a spring halfway through the Gunbarrel. We managed to convince my Dad not to dump it on the side of the track along with all the other broken trailers we saw along the way, and he fashioned together a pretty cool make-shift spring using pieces of wood. Michael's Troop Carrier lost its muffler and broke its radiator, and Chris and Paul's Troopie broke its battery carrier. But all's well that ends well and we all made it home safe and sound. On the way, I became a pretty good damper maker and I even showed Gwen how to make "Steph's Bush Damper". In return, she taught me how to knit and now I have a pretty cool beanie! Chris even taught us all how to weave baskets from pieces of plants. Sadly, we had to leave the others behind in Wiluna – we had to rush home to meet our Indian exchange student who was arriving two days earlier than expected. So, we drove from Wiluna to Alice Springs (around 2000kms) in two and a half days. Mad hey!

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