August 29, 2001.


One of the first milestones for the Territory's Labor government, and for new Attorney-General Peter Toyne, will be the repeal of the Mandatory Sentencing Act. But what will replace it? Labor is clearly opposed to jail sentences for trivial crimes, but Labor's position paper on crime, circulated in the lead-up to the election, stressed the party's opposition to "soft sentencing". The slogan goes, "Serious Crime means Serious Time" and some proposals under this heading have a strong mandatory flavour. The paper says a Labor Government will amend the Sentencing Act to reflect the "intention of the Parliament that people who commit the crime of housebreaking, burglary, entry and damage to homes, cars or business premises will go to jail, unless extenuating circumstances exist". The paper goes on: "For the few people who do not go to prison for these offences they will be required to perform punitive work orders in community directed projects for the benefit of the community under strict supervision." That sounds very much like judges and magistrates will not have the open discretion that has been argued for by opponents of mandatory sentencing. According to the paper, they will have only two options when confronted by more serious property crimes: jail or punitive work orders. David Bamber, Principal Legal Officer with CAALAS (Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid), although very pleased that mandatory sentencing will be done away with, has some concerns with Labor's proposals as expressed in the position paper. He says many acts of burglary, for example, warrant a jail sentence and get it, even without mandatory sentencing provisions. However, there are always exceptions and it is hard to write laws to cover every circumstance, which is why judges and magistrates need open discretion. He also says that people need to be assessed by the Office of Corrections as suitable to carry out punitive work orders. If they were deemed unsuitable, then it would appear that a judge or magistrate would be left with no alternative but to send them to jail, even if they thought jail was not warranted or suitable. "Legislators cannot be aware of the vast variety of circumstances which may affect people. "In situations where there are strong grounds for rehabilitation, to limit the options to jail or punitive work orders may end up creating injustices similar to mandatory sentencing," says Mr Bamber. However, Mr Toyne – speaking to the Alice News on Monday before he had even been sworn in and before he had had a chance to meet with the CEOs of his departments – says it is "beyond doubt" that Labor will return discretion to the courts. "As Attorney-General it will be my job to defend the justice system from undue interference from the Parliament. "Our sentencing guidelines will clearly indicate categories of seriousness and it will then be for the courts to best decide the application of the law in individual cases." Mr Toyne says the position paper, based on a lot of community consultation, is a starting point for developing legislation. "We know people want to see offenders suitably punished. Now we have to work out practical legislation that responds to people's concerns, but it won't be about automatic sentencing." Another suggestion of the paper is that "a Labor Attorney-General will scrutinise sentences and request the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] to consider appeals in any case where the intention of the Parliament has not been achieved." Mr Bamber says scrutinising sentences is the job of the DPP, an independent officer. "An Attorney-General shouldn't be trying to influence the independence of the DPP. "So long as laws clearly express the intention of Parliament, and the Attorney-General has confidence in the DPP and in the judiciary, then there is no reason for him to get involved with individual cases." Mr Toyne says: "As Attorney-General I have every right to scrutinise the entire legal system, but I expect it will be a lot of scrutiny and little action if the DPP is doing his job properly." He says he will be the last person to try to bring the legal system into disrepute, indeed he feels he will have an important role to play in healing the damaged relationship between government and the legal system, but "constructive comment" could be made through the DPP. Under the heading "Making You Safe at Home" Labor's position paper says it will amend the Criminal Code to create "a new crime of Home Invasion". "It is intended that the definition of this crime will be wide ranging and will cover all forms of violation of people's homes and their property." Mr Bamber says this is "looking for trouble". He says there have been problems in other jurisdictions when the law has tried to define "home invasion" as a separate offence. If the key factor is that people are present, then that creates all sorts of problems, in terms of intent. He says unlawful entry is already a defined offence, and under current legislation if the offence occurs at night, it carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. "What more could you want?" asks Mr Bamber. "Making laws more draconian does not solve the problem." Mr Toyne says the home invasions they have in mind are those accompanied by acts of violence: "It may well be that little amendment is required. "Whatever we do, it will be consistent with the existing body of law and practical. "Before drafting legislation we will consult with practiAtioners, the courts, police, and organisations like Legal Aid to find out what the gaps there are, if any, and go from there."I can assure people we will not go down a sensationalist path but we will try to offer greater protection. "In the long run it may well be that our crime prevention measures will be more effective in offering that protection." Labor's paper also promises that it will "put victims first" and will do so by further amendments to the Sentencing Act. These will "require prosecutors in all cases of property crime and crimes of violence to indicate to the court not just the impact on the victim, but also the victim's wishes with respect of sentence." The courts will have to "have regard to the sentence option that the victim wants to see happen in their case". This would lead to all sorts of distortVions in sentencing, according to Mr Bamber. "One of sentencing's fundamental principles is that like crimes receive like penalties, and another is that the penalty should fit the crime. "These can't be applied if victim's wishes are taken notice of, as there will obviously be a lot of variation in victim's responses. "And if victims are simply asked what they want to see happen and then are not taken notice of, they will only be more upset. "Either way there are going to be problems with this approach." Mr Toyne says he will be looking for a package of victim support measures, more out-of-court – such as "mediation at a community level" – than in-court. He says some of the thinking abut victims' input is related to remote communities where the community leadership can have input into a magistrate's decision with respect to sentencing.


Denis Burke didn't lose the election just because his CLP put One Nation ahead of Labor in their preferences. That was merely the final careless step that sent crashing down the avalanche that had been teetering for well over a decade. CLP governments spent – give or take a few hundred million – $12b in each of their four year terms. Yes, that's twelve thousand million dollars, or $1200,000,000, of which 80 per cent came as grants from Canberra, five times more per head of population when compared to the rest of the nation. We got these funds because of our sparse population in a very big country, and because of the parlous standard of living of many of our Aboriginal citizens. After 26 years of CLP rule there is little to show in the very areas for which this vast amount of money has been allocated: facilities in the bush remain a disgrace. The living conditions of Aborigines, on the whole, have not improved. And the effects of this neglect is now surging into the bigger population centres in the form of anti social behaviour and crime. Yet the CLP has run up a debt costing us half a million dollars a day in interest. That – just to name one example, – could buy, every eight days, a cattle station which we could add to our tiny national parks, creating tourist assets for many generations. Yet Mr Burke campaigned on the prowess of his government as an economic manager. What a joke.When the CLP regime owned the Ayers Rock Resort for more than a decade it was a financial disaster. In a blink of an eye after private enterprise took it over, the resort it began to make vast profits – which now go interstate and overseas. There are massive opportunities for tourism in our wide open spaces, and through our world famous Aboriginal art. Yet the CLP's vision for The Centre extended just to a convention centre. The nation's full of them, and not even the question how delegates will get here is satisfactorily resolved. Mr Burke committed as much as a state with 10 times the population to a railway without being able to tell us what it will carry. And all along public servants and business operators cowered in fear of victimisation lest they voiced any doubts about the wisdom of the Darwin-based masters. Labor's victory is a new dawn for the Territory. Let's hope they will get things right.


The Territory's first Labor Ministry will retain the portfolio of Minister for Central Australia, with the Centre's only Labor MLA, Peter Toyne, in the job. The difference will be that the portfolio will have seven senior members of staff based in Alice Springs, ministerial advisors to each of Labor's seven Ministers (two less than the previous administration). Mr Toyne will also be Attorney-General. This responsibility, together with Minister for Central Australia, will be his major focus in the first term: "It's in these areas that we really want to make ground," says Mr Toyne.His other responsibilities are Primary Industries and Fisheries, Sport and Recreation, Corporate and Information Services, and Regional Development. In a surprise move the former remote area principal, who holds a doctorate in education, did not get the Education portfolio. "Clare's absolutely right," says Mr Toyne. "She wants us to get out of our pet areas and really work as a government team." Syd Stirling, Deputy Chief Minister, will be Minister for Education, Police, Parks and Wildlife, Aboriginal Affairs, and Tourism.Paul Henderson will be Minister for Industries and Business; John Ah Kit gets Transport, Correctional Services, and Essential Services. NEW BLOODNewcomers to the Parliament Jane Aagard and Kon Vatskalis will go straight to the front bench, Ms Aagard as Minister for Health, and Family and Children's Services, and Mr Vatskalis as Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment, and Housing, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs.Independent for Braitling Loraine Braham will be nominated as Speaker, a role she held as a member of the CLP Government; Gerry Wood, also independent, will be Deputy Speaker. Chief Minister Clare Martin – herself Treasurer, Minister for Arts and Museums, Young Territorians, Women's Policy, Senior Territorians, and Communications, Science and Advanced Technology – says she did not have to involve the two independents in this way as Labor has the majority of seats in the Parliament.However, "Labor is committed to improving the standards of parliamentary debate and ending the era of government domination of this vital organ of democracy," says Ms Martin.She says the two independents have undertaken to support government appropriation bills and to not support no-confidence motions except in exceptional circumstances.


Bigger Than, the Alice Springs Festival's youth arts event on Saturday was delightfully informal, marked by a great sense of humour, and some demonstrable talent.The evening, a combined effort by Fuzion and ASYAG (Alice Springs Youth Arts Group), brought together at Centralian College work by young people in a variety of media – visual art, video, theatre, circus skills and original music. There was a nice take-off of good old fashioned choral singing, with a prim little choir yowling and woofing their way through a very pretty song sung by Sally Balfour. There was a tightly scripted and very amusing piece about girls on a sleepover spooking each other. This worked very well in its short form and is rich with possibilities for a longer piece. The live music was a little over-shadowed by the fire-twirling in the foreground. This might have worked better in a tight sequence, then letting the music happen in its own right. But one singer-songwriter certainly imposed himself: Lucas Castle has a great voice, an easy laid-back style and writes effective lyrics. He and Gareth Dorkins take part in the jam session at Sean's Bar of a Sunday night, but someone should give them a gig! Meanwhile some 1400 primary school students have signed up to take part in the lantern parade as part of the Yeperenye Federation Festival.High school students from around the town are also pitching in, helping to create the giant caterpillars and stink beetles that will be the centrepiece of the Yeperenye spectacular on the evening of September 8.Each caterpillar has eight sections, including head and tail, and will be carried by 32 of the town's young people, four per section. Other students will be involved in carrying flags representing each of the 390 Aboriginal "nations" in Australia. Pictured is Sabella Turner (left in the picture at right) helping daughter Janet, who has designed one the giant moth wings (above) that will frame the stage for the Road Ahead concert. Janet's sister Syreeta designed the other. Now, what has this English country garden (above, right) got to do with the Centre? Much more than you would think, and you can find out at Outsite, the Centre's first sculpture prize, being launched as part of the Alice Springs Festival this Friday, 5.30pm at the Desert Park.The garden, at Arley Hall, Cheshire, is where the explorer Colonel Peter Egerton-Warburton grew up. He was the first European to cross the desert from Alice Springs to the Oakover River near Port Hedland, hoping to find a pastoral corridor from WA to the eastern states. Artist Anne Mosey, who has lived and worked in remote Central Australia for the last decade, is Warburton's great, great granddaughter. Her contention is that Warburton held this childhood landscape as an ideal against which everything he encountered in the desert was contrasted in the negative, making his arduous 1872 journey only more difficult.Her work on site at the Desert Park will explore this contrast. Six other artists will taking part in the prize, including inimitable scrap metal artist Dan Murphy, Julie-Anne Taylor, Shaun Leyland, Annie Zon, Donna Bradley, Martijn Bessemans (from Belgium), and Kim Kerze (Tasmania). The prize will be judged by sculptor Noel Hutchison, head of undergraduate studies at the Victorian College of the Arts.• In the night I thought of a kiss / that delicious moment / just before the kiss / when his lips are so close / his smell and presence / engulf me.Find out what happens next from poet Leni Shilton at Domestic and Erotic, an evening of poetry and performance featuring local writers, celebrating National Poetry Day.The event will be held at the Festival Club venue, the Bluegrass restaurant, this Saturday, September 1, starting at 7pm (snacks provided, bar available). • Over 400 works representing several hundred Aboriginal artists from 29 art centres in Central Australia – including Hermannsburg Potters, Keringke Arts, Papunya Tula Artists, and Ikuntji Women's Centre – will feature in this year's Desert Mob, opening at Araluen on Sunday at 2pm. The event bridges the Alice Springs Festival drawing to a close this weekend, and the CAAMA Fringe Festival being organised around the Yeperenye Federation Festival on the following weekend. There will be entertainment by the CAAMA Fringe Festival at Sunday's opening.Desert Mob has played a vital role in the development of the community-based Aboriginal art industry in the Centre, showcasing the diversity and development of current artistic practice. It offers art centres the opportunity to launch new product lines and profile emerging artists, exhibited alongside the growing number of internationally recognised and commercially successful artists. The exhibition has evolved over the past 10 years as have the majority of art centres. It provides networking opportunities for the centres and prospective buyers and dealers (local, international and interstate), and an important venue for artists to view work from other centres. - KIERAN FINNANE


It is too early to tell how the new Labor Government will impact on the process of bringing about measures to deal with Alice Springs's alcohol problems, although Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne has expressed his will to get measures in place swiftly.Meanwhile, the town's latest working group on alcohol measures, put together in a forum called by the previous Minister for Central Australia, is aiming to finalise its draft proposals by the end of September.These will be put to the Alice in 10 Quality of Life committee, who will then forward it to the Licensing Commissioner. "We want to keep the commissioner fully informed of our process, so that we don't find ourselves heading down a path that he wouldn't support," says DASA's Nick Gill who chairs the working group. There is no discussion in the group of restrictions on sales of alcohol. "A decision on that is now up to the Licensing Commissioner," says Mr Gill. "Our business is to come up with a package of complimentary measures." These are being considered in six priority areas. The first is in relation to youth, where the group is looking at universal provision of alcohol and other drugs education and counselling in schools; the creation of a youth drop-in centre; organising regular grog-free entertainment; and, forming a "host-a-party" group. A new youth service aimed primarily at petrol sniffing but also at other substance misuse, will hopefully be funded from the Commonwealth's recent allocation of $1m to combat sniffing in the Centre. The second priority area addresses problems of public behaviour, and law and order. The group will be talking to the police about their problems with enforcement of the two kilometre law and how they can be overcome. The group will also be working with all stakeholders, including native title holders, to ensure that the Todd and Charles Rivers are known and respected as "dry" areas. It is hoped to introduce "prescribed persons" to help monitor liquor sales and their compliance with the law. Mr Gill says the group is trying as much as possible to draw on and better coordinate existing community resources, but some measures will require funding. One example, is an extension of night patrol into daylight hours. Creating safer drinking environments is the third priority area. The group would like to see all people involved in the serving of alcohol, not just licensees, to undergo "responsible serving of alcohol training". They also want to see every licensed premises develop a code of conduct specific to their premises and clientele. Liquor traders involved in the group have suggested that a licensees' liaison officer would fulfil a useful role. This person, trained and linking up with other services, would explain to patrons a licensee's decision to refuse service. The fourth area of community control would look particularly at the involvement of Aboriginal people in decision-making to do with the regulation of alcohol.Mr Gill says an Arrernte traditional owner should be one of the local commissioners on the Licensing Commission.He also says Aboriginal town leases seeking to be declared dry areas should be supported, and the group will seek discussions with police and others to this end.The fifth area concerns legislative measures and the Liquor Commission itself, while the sixth and final area focusses on treatment and interventions. One of the most exciting developments, according to Mr Gill, is the traders' willingness to help the Centre's only rehabilitation service, CAAAPU, to extend its outreach program.


Holden Jackaroo driver Bruce Garland and KTM motorcycle rider Andrew Caldecott clinched the two major titles in the Australian Safari international cross country rally through the Northern Territory.Caldecott, riding a KTM 660 Rallye, won the Moto Division with an overall time of 24.18.4. The 37-year-old from Keith, SA completed the event 53 minutes and 48 seconds ahead of Northern Territory rider Stephen Greenfield on a Honda XR650.Garland, who started the rally by winning the Prologue in Alice Springs on August 18, conceded the cancellation of the two sections – because of duck shooting in the area – had made it more difficult for nine-times Bathurst 1000 winner Brock to overtake him.London-based Australian Andrew Coaker continued his consistent form shown throughout the Safari to finish third on a KTM 660 Rallye, with American Casey McCoy fourth on a Honda XR650. Jamie O'Neill, provided the Northern Territory with two riders in the top five by finishing fifth on a Yamaha WR400.


REPORT by DOROTHY GRIMMThey are coming from all over the world to this Sunday's performance of Handel's Messiah by the Alice Springs Choral Society, a grand finale to the Alice Springs Festival."They" are the singers, attracted to the centre of Australia and the group by the talent and expertise of the choral society and its director, Ron Klumpes.Canadian Debra Kumita arrived in Alice in February as part of a teacher exchange from Toronto: "The people are so warm and lovely here; I've been made to feel so very welcome."American Frank Dahlberg said he's been impressed with the talent in town: "I came to Alice Springs in October 2000," Frank said. "I did not have a lot of expectations. I'd sung a cappella for 20 years with a barbershop quartet in Salt Lake City. Being a member of the Choral Society has been a great experience. I am really impressed with the high level of expertise and talent in town."Gwyneth Anderton is an Australian travelling around the country in a motor home: "I visited Alice Springs in 1998, ‘99, and 2000," Gwyneth said. "I'd never sang in a choir before, but this group, like the town, is so welcoming, I keep coming back. I chose this time to return just so I could sing the Messiah with the group."Others are just as enthusiastic, whether they are newcomers or long-time residents. Relative newcomer Sally Peart, who has a music and events promotion background and was one of the organisers of the excellent Salvation Army fundraising concert in June this year, said her mother is coming from Melbourne just for the performance: "My mother plays the cello and has performed the Messiah herself on numerous occasions," Sally said. "This may be the first time she has been in the audience watching and listening. The standard of the choir is so impressive. I've only been in town a few months and Alice Springs has so much talent, it is fantastic. As tourists, people do not get to see the talent which exists in such a small town."Long-time resident John Fuss knows that the talent in Alice Springs evolves and develops through the expertise of the people who come and go, as well as those who stay. John started singing in Alice Springs in the 1960s with the Uniting Church Choir and was also a member of the Alice Springs Musical Society which was popular in the 80s and 90s."The Uniting Church choir sang the Messiah in 1966 or 1967," John said."But it doesn't matter how many times one sings it, one always learns something new. Each director has a different style and a different way of pronunciation, that is in the sense of how the sound is issued from one's mouth. Each sound must be sung properly, as the director wants."Director Ron Klumpes, who has been in town about three years, said the group started preparing for the Messiah early this year: "We started rehearsing in February," Ron said. "Normally the Choral Society has two concerts, in June and in December, but when the Alice Springs Festival came along we ‘ jumped on the bandwagon'. There are 50 very enthusiastic, talented people in the choir. They have faithfully attended two-hour rehearsals every week and enjoyed it. The orchestra of 17 will be led by violinist Clare O'Brien who is currently studying for a degree in music at Melbourne University."Also coming to Alice especially for the performance is flautist Claire Kilgariff who performs with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra: "Another flautist, Sarah Hickmott, is also coming; she is currently studying in Adelaide. The soloists are from the choir; everyone has had to work hard to get ready for this performance. Handel wrote the piece in 1741 in a virtual frenzy; he wrote it in three weeks, barely eating and sleeping. Since he wrote it, the Messiah has become one of the most popular Oratorio ever written. It has been performed around the world on a regular basis and is universally loved for its tunefulness and inspired text."Choir members, Jane Bannister, Howard Davies, Kirsty Evans, and Anne Marshall, were quick to support Ron's assessment of talent, hard work, and fun."Singing with the Choral Society has really changed my life," Jane Bannister said. "I had not sung since I was in school until Ron came to town and started the choir. It is wonderful to spend two hours every week rehearsing; I don't think of anything else. I hear music so differently now; it has opened up a whole new dimension for me."I am so grateful to Ron; without Ron none of us would be doing this today. I couldn't read music," choir member Howard Davies said: "I had been to a performance of the Messiah in Darwin and liked it. "When I came to Alice Springs I saw an ad for people interested in singing to jointhe Choral Society whether they could read music or not. "I can read music now; I learned while participating. From being a ‘bloke' who couldn't read music to having a small solo part is an example of how people can learn by doing." "The Choral Society is a good follow on from Junior Singers," Kirsty said. "I sang with the Alice Springs Junior Singers for many years and this is a good way to continue singing." "Choir is a form of aerobics," Anne Marshall said, "two hours of screaming to relax you."Singing with the Choral Society is also something husbands and wives can do together as there are four couples in the group.

Return to Alice Springs News Webpage.