September 5, 2001.


"One of the biggest shows Australia has ever seen in scale and ambition", this weekend's Yeperenye Federation Festival has moved into its final days of preparation. Nigel Jamieson, co-artistic director of the spectacle, with Rachel Perkins, is well placed to make the comparison. The opening and closing ceremonies of last year's Olympic Games, of which he directed the Tin Symphony segment, were the biggest, with 10,000 performers. The Yeperenye Festival will have 4000 performers, but the site is as large.There will be 500 art works on the site, and while the Games' shows ran for seven hours, the Yeperenye Festival from its start at 3pm Saturday afternoon to its close on Sunday night will run for 35 hours. Senior stage manager of the Olympic Games shows, Mik Auckland, and a lot of his team have arrived to take charge of the final theatrical logistics. Perkins calls him "our great white hope".Despite school children doing their first full rehearsal this afternoon and Indigenous performers for the Welcome to Country segments rehearsing only on Friday (all day), Perkins and Jamieson are confident all will fall into place. Says Jamieson: "It costs $40,000 a day to feed our performers, so we can only afford to have them in town for these few days, just like we can only afford to do one rehearsal with the kids, because of the sheer numbers and the logistics of getting them to and from the oval."The welcome ceremony, involving 22 dance groups, had a solid plan a year ago, worked out with 30 cultural advisors from around the country, but actually what we also need is flexibility."It's a matter of having the maximum amount of preparedness to allow for the maximum amount of flexibility." The spectacle will "attack" on many fronts.The Ilparpa range will be fully lit as an impressive natural backdrop; there will be filmed images, fireworks, pyrotechnics, huge puppets, skydivers as well as the performers "one of the most complex and spectacular gigs I've ever been involved in", says Jamieson.The Road Ahead concert will take the audience on a whirlwind tour of Indigenous history over the last 100 years, with 25 performers each singing one song.That will see 30 second changeovers on the main stage while theatrical and filmed elements continue on the surrounding stages and screens. For example, while the 1966 Gurindji walk-off from Wave Hill seen as the birth of the land rights movement is celebrated by Paul Kelly singing his famous "From little things big things grow", former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam will re- enact the symbolic exchange of earth with the grandson of the late Vincent Lingiari. As well, on the butterfly wings either side of the stage archival vision of the walk-off will be running, in one of the many filmed sequences put together for the show by local Indigenous film maker Warwick Thorn-ton. Some 50 Gurindji people will also take part in this segment, together with a 30 piece choir, and the whole scene will be documented by Indigenous photographer Mervyn Bishop who took the original shot of Whitlam and Lingiari for Fairfax papers back in 66. Says Perkins: "These are the sorts of things that are going to tell the history. It's not a dry approach, there'll be no voiceover. We're taking an emotive approach, getting in the people who were involved at the time, singing the songs, showing the films."


An estimated 1000 people in Central Australia are still waiting to benefit from the $63m allocated by the Federal Government for the Stolen Generations, according to Harold Furber. He is the volunteer chairman of the Central Australian Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, and was himself taken away as a child. He says the corporation is the voice of taken away people in the region. Yet the Department of Health and Aged Care, which received a total of $49m nation-wide, as well as ATSIC, have funded programs in The Centre without getting advice from the victims: "We have not been involved in the local programs and have not been consulted about the spending." Mr Furber says funding has been provided to the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress for three counsellors and an " emotional and social well being regional centre" in Alice Springs. "Ongoing negotiations and mediation with Congress to provide an appropriate service have been unsuccessful so far," says Mr Furber. "We hope to continue these negotiations so that a better service can be provided." ATSIC money is going to the Institute for Aboriginal Development, CAAMA, Yipirinya School and Warlpiri Media in Yuendumu. The Yeperenye Festival, to be staged in Alice Springs at a cost of $2.8m this weekend, will include a "healing ceremony" for the Stolen Generations, but practical services are still not being provided, according to Mr Furber. He says his group is conducting a summit in Alice Springs this week in conjunction with the festival. The Federal money was set aside following the release in 1997 of "Bringing Them Home", the report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission investigating the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. The enquiry was headed by Sir Ronald Wilson. The Howard Government soon came under fire about its failure to implement Sir Ronald's recommendations, and last year a Senate committee held hearings and made a string of recommendations. These included "wide consultation with individual members of the stolen genesration and representatives of stolen generation organisations". Mr Furber was among witnesses giving evidence to the Senate enquiry. He says ATSIC which contributed to the $63m allocation is funding Link Up, a program which is bringing together families separated by past government policies. Mr Furber says Link Up with a national budget of $11m is operating well in The Centre. Congress declined an invitation to comment. Senator Grant Tambling, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Minister of Health, did not comment specifically on Mr Furber's statements but provided the following information. The government's initial $63 million package cincluded $11.25 m to expand Link Up nationally; $16m to employ specialist indigenous mental health counsellors; $17m to expand emotional and social well-being centres to provide professional support and training for the counsellors; and $5.9m for family support and parenting programs.In the 2001-02 budget is continued funding of $54m for a further four years for the Link Up network and counselling and parenting programs.


"People from all over Australia will be bringing their culture. "We want to see what they have. "Some communities have lost their culture. "The Warlpiri and Pitjantjatjara ones are the most intact." So far as the Arrernte are concerned, "we haven't seen much in the past". "It will be good if they bring it out!" That's what the Yeperenye Festival means for Warren Williams, deputy chairman of the Yuendumu Council, 300 km north-west of The Alice. He himself will be dancing in a Warlpiri ceremony, with 10 or more other men. They will be in a welcoming corroborree: "It's an old one. I've seen it as a boy." He says the festival organisers are sending two coaches to Yuendumu, one for men, one for women, who will also be singing and dancing. Mr Williams says just about the whole community will be there, using what transport they can muster for people not fitting on the coaches. He is especially keen to bring young people so that they can get an impression of old traditions as they exist around the country. And the Warlpiri presence will be not just from Yuendumu: Mr Williams says people will be coming from as far as Lajamanu 700 km north-west and Willowra, about 300 km from Alice Springs. The need for involving lots of young people is echoed by Sammy Butcher, chairman of the Papunya council and former lead guitarist of the prominent Warumpi Band. He'll be playing rock music at the festival as well as arranging traditional performances. Mr Butcher says in addition to small groups of senior dancers he's also trying to involve young people in the corroborrees: " We want the kids to find out," he says. There is little interest in the festival at Areyonga, 200 km south-west of The Alice. Administrator Helen Webb says "we've had a lot of other issues" but small groups may come in. "We haven't got any cars," she says, and no transport has been made available by the organisers. The picture is even gloomier at Docker River, in the south- western corner of the Territory, nearly 600 km from Alice Springs. Administrator Gary Cartwright, son of historian and author Max Cartwright who founded the settlement at the foot of the picturesque Petermann Ranges, says Docker is one of the poorest communities in the Territory, with massive unemployment and no CDEP program. Mr Cartwright says no support has been offered for travel to the festival. The community does not have a bus. "We're not supposed to ride in the backs of utes but what else can you do?" he says. At TiTree, 200 km north of The Alice, administrator Bruce McRae says organisers have faxed invitations to the Anmatjerre Council but "there is not a great deal of interest". It's a different story at nearby Utopia where school principal Norman Alexander says most pupils will go as a group and many other residents will travel in their own vehicles. At Hermannsburg, 120 km west of the Alice, chairman Gus Williams says "a few are taking part, people are going to have a look, do a bit of dancing". He says they "will follow their own totem, three caterpillars, the Njalka side of the Western Arrernte dreaming". Mr Williams, is a noted country and western musician, has performed in Tamworth many times, and may make it onto the stage during the festival. It seems the whole community af Titjikala, about 100 km south of The Alice will be there. Office worker Greg Sharman says the 240-odd people will come on the community bus and by private cars as there is no transport from the organisers. "They won't be performing but we'll be selling art work from the women's centre," says Mr Sharman.


Uncovering traditional Arrernte dances that haven't been danced "since our great, great grandfathers passed away" has been like " looking for yalke, bush onions", says Rosalie Riley, who took leave from her job as lecturer at Batchelor Institute to help prepare her countrywomen for the Yeperenye Festival."When we're looking for yalke, we sit down and dig and dig and dig, see how many bush onions we can collect. "This process has been a lot of digging around." Mrs Riley says some of the cultural knowledge, the memory of dances, songs and designs, has been held by "outside families" and it's been necessary to liaise with them. Women from the Eastern Desert, "now stronger since I started working and encouraging them", will perform a butterfly dance, involving about 10 dancers, five singers, and a lot of "extra little butterflies and the spirits of the country".Mrs Riley's own mob, "the Jesse Gap and Emily Gap ladies", will also dance. The Undoolya men's group and another Arrernte men's group will dramatise the story of the green stink beetle and the yeperenye caterpillar a dance "very strictly for men that have been through bush camp". For the women, the experience has motivated them to incorporate as the first Arrernte women's dance troupe. "There never has been one, there were always other language dance groups around, through this we are revitalising, it is a self-healing program," says Mrs Riley. "The men have to sort that out amongst themselves, whether they just want to dance this and forget about it again."But I want to try and encourage the men to keep it up, and our young ones, their grandsons and great grandsons, they are the next generation of elders even though they are young football players." She says some young people are ashamed of their traditional culture: "A few young people join in, they get culture shock, and maybe they won't come back, many people in my age group still want to get up there, keep it going and build it up."It's not as thick as it was in our grandmothers' days but we are doing our best to keep it going."Mrs Riley acknowledges that some of the communities of the Centre "haven't been fully consulted". "They needed to have a representative from CAAMA, from the Federation team, out there talking to them face to face and letting them know about what's going to happen. "It's been full on but we just couldn't cater for everybody, because there's a lot of other things happening in the office and we're bringing on other cultural peoples [from interstate]. "Some communities feel they missed out but it's an open invitation for everybody to take part."So let's embrace and celebrate our culture, how long we have survived in this colonisation period."


Alice Springs Town Council has secured a major local government conference for the town with about 800 delegates attending the week-long event next year.Mayor Fran Erlich said, "This is a major coup for Alice Springs as the Australian Local Government Association National Assemblies have always been held in Canberra previously. "The number of delegates attending, including elected local government members and staff from across the country, and that the assembly lasts a week, means the town will enjoy a major economic boost immediately and the benefits of the exposure as a tourist and convention destination over the longer term."In April, Mrs Erlich and council CEO Nick Scarvelis addressed the association executive in Canberra to lobby for the conference."We highlighted the ability of the town to handle major events, especially with the completion of the convention centre, and that Alice is a thriving regional hub with access to sophisticated international-standard infrastructure for business, tourism and communications. "We also pushed the significance of holding the conference, scheduled for November 2002, in Alice Springs during the Year of the Outback."We will be having talks with the airlines about extra flights for the conference and the need for more flights and cheaper flights to Alice Springs generally", the Mayor said.


"Cousin-sisters" Thea Nangala and Alison Ross were awarded advanced diplomas in their fields of study and special awards as the most outstanding final year students at Batchelor Institute's graduation ceremony last week. The women are shining examples of an increasing trend at Batchelor, a "vertical progression" from basic to more advanced qualifications, according to the institute's director, Veronica Arbon.Said Thea Nangala: "I've been working for health for nearly 15 years, I started in 1987. I gradually got my basic skill certificate, I did a bridging course through Batchelor and then got my diploma."Thea graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Primary Health Care, Health Science. She works for Territory Health Services as a Senior Health Worker Class Three at the Neutral Junction clinic. "I'm happy because I'm working with my own people, delivering health services to my own people," she said. Like many of the graduating students Thea has children to look after, on top of her job and study: "It was a struggle for me to get my certificate today, I'm so happy that I passed."Alison Ross, also from Neutral Junction and mother of two, one of them a seven week old baby, now lives at Apungalindum, one of the homelands at Utopia, where she has her own class of senior primary students. She started studying for her advanced diploma in 1995, having worked previously as as teacher's assistant at Neutral Junction. Mrs Arbon said a "huge shift" is occurring in Indigenous education in the Northern Territory."In the past people were studying horizontally, going from one base level course to another."Now we are starting to see the majority of students going vertically, from Certificates II through to IV, then some go on to do pre-tertiary education studies and then onto an advanced diploma."That's what self-determination is about, getting the qualifications to take control," Mrs Arbon told the Alice News.This trend will help overcome a situation where Indigenous people are often expected to perform beyond their level of competence. Mrs Arbon: "I've worked as an educator in the Indigenous field for 22 years, and there's still an assumption out there that whatever qualification you get as an Indigenous person, you'll be able to perform at a huge level."A health worker qualified at a Certificate II level will be expected to perform at the same level as a bachelor qualified nurse, or a student doing Certificate II in Indigenous education will be expected to perform at the level of a bachelor of education qualified person."It reflects a number of things, possibly the desire of employers to increase the number of Indigenous people in their employ. It could also be pressure from our side to have Indigenous people in there, but it also shows some unquestioned assumptions."There is a need for mentoring, appropriate supervision, and more studies, and an acceptance and expectation that people will work at the level they are qualified for."Mrs Arbon expressed particular pride in seeing an increasing number of men graduating, including young men. Among them was Jason King (second from left in picture above) who graduated with a Certificate III in Aboriginal Health Work, Clinical, and received a special award sponsored by Qantas for the most outstanding achievement by a student from Central Australia. Jason is now intending to go on to Certificate IV.Another man to receive particular accolade, this time from his own community, was Gavin Kugena from Yalata, South Australia, who qualified in environmental health work, and is now the first Aboriginal environmental health worker in SA. Renewed hope of seeing the construction of the Desert People's Centre (DPC) get underway was expressed at the ceremony. Batchelor chairman Gatjil Djerrkura opened his speech with congratulations to the Labor party for coming to government, " history-making in the Territory"."We hope now that our dream will become a reality," said Mr Djerrkura.The DPC will see the coming together on the one campus of three Aboriginal education and training institutions, Batchelor Institute, the Institute of Aboriginal Development and the Centre for Appropriate Technology. "That shows solidarity between Aboriginal people," Mr Djerrkura told the Alice News. He said there was general support for the concept of the DPC by the previous Territory government but no budget allocation for the project's target building program, which would see construction start mid next year and the centre open for full operation by 2004. "Now there's a change of government, that all has to be revisited," said Mr Djerrkura. "I hope we'll have a more sympathetic hearing from the Labor government, and of course we have to establish the land tenure issues, talk to the traditional owners, all the stakeholders, including Aboriginal people."Mrs Arbon noted the Labor party's election promise of funding for the Desert Knowledge Project, in which the DPC will be " first cab off the rank". She said negotiations with native title holders for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement over land south of the Gap earmarked for the Desert Knowledge Precinct is "underway"."We worked extremely hard with the previous government to get a commitment that that would occur, not just for the DPC but for the whole precinct, and we'd be looking to continue that negotiation with the Labor government and the traditional owners."Otherwise the underpinning principle of the whole precinct would be totally compromised."

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