December 5, 2001.


In the moist haven of our gardens, in our treasured pot plants, an invader is thriving: the Big Headed Ant potentially threatens our horticulture industry and the jewels of the Central Australian tourism industry, the gorges and the permanent water-holes. Once established, the ant rapidly pushes out native ants, "chief engineers" of our landscape. The danger, says CSIRO researcher Craig James, is in the ecological imbalance this causes: it could make way for new pests, as it has done in other parts of Australia and in the US, devastating crops and native fauna and flora. US farmers are reported to be spending $1.5 billion a year on its eradication.Originally from South Africa, and most likely to have arrived in Alice in a pot plant transported from Darwin or the east coast, it was noticed here a couple of years ago almost by accident, when Alan Andersen, one of Australia's leading ant ecologists, happened to be visiting Dr James."He walked out into my garden, in the old racecourse area on the north side of town, and immediately spotted them," says Dr James.The ant is minuscule, and only a few in a colony will have the characteristic big head. It is more easily identified by its nest: often a slit like line and a hole at the entrance of which the ants typically throw out some light material. It can also be a single hole or a cluster of little holes. The ant is of the same Pheidole genus as many hundreds of native ant species in Central Australia. But it is far more aggressive. It lives in very small colonies, 50 to 100 ants, producing offspring asexually: "They just grow and expand like the lawn does," says Dr James. In Darwin where it has become established over the last 20 to 25 years, a typical backyard goes from having 20 to 30 species of ants to having just the Big Headed Ant."It excludes everything else, it's incredibly invasive," says Dr James."We presume that small ant wars go on at that level, which it wins by sheer volume of numbers and aggression."So what, we might say. Haven't we got bigger ecological "fish to fry"?The trouble is, we don't know, says Dr James. It could be another buffel grass scenario: seemingly benign at first, now a major environmental threat. Ants, easy to overlook unless you step on a bitey one, are actually the engineers of our landscape: "Our hundreds of species of ants and termites have a major impact on the environment in terms of moving food resources around and, in the case of termites, in breaking down dead material and making the nutrients that are locked up in the dead material available for new plants or other organisms to use."Along comes the Big Headed Ant, pushing all the other ants out."When you remove that diversity and replace it with one thing, and it's doing things in just one way, you lose a lot of the variety of that ecosystem interaction."The consequences are hard to predict and could be extremely costly.The Big Headed Ants need moisture to survive. So far, they have mostly occurred, unnoticed, right on drippers and in pots in gardens around Alice. GRAPE FARMS However, if by accident they were transported into artificially moist environments like the horticulture enterprises in the rural areas of the town, or up to the grape farms at Ti-Tree, the impacts could be more intense. Dr James says Australian ants aren't very well described: "We don't know all the details of what all our native ants are doing but, for example, in an agricultural situation they could be preying on a particular pest."If they were eliminated by the Big Headed Ant, then growers would probably have to look at using a pesticide, increasingly seen as undesirable and certainly expensive."Darwin based CSIRO researcher, Ben Hoffmann, says the ant, which arrived in Australia about 100 years ago, is recognised as a serious agricultural pest in NSW and the USA. He says US farmers are spending $1.5 billion a year on its eradication.Dr James says that scientists around the world are now paying more attention to the unknown or uncosted benefits of having biodi-versity: "What are the ecosystem services we gain from having six species of grass, or 20 species of ant, as opposed to just one species?"Their work is being driven by the mounting tide of extinctions: "There's great concern that the cost of maintaining our production systems and lifestyles will start to really increase as a result of all these losses." For example, in north American agricultural settings, massive land clearance has resulted in such a loss of biodiversity, including the loss of many native bee species, that pollination is not occurring."Now they have to ‘buy' pollination, people come in with bee hives. "Something we've taken for granted for so long has become a significant cost for farmers in the US."The other environments potentially threatened by the Big Headed Ant are Central Australia's renowned gorges, naturally moist areas in our generally dry landscape. If something is not done to eradicate the Big Headed Ant in town, Dr James says, "I don't see any reason why these ants won't be able to establish in the gorges". "That concerns me from the point of view of the potential impact on native ants, and the possible flow-on effect."We haven't even started to think about that scale of problem, but it's sitting there ready to be looked at."BUFFEL GRASS Unlike buffel grass, the Big Headed Ant is relatively easy to control: a granular bait, commercially available, sprinkled at the entrance to the nest, will get rid of the ant. If a concerted effort was made in town, the problem could be prevented from spreading. "The ant is sitting in a confined context at the moment. We know it can't just move out into the landscape, it's got to be in moist areas, so I think there's a great deal of scope to control it in Alice Springs, but it hasn't come up on anyone's radar." The Parks and Wildlife Commission should be vigilant in their national parks, particularly around the carparks and high impact areas, says Dr James: "If it's found, have a campaign to get rid of it right there and then." A campaign in town should have the support of an authority like the DPIF, carrying out inspections of gardens.And Territory-wide, there needs to be some sort of inspection, treatment or quarantining of pot plants.


Ted Egan is pushing 70 and staring in the face of his first ever defeat. But Egan, enormously popular and successful singer, songwriter, author and confidant in matters Northern Australia to a string of the nation's top political figures, ain't giving up. His all-consuming project over the past 10 years, a $7m big screen movie The Drover's Boy, set in the 1920s, is reduced to a $400,000 rush job. Shooting of "a" movie has just begun, yet it must have a commercial screening by the end of February. It's not about the drover's boy, the legendary black concubine of the early day cattle man in Central Australia, disguising her gender to avoid persecution from the racist authorities of the era, the touching and romantic subject of Egan's famous song. The "small" movie is about a group of people, in Melbourne, thinking of making a movie about the drover's boy and – fittingly – having a hell of a time getting the funds. Can this "financially reduced" film possibly match the drama, intrigue, deception and wrenching heartache Egan and his close associates have lived through in the past decade, when the best part of $4m was spent with little to show for it? It will be a quick movie to satisfy accountants, bureaucrats and investment regulators. But there is that core of wide screen footage already in the can, "5000 head of cattle walking across the Barkly Tablelands", brilliant sunsets and rises, great locations of dry creeks, white trees and red rocks, "Australia's first ever Western set in the grand panorama of the Northern Territory," as Egan puts it. That footage will make up around 10 or 12 minutes in the "real" Drover's Boy when, not if, it is finally made, as Egan is adamant it will. The real life drama got into top gear in July this year when the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), which oversees projects that have raised money from public, took Egan to court. ASIC told Egan unless he fulfilled the contract to finish a film by the end of the year "we'll close you down". Says Egan:"I had two options. "One they close me down – and that can involve the Federal cops with sledge hammers – and they take over your computers and your bank accounts for the last 10 years and the next 10 years. "And it also winds up the project. "I decided – fairly quickly – that I would take Option Two which was to make a film, thereby satisfying the tax benefit for all investors." As the prospectus requires, it will tell the drover's boy story. "But the film doesn't have to be titled The Drover's Boy, and so it won't. "It will be titled Minala, which is the name of the drover's boy." The story is told through the rehearsals of urban Aboriginal actors and their quest for funding, fittingly ultimately unsuccessful. "It's basically Craig Mathewson's baby," says Egan. Mathewson is the long time producer on the project. "We don't know how often we'll show it – once for sure, because that's a requirement. "One screening equals commercial exploitation, and that satisfies the contract. "It's the only way out of it. We can satisfy the law, the investors and still keep the project alive forever if we do it this way. "We'll be able to say to ASIC, all our involvement with you is completed, thank you very much, see you later. "We will then seek to get the funding for the $7m film we were never able to make because we couldn't get the rest of the money." Egan says he's hoping the "experimental" film being shot now will attract new investors. "It's just $7m. If this was an American film it would be $150m. "We have such faithful investors, if necessary they will stand on street corners and sell the tickets. "It's quite easy to get back $7m once you have a $7m project in the can. "We sent Craig and director Jean-Pierre Mignon to the Cannes Film Festival with a two minute promo and everybody loved it. "But the response was, sounds great, looks great, love to see it when you've done it," says Egan. "We were expecting people to say, can we put some money in it now, but they didn't do it. "I'm quite happy to plug away for the next … well, I don't know how long I'll live … because the story is good enough." Egan says he still has "100 per cent support" from the 3500 investors who've so far put in an average of $1200. "No-one's mortgaged their house, no-one's going to die." Egan says when the $400,000 film is finished "the investors are technically out of it but they will never be out of my life. "I owe them the loyalty they gave me. "I'm in for the long haul and so are they." It's going to be a very different ball game. As the initial prospectus, costing $50,000 and taking six months to be approved by ASIC, sought to raise money from the public, it was governed by tight legal provisions essentially seeking to protect small time investors. However, what this in fact achieved was that $700,000 of their money had to be spent on legal fees, and $1.2m went to an investment company operating "with questionable results now the subject of a defamation case". Egan says although that company was approved and licensed by ASIC, the regulator took no action against the company when the wheels fell off and Egan went to them with "eight boxes of documents and a demand for a $800,000 refund, written by a leading barrister". Egan says ASIC will have no role if investors approach him of their own initiative, and this is clearly the way he will go. They're called "sophisticated investors," says Egan, people like Dick Smith who can assess their risks themselves and don't need cumbersome government protection through authorities like ASIC. "Kerry Packer would tell them to get nicked in about 30 seconds flat," says Egan. "That's the power of the dollar. "I've got a couple of leads already but they are incumbent on me getting rid of what's called ‘the baggage'. "Mad Max producer George Miller knows how to make films. "He's got money in the bank. "He says I'm going to make a film, I'm the boss, you're the director, you're the cameraman, you're the producer, if you don't like it, piss off, we'll get someone else." "The baggage" in the last two years has meant nothing creative was done on The Drover's Boy other than repairing the damage done by the "experts" foisted upon the project by the government regulators, says Egan. "We've had not one jot of support from the Australian film industry. "We were given bad advice by the Australian Film Commission which cost us $1m. "They put us on to a production company we eventually had to get rid of. "There is still a defamation case on over that." That case has cost Egan personally $160,000 so far. "We later finished in the grip of the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) who were saying to us, get a real producer, which I felt was insulting, and get a real writer, which I felt was absolutely insulting, because the script was written by my wife Nerys." Egan says the "real writers" made a mess of the story. "They set about giving the film the left wing Sydney version of our poor, maligned indigenous people. "Suddenly they're turning all blackfellers into victims and all whitefellers into bastards. "It was never like this. It's not like this now. "This film has goodies and baddies in equal numbers. "The nice thing about our film is that it has lots of laughs. "The so-called real writers say, ah, it's about Aborigines so it's got to be sacred and serious. "But you get out in the stock camp with blackfellers and all you do is laugh! "You work and you laugh!" The FFC also demanded a presale overseas. "I feel this is why Australia is producing so many mediocre films," says Egan. "If you get a presale – and all sorts of shonky deals are done – you thereby get FFC funding, automatically. "But inevitably a proportion of the profits must go overseas. "The first $35m of Shine went to a distribution company that didn't actually do any effective distribution. "So we got into the hands of what they call the real producers and the real writers who took us backwards at a hundred miles an hour, costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we still couldn't get the presale. "End of the involvement with the FFC." None of the government agencies approached, except the SA Film Corporation, were "encouraging". The former NT Government was "appallingly deceptive about this", says Egan, touting its plans to get a local film industry going, and declaring enthusiasm for his project, while never coming good with tangible support. When he asked former CLP Treasurer Mike Reid why he'd been knocked back, the answer was: "Them's the breaks, mate." Egan says he's looking forward to discovering – under the freedom of information provisions of the new Labor government – the reasons for the rejection. The next step was to engage a professional fundraiser who drew blanks all ‘round until she received a $1m offer from an unexpected source: the Yuendumu community, which had "a few million dollars in the bank" from gold mining royalties. Says Egan: "I was careful not to say anything, having been there for five years in the ‘fifties as superintendent. "This was just about equal to being God in those days, because I had the key to the ration store. "I could see the bloody headlines, ‘old Native Affairs man exploits the natives again'. "But the Aborigines said, we know about your film, Ted, because the old Warlpiri women have been working on the script." Chairman of GMAAC, the organisation administering the Granites gold mine royalties, Denis Japanangka Williams, after a meeting at Yuendumu with Egan in the company of elders on the board, announced the investment of $1m. But the decision was short lived. Two white accountants from the Central Land Council had been sitting in the back of the room. They called the proceedings to a halt and demanded a meeting with Egan, the fundraiser, Williams and GMAAC secretary Harry Jakamarra Nelson, and announced the deal could not proceed. Williams and Nelson "were quite embarrassed by this," says Egan. His subsequent inquiries revealed that GMAAC had the right to invest its money where it pleased. He obtained signatures from members of the wider Warlpiri community confirming the decision. When Williams attempted to call another meeting "he was told that he was no longer the chairman, and there had been a new committee formed," says Egan. The Drover's Boy is easily the hardest thing Egan has done in his life so far, never before having encountered "acrimony" on such a scale: "I was 27 years with the public service. "I went out and found something exciting to do and when I told my principals what I was doing it was usually too late for them to stop it. "I like to think it was a pretty successful public service career." Following that Egan launched himself into one of Australia's most successful show business careers: "Everything I've ever done has made money. "It's just been a new experience to strike all these bureaucratic people in ASIC and the devious stuff that goes on in the film industry generally. "I'm challenged by it and I just will not give up until I get the full budget of $7m to make a film called The Drover's Boy."Female lead Ningali is older and she – like other actors in the footage competed at a cost of $1.6m – may not be in the final film. But it will be made, says Egan. "If it didn't ever get up I'd be on my first loser ever."


For cattlemen at Yuendumu commercial success was always going to be difficult: the introduction of "self-determination" for them meant that the enterprise, a welfare project which they wanted to privatise, was stripped of all assets deemed to be the property of the Commonwealth.And this came after the NT Administration had excised from their land its most productive pastoral country at the behest of a competitor. The history of the Ngarliyikirlangu Pastoral Company (NPC) is charted as one of two case studies in the doctoral thesis of Alice Springs identity Stuart Phillpot, for the University of Canberra.The other case study, that of Ti-Tree Station and the Puraiya Cattle Company, was the subject of an article in last week's Alice Springs News.Although its history is quite distinct and its capacity for commercial success seemingly more limited than that of the Puraiya Cattle Company, the NPC has suffered similarly from a lack of coherent vision and support from government and other bureaucracies – despite at times the Government being able to significantly recoup its investment – and from too little attention to the training needs of its Indigenous operators. Dr Phillpot, a former public servant with the Department of Primary Production in Alice Springs and now employed by the Indigenous Land Corporation, has had a long and close association with Yuendumu.He was stationed there for monthly periods from 1969 to 1971 as a Patrol Officer in Training; visited regularly from 1971 to 1974 ; was adviser to the cattle company from 1980 to 1985, completing a feasibility study of the enterprise in 1983/84, which he revisited in 1993 and again in 1996. Yuendumu, 360 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs, lies in the heart of Warlpiri country, established as an Aboriginal reserve of 2,200 square miles in 1946, although it was not declared as such until 1956. The country was not particularly suited to cattle, but made much less so when the pastoralist at Mt Allan (also an NT Government engineer) asked that 137 square miles of the proposed reserve be transferred to his lease. The application was opposed by the NT Native Affairs Branch (NAB) on the grounds that the area was some of best pasture in the area, but the transfer went ahead. The cattle project started with a herd of 200 head.By 1972 it had increased to 3,500 head, despite management by an array of ex-cooks, mechanics and poultry farmers. Income from cattle sales was not returned to the enterprise or the community, but instead paid directly into Commonwealth consolidated revenue.However, wages, such as they were, came from the Commonwealth. Initially in the form of rations and a small cash allowance, they were replaced in 1967 by the Training Allowance Scheme. This paid a wage, at its lowest level a little less than the dole and, at its highest level (for gangers and head stockmen) a little less than award wages. BRONCOThere was little capital for development of the property. There were no fenced paddocks, and branding, castration and other tasks relied on bronco methods. Writes Dr Phillpot: "Broncoeing was essentially a 19th century management technique relying on skilled stockmen, capable horses and a supply of cheap labour ... It was attractive to the early pastoralists and to the Social Welfare Branch officials at Yuendumu because it involved minimal capital investment."The growth of the herd was due in part to good seasons between 1967 and 1972 and in part to the generally low level of turn- off, which was directly related to the lack of commercial incentive to sell cattle. Over the years the cattle work had attracted a more or less permanent group of Jampijinpa, Jangala and Jungarrayi stockmen, associated with the country around Ngarliyikirlangu, an area just north of the settlement.All of these men had worked on surrounding properties and, in some cases, as far afield as the Victoria River District and the Kimberley.The first real cattleman appointed as manager was William McKell, in 1972, just as the Aboriginal Affairs policy of "self-determination" began to have effect. Former head stockman on neighbouring Mt Doreen Station, both McKell and his wife were well known to the Warlpiri at Yuendumu. Together with the core Ngarliyikirlangu group, they began negotiations to privatise the cattle enterprise. These continued as concern rose about the build up of cattle numbers on Yuendumu and the neighbouring Haasts Bluff reserve. A pastoral officer from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) was sent out to inspect both properties and to arrange a muster that was finalised in 1977.Some 850 prime bullocks were selected for sale. They raised $720,000 on the Adelaide markets for Department of the Interior. None of the money was returned to the Yuendumu cattle enterprise. In July 1979 the Ngarliyikirlangu Pastoral Company (NPC) was finally established with six directors elected by sixty shareholders, mostly people associated with the workers or with the area of Ngarliyikirlangu. As at Ti-Tree, little or no attention was paid to traditional ownership structures or to community interest, but neither was there, according to Dr Phillpot, any reaction to this from those Yuendumu Warlpiri who were not involved. Following the formation of the company "self-determination" took another bite of the cherry: all government owned assets other than the remaining cattle (valued at $149,574) and the permanent bores were withdrawn to be disposed of at public auction. This included saddles, a truck and four wheel drive utility as well as a variety of tools.ALLOWANCEThe company commenced operations with a small tractor and a trailer, that had previously been written off. There were no drafting and trucking yards, no dams and only three bores, two of which also provided water to the community. With the cessation of the training allowance for the workers and DAA employment for the manager, there were no funds to pay wages. An enterprise grant was applied for but was not approved until 1979. Meanwhile, McKell and the Warlpiri men borrowed vehicles from the community council and the mining company and commenced to muster, brand and cull cattle for sale. They also took out a stock mortgage of $20,000 with Dalgety's. In this way they managed to raise some $200,000 in 1978/79 to provide working capital. The DAA did eventually make a grant of $55,000 in 1979/80 to cover recurrent expenditure that included wages for the manager and his wife, who was also the bookkeeper. However, stockmen's wages still had to be paid for from cattle sales.In 1979 the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC) in the NT began in earnest. Advice from the Institute of Aboriginal Development's rural extension program led to a decision to develop the infrastructure necessary to maintain a testing program.It was decided to seek long-term development funding, including from the NT Development Corporation (NTDC) and the Commonwealth Development Bank (CDB). However, the company soon discovered that because Yuendumu had recently become Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976, they were not eligible for funds under the NTDC or the CDB. These difficulties were added to by cultural complexities. Dr Phillpot writes of the company directors' failure to appreciate that, although they were the "bosses", they were not entitled to use company vehicles for personal use: "Tensions over company vehicles came to a head in 1979 when the head stockman, who was both a company director and a traditional owner, was sacked as head stockman for the misuse of a company vehicle. The director's humiliation at his sacking was to surface again and again in future directors' meetings and was to be used later by funding bodies to deny the NPC funds."Dr Phillpot also suggests that the head stockman did not clearly understand the link between income and costs: "Because of this, and the consistent inability of NPC to distribute any profit, [he] formed the view that there was "funny business going on'."Tension between the younger, more educated McKell supporters and the landowners' supporters was a permanent feature of NPC board meetings from 1978 to 1998. Other tricky issues were the control of community dogs and the tendency of Yuendumu community residents to kill cattle without recompense to the company. In spite of all this, the NPC, during the BTEC, became one of only two Aboriginal owned properties in Central Australia not to be issued with a compulsory destocking order and achieved disease free status more quickly than its non-Aboriginal owned neighbours. But doubts about its stocking capacity were to offset this achievement: IAD's 1983 feasibility study concluded that Yuendumu had insufficient water supplies to enable it to develop 5,000-6,000 head, the herd size which was considered economically sustainable. The dry years in 1984/85 and then the onset of the 1988-1996 drought put enormous pressure on herd management. To meet cash flow demands and because there was no grass to feed it, the herd was reduced to under 3000.NEXT: Money goes, slaughterhouse loses licence as stockmen are drawn to outstations.


Successful parenting is certainly a full-time job. Some people seem to cope better than others: some grapple, trying to understand the big picture stuff, what the youth of today is all about, and by the time they think they've found answers, the kids are off doing other things.I'm not usually asked for opinions on matters relating to bringing up children because although I'm a wife, god-mum, friend, step-mum, aunt, sister, daughter, employer, business person and concerned citizen, I'm not a Mummy.Numerous articles have been written about the breakdown of today's family unit – the pros and cons of both parents working, latch-key kids, material wealth versus spiritual well-being, peer pressure, teenage suicides, drugs and other substances abuse and countless contemporary issues. Hopefully the majority of young people will develop a healthy respect for their own being, and that of those around them, and recognise the necessary attributes required to survive out there. My niece, Emma, was born in the Alice. She has enjoyed many school excursions and family holidays interstate, and overseas, and is extremely well travelled for a desert dweller (as are most of her peers).This year Emma, together with her class of 2001, completed Year 12.On Tuesday I stood on the platform at the railway station in the midst of a crowd of people: many parents were there, including my brother Norm with Lee, Vicki and Mac, grandparents Bill and Dawn, and others, to farewell our intrepid young travellers.I took a few photos of Emma and friends standing in front of the Ghan (the engine is sporting a VERY smart paint job) huge smiles, arms outspread: "Hey, watch our world – here we come!" Favourite t-shirts "Face your Fears – Live your dreams" on show.A few of us walked with them, helping them lug everything they'll need (and some that they possibly won't!) down to Carriage R and then we said good-byes as the kids headed south to Port Willunga for a few days.I felt quite teary… most parents seemed to be bearing up extremely well… SOME were even joking, laughing! I've seen Vicki twice since the Ghan departed. Alastair (her son), Kieran, Mark, Rachel, Emma and friends are in touch – I know, I've had calls, received text messages. They're jamming as much as they can into each day and having a wonderful time!No "adult" supervision; no little brothers or sisters to keep an eye on; celebrating this new found freedom; eating WHAT they want, WHEN they want, and probably running amok…They're also making a video and apparently it'll have an MA rating with recommendation that it's viewed only in the company of teenagers. There'll be time, later, for serious decisions, what to do with the rest of their lives, how to cope in the "real world."Friend Maureen says: "I'll have to use that awful four lettered word, C- O- P- E!" I'm not a parent, but I was young once: I can recall (vaguely) the highs and lows of coping, striving and growing.


Alice Springs primary school students have won the National History Challenge for the second year in a row.This year Braitling Primary School Year 5/6 students Monica De Jong, Kelsey Geyer-Pritchard, Joanne McIntyre and Sumita Menon earned both state and national honours with their museum display, a diorama, depicting the life of pioneer women in Alice Springs.Last year a group of Sadadeen Primary School Year 5/6 students won the annual event with their quilt based on the history of the Sadadeen area (Alice News, Nov 29, 2000)."Making Our Nation" was the theme this year and all involved in the Braitling students' project agree: "The women did it!"The diorama is divided into four sections."It looks at housework, outside jobs, hardship, and the Johannsen family," Joanne said."We each did a topic but we also helped each other by sharing information."Monica did housework; Sumita, outside jobs; Kelsey, hardship; and I did the Johannsen family."And we got to meet two of the Johannsen sisters, Trudy Hayes and Myrtle Noske."They sat on the lounge and we had a nice chat."They told us what it was like living in Central Australia in the 1930s."The students were also assisted by their teacher Sue Endean and National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame curator, Pauline Cockrill."We chose Pioneer Women as our project topic because we did not know much about the subject," Kelsey said."We looked at a number of other topics but after visiting the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame in town we chose pioneer women."The Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame inspired us; the displays are so good."Now we know more about Alice Springs."And the women really did make the nation."History is ‘Herstory' too.""In addition to all their housework there were lots of outside jobs too," Monica added, "like looking after the animals."We knew women did LOTS but not THAT much!"They had to use a lot of ingenuity to make a home in nowhere out of nothing."They had to make knickers out of flour sacks and they had to teach their children too."There were not any schools in Alice Springs until Ida Standley opened a preschool in 1914."The students worked on their project every Thursday afternoon from March to June and made a number of trips to the Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame.On other occasions, Ms Cockrill went to Braitling to assist the students.Photographs were used to depict the Johannsen family life and the hardship sections of the display, while doll house items were used for the kitchen and housework parts.

LETTERS: Killing dogs and hurting taxpayers.

Sir,- No doubt all the people who voted Labor on the strength of Beasley's promise to remove the GST from electricity, gas etc, will be dumbfounded at the savagery of Clare Martin's mini budget. The 10 per cent rise in electricity, water, car registration from January 1 signals an even greater struggle for pensioners of all categories, whether they are single parents, out of work or aged. Happy New Year Clare Martin.The $90 FINE for owning a car is a disgusting shameful act, which will impact on everybody, especially those who do not have a useful bus service, and for those who have to register their car now, that $90 was probably saved for Christmas presents. I tried to make an appointment to see Clare Martin when she visits Alice Springs on December 12. The Office of Central Australia didn't know she was coming. They couldn't make an appointment for me. Her secretary in Darwin wouldn't make an appointment for me unless I would be interviewed by someone to see what I wanted to talk to her about. What a difference in availability to when she was touting for votes.I've told my seven grandchildren that Christmas presents won't be coming this year because Ms Martin is taking all Nana's money. Some of them will be voting age next time around.
Gerry Baddock
Alice Springs

Sir,- Some of the comments attributed to the president of the RSPCA in the Alice News of November 14 regarding operations by the Alice Springs Town Council are misleading and incorrect. There is an inference that council is acting improperly by destroying some dogs by firearm rather than chemical injection. As indicated in the article some 30 dogs were destroyed by firearm this year. These operations are conducted under controlled circumstances, in a safe isolated location. The use of a firearm in this manner and for this purpose is completely legal. The camp dog that was netted under the Sails was seized because it was not under effective control. At the time it was fighting with other dogs in the midst of people. This dog was the size of a German Shepherd, extremely savage and aggressive. And yes, it was taken to the tip and destroyed by firearm in an isolated area, being a disused quarry surrounded on four sides by earth walls that are over five metres high. This dog and others like it were destroyed by firearm because it was the safest and quickest way of disposal. These dogs have to be handled using a pole and cable around the neck, a recognised common practice used by animal handlers world wide. These dogs are savage, aggressive and dangerous. When restrained, they struggle quite violently and the least amount of time spent handling the animal means the least amount of stress on the animal and danger to the handlers. The article also inferred that council officers were using a firearm in a built up area, the Todd River. This is incorrect, scurrilous and irresponsible. The president of the RSPCA should make herself aware of the facts before making such inferences. Council officers are sometimes required to use tranquillising equipment in order to capture some dogs. This equipment uses CO2 or blank .22 loads to propel an alloy dart filled with tranquilliser. Such equipment is not used in the immediate vicinity of members of the public, and I would hardly call the Todd River "a built up area". There have been occasions when council officers have been required to use a firearm on the outskirts of town to dispose of dangerous dogs. This only occurs when there is no other option available to capture dogs that are posing a threat to the public, and is carried out with both the approval and under the direct supervision of the Police. The statement attributed to the president of the RSPCA in relation to the camp dog program is incorrect. Council officers conduct regular patrols to remove unwanted, diseased and dangerous dogs from town camps and the community. Council is in the process of initiating a program, in conjunction with Tangentyere Council and others, to improve the conditions of dogs in town camps by reducing the numbers, sterilising and treating for mange. The president of the RSPCA was informed of council's proposals regarding the camp dog program at a meeting with council management staff on September 28 this year. Other issues including the processes of euthanasia used by council were on the agenda prepared by the president of the RSPCA for this meeting. Council is left wondering as to the reasons why these issues were raised in the media now, when they were dealt with at the subject meeting in September. The claim by the president of the RSPCA that nearly 2000 camp dogs were put down in 1998 also surprises council. By her own figures submitted on the agenda of the September meeting, it was indicated that only 1157 dogs were presented for euthanasia. Of these a proportion would be non-camp dogs. Council's figures indicate that a total of 1356 dogs were impounded in 1998. The greater majority of dogs impounded in Alice Springs are not camp dogs: they are dogs from urban areas. With regards to the claims that RSPCA volunteers have been carrying out animal welfare duties, this may be so. However in the recent past, authorised council officers have had to undertake animal welfare inspections within Alice Springs, as RSPCA people were not in possession of the required authority cards under the Animal Welfare Act.
Nick Scarvelis
Alice Springs Town Council

CRICKET: Jamie takes off with a maiden!

Jamie Smith, a local lad with recognised latent talent in a wide variety of sports, reached a career milestone on Saturday when he scored his maiden century for RSL. Batting at first drop he held the order together to allow RSL to score an impressive 248 against the fancied West team, after skipper Matt Forster won the toss and batted.Forster may well have given his decision of a fortnight ago some consideration, when in that instance, having won the toss, he opted to bowl and almost paid the penalty at the hands of Federal. In ideal conditions, RSL opened with Gavin Breen and Gordon Hartley. The partnership was shortlived however as Breen fell to the bowling of Ken Vowles by way of a catch to Rob Wright, when he was five. Hartley was dismissed soon after with a snick through to the keeper, off a Darren Clarke delivery. He returned to the pavilion after making 15, and RSL were 2/24. Geoff Whitmore than joined Jamie Smith at the wicket and they consolidated the innings with a partnership of 55. The solid stand was broken only by Westies' Vowles who had Whitmore caught by Shane Law. Smith then really buckled down to the task, and carried his innings through until the fall of the eighth wicket. Meanwhile Luke Rowe got a start only to fall for 10, again to Vowles by way of a catch to Clarke. Wayne Eglington contributed a handy 21, and Pete Smith three, before both were snared by Clarke. Upon reaching his maiden "ton" Smith's wicket was claimed, but with skipper Matt Forster at the crease the RSL were able to push on to the healthy total of 248. In the West camp success came the way of Vowles with 5/64 and Clarke with 3/31. However next week conditions will need to be conducive, and West at their best to match the score.At Traeger Park, Federal went in first and compiled 187 before being dismissed in their 68th over. The Demons displayed endeavour in their knock with almost all batsmen making a start.Matt Allen and BJ O'Dwyer opened the innings with 27 and 17 respectively before falling victims to Rovers' skipper Mark Nash, both being caught. Jamie Chadwick also got a start in scoring 28 before an LB decision went the way of Paul Isbel. Craig " Buckets" Prettejohn also seemed keen to continue his run scoring form before being run out on 14. The middle and tail was then kept in order through the efforts of Roger Weckert and Alan Rowe. Weckert scored an impressive 37 before falling to the pace of Nash, and Rowe was not out at the end of the innings on 19. Otherwise Jarrod Wapper was claimed for seven by Glen Holberton, and the rest of the Feds' tail struggled.Rovers finished the innings with Nash being the major destroyer, 4/27. Greg Dowel also proved worthwhile in collecting 2/10 off seven overs, and it was Isbel, Holberton and Murphy who gathered the remaining scalps.At the end of the innings 187 was not enough to have the Demons feeling they were secure, but in the final overs of the day their position dramatically improved. By stumps they had claimed the wickets of Matt Pyle, a victim to Wapper, and Tye Rayfield, to Shaun Lynch. This was Lynch's debut wicket in the elite grade and will give him confidence when he continues next week. At the close of play the Demons had the Blues concerned, at 2/24. On Traeger and depending on the conditions this may well be a sizeable chase for the Rovers boys.


Art students at Centralian College opened the annual end of year show at the Desert Lantern Restaurant last night.It's been a particularly good year for the college's Art Department.Four students have had solo shows: Liz Wauchope at Territory Craft, and Ben Ward, Mardijah Simpson and Astri Baker (currently, till Dec 14) at Watch This Space. Other students have participated in group shows: Linden Eager showed ceramic pots at Watch This Space; Shaun Leyland, Donna Bradley and Annie Zon took part in Alice's inaugural sculpture prize at the Desert Park; and several students had work in the recycled art show at Bar Doppio (the last two events both part of the Alice Springs Festival). Head of the department Rod Moss says students emerging from the diploma course, having done three years of study, should be ready to exhibit "anywhere in the country", but in truth this year's crop has been unusually successful. Enrolments are also up: 250 are on the books, for either certificate or diploma modules, some 100 more than last year. "There are not more full-time students, but a lot more people are doing parts of courses, honing their skills in particular areas," says Mr Moss. They include Aboriginal students in a number of remote communities now serviced by the college.Pictured are ceramics by, from left to right (back row) Renita Glencross, Jessica James, Diane Howat, and (front row)Janelle Gehling, Morris Gelman, Thisbe Purich and Rebecca Dodkins.Paintings are by Natasha Brook and Kriss Borgas. Shows daily, 10-4pm, till Sunday.

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