March 13, 2002.


"Gays and lesbians have a propensity to travel and a high disposable income - the economic value of this market is well recognised in the industry," says Territory Discoveries general manager, John Greenslade. "They are the kind of tourist you go out of your way to get," says CATIA general manager Craig Catchlove. There was no argument from the tourism industry as the second Alice Is Wonderland gay and lesbian festival kicked off last Friday night, with poolside drinks at the Alice Springs Resort. Community leaders joined in. The event was officially opened by Mayor Fran Kilgariff. In welcoming the festival's visitors to Central Australia, she warned they may be captured by the landscape and lifestyle and never leave. Minister for Central Australia, Peter Toyne spoke of tolerance of diversity as a "fantastic dream": "Tolerance will spread as an irresistible force in the Northern Territory," he said, adding that he hoped it would also embrace Aboriginal people. He described the "media exchange" around last year's festival as "pretty disgusting", requiring people to respond. Organisers thanked those present for the "care and support" they had shown. Among the crowd of well-wishers was George James, vice-president of the Memo Club. The Memo is a community-run, not-for-profit club, the largest in Alice Springs, with nearly 3000 members. During last year's controversy, the club hung a rainbow flag (symbol of the gay and lesbian movement) outside their venue.This year the club's committee voted unanimously to officially offer their venue as "a safe place for gay and lesbian people to come and visit". "It was done out of a lack of prejudice," said Mr James. "There was no debate." Apart from the Alice Springs Resort, the Red Centre Resort and Witchetty's at Araluen will also be venues for some of the festival's program. Some 40 visitors from interstate have arrived for the event, as well as a sprinkling of internationals. Mr Catchlove said organisers had briefed CATIA staff about their program and the information centre was displaying its posters, but there had been few inquiries. Had staff required any special advice about being "gay friendly"? "No," said Mr Catchlove, "welcome to the 21st century, it's no big deal. "We already know how to be friendly to all our customers, whatever their background." Territory Discoveries, the business arm of the NT Tourist Commission, had put together a four-day accommodation and festival experience package. Mr Greenslade said the take-up had been minimal in terms of bookings, although exact numbers were difficult to pinpoint: the festival may well have attracted visitors who wanted more or something other than what the package was offering. He said the package also had a role in more general promotion of the Territory as a destination, and forging linkages with a particular market.


Lingiari MHR Warren Snowdon stands by his demand for a security briefing about what goes on at Pine Gap, but, post-September 11, is probably further than ever from getting one. When the Alice News asked the question of Australian deputy chief of the joint defence facility, John McCarthy, he referred us to "the very complete statement" made by then Prime Minister Bob Hawke in the national Parliament in November 1988: "It's freely available in Hansard and was reported widely in the press, and John Howard who was then Leader of the Opposition made a lengthy speech in reply as well," said Mr McCarthy. In the space of a dozen years, Mr Hawke had gone from vehement opposition to the presence of foreign military bases on our soil, calling for an independent and non-aligned Australia, to unreserved support in the interest of "global peace". Indeed, this speech was the occasion of announcing the greater involvement of Australian personnel in the operations of the bases and of extending the terms of the agreements under which Pine Gap and then Nurrungar operated. Previously the agreements had required only a year's notice of termination; henceforth, three years' notice would be required, and the agreements were otherwise in place for a further 10 years. Mr Howard was only too delighted to welcome this "saner view that has always been advocated by the Liberal and National parties". Mr Hawke argued that increased Australian involvement would assure that the Australian Government had "full knowledge of all aspects of the operations at the facilities". His "very complete statement" of Pine Gap's actual business – the statement still current today, according to Mr McCarthy – amounted to this: "Pine Gap is a satellite ground station whose function is to collect intelligence data which supports the national security of both Australia and the United States. "Intelligence collected at Pine Gap contributes importantly to the verification of arms control and disarmament agreements. The value of that data has become more and more evident over the last year or two, as disarmament has moved from being an aspiration to become an emerging reality." The statement precedes the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Gulf War, the closure of Nurrungar, the election of George W. Bush, his commitment to "Star Wars", September 11 and the war in Afghanistan, to name but a few events that might make an update relevant at this time. Given all the effort and expense that goes into Pine Gap and the network that it's part of, one might well wonder, after September 11, if the network is indeed capable of intelligence gathering that could really make a difference to world peace? Says Mr Snowdon: "We, the people who are required to vote on legislation concerning our treaty obligations and security arrangements, are expected to cop the explanation that this is all a matter of ‘national security' and not be briefed. "We have to rely on the likes of former Defence Minister Peter Reith, whose credibility after the ‘children overboard' saga is shot to pieces. "How can we rely on them? Parliamentarians should have a security briefing of a high enough order to understand competently the functions of Pine Gap and, if matters of public importance are at stake, we should be able to deal directly with the Ministers concerned. "We need to understand the exact nature of the activities at the base and how they might have changed over time and may change into the future. "This can be done and should be done without undermining our national security. "After all we are ‘responsible adults' who are charged with legislating on the affairs of the nation," says Mr Snowdon. The experience of British and European Union parliamentarians does not give Mr Snowdon much cause for hope. Visiting English anti-nuclear campaigner David Webb outlined for a recent public meeting in Alice Springs, attended by some 80 people, what is known about one of Pine Gap's sister bases, in fact the largest electronic monitoring station in the world, Menwith Hill, near Harrogate in North Yorkshire. The information is of the same order as the information available in Australia about Pine Gap: Britons have some idea of Menwith Hill's electronic monitoring resources and capability, but no hard evidence of how the information gathered is put to use, nor of the actual extent of its intrusion in everyday lives and the relationships between nations. What they do know is largely a matter of deduction, most of it the work of a tenacious British investigative journalist, Duncan Campbell. The best source of concrete information about the function of Menwith Hill, according to Dr Webb, came from bin liners taken from the base by Women's Peace Camp protesters and pieced together by Mr Campbell. Increased security has since prevented such fruitful incursions. A document supplied by Dr Webb, compiled by the Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, enumerates the unanswered questions of British MPs and foiled inquiries by the European Parliament. In Europe it would be appear to be taken as a matter of fact that its citizens are being spied on. The document quotes a 1999 report commissioned by the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament: "Within Europe all email, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency [NSA], transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill." The interception is done by a system known as Echelon, although this code name may have changed, according to the document. Echelon has the ability to search, just as you do on the Internet, for key words that would identify messages deemed to be of interest to the NSA. Some 55,000 British and American operatives are employed to access data gathered by 120 spy satellites worldwide: "Every minute of every day, the system is capable of processing three million electronic communications," says the document. It quotes Margaret News-ham, who reportedly helped design Echelon, as saying: "We are spying on our own citizens and the rest of the world – even our European allies. If I say ‘Amnesty" or ‘Margaret Newsham', it is intercepted, analysed, coordinated, forwarded and registered – if it is of interest to the intelligence agencies." In July 2000 the European Parliament set up a temporary committee to investigate Echelon, its impact on the rights of European citizens and European industry. However, when members of the EP committee visited USA on a fact-finding mission in May last year, according to the document, the NSA, the CIA, the State Department and the Department of Commerce refused to talk to them. Dr Webb says it has been admitted that commercial espionage is carried out at Menwith Hill: "They intercept negotiations for big bids, they say they are looking for people who are not playing straight, they are looking for bribes. "They uncover them and lo and behold an American company moves in and takes the thing over. They say they're levelling the playing field, but they're levelling it in favour of the US." Dr Webb and fellow campaigners Jacob Grech of Friends of the Earth and Gareth Smith of the Canberra Program for Peace all say the secrecy of bases like Pine Gap and Menwith Hill is their initial concern. Says Dr Webb: "If people get all the facts, and then decide they are prepared to put up with it, then we have to accept that, but they haven't got the facts." Says Mr Grech: "It's a question of sovereignty. When our own parliamentarians were tasked with renewing the lease on Pine Gap, they protested long and loud that they were given less information about Pine Gap than can be found in a public library. "But when US congressmen were asked to pass an appropriations Bill to finance Pine Gap, they were flown out here and given a tour of the base." A second public meeting was held in Alice Springs last weekend to develop a local response to a planned national peace protest at Pine Gap in October. According to spokesperson Scott Campbell-Smith, the meeting decided that local attention would be focussed on the "militarisation of space" and on "stopping Star Wars". People attending also want the US bases to become more accountable to the Australian public. Meanwhile, Mayor Fran Kilgariff says that after September 11 she made inquiries about whether the town's disaster management plan needed revision. She was advised that the plan had been recently upgraded and is adequate.


Another great weekend! David and I enjoyed a barbeque breakfast out at Lee and Norm's house (he now wishes to proof-read my column, if he features, before I go to press). Sunset birthday drinks on the hill with Anne, William and friends; a drive out bush with Kate and Kingy deferred (because it was far too glorious to sit in a car for any length of time); and dinner with Sarah, and dozens of others, visitors to the Alice, at Bojangles. We have, ostensibly, so many choices and not a care in the world. But I can't seem to "get away" from follow-ups on follow-ups. It was super to receive feedback re the "Fortress Alice" piece (a number of people rang me) and to note that views were relatively balanced. It was also reassuring to realise how widely read "Erwin's rag" is. One dedicated reader told Erwin that the Alice News is an essential part of his week – he's the first to grab it, heading straight to the smallest, most important, room in the house to enjoy a few moments of uninterrupted bliss. Blissful – a good word to describe the Alice – along with vital, vibrant, spiritually rewarding and all those other phrases which describe the reasons we choose to live here. The issues that are dear to the heart, and impact on life in and around the Centre, will continue to be thrashed out: the old rules about not discussing politics, religion or sex, and broadened to include Indigenous matters and the weather, still create a stunned silence as people try to find something else to talk about. Then there's the relief at the realisation that no topic is taboo: everyone is entitled to opinions on all matters…and most exercise that right! Keep airing those issues: how to meld together diverse cultures, which are today at such diametrically opposite stages of development; the coming together, acceptance and mutual respect of all people by all people, recognising differences in ideals and values, in a totally equitable society. Minister John Ah Kit's gutsy speech to the Assembly last week, in which he highlighted Indigenous social problems and his proposals to introduce reform to assist Aboriginal Territorians to become part of mainstream society, as opposed to hovering around its edges, existing in whatever way they can, was straight to the point and totally inspiring. We're living in the most exciting part of Australia, and the calls for reforms as proposed by Indigenous leaders may herald an important new phase in the modern history of the Territory. According to the Weekend Oz (March 9-10), national leaders, including Prime Minister John Howard and ATSIC Commissioner Geoff Clark, are backing Minister Ah Kit's comments and observations on the problems he has identified and are supporting his proposals for reform. We must hope that these truths will point the way to positive change and the promise of a better future for all Territorians.

LETTERS: The Minister hasn't got it right!

Sir,- I am writing this letter to address the recommendations that came out of Minister John Ah Kit's report on the current state of the Town Council. There were six recommendations made and I am at a loss as to how these recommendations are going to solve the current problems of the council. The first recommendation requires that the council, as a matter of urgency, cause to be prepared an accounting policy and procedures manual to accord with the Local Government (Accounting) Regulations. This clearly indicates a failing on the behalf of senior management. Aldermen have been calling for a change to accrual accounting methods for a number of years, but to no avail. The second recommendation requires council to invite the Division of Local Government and Regional Services to conduct workshops for aldermen and senior staff in financial reporting and the preparations of estimates. Aldermen are not the ones that are meant to do the financial reports or estimates, that is the job that the senior staff should be doing. This is what they are being paid for and I suggest if they don't know how to do the basics they need to be replaced with someone who does. That is what some of the aldermen are trying to do. Granted that the Aldermen need to know how to interpret these but if they are to be the experts then I put it to Mr Ah Kit that this would limit the type of person that could stand for council. The aldermen are selected by the ratepayers to do their bidding and anyone can stand for a position. That is what local government means. Mr Ah Kit wants the department to provide elected member training and once again that should be the role of the senior executive. This is not being done because there is little experience and even fewer qualifications to enable the senior staff to provide any kind of training. The problems started when dispensation was given by the Local Government Division to employ a non-qualified person. From then on it happened time and time again that senior staff were recruited with little to no experience in local government. I still can't understand how limiting the size of the standing committees will fix the current problem but this is one of the recommendations. Mr Ah Kit wants council to appoint an independent mediator to address the breakdown in communications between the aldermen and the executive management and between the executive management and the staff. In April 2000 senior executive management brought in a facilitator to address this very problem and if ever there was a hidden agenda, this was it. All that came out of this was a vision. The last recommendation is a rehash of the previous recommendation. If the CEO was doing the job he was employed for there would be no impasse. If Mr Ah Kit took the time to talk to all the staff including those that had left the council, he would have seen a pattern emerge which would have seen a different set of recommendations being presented. Mr Ah kit seems to think that the problem is the budget but that was only the culminating point of a host of underlying problems within the council. There is no politics running here other than that of the senior executive and Mayor. The ratepayers support the aldermen who are trying to fix the current problem by removing those that can't do the job and replacing them with people who can. The ratepayers also want council to get back to the basics of rates, roads and rubbish and to do that we need accurate reporting from the senior officers so informed decisions can be made. Someone in council (or senior staff) thought it was time to change the council's image so the council logo was changed. The previous logo was a result of a competition and consultation with the ratepayers but the new logo involved no consultation with the ratepayers or staff. When I first saw the new logo on the side of a council vehicle, I thought it belonged to the Glen Helen Resort. Many people are at a loss as to what it means. Then there was the cost of changing the logo, which included the consultation for the graphic design, the printing of a whole range of stationary, business cards and new car stickers. There are still roads in town which are appalling not to mention footpaths and verges. The changing of the logo has done nothing to fix these. A good example of this is the road that that runs past the Flying Doctor Base which is full of potholes and fills with water every time it rains. Tourists and people who work in the government departments and the people that visit these departments have to negotiate the road and the non-existent footpath in order to go about their business. Then there is the matter of the rubbish tip whereby the ratepayers received six free visits to the tip when the weigh-bridge was first installed. What happened to these? In the last budget report, council made $64000 on the tip operation. There is still a component in our rates that is used for the operation of the tip or has that been changed without consultation? Some of the ratepayers have lived in Alice for over 20 years and they say that the town has never looked this dirty. There is litter throughout the parklands, there are drunks and their produce lying around town and the violence seems to be on the increase. When is council going to have some serious dialogue with other departments to try and fix these problems? The ratepayers feel that the report by the minister missed the mark and was a waste of time. He reported that the council is in a good financial state, so why do we still not know how much the council has? It was reported that the budget [surplus] stands at somewhere between $0 to $300,000. There should be a definite figure so that decisions can be made about how to spend it. If you want to have your say and find out more, come to the next ratepayer's meeting at the Scout Hall on Larapinta Drive at 6pm on March 18 or phone me on 8953 5526.
Ingo Steppat
Alice Springs.

Sir,- I refer to the transcript of a lecture given by Noel Pearson published in the February 27 edition of the Alice Springs News. I make the point that had a white man said what Pearson had said then he would have been roundly denounced as a "racist". It must have made the Labor Party faithful and other liberal-lefty trendies uncomfortable indeed to hear Mr Pearson pretty well tear to shreds the hand-out mentality initiated by their golden calf, Gough Whitlam. The "unconditional financial support" and "limitless understanding" is an ethos staunchly defended by Labor and sympathetic journalists. Yet Pearson blows this compulsory ideology clean out of the water by saying that abusive members of Aboriginal communities do not experience a determined rejection of their extremely bad behaviour. He goes on to say that what the drunks get is "(i) unconditional financial support ... (ii) endless nonsense talk ... (iii) limitless understanding ... and (iv) the defence of abusive lifestyles". Well, hello Mr Pearson ... my observations are that if white folk don't do all of the above then we run the risk of censure as "racist Nazis" or hasn't anyone else noticed. If a white government removed all this largesse as he proposes should happen (and incidentally I agree with him 100 per cent) then white Australia would be condemned globally by Aboriginal activists and their fellow travellers; no doubt equated with the "evil" Mr Smith of Rhodesia. The thrust of Pearson's argument is that owing to their receipt of "sit-down" money there is no incentive for Aboriginals to go and work but to gravitate towards dissipation in alcohol and drugs. Quite agree; why bother to work when you're paid to do nothing? OK. So now that a precedent has been set is it allowable for a white man to criticise Aboriginals? Pauline Hanson could have written that speech but she would unquestionably have been swamped with a tidal wave of abuse; not only from Aboriginals but most viciously from trendy whites.
Derek Cartwright
[ED:- The article about Noel Pearson's speech was a digest, rather than a transcript. The whole speech was much longer. However, we did point out that Mr Pearson is not suggesting a simplistic abolition of welfare entitlements, and is not against increased government funding, if it is properly directed. In the Alice News of Feb 21 we published the views of a "white man", Peter Sutton, which could be considered to be more "critical" but were offered out of a belief that Australians generally carry a duty of care towards all citizens equally, and especially towards the vulnerable.]


"It is almost impossible to find a functional Aboriginal community anywhere in the Northern Territory," Minister for Community Development John Ah Kit told the Territory Assembly last week. In a speech that has attracted national attention Mr Ah Kit painted a stark picture of the crisis faced by Aboriginal Territorians. He said his speech was aimed at Indigneous as well as non-Indigenous people, and at governments of all colours over recent decades. "Many, many Aboriginal people acknowledge that the rot lies within their own communities: the high rates of sexual assault, domestic and other violence are no more acceptable to Aboriginal people than they are to anyone else. "Aboriginal people feel enormous shame at the anti-social behaviour of their countrymen and women, of drunks and beggars in the streets, and of the lack of will from so many Aboriginal people to take charge of their own lives. "As an Aboriginal person myself, I feel no good when people are hassled and humbugged as they enter shops. I want those Aboriginal people to become a part of our society instead of existing on the fringes. "Aboriginal people in the Territory must escape from the cargo cult mentality of government doing everything for them, of relying on the empty rhetoric of playing the victim. "Aboriginal organisations must bite the bullet and develop new, innovative strategies to overcome the cancerous ideology of despair. "The simple fact is that it is almost impossible to find a functional Aboriginal community anywhere in the Northern Territory. I don't just mean the 10 or 15 communities that my department tells me that, at any one stage, are managerial or financial basket cases. The fact that a community may not get their quarterly statements in on time is only a part of the story. "I am talking of the dysfunction that is endemic through virtually all of our communities, both in towns and the bush. We cannot pretend that a community is functional when half the kids don't go to school because they have been up most of the night coping with drunken parents, or because they themselves have been up all night sniffing petrol. "We cannot imagine that a community is functional where less than one in ten people can read or write. Or where people are too ill through chronic disease or substance abuse to hold onto a job let alone receive training. Or where kids are born with illnesses that have largely disappeared from most of the third world and those who survive into adulthood can be expected to die two decades earlier than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Or where only 14 per cent of our kids reach Year 12 compared to 80 per cent of their non-Indigenous brothers and sisters in the cities and major towns."Mr Ah Kit, of Waanyi and Warrumungu descent, is clearly troubled by the extent of this crisis and spoke of his childhood memories of the family camp fire as his "personal light on the hill", guiding him through his "darkest moments".He said if the Territory fails to respond to the crisis, then it "will cease to function as anything other than a financial basketcase itself". "As my colleague, the Minister for Health, has already pointed out in this place the increased financial burden of Indigenous ill health threatens to blow out the economy faster than it can grow," said Mr Ah Kit. "If we do not turn things around for our Indigenous citizens we risk the creation of a permanent underclass for which future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, will pay potentially overwhelming economic, social and political costs." The Territory must also act on the basis of social justice, he said, to which "the Martin Labor government has committed itself, and on which we will be judged". "For Indigenous communities equity will mean building their capacity to engage in the economy in a meaningful way and investing in their own future. "Indeed, the critical importance of developing economic partnerships with Aboriginal people [was] a focus of last year's Economic Summit and has been endorsed by the Martin Labor government as a key to the future development of the Northern Territory." The task of turning around the crisis would be accomplished in "small steps along a very long road". One of those steps would be to reform community government, which has failed in its objective of greater self-determination. "At any one point in time, a significant number of community government councils are in dire straits, and virtually every one of the other local government structures in the Territory are heavily dependent on external support by government agencies and their officers. "None are self-reliant financially or structurally, and as government subsidies have shrunk or been frozen, their capacity for self-determination has withered. "Local government in the Northern Territory, as the principal focus of service delivery, or interfaced with other service deliverers in the Northern Territory, has failed abjectly in improving people's lives." Mr Ah Kit identified three major reasons for the failures • "Previous governments used Aboriginal local government as a part of their trench warfare against the Land Rights Act, and used special purpose grants as political carrots around election times." • "Aboriginal community councils have been given far too much to do. Bob Beadman, former head of local government, and a very experienced public servant in Aboriginal affairs, pointed out on a number of occasions that Aboriginal community government councils have administrative responsibilities that far outweigh those of the Darwin City Council". • "Thirdly, Aboriginal community government councils have been grossly under-resourced in carrying out those responsibilities" – in terms of both money and human resources. Mr Ah Kit spoke of a new approach to service delivery in the bush, involving "whenever appropriate and practicable, funds pooling arrangements" and "needs-based rather than submission-based funding". He referred to existing models in the Territory, which have enjoyed levels of success. They include the Indigenous Housing Authority NT (IHANT) and the way it has worked with the Papunya model of regional service delivery in housing construction, repair and maintenance, linked with employment and training. Others are the coordinated care trials, such as the Katherine West Health Board; and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum, a partnership between the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory and ATSIC. "Each of these models … work on the basis of having strong and effective Aboriginal input and control. Each works on the basis of pooled funds, so as to achieve economies of scale, and each works on the basis of closely identifying need." Mr Ah Kit suggested that, in contrast to the previous government's reform agenda, community government councils may be federated, not necessarily amalgamated. FLEXIBILITY "The emphasis of the Martin government will be on flexibility and workability rather than the narrowly prescriptive approach," he said. He announced specific initiatives. • IHANT's role will be extended: "There is the potential to achieve better outcomes, from the full range of Indigenous housing and infrastructure funding to link planning and priority setting in this area to regional planning and development, and to achieve sustainable training and employment for local residents." • Full use will be made of a range of multimedia technologies to develop Indigenous knowledge centres, to deliver education and training and to develop e-commerce. "Two communities, Galiwinku and the Anmatjere Community Government Council, are well advanced in this development." • There will be a greater emphasis on training and career advancement for frontline housing staff. "In a first for Australia, this will be on-the-job training utilising an e-learning program called ‘Blackboard' …"As officers progress … pay levels will increase commensurately." • $600,000 has been set aside immediately, and for the next two years, to assist representative organisations within regions to build the capacity to negotiate to achieve the best possible outcomes in regional partnership agreements "for which they and those they represent, are prepared to be held accountable." Mr Ah Kit pointed out the major economic stimulus of, for example, the cooperative arrangement between the Northern Territory and ATSIC in the field of Indigenous housing. "In the current year, the impact of this program alone, will be $72.4m. Next year it will come to approximately $79m. Clearly, this benefits all members of the Northern Territory society, as well as our economy."


"Anyone can make a dumb little movie, but if you get six people together it's probably going to be a not-so-dumb little movie, and the important thing is that you will have actually made a movie, and then you can all call yourselves film-makers." Simon Booth says film-making, despite all the hype, is not hard. The critical thing is to take the quantum leap of making your first film. Booth is a recent arrival in Alice Springs and, like so many, is struck by the number of creative people around, but wonders why the independent film scene is relatively quiet. "It seems as if people are waiting for permission," he says. People often have the technology at their disposal, maybe even without realising it. There are a lot of digital video cameras out there, as well as computers capable of editing. And all you need to edit a Super 8 film is scissors and some sticky tape! There are probably script-writers living around the corner from would-be directors without even knowing it. The script-writers are probably boring their partners silly with their script ideas, says Booth, but would get a better hearing from others who are interested in making a film: "It's not hard to organise a script-reading, all you need is six people and a bottle of wine!" That could be the way to kickstart an independent film scene in Alice. Booth formerly worked for the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in their Brisbane office, and later for the Independent Film-makers Resource Centre. "I saw a lot of funding going into bad films. The funding bodies were backing people with a track record, not necessarily those with good creative projects," he says. Starting your own track record is within reach. Booth says he's had expressions of interest from actors, set and costume designers and a couple of writers. With a few more people on board they could have a reading session of several short scripts, then the group could choose one and commit themselves to making it into a film "on one weekend, in a blind flurry". Booth says he'd welcome the interest of people with professional skills as mentors; he'd also look to possibly organising a short course to be run here by the AFTRS. You can contact him on 0413 277 872 or email: .


Douglas Pipe is thoughtful, articulate and going places. The former NoKTuRNL drummer is now turning his attention to Rugby League. He's got a couple of years to realise his dream of playing in the Big League. After that, he'll think about going back to school and on to uni: his music experience could lead him towards a career as a producer, or he might go into teaching, the profession he's been thinking about since he was young.Douglas is a graduate of Alice Springs schools. Apart from a spell on the Gold Coast with his father, he grew up here, at the New Ilparpa town camp, near 8HA. He went to Traeger Park School until it was closed, and later to Bradshaw and Ross Park Primary schools, before going on to Alice Springs High. "Primary school was easy for me. I started early and was quick to pick up reading and writing," says Douglas. In the playgrounds in Alice, everyone played together, "young and innocent"; racism was not an issue. On the Gold Coast, though, at age seven, Douglas was shocked to be called a "Coco Pop" by an older boy. He turned right around and called him a "Rice Bubble", but he still remembers the hurt of the taunt. He says he didn't know that it was racism until he was in high school and racism came up as a subject for class discussion. That helped him understand where the occasional "you black so and so" that he was beginning to hear was coming from. At the same time, he encountered subtle examples of racism in the attitudes of some (but not all) teachers: an expectation that he would not be smart, not articulate, not able to read and write, not even trying. His first years at high school were difficult. Under the sway of another boy who was always in trouble, he started skipping classes. His grades, which had been good, dropped: he was getting Cs and Ds, maybe a B at best. Two things were critical in turning that around: the first was "a bit of pressure" from his mother, Judith Armstrong. She told him that if he didn't settle down and start studying, she would send him off to boarding school in Queensland. The last thing he wanted to do was leave town and all his friends. He decided to keep away from the one who was leading him astray and put his head down. At the end of first term in Year Nine, he was scoring As. Then it became a challenge for him to keep his grades up. Critical to this was encouragement from his teachers. Two in particular, his English and music teachers, gave him "a boost". "They saw I knew how to use my brain, they started praising me up, I was doing good, it was all I needed. Some teachers are harsh, they don't know how to cope with kids and they come across as though they think all kids, black or white, are brats." The teachers he responded to spoke to students as adults, they would be able to joke with them, and, most importantly, they rewarded them for effort. "There has to be balance, there has to be discipline in the classroom, and you have to know that what the teachers are saying goes. "But these teachers showed how much they were thinking about the students. It wasn't ‘another day, another dollar' for them," says Douglas. "To this day, I have a good relationship with these teachers. If we see each other up the street, we'll pull up and say hello." Douglas left school at the end of Year 10, spending the next three years touring with NoKTuRNL. During breaks, he would work for the Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre, established by his uncle, Paul Ah Chee. This experience has made him more aware of his own Aboriginal culture.When he was a kid, he could speak to his cousins in language (Luritja and Southern Arrernte), but he lost much of it as he started mixing with a broader range of people and communicating all the time in English. These days he's making an effort to sit down with his grandmother and mother and learn language.Having seen how easy it is to lose your language, Douglas thinks it's important that Aboriginal languages are taught in the local schools: "Japanese people learn Japanese at school; Aboriginal kids should learn their languages at school too." He also thinks it's important for all kids to be exposed to inspiration, to help them define their own goals. "In a small town like Alice as you're growing up it's too easy to think you're not moving anywhere, that your dreams are moving further and further away and instead you turn to alcohol and drugs." So it's important for exciting things to happen, things like sporting and entertainment events "to show kids what they can do if they work hard".


The two major summer sports enter their finals series this week and for both rugby and cricket the "hit and giggle is over". In the Central Australian Rugby Union, history has been created this season. The minor premiership has gone to the perennial cellar dwellers the Eagles. Moving down into the underground gloom are the Kiwis. Never before have the Kiwis not been up there at finals time; generally they have been dictating the terms of finals action. Last Saturday night the death bell tolled over the camp of the long cloud as Terrence Titus' young Devils scored an impressive 24-10 win over the Kiwi Warriors. In scoring four tries to two, the Devils gave themselves a run in the business end of the season, and a winner take all encounter. Interestingly, in bowing out, the Warriors' try scoring sting came from Kiwis president, James Nolan, and a cornerstone of Kiwi Warrior legends, Geoff Manu. Then in the game between the top two sides of the union, Eagles and Cubs, which had nothing but psychological benefit at stake, the second placed Cubs made full use of the opportunity. Already proclaimed minor premiers, the Cubs swept to a 12-7 lead at half time. They then held sway in the last period, running out winners 19-12. In scoring three tries to two the Cubs showed that they have the benefit of finals' experience. On Saturday at 6.30pm at Anzac Oval, the Dingo Cubs will meet the Devils to decide the deserved opponent to the Eagles in the grand final. In recent weeks the Cubs have had to "do it hard", winning each of their games to ensure another premiership chance. They have bounced back from a two point loss to the Eagles in the second last round to place themselves well with the bookmaker. Roger Rudduck now has a team well-versed in winning under pressure and boasts talent right across the line. Paul Veach, as in most games, rose to the occasion last week with two telling tries. Carl Gunderson, Scott Reinke, Andrew Werner, and Geoff Bates add fuel to the Cubs' line of fire. And most importantly they have had to play the Kiwis when at their best (in recent years), in order to mature as a club and adopt the formula required for finals' success. With their opposition lies the virtue of youth. The Devils have a cast of true believers who will not lie down. Steve Schmierer again led the charge last weekend and will be stoking the engine room this week, taking it right up to the Cubs. Any elimination final has a rough and tumble, desperado facet to it. Saturday night's encounter will not vary. The Eagles will stand on the sideline quietly observant and a good crowd should be there to witness what may well be the game of the season! In the early afternoon, the boys in cream will also be all out, with a final being played on Albrecht Oval to decide the challenger to West in the cricket premiership stakes. Federal were eliminated at the death knell last weekend, and so Rovers take to RSL in the second versus third, two day decider. RSL have had a win in the one day competition this season, and against West in the last minor round game were tested. Ken Vowles was keen to stamp the Bloods' authority on ASCA cricket when he had his side bat on to make 9/265, after passing a target of 183 mid afternoon. Peter Tabart, who earlier in the season was batting in the tail, proved his true worth in making 67 before being run out. His innings was the highlight of the day, and set the scene for tail-enders Kevin Mezzone and Darren Clarke to make 31 and 37 respectively. In the Rovers camp, it had been Craig Murphy who "saved the day" for the Blues against Federal when he posted 32 not out and carried Rovers to their first innings target of 195. Federal were still not to be denied a chance of qualifying and defiantly they got themselves within earshot of an outright win. The desperate Demons' lunge was fruitless in terms of premiership points, but proved to be a good lesson for the Blues in preparing for the knockout final.Both RSL and Rovers go into the game knowing they have a job on their hands right down to the line. For RSL Matt Forster will be looking to bowl at his best and be well supported by Cameron and Scott Robertson. Rovers have skipper Mark Nash, a punter at heart and ever ready to accept a challenge, and the wisdom of the sage, Craig Murphy to guide them through any rough waters. Like the rugby elimination, at the cricket we will witness "hammer and tongs" sport, at its best, this weekend.


By PAUL FITZSIMONSWhat do you say when you're aged forty, relaxing in a reclining chair, and your daughter walks in and "sticks a tennis trophy" under your chin, asking, "What have you ever won, Dad?" For the Victorian- born Russell North, the words cut when daughter Caron put the hard question on him. He had played tennis, with moderate success, and he knew full well the rigours of cycling, but here his daughter was implying that he was not a winner. With a little thought and a lot to prove, North got up from his "Norm" posture and applied himself to the genteel art of training for athletics. First up he entered the Sun Fun Run over the Westgate Bridge, and despite limited preparation, finished, with a certificate, "to poke under his daughter's nose." North also realised that his time was "not bad", the view over the bridge had been good, and he'd passed plenty of little battlers on the run home. He felt pretty darn good. More Fun Runs followed, and in time he found himself entered in the Big M Marathon, the "creme de la creme" for professional down to social runners in Melbourne! He finished the Big M, and went on to complete five further marathons in Melbourne and another in Adelaide. So much for a mid life crisis when you can suck on as many cartons of Big M milk as you like after the run! In time North came to realise he was "on the circuit". He duly registered for the qualifying marathon for the Commonwealth Games, held in Sydney. And to this day he can skite to one and all that he finished within three minutes of the qualifying time … plus an hour! North's work then took him north to Alice Springs, where he joined the Triathlon Club. He had both a cycling and running career worth discussing. In boasting to other triathlon luminaries like Ian Sharp ("North Melbourne didn't realise proper big man potential!"), North neglected to say that along the way he had undergone three knee operations and so had been reduced to the status of "jogger". Nonetheless, he became an invaluable asset for the Triathlon Club, holding court on the ABC corner, directing traffic, and afterwards, providing new-comers to the sport with the low down on true success. In time the wounds of early miles (and operations) were overcome and North returned to his beloved running. He extended his interest to the Alice Springs Running and Walking Club and soon found himself running five times a week over a six kilometre course, and cycling over 300 kilometres in seven day periods. He recently stood for, and was elected president of the Running and Walking Club. As Numero Uno, the hearty Russell North has recognised that the club is in its youth. At present 110 members strut their stuff around the pavements of the Alice living by the motto, "no gain without pain". Some are out for the exercise, some want to improve their lifestyle, and others are young, keen and ambitious. Sharon Kilmartin and Greta Auricht are youthful athletes who run to reach a goal. According to the president both have a future in the sport over distance events. With them is Steve Goldring who knows how to pound the pavement and would compete well on the southern circuit. Add to these the youthful pair Taran and Tenielle Sylvester, each of whom have the world at their feet. However, the club caters for every need, regardless of age or condition. On April 28, the eight kilometre "Lest We Forget Run" will be conducted. It is a national event with all Australians invited to join in and run the distance covered by the Australian Diggers at Gallipoli. The Running and Walking Club, with the Town Council and the RSL, will orchestrate the Alice Springs event. Starting from Pioneer Park, the run will pass through the Gap, down the Mall, and conclude at the RSL. It is an open entry event for one and all, when you can show your daughter, family, and friends your "coulda been" potential!


For the first time in the Territory, an Arts Grants Board will offer peer assessment of arts sponsorship applications. It is hoped that the board will be in place in time to assess the October 2002 round of applications. Arts NT is inviting feedback on a proposed model. It involves a cross-artform board made up of seven members appointed by the Minister from nominations. The seven, plus three reserve members, would serve two-year terms and offer "the widest possible representation of relevant interest groups". Up to three of the seven will represent regional interests. The Alice News queried the "up to three", as this could mean in practice no more than one. Or why not none? A spokesperson stressed however that the model is only a proposal: it's up to the community to now make their wishes known. There is no specific provision in the model for Indigenous representation. The Arts NT Secretariat will act in an advisory role. Independent advisers will assist the board when "specialist expertise is desirable to ensure informed decisions". Board members will be paid sitting fees – at a proposed daily rate of $190 for the chairperson and $135 for members – and travel expenses. These rates are better than those applying in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT (where the panel is voluntary), but less than those of the remaining states. The board will sit once for each round of applications. The meetings are expected to take up to three days. Decisions will be made using a scoring process. The Minister will retain the authority to reject a decision if it is considered contrary to government directions and policy, or not in the best interests of arts development or the general community. Board members may be required to abstain from deliberation and discussion on their own applications or applications relating to an organisation with which they are associated. A two-page outline of the proposed model and relevant tables, including one listing the pros and cons of peer assessment, are available from Arts NT or via the web site at:

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