July 3, 2002.


Fear and loathing is what many locals feel for the town's street kids, blamed - sometimes with good reason - for the prolific petty crime and vandalism in our streets. A small but experienced team of youth workers has been looking after them, mainly taking them home or to a shelter three nights a week. On Sunday the funding for the Youth Night Patrol ran out, and now the kids are out in the cold.

"One thing I'm doing with my life is that I'm drinking too much."
She's attractive, articulate, charming, drunk but not blind, and just 15 years old.
She's from a bush community, in Alice for a holiday and to go to The Show. On Friday she went up town with her brothers for a night out.
By 11pm they had "dumped" her, to her disgust.
When the Youth Night Patrol arrived at the southern end of the mall for their third pick-up that night, she was standing on the edge of a large group of girls. She left them to board the bus on her own.
There were six others in the bus, among them two older youths. They also were drunk. As they were dropped off at an Aboriginal town lease, one of them expressed pleasure about going home to his wife and baby, a "brand new" baby.
The girl was indignant: "He's got a baby, he should be staying home to look after it."
Her sister had had a baby at age 13.
"I'm glad it didn't happen to me," she said.
She was dropped off at an older, married sister's house in Gillen.
The Alice News was travelling with the Youth Night Patrol for the first half of their shift.
In the driver's seat was Jason, a former Australian boxing champion; on radio and keeping a record of who was going where was Raelene, who's been working with young people for many years. She's getting tired but hanging in there "for the kids".
In the back was Ray, known affectionately by the kids as "Uncle Ray", and indeed he is the uncle of several of them.
All three have day jobs elsewhere, but, together with Eddie Taylor (see last week's Alice News), they run this Central Australian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (CAACCA) service every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
They argue that the service is vital. They pick up kids off the street and take them home or to a place they nominate where they'll be out of trouble.
When the bus was off the road for three months earlier this year, they claim that there was a murder and three suicides among their clientele.
Last Friday night may well have been one of their last mercy missions. Funding from ATSIC ran out on Sunday.
First pickup is around 9pm. There are nine children, 10 and 11 year olds, and the grandmother of some of them waiting at the Sails. She'd come up town to find her three grandchildren and was taking home another three or four. She regularly looks after other people's children, she said.
Further down the mall there was another group of youngsters. They waved the bus down, but it was full.
"Next round, please," said one of the smallest.
After the grandmother and her brood got off, a little fellow was dropped at a house in Sadadeen. There was no one at home.
"He'll get in through the window," said Raelene.
Either he couldn't or he wasn't keen on the idea. He came back out onto the footpath, Jason did a u-turn and picked him up again. He asked to be taken to a nearby town lease.
There were people sitting around a fire outside the house where he was dropped off. Later a large group of older girls were dropped to the same place.
Uncle Ray encouraged all the young boys to come down to the boxing sessions he and Jason run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.
He said boxing teaches the kids to discipline their aggression and gives them pride.
He pointed to Jason as a prime example of the benefits of boxing. Jason came from a tough background but now works as a counsellor and tries to help young people. This week he's taking four youths to Adelaide for a boxing tournament.
The last boy dropped off, to flats in Gap Road, had been up town since 9am. He'd spent most of the day around the sideshow at the back of the council chambers, he said.
He's lived in Alice for two years but comes from Kings Canyon.
Next round took nine youngsters to one town lease and one very drunk 16 year old woman to another. She was worried about her husband Ð he'd been picked up by the police. At least she was safely home.
Raelene expressed satisfaction: in one hour they had delivered 20 young people off the streets.
"The most I've ever done in one night was 90," she said. "The least was 12."
Raelene stayed in contact with "base" at Aranda House, run by Kitty Taylor, Eddie's daughter. Kitty has grown up with her parents' foster children: she knows how important it is for kids to have a home.
Kitty fed information to Raelene on her radio about police calls notifying the service of children to be picked up.
They were responding to a police call at the northern end of the mall when the bus was flagged down by a group of older youths. They all had green cans in hand.
No question of getting on the bus unless they threw them away. The drunkest tried to hide his can under his jacket. He also answered honestly about his age Ð 18.
A paddy wagon had arrived.
"Take him," said Raelene. "He's too old, he's yours."
The age limit is 17.
Further along, a girl signalled Jason to stop. She wanted to know what time the last pick-up would be. She and her friends weren't ready to go home, but they didn't want to get stranded either.
Most of the young people were simply hanging out. They'd been to the sideshow and were now wandering up and down the mall, looking out for people they knew, looking for something to do.
They were mostly in large groups, boys and girls separate.
Their spirits were generally good, though a few looked as if they had their worries. Most were warmly dressed. Many were friendly, well-spoken, polite. They thanked the workers for picking them up, said please if they were asking for something.
There was clearly a lot of underage drinking going on, but, on this night, not by the younger children.
Some of the older boys and girls were high.
At 11 o'clock a large group of girls were picked up after a call from the police. They were noisy and hilarious. One of them avowed that she never touches grog, just "a bit of weed" sometimes.
Another group of girls were also hoping for a lift. Raelene said they'd be back at about 11.45.
"What if you don't come back?" asked a girl of about 15.
"Oh, we'll be back."
The girl smiled.
The noisy bunch in the bus were vocal about the need for the service.
If it wasn't there, they would still get themselves up town somehow, they assured the News Ð no way were they going to spend all their nights at home or in camp. No bus home would mean they might get stranded and get into trouble with older drunks on the street.
Raelene says at times some children stay out and sleep rough, but they know it's too cold to be doing that now.
She was anxious to point out that not all the children's parents are irresponsible. Some parents will get in touch with the service to let them know where their children are to be taken that night. A lot of families do not have a car.
At 11.30 the three workers took a well overdue smoko. Notice of two more pick-ups came over the radio. Tangentyere Night Patrol came in on the radio. They were having a quiet night, so they offered to help.
It was the end of the News' ride. The later it gets, the older and drunker the clientele: too dangerous to have a stranger on board, and a journalist at that.
On Sunday, with the end of the financial year, the Youth Night Patrol's ATSIC funding ran out, with no promise of more to come.
That could mean a lot of young people, some of them very vulnerable, out on the streets in coming weekends with no reliable way of getting home.
Mr Taylor is lobbying hard for the service to continue and be extended. He wants it to do more than pick-up.
He'd like to be able to employ youth workers, who spend their time on the streets, with the young people, finding out what they need, putting them on to services and opportunities.


A 25 minute news interview with Jodeen Carney is like going 10 rounds with an eel.
I asked her for an "on the record" chat when the local CLP Members were giving advice recently to the new Labor government on matters of economy.
It was clearly a brave undertaking by Ms Carney (pictured at right) and her colleagues. Their party, whilst in power for a quarter of a century, had plunged the Territory into debt totalling $3b (that's $18,000 for every Territorian Ð man woman or child), including $1.7b in unfunded superannuation for public servants.
Debt consolidation now absorbs 80c of every tax dollar, the Labor Government tells us.
The Territory has "substantially" the highest per capita debt in Australia.
This is not withstanding the fact that ever since self-government, we've been getting from the Feds five times Ð that's 500 per cent Ð the level of per capita funding compared to what other states have been getting.
Ms Carney, in her first term and a lawyer by profession, wasn't making any admissions: she said while the CLP governments had done "incredibly well" and had been "outstanding", the current administration is the "highest taxing government the Territory has ever had".
With an additional $150m from the Feds, "the Territory has got more money than it can possibly know what to do with".
Labor, says Ms Carney, is "so obsessed with financial management, or trying to prove their credentials, they're just saving and saving and not spending. I think that is a mistake.
"Why on earth would any government impose an additional tax [such as the HIH levy] when it has buckets of money?"
Ms Carney's tendency for making pronouncements is exceeded only by her determination not to justify them.
Take mandatory sentencing: most lawyers I know have a problem with it because it impinges upon the independence of the courts.
Furthermore, according to the present NT Government, mandatory sentencing didn't work when it was in force.
I asked Ms Carney whether that is a fact.
Here we go, Round One.
Ms Carney: "The crime rate has increased significantly since the Australian Labor Party came to power."
That wasn't what I had asked her.
Me: "The government claims that offences which mandatory sentencing sought to punish increased during the final phase of the CLP government, when the legislation was still in force. Is that a correct assertion?"
Ms Carney: "Mandatory sentencing has gone. End of story.
"People will no doubt argue É whether it worked or whether it didn't."
Me: "Is it true that the crime rate rose before the abolition of mandatory sentencing?"
Ms Carney: "I'm not sure about that."
Me: "Well, that's according to a release by [Minister for Central Australia Peter] Toyne.
Ms Carney: "Do you actually believe everything that's contained in media releases?"
Me: "Are these statistics wrong?"
Ms Carney: "I haven't seen his release and I'm not about to make a comment on the basis of hypothetical figures that are put to me by a journalist.
"I'm not going to talk about this.
"Now whether it worked or whether it didn't, that's for other people to judge. At least the [CLP government] had the courage to come up with something, and I like that in a government."
Me: "Whether it works or not?"
Ms Carney: "It's not about whether it works or not É"
Me: "I would have thought it's all about whether it works or not."
Ms Carney: "Well, if you're going to interrupt É it's about being creative, dynamic and innovative while you are in government."
So, for the record, the ex-lawyer, whose platform included mandatory sentencing, did not know or wouldn't say whether offences which mandatory sentencing sought to reduce, actually increased while the legislation was still in force under the CLP government.
(Dr Toyne stated recently that ABS figures released in May this year showed a 20 per cent increase in property crime in the last year of the CLP Government.)
Round Two: Health.
Ms Carney: "Proportional funding in health and education has gone up in the last 10 years."
She claims failure to arrest the declining health "has not been for want of trying".
"Ask any health minister in the world, is there ever too much money?"
"They will tell you they always want more money.
"What's different now, of course, is that the Territory has got more money than it has ever had before."
Me: "The CLP government couldn't be accused of not spending money, just of not getting results."
Ms Carney: "You live here because it's a good place.
"You can draw up a list and so can I, and I bet you my list of positive outcomes will be longer than yours: the Araluen Centre, the Strehlow Centre, the Cultural Precinct, the Convention Centre, we've got the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway.
"The world is an imperfect place but I would suggest to you that anyone living in this town would say that the achievements over the last 20 years have been nothing short of outstanding."
Considering that we have a small population "we have done incredibly well".
Me: "We're still waiting for an answer to the question [about] what the railway will actually carry."
Ms Carney: "Ask the [new] Government and publish the answer."
Round Three: Tourism.
"Tourism is the second biggest income earner in the NT and in recent years visitor nights in Alice Springs have outnumbered those in the Top End."
Me: "Tourists come here because of the great country and nice weather.
"The Good Lord has given us these, not the CLP government."
Ms Carney: "I don't want to get into a debate with you."
Me: "I'm asking questions about achievements of the previous government."
Ms Carney: "No doubt your position is that the CLP Government has achieved nothing. OK.
"Given that we disagree on that, let's move on, shall we.
"I'm not getting into a debate with you, I'm doing an interview."
Me: "I'm putting a proposition to you so I can get an answer."
Ms Carney: "I've answered it."
Me: "Saying that [the CLP governments] have done terrifically, without qualifying this claim, is the answer?"
Ms Carney: "I did qualify the statement. I qualified it by saying I think the efforts of the last 27 years have been outstanding, but the world is imperfect.
"You will be sure, no doubt, when the article is printed, that that qualification is in there because I'm damn sure I know I made it."
Round Four: Back to health in the NT and the massive per capita funding from Canberra.
Ms Carney: "You can't compare health here to Sydney and Melbourne.
"Everybody knows that health services here are notoriously difficult to fund, across the board."
Me: "But one would have assumed that a government that has been in power for a quarter of a century would have made some difference to the underlying causes of why so much money needs to be spent on health."
Ms Carney: "I think there have been significant inroads made, but let me just change the basis of what you are putting to me É"
That means no answer to my question.
Ms Carney: "It's a mistake to keep looking backwards.
"All of us, and my constituents are saying that we're into looking forward É what can this government do, what is this government doing for us. That's the challenge.
"If people want to revisit history, fine.
"But I say that is not a very helpful exercise.
"Where is the $34m of health funding that they say they injected with the mini budget.
"You ask [Health Minister] Jane Aagaard.
"Where is it? I can't see it, and no-one I know can find it."
And I can't find too many meaningful answers from Ms Carney.


"Who would have thought that one day there would be an Aboriginal Deputy Administrator?
" I certainly wouldn't have thought that, all those years growing up here under very strict rules about where you positioned yourself in the community.
"I like breaking down barriers and I think the government that is in power now is of the same frame of mind."
Pat Miller, soon to be sworn in as Deputy of the Administrator, the first Indigenous person to hold this role, grew up in a time when full-blood Aboriginal people, like her mother and grandmother, were not allowed in Alice Springs after 6pm without a special permit.
Her father was Milton Liddle, son of Scottish man, Bill Liddle, and Mparnte Arrernte woman, Mary.
He and his brother Arthur bought their father's cattle station, Angus Downs, which is where Mrs Miller spent her early years Ð "a very, very free bush childhood".
"I then had a knowledge of Luritja-speaking people who we grew up with, but I also had an ear for my mother's language, Alyewarre and my grandmother's language, Arrernte, because we used to come into town frequently to visit, but also to collect stores."
Her family spoke their Aboriginal languages at home, but they were strictly outlawed at school.
"The policy was such for Ð the term was then Ð Ônative' people.
"I witnessed a number of canings of children who spoke language in the playground.
"A lot of people of my era who grew up in town have an ear for language but the tongue just won't speak. I think that's because as children we were frightened of getting the cane. I can speak though not fluently, but I've got a great understanding of my father's and my mother's languages."
Does she feel angry about this? Did she, as a child?
"I thought then that it was an injustice. It didn't make me feel angry. I just thought it wasn't fair. Why were these rules so?"
Mrs Miller was brought in to start school at age five, at the Catholic convent. She says she only lasted a week because of the harshness of the nuns. She must have been very determined because her older brothers and sister were having to put up with it.
When she was seven her father took them all out of the convent and sent them to the public school in Hartley Street.
She remembers her first teacher, Miss Maloney, who later became Mrs Maurie Johns, as "a really lovely lady".
"My next teacher was somebody who lived across the back lane from us, Mrs Gallagher, whose husband was one of the bosses in charge of Native Affairs and they could relate to Aboriginal people.
"I thought she was just wonderful.
"I never ever had any bad experiences with public school teachers.
"I never experienced any [discrimination], everybody was getting equal teaching. It depended on you as an individual, whether you wanted to listen or not.
"A lot of people chose not to.
"I think the male teachers in those days were quite rough with the male students.
"Quite often the cane was used unnecessarily. It was very strict.
"The girls would get kept in as their punishment, rather than get caned."
Milton Liddle, who moved into town when Mrs Miller was 11, was determined that his children weather this experience.
"My father's rule was if you got an education, you got a choice.
"He ensured we all got up, we all went to school, we all did our homework and tried to get good jobs around town.
"He grew up in a very harsh era.
"He was what is now being termed Ôstolen generation', even though his Mum and Dad still lived in this area and he was fortunate not to get moved to the islands like so many other children did.
"From his growing up and what he'd seen, he was going to make sure we had a sound knowledge of rights and wrongs.
"There were only three lots of rules, it was right and wrong, do and don't , a yes and a no.
"There were no ifs or maybes in our lives, there were no grey areas.
"You had your Aboriginal law which had always been very strong and you had your rules that you had to follow to survive."
Her family, and particularly her father, were her role models.
"There were something like four or five main women in my life at that stage, my mother, Polly, and my grannies.
"My father was very prominent in all our lives.
"We were all close, my generation of kids. My father and uncles made sure that happened.
"We'd all meet at somebody's place at Christmas time, or we'd go to the station or up to Ti-Tree where my uncle operated the roadhouse.
"You'd have about 30 cousins all together in one place and I think that sort of environment, boys and girls, gave us strength in the family all the time."
Mrs Miller left school after three years' of secondary education, all that was available in town at the time.
Her first job was working for a wholesaler "of all sorts of things, like electrical goods, MacRobertson chocolates, Exide batteries".
She had her eye out for further opportunities, enrolling in a Stott's Correspondence College course in typing and book-keeping.
"They sent me up this Underwood typewriter on a train. It would be an antique these days."
She was one of only three or four Aboriginal girls who had office jobs around town. Most of the others were doing domestic work. She felt fortunate.
Her dream was to become a school teacher, but financially the training was out of reach.
She married Arrernte man David Miller when she was 24 and had to leave her job when she became pregnant with their first child.
"In today's society that wouldn't happen. The person I worked for was really wonderful but head office in Adelaide said those were the rules and we had to abide by that.
"Things have come a long way for Aboriginal people and women in general."
After seven years' mothering of sons Allan and Steve, she returned to work, first up at the airport canteen. It was frantically busy but interesting. A lot of tourists wanted to ask her about her Aboriginality and she was pleased to answer.
Was it difficult to live in the two worlds?
She says not. She had responsibilities under traditional law but generally they didn't impinge on her working life.
An exception was when a member of the family died.
"I think you were only allowed one or two days' bereavement leave in those times, so I didn't get paid for something like seven days.
"It was my grandmother's law that kept me at home and I just went without pay.
"Now people understand what it's all about, but in those days a lot of things we never told anybody.
"Either we thought it was too hard to explain and nobody wanted to listen anyhow, or we just though it was none of their business.
"I expect people to be more knowledgeable now. A lot of barriers have been broken down and that's both ways, not just from the non-indigenous side.
"We contributed to informing people so that they have much more knowledge of our culture. I think it has worked out really well."
After her airport job wound up, Mrs Miller returned to night school, to refresh her clerical skills.
Then in1978 she got a position as a filing clerk with Aboriginal Legal Aid, where she's been ever since, eventually working her way into the director's position.
For this achievement she credits the elderly men and women, including her father, who were very strong community leaders at that time."They shared such a wealth of knowledge with me and were willing to share it. Just absorbing all that information was probably one of the best things I've ever done."
Was her political consciousness developing?
"It had always been developed. I was always aware. It wasn't a new thing to work against injustice or to stand up for people's rights."
Her father was again a big influence in this domain.
He'd always insisted that the family listen to the ABC news, to keep abreast of current events and issues around the country.
Mrs Miller's interest was not in organised politics, but rather in acting personally if she saw an injustice.
"If I saw somebody standing in a shop who should have been served [next and wasn't], I'd say excuse me, this person was next.
"Quite often you'd be the last to get served in a shop because you were Aboriginal.
"But I'd also say to myself, maybe the lass didn't see me here. I'd always keep an open mind."
Did she feel anger or resentment?
"Never, ever. I'd think, ÔWell, I'm going to educate this person. Rather than get angry, I'm going to say I was here next, I should be served next.' It was just politeness."
She has seen a lot of changes since the 1967 referendum gave Aboriginal people full citizenship rights, but they haven't all been good.
"The worst change is the amount of alcohol that people consume.
"It's not just Indigneous Australians, it's Indigenous Americans, Maoris, anywhere where alcohol has been introduced without a full educational process. That's exactly what has happened here.
"In our family we have some drinkers and we have some really strict tea-totallers as well. You either drink or you don't. I'm one of those who don't but I'm not opposed to people drinking moderately.
"I've seen a very sad impact [from alcohol]. I've seen people of my age die 10, 15 years before their time. I've lost very many friends and family through misuse of alcohol, really lovely people. That's really distressed me."
What does she think should happen?
"I think it's up to family members to put out a helping hand, but they are struggling to cope with problems we have here, given the resources we have.
"Both the families and the services are struggling."
Is it the most pressing problem confronting Aboriginal people in Central Australia?
"In my opinion, yes. There are a lot of things Aboriginal people require, but the most damaging thing in my mind is alcohol."
How does her position as an Aboriginal leader and as director of an important Aboriginal organisation sit with her new appointment?
As with all issues, Mrs Miller's response is considered.
"I'll have to wait and see.
"The position of Deputy Administrator is apolitical. I wouldn't have taken it on if I didn't think I'd be able to cope with it."
Aboriginal Legal Aid has at times been embroiled in controversy. The organisation currently faces a difficult unfair dismissal suit. Will that present her new office with any difficulty?
"That won't be a problem. If any problem occurs, I will have to deal with it as it arises.
"I honestly think that the appointment was made based on merit.
"I'm sure that the Chief Minister and other Ministers would have sat down and talked about this and weighed it up and they still arrived at the decision to approach me."
On the other hand, will her official role restrict what she is able to say as an Aboriginal leader, an advocate for justice and of a better future for Aboriginal people?
Mrs Miller smiles.
"One thing we've got here in Central Australia is a lot of strong Aboriginal people. What I can't say, someone else will. I wouldn't see that as a problem at all."
She says her appointment, as an Aboriginal person and as a woman, "has exhilarated a lot of people in the community".
" I've had nothing but positive responses from people from all walks of life. One remark was, Ô Gee, you've given us a shot in the arm!' That was from a white person.
"That gives me great satisfaction to hear things like that.
"I think that because we are such a multicultural society, it helps everybody to realise that the person standing next to you is just as good as you are.
"That's how I've always thought of people."

Environmental building ways soon to be law! COLUMN by GLENN MARSHALL.
Houses across Australia must be built to a minimum standard as specified in the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
Until recently, this code had no requirements to make a building energy efficient, resulting in numerous buildings in Alice Springs that are poorly suited for our climate.They have features such as large un-shaded windows on the western side of the house, no insulation in the roof space and frequently run air conditioners and heaters to make the house comfortable.
Thankfully, steps are being made to change this via mandatory energy efficiency measures that are proposed for the BCA starting January 1 next year. To view them, go to the website, .
Will this have much of an impact on Alice Springs houses? Firstly, it will only affect new houses that are built after January 1. And by its own admission, the BCA energy efficiency measures only seek to eliminate worst practice, not promote best practice.
The code proposes minimum requirements for insulation in roofs, thermal performance of walls and floors (to stop heat flowing through them), window areas (particularly to minimise windows on eastern and western walls), shading of windows, sealing of houses to reduce energy losses, and insulation of hot water pipes and air-conditioner ducting.If adopted as proposed, this is a significant step forward for house designs in Alice Springs and the NT, given the gross under-regulation of this area by previous NT governments.
It is, to their credit, in line with the existing government's policy to "encourage the development of energy efficient design in housing to reduce material, heating and cooling costs".
It won't however, encourage builders to strive for really good arid zone house designs, and this is an area that the NT government could add extra regulations to.
For example, in the ACT, NSW, Victoria (and soon SA) this has been achieved by the introduction of Housing Energy Rating Schemes (HERS), where a house is given one to five stars according to its energy efficiency.
This allows home-buyers to assess the performance of a house before buying it or having it built. In the ACT all houses, old or new, must have their star rating assessed and advertised before they can be sold.
Apparently other states that have existing HERS schemes are not overly impressed with the new BCA regulations as they provide little extra than is required already by their HERS schemes.
The new measures will add more up front to the price of a new home. The code estimates that up to $4,300 more will be required in Alice Springs. When you consider that most people with poorly designed houses end up spending far more to add verandahs, insulation and other shading devices later on, and also pay higher energy bills each quarter, money will actually be saved over the life of the building by spending it up front.
For first home buyers and low income people, this is a significant extra cost and the NT government is capable of lightening this load by the introduction of "green energy loans" at low or no interest, as occurs elsewhere.Whilst encouraging, the proposed measures seem to have some significant flaws for Alice Springs. For example, they allow the current Alice Springs' practice of building external walls that are 140mm concrete block with a thin internal render to continue. These walls have no internal air gaps, no space to add insulation and so transmit heat very readily.
If you have a house constructed in recent years using this method, feel the inside of the western wall on a summer afternoon to understand how much heat this type of wall transmits, not only when the sun is shining on it, but often for many hours after dark, necessitating ongoing use of the air-conditioner. The reverse is true in winter when heat escapes through the same walls.
The shading requirements also seem to be less than optimal to keep the summer sun off walls. (ALEC has submitted these comments to the BCA as part of their public comments process).
Neither does the code make any comments on hot water systems, that use a significant proportion of a house's energy consumption. In Alice Springs, solar hot water units are well-proven and have a five year pay-back period that matches their five year warranties.
This alone is reason enough for the BCA or the NT government to make solar hot water systems mandatory in Alice Springs.

Proud of our huge back yard. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

A feature of the Alice is outlandish claims of size. On a regular basis, I hear someone proclaim the vast extent of their dealership or delivery round or journey to work or the area across which their customers are spread.
"My doctor has a practice the size of France."
"My dealership crosses four states and one territory."
"I deliver to places which are 1700km apart."
"My paper round covers an area four times the size of the former Soviet Union."
Okay, so I made up the last one, but you get my drift. Clearly, in the competition for land area, size matters.All these magnificent claims refer to the hinterland of the Alice.
The word hinterland has fallen out of fashion in recent times. These days, you only come across it in holiday brochures describing the virtues of some place you have no intention of visiting. For example, "The verdant hinterland of the Gold Coast is a paradise for the adventurous".
It's a proud word that has been relegated to the print equivalent of shopping mall muzak. So let's show some sympathy for hinterland and, in a modest Central Australian way, let's try to rehabilitate it.
Alice Springs has a vast hinterland. The dictionary definition is "the area influenced by a settlement". In other words, it's the area around a place where people go to do their shopping. So if you live half way along the Sandover Highway and you shop at Coles, then your home lies in the hinterland of Alice Springs.
However, a few special offers at Woolies in Mount Isa would probably change all that.
Someone should do a study to find out. And call it something like "The price elasticity of grocery items and its influence on Australian regional economic development".
Returning to the point, I visted a community some 250km from town. It has a thriving football team that takes a bus on dirt roads to play in the town competition.
There are other teams in communities that lie further afield. This is nothing unusual in our part of the world. Go to places 400km from Alice Springs and people talk about going "into town" like it's a 10-minute ride on the municipal bus.
I used to live in a town called Rugby, in England, that had a hinterland about the size of a postage stamp.
Well,15km in each direction, to be precise. Surrounded by bigger and more important conurbations, it fought for years to carve out a little area that it could call its own.
It's a sad tale.
As the neighbouring towns became more sophisticated and attractive, so the influence of the town declined and the main street filled up with charity shops.
By the time that I left, even the locals were going elsewhere for their services.
If I ever return, I expect to find an empty field and a "For Sale" notice on a crooked post. This was a town three times the size of Alice Springs.
So what do we learn from all this? Nothing much, really.
Alice Springs is not about to be out-competed by bigger neighbours. Neither will it cease being the main centre for thousands of people living out bush.
Part of its attraction is the range of services and general goings-on that you would never expect to find in a town of the same size in a more densely populated state. To live in the Alice is to live in a place that draws in people from a huge area. We knew that already.
But here's the rub. Does our town exist in someone else's hinterland? In other words, are we residents of the Alice living in a place that is much less important than we might think it is?
We all harp on about being the centre of the country, of the outback, of Indigenous culture and the desert.
Local people are proud, self-reliant Territorians.
We live in "The Heart. The Soul. The Centre", according to the tourism industry.
But the reality is that Alice is a small town from which most inhabitants leave as often as possible to do something else in a different place. Even if they have to drive 1500 kilometres.
There's nothing wrong with that. A life long resident told me, "Alice is great, so long as you leave town from time to time".
And where do we go when we leave? To Adelaide and Darwin. To Melbourne and Sydney. These places consider the outback to be their hinterland. By the way that most of us lead our lives, we agree with them.

"Show Day is the most important day of the year; everybody goes," says Mary Morgan.
"I go for the exhibits and to meet up with and see my friends.
"I can hardly wait."
Mary and her husband Wally have lived in Alice Springs for many years, have been involved in numerous organisations and are big supporters of the community.
Early last Sunday morning Mary was delivering the quilt, "Federation" Ð developed, designed and made by members of the Senior Migrant Persons Group of which she is a member Ð to the Showgrounds where it will be on display in the Crafts Section.
The quilt depicts "everything important in Australia's history" during its 100 years of Federation and includes everything from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to camels, Ayers Rock and wildlife and fauna."Everyone should go have a look," says Mary.
"I am very proud to have had a little part in its creation."
The quilt is one of countless items made or created, collected or developed by children and adults alike to be displayed in the various Show sections which range from photography and hobbies to agriculture and animals.
There will also be demonstrations, displays and a chance to learn more about a variety of community groups who are interested in sharing their expertise and experience with others.
For example members of the Central Australian Lace Makers will be in the Craft area (Rumball Hall) demonstrating their skill, along with members of the Spinning Group.
In the neighbouring Everingham Pavilion, the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame will be showcasing their activities, which focus this year on Central Australian pioneering women to celebrate the Year of the Outback.Another perennial favourite is the Australian Plants Society (APS) area towards the back of the Showgrounds, opposite the Parks and Wildlife section.
This group, originally known as the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) when it began more than 30 years ago, has been part of the Alice Springs Show even before the Show moved to Blatherskite Park in the early 1980s.
APS members work diligently throughout the year, not only to maintain their area at the Showgrounds but also to have seeds, plants, and reference materials available to help anyone and everyone with their queries about what to grow and how to grow it in Central Australia.
APS vice-president Audrey Hill says some of the seeds available for purchase at the Show include Capparis spinosa (native passion fruit), Eucalyptus pachyphylla (red budded mallee) and Acacia kempeana (witchetty bush).
The APS meets monthly at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden and welcomes anyone to join in their activities.
Also available at the Show will be tiles that will be used to pave an area around the Visitor Centre at the Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
People will be able to personalise "their tiles" during the next Painting Day at the Garden (Sunday, July 28).
Another "busy place" will be the Identikid stall of the Lioness Club of Macdonnell.
"We average preparing Identikid cards for between 100 and 120 children every year," says Lioness president, Val Gibbs.
"And this year we are in a different location, near the Bush Fairy and face painting, so we may be even busier."
The main purpose of Identikid is to produce an identification card that displays a recent photo and contains accurate and up-to-date information about a child including height, weight, eye and hair colour and distinguishing marks.
The card is for the family's personal records.
New Identikid cards are recommended to be prepared every 12 months as children change quickly.
The Lioness Club took up the project in 1989 as part of their Lions International Code to be of service to all members of the community.
The Show is an ideal place to do this, especially for those people who only come to town for special events.


"Landing a trick is what drives you.
"You'll keep smashing yourself until you get it.
"And you have to have at least one mate with you, watching you, otherwise there's no proof that you've done it."
A skating "trick", explains Nicholas Wiles, is something like a "kick flip" or a "5-0 grind" Ð the aerial part of the action.
"Landing it" means coming down with both feet on the board and riding away. It certainly looks impressive when it happens.
He and friend Matt Price showed the Alice News some of what they can do. Younger skaters had told us these two are the best in town.
Nick and Matt say when they started skating, about two and a half years ago, there was an older generation of skaters they looked up to.
They used to watch them "ollieing" in the Coles Complex. Ollieing means jumping on the board over obstacles. They started with milk crates and graduated to shopping trolleys, off ledges.
The older boys have left town now and one of them, Nicky Hayes, has got himself sponsored in Adelaide.
Nick and Matt dream of following in his footsteps.
Skating is a passion. Nick, for example, used to play soccer, hockey, baseball. He's given them all away just to skate.
The best skating moments, they say, involve large groups (the biggest they've experienced is a group of 17) when the town is nice and quiet.
They can try the challenges of all their favourite haunts: the Sails, Legends, Greyhound, Centrelink and the more obscurely named Undies, Garden Gap, The Painting, Flat Bank.
The "seven stair" at the Jock Nelson building is at the top of the list. Doing that Ð skating off the top and landing at the bottomÐ is "heaps sick" (meaning fantastic).
Both boys declare the park "sweet as", perfect for a town like Alice Springs, and they're grateful, especially, they say, to Shaun Phillips of the YMCA."It means not everyone in town hates skate boarders."
Now that they have the park, will they still skate in the streets?
"The street is what we grew up doing. If they thought when they gave us the park that we'd stay off the street É it's never going to happen," says Nick."You get sick of skating in the one place all day" says Matt."So you skate at the park in the morning, and later you'll meet up the street."
Both boys have been grabbed by security guards, had their boards confiscated, had civilians swear at them, threaten them.
The worst thing that's happened to them was a 24 hour ban from the CBD. They say the police drove around with a loud speaker and gave them 10 minutes' notice to get out.
They didn't like it but took it in their stride. The confrontations are a part of skating culture, just like the language.
Things are fat, sweet as, hella sweet, chungy, heaps sick, nasty: they all mean good or better.
A lot of these terms, but not all, are shared with skaters interstate.
"We're not try-hards," says Nick, "that's just the way skaters talk to each other."
The names of tricks are sometimes very inventive, "pop shove it" for one.
The link with media is strong. Skating videos are an industry in themselves.
Nick and older brother Naithan are working on a "vid", which they intend to have professionally dubbed and packaged, to sell around town. They're confident of the market.
Like other skating movies, it won't just be about tricks. They'll be intercut with scenes of boys doing crazy things: jumping into hedges, busking in the mall in bear suits, flying around in shopping trolleys.
"We're in the middle of a desert, we might as well have fun while we're here," says Nick.
And why not!


Pioneer literally ran amok on Sunday despite the fact that a dozen or more of their flight deck were unavailable.
Up against a Federal side who were really on the ropes before running on with the bare 18 players available to face the first whistle.
As a result the Eagles dominated and booted 32.23 (215) to 2.5 (17).
While this score in terms of records does not hold a candle to the 41.23 Pioneers kicked to Rovers 1.3 in August 2000, it did not make for entertaining football.In the curtain raiser it was hoped that West and Rovers would play out a vigourous 100 minutes of football. As in the late game, however, both the Bloods and the Blues ran on with a plethora of players who had already warmed up in either the Reserves' or the Colts' games.
The scoreline at the final whistle was Rovers 7.10 (52) to West 6.12 (48), which gave the game credibility, but a 13 goal game on Traeger Park in ideal conditions is not one to be recorded for posterity.Rovers trailed West for the first three quarters, but were able to remain in a winning position thanks to perseverance and the ability of John Glasson to read the game and blanket any West drive.
The Bloods led 2.4 to a goal at the first break. They than struggled through the second term, seriously lacking a half forward attack.
Indeed, were it not for David James drifting through the wing and along the flank then delivering long raking left footers goalwards, West may have been found wanting.
West went to the change rooms at half time, leading 3.8 to 2.4.In the third quarter Rovers were able to make the most of opportunities and added 3.4 to Wests' 1.2. Wilson Walker proved to be a target in the goal square and Clinton Ngalken with Frankie Dixon proved effective.
For West, Karl Gunderson was always a potential game winner, and Jarrod Berrington, while not at his dynamic best, provided drive from the centre.
By the orange break Rovers had snatched a four-point lead, with Walker, Malcolm Kenny and Max Fejo firing in the forward line.
The final term presented plenty of opportunities for both sides to take the premiership points. Scott Robinson looked as though he could do the job off his own boot with some high flying in the West attacking zone, and at the other end of the field Jamie Tidy and Dave Lehrle developed a love for the leather. But by the time the siren sounded the Blues were still maintaining their four-point lead and took the premiership points.Federal have a real problem on their hands in that they rely on the Santa Teresa bus to venture into town of a Sunday laden with players prepared to give their all for the Demons.
Again this weekend the bus didn't make it and so it was a case of panic stations in the Demon Den. As with all CAFL sides it was the loyal band of blokes who had already played who came to the rescue.The Eagles realised the situation and took full advantage from the opening bounce. Richard Kopp snared two balls off the pack in the opening minutes to give Pioneer two goals. Trevor Dhu then produced a major to have the Eagles in full flight.
Kopp chimed in again and the procession of 10 goals for the term was well under way. Dhu registered the fifth, then singles came from Vaughan Hampton, Robert Taylor, Eric Campbell, Taylor again and Standley McCormack.
In response an already shattered Federal produced a single goal from the boot of skipper Daryl Ryder.The second term proved to be another Eagle onslaught as they scored a further 9.8. Dhu led the way, followed by goals to Graeme Smith, Kopp, Dhu again, Kopp, another to Dhu, Smith with two in succession and Campbell. In reply Federal failed to score.
The half time break was reminiscent of life in Antarctica: the faithful few supporters who hovered around the fenceline had little to discuss.Obviously Roy Arbon wanted his chargers to make the most of the situation and record a 40 goal plus result. To the Feds' credit this didn't eventuate. Travis Alice, Graham Hayes and Charlie Lynch put in for the Demons, and the veteran Peter Thomson showed how to do it with a burst through the throw in pack in the forward pocket, which resulted in a goal.In the Eagle camp the goals kept coming with Martin Hagan and Dhu responsible for two each, Arnold Erlandson opening his account, and Hampton completing his bag of two goals.At three quarter time the Pioneer side led 25.17 to 2.3.In the run home Pioneer added another 7.2. Dhu kicked four and so finished his day with 11 goals to take his tally for the season to date to 47. Smith added one, and Shannon McCormack delivered two to top off a great game.In terms of best players Eric Campbell proved to be an absolute trump card for Pioneer. He was well supported by Graeme Smith who seems to still be carrying an injury but playing very well nonetheless. Dhu's bag of 11 placed him high in the best players.For Feds the winners were few. Daryl Ryder put in, as did Travis Alice, Graham Hayes, and Charlie Lynch.
With the Show on this weekend, footy will be reduced to a single A Grade game. Rovers will play Pioneer. Both sides have plenty at stake!


Baskets of natural fibres and found objects woven with the precision of a dedicated artist make up the latest display at the Territory Craft Gallery.
Created by Diana Stubbings, the baskets and other items, including footwear, were made using the coiled basket technique, one of the oldest methods.
"One starts at the centre core and works outward with the materials stitched together," Diana said.
She trained at Ballarat University, majoring in sculpture and graduating in 1990.
When she came to Alice Springs in 2000, she took a workshop in basketry conducted by fibre artist Philomena Hali.
"I had always been fascinated with basketry and found basketry a means of doing sculpture.
"I found I was able to combine the two dimensional medium with paint and oil pastels and create a three dimensional medium such as a basket.
"I like to explore the weird juxtaposition of things.
"I also found I could include found objects from today's modern culture in a basket.
"I also like to try different things, like rubbing earth or even fire ash into my paints and oil pastels.
"I found that here in Central Australia I was being influenced by the natural landscape and its colours.
"It seemed as if the textures of my baskets were resembling the textures of the rock in the natural landscape."
Diana is now thinking of bringing back some seaweed from a Melbourne visit at the end of the year, incorporating it with material from the Centre, "bringing the different places together".
She lets her baskets evolve intuitively; many have stories attached to them., incorporating things found in her travels.
The pieces then become part of her past, evoking memories (for example, of a Finke River camp), creating the opportunity to reminisce on her experiences.
Philomena Hali, opening the exhibition last week, commented on Diana's ability to take an old basket making technique and create a unique style.
"The basketry-created footwear is totally unique to Diana," Philomena said."The technique should be written up and documented in a fibre magazine."
Shows till Sunday, July 14.

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