August 28, 2002.

The Outback is run from distant coastal cities with little understanding and interest for it, and is neglected with impunity because of its political insignificance.
While the issues of Central Australia are similar across state and Territory borders, the solutions are uncoordinated because politicians and leaders of commerce from Perth to Sydney and Darwin have no compelling need to work together.
This gives the Desert Knowledge movement, with its headquarters in Alice Springs, the mission of becoming the voice of the people in the bush, whether they live in the Territory, Queensland, South or Western Australia or New South Wales.
That's the view Mark Stafford-Smith, an Alice Springs based CSIRO biologist with an international reputation, director of the laboratory here, and a leading light of Desert Knowledge.
"There are some special features of inland Australia, variable climates, low productivity, low population densities, sparse and quite mobile populations, whether they are Aboriginal or white," says Dr Stafford-Smith.
"The total population is about 300,000, which is as big as the ACT and nearly as big as Tasmania, but because it spread over such a big area and over five jurisdictions, we don't have any focus for activity.
"Each of those areas tends to look to its state capital for its services and funding.
"That means each of these chunks is actually looking out to the coast, into a capital city for which the Outback is pretty low on their overall agenda because of it's a tiny part of each section's population.
"It's pretty secondary when it come to votes.
"When it comes to the hard crunch of do we fix up a freeway in Sydney, or do we spend a bit more in the Outback, inevitably the pressure is on for the freeway things.
"I don't think it's a malevolent neglect; it's an inevitable structural one, and it comes because in each state the Outback is just a small part in terms of votes, people and expenditure."
Dr Stafford-Smith says Desert Knowledge is seeking to "project ourselves as a consolidated community where we actually are 300,000 people, and not just a few thousand scattered in each state. Until we do that we're not going to have the critical mass to reach out overseas."
One example is Desart, linking together artists in wider Central Australia.
"You need quite a lot of suppliers banded together.
"The people dealing with this network know they can get supplies of art even if individual communities drop in and out because they are small, sparse and mobile."
Dr Stafford-Smith says in centres including Alice, Mt Isa and Kalgoorlie are renewable energy companies which Ð individually Ð "do not have the capacity to even keep track of commercial opportunities overseas and are at each others' throats as local competitors. We are looking for a framework for those people to cooperate, to look outwards, but that can continue to compete locally."
Dr Stafford-Smith is calling for a structure for operators "to communicate internally rather than via capital cities".
For example, if researchers in Alice Springs and Kalgoorlie wanted to link up "they would probably go through the NT University in Darwin and then maybe through Curtin in Perth".
"It's crazy. We should have the direct connections, but as long as institutions are structured from the coast in, it is very hard to do that."
Dr Stafford-Smith says the Pitjantjatjara lands, straddling three states, are "one of the triggers to make this sort of thing happen.
"They're struggling all the time because they can't get joint funding, and have to do things in bits and pieces, dealing with different programs and priorities in different states."
Cross-state cooperation is already happening in tourism: there are accredited savanna guides across the Top End, from North Queensland through to the Kimberleys, and "we're hoping to get something similar going across the desert".
"The Australian wine industry has done that sort of thing, and created a huge export industry."
Dr Stafford-Smith says there is no agenda for creating a different state.
The Centre is no different than interest groups such as the Hunter Valley or the Murray Darling region except that the vast size of the area calls for advanced communications facilities Ð now readily available with electronic systems.


The Alice Springs Festival has almost doubled its budget in this its second year, injecting around $350,000 into the Central Australian arts and culture sector.
This includes the employment of two full-time staff Ð festival director Di Mills and youth events coordinator Rosie Dwyer Ð and the provision of a festival office by Outback Central, managers of the official national Year of the Outback celebrations underway since Friday.
The national Year of the Outback has been good for the festival, says its committee chair, Tim Rollason.
"It's undoubtedly been a vehicle for the festival to grow and that's good for the whole community.
"The festival promotes the image of Alice Springs as a community of amazingly creative people and shows that the Outback doesn't have to be locked into its old image and old ways of thinking.
"The committee's goal is for the festival to become a major national and international event, a platform of expression for our unique, culturally diverse community.
"There are artists of high quality and talent living and working here and that's the level to which they deserve to be promoted.
"This year has seen us move much closer to that," says Mr Rollason.
Apart from continuing to ensure the smooth running of its packed program of events, the committee is already looking to the future.
They plan to generate enough funding to maintain the festival director as a full-time permanent position.
"We see that position as pivotal to arts development in the region, not just focussed on one event.
"We will be conducting fund-raising activities throughout the year to support the position and to maintain the festival office in a shared community arts space."We'd also like to keep a youth events coordinator on board. There is a high proportion of under 20-year-olds in town and it's vital for them to have creative opportunities."
The entirely voluntary festival committee includes Olivia Chandler and Kathryn Kilgariff, who both work professionally in marketing; Heather Shearer, an artist and former Indigenous Arts Officer for Country Arts SA who has relocated to Alice; Alison Hittman, an artist and teacher at Batchelor Institute; Rosie Dwyer who has made a name coordinating music and youth arts events in Alice; and Gillian Harrison from CAAMA.Sonia Maclean de Silva, the director of the inaugural Alice Festival and now regional arts development officer for Arts NT, is an ex-officio member of the committee.
Mr Rollason says there are vacancies on the committee and in particular they would like to see business people get involved. There's been good business support for the festival in terms of sponsorship of the poster, but there's room for greater involvement."The arts can bring national prestige and income into this town, people from the business and philanthropic worlds, and from major institutions.
"The recent opening of the Albert Namatjira exhibition at Araluen did just that. In particular, art gallery businesses benefited enormously and that has a flow-on effect for the whole community."


The row over town council CEO Nick Scarvelis may be heading for the courts on the grounds that protracted mediation, and a further review of his performance, have raised his expectations that his five year contract will be renewed.
The warring council factions agree that the budget and general reporting processes Ð the key points of contention for the vote of no confidence in Mr Scarvelis earlier this year Ð were flawless for the 2002/2003 financial year.
However, the council will re-write the CEO's duty statement, draw up a new contract and call for applications.
Mr Scarvelis declines to say whether he will apply Ð although that option is expressly open to him, according to leading light of the "gang of six", Jenny Mostran.
She says Mr Scarvelis hasn't been sacked: his five year contract will be coming to an end next month and because of changed circumstances a new agreement is needed.
Both Mayor Fran Kilgariff and Ald Mostran agree that the council split is with respect only to Mr Scarvelis.
"There is a bloc vote on this particular issue which is not as apparent on other issues," says Ms Kilgariff.
"The council has been very productive in a lot of areas."
She says "we're on the verge of a fantastic age" with likely progress on anti social behaviour issues and the supply of residential land in collaboration with the newly formed organisation for native title holders.
Ald Mostran says on the majority of issues "council comes to agreement by consensus."
Aldermen Mostran, Bob Corby, Geoff Bell, Samih Habib, David Koch and Michael Jones maintained their hostile attitude towards Mr Scarvelis despite efforts to resolve the issues by Local Government Minister Jack Ah Kit.
Says Mayor Fran Kilgariff: "We've had mediation for some months between elected members and the executive, between elected members and elected members, between staff and staff, and that actually went some way towards relieving some of the tensions.
"But in the long run it didn't actually change anything.
"The CEO has been through a couple of appraisals now and the results of those have not influenced the final outcome.
"He did well in these appraisals."
Ald Mostran says because of possible legal action she is "very reluctant" to says what was found wanting in Mr Scarvelis' performance.
She says availability of financial information is "only one" of the concerns and "there are quite a number of issues and the main one would be communication and processes".
"I don't regret for one minute the stand I have taken."
She is "satisfied" with the new budget process but says it was "done with recommendations from the Department of Local Government".
"That was something the department had sorted out, the department in conjunction with some of the council officers.
"The financial problems have been sorted out because they are now adhering to the Local Government Act and also to Australian accounting practices whereas previously they hadn't."
But Ald Mostran stresses "at no stage did we say that the current CEO wasn't eligible to put his hand up for that job".
"He did not want the council to take up its option of advertising the position.""He expected an automatic renewal but what council wanted to do was to have a more current, up to date contract, to review the position and to advertise it.
"It's not a job for life.
"From the first vote [of no confidence] in February he was always eligible to apply."
She says the council has the right to "re-do the duty statement and to look at the challenges and opportunities we are going to face in the next five years".
"The way to do that was when the contract had expired to draw up a new one."
Two elected members and two people from outside of council will make up a panel recommending new conditions.
FAIRWhile this will be a "fair and transparent" process it won't occur in public meetings because "it's a recruitment process".
The new contract, still in draft form, will require "meeting targets and key performance indicators", says Ald Mostran.
"The process has been willy-nilly over the last few years."
She says the CEO's position is "the only position we have any control over in council, and it's a very powerful position."
The council has a duty to make the best choice of its most senior staffer and "we should not be bullied out of our obligations."


Alice Mayor Fran Kilgariff says the new Lhere Artepe native title organisation in Alice Springs has reacted favourably to a proposal for an alliance to deal with major local issues.
"They have written back saying they are interested in that," says Ms Kilgariff.
"We'll be getting in touch in the very near future to get some sort of formal association going between the two bodies."
She says management of the Todd River would be part of the arrangement "and that would include things such as anti social behaviour, littering, burning of trees".
"Anti social behaviour in the rest of the town, too. I'm really looking forward, I suppose, to being able to speak about town issues with a combined voice, and having extra authority together with the traditional owners.
"The Arrernte people have for quite a while now felt quite angry at what's happening to their land.
"People from other communities have been very disrespectful.
"I think there are opportunities for us to make progress with that issue."


A grass fire that may have been deliberately lit sent towering flames right to the boundaries of the Hetti Perkins nursing home and the Alukura birthing centre on Sunday.
Nursing home patients were evacuated into the car park but were locked inside the complex, and fire units couldn't get inside, because an electrically operated gate had malfunctioned.
This presented no danger to the occupants, according to station officer John Kleeman: "If we had needed to get in there, we could have."
Mr Kleeman says the nursing home has been designed to allow "lateral evacuation", that is if one building is on fire, occupants can be safely evacuated to another.
On Sunday they had gathered at the "form-up point" allocated by the Fire Service, which was the "right thing to do".
WORRIEDHowever, worried staff in the car park had no information about the whereabouts of fire units, who were in fact fighting the blaze at the rear of the building.
As the Alice News went to press it was not yet known how Sunday's fire started.
A fire burning behind the nearby Pioneer Park Racecourse on Saturday had been fully extinguished.
A 33-year-old man was charged with setting Saturday's fire, and bailed to appear in court later this week.Initially two grass fire units and a big water tanker attended the fire, but ultimately five units were in attendance, including the "main appliance" which responded when smoke set off fire alarms in the nursing home.
The biggest problem was gusty wind blowing from the south-east causing "spotting" both in the grounds and further towards the Stuart Highway.
"There was no danger at any time to life or property," says Mr Kleeman, "and the fire was contained within one and a half hours."


An advisory committee to oversee new management processes at Yipirinya School met for the first time last Thursday after allegations that about $1m had been spent for unauthorised purposes or was unaccounted for.
The new processes are "not controversial but just weren't occurring", says Independent Education Union (IEU) NT organiser, Simon Hall.
They were recommended for implementation by three reviews of operations at the school, which were undertaken after staff went on strike in May and June this year.
The Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), the principal funder of the school, would not provide copies of the reviews to the Alice News, nor provide any detail on what they contained.
In particular, spokesperson for Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, refused to answer any questions concerning the source of funds for the multi-purpose hall (pictured) under construction.
However, the News has learned that the department will require the appointment of a financial controller.
In its issue of May 15, the News reported, on the basis of a leaked document, that $700,000 of operational funds had been used for the building (pictured above).
This has never been specifically denied.
The IEU has not seen the reviews, although Mr Hall says the union has been informed of their content.
He says the financial audit recognised that some staff were not being paid correctly, because they had not been classified correctly.
He says staff are now being fitted correctly into the framework of their industrial agreement.
The audit also recognised that the school was over-staffed, but this problem has been largely solved by staff resignations.
Also, things like grievance procedures Ð standard workplace practice Ð are being put in place."It's a matter of educating both sides about how a school should run," says Mr Hall.
He says the school council has accepted that the IEU has a role to play, and the IEU has been able to progress some minor issues.
Two staff members representing the union are on the advisory committee.The News understands that at least two other members come from outside the school community, but are involved in Indigenous education.
Mr Hall says morale at the school is still low: "There is apprehension on both sides of the fence as they wait to see how things develop.
"But a working relationship has begun and will grow.
"I believe enrolments are on the way up Ð staff have made a concentrated effort to get out to the communities to let them know the school is operational and students are coming back.
"We're confident in the mechanisms that are in place and that the education program will improve to take Yipirinya back to the place it held a few years ago, as one of the best schools in Australia."
The News has made repeated requests for an interview to chairman of the school council, Davey Inkamala, but he has not responded. Acting principal, Rhonda Inkamala, declined to answer questions and referred us to the council, which has not responded.

Wherever you like. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Take a hole punch in one hand. The kind that punches a single hole in a piece of paper.
Take a map of Australia in the other hand. Then position the hole punch over Alice Springs.
Line it up carefully. You can choose to include Pine Gap within the area of the hole, or outside it. Or you might want to incorporate the airport, for example. My advice would be to leave out the marshes until they smell a bit sweeter, but it's entirely up to you.
Then punch the hole. Now you need to spend several minutes on your hands and knees looking for the little disc of paper that you have just pushed out of Australia.
If you are doing this inside the house, look under the fridge. It's probably there, with the fluff. If outside, try chasing it several hundred metres down the street. It's good exercise.When you retrieve the piece of paper, wet the end of your little finger and fix the disc to it. Savour the moment. Hold it up to the light. Think of all the power that you now have by holding this important piece of the continent on the tip of your finger.
I saw a sticker on a vehicle in Hartley St. the other day. It celebrated 20 years of independent government up to 1998 and stated, in simple language, "Proudly Territorian".
The words didn't interest me so much as the condition of the sticker. It seemed kind of, well, Territorian. You know what I mean; faded, a bit ragged around the edges.
It had seen better days but was clinging on to the bumper for dear life. There are people I know who look like this.
With that little piece of map stuck to the end of your finger, you have a huge range of choices. Where do you want Alice Springs to be?
How about shifting it down south?
There's no room inside the cities themselves so let's put it on the edge of Melbourne or Sydney. All 26,000 of us could live inside something akin to a town camp on the edge of the urban sprawl.
On second thoughts, maybe that's not such a great idea. We would be too near the airport, the cemetery and the municipal tip.
So how about moving it to the tropics? Like Far North Queensland, for example. Maybe the northern beaches of Cairns?
Many of the businesses in town could stay exactly the same because the very same tourists can be found in Cairns either before or after they come here.
And if we moved there, we could all stroll along deserted tropical beaches and struggle on overcrowded highways to reach them.
On second thoughts, I like the quiet roads in the Centre.
Or what about sticking your disc in Western Australia? The choices would be enormous. We could be on the edge of the Tanami Desert or the Gibson Desert or the Great Sandy Desert or some other desert. But, then again, what would be the change in that? Or we could go up to the coast of the Kimberley, miles from anywhere else.
Given the choice, I reckon most of us would move the disc to some place within that area in the top half of the country. You know, the area that's the shape of a rectangle with a rickety top edge. A bit like a broken milk biscuit. Yes, that's it; the Northern Territory. Anywhere there would do, so long as it's not too far from the centre of the country. After all, like the car sticker, we are supposed to be proudly Territorian. So let's not move too far.
But what about the hole in the map? What would we do with it? The location is central and convenient.
It has spiritual and historical importance to a big proportion of the population. It could be a service centre for a vast area of the country. One option is to build a town there and call it Alice Springs.

There's no place like The Alice! COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

Quite a few people have asked me if I'm going to start writing for the Alice News again É so here goes Ð back by popular (or not so?) request.
Before David and I headed overseas (two months around England and Europe) I wrote a column, "Truth or Dare", and I wish that I'd been here to field comments because the topic certainly prompted feedback, some supportive, and some, not so: one person suggested that perhaps I shouldn't come back É ever É a long time!
I had to come back Ð Alice Springs has been home for over 25 years (Krafty's just celebrated 30 in the Centre!). The social climate may be changing but the Alice mystique which first attracted me is still here: it's an exciting, spiritually rewarding, unique place to live. The stunning landscape, huge skies, sense of space and lifestyle would take some beating.
David and I met here: my brother Norman is here (he popped in 20 years ago for a fortnight!) and Lee (she was born here!) and their children, Emma, Lesley-Ann and Bart, also born in the Alice, real little Territorians.
Many of our friends are here, although last week, Ruth and Hermann left to pursue life in southern regions. They have contributed to, and been part of, the Alice Springs community for 45 years and will definitely be missed.Travelling, it is said, broadens the mind (and, other parts as well, if too much of a good thing is over-indulged in).
It's great to be able to go overseas, to revel in the history, tradition and culture: to exchange greetings with someone like Nelson Mandela (a moment we'll never forget!); to sit in a piazza overlooking one thousand year old church spires in the Gothic Quarter; to wander around the Greek Islands (well, some of them Ð there are over 900!): to walk where Romans walked; to survive lukewarm beers in The Nag's Head, The Hammer and Pincers or The Ruddy Duck: to try to find Nessie, sighted at Loch Ness just the day before and to stroll through the picturesque English countryside.
It's impossible to have all that green without some rain (a LOT!) and the odd sunny day was truly celebrated Ð traffic jams on every major highway as people everywhere (there are 60 million in the UK alone!!) tried to access the nearest park, river or coast-line.
After covering so many kilometres, it's good to be home Ð an old clichŽ, but true Ð to wake up in familiar surrounds with blue skies, sunshine, fresh air and space.
There's a renewed air of confidence out there, and with so much happening, there should be! The Red Centre is bopping Ð the action, festivities, fun and excitement of the Alice Springs Festival, combined with Outback Central 2002 celebrations, has attracted visitors from all over. Another chance to showcase the Centre É
I closed my column "Truth or Dare" by noting how great it would be to come back to a prouder, cleaner Alice Springs, a town in which everyone, regardless of race, colour or religion, is able to co-exist in harmony É
The mood is festive with everyone invited to join in "Alice Alive! Ten days of cultural feast". Local issues haven't been forgotten Ð they've been reshuffled for a time and, whilst significant, when weighed up against current global concerns, at least we know our issues are fixable.It's great to be back in the Alice.

Taking John Howard for a walk in a wheelbarrow. COLUMN by GLENN MARSHALL.

Every once in a while my four year old daughter Ruby and I pack up our wheelbarrow and head off for an overnight walk.
She sits like the Queen of Sheeba amongst a mattress and some cushions, whilst the food and bedding is stored underneath. We wander along talking, singing, learning about the bush and generally having a good time.
We did it the weekend before last with a mate and his daughter along the Simpson's Gap bike path, two wheelbarrows being pushed along a sealed track through the grand MacDonnell Ranges Ð life is definitely good to us here in Alice Springs. Much easier I suspect than for the blokes in the 1890s who pushed their wooden wheelbarrows to the gold fields of Arltunga and the Granites.Prime Minister John Howard visited Alice Springs for two hours on Saturday to launch the Year of the Outback. If I'd packed him in my wheelbarrow we'd hardly even have been be underway before he had to go again. There wouldn't have been time to hear the birds, soak up the atmosphere or ask him what the Outback means to the federal government.
Mr Howard seems to genuinely enjoy coming here as he is able to take off his tie, put on a big hat and mix with the "battlers whose mateship reflects the true spirit of our nation".
The Outback is also a long way from the majority of Australians and seems to be a convenient place to locate several of our national eyesores like the Woomera detention centre, a radioactive waste repository and the Pine Gap spy base.Woomera remains in the national spotlight as a disgraceful abuse of "battlers" from other nations. Whether they are genuine refugees or would-be entrepreneurs trying to break into the capitalist system so their family can have a better life, they are average people who deserve better treatment and respect from Mssrs Howard, Ruddock and company.
Why house them in the Outback? Out-of-sight, out-of-mind didn't work in keeping it from Australians, but the images of heat and despair may do the job when word gets back to would-be refugees.Pine Gap we are told is more important than ever so we can root out terrorists and Saddam Hussein. But why isn't it located in a suburb of Sydney? Out-of-sight, out-of-mind seems to be working well here.
There is less likelihood of strong public scrutiny out here, particularly from locals when "it is important to the economy of our town so we won't ask any questions". Politicians are less likely to ask questions because it is far from their electorates and parliaments.
Did you know that the only Australian politicians who are allowed to know what happens in Pine Gap are the federal cabinet and the opposition leader? It is hardly the mark of a mature relationship with the US.
What does happen there? There is strong evidence that Pine Gap is not only used to gather military information, but also corporate information on what non-American multi-national companies are up to. This data is apparently passed back to corporate America to retain a global market advantage.
If true, it is hardly surprising, but why should the Australian Outback be hosting such activities? National protests are planned at Pine Gap in early October, and the theme is "Expose Pine Gap". The rationale is that the public should be properly informed on what happens at Pine Gap so we can make our own decision on whether we want it here or not.
The latest indicator of the Federal government's love of the Outback is their proposal to build a radioactive waste repository at Woomera. This will store Australia's accumulated radioactive wastes for the next thousand years.
Whilst the draft Environmental Impact Statement claims that the risks from a well-managed facility are extremely low, the east coast and Murray-Darling Basin were immediately ruled-out as possible sites because they are major food-producing areas. What does that matter if the facility is a low risk? Again, it is a classic case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind when you dump such things in the Outback.


The greatest "danger" during the Last Camel Train journey has been Dave Evans.
Dave has used his video for the expected filming of camels, scenery and the daily camps, but has also managed to capture "Scotty" emerging "full naked" from a waterhole, like a cross between Steve Irwin and Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Bob "Toyboy" Adams is also said to have been similarly "captured".
Of course Dave has also done the fair dinkum work. He has helped to gather firewood and been assistant cook during preparation of each evening's meal, kept people chuckling with his gentle humour, enjoyed a beer with his friends (old and new), then assisted each morning with the last packing away of cooking gear and the final clean-up. He has also taken his turn to bog the hay truck.
Every late afternoon has seen the camel strings arrive, with young Matt Smail helping care for the camels before enjoying a relaxing time. Bob Adams has been there, distributing hay from the hay-truck and generally helping all of the cameleers with their camels. And there has always been a sense of bustling, yet now well-established, routine which has involved all of the others.
Swags have been placed in as comfortable and bindii-free spots as possible, chairs arranged around the camp-fire, and helpers have volunteered wherever a hand has been seen to be needed.
(A new hand was, in fact, almost needed when Morgan Flint, demonstrating his skill in slicing tomatoes at lightning speed onto a bed of lettuce, continued onto his fingers. Rumour has it that, with evening coming on, the blood on the lettuce was disguised with a liberal dose of tomato sauce).
Eventually all settled down to a well-cooked meal, then yarning and laughter.
The scene compares and contrasts with the "same" scene from 118 years ago.
Faiz Mohammed (also recorded as Mahomet) had been the Jemadar, an Afghan leader who, with his brother, had helped during construction of the Overland Telegraph Line in 1870-72. Thereafter he had been associated with other importations and sales of camels, and he and his brother had run a carrying business.
"Early in the afternoon a herd of about 60 camels arrived, and caused some anxiety to those having horses in or near the line of march. Warned by previous experiences, farmers and others hastened to put their horses out of the reach of fright from the appearance of the useful but odd-looking Ôships of the desert'. "The camel-drivers went straight for the creek below the township, made their patient animals lay down, and were soon in the business of unloading. The ground was quickly strewn with pack-saddles, trunks, cooking utensils, provisions, merchandise, and all the motley paraphernalia of a large camp.
"In an incredibly short space of time the animals were set free to graze, many of them being unrelieved of their saddles, which are often, according to the Eastern custom, allowed to remain on their backs for days and weeks together.
"In about an hour another herd came up, bringing the total to 247 ...
"The bed of the creek now presented a lively and animated appearance. The large herd of camels, the Afghans, of whom there are 68, in their diversified and picturesque costumes, the camp-fires, and Oriental camp equipage made up a novel scene.
"Many spectators came down and walked about the beautiful sward; and it was not long before the merchant of the company unfolded his pack and displayed his wares. These consisted of handsomely embroidered Cahmere shawls, silk handkerchiefs and scarfs, smoking caps, fans, purses, etc., and some sales were effected.
"As time wore on the camp-fires were lighted, fragrant soups and stews were concocted, and the Easterners were soon ready for their evening meal. One, more devout than the rest, on his knees, with his face toward Mecca, went through his devotions.
"Much admiration was excited at the deft manner in which the cooks prepared their dampers, tossing them from hand to hand till they were thinned out much faster than a rolling pin would have done it, and then baking them on a hot plate. "At night the camp gave itself up to enjoyment. The Afghans put up no tents, but had ample provision for comfort in the rugs, carpets and quilts which they spread round the camp-fires.
"The camels presented a singular spectacle, lying down together in a dense mass in the middle of the camp. The men disposed themselves in groups, passing round the Ôjudicious hookah', from which they inhale tremendous draughts of smoke, ejecting it in volumes from mouth and nostrils.
They treated the spectators to music from a guitar, and a gaily ornamented species of violin, varied with songs and improvisations."
An interesting point about this account is that, while there was concern for the reaction of horses, there is no hint of discrimination. This was to come later, when the "White Australia" policy was suggested and then became law. And of course the discrimination was then, as now, primarily the result of ignorance. Nursing sister J.C. Finlayson, who worked in both Oodnadatta and the Alice during 1914-1916, writing of her own first-hand experiences, declared: "The Afghan is a generous, thrifty, sober person."
Each morning the routine of "The Last Camel Train" follows a similar pattern. Peter Ross is inevitably first up and, once the fire is going, sits with curled-brim hat, smoking a roll-his-own cigarette.
An hour later, as the dawn comes, everyone else falls to his or her tasks, whether pre-determined or seen as helpful to do. So cooperative has everyone been that the journey from Eringa Waterhole to Finke and beyond has been remarkably uneventful.
Eric Sultan, true-blue Aussie, has supported the Last Camel Train from the moment that Alex Sherrin first suggested it. Out of respect for the generations of Afghans, their religion and the Alice Springs Imam's support and blessing, he had firmly insisted on only one thing at the start Ð that no bacon be carried and cooked during the journey.
And in their respect for Eric, all other expeditioners had instantly been supportive.
Eric is quietly proud of his Afghan, European and Aboriginal background. He traces his descent from Sultan Mohammed of Kandahar, who arrived in South Australia in the late 1860s.
After initially working for Sir Thomas Elder at Beltana, he imported his own stud camels for breeding at Marree. There he developed a prosperous carrying business, employing many other Afghans. He sold his highly prized camels to other Afghans wherever their large camps were formed, and also later to European cameleers. And, being a great trader, he was the first to send a large team of camels, carrying stores and equipment, across the Nullarbor in the care of Alfred Heath (a young surveyor), a station-hand mate and six Afghans as soon as word came of the Western Australian gold-strikes of the early 1890s.
Eric's father was Abdul Meerdad Sultan, who grew up in Marree and Port Augusta.
Station people at Oodnadatta, then from Hamilton station and elsewhere along the route, have at times dropped by from their homesteads to welcome the travellers. All station people along the route have given their support, even if unable to visit because of mustering or other station work.
Many tourists have also stopped and requested photographs. For the price of a donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service they have universally been given the OK.
Some have handed over post-cards to be delivered along with all of the other special mail, the envelopes for which are illustrated by artist-historian Judy Robinson, whose grandparents Nicker travelled the route close to a century ago.
Alex Sherrin, who thought of "The Last Camel Train" as a celebratory event, has driven down to the camp with son Sam in a Peter Kittle vehicle this last week. Peter has generously supported the venture from the outset, and Alex delivers the requested sugar and pink toilet paper.
Scotty Balfour can't believe the amount of each which is being used, and states that, "For a mob of cameleers, they eat like horses!"
He wonders if pink toilet paper will somehow put the brakes on use that white toilet paper certainly hasn't. It sounds a bit like an idea from a true Scot.
Scotty also comments that so cooperative has everyone been that he hasn't had to make any hard decisions as leader. And while he does so, Dave Evans calls to him: "Come over here, Alex the Camel, and have some breakfast."


The standard of football at Traeger Park on Sunday stepped up a notch as the business end of the season approaches.
In the curtain-raiser Federals put in a spirited performance against South in a match which didn't reach any dizzy heights in terms of skill, but held a level of entertainment value. South ran out winners 22.17 (149) to Federal 9.2 (56), in a game where for the first time since June 2, Federal scored goals in each of the quarters.
The late game, played between the top teams West and Pioneer saw the Bloods prevail by a solitary point, West being 16.10 (106) to Pioneer 16.9 9 105) at the final siren. In footy terms it was one of those matches that people gladly part with their hard-earned to watch, as both sides went hammer and tong for 100 minutes.
The first quarter between the Roos and Demons proved to be an upset in itself as Federal took advantage of South's poor kicking to lead at the change, 3.1 to 2.6. For the young and persistent Demons side it was a fitting reward for 18 blokes who gave their final game for the year a good shake.In the second term the Roos were able to score 6.5 to 2.0 by virtue of some telling play away from the centre bounces by the likes of Lloyd Stockman, with Herman Sampson a danger in the forward area.
South then sealed the game in the third term by kicking 8.3 to a single goal by the Demons. Darren Talbot proved his worth by transferring play from defence into attack and Harry McCormack came into his own. Others to inspire were the ever-reliable Trevor Presley and Shane Hayes.At three-quarter time Federal coach Michael Graham set his chargers a sensible target of four goals upon which to complete their season. Captain Darryl Ryder rose to the occasion and led his side towards the target, and in a term where they had plenty of chances the Demons fell short in only scoring three goals, but could hold their heads up when they left the ground. At the other end of the field South peppered the scoring area and notched up a further 6.3 by the final siren.
It was heartening to see the teams shake hands at the end of play, even though the Roos went to the changerooms 93-point winners. Souths had a real winner in the forward line in Herman Sampson who scored eight goals for the match. Trevor Presley booted three goals and Talbot, Hayes. Alvin Briscoe and Kevin Williams each scored two goals. Major goal scorers for Federal with two goals a piece were Shane Buzzacott, Desmond Jack, and captain Ryder.
In terms of best players Harry McCormack earned the best afield vote, from Stockman and Sampson. In the Federal side Lindsay Katakaringa again played well and stalwarts Buzzacott and Ryder didn't let the side down.From here South have the arduous task of preparing for the finals. This week they again lacked the key players who can make or break the Roos' performance. With Willy Tilmouth, Adrian McAdam and say Willy Cole, the South side could be venomous.
For Federal it is now curtains for a season they would rather forget, with Dave Gloede having to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility on the sidelines and a handful of true believers doing their level best on the field.The late game started in the manner footy followers dream of. Both West and Pioneer realised the importance of the clash and went full bore from the first bounce. It was tough, hard, and sustained football illustrating the high standard that the game can be played at in the Centre.
Jarrad Berrington opened the account for West, with the dynamic Jarrod Slater across half forward, soon joining in the celebration with a second goal. Steven Squires in the full forward position goaled and a single for the quarter also went the way of Adam Taylor before Slater capped of the term with two more majors.
At the Pioneer end however it was far from quiet as the Eagles registered three goals for the session thanks to Stanley McCormack, Trevor Dhu and Wayne McCormack.
Alas, the pace, intensity and standard of the first term was such that the umpires seemed to be caught unawares as the yellow, and then red card, were produced when alternative strategies could have made for a better game. In fact the showing of eight yellow and three red cards in the match probably spoke for itself, in what was a really top game!
Come the second term Pioneer gained the upper hand early and ran the ball through from Aaron Kopp to Trevor Dhu with precision to see 6.2 posted to Westies' 2.3. Dhu scored three for the quarter, and the Eagles were running hot.
After leading by eight points at the big break, the third quarter became the steadier for the Eagles as they defended well to hold West to 5.5 for the term and registered 4.2 themselves. Lance White led the back line with a disciplined performance and Rory Liddle improved yet again with a sterling exhibition in the ruck.
At the other end, Wests' Henry Labastida ran straight through with the ball many a time and both Shaun Cantwell and Josh Flattum came into their own.
Wests held sway by a solitary point at three quarter time, and somehow they were able to hold that lead to the final bell. The Eagles received a big lift early in the term from Nathan Pepperill and Joel Campbell, and the experience of Laughlan Ross became a telling factor.
Then just as it looked as though the Eagles would snatch victory, the old team of Jarrod Berrington and then Karl Gunderson came into the picture. Their goals in the final minutes were telling and hence Wests prevailed on the day.
For each of the sides however nothing was lost out of the encounter. There were as many tricks held up the sleeve as you would find at any Black Jack table, and come the finals the Eagles and the Bloods will be at full throttle. Pioneer's Trevor Dhu ended the day with eight goals and he had the ever-resourceful Aaron Kopp, Locky Ross and Stanley McCormack in front of him to deliver.For Wests Michael Gurney was a trump card; Slater proved his weight in gold; and the likes of Flattum, Labastida and Cantwell proved invaluable.In the last of the minor round this week South and Pioneer do battle, while late in the day West will meet Rovers.

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