September 18, 2002.


Top international incentive travel buyers say Central Australia has lots to offer but needs much better promotion.
"If you rely on the Australian Tourist Commission alone, the American market particularly is not going to think beyond that Sydney experience, maybe Cairns on the outside," says Jim Adams, of Performance Strategies in Indianapolis, Indiana.
"I'd strategically place people in foreign markets who would work for me and my locale."
Says Alan Rogers, of the UK based Red Carpet Group: "Central Australia is very rarely promoted in the UK, and I think that's something you need to be aware of."
He says the focus is on Australia's main cities "and Central Australia really doesn't get a look-in."
HIGH YIELDPromotion usually targets the mass tourism market, but the incentive business is a "very high yield market.
"You can reap some very good benefits within a very short time," says Mr Rogers.
Both men were among 125 incentive travel buyers from 20 countries, in town this week for Dreamtime, held annually around Australia, the nation's premier trade show for the industry.
Last year it generated more than $40m in bookings within six months.
It was the first Dreamtime held in a regional centre and in Central Australia.
A highlight was a mock Henley on Todd at Simpson's Gap.
It was staged by the local Rotary Clubs in trying conditions Ð temperatures in the mid-thirties and a howling wind.
Nevertheless Mr Adams clearly enjoyed every bit of it: "I like the experience of the vast, vast difference between here and Sydney or Melbourne or other places people have been.
"The desert experience is something people won't get until they get up this far.
"It's a big part of what your country is about.
"In the incentive market as a post tour, like to Sydney, that would give them two different feels of Australia.
"They have the cosmopolitan Sydney feel, and then they have here."
Mr Adams says he'd arrange dry river boat races for his clients, and "some kind of cattle ranch deal, some kind of barbecue, you know.
"A lot of this looks like Palm Springs did in the US in the 1940s.
"We'd kind of sell it as a kind of Retro Springs, you know, let's go back and enjoy the good life."
It would be a "four night deal, maybe a three night deal, as a post extension."
He estimates out of a group of 200, 25 to 30 would tack on a trip to Central Australia.
Each person would spend $2200: "The hotels get half and the shopkeepers get half.
"They're not going to come up here and not spend money.
"I wouldn't bring them here at the start of a trip to Australia.
"It's just brutal getting off the plane from the US and having to get back on a plane two and a half hours later.
"It would be just suicidal as an event planner.
"They are very tired, a little bit jetlagged.
"I didn't sleep much last night.
"But that's the only down side.
"The 15 hour flight over the ocean is a long haul for most Americans.
"It's the farthest they're ever going to travel in their lives."
Mr Adams described The Centre as "the real outback".
"It's not the outback 25 miles from Sydney.
"I like not just desert but the vast, vast openness that we don't have in the States with the exception of maybe two states that people never go to anyway."
Mr Adams says his firm doesn't handle conventions: "We don't have any meetings.
"It's all just party, party" and the "real outback loudness" would appeal to his clientele.
He says contact with Aborigines is not readily available but essential: "I'll bring Aboriginals into Sydney.
"I'm not going to let them get down here and not let them experience an Aboriginal.
"So we'll have some kind of Aboriginal show when we're in Sydney.
"But up here you're going to get people who still live in the lifestyle, not just the performers you're bringing in, because that's what's happening down in Sydney."
Mr Adams says the stay in The Centre would be limited to three or four days because the kind of facilities available: "You've got some nice resorts up here but don't have a killer resort.
KILLER RESORT"You've got to have a killer resort that can get you beyond four days.
"A killer resort is some place that somebody would consider coming here just to stay in the resort and not go into your town.
"The service is so high, the pool is beyond belief, you know, the rooms are exquisite, the food's unbelievable, the massages, everything's right there."
Mr Rogers says there is a growing demand in the incentive tour business for "diverse countries with a different variety of creative activities".
The "culture and history elements" are major drawcards to Ayers Rock.
The Outback to the average Englishman is "lots of bush, kangaroos, and certainly Aborigines playing didgeridoos".
"We have yet to see a kangaroo," says Mr Rogers after two days in The Centre Ð and neither had he seen Aborigines playing didgeridoos.
It's something he'd have to make happen to satisfy his clients: "There's not many things in this world that you can't organise.
"You need the right people and the right contacts in the right places.
"It's a case of using a very good ground agent who knows the Territory, knows the people."
He says the vastness of the country is daunting for many would-be UK visitors: "There is a big perception that if you come over to Australia you need two to three weeks.
"You can do a seven day program, I believe, quite intensive, but you get a lot out of seven days in terms of experience.
"The biggest problem is to convince groups to come out for a short period of time, but maybe giving them the option to stay as a partners' program afterwards.
"They've got the flight element costed into the incentive, and they can maybe take some annual leave afterwards."
The per-person costs in Central Australia would be UK£1500 to £2000 a head for five days, plus up to £100 a day casual "spend".


After just five years the Desert Park has become "one of the reasons why visitors would want to come to Alice Springs", but it is unclear if it has been able to make them stay longer, as was its original aim.
According to Craig Catchlove, general manger of CATIA (Central Australian Tourism Industry Association), the park is "getting a very good reputation as a lead-in introduction to the region.
"That's the feedback we're getting from travel agents and distribution networks."But the original intention was for it to add an extra day to people's stay, and that hasn't come about."
That's a worry considering the park gets $4.3m from the NT Budget while, for example, the region's parks and reserves, with the capacity of keeping visitors in the region for extra days or even weeks, this year got just $1.4m.
That was for repairs and maintenance, including stage two of the Ghost Gum Walk upgrade at Ormiston Gorge, converting water supply to solar power and upgrading fuel storage facilities, stock fencing and interpretive signage.
Says Mr Catchlove: "The Desert Park is a tremendous facility and we all want everybody to visit it, but there's work needed to get that Ômust see' factor."Alice Springs' total visitation is about 330,000 to 340,000, but only about 100,000 a year go there."
In fact, in the last financial year, following September 11 and, more particularly, the Ansett collapse, the park's visitation dropped to 86,000 (from a peak of 110,000 in 1999-2000).
The experience of other attractions has varied: the School of the Air, for example, relying heavily on the international market, has dropped 17-18 per cent in most months, expecting an annual total of around 45,000 this year, compared to their annual average of 53,000.
The Old Telegraph Station, with a greater domestic market especially in winter, has had a 10 per cent increase in most months.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service had 81,654 visitors last financial year, down by five per cent on the previous year's 85,900.
Like the Desert Park, they had a great year in 1999-2000, with 101,000 visitors.
Last year was expected to also be a very good year, with exceptional visitation during the first four months. Then from October, in the wake of the Ansett debacle, there was a 15 to 20 per cent reduction per month on the previous year's performance.
The losses have occurred in the group market, while the FIT (free independent travel) market has been holding its own, if not a little better.
Says Desert Park manager, Graham Phelps: "Tourism into Australia dropped by 12 per cent in July this year compared to last year."Our visitors are 10 per cent NT Ð mainly Alice Springs Ð 45 per cent domestic, 45 per cent internationals.
"I believe our visitation should be increasing on a normal growth curve, that's where we'd like to be, but where we are is ahead of everyone else in regional Australia.
"We are less hurt than the vast majority of other tourism enterprises I have talked to, like my colleagues at the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo."
One of the ways the park has achieved this is by targeting new markets, and despite fewer visitors through the gate, revenue has increased.
Perhaps the most illustrious new-style visitors were the Telstra Board, who hired the nocturnal house as the impressive setting for their annual dinner in this Year of the Outback.
Other increases in revenue have come from tour companies buying guided tours, rather than just the standard entry; exclusive bird of prey presentations for companies or groups; lectures for visiting students; cocktail functions in the nature theatre; video presentations in the exhibition centre.
Says Mr Phelps: "Working in a tough environment makes you very focussed on improving your performance and the lovely thing about that is that these new strategies will be still be there when the market improves."Mr Phelps has been with the park from day one. He's a zoological vet by training, and gained his curatorial experience at the Sydney and Melbourne zoos. He wears his conservation and tourism entrepreneur hats comfortably and interchangeably. He sees the two areas of activity as mutually beneficial.On getting high-flying executives into the park, he says: "It's not a matter of, ÔHere's a venue, we'll sell our soul and you can do anything you like in it'."We took the Telstra Board for a walk through the park and talked to them about the Central Australian environment.
"As they had dinner in the nocturnal house, there were keepers in there to talk to them about the animals.
"It was an awareness-raising opportunity Ð there were a lot of people in positions of power and influence in that group. They had a fantastic night and the talk starts flowing.
"It still fits in with our master plan, and because that kind of activity more than pays for itself, it means we don't have to reduce the services we provide to the normal public in any way."
But with respect to the broad tourist market, Mr Catchlove says a problem for the Desert Park is that it is fitted in at the end of most touring options."Most tours go straight to the Uluru, then back to Kings Canyon, the Western Macs via the Mereenie Loop and do the Desert Park last, which goes against the idea of the park being the introduction to the region.
"Unfortunately this won't change until the Mereenie Loop is sealed.
"Once that happens tour operators will be more inclined to go the other way around, build on the experience, starting with the Desert Park."
This would get visitors away from the stereotype of "a dry barren wasteland where the only things worth seeing are the large geological structures Ð Uluru, Simpson's Gap, Standley Chasm", says Mr Phelps.
"We want to present the environment in its entirety, to show how the various components relate to each other, give people a real understanding so that when they are driving though the countryside, instead of thinking, ÔThere's nothing there', they're looking and recognising life in the desert."
In theory, this should mean that visitors stay longer in The Centre "not just because they spend four hours at the Desert Park but because every day they're here is more interesting and enjoyable because of what they've learnt".
Mr Phelps is confident that this is working, on the basis of predominantly positive comments in the park's visitor book, and survey responses to questions about visitor satisfaction: in 2000, 91 per cent expressed satisfaction; 96 per cent said they would recommend the park to others.
However, says Mr Phelps, "it is much harder to measure the effect outside of the gate".
"We do know from looking at NTTC surveys that people who come to the Desert Park spend longer in Central Australia.
"We don't know whether that's cause or effect."
Given the declared purpose of the park as being to create a major tourism icon in order to extend visitor stays, it's surprising there has been no enquiry as why it is failing to do so.
Says Mr Phelps: "At this stage we haven't funded the research to measure that, but it's certainly in our plans to look at that quantitative data."
While the park's government funding this year amounted to $4.32m, its own revenue was about $1m. But, says Mr Phelps, the park's contribution to the local economy is worth $8m to $10m a year.
"We know how many visitors we get and that the average stay at the park is four hours. We know the average daily spend of those people and so we're contributing half a day of tourism of 90,000 people a year and you can do the sums."
But if the visitors hadn't spent their four hours at the park, would they have spent them elsewhere?"Whether that's four extra hours or four substitution hours, we don't know.
"Anecdotally, the other major tourism facilities in town Ð The Flying Doctor, School of the Air, the Telegraph Station Ð none of them has had a downturn as a result of the Desert Park being here.
"So at least some of that market has to be incremental, rather than substitution.
"It's a critical question in terms of whether government is getting a good return on its investment."
If you're simply weighing up the park's income versus government expenditure, the return doesn't look that good, but the park is more than just a commercial enterprise.
Mr Phelps: "The Northern Territory Government buys a bunch of services from us, things like running a botanic gardens, that if you were just a commercial tourism operator you wouldn't do.
"Our landscape displays are effectively the Alice Springs botanic gardens, they are managed like any high quality international botanic gardens.
"That means there's a huge amount of science and work behind the scenes to keep them going."
That activity was allocated $950,000 out of the $4.32m total in the last budget.
$340,000 went to the endangered species' breeding program.
$450,000 funded the park's contribution to environmental education. This subsidises school children's visits to the park and employs a curriculum support project officer.
However, the lion's share, $2.7m, was allocated for the park's contribution to local tourism.
The question begs why so much effort is directed to the park's compressed view of the region, rather than a greater effort being put into the bigger parks.
Mr Phelps says the kind of detailed interpretation offered at the park simply cannot be done over a broad expanse of land, but it does constantly point people to where they can see the real thing "in the wild".
"That allocation of $2.7m means that we are not allowed to just focus on giving visitors a good time at the Desert Park."We've got to make a significant contribution to them having a better time throughout the whole of their visit to Central Australia, so staying longer, telling other people about it, coming back and having a greater awareness and greater conservation concern for the desert environment."
NEXT: Science at The Desert Park: what has it achieved?

Forgettable culture. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

In Alice Springs, you hear a lot about culture. Early in my time here, I had the chance to attend a cross-cultural course. I would recommend it to any newcomer to town.
The John Pilger documentary was a bit dated but the visit to sacred sites in town opened my tiny pinhole eyes. Everyone should have described to them Aboriginal skin names and the connection of people to country. And they should have the puppy site near Pinky's Pizza pointed out and explained, not to mention the broken caterpillar on Barrett Drive.
Going home in a haze of self-righteousness, I started to think about my own culture. How do you recognise your culture and how do you describe it to other people? What defines my culture anyway? Is it Pizza Hut, Austar, Christmas trees and a distant soccer team? Or the way that my parents insisted that we kept our elbows off the table at meals? Or my habit of saying thank you and sorry all the time?
I saw a documentary a few months ago that featured a West Indian journalist stopping Londoners in the street and asking them to describe aspects of their culture. He received no clear answer from anybody.
One woman even offered line dancing as a possible. Now I may be wrong, but I reckon that a similar outcome would result from the same exercise on the streets of our town.
Would passers-by really come up with a clear definition of Australian culture, complete with its wariness of politicians, support for the larrikin and the underdog and a "she'll be right" relaxed and friendly outlook on life? Either the question is too hard, or some of us are forgetting our own culture.
A man from Nepal once came to visit my family. It was his first time overseas. Coming from a country with a profound sense of its own culture, he was nervous about making mistakes in someone else's. And he had heard about how stuffy the British are.
As if to prey on this anxiety, he suffered an incident with the landlady at his bed and breakfast hotel on his very first day in the country.
Apparently, she objected to his habit of clearing his throat at the breakfast table. It was putting the other guests off their scrambled eggs.
Rattled by this experience and not knowing what he had done to offend, our visitor asked me for some guidance on the dos and don'ts of the local culture.
In no time, I was confidently explaining the etiquette of knives and forks, how to greet someone, what to ask for when you are looking for the toilet and what to say to children and elderly people.
Proper little expert, I was. And he was duly grateful. Then we went to Pizza Hut for a pizza.
It was half way through the second slice that I realised that my description of my culture hadn't explained anything. Surely my own cultural values couldn't be reduced to "Start from the outside when using eating utensils" and "Cover your mouth when you yawn".
Wow, what penetrating cultural insight. Pass me a pillow, I feel drowsy. But my Nepalese friend was a respectful person and he had listened intently as I expounded upon something that must have sounded to him like the cultural equivalent of a plate of chips.
This was one of many low points in my cultural history from which I have tried to make a modest recovery. These days, at least I make the effort to respect those important events in my tradition, such as birthdays and, er, more birthdays.
Also Easter, with its chocolate eggs. And I have tried to trace the origin of those values that make me believe that, for example, a tidy front yard is important and that you lose dignity if you lie on the ground in public. There may be a long way to go, but a start has been made.
Bored in a dentist's waiting room, I once read a book about heart disease. It described the way that many career-driven males have lost touch with their own traditions. All their priorities in life are defined by the workplace and the need to keep ahead of the pack. This is one of the unseen plagues of our times, it said.
The message was that these pinstriped inadequates need to rediscover and revalue their own culture as one way of staving off bad health.
So culture links to health, too. How disturbing that I struggle so hard to describe something so important. One day in the future, it would be good to imagine that a cross-cultural course might be offered for visitors wishing to find out more about non-Indigenous culture. But it would help if we could describe what it is.

Drifting from the Amazon to our own Todd River. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

Mid week David and I joined Terry and Alison, refreshed after a month's interlude in the Americas, on their balcony with Rosa, Ted and others.We talked a little about their holiday (the highlight was a trip down the Amazon) and then gravitated to common ground, local matters, the weather (a light shower of rain had given us false hope), business affairs, shares, insolvencies, who's doing what, who's missing out and things that generally make the Alice tick.
Terry said he thought that last week's column (Feeling of belonging) was a bit tame, too warm and fuzzy.
"No issues?" he asked.
Constructive criticism is good. Perhaps I'm still in holiday mode and finding nothing to fire up over.
David and I have resumed our "get fit" regime Ð working on the assumption that before we can keep fit we actually need to get fit. Walking the picturesque circuit around the Todd River, following the bicycle track, watching the last of the sun's glorious rays touch the tops of the MacDonnell Ranges, stepping over broken glass, trying not to focus on the rubbish, cardboard, plastic bags, light reflecting off dozens of strewn cans in the sandy river bed and, side-stepping little mounds of other stuff.Most days in front of the Council Chamber people gather together, sitting, stretching out on the lush green lawns, eating, drinking, socialising, then walking or staggering off, leaving their piles of rubbish behind them.Okay, it's "only" litter Ð who cares?
Last Tuesday there were a couple of disturbances in the mall, groups of people congregating under the sails, shouting, swearing and wailing. Bricks were thrown and a window was smashed.
A visitor was harassed and verbally abused by a group of young people as he left the cinemas on Wednesday evening. He and his partner were quite shaken by the confrontation ÉThis is the image of Alice Springs that many visitors still take away with them.
There's seems to be a mood of indifference out there as incidents of inappropriate behaviour, violence, harassment and foul language are ignored.
I sat in the mall with Lori, drinking coffee, watching Alice Springs street dramas unfold and talking about anything and everything as we do.
The issues are the same as they were yesterday Ð anti-social behaviour, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, vandalism, crime, health, education and other related matters are still of primary concern and Territorians, living in hope, are waiting for positive changes.It's difficult to concentrate on local issues when the prospect of war is looming on the horizon.
We have the luxury of time to consider and debate the issues Ð millions do not. History is being written on a daily basis and although it's said that, "The pen is mightier than the sword", thousands of words, written and spoken, don't seem to be having any impact at all on either side of the Atlantic.
The weekend's blustery winds have blown the cobwebs away and felled quite a few trees.
It was super to see locals and visitors mingling together at yet another well attended Sunday market.
There's such a sense of the familiar hereÉ friends, lifestyle, countryside and climate.Summer showers on Sunday afternoon and a rainbowÉ hopefully a sign that things will improve, locally and universally.


Ignore the media beat-up [not in this newspaper - ED] about storming the gates of Pine Gap on October 5-7.
Whilst such actions will give media exposure in the lounge rooms of Sydney, the Expose Pine Gap actions are primarily about promoting the release of more information into the community about what happens in Pine Gap.
This will allow Australians to make up their own minds about whether we want this American facility in Australia or not.
I wrote the following article prior to last week's Alice News article and the Advocate's front-page story last Friday.Terrorists are like the feral cats of Alice Springs. As soon as you trap one around your house, another moves in to fill its space. Such will be the outcome of America's current strategy in the "War on Terror" in which Pine Gap plays a critical role. America's policies and actions are clearly designed to keep themselves as the most powerful nation on Earth and to benefit their own short-term economy, corporations and political leaders.
The liberation of Kuwait in 1991 ensured on-going oil supply for America. Current Middle East actions are for the same end. America demands international free trade yet massively subsidizes its own farmers and their unsustainable farming practices.
America has refused to sign the Kyoto Greenhouse Protocol because it may impact negatively on American corporations.
Per capita, Americans consume 20 times as many resources as most other people on the planet, much of this being imported from other countries. All of these actions are adding to unsustainable environmental, social and economic outcomes that will leave the world a poorer place for future generations. It also means America will remain a target for terrorists.As stated, Pine Gap is a critical tool for America while it maintains this philosophy. It will need more and more Pine Gaps or other spying technologies if they continue down this path. The people of Alice Springs and Australia need to ask ourselves if we should be supporting such a philosophy. How will it benefit our children in 50 years time?
Surely the world is better off developing sustainable economic and environmental systems that allow people to live in a peaceful world, provide for their families and not diminish our natural resources.
I read a great book recently called Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawkins, that suggests ways to achieve this. One suggestion is to shift high taxes from labour to materials so that companies can afford to employ more people and focus efforts on reducing raw material use through greater efficiencies. America doesn't seem to be pursuing such aims at present.So the Expose Pine Gap rally on October 5-7 in town is an opportunity for locals to ask what role Pine Gap plays and what value it adds to Australia and the world. Aside from gathering data for the War on Terror, it is known to serve several other roles. One of these is the Star Wars program, where America intends to spend around $1 trillion to develop satellite-mounted lasers that can shoot down incoming nuclear missiles and hit any surface installation on Earth. Seemingly, none of the $1 trillion is earmarked for developing peace in the world or for developing hydrogen fuel systems or solar, wind, geothermal or hydro electricity systems that would allow the phasing out of fossil fuels (carbon dioxide) and nuclear power plants. If there were no nuclear power plants, there would be no uranium mines and so no new sources of plutonium for nuclear weapons.Pine Gap is also most likely used to process information from America's highly secret Echelon satellite system. This apparently gathers information on non-American governments, companies, organizations and people around the world.
Relevant data is passed back to American corporations so they can have a competitive edge when bidding for global contracts. Echelon is said to intercept three billion communications every day and seeks out key words like Pine Gap and Greenpeace. The European Parliament, unlike the Australian government, has attempted to investigate Echelon's role in this economic espionage.Pine Gap is also used to spy on non-American defense forces such as the Chinese navy, as revealed in the Australian newspaper in 2000 via leaked documents. Interestingly, American arms corporations manufacture and sell (at a profit) many of the weapons that Iraq, China and other counties use. And what about America's political leaders? George Bush is part of a Texan oil industry family and his vice-president Dick Cheney has been a major player in the American arms industry. What are the underlying philosophies that drive these men, and should the rest of the world be supporting their world-views?So on October 5-7, add your voice to those calling for the Exposure of Pine Gap Ð tell us what Pine Gap does and what it supports. Once Australians know the roles of Pine Gap, we can make an informed, mature decision on whether we wish to have it here. In a modern world, this is far better than our federal government's stance of unfettered support or our Town Council's stance of unquestioning acceptance because it brings money to our town.
The Chernobyl Town Council probably supported their nuclear power plant because it brought money to the town too. Whilst Alice Springs is unlikely to suffer physical consequences from the presence of Pine Gap, we must ask ourselves what our responsibility is to the wider world and future generations, and whether we should support America's currently unsustainable world activities.


Following an allocation from the Territory government of $350,000 for capital works Ð half up front, half as an interest subsidy Ð the Alice Springs Steiner School recently received its first ministerial visit.
Education Minister Syd Stirling described his interaction with the students and their standard of work as "terrific".
"The school has a very positive feel to it, and obviously committed staff.
"But its facilities leave a lot to be desired."The school, founded in 1996, occupies a couple of old buildings in the grounds behind the Araluen Arts Centre, as well as a freestanding classroom and office built by parents in summer school holidays three years ago, and a number of demountables.
From the outside, it's a little dusty and ramshackle, but inside is another story: in line with Steiner's emphasis on a beautiful learning environment, every classroom is painted in its own glowing colour scheme, has draped fabrics over windows and on walls that soften hard edges, and displays items collected from nature and the children's own lovely paintings.
The blackboards and the children's work books are also full of colour and care.
Poems accompany a lesson on fractions and a lesson on time.
Living plants and carefully annotated specimens collected by the children themselves are part of a biology lesson.
Under a bough shelter outside a child is having a violin lesson. All the children in the upper classes play a stringed instrument.
FOCUSSEDWhen the minister and officials arrive many children are so focussed on what they are doing that they have to be told to stop working.
To the casual observer, the impression is almost ideal. The problem is that Araluen needs its facilities back and the school needs a permanent home.
Its council is confident, with support now from the government, that they can raise a loan to build, but all appropriate land is still tied up in native title negotiations.
Minister Stirling says the government has smoothed the way for the school to operate on the Araluen site until the end of next year.
Meanwhile, he will raise the matter with the Departments of Infrastructure and of Justice, who are handling native title negotiations."We need this to advance so that the school has the ability to move.
"We are there to support them, to get them through where we can, like we do other non-government schools."
School council chair and members who were present to welcome the Minister also raised with him the possibility of the school making a contribution to the current overhaul of Indigenous education.
Says council member Bill Pechey: "Steiner, from its beginning in the twenties, has always been a child-centred education focussed on story, oral stories, traditional stories, and this aligns with Aboriginal education.
"It's also very much about physicality for kids, growing into the body.
"There's a lot of movement in the classroom, a lot of dance, music, creative arts, painting. "This is all considered to be integral to education rather than just a tack on.
"Instead of narrowly focussing on the three Rs, it's saying you have to build the child in all sorts of way, in their physical and emotional development as well as their intellectual and creative development and that if kids are healthy in all of these aspects, that lays the foundation for learning"It's in our constitution that we acknowledge that we are on Aboriginal land here and that we should have something to offer back to people, especially if we are looking for land that has native title on it.
"We are saying that our philosophy may have something to offer back to people.
"That's been a line of thought through the school since day one."Council chair, Alex Hope, says the school could act as a conduit to the larger Steiner community."There are a lot of Steiner schools in Australia and around the world. We believe we could facilitate a process of exchange.
"We don't have the resources to do that ourselves but we are seeking to form a partnership with either the Education Department or with Aboriginal organisations to work on these ideas."Mr Hope says Steiner ideas are increasingly being picked up by the mainstream. There are even Steiner streams and schools in the government education systems in Victoria and New Zealand.He says some Aboriginal student teachers who have done their practical sessions at the school are now part of a discussion group of teachers who are exploring these ideas further.
Mr Stirling says, although there is no formal process, it should be possible for educators to have input into the thinking going on about Indigenous education in the Territory, being lead by the Learning Lessons Implementation Committee.
However, he thinks the Steiner community should focus primarily on securing tenure of land, building new facilities and developing a business plan to show how their school can work viably in the long term.


Road trains are the biggest problem for interstate and overseas drivers on roads in the Centre, as this unfortunate visitor recently found out É the hard way.
Give road trains "a heap of room", is Snr Constable Andrew Craig's advice.
Stay either in front or behind, don't go alongside, especially not in a roundabout.
Snr Const Craig says the two-lane Tom Brown roundabout at the Gap, where this accident happened, requires people to pay attention, but he denies it is a problem in itself.
The police do not see it as an accident trouble-spot, "no more than any other roundabout, it's just a bit larger".
There have been 45 reported accidents in the roundabout since 1994."Most people do have a bit of difficulty in negotiating which lane to be in," admits Snr Const Craig.
But it's not that hard: if you're going straight ahead or turning left, use the outside lane.
If you're going more than half way round, indicate right, use the inside lane and indicate left prior to the exit.

Rodney Gooch: Devoted to bush art. OBITUARY.

Rodney Gooch, who died recently, made a huge contribution to the artists, singers and musicians of Central Australia, say friends and family who contributed this obituary:-
Rodney was born in Adelaide in 1949, one of six siblings.
He left home at 17 and lived for a time in Sydney where he first performed as a drag queen, travelled overseas and lived on Norfolk Island before settling in Alice Springs.
His first job here was on a camel farm, and his 4500km solo trek from Alice Springs to Byron Bay gave him the title of the original "Queen of the Desert".Rodney is best known for his work with Aboriginal artists and musicians.He originally joined CAAMA for a six-week period and began what became his life's work.He started by encouraging young people from the Gap Youth Centre to become involved in creating artwork for cassette covers for CAAMA Music, and he helped establish the CAAMA Shop.
His flamboyance, creativity and energy enthused many others to contribute to the Shop. It grew quickly under his management, providing employment for Aboriginal people and becoming a great drop-in centre and mixing pot for all, both black and white, to talk about art, music and new ideas.
In 1987, Rodney was asked to take over the management of the Utopia Women's Batik Group. The women took a shine to Rodney and he to them. Batik had been introduced at Utopia a few years earlier but it wasn't long before Rodney, through CAAMA Shop, was providing art materials to the whole community.
A trip to the United States in 1988 with Chris Hodges and the late C. Possum led to a survey of the Utopia artists to see if they would like to try acrylic painting, as US museums and galleries dismissed the batik work as "craft".This survey became known as "A Summer Project", the works later acquired by the Robert Holmes a Court Collection.Rodney provided the first canvases and paints to Utopia artists. He also encouraged people to paint on car doors, and provided wood carving materials, which led to the production of the now famous Utopia wood figures.
His flamboyance and enthusiasm was infective and it showed in the freedom and colour that was displayed in the Utopia works.
Artists such as Emily Kngwarre, Lindsay Bird, Ada Bird and Gloria Petyarre all commenced painting with Rodney's support.
In 1998 Rodney donated his personal art collection to a regional gallery in South Australia. His final collection was donated to the Flinders University Art Collection, a gift he organised while he was in hospital.Rodney was also important in the development of CAAMA Music.When CAAMA needed a place to record artists, but had no money, Rodney set about building a mud-brick recording studio at Little Sisters, with the help of many others. This became the place where many Aboriginal singers and bands laid down tracks for CAAMA Music.
The artwork, marketing and promotion was done under Rodney's management and it was a huge success.
Rodney loved and admired Freda Glynn and Philip Batty, who were running CAAMA during Rodney's time there, and between them they made a great contribution to the media culture of Central Australia. As Rodney's brother Bob Gooch said at his funeral, Rodney's life gives us "a message and example to think about."Despite the recent decades being known as the era of greed, Rodney was the opposite.
"He leaves us all with an example of a happy life, lived to the full, enjoying the simple things, the people, his family, the community."


An unusually windy day in the Alice threw the football at Traeger Park into a level of turmoil on Sunday when the preliminary final was contested to see who would be the challengers to Pioneer in the grand final.
West, the minor premiers were in a do or die situation in their encounter with South and revealed the pressure they were under in the first 10 minutes.
Both teams went hammer and tongs, with South able to register two behinds. At the midpoint of the term Curtis Haines took a telling mark and while only scoring a behind got the Blood machine mobile.
Goals were in turn sourced from the ever reliable Andrew Crispe, Rory Hood and Jarrad Slater.
Wests rested at quarter time holding an 18 point lead, 3.3 to 0.3.vJust as West had been fired up by Haines, Darren Talbot did what he has done well for over a decade, and brought South into the game early in the second term. Bradley Dodd opened the account for the Roos, and using the wind effectively they added a further four goals for the term thanks to Wayne Braun, Shane Hayes (after taking an absolute screamer in the goal square), Malcolm Ross and Dodd again.
The five goal Roo surge was matched by four goals from West with the real honours going to Haines who took control across half forward and booted two memorable goals. Steven Squires and Jamie O'Keefe were responsible for the other majors. Down field however Westies were affected when Jarrad Berrington received a telling tackle that left him below his usual best for the rest of the game.
At the big break, West held a seven point advantage, 7.4 to 5.9. The wind however was a real influence and coach Teasdale emphasised the need for his players to kick long and down the middle.
This tactic proved effective in the third term when West were able to add 5.3 to South's 1.1 into the breeze. Again it was Haines who got the Bloods flowing with a goal. Michael Gurney chimed in with a major as did Rory Hood, while the run-on replacement for Karl Gunderson, Damien Timms made every post a winner with two goals.
On the negative side of the sheet late in the quarter Josh Flattum was carried off with what appeared to be an ankle injury, and the umpires needed to resort to yellow cards for players on both sides.
The tension actually built up in the last term, and further yellow cards were produced. Unlike the week before, however, West didn't choke. They ran the last quarter right out, scoring 3.4 to 2.0.
Young Charlie Maher and Patrick Ah Kitt used the wind advantage well to score for South, but in reply West countered the attack with goals to Berrington, Gurney and Crispe.As such West ran out winners 15.11 (101) to 8.10 (58).Adam Taylor played the game of a tiger on the run. He took to the hard ball all day and had West running out of scrimmages with possession. Michael Gurney again produced a fine game. His aerial ability and capacity to make space, suits him to a key role in the forwards, and for a player who has contributed in the backlines for years, his kicking is now becoming more decisive in front of goals.
Curtis Haines really claimed the important facets of the game for the Bloods and it was he who made things happen. In ruck Sean Cantwell dominated, while Henry Labastida again proved to be a pocket dynamo.In bowing out of season 2002, South had players who gave plenty. Darren Talbot again played a masterly role in setting the Roo engine alight. Malcolm Ross has a huge future in his hands, and Bradley Dodd again figured in the thick of things for the Super Roos.
And so after a season going back to April, only two sides will don the boots next Sunday. No matter where they are played, grand finals are special, and with West playing Pioneer, Centralians are in for a treat.
West had a fair dinkum wallop to their brain box in the second semi final when the Eagles came from nowhere to grab victory from the jaws of defeat. On Sunday some of the psychological battering was taken care of with West's 43 point win. In terms of injury they suffered little from the encounter, and in fact the run may have done more good than harm.
This weekend however is really the only one that matters in a calendar year. Pioneer have not had the smooth sailing that their good sides have produced over the decades. For Roy Arbon the year has been a slog. But he has his side in the grand final again.
His policy of running young legs is a sound one, and while the presence of Graeme Smith, and good games from veterans Lachlan Ross and Ian Taylor would be a bonus, the recipe for success will hinge on the sustained efforts of the young Eagles.
In the West camp the approach to CAFL success also revolves around blooding young players. Their history at Under 18 level over the past decade is the proof in the pudding, and now many of these Young Bloods are key components in the West success story.On Sunday however the factors of heritage and weather will play major parts. Pioneer have won 29 premierships. Their fathers and grand fathers paved the way for this club which is one of the most successful in the land. Each player who dons the Eagles' jumper on Sunday will have a real understanding of the responsibility he has to Pioneer Football Club in the grand final.For West the desire to win a flag is well imprinted on each player's mind, especially after the reunion of the 1982 Premiers on semi-final day. However the power of Pioneer tradition is something well beyond what a reunion can generate. Added to this the West loss, and subsequent psychological battering, in the second semi-final will not help matters.
The other telling factor could be weather. A hot day, so typical of grand finals in Alice Springs, or a dusty, windy day could also tell against the minor premiers. Pioneer teams have been known to grow an extra leg in the heat, and while West are fit, four quarters of hot running could tell on their overall performance.

LETTERS: Qantas spurns Centre - MHR.

Sir,- One year on from the Ansett collapse, I condemn the reduction of Qantas's direct flights between Alice Springs and Brisbane as the airline has failed to meet its responsibility to the Territory.Qantas are the sole operator out of Alice Springs, and they know that they can treat their commitment to the area with contempt.But it's in the interests of both Qantas and the Territory to develop a more expansive business plan for the region, and to do this in full consultation with the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association.
Qantas will reduce its tri-weekly direct service between Alice Springs and Brisbane to one weekly flight after October.
Passengers unable to take this flight will have to transit through either Sydney - adding at least two hours to their flight time plus the higher taxes imposed by Sydney Airport - or Melbourne, which would add at least another hour.
Qantas's cuts to the Alice Springs-Brisbane link follows my announcement on Monday that Qantas was halving its Darwin-Denpasar service; news which provoked a torrent of criticism against the airline by both tourism operators and passengers.
This decision means Alice Springs passengers are likely to spend more time in transit and pay more in flight taxes.
As with the Darwin-Denpasar flights, Qantas is leaning on the excuse of seasonal demand shifts.
While it's true that demand in the Territory does shift, the loads out of Alice are very high - some flights have been so well laden they've had to stop at Longreach for extra fuel.
Qantas should be developing this market and improving demand.
Unfortunately, the lack of competition in the Central Australian market means Qantas can turn flights on and off as it pleases them, leaving Territorians to walk.
I call on the Minister for Transport, John Anderson, to break his silence on the aviation crisis affecting the Territory.These cuts highlight the failure of the Federal Government to learn from the lessons in relation to the Ansett collapse.It's time for the Government to intervene, and for Mr Anderson to take an interest in his portfolio.With community and industry consultation, a regulatory framework for the aviation industry can be developed that will better meet the needs of everyone.
Warren Snowdon MHR
Alice Springs

Sir,- After reading your recent article concerning water usage as seen through the eyes of the expertise at the recent desert knowledge symposium, it seems to me that the point has been badly missed.

The whole emphasis seems to have been based on the assumption that using scarce, expensive fossilised water in an arid zone to remove human waste is an acceptable practice in an arid environment such as ours and under increasing cost conditions.
We seem to have a tunnel vision view on removing the "waste" water whereas in this environment there should be no such thing. There has been little discussion of any other waste disposal methods which do not require water, and there are many.It seems to me that there is a lack of lateral thinking on this matter.
One obvious way to go is to put a commercial value on the nutrients that are contained in the sewerage, look at ways to extract them, and focus these nutrients on the developing organic horticulture industry in the district.
Large quantities of conventional fertiliser pass through here destined for local horticultural developments, much of which could be substituted for and add an organic premium to the end product.
This way the water would be a by-product and not have to carry the total cost. This path is being followed up in other parts of the country and much research is currently being directed at removing the heavy metal component of the sludge.
Other companies are converting the sludge into fuel.The heavy metal problem appears to originate from the over use of highly refined and processed toilet paper.
Anyone who inspects their own septic tank will testify to the paper being the major component of the contents of the tank. Similarly anyone who over-nights at any of the highway rest areas must have appreciated how difficult it is for nature to decompose the refined cellulose in the paper.

The research should therefore be based on ways to bacterially decompose the cellulose in this component and release the nutrient content. Better still, redesign the toilet systems so that paper in not needed.

The Japanese have gone one step further and installed hand-basins in the top of their cisterns so that the toilets are flushed with pre-used water.

A little lateral thought leads to the fact that the same nutrients that farmers in other parts of the country or world apply in the form of fertiliser (read nutrients), and for which they pay big dollars, are the same nutrients that appear in our own food, and in human waste after we have eaten the food.

What a criminal waste to see these valuable nutrients that other people have paid big money for disappear into the aquifers, while our local farmers, at great expense, purchase new nutrients.

The current situation is completely ludicrous. The waste water with its valuable load of nutrients continues to overflow from the swamp and waste itself in the water tables in spite of the continuous rhetoric.

We despise nutrient rich water as being environmentally unfriendly, whereas the nutrient load should be the bonanza.
There can be no other community in any similar arid zone in the world that considers such a scarce and valuable commodity as "waste".
Secondly I cannot understand the reluctance on the part of the authorities to condone - even recommend - the installation of rainwater tanks.

We ran our house completely on rainwater for 6 months earlier this year, and still have enough left for emergencies.
There was a question of health risks raised, caused by the infrequency of rain here. I have yet to find any evidence that this is indeed the case.

I would love to examine such evidence. Imagine the saving should every household in the town be able to do this, and a provision for alternative waste disposal systems be incorporated into every house foundation.
The answer is in using alternative technology and refining the composting system, not only with a view to reducing water usage, but to produce a commercially viable fertiliser at the end.

Each time I have raised this I have been met with a wall of academia, which literally bogs itself down in NPK ratios and the like.

The fact is that such systems work here, and the academic arguments need to be placed behind the practical realities.I don't know if any of these points of view were put at the recent symposium. Perhaps it was just another academic talk-fest where they all patted themselves on the back for recognising a problem and returned home jolly.
These actions are well beyond the role of CAT, which should remain purely a training facility within its new structure.

The body which should be directed to facilitate these activities should be the CSIRO facility for sustainable ecosystems, which after all sits almost on top or the waste nutrient stream from the swamp/sewerage ponds.

Please note the use of the word "nutrient stream" instead of the much more common "effluent stream". The thinking needs to re start here.
Trevor Shiell
Alice Springs

Sir,- Members of the Alice Springs Pine Gap Protest Group are very pleased that at least one newspaper in town is prepared to report interviews without distortion or sensationalism.
In the last week you and the second newspaper in town published interview articles back-grounding activists who will be participating in the Pine Gap National Peace Protest during the weekend October 5 Ð7.
Three cheers for the Alice Springs News in presenting a balanced article that provided your interviewees with the opportunity to raise many of the questions and concerns of those who will be involved in the protest.A responsive and responsible media is a cornerstone of an open society Ð the sort of society championed by many peace activists.
Included are those opposed to the secrecy surrounding the Pine Gap intelligence facility.
Silvia O'Toole,
Member of the Alice Springs Pine Gap Protest Group.

Sir,- John Pettit has written to your paper regarding out intention to travel to Alice Springs and join a group protesting the presence of the American spy base at Pine Gap.I find it quite amusing that most Australians have absolutely no idea of the purpose of Pine Gap, despite the fact that it is the United States' most important base in the Pacific, and a definite nuclear target in any war between the US and another nuclear power.Pine Gap plays an important role in providing targeting information for the US military by receiving and transmitting information from surveillance satellites.
The bombing of Iraq killed perhaps 200,000 people in a few weeks. The bombing also destroyed or damaged every water and sewerage treatment plant in Iraq.
A Harvard medical team visited Iraq a few months later and reported that 55,000 children had died from the resultant spread of typhoid, cholera and gastroenteritis.
Pine Gap was probably integral to this inhuman act of biological warfare. It is estimated 500,000 more Iraqi children have died because of the blockade since then.John Howard was proud to point out that Pine Gap would play an important role in the bombing of Afghanistan. This "precision" bombing campaign killed many more innocent civilians than the number who died in the US on September 11.
But, to John Howard and George Bush, killing people in possible the poorest country on earth is merely Ôcollateral damage', while killing US citizens is "terrorism".Now Pine Gap is about to be used again in an even bigger slaughter in Iraq. This time the US is threatening to use nuclear weapons (new nuclear "bunker busters").
How will Australians feel about being used to drop nuclear bombs to "save the world from weapons of mass destruction"? Will we still keep out heads in the sand?The truth is that there is no war against terrorism, only the same wars against enemies of the US.
Any Australian serious about fighting terrorism need go no further then global terrorist's base at Pine Gap.
Please join us there.
Jim Dowling, Anne Rampa and family
Ocean View, Qld

Sir,- I hope you can print this open letter to Syd Stirling MLA, all "firies" and the potential victims in the up coming bonanza fire season.
Since April (maybe earlier) I've been asking the authorities for Ôpermits to burn' excessive grass from in, around and amongst resources and examples of natural heritage on our Temple Bar property.
The response was "No way!! Get rid of all that grass for four metres and shift all that gear and you've got a permit".
But the grass was too lush to burn of its own accord.

I wanted to Reynor-Dize it (convert the carbons) at night like we did during the massive fire season in the 70s when we were under a better fire control system and leadership (Rowel and Portlock) than we have today.
An "unbendable book" has been written since then and the authorities must stick to it.

So I treated a small patch of fantastic buffel and as the officers refused to watch this demo I invited them out to view the results. The response again was "No way and definitely no permit!".
Raynor-Diaz (the conversion of carbons) uses a small amount of intense fire, much like the laser uses a small amount of electricity.
Eventually a higher officer inspected and said "yes, OK a permit for tonight".
I didn't know it "tonight's" wind conditions would be OK.
I needed an open ended permit to burn on suitable nights for a month or at least a week. The response again was "No! - come in daily and get another permit".
I tried to approach the minister Syd Stirling. Phoning proved a dead loss so I delivered a handwritten request outlining the situation, with copies to CLP and newspapers.
A month later I phoned Syd Stirling's office, I hadn't even got an acknowledgment of his receiving the letter Ð a few days later I got that acknowledgment but nothing else.
Since then I've tried again with quite a few calls made to Alice Springs fire station. Eventually I was told "Yes, be out Monday" but after they failed to come twice, I phoned up and was again told "No way, no inspection until you clear the grass etc".
Well, it seems to me that the "unbendable-book-brigade" will have to prove that the slash and cart to the dump system falls terribly short on attainable fire safety.
Where there is no vision the people perish. So lets see who dies and hope that the "unbendable book" gets burned up as the fire roars across that mowed grass.

Will you ever learn? Not without a change of attitude that will eventually make you in authority get real!
Bert Cramer
Alice Springs


The Strehlow Conference, opening today, is designed to "de-mystify" the Strehlow Centre and its collection, says the centre's research director, Brett Galt-Smith.
"It's about opening up, not of culturally sensitive matters, but of understanding Ð how the collection is used, how it is viewed, by both Indigenous people and non-Indigenous researchers.
"It's about discussing the issues around such a collection, of intellectual rights and moral rights to cultural material and how institutions deal with those issues.
"There's always been a sense that the collection is off limits, but in fact, significant amounts of it are not off limits."Appropriate custodians can look at the material that is relevant to them.
"Researchers can access large amounts of material.
" And Aboriginal people from Central Australia use the collection frequently to study their family trees."
Mr Galt-Smith says the controversy around TGH (Ted) Strehlow Ð "hero or seller of secrets?" to quote The Weekend Australian Ð may be dispelled by some conference papers, enhanced by others.
"In the past a view of Strehlow's work and perhaps of the centre was that they were about about a pillaging of culture."The centre's view is that Aboriginal moral and intellectual property rights are vested in this collection. We acknowledge that every step of the way.

"We are about providing access and the sharing of information. I also imagine that in the future, changes to the Act governing the centre, which are already under consideration, will allow for repatriation."
The repatriation would be limited to objects. Copies of films, sound recordings and photographs will be made available, but the original material will be kept in the centre.Mr Galt-Smith says highlights of the conference include a number of Aboriginal speakers Ð Max Stuart, Doug Abbott, Frank Ansell, Mavis Malbunka; the launch of Barry Hill's literary biography of Strehlow, Broken Song; and the presence of Strehlow's three children by his first wife, Bertha Ð John, Theo and Shirley.
There will also be a free public screening tonight (Araluen, 8pm) of the documentary, Mr Strehlow's Films, in the presence of writer/director Hart Cohen, followed by a question and answer session.PICTURED above: TGH Strehlow relaxing at a bush camp when he was a patrol officer during the 1930s. Copyright Strehlow Research Centre 2002.

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