October 9, 2002.


Four arrests propelled national coverage of the anti Pine Gap demonstrations - much smaller than expected - to the top of many television news bulletins on Saturday night.
The arrests took place in a violent melee between protesters and NT police near the gates of the base.
Police later described paint-filled balloons as an "offensive weapon" and charged a 23-year-old woman with possessing it.
The clashes overshadowed the breadth of the protest.
Although attracting 300 people and not the predicted 500, it was largely peaceful and attended by a wide range of interests including Alice Springs community groups, Quakers from Perth, Uniting Church clergy from Adelaide, activists from throughout Australia, unionists and the national Medical Association for Prevention of War.
The association, represented by several local and interstate doctors, says it presented to Pine Gap officials a petition signed by several hundred medical professionals from across Australia.
The petition called for the United States government to relinquish their lease on the facility in the name of public health to which war is the greatest threat.
Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle (NSW) echoed the concerns of most speakers at the protest.
She said on Sunday she had just come from the debate in Federal Parliament about AustraliaÕs involvement in a possible war against Iraq.
She described the debate as "quite farcical" given that "Australia has already committed a significant involvement to an invasion of Iraq" by hosting Pine Gap.
Said Sen Nettle: "That involvement is not something that Australian parliamentarians are currently aware of.
"We have the committee that is responsible for ensuring that this facility operates in a way that fits with Australia's national interest [but the committee is] not able to access the agreement with regard to this facility."
She said members of the US Congress have "more access to understanding what goes on in this facility than Australian parliamentarians do".
Briefings on Pine Gap, and its involvement in any war on Iraq, "are only provided for the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and for the Shadow Ministry".
"This facility has been used in 1991 to provide information on targets" in the Gulf War and later in the ongoing sanctions on Iraq, "sanctions that have led to the death of around half a million Iraqi children" deprived of basic needs.
"The Greens in Parliament have continued to provide unequivocal opposition to Australian involvement in an invasion of Iraq, whether it is UN sanctioned or not.
"We need to give to the Iraqi people their dignity and their autonomy so that they can determine who should be the future leaders of their country."
Sen Nettle said this "spy base" is looking after US economic and domestic political interests in the Middle East region, China and Asia, and "quite clearly not [looking] after the interests of Australia."
Security precautions were extraordinary when compared to previous protests.
There were several hundred NT police and Australian Protective Service officers on duty, a large group of them forming a phalanx three to four deep at the gate of the facility.
Protesters were made to leave their vehicles at a roadblock 1.8 km from the gates and had to walk, on Sunday, in 33.4 degree heat, more than four degrees above average.
Media were initially told they could drive all the way to the protest site but police later reneged on that undertaking and crews had to carry their gear for nearly a kilometre.
The main protest group, from interstate, was permitted to camp on Crown Land near the turn-off of Hatt Road, which leads to the base, from the Stuart Highway.
Activities at the camp Ð for much of the time Ð resembled more a bush party than a plot to threaten world security: a band was playing, and there was lots of singing, dancing and street theatre type acts between attempts Ð largely foiled by police Ð to block "space base" traffic on the road.
The business part of the "action", however, appears to have been conducted professionally.
For example, the debrief on Saturday night was attended by about 100 people standing or sitting around a campfire, eating their dinner prepared by a canteen. The meeting was chaired by a man who gave the floor, in turn, to people raising their hands.
Speakers who had the floor were not being interrupted by others.
Several people, who had telephoned friends or relatives interstate reported that lead items on commercial TV had been the protest that afternoon, with a heavy emphasis on the violent clash with the police.
One man reported that the four people arrested had been bailed, and he gave their names.
Two female legal advisers explained the bail conditions and the charges, including failure to give a name, resisting arrest and hindering police.
One of the advisers said people giving false names should be aware that new fingerprinting procedures in the NT allowed for instant computerised matches with interstate records.
Several speakers complained that NT laws did not compel police to display name badges nor numbers on their uniforms. (Protective Service officers Ð working for a Federal organisation Ð had numbers handwritten on masking tape stuck to their blue uniforms.)
One man from WA reported that a friend had entered the base compound, carrying camping gear, and was apparently planning to stay there over night.
The activists had been subjected to hysterical coverage by the US controlled Centralian Advocate newspaper for weeks.
It reported that some demonstrators would be coming for a luxury tour Ð although they were travelling by bus and sleeping in tents.
Later the paper reported protesters would "storm" the base when a spokesman said some participants would be attempting to enter the compound.
The misreporting reached a climax when on Tuesday last week the Advocate reported: "Taxpayers will foot the bill to accommodate up to 500 interstate protesters expected at Pine Gap this weekend.
"The protesters will have a special campground and facilities erected near Pine Gap by the NT Department of Parks and Wildlife.
"It is believed the campground with toilets will be prepared near the Stuart Highway junction."
The information was entirely wrong: all facilities were being paid for by the protesters.
In Friday's edition the newspaper retracted the report, but claimed it had been given the information by a person working for Parks and Wildlife Minister Kon Vatskalis.
The Alice Springs News checked with media adviser at the time to Mr Vatskalis, Dennis Driver.
He said: "Maybe they have misconstrued something I have said."
However, the Advocate report also says: "The cost of the temporary facilities was unknown at the time of publication."
Mr Driver says the Advocate did not ask him about the costs Ð a question that would have readily cleared up any misunderstanding.
The protest organisers, who have had an office in Alice Springs for about two months, say they had not been approached by the Advocate.
The paper's misreporting triggered an outburst from MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, parts of which were picked up by at least one national news medium.
Mr Elferink said he was "astonished that the Government was building facilities for protesters".
"It is even more astounding that they are using Parks and Wildlife personnel and taxpayers' funds to do this.
"It seems that the Minister is pulling another Kon job on Territory taxpayers and letting his sympathies show.
"I was in the Todd Mall on Sunday and I met some of these people who have travelled up from other parts to take part in this protest.
"I was particularly struck by one man who was wearing a cowboy hat, a sequined top and a hot pink mini-skirt.
"Clearly this person is not the sort of person that we want to accommodate at taxpayers' cost and make them feel welcome so he may demonstrate his intellectual and moral superiority to us poor dumb folk in Alice Springs."
The man in question, it seems, was Supreme Commander Starpower (his legal name for four years), nicknamed Captain Starlight.
He was one of the four people arrested on Saturday when he questioned police about why they were apprehending the first two protesters taken into custody, and after taunting police with a "camp" act at the gates.
He was thrown to the ground and a police officer pushed his face into the dirt.
Mr Starpower says: "I asked what they [his friends] were being arrested for and they [police] couldn't tell.
"I asked what I was being charged for and they couldn't tell me.
"That's why I was arrested. I'm a highly visible performance artist.
"They pick out members of the crowd they don't like, and later on, when you're taken to the police station, that's when they make up lots of charges."
He says his charges included resisting arrest, hindering police and assaulting police.
Before being released on bail Mr Starpower says he was forced to provide a DNA sample, as were his three fellow prisoners.
He says he finds it "disturbing" that NT law provides for compulsory DNA testing for any alleged offence that, if proven, carries a maximum penalty of at six months imprisonment or more.
As it turned out, the police withdrew the assault charge, Mr Starpower pleaded guilty to the other two and was fined $400 in the Magistrate's Court on Monday.
However, his DNA samples will remain on record.
Says Mr Starpower: "I'm not a murderer, I'm not a rapist, I am a political activist.
"The only things I've ever been charged for are [political] actions.
"It concerns me that now the DNA of activists can be forcibly taken."
On a brighter note, CATIA's Craig Catchlove says he's been told at a recent seminar that the protest gained 500 bed nights for town.
"Let me say, tongue in cheek, perhaps we should be bidding for a few more controversial establishments for our region. It could become a niche tourism market."


A Tourist Commission proposal to privatize or "outsource" its wholesale operation, Territory Discoveries (TD), is strongly opposed by the tourism industry of Central Australia.
CATIA manager Craig Catchlove says a survey of all members had revealed "overwhelming support" for TD to remain as a government business organization.
TD was set up in 1999 to sell services from all Territory tourism operators.
The draft of the Northern Territory Tourism Strategic Plan 2002-2007 says TD sells "particularly product of small to medium operators not included in other domestic wholesale programs who have little or no distribution through the national retail travel agent network".
TD, the "government business division" of the NTTC, is currently offering 1500 products to some 2000 retailers around Australia from more than 180 Territory businesses.
It is feared that many of them will suffer if a private operator takes over, with maximizing profits as the focus, rather than broadening and developing the industry.
There is also apprehension in the industry that a change to the TD system Ð now starting to work after the usual establishment period of several years Ð will confuse buyers and set back progress.
Mr Catchlove says in the wake of the Kennedy Report in 1992 the commission went to outsource wholesaling.
"The move was not successful because there was no expansion of product, minimum extra marketing, and we were just one of a raft of operations promoted, including many interstate ones.
"The TD concept and process grew out of the failure of that earlier attempt at privatization."The draft released recently to the industry says: "Whether this option incorporates an incentive program, increased cooperative marketing activity, subsidy or simply allowing market forces to prevail, has yet to be determined.
"To examine the value and potential of this option, the NTG is in the process of contacting private sector wholesalers with existing domestic NT programs to seek their interest."
There is a push towards promoting the NT as a single destination Ð rather than the Top End and The Centre separately Ð something Mr Catchlove says is likely to benefit the Top End because The Centre is currently the stronger destination.
Apart from that, the 12-page document, about one year in the making, contains very little.
It makes the astonishing admission that the NT, with its tourist commission now a quarter of a century old Ð still "does not have a fully integrated marketing strategy".
"It is proposed tourism operators, RTAs and NTTC become more closely aligned in their domestic and international marketing activities."
The regional tourism associations in Alice, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin, receive around half their funding from the commission.
It is not clear whether the following paragraphs in the draft signal that the NTTC wants to tie its grants to the RTAs to specific purposes.
Mr Catchlove says he would have no problem with that.
The draft says it is "anticipated that the NTTC's relationship with the RTA will change under a destination development approach as the impact of destination selection will dictate NTTC funded operational imperatives."
"It is envisaged a portion of RTA funding would be assigned for destination development and would be allocated based on the priority destinations.
"It is believed the destination development approach would provide RTAs with more clearly defined expectations."
The report says the Northern Territory Holiday Centre, a telephone reservation centre recently returned wholly to Alice Springs, "will continue largely unchanged" if TD operations continue in government hands.
But it is proposed that the holiday centre may not provide booking facilities if the TC role were undertaken by the private sector.
Something most people would regard as a fundamental for state tourist commissions, the NTTC review draft appears to be heralding as a brand new undertaking: "It is proposed tourism operators, RTAs and NTTC become more closely aligned in their domestic and international marketing activities.
"This could be achieved by the NTTC more clearly articulating the domestic segments and international markets seen as priorities and guiding the approach to targeting these.
"It is proposed the NTTC's marketing budget for domestic and international marketing activity be allocated in accordance with size of market, measured by holiday visitor nights, as well as taking into account the cost of activity and growth potential of each market."
The draft says NSW / ACT and VIC / TAS represent 36 per cent and 26 per cent respectively of all interstate holiday / pleasure visitors.
QLD and SA closely follow with 18 per cent and 11 per cent.
"It is proposed that the NTTC's domestic marketing emphasis will continue to be focussed in the interstate markets on the eastern and southern seaboards. "Interstate visitation accounts for 33 per cent of all holiday / pleasure visitors to the NT, 47 per cent of expenditure and 48 per cent of visitor nights.
"Of all interstate holiday / pleasure visitors, 45 per cent travel to the NT by air, 44 per cent self drive, five per cent travel by coach and approximately four per cent travel by rail into Alice Springs on The Ghan.
"It is recommended that the self-drive market, including fly / drive and rail / drive continue to be a priority focus to increase domestic travel to and within the NT.
"International visitation accounts for 49 per cent of all holiday / pleasure visitors to the NT, 48 per cent of expenditure by holiday / pleasure visitors and 40 per cent of holiday / pleasure visitor nights.
"The three traditional international or Ôcore' markets of UK / Ireland / Scandinavia, North America and Germany represent 29 per cent, 13 per cent and 13 per cent respectively of all international holiday / pleasure visitors and 58 per cent collectively of all expenditure by international holiday / pleasure visitors in the NT.
"When the other European and Japan growth markets are added, they account for 87 per cent of all international holiday / pleasure visitor expenditure."


The Desert Park acts as a kind of visitors' centre for the region's conservation parks and reserves but it doesn't take away visitors' desire for the real thing.Regional parks manager, Andrew Bridges, says visitors appreciate most the sheer scale of the landscape when they're out in the wild, the distance they can drive without seeing human habitation, the openness Ð things that can't be replicated.However, they often express disappointment that they don't see a lot of wildlife, and the Desert Park gives them that opportunity.
In the wild, interpretive signs indicate areas where it is possible to see particular animals, but the chances of a sighting are pretty slim.
The best experience of Central Australia then, says Mr Bridges, is to see both the Desert Park and a number of the other parks and reserves.
The existence of the Desert Park has boosted the overall conservation resource.
For instance, research and breeding programs at the Desert Park feed into what wildlife rangers do on the ground to manage the habitats of threatened animal species.
The botany unit at the Desert Park also propagates appropriate plant species for rangers' landscape rehabilitation work.
Says Mr Bridges: "Ten to 15 years ago, if we wanted to plant River Red Gums nobody particularly worried about where the seed came from, it might have come from the Barmah Forest in Victoria or wherever.
"These days we say we need that local provenance material. We're trying to look after not just the species, but the genetic integrity of the Central Australian flora.
"It's a lot more professional this way, and a wiser use of resources."
Visitation to Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnells Park is on a par with visitation to the Desert Park, at around 90,000 to 100,000 annually, while visitation to Watarrka (Kings Canyon) has grown to over 270,000 a year.
Generally the parks have at least an 80 per cent satisfaction rate, while some of them have over 90 per cent, again on a par with the Desert Park.
Several parks and reserves provide basic visitor facilities; there's good on-site interpretation in most areas for self-guided walks; and in the cooler months, from April to October, there's a program of ranger-guided activities.
"Generally rangers on patrol are there for people to ask questions," says Mr Bridges."We get a fairly good response from the public in terms of that Ôfriendly ranger' concept.
"They see rangers and get to speak to rangers in the Territory more often than in a lot of other states Ð that's the advice we get through the surveys."Are there enough resources, human and financial, to cater for what visitors want? The primary role of parks is to look after the natural environment, says Mr Bridges.
"We do the best we can with what we've got and from a national perspective we do pretty well.
"Talking to rangers in other states, they believe they don't have the level of resourcing that we do and that's generally borne out by visitor comments."The budget allocation for staffing and operating parks in the southern region this year is around $4.2m. (The Desert Park got $4.32m.)On top of that recurrent funding is a maintenance budget that looks after infrastructure (this year, $1.42m), a minor works budget and an interpretation budget.
There are around 40 full-time rangers in the region, with 15 in the West Macs and seven at Watarrka. (There are 44 full-time staff at the Desert Park, only six of whom are in maintenance and managerial positions.)With cleaning and maintenance activities out-sourced wherever possible, rangers, who these days generally have a tertiary qualification, are more able to concentrate on land management tasks and professional visitor contact.
"While our staffing numbers haven't changed over the last few years, the amount of time that we can devote to land management tasks has gone up," says Mr Bridges.

Ecological subdivision? COLUMN by GLENN MARSHALL.

Will there soon be an ecological subdivision south of the Gap?An interesting subdivision has been proposed south of the Gap by local developer Ron Sterry.
He recently submitted a planning approval application to the Development Consent Authority for at least 260 urban sized lots on a 180-hectare parcel of freehold land that sits between the MacDonnell Range Caravan Park and the main Heavitree Range (on the other side of the range from the Convention Centre).
It is interesting for two reasons, one because it would be the first urban subdivision south of the Gap (this currently isn't allowed by the Alice Springs Land Use Structure Plan) and two because the developer is attempting to incorporate a host of ecologically sustainable development principles into it. The working title of the subdivision is "Southside Ð life on the other side", which will hopefully be replaced by a name better reflecting the local cultural and social history of the town, such as Ilparpa, Larapinta or Old Racecourse (how about a name competition?).The sneakily urban Southside is seeking approval as a rural subdivision on a technicality because the proposed small blocks (mostly around 1,200 square metres) are clustered together in the southern part of the land and are matched by hilly open space in the north of the land. Therefore the average area claimed for each block is around 4,000 square metres and hence could be classified as rural.
The developer has some merit in arguing that current rural blocks are often severely degraded by the activities of their occupants (e.g. horses) and that cluster blocks with well-managed open areas are more ecologically sustainable. It is an interesting test-case that warrants community debate and re-clarification of the Land Use Structure Plan before a fair decision can be made by the Development Consent Authority.
There seems to be time to do this, as the current Southside application has so little detail about critical aspects including stormwater management, building envelopes, water/power/wastewater infrastructure and roads that it is difficult to see how approval can be given until far more detail is provided by the developer's team.It is very encouraging that many ecological sustainability concepts are proposed for the subdivision, reflecting Ron Sterry's long-term desire to achieve this outcome for his land. It remains to be seen whether the concepts are technically or economically feasible for Southside. If they are and the subdivision is approved, then it may create a benchmark that future subdivisions must match and may instigate improvements in current housing stocks. Indeed, if Alice Springs is to become a Desert Knowledge town, then ecologically-focused subdivisions must become mandatory.Ecologically, the block is in very good condition and would ideally be part of a greater MacDonnell Range National Park. If the developer decides it is not economically feasible to develop the land, then the NT government should purchase it for the Park estate. It has several vegetation communities that are in relatively good condition, although the weeds buffel grass and rosy dock are present and need active management, as do some eroding vehicle tracks.
Ron Sterry's intention is to preserve the northern valley between the main range and the southern foothills as a nature reserve, jointly managed by a proscribed body corporate of residents and the Parks & Wildlife Commission. It is an interesting model that, if successful, would be an innovative example of private nature conservation in the NT.Stormwater management will be critical as most of the house blocks are located on significant slopes with big potential for erosion (most of the land is classified as "severe" erosion risk by government and would not be zoned for development nowadays).
From the plans, it seems stormwater will be channeled down 100 metre wide drainage corridors between three main housing clusters. The development application briefly outlines the potential to capture stormwater on these slopes and on flat ground below, but no details are given to validate its feasibility.
Apparently there is the possibility of soaking stormwater into an existing aquifer at the base of the block then pumping it out for later use in the subdivision. Whilst this is a potentially interesting idea, there is no mention of it in the development application and no evidence to suggest it is technically or economically feasible.
Certainly, Ilparpa offers a clear example of how not to manage stormwater, with its huge roadside drains that quickly speed water from the subdivision, creating substantial erosion and allowing no time for valuable water to soak into the ground.Minimizing water use and maximizing wastewater reuse will be a critical indicator of the credentials of the subdivision. Current plans are poorly explained and there is limited indication of expected water volumes required for the subdivision. How much extra burden will it place on the town's non-renewable water supply? Rainwater tanks and stormwater harvesting are mentioned as alternative water sources but little detail is provided.
In other new Australian subdivisions, clever incorporation of these features have substantially reduced the consumption of potable water. The only wastewater system mentioned in Southside's development application is connection to the town's sewerage system. This would be a terrible waste of a precious resource and would put extra pressure on the already-overflowing sewage ponds.
The developer is apparently considering systems that treat and reuse all wastewater onsite. In subdivisions elsewhere, dual reticulation piping is laid opportunistically in newly-dug service trenches, returning treated wastewater to people's gardens. This could potentially halve the potable water use per block at Southside compared to other houses in Alice Springs that currently average 550 litres per day indoors and 700 litres of potable water outdoors. If optimized, this could create an outstanding example of low water consumption in an arid zone subdivision.The developer has indicated that houses will have to meet minimum requirements for energy and water efficiency, although this is not mentioned in the application. The energy star rating scheme for houses in NSW, Victoria and the ACT provides a ready-made tool for adoption by Southside.
The NT government is yet to announce whether it will adopt new energy efficiency regulations on January 1, 2003 as proposed by the Australian Building Codes Board. Southside may be a terrific opportunity to trial a building, energy and water advisory service for new houses, funded by the NT government as part of their policy platform to improve the energy efficiency of NT houses.What sort of energy will be supplied? Again there are scant details in the DCA submission, but apparently it is planned to put all power lines underground. It would be great if each house had to install a solar hot water system and energy efficient appliances, as this would substantially reduce total energy consumption whilst not affecting the lifestyle of householders.
The use of energy efficient solar street lights and grid-connected photovoltaic panels on roofs would indicate a commitment to renewable energy and could perhaps be financially assisted by the NT government through low-interest "green loans" as is starting to happen in other states.
If the subdivision is approved in principle, the NT government should assist the developer to maximize the arid zone features that it could incorporate, as it will be a role model for Alice Springs and other inland Australian towns.

A man of few words. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Someone lent me a book the other day called Don't come the raw prawn. It's a dictionary of Australian words and phrases. I don't know who the mysterious benefactor was. They just left the book in a place where they knew I would find it. This may have been some enticement to write 500 words about what a dork might be or what is the difference between daggy and dags (don't ask).
Better not to take the bait, I reckon. So I'll spare you the amateur linguistics. But one thing is certain. There are some pretty useful words and phrases out there. And the best ones are those that we don't even notice that we use. Forget "strewth" and "fuller than a seaside dunny on Boxing Day". They always seem a bit too contrived and mock-Aussie to me. The ones I prefer are those everyday tics in the language that are economical and meaningful.
One time, I was at a conference in which the dominant language was Spanish. Most of the participants were Spanish-speaking. Whenever a non-Spanish speaker got up to present, most of the participants turned to each other and shrugged theatrically, meaning "I can't understand a single word, can you?".
Anyway, one of the main presenters kept using one of these tics of speech. It was the word "digamos", roughly translated as "like we say". This appeared in every other line that he spoke. But when I mentioned it to some of the audience during the tea break, nobody had even noticed. It was like the Spanish equivalent of "you know" or "I mean" as a break in a sentence. Most of us use these curiosities of language all the time and we don't even think about what we are saying.There are some similar examples to be found in the Australian language. Take two common questions that we hear all the time: "how yer going?" and "how'd yer go?". These are so efficient and useful that I reckon they should be translated into all the world's languages. I am serious when I say that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, should send ambassadors around the world to spread the use of these phrases.
You might wonder why. Well, I used to reply to "how yer going?" thinking that it was a genuine enquiry after the health and well-being of myself and my family. But after about 30 occasions (okay, so I'm a bit slow) of starting to provide an answer to someone who had either walked away or glazed over, I realised that "how yer going?" actually means "hello". Took me a while, but I got there in the end.
On the other hand, "how'd yer go?" is a very sincere request for information. When someone asks the question, they expect to hear about the health and well-being of your family. Or they want an equivalent and substantial reply. Like whether your team won the footy or whether you managed to find the right brand of blackhead removal tape at Amcal. The response "fine, thanks" or "they only had parcel tape" doesn't quite pass muster.
This subject fascinates me. After all, my social life isn't up to much. So I have been testing the limits of these two questions. I walked into a room of people who didn't notice that I was there. And I said "how'd yer go?" in a clear and confident way with that little hint of warmth that people always seem to introduce. Or at least they do in the Alice.
And would you believe it, someone turned around and gave me an account of a sporting event that they had been to on that day. I didn't know they had been at this match, but I learned all about it and they liked me a little more for bothering to ask. So it's a great device for getting to know people. Which is what Australians do better than most other people.
And then another time, I asked someone how they were going ("how yer going?" I said) and waited for an answer. None arrived. They looked uncomfortable. I always look uncomfortable. The conversation stuttered forward. It was as though there was a nasty smell and we were wondering where it had come from.
What these two phrases have in common is economy. Compare them with a recent report on bloodsports in England that described a pack of hounds tearing a fox limb-from-limb as an act that "compromises the fox's welfare". Why use a convoluted sentence when a nutshell will do? Why skirt the issue when you can get to the point? Why bother to find out how someone is when you can see that they are fine? Why ask a detailed question when three words will do the job and get you the right answer?
"How'd yer go" and "how yer going". Making language warm and economical again.

Dining with Tim. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

It's important to take the time to do the research Ð check the facts, dot the i's and cross the t's, especially when a particular piece could end up in print.
A week or so ago we joined Tim Fischer for dinner. We sat waiting for the guest of honour, whom the media has dubbed amongst other things, "Two Minute Tim" and "Tim the Hat".
He's also a consultant to Deloitte ÉHe's good, I have to admit.
He walked in and greeted everyone by name as he shook hands: "Good evening Bill, David, Ann, Bronte, Tania, Eugene, Sharon, Kevin, Jenny É"Somewhere between entrŽe and the main course he confided that he always likes to know whom he's meeting prior to the engagement.
He memorises the names and if he hasn't grasped them almost immediately, it's highly unlikely he'll recall them. Very clever, I thought É doing his homework.
There was a lot of discussion around the table. Topics ranged from global happenings to local news, Pine Gap protests, the forthcoming Masters' Games and the railway line.
Tim Fischer also has the title of Special Envoy for the Adelaide Ð Darwin Railway. It's part of his brief to lift community awareness and to promote the project Ð not necessarily to those Palmerston residents who will now have gardens abutting the line, they know all about it!Tim's very positive about the Rail to Asia link and the proposed new railway, the Australian Inland Rail Expressway, a train which will run from Melbourne to Goondiwindi and through to Gladstone.
The long term prospect is for this track to go from Gladstone through to Longreach, into Mount Isa and link up, finally, with the Northern Territory's south north railway line.
This is of special interest to me because Dad worked with the New Zealand Railways for 40 plus years and is a real train buff. He and Mum have travelled around Aotearoa, and into the Alice by rail, many times. They love our wide open spaces and they're looking forward to arriving in Alice via an alternative route. Many travellers enjoy the ease and comfort of train travel and, for those who have time on their side, it's a great way to traverse our enormous country.
Tim has co-authored, with Peter Lees, a book, Tim Fischer's Outback Heroes and Communities that Count. It targets and tells the stories of some heroes in some communities including Longreach, Warburton, Wiluna, Nundle, Narromine, Port Fairy, Kalgoorlie, Merriwa, and Moree.
I was saddened to note that Alice Springs, officially the Capital of the Outback, doesn't feature in any of the chapters. Centralians are achievers and survivors Ð there are amazing stories of resilience and innovation here. Alice is becoming metropolitan, but we've managed to retain a touch of the Outback appeal and some incredible characters (to say nothing of Ted Egan's Bloody Good Drinkers!) choose to live here.Extra groundwork might have identified modern day Alice heroes worthy of mention alongside the other Outback Heroes heralded in Tim's book.
David and I know quite a few heroes Ð they're the people who, daily, make a positive difference to someone else's life.
Some actually reside around the Alice: it would take years of research and many volumes to tell their stories.


"Depression is commonly likened to a deep dark pit, a tunnel or a desert. Mine is a dead end.
"You can climb your way out of a pit, you can find your way through a tunnel, and even a desert blossoms with life in the heat of the day.
"With a dead end you reach stagnation point. You are going nowhere and there is nowhere to go anyway because it's a dead end. How do you find your way out of that?
"My life's like that too, it's coming to an end."
Sarah Chunys was 17, going on 18 when she wrote this.
She had just finished Year 12 at Centralian College, she had always done well at school and sport, but inside life seemed "really dark".
Although she had been experiencing bouts of depression for many years, she says major depression had set in following the prescription of hormonal treatment (the Pill) for polysistic ovarian syndrome.
"It was the wrong type of hormone," she says, "it stuffed my brain chemistry.
"It brought on a depressive psychosis.
"I was crying all the time. I thought I deserved to die and that people wanted me to die.
"I would wonder why other people wanted to save me because that was impossible."
Sarah continued to take that Pill for four months and during this time was admitted twice to the mental health unit in Alice Springs.
"Nobody acknowledged that it was the hormonal treatment, but I knew because I was the one going through it, I knew how it was making me feel."
During this time Sarah often hurt herself and twice she attempted to take her own life.
One year later, she is starting to feel better. Anti-depressants are helping to stabilise her, she has the support of a case-worker and her family, and she is trying to get back to a "normal" life, which includes doing some training to get a job.
"I still feel as though I'm living in the world of the mentally ill, that there's this barrier and then there are people on the other side, but that feeling isn't as strong now as it was when I was really sick."
She is determined to get depression Ð especially as it effects young people Ð talked about openly and has organised a forum for tomorrow night, which she has called "Spaces of Light".
She says she wrote a lot about light and darkness in the diaries she kept while she was hospitalised.
"Outside everything was light and perfect but internally it was really dark. As I got better, the light grew bigger and bigger. I want this forum to be positive, to let the light in."At the forum she wants to openly discuss her experiences, including her suicidal thoughts, and to read from her diaries.
"Depression in young people is often ignored.
"A lot of people used to say to me that I was depressed because of teenage problems. They would say things like, ÔBe happy!' That's so shallow.
"There's pressure not to talk about suicide because of a myth that if you talk about it, it will give someone the idea of doing it.
"When I was suicidal I felt so alone because suicide is such a taboo subject. I think the best thing is to bring it out into the open.
"Hopefully it will encourage kids who are depressed to get help."
After Sarah's talk there will be a chance to ask questions of a panel of psychologists and mental health workers, followed by a free barbecue and the chance to mingle.
The forum will take place in the Centralian College Theatrette tomorrow (Thurs), 5.15-7.15pm.


Rugby has evolved from a game played Ð be it on the field or from the sidelines Ð to an all-embracing experience.
This was the case on Saturday night when two close games were played, not necessarily at the highest standard but having all at the paddock engrossed in the action.Dingoes and Eagles took to the field in the sunset game. For the Cubs there was a distinct lack of depth with many players called in by their employer to keep the peace with the true believers south of the Gap.
In the Eagles' camp a veteran from the Misfits days, Andrew Jackson, took to the field and even so their bench was shallow.The game was not as flash as the grand final the Eagles had played out last season, but in the scrappy conditions the Eagles were able to score first, and control play until late in proceedings when the Cubs made a late rush.
The Eagles benefited from Malcolm Hill opening the equation and then Jackson, Lincoln Peckham and Dave Kerin crossing for tries. Much of the play was set up by the Strachan brothers, Peter and Steve, who worked hard in the rucks and mauls, and the fine kicking of Levi Caleso who scored three out of four kicks.For the Dingoes Brian Castine opened the account with Cameron Bronson, and Ray Walters following up. Paul Veitch was there with his kicking boot and without doubt was the Cubs' most valuable player.
In the game under lights Federal Devils took on the Kiwis.
As in the early game there was a shortage of starters. Full of enthusiasm it was the NT Development Officer Jackson who donned a Devils' jumper to make up the numbers.
Federal boss, Chris Irons, also donned the boots and took to the field.
On field Federal were able to take control early with the first try, leading 7-0, then 7-5 and finally 14-5.
Jimmy Niland starred for the Devils with two tries and three successful kicks by way of two conversions and a penalty. Daniel Presley also crossed the line. For the rebuilding Kiwis, Matt Wilson carried plenty on his shoulders and kept the Warriors competitive.


Federal took all before them in their one day cricket encounter against reigning premiers West to take early points at Albrecht Oval on Sunday.
And in the Saturday game RSL Works, who have retained most of their team from last year's final, were able to account for a Rovers outfit who have come back from the brink to field a competitive side.In the RSL game against Rovers, the Razzle were invited to bat and scored six for 187, a seemingly fair target on a wicket that was playing well.
Stalwart Graham Schmidt with young Tom Scollay set the Works on the path with 54 and 32 respectively.
In the Rovers' camp the veteran Glen Holberton showed his experience by snaring two for 36. Recruit Adrian McAdam, better known for his prowess in delivering a fast ball, preferred to test his arm with spin, and was capable of bewildering his opposition and finishing with two for 37.In the chase, Rovers made every post a winner to be at five for 139 early but in the late afternoon the spin attack of RSL took control.
The Blues tumbled to be bowled out for 175 late in the thirty-sixth over.The Federal skipper Allan Rowe couldn't believe what he was hearing when Jeremy Bigg invited Federal to bat.
Federal did well to compile 201 for the loss of nine wickets.
Young Ryan Thomson took the initiative early by taking the three top order wickets, and consolidated his claim for a position at the NTIS next year.Jarrod Wapper with 25 was then able to re-establish the state of play when he and former opener Matt Allan made 25 and 61 respectively.
Allen in particular proved his standing as a developing batsman with a fine range of shots.
It was Bigg's guile that put Westies back in with a chance when he snared both wickets caught and bowled and as a result of having Curtis Marriott found LBW, entered the thirty-ninth over on a hat trick.
With 201 on the board in blustery conditions, West were set a real chase.
The openers fell without setting up the innings thanks to the strike power of Shane Deans, and after a sparkling 32 from Brian Manning the pressure was on the West skipper Bigg to make an impression.
Unfortunately he snicked one through to the keeper off a Jamie Buchultz delivery when on 19.
This opened the gate for Federal and the ever-reliable Wapper took the ball. In no time Wapper had wickets and was sitting on a hat trick himself.
A top run out by Brendan Martin dismissed Shane Vaughan in the lower order and the game swung firmly into the Feds' favour.
In the thirty-sixth over the premiers were bowled out for 163.One day cricket continues on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend with Rovers facing the Federal side and RSL scheduled to play West. In the West camp Ken Vowles is due to put on the pads and so give extra venom to their top order and spin attack.

LETTER: Time for CAFL to grasp grog nettle.

Sir,- I refer to a report in your paper (Sept 25) that said, among other things, it was decision time for the Central Australia Football League.
The article put the case that the CAFL has some serious problems to address over the summer months, the main emphasis being on the survival of the Sunday Town Competition. For me, the overriding issue to consider is the sale of alcohol by the CAFL.The Sunday competition is very much a struggling appendage of the splendid Communities fixture held on Saturdays. Without the Communities competition the CAFL would be an also-ran.
I have said previously in your paper that the CAFL is too readily prepared to prostitute the health and well-being of people, as well as that of the sport, by selling alcohol on game days.
The CAFL claim they require the revenue from grog in order to run their organisationThe CAFL has a wonderful opportunity to establish a viable alternative to raising funds. Upon successful submission, funds are available through the Canberra based Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation Ltd (email address:
One of the foundationÕs opening statements is, "The Foundation will particularly focus on support for projects which assist vulnerable population groups such as Indigenous Australians and Youth".
Under these guidelines there is absolutely no excuse for the CAFL in not seeking funding through this channel.
It is my understanding that the local Drug & Alcohol Services Association have, in recent times, received around $1m from AE&RF Ltd. to assist with their programs. I believe the figure required by the CAFL to compensate for the loss of grog sales would be about $130,000.
I attend the Communities football each Saturday and thoroughly enjoy it.
The downside is the social dysfunction I witness amongst the spectators because of alcohol consumption. Many women I know from different communities that I talk to there wish there were no grog sales.
The Saturday competition has significant tourist potential. I cite the Tiwi Islands Grand Final Day on Bathhurst Island. It now has a cult following (no grog sales until half-time) that attracts many people, apart from a multitude of politicians, from various parts of Australia.
It also receives national television coverage (delayed by a week) on the ABC. This year the Communities Grand Final notched a gig on National ABC television news.The exciting Lightning Carnival that kicks off the CAFL Communities Competition each year could easily achieve similar status as the Tiwi Grand Final.Come on CAFL. The ball is bouncing your way. Here is a great chance to grasp it and run so as to score in having a significant impact on a social problem that everyone is acutely aware of. Not only that, because you have a terrific product in the Communities Competition, with the right presentation, which means excluding grog sales, you can help substantially in producing positive gains all round for Central Australians. Time on.
Graham Buckley
Alice Springs

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