October 30, 2002.


The NT Government will pour massive funds Ð perhaps as much as $25m Ð into Territory parks, including the "jewels in the crown" of Central Australian tourism, such as Ormiston Gorge and Palm Valley.
The move will depend on a deal with traditional Aboriginal owners for continued and free access to the parks, now under threat because they were gazetted without acknowledgment of Aboriginal rights.
The NT Government has started negotiations with the land councils to transfer the parks to Aboriginal ownership but with a 99 year lease-back to the government, and joint management.
The stakes could not be higher: in the worst case scenario the 50 parks and reserves, including 11 major tourist attractions in The Centre, could become no-go areas for the public and be granted as inalienable Aboriginal land.
This process would almost certainly involve a bitter legal wrangle over many years and at an estimated cost to the two parties of up to $100m.
The government has set as key conditions, and the Central Land Council (CLC) says it has accepted, the lease-back proposal, and that there will be no entry fees nor permits. The joint management details are, of course, not yet in hand.
It is in those details where potential conflict looms, including closure of all or parts of parks for ceremonies at various times.
A powerful "carrot and stick" scenario is likely to be coming into play: the government has earned points for immediately taking the initiative in the wake of the recent Ward High Court case.
It is offering traditional owners the satisfaction of owning land containing many of their most valued sacred sites.
There would also be employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal people. Although the massive planned government investment in the parks would be made on Aboriginal land, they would be a benefit equally to locals and tourists, a major boost to the economy.
The traditional owners are very likely able to pursue land claims because they were lodged before the land rights sunset clause came into effect.
Aborigines have a powerful negotiating position because they could shut down the parks if their claims succeeded, and they would succeed if traditional affiliations could be proven, something that's not in any real doubt.
On the other hand, the land councils would have to divert tens of millions of dollars from their royalty and other incomes to fight the court battle Ð money that can be put to much better use.
Minister for Central Australia Peter Toyne, a strong proponent for a negotiated solution, says the government would not hesitate to go to court if the land councils took an "uncompromising position" during negotiations of joint management arrangements.
Dr Toyne says his government would not allow parks to "be locked away as private land".
If that is attempted, "we go to court," he says.
John Elferink, MLA for MacDonnell (CLP), in whose electorate many of the most popular parks are located, says his party Ð if in power Ð would be doing "very much the same thing as the government".
"They will hopefully negotiate. But I would be reluctant to cede ownership of the parks without knowing what other costs are involved."


A downturn in Central Australian cattle station income is predicted for next year as stock from the nation's drought stricken regions will flood onto the market, the Japan trade remains uncertain, and sales to the US are restricted by quotas.
This will end the run of high rainfall seasons coupled with excellent Australian prices, reaching an all time high of $3.63 per kilogram in September 2001, and average annual station cattle sales in Central Australia estimated at about $700,000 in 2000/01.
Economist with the NT Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development, Graham Kirby, says as mustering winds down with the onset of the hot weather, local cattle men are expected to be still making money through increased sales: southern producers are, much longer than expected, trying to ride out the drought.
But unless it breaks there will be an oversupply of cattle just as Central Australian stations resume turning off stock next autumn.South of Tennant Creek, the Territory has an estimated 360,000 head Ð around one per cent of the Australian herd.
At the peak prices, cattle sales were valued at $48m in 2000/01.
With the Australian kilo price tipped by ABARE to drop to $2.37 in the next 12 months this value will be reduced by about one third.
The region turns off about 100,000 head a year.
About 20,000 are sent to Asian countries "on the hoof" in the Territory's growing live export trade which can be expected to remain "pretty robust".
The Bali bombing and the strengthening of the Aussie dollar may lead to a small decrease in demand from Indonesia Ð but that is not likely to last very long, says Dr Kirby.
The remaining 80,000 head from Central Australia are sold as meat.
An estimated half are consumed in Australia and half are exported, although an exact break-up is hard to tell because at least a portion of the cattle from The Centre go overseas after fattening up in feed lots and agistment "down south".
A significant portion of cattle from The Centre is expected to go to the USA market, and some to Japan.
Dr Kirby says Australia's Japanese market has taken a hammering from the Mad Cow Disease scare, Japan's ailing economy and growing competition from US suppliers.
Also, Japan wants higher quality beef than is usually produced here, leaving the US as its major export market, buying our meat for hamburgers.
US quotas were introduced in 1995 but not triggered until December last year when imports from Australia exceeded the benchmark of 378,000 tonnes.
An excess of 20,000 tonnes went into US bond stores, counting against this year's quota.
Beef sent to the US in excess of the quota attracts a punitive tariff of 26 per cent.
Last year's excess and this year's exports meant that by mid this month, 78 per cent of the US quota had been filled.
A further 11,000 tonnes had been sold into bond under the excess tariff.
The shipments in the year starting November 1 will now be the annual US quota less the sales in excess of the quota during the two preceding years.
To stop this "year to year creep" the Federal Government is bringing in arrangements still exposed to a possible challenge from Labor and the Democrats in the Senate, says Dr Kirby.
The Howard Government's preferred model is known as "80/20".
It would allow abattoirs to sell to the US 80 per cent of their sales to the US last year plus 20 per cent of their global sales, including the US.
"It's the fairest method," says a spokesman for NT Senator Nigel Scullion (CLP).
But Labor prefers the "global" model Ð distributing the US quota across all Australian export abattoirs, irrespective of whether or not they have developed a market for themselves in the US.
MHR for Lingiari Warren Snowdon (ALP) says Agriculture Minister Warren Truss "is playing favourites at the expense of most of the Australian beef industry.
"It makes sense to reward the exporters who are improving the industry through diversifying their export reach and building relationships in new markets.
"Instead, Mr Truss has been captured by a very small part of the industry that is falling behind.
"The present system is grossly unfair Ð it rewards a handful of exporters with a windfall while the rest of the industry toughs it out in more competitive markets. The Minister should stop playing favourites and start listening to the industry and the experts who understand this issue."

Distance chintz. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

I was sitting at home the other day wondering what to do next. Should I silicone the gaps in my new gutters in case it rains sometime this century or should I construct a new length of drip irrigation in case it doesn't?
Alternatively, should I demonstrate to my offspring that there is more to life than video games? But then I would have to put the chain back on one of the kids' bikes and, crikey, is that the time already?
In the face of these unattractive options, instead I checked the mailbox. Where I come from, the mail is delivered through a letterbox in the door, falling into a neat little pile on the doormat.
This always seemed a great idea. Except for the wear-and-tear on the person delivering the post, that is, who probably has to walk five times further than he or she would otherwise. Since moving to Alice Springs, now I go and collect it from the end of the drive.
Ever since I saw those singing television adverts about "slip, slop, slap", aired after childrens' bedtime and aimed at children, I have been nervous about the sun. Always trust government information bulletins, I say. If they say that the sun is dangerous, then it must be.
So the process of collecting the mail in our house features the whole new experience of putting on sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved shirt before walking to the front gate to collect leaflets about the sale at the local hardware store. Am I imagining it, or is there always a sale at one of the hardware stores? Perhaps they should send out a leaflet to tell us when there's no sale.
Anyway, on this occasion a different leaflet was peeping out of the box. Something about bedspreads and towels. So I read it from cover to cover.
Having decided on the purple cotton fashion dye sheets, I turned to the back page to look for the address of the shop. "Nearest store: Casuarina Square", it said. I must have spent far too long in the sun, because this seemed like some kind of joke. I have been to Casuarina Square and it's nothing to write home about. Even the prospect of colourfast sheets wouldn't entice me to make the journey from Darwin. But, hey, this isn't even Darwin. To get to Darwin, you have to go 1500 kilometres and change buses. This is all too much.
Time to sit in the shade, I thought. Let's imagine a parallel experience in Europe. I would be sitting in my front room in a dreary town peering out through the dismal net curtains at the dreadful weather and wondering when the junk mail is coming. Then the letterbox rattles and I scamper to pick up the leaflets. Just imagine my delight at finding a tidy pile of advertising mailshots from companies based 1500 kilometres from my home.
Apart from watching video re-runs of best and fairest award ceremonies for obscure AFL teams, the next saddest activity that a person can do is read world atlases at bedtime. I have been there and, believe me, the only way is up.
So I have made notes of the locations of towns as far away from the Midlands of England as Casuarina is from Alice Springs. This means that my mail would include adverts for Russian knitted quilt covers in various shades of green.
Nearest store: Moscow. There would be remaindered feather pillows from Italy. Nearest store: Venice. And, best of all, printed Baltic lampshades. Nearest store: Latvia.
Forgive me, but not even a gold-plated lampshade gets me to visit the former Soviet Union. Neither do purple sheets draw me to Casuarina.Space and time attract clichŽs like (insert homely Aussie saying that I haven't learned yet, probably about dingoes or dunnies). There's the phrase about it seeming like yesterday, when in fact it was 27 years ago. And the one about spitting distance. Then there's probably the most over-used clichŽ in history; "It's a small world". How can it be a small world when it takes 22 hours to get to the beach?
I know nothing, but it could be that the marketing team behind the brochure for manchester from Casuarina would welcome some new ideas. After all, none of us down here are buying. How about renaming themselves "Distance Chintz"?

What a party! COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

It's been a busy time in the Centre: the 9th Masters Games are now over and again successful, despite some negative reports which suggested that the hosting of the World Masters' Games in Melbourne earlier this month could impact significantly on our competitor numbers.
They were only slightly down, which just shows how popular the Friendly Games really are. Many participants are proud to be able to say that they've competed every year, since the inaugural games in 1986, plying masterly strokes in favourite sports, partying with old acquaintances and enjoying the hospitality of Alice Springs.Traders are relatively happy and publicans' smiles are wider than ever. The comment that I kept hearing from participants (who prefaced it by saying that they love coming to Alice) was that they preferred the convenience of having the registration centre in a central town location.
When it was in the Alice Plaza, it was the meeting place and a hub of activity Ð everyone came in to town between events and various functions and spent time (and money) in the CBD.
The general view was that although the Convention Centre is not that remote, once people had headed over to Barrett Drive, they continued on to their respective accommodation houses, rather than going back to town.
Previously the focus was in town and people stayed in town.
The casino is a fun destination and for many interstate competitors, a novelty: visitors will gravitate to Lasseter's to enjoy the many facilities on offer at some point during their stay here.
I spent a few hours down at the tennis courts, watching David and Kingy play. They collected a bronze medal for their efforts. The atmosphere was great, and Daryl Somers, our honorary Territorian, was there for the prize giving: all winners were presented with medals, and some were also awarded kisses, others weren't É
Contrary to public opinion, marriage seems to be back in vogue.Ruth and Walter, both from Switzerland, decided after years of living together, to get married last month. Everyone knows that Beat of Keller's is Swiss, due to his interesting menu and clever display of Swiss/Indian flags, but most people probably don't realize that there are actually 80 people of Swiss origin enjoying life in Alice.Sunday morning and it's me against blank paper or, modified, it's me, slightly hung-over, and staring at the computer screen.
Yesterday, (Saturday), a young friend, Mark, son of Linton and Kerry (sister of my brother Norm's partner, Lee) exchanged marriage vows with Natalie. Everyone then adjourned to Norm and Lee's rural property for a garden reception: the setting was brilliant, the sunset stunning, the Bloodwood boys made music and interstate visitors were suitably impressed with the vista of our magnificent MacDonnells.
Natalie's parents, Coralie and Laszlo, now living in Canberra after seven years in the Centre, are Australian representatives in their chosen sport, archery. This must be one of the only activities which isn't represented amongst the 38 categories now on offer in our Masters Games.I thought that maybe Norman and Lee were going to surprise us Ð turn Saturday's occasion into a double wedding, but as Norm says, after 20 years of bliss, why spoil things?
According to Joan Armatrading's song, "The Game of Love", it's all action, more exciting than most other sports!
No medals but plenty of winners.

A legal bomb shell for NT parks. COLUMN by GLENN MARSHALL.

The announcement that 50 Northern Territory national parks may be legally invalid comes as a legal bomb-shell, but has tremendous positive potential for future joint park management by traditional owners and the Parks & Wildlife Service NT (PWSNT).

Most of the 50 parks are in Central Australia, including Simpson's Gap, Emily Gap, Gosse's Bluff and parts of the West MacDonnells. All of these parks are currently sole-managed by PWSNT, due in many ways to the previous CLP government's confrontational attitude to Aboriginal Land Councils. This has robbed the NT of the opportunity to fully embrace traditional Aboriginal knowledge in park management practices and to give high-level training, jobs and a real stake in park management to traditional owners.
How did this incredible situation happen? From 1978 to 1998, the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act only allowed the declaration of parks if there were no native title rights to the land. It is obvious now that many NT Parks have native title rights (many as yet unclarified), which almost certainly means the original declarations are invalid.
To the credit of Clare Martin's government, she has announced that they will sit down with the various Aboriginal Land Councils to negotiate a positive outcome to this uncertainty rather than fight it in the courts. This mature, rational approach will hopefully lead to a negotiated compensation package and the development of new masterplans based around joint management of parks if desired by Aboriginal people. Given recent developments in this area, compensation packages would most likely revolve around training and jobs for Aboriginal people rather than cash payouts. How will the new legal revelation affect access to national parks? The NT government is saying that they will take four fundamental positions to the negotiating table:

¥ parks must remain accessible to all people;
¥ parks will have to be leased back to the NT government if titles change (similar to the Uluru and Kakadu lease-backs by traditional owners to the Commonwealth government);
¥ there will be no change to existing tourism and mining access rights;
¥ and, there will be no fees or permits to access parks.
At the time of writing this, the early response to these conditions from the Land Councils is not public knowledge.
Regarding exploration and mining in National Parks, the Arid Lands Environment Centre would like to see the government honor its pre-election promise to exclude these activities from all NT parks as they only cover five per cent of the NT and are not compatible with mining. The government has done this for the West MacDonnell National Park following strong lobbying by the Central Land Council, ALEC and the tourist industry and can easily do it for all parks without diminishing the mining industry.
With the advent of non-traditional Aboriginal lifestyles, pastoralism, buffel grass, feral animals and road access to many places in the NT, land management has changed forever from pre-European times. This means both PWSNT and traditional owners must learn new skills to manage the biodiversity and cultural values in park reserves for future generations. This also seems relevant to the 50 per cent of land in the NT owned by Aboriginal people. Cooperative actions between Aboriginal people and government will need money and resources to make them work.

Given the immensity of opportunity that can spring from this, the Martin government would demonstrate their ongoing maturity if they adequately resourced the implementation of these multi-stakeholder masterplans, training and jobs. After all, any such costs would be far less than the potential $50m to $100m if the government were to challenge the invalidity of each park's status in the courts. For Central Australia, it may offer a great opportunity for the potential Cooperative Research Centre for Desert Knowledge to facilitate the development of a world's-best-practice management regime for arid lands.


Just as participants of the ninth "friendly" Masters games were powdering their noses for the Closing Ceremony, Alice Springs cricket hit its lowest level, and was decidedly unfriendly, at Albrecht Oval, on Saturday afternoon.
West, reigning premiers, went in to bat against Federal, a side that in recent years has tasted life in the cellar too often. The game from the outset was vital for the, to date, struggling Bloods, and also the so far unbeaten Federal, being the first of the two day encounters for the season.

West were struggling at seven wickets down for 80 odd when Federal's Jarrod Wapper beat batsman Darren Clarke comprehensively, sending the Westies pace man to the pavilion for a duck.

In style customary of cricketers in this era, a sarcastic remark emanated from the slips aimed at the batsman and in the name of "fair" sledging. What followed in a style till now unheard of in the gentleman's game, Clarke immediately launched a counter attack on Matthew Allen, belting him with a blow to the face.

Granted that in a bygone era in Perth the great Dennis Lillee taunted Javad Miandad, provoking a physical response, an action that literally shook the pillars of cricketing traditionalists. Administrators, players and supporters found it hard to come to terms with such behaviour at the highest level.
Saturday's action at Albrecht Oval however makes Lillee's antic seem mild by comparison.

As country cricketers the Alice boys have the fortune to play on one of the best ovals in the land. The Albrecht Oval has been designed for cricket, with the pickets and pavilion combining with the pitch to ooze character.

The Cricket Association itself also oozes class, providing sound administration to a competition that has been nurtured healthily for over 50 years.

RSL Works, Rovers, Federal and West have a proud tradition, with players of the standard of Rex Sellars having been valued contributors to the game.
We have also had the pleasure in the Alice of seeing the West Indies, Pakistan, England A and several Sheffield Shield sides play in the shadows of the MacDonnells.

It is also with anticipation that Centralians look forward to the first ever Test in the Territory next year.

Even off the field entrepreneurs in the style of Wayne Kraft have flown the Centralian flag high, be it at pre Test functions interstate or through Lords Taverners days at the Steakhouse.
In a nutshell when a Centralian takes to the field, he is taking on a responsibility to uphold the proud traditions of Central Australian cricket, and the over riding traditions of the game itself.
The batsman goes to the crease to play the game with his mates, in true Centralian (and cricketing) spirit, knowing full well he has to live and work with them in a small community.
Hence last Saturday's punch was simply unacceptable.

To make matters worse the game deteriorated into one where the umpire came in for severe criticism. In what is country cricket after all, the players in A Grade in the Alice should be grateful that they have people prepared to stand in 40 degree heat to do their best.

It would be great to have a Max O'Connell or Colin Egar standing behind the stumps or at square leg each week, just as it would be great to have Garfield Sobers or Adam Gilchrist contributing to the game at Albrecht. Alas neither scenario is possible, and it is up to the local players to maintain the dignity and high profile of the game, setting the standards for the on-coming juniors.

The association has a code of conduct in place, but words are of little value if the players' actions are not at all times in the interests of the game. If a player is going to sink to the level of making physical contact with an opponent, the issues that provoked the actions should also be considered.

Hence the question begs to be asked: Is there a place for sledging in Central Australian cricket played at the home of the "friendly" games?


The Master Games drew to a close on Saturday night, with two thirds of the 3,500 competitors taking home messages about the games and The Centre.
ClichŽs abound about the friendliness, the competition, and the standard of various sporting arenas set in the cradle of the majestic MacDonnell Ranges. Compliments and back-slapping became part and parcel of games banter from the march on at the Opening Ceremony to the very end.

These positive vibes are well deserved, make the games tick, and in the gloomy world of 2002, they do the community boundless good.
Other outcomes go a step further and will contribute to the nurturing of the Alice Springs and the wider community.Doctor Geoff Thompson, the sports medico of each of the nine Alice Masters, will shortly deliver a paper on his pet subject, Sports Medicine, to an international forum of colleagues in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Vital to his dissertation will be his database of over 27,000 athletes who have competed at the Alice Masters since its inception. In terms of Sports Medicine evidence on a world basis, this is, according to Thompson, a unique collection, providing statistical insights into the effects of injury on performance in the short and long term.
At the nerve centre of the games, the Convention Centre, administrators similarly enjoyed the luxury of data collected over the past 16 years to assist them in their operation of the 2002 event and the planning for the future.
The games general manager, Bob Corby, was all smiles and confident of the games' success up to a fortnight before the event, thanks to a battery of well developed strategies put in place and refined over the years.
Access to such procedural information is now a sought-after resource by not only other Masters Games organisers, but also by those NT Government staff putting together events such as the Arafura Games, Test Cricket in Darwin, and the Super Cars at Hidden Valley.
In terms of athletic performance the mass of records broken right across the board indicates the finer calibre of entrant in all categories.
The pistol shooting attracted Olympian Dave Moore where he displayed his ability by winning 10 gold medals, but was not in any way restrained in passing on his knowledge and friendly tips to fellow competitors.In the triathlon, Peter Gwynne stood out by crossing the line three minutes and 35 seconds faster than the second finisher, a team of Anne Walker, John Dermody and Ian Cameron. Gwynne has completed the infamous Hawaiian Iron man triathlon, and will be a great asset to the local Triathlon Club, and his place of employment, the YMCA, in the years to come.The appearance of the DDs in soccer, despite their mammoth thrashings of up to 14-0, also played its part in setting new directions in Alice. For years the local soccer competition has had the juniors at Blatherskite Park. In recent times the senior competition has been revived at Ross Park, and now with the establishment of a Masters group, soccer has a real chance to be galvanised at all levels for the betterment of the game.Another major injection for community benefit came from the performances of Darwin's Steven Blake and Alice's Anne Kidman.
Both athletes dominated the middle distance events in their respective categories, and sealed their success with wins in the Masters Mile, the blue ribband event of the games.
For Blake, who has won 18 City to Surf events in Darwin, the win in the Mile was his third in succession, eclipsing the performance of Alice legend John Bell.
For the petite Kidman Games Gold was the crowning glory for an athlete who started from scratch under the wing of Noel Harris seemingly just a few years ago.
Both athletes have now stamped themselves as role models in the Territory, showing that anything is possible with application.


Together with Alice-based writers, Terry Whitebeach, Ronda Ross and Michael Watts, visiting author Kim Scott responded to the forum topic, "Writing Black Perspectives" at the Alice Springs Festival's writers' event, presented by the NT Writers' Centre.
Scott is the author of Benang, which won the Miles Franklin award in 2000.
Born in Perth in 1957, Scott is of Nyungar and English descent. Benang, his second novel, interrogates the assimilation policies administered by A. O. Neville, the Protector of Aborigines in WA from 1915 to 1940.
His semi-autobiographical debut novel, True Country, charts through the character of Billy, the author's own experience of cultural dislocation, as well as of the resonance of Aboriginal traditions in the present.(See contributions by Whitebeach, Ross and Watts in last week's Alice News.) KIERAN FINNANE reports.

Scott agreed with other speakers that a "discerning audience" is needed, that artists need to take risks, "that culture grows stronger through interaction rather than in isolation", that work needs to be considered in context.
However, he also said that the discussion itself needed to be put in context: "It's stolen land, we have a history of injustice and oppression and a particular power relationship.
"We live in a contemporary climate characterised by fraud, hoax and appropriation of Indigenous cultural material."
But rather than corner himself in an adversarial political discourse, Scott preferred to dwell on what he has sought to do in his own writing practice.
After writing a sizeable first draft of True Country he found what he had written depressing "because, being a fluent writer and reasonably well-educated, I had written in the sort of stories I had been educated in, the stories of frontier and pioneers and Aboriginal people as other É and [travel writing] about going Outback amongst the Ôproper' Aboriginal people."I wasn't in control of the language or stories I was using É I was contaminated by that way of thinking.
"I managed to break that apart to my own satisfaction by using a version of spoken English, rather than relying on anything I'd written or read at that stage."
Scott sees the way forward involving a twofold process.One is "finding new ways of thinking with language, and realising how limiting for all of us our Australian stories have been".
He sees a role for non-Indigenous writers in this area: "It's a job of deconstruction É breaking things apart É making space for Indigenous voices, for other voices. I think that would be a very good way for non-Indigenous writers to work.
"Deconstruction is about exposing or looking at the psychological motivation behind stories and the way language is used."
The other process is one of "cultural regeneration", he said, and that is a job for Indigenous writers themselves and not all of that work is suitable for publication.
Aboriginal people themselves need to reclaim culture before it can be shared with, for instance, a reading public.
ARCHIVESScott's novel Benang is an act of reclamation, turning the tables on the racist record of history he found in the Western Australian archives, of which he was never "anticipated as a reader".
"I found this recurring phrase Ôthe first white man born'."It recurred in local histories where people were arguing about whose grand daddy was the first white man born in such and such a town.
"There were other writings in there from the Aborigines Department, so called, where they were talking about plans to breed out all visible signs of Aboriginality, to cut people off from their ancestors and fill them with shame É"One of the jobs then for me, one of the only ways to be ethical É was to begin a novel that starts off "I may be the first successful white man born in the family line and there's stench associated'.
"That's not to claim any cultural authority whatsoever, but if you can get out of that spot [of negative representation] then in the long run that's going to be a useful job that you've done for your own people as well as the diverse audience."

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