May 14, 2003.


To keep on with laws and policing that are not working for the most vulnerable members of society - children, old people, women - "is to have blood on your hands".
Violent crime, rampant in remote areas where police presence is minimal, should be dealt with entirely under "Australian law" – without regard to Aboriginal customary law.
So says distinguished anthropologist Peter Sutton, who was in Alice Springs last week to speak to a meeting of senior police from three states and the NPY Women's Council.
Dr Sutton is the author of "Politics of Suffering", a paper about the failure of Aboriginal affairs policy since the 1970s that sparked national debate in 2001. (Its main ideas were summarised in the Alice News of February 20, 2002.)
The women’s council is lobbying for a greater police presence in the NPY (Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara) lands that straddle the borders of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia, where the three states meet.
At present there is only one police station, at Yulara, in the 1500 kilometre stretch between Marla in SA and Laverton in WA.
The women’s council claims that there is a high level of violence in the region, going unchecked by the rule of law.
Manager of the council's Domestic Violence Service, Jane Lloyd, who has also just been appointed chair of the NT Domestic and Aboriginal Family Violence Advisory Council, says one in four of the service's clients between the ages of 16 and 44 years are experiencing domestic violence, ranging from minor to extremely serious assaults.
She says the true incidence is undoubtedly much higher.
The service sees an average of 220 women a year, out of total female population of less than 3000.
From 41 to 51 per cent of clients have restraining orders or are in the process of obtaining one; one third are engaged in criminal proceedings against their assailants.
Many of those suffering abuse in adulthood have also been victims of child abuse, says Ms Lloyd.The service is aware of some current cases of child abuse.
The "patterns of abuse" suggest that it is "grossly under-reported", says Ms Lloyd.
"External intervention is what is required," says Dr Sutton."Indigenous police have a role to play, but the women from the region put the view very forcefully that to be really effective the police have to be from outside."Local police belong to families who are local, they have local obligations and vested interests.
"It makes it very hard for them to be objective, in fact, impossible in many cases, if not most cases."They are forced to take sides or withdraw in many cases.
"The other problem is that they can't necessarily talk to more than a certain proportion of the population for reasons to do with traditional laws and etiquette."
To have a chance of being effective in protecting communities and apprehending offenders, police also need to be close by, or at least closer than they are at the moment.
The WA Government has recognised this with a commitment of major funding for new remote area police stations, starting in July.
However, Ms Lloyd expressed disappointment in the lack of commitment from Territory police to a proposed tri-state police presence at Docker River. (Under the scheme police from all three states would be able to operate across the borders.)
Indeed, Ms Lloyd says Territory police signalled at last week's meeting that there would be no expansion of their activity in the region within the next three years.
Ms Lloyd says the women's council has not heard from Territory Police Minister Paul Henderson since they met with him in January to put their proposals.
However, she says southern region Commander Gary Manison has indicated that he will attend the council's up-coming general meeting at Docker River.
"The police need a lot of encouragement and they need a great deal more funding," says Dr Sutton.
He says they have suffered from a negative view of policing held by "liberals, progressives and the Left in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s".
There were then some "real grounds for concern" but there was also was a lot of "political rhetoric" which continues to be used "to attempt to excuse crimes, to attempt to avoid being detected and to attempt to cow the police into not pursuing evidence thoroughly and vigorously".Says Dr Sutton: "My view is that there is only one law about murder, rape and child abuse that applies in Australia as a country.
"These acts are illegal and have to be pursued vigorously and toughly, without any exceptions."
This applies as much to the courts as to police, and goes to the heart of the debate about customary law, currently the subject of a government-appointed inquiry in the Territory.
Dr Sutton takes "a very dim view of judges who think it is okay to send someone off to have a spear put in their leg".
"Traditional Aboriginal society right through is marked by a close association between authority and law and the exercise of violence.
"That nexus has to be broken if this situation is to turn around."
Customary violence was appropriate in a stateless society where people could only exercise self-redress."There was no external authority, there were no police, no judges, no courts, it was you and them.
"Sometimes old people would be drawn in to adjudicate, but only on some matters – matters of religion, matters of marriage.
"Those were two areas where there could be a kind of communal will above kinship politics.
"Even then executions are known to have been used in an abusive way [on occasion] by people who … claimed sacrilege or desecration.
"That is said to still go on, it is the most feared thing [in this] region.
"Particularly women and young men are terrorised by fear of execution. They won't utter certain words, won't mention certain things.
"That is traditional religion, but you can't separate out that and the spearing in the leg for misdemeanours of various sorts from a general culture of the association of power and authority with the execution of violence.
"That is the principle that has got to shift, in my view, in order for children to be protected."
Violence as a regulating principle is ancient behaviour, "quite common around the world in the ancient record".
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," says Dr Sutton, "in the sense that if you look at the English record, the English had a much greater record of the merciless execution of sometimes hundreds or thousands of wounded men in the battlefield.
"That's well established, no prisoners. We've all got pasts – we have to move on."
Dr Sutton warned participants at last week's meeting not to start with which Minister or what Indigenous organisation "to get on side".
"Forget the career politicians," he says. "To some extent their careers depend on the perpetuation of disadvantage, whether they like it or not.
"I start with the well-being of the three-year-old kid – if it is not working for him or her, it's not working.
"If it's not working for the vulnerable, then to hell with the policy, out it goes.
"If ATSIC says you have got to give money to the local community, they will work it out, my answer is, to perpetuate that is to have blood on your hands. Are you going to accept that?
"What happens if a community sues its council or ATSIC or some other body for negligence causing death?
"That might just turn things around in a more dramatic way."
Dr Sutton also sees "ghettoes of kin groups" as "always going to stand in the way of rapid progress" on these issues.
"Whenever you've got ghettoes of kin groups, you are always going to have compounded emotional problems.
"These things – rapes, killings and so on – all come out of emotions, people with emotional excess, or emotional lack of control.
"Imagine living in a township of 800 of your relatives.
"Would you like to do that? It's tough, it's very hard."
Traditionally, the most important means of controlling conflict was dispersal – "getting away from one another when things got too hot".
It was the case in hunter-gatherer societies all over the world.
That is no longer possible with people tied to resources – the permanent supply of water, the ready supply of food – as well as their kinship and country ties.
"It's perfectly reasonable for people to be wanting all the benefits of the modern state and centralisation … but the state has rights too … it's a two way street.
"The quid pro quo is that those things that are underlying hideous illegal acts, like rape and child abuse, have to be tackled head on and dealt with."


Opposition Members got a roasting from the Government, when Parliament sat in Alice Springs, for not doing their homework.
But when MLA for MacDonnell John Elferink subsequently tried to be a diligent Parliamentarian, he faced obstacles getting answers that an ordinary member of the public would not have.
Mr Elferink was told by the Office for Crime Prevention that because he is a politician, he would need to ask Justice Minister Peter Toyne for information that is readily available to members of the public.
Not surprisingly Mr Elferink is now questioning the independence of the office – touted by the Government as being entirely free from political influence.
A spokesperson for Dr Toyne, asked for an explanation last week, this week had no more to offer than the promise of an "on the record" explanation later on.
Mr Elferink was perhaps mindful of the tongue lashing Chief Minister Clare Martin gave MLA for Greatorex Richard Lim who raised issues of law and order: "If he (Dr Lim) had asked for a briefing … he would not come in here in his ignorance and say: 'What are you doing about it?', if he had asked," exclaimed Ms Martin.
"How is the Member for Greatorex representing the people of his electorate, when he does not seek answers to the problems that there are?
"He did not seek answers."
Well, Mr Elferink did seek but did not find.
He wanted an explanation of why Territory statistics for unreported crime were used in one reporting quarter, and national figures (which were lower), in the next.
Was this kind of moving goal posts the basis of Government claims that crime is dropping, Mr Elferink was trying to ask.
He is yet to receive an answer.
While elected members are being made to jump hurdles for information, the media – thankfully – are not.
Mr Elferink raised a similar issue with the Alice Springs News: Why are the crime figures for a particular quarter different from one government report to the next?
The News sought and promptly received this comprehensive reply from the senior statistician of the Office of Crime Prevention:
"It is the goal of the office to present to the public the most up to date information available for the period covered by each publication.
"Consequently for each publication we extract all recorded crime data from the operational police system.
"Each quarter's extract of data goes back to July 1999, although we only publish the latest nine quarters.
"The fact that we are using the most contemporary data at any point in timeresults in what some might perceive to be inconsistencies from one publication to the next.
"These apparent inconsistencies are a factor of the dynamic nature of policing, with new information coming to light as time progresses.
"This can legitimately result in changes to the offences that are recorded.
"For example in the September quarter publication some readers pointed out that two murders in Tennant Creek were not reported.
"But they were reported in the December publication.
"This apparent anomaly can be seen to be quite reasonable when police business practices are more fully understood.
"When the murders occurred the NT Police recorded incidents of suspicious death, so from day one the incidents were recorded by the Police, but as yet no offences were attributed to them.
"However it is not until their investigations progress that they can record the specific offences relating to the initial incident.
"It may take protracted coronial hearings and police investigations for such causes as accidental death, suicide, manslaughter or death by dangerous act to be eliminated and an offence of murder confirmed.
"Even after a rigorous and lengthy investigation it is quite possible that newinformation may come to hand that results in changes to offence classifications from one period to the next, or even establishing that an offence should be dropped."


A man who says he was "sick from the drink" but not drunk and seeking treatment was turned away from both CAAAPU and DASA because it was the weekend.
Then, against his will, he was placed in "protective custody" and spent seven hours in police cells.
The man, Peter Kerr (pictured above), readily admits that he is a chronic alcoholic: "I have been all my life."
Over the years, he has had countless hospital admissions for alcohol-related problems and has undertaken many rehabilitation programs.
At times he has been able to stay off the drink.When he spoke to the Alice News, he said he had not had a drink for a week.
He says that on Saturday, April 26 he was getting over a drinking bout, feeling very sick.
He told his wife he needed help and asked her to take him to CAAAPU (Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit) where he says he has had treatment on three separate occasions.
He says he had to talk about his predicament to an employee through the cyclone-mesh fence and was refused admittance because it was the weekend.He then asked his wife to take him to DASA (Drug and Alcohol Services Association).
He says he was told that DASA only accepts clients referred by the police or hospital.
He was angry and swore at the staff and said he would go and ask the police to bring him in. His wife then drove him to the police station.
He says the police thought his request strange but nonetheless put him in a paddy wagon and took him back around to DASA.Staff said they did not want to accept him because he had been abusive.
The police then took him back to the station, where Mr Kerr thought he would be released to go home.
Instead he says he was searched and put in the cells, despite his protests that he "had done nothing wrong". This was at about 2pm.
Mr Kerr is adamant that he was not drunk and did not need to sober up. He says he was sick and wanted treatment.
He said the police did not ask him any questions about his condition, such as what sort of problems he experiences when withdrawing from alcohol."They didn't ask, 'Are you on medication?', 'Do you suffer from alcoholic seizures?', 'Do you hallucinate?' – I have before.
"No wonder there are people dying in custody!" says Mr Kerr.
Mr Kerr says he was "awake all night as far as I know", in the company of seven other "PCs".
He says he was released at around 9pm. With just 45 cents in his pocket, he was preparing to spend the night sleeping rough, as he and his wife do not have a phone and live in a rural area, about 15 kms out of town.
Luckily, he ran into some neighbours who were able to give him a lift home.
Mr Kerr says he returned to the police station the following Wednesday to complain about his treatment.
He says he asked to speak to the officer in charge and eventually spoke to a Rob Parker.
"He apologised to me. He said there's been an obvious mistake. He said I'm going to make this a job number and he was going to get back to me."
Mr Kerr says he has also been to the ombudsman and is preparing to file an official complaint through that office.
In response to our inquiries, a police spokesperson told the News: "If Mr Kerr has gone to the ombudsman, as is his right, it is inappropriate for us to comment."
The News asked CAAAPU director Jim Farrell and DASA manager Nick Gill why their services had turned Mr Kerr away.
Mr Farrell says there are no qualified staff at CAAAPU on the weekend to assess clients for admission.
Full assessment is essential for the safety and security of all clients, he says.What happened to Mr Kerr was "unfortunate but we were following our procedure"."We would like in the future to be funded to extend our service to weekends," says Mr Farrell.
Likewise at DASA there are no staff on duty on the weekends to assess clients for their detoxification program.
Mr Gill says the three suitably qualified staff, including himself, are available on call for emergencies."But somebody deciding 'I need to detox now' is not an emergency.
"If he wants treatment, to get sober and deal with his alcohol problem, he could have done so at any time last week, or he can do so next week.
"Detox is not a medical emergency," says Mr Gill.
A personal emergency then?"There are a lot more serious personal emergencies in our community for which our government has not chosen to provide funding for services."
Mr Gill says: "If for instance you are crippled with arthritis you may have to wait for several months for a hip replacement.
"Why should alcoholics get preferential treatment?"
In an ideal world would Mr Kerr and people like him be able to get immediate help?Mr Gill: "You're actually in an area of a great deal of debate. "There is a strong weight of opinion that says detox and other forms of treatment for addiction will only work if the client is willing to demonstrate that they are actually prepared to put in the hard yards themselves."There is another school of thought that says 'strike while the iron is hot'. If the client at three o'clock in the morning says, 'I want to change my life', then yes they should be able to get treatment straight away."
Mr Gill says 24 hour admission to detoxification and rehabilitation services is not available in either Adelaide or Darwin.He also says, referring to Mr Kerr's swearing at DASA staff, "even if you are desirous of treatment for your substance misuse problem, it doesn't give you the right to go around abusing people".
Counsellor Gerard Waterford, who works in Congress' Social and Emotional Well-being program where Mr Kerr has also been a client in the past, argues for "striking while the iron is hot".He says Congress would like to see treatment services available after hours."Very few agencies operate outside of business hours, which are not always the peak periods when people are seeking help. A lot of people in a drinking cycle don't take time off," says Mr Waterford.
"Giving up drinking is a big step and often needs a lot of rehearsal."If you strike when the iron is hot, the opportunity to rehearse can often be sustained and that's an important part of harm minimisation.
"Rehearsal to give up drinking can be over decades – just like giving up smoking.
"You expect most people to fall off the wagon a few times, but the rehearsals themselves are successes. They are strong periods where people get a chance to change other things in their life that will help them sustain the change the next time."

DOCTOR FLIES HIGH IN 75TH YEAR. (Advertising Supplement)

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is celebrating 75 years of caring for the Australian community.
On 17 May 1928, a small aircraft, leased at five shillings per mile, took off on the inaugural flight of the Flying Doctor.
75 years later and the RFDS is widely recognised as the world's most unique provider of aero-medical services.
Last year the RFDS flew over 16 million kilometres across Australia and provided services to around 197,000 patients.The Alice Springs base of the RFDS was established in 1939.
Today, RFDS' Central Operations has bases in Alice Springs, Adelaide, Port Augusta and at the Ayers Rock Medical Centre. In 2002, Central Operations flew 3.5 million kilometres and assisted 45,000 people.
Around a third of all flights were undertaken through the Alice Springs base and covered diverse regions of the country including Tennant Creek, Maryvale and Utopia.
To commemorate the wonderful services provided by the RFDS, celebrations will be held throughout the year all over the nation to recognise the contribution of this great Australian icon.
All celebrations will honour past achievements of the RFDS, but more importantly will look forward to contributing to a brighter future for health care and community service across Australia.
To many people, the RFDS is an iconic institution operating in the most remote areas of Australia, servicing mining, pastoral and other rural communities.
It is indeed true that the RFDS provides a critical lifeline to rural Australia and many lives have been saved and other critical services provided over the past 75 years to facilitate the needs of communities right across the nation.
What is not so readily recognised is that the RFDS has expanded its role significantly over the years to incorporate a broader range of services and also to provide critical support to the metropolitan areas of Australia. Greater emphasis has also been placed on the development of preventative health care services.
The RFDS of today provides traditional emergency flights for victims of accidents or illness, clinic flights to isolated communities with teams of doctors, nurses and specialists, a rural women's GP service and inter-hospital transfers for patients requiring transfer to centres with a higher level of care.
RFDS Central Operations has bases in Adelaide, Alice Springs, Port Augusta and Ayers Rock Medical Centre covering South Australia, the southern part of Northern Territory and on occasions, parts of Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales – more than 2.3 million square kilometres of land.
Whilst the RFDS is supported by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, it relies heavily on fundraising activities.
The support of the corporate sector and private donations is crucial to the continuing operation of the RFDS.
Nationally the RFDS operates more than 40 aircraft from 22 bases strategically located throughout a service area of 7.15 million square kilometres, ensuring that everyone in Australia is only two hours flight time from medical help, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


Are you in favour of a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory?
I think it's important to realise what radioactive waste is all about. We live in a country that offers the wonders of nuclear medicine, X-rays and other medical solutions. We need to understand there is a by-product of nuclear waste.
If we enjoy these things, we have to have a process of disposing of that waste. We're not talking about rusting 44 gallon drums with yellow stuff running out the side of them. Australia developed Synroc, similar to marble, impervious to water and without radiation leaks. Before we have a debate about a dump in the NT we need to understand this is not an unsafe material.
Are you in favour of a dump in the NT or are you not?
I'm not saying it's out or it's in. We are producing radioactive waste in the NT, mostly in hospitals. I'll be making inquiries about the amount, and then I'll be able to answer your question.
Should the Governor General resign?
John Howard has said very clearly he's not going to dismiss him.
Where do you stand?
I don't have a view on it. The Governor General will be making up his own mind.
The outcomes of the Iraq war, on the face of it, are a mess. Saddam Hussein, whom we were trying to get rid of, made off with truckloads of dollars, or at least his family did. The people we were trying to liberate now exist in the most wretched conditions and can't wait for us to get out of the place. The weapons of mass destruction, the principal excuse for the attack, are nowhere to be seen.
One of the reasons was the weapons, but there are human rights issues.
When a very similar coalition of governments decided without a UN resolution to take punitive action against Slobodan Milosevich, because he was persecuting Moslems, the world didn't blink for a moment, because of human rights issues.
A lot of people in the former Yugoslavia would agree with the action there but that seems increasingly unlikely in Iraq.
I don't accept the premise that they don't agree. The people of Iraq are delighted that they are now free of a dictator. At the same time they are saying, we want you to go now.
You've done your job, and we don't like to have people here with arms in our country too long. We forget how short a time it's been. It hasn't yet been a month. We need to move as swiftly as we can towards self-government of Iraq, through democratic elections.
What's the time frame for us bowing out?
Australia has already made a commitment to withdrawing resources. The 75 Squadron is to be returned in a few weeks.
Most of the remaining resources will be there to help in distributing aid and assist with rebuilding of infrastructure. That's always been the main game.
What do you think when you see pictures of Iraqi kids with cholera? We have participated in an action destroying vital infrastructure and hit the very people we said we would help.
I don't think there is any regime that has been overturned by force that hasn't suffered that. This is unfortunately one of the aspects of war. As soon as you fire a gun the bullet goes somewhere.
The precision of the weapons has [kept low the number of civilian victims]. Hundreds of thousands had been predicted. I'm a father of three and an Australian. We're all appalled by any casualty.
It seems the Americans are going to make a fortune from rebuilding Iraq, paid by its oil. Clearly Australia didn't go in there for the money, but what are we going to get out of it?
Any assumptions that there is going to be a lot of money to be made I think are false. The new Iraqi government will have the largest say in rebuilding Iraq. We'll assist by ensuring there is a regime change.
I'll continue to lobby our government to ensure to maximise opportunities, particularly for Northern Territorians. The Centre for Desert Knowledge [in Alice Springs] has unique knowledge of dry, arid areas of which Iraq has vast amounts of.
What commercial contracts are in place so far, and are any of them with Australian firms?
An interim agreement has been made with an American company to run the main port. To my knowledge that's the only actual contract. One of the great ways Australia can help is to run their elections.
We have an electoral commission that is very respected around the world. Iraq is a wealthy nation and will rebuild itself very quickly and very effectively. I don't think they will necessarily rely on the rest of the world to assist with that as much as people think.
What should the Australian government do to get a slice of that?
We have a very good relationship with the United States and with a number of people in Iraq. We'll inform the wider business community of opportunities as they come up. Parliament is resuming this week and I'm absolutely sure the party room will focus on opportunities for Australia.

Have we got a place for you! COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

A friend has a magnet on her fridge that states: I'd be unstoppable if I could just get started!Last week marked the first time for ages that I've physically left the house to be somewhere, a place of business, at a specific time.
It was a bit of a shock to the system, especially after the long weekend: perfect weather for gardeners, campers, Bangtail Muster Parade-goers and horse racing enthusiasts. When it's raining elsewhere in Oz, the Centre is usually lucky enough to be blessed with clear blue skies and sunshine.Day one at the office and I decided to make the most of our glorious weather and spend my time out, walking around the town, talking to people and handing out my new business cards. It's reassuring to know that the real estate industry in Alice Springs is still buoyant, seemingly unaffected by the market forces which influence prices and movements in like-sized towns interstate.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald Domain magazine (24/4/03), financial constraints don't restrict today's home buyers to living anywhere other than where they wish to live.
And real estate hype, promises of the next "hot spot", doesn't usually impact on purchasing decisions either.
A recent survey conducted around New South Wales and Queensland suggests that home owners today are buying and selling properties more frequently than ever before, and that the main thrusts behind this trend are culture and lifestyle.
People are seeking neighbourhoods with heart and a sense of community. Other sought after factors include a diversity of cultures, ready acceptance of newcomers, a range of outdoor recreational options plus night-life and a variety of restaurants.
There's no doubt that the Alice offers most of the "must-haves" especially when compared to other towns with a population of 30,000 or less.
Weather wasn't rated which is interesting because it certainly has a lot to do with our well-being.
There aren't too many days when David's tennis is rained off – if it is, the players, Kingy, Neville, William, Gary, Bob and others, usually wander across the road to have a beer, a chat and to wait it out…
Nilson was always going where the weather suited his clothes…Prices along our big beautiful coastline are almost prohibitive and the odd shack on the shore is squeezed in between high-rise apartment blocks. Anything along the eastern coastal strip is selling fast and new housing estates are springing up everywhere, often on reclaimed land.
Leases on council owned caravan parks which, together with lawn bowling clubs, tend to enjoy the best views and easiest access to the beach, are being reviewed so that land may be freed up for future development. Drive inland 100 or 200 kilometres and $100,000 buys a huge amount of real estate…because no-one wants to live there…
Alicephiles dreaming about retirement on the coast have hopefully already secured their land or cottage.
David and I are lucky because friends own holiday houses right on the sea front in different parts of Oz and we've been granted visiting rights!
Mid-week, in the busiest arcade in the Alice, I had lunch with friend Lori – real estate and how I'd coped with week one, the topics of the day. At two thirty, a mass exodus from eating houses into the mall. There's, as always, much to be done…

Music turned up. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

A lot happened around Christmas time.
One cataclysmic event, for those us of a certain age, was the sudden death of Joe Strummer.
Joe was the leader of the Clash, a punk band who had something to say about the world. The Clash supported the Sandanista regime in Nicaragua, wrote songs about urban alienation and pressed the angst buttons of 16-23 year olds in the late 'seventies. But like all ageing icons, Joe somehow disappeared from view. I heard that he did some "musical collaborations". Maybe he bought a house in the suburbs and stopped railing against the establishment.
Before the Christmas break, music journalists the world over rushed out tributes to Joe. They called him the voice of a generation, which is an over-used way to describe artists who have died. But the truth is that Joe Strummer had a huge influence on many of my friends. For us, he was and still is a real voice, even if we too live in the suburbs and wear carpet slippers. Here is one of those strange and slightly unnerving pleasures about growing older – the way that your friends left over from wilder days, actually retain some of those characteristics as the rest of their being changes dramatically.
I have a couple of mates whose way of talking to each other still owes everything to that punk period. They still get mad about any sign of over-bearing authorities or people who wear blue and brown clothes (from a song that Joe wrote called "Working for the Clampdown"). They hate line managers and confront people like me who won't share their Chinese takeaway. To spend time with them is to experience the best kind of restlessness and agitation. Like picking a scab on your knee.
This is almost enough to restore your faith in the power of music. Parents might tell teenagers that they are going through a phase and they'll get over it, but the great news is that many never do. Not that my days were ever wild. Participation in Cool Communities is the closest that I have ever been to cool. But the point is that your choice of popular culture, music, art, books or whatever it might be, is yours alone. It's a private affair that you keep with you as long as you want.
I mention all of this because of my own alienation from country music. I have tried, honest I have, but country music still remains a mystery to me.
I can recall half the songs in my dad's Jim Reeves box set. But despite being brought up in a town where country music reigned supreme and factory workers changed into checked shirts and big hats to go to the pub in the rain on a Friday night, I have never worked out what it all means.
None of these people had lived the country life, but their music brought the kind of lasting passion that many of the punks lost as soon as they got their first decent job.
In Alice Springs, country music is all around. On pay-day, people from the bush look for CDs about loved places and the pain of having to leave. Turn on the radio and you hear the latest jangly ballad of love unrequited or a celebration of life and family. Go to a school event and there is bound to be somebody performing an incomprehensible line dance.
As Billy Bragg, another hero of mine, explained to the Guardian newspaper, "Country really means music from outside of the cities. Music that people made rather than people bought. You hear something on the radio, and sit on the back porch and play it, and make up lyrics to fit your own situation."
So maybe for me it's a class issue. I might worship the memory of the punk intelligentsia, but some real emotion by ordinary people about suffering and struggling is a bit too trashy for the snob within. Maybe it's a generational thing. After all, my parents liked country music so I am bound to misunderstand it. Whatever the reasons, I'll just keep trying to fathom it out.


A pile of rubbish, including 48 beverage containers, was collected over two days from within the yard of the Old Hartley Street School where the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) has its office.
If there were deposits on the containers, they would have been picked up and the money claimed – "Enough for a pie!", says ALEC's Glenn Marshall.
Mr Marshall wants to know why the Government is stalling on CDL when everybody says they support it.
"The public wants it, overwhelmingly, individual Government ministers say they support it, the Opposition supports it and says they would have introduced it if they'd been returned to government.
"What is the problem?"
Although the Government has rejected one model, Environment Minister Chris Burns says they have not ruled it out altogether.
Braitling MLA Loraine Braham's Private Member's Bill seeking to introduce an alternative CDL model in the Territory will be debated in the next sittings of the Territory Parliament.
Mrs Braham is actively trying to garner support for the model, presenting it to the Local Government Association meeting in Alice Springs tomorrow.
She says her model takes care of the taxation issues of the Keep Australia Beautiful (KAB) model rejected by the Government.
Typically some 10-15 per cent of deposits in a CDL scheme do not get reclaimed.
The KAB model proposed the creation of a community benefit fund out of the unredeemed deposits, which could support, for example, recycling projects.
It was the chief stumbling block of the model, because, according to the government's legal advice, the fund could be deemed to be a kind of tax and be challenged on legal grounds.
"Couldn't some lateral thinking sort that out?" asks Mr Marshall.
In Mrs Braham's "extended producer responsibility" model the beverage industry would get to keep the unredeemed deposits, but the onus would also be on them to take back their containers and recycle them.
Government would have to legislate to make producers responsible and would also have to employ a "materials coordinator" to assist in setting up collection agencies.
Mr Burns says he has been advised that Mrs Braham's model still has significant legal issues to overcome although he could not explain what they were: "I'm not a lawyer."
He is also concerned about its potential impact on the cost of living and the workability of any scheme in rural and remote areas.
"CDL seems very desirable on the surface but there are significant problems for CDL in the Territory."


How a week can make a difference: last Sunday night footy fans were despondent about the forfeit of Rovers and the slaughter of the Federal side at the hands of Pioneer. This Sunday two games were played and both had the ingredients to suggest CAFL will bounce back from its seeming demise.
In the early game the two struggling sides of the league faced each other with Federal recording a 65 point victory over the Blues, 20.21 (141) to 11.10 (76). In the late game Pioneer recorded a 28 point win over South, 18.17 (125) to 15.7 (97).
Federal were full of confidence when they ran on, knowing their Reserves had won earlier in the day. Also in the back of their minds was the 30 minute oration coach Gilbert McAdam had delivered after the game the week before. Hence the Demons wasted no time in taking control of proceedings and kicking 6.5 to 2.1 in the opening term.
The pleasing return of Lionel Buzzacott to the fold, and the spark across the forward line provided by David Bird and Dudley Campbell, provided Feds with a focal point. In the Rover camp the road to the gap between the big posts was slightly less youthful, with Glen Elliott and Glen Holberton taking positions of command in the goal scoring region.
Good players in their day, and no doubt still having the will and the skill, but at A Grade level the game is in the hands of young men.
In the second quarter Federal had a majority of the play while Rovers proved more effective. The Blues scored 5.3 to Federals 4.6 in a display where the Blues made every post a winner while Federal tended to blaze away from all sorts of angles, maybe trying to emulate the feats of TV legends.
Come the telling third quarter, Feds persisted with ineffective play in front of goal, kicking a further 5.7 to 1.3. Although they may not have had the game stitched up by the three quarter break, the signs were there that the Demons would record their first A Grade win in over 12 months.
In the run home Feds uncovered a talent stream, with Matty Pitman bursting through the half forward line and converting, and Dudley Campbell proving to be a force. In the 5.3 to 3.3 last term Federal had David Bird, James Braedon, Chris Forbes and Calvin Neill worthy of mention in the match-winning performance.
For Rovers the tale was less tasteful. Karl Hampton played a measured game. Clinton Pepperill gave his new Blues guernsey a good work out, and Oliver Wheeler showed his real talent. Malcolm Kenny and Wheeler scored three goals a piece to head the Blues goal-kicking tally.
The game was worth a watch, with the skills not really linking either side to premiership glory four months from now !In the late game it was a different matter. Both Pioneers and South know the values of a head on clash and whenever they play each other the brand of football lifts a notch or two.
Sunday was no exception.
The Eagles opened nervously, scoring two behinds, before Shane Hayes put the Roos on the board with a major. From there the Eagles settled into their game and dominated the quarter with Shaun McCormick opening their account, followed by goals from Robert Taylor and then two beauties from the elusive Matt Campbell. The crux of the situation lay in Pioneers' dominance out of the centre bounce and their ability to stifle the Roo running players through the mid field.
Pioneer led South, 6.5 to 2.1 at the first break.
The Eagles consolidated in the second term, when they added 9.2 to 4.1 in a highly entertaining session. Matthew Campbell and Ryan Mallard exerted their influence at the goal front with two and three goals respectively. Vaughan Hampton, Geoff Taylor and Nathan Flannagan also goaled when the impetus came through Craig Turner and the runners out of the centre. To watch the disposal from the likes of Wayne McCormack was worth the admission price.
For South some comfort came from the efforts of Willy Tilmouth who, having been out of the game for some time and relishing the run, showed much of his vintage class. He scored a goal in the quarter as did Trevor Presley, Brendan Forrester, and Darren Talbot.
At the half time break while the Eagle young legs were directing play, South were missing the input expected from the likes of Adrian McAdam and Shane Hayes, but had Damien Ryder in fine form and the Maher brothers giving of their best.
In the third term, South actually got the upper hand at times and while Pioneer scored 3.5, the Roos scored 4.1. Willy Tilmouth blossomed with stoic ground play and two more goals, and Adrian McAdam came into the game late with a great goal.
In the Eagles camp Ryan Mallard added a goal to his bag, and Lloyd Stockman and William Fitz contributed with majors.
Although Pioneer had a match-winning lead going into the last term, the game was not signed and sealed. In fact South, in getting to within 28 points, should have expected to end the game closer.
They scored six goals to two in the run home and had the chances to score even more. Robert Gum and Matt Campbell, who ended with a bag of five, were goal scorers for the Eagles. In the South quarter majors came from Hayes, Talbot, Kelvin Maher, and McAdam (2).
A significant pointer in the quarter was that many players cramped and / or ran out of wind, something that will not happen come September. As such the game suffered from a downhill malaise as time ticked away. Had South taken the initiative and poured the pressure on in this period, they may well have finished close to Pioneer's score.
The choice of best player for Pioneer was difficult as all put in well.
Craig Turner played a controlled and effective game, providing chances for the runners. Vaughan Hampton and Ricky Mentha did a huge amount of work in the non spectacular areas of play, and Robert Taylor put in a pearler.
For the Roos Kelvin Maher was up with the best. Brenton Forrester showed potential; and Damien Ryder gave the game his everything.

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