September 17, 2003.


A single mum whose private home is in a street with several public housing properties says she has to fight an ongoing battle for peace and quiet in her neighbourhood.
At one time two houses in her vicinity had been allocated to feuding families.
She says the hostilities culminated in a street battle involving about 50 people, during which a naked woman, covered in blood, knocked on her door to ask for help.
The resident finally spent several thousand dollars building a tall security fence around her property.
She says at one time a neighbour had been allowed to fall many months behind in rent.
A vast amount of rubbish accumulated in his back yard.
The woman, who asked not to be named, says it is difficult to get Territory Housing to react meaningfully to complaints.
The Alice News, during inquiries last week, was told by a spokeswoman that as a Government Business Division, Territory Housing is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act "because it is not in the public interest to disclose this information".
There are 1086 public housing dwellings in Alice Springs, making up about 10 per cent of the town's residences.
The former government sold off half its housing stock in the town.
Asked in what streets the remaining public dwellings in Alice Springs are, the spokeswoman said: "People above me don't want to give out that information."
When asked what Territory Housing does when tenants damage or neglect their dwellings the spokeswoman said: "The tenancy manager will visit the dwelling and discuss the damage that needs to be addressed.
"The tenants will be advised verbally while at the dwelling, then [we] follow it up in writing listing all the requirements.
"The tenant will be given 30 days to repair the damage.
"At the end of the 30 days another inspection will be carried out.
"If the repairs have not been carried out the tenant can be given an extension to complete them. Another 14 days is usually given.
"Other agencies will be called in to assist the tenant if necessary.
"After the 14 day extension, another inspection will be carried out," the spokeswoman said.
"If the damage has not been repaired a Notice to Quit / Notice to Terminate will be served on the tenant and legal action will commence to remove the tenant from the dwelling."
The spokeswoman did not disclose how long the legal action usually takes.
She says seven per cent of the tenants are between two and eight weeks in arrears with their rent payments.
"There is no clear cut time line for repaying debts," said the spokeswoman.
"Each case is taken on its own merits and the tenants' ability to repay.
"A significant number of tenants currently take up the benefit of being linked to Centrelink where their rent is automatically deducted.
"New tenants are encouraged to use this service when they first sign up," said the spokeswoman.
Territory Housing doesn't want to disclose how much money is currently owed by tenants.
Some 40 Alice rent agreements were broken in the past 12 months.


The Alice Town Council wants the local native title body, Lhere Artepe, to be "the peak Aboriginal body on issues relating to Aboriginal matters and to be consulted by [the council] on policies and programs likely to impact on the Aboriginal members of the community".
This is a key clause in the council's draft for a partnership agreement being discussed with Lhere Artepe.
If this goes ahead it seems the council's principal consultative body on Aboriginal issues, Tangentyere, will be taking a back seat.
"It is very early stages and there may ultimately be an advisory group established representing all Aboriginal interests," says council CEO Rex Mooney.
Lhere Artepe is partner to an agreement with the NT Government for the opening up of residential land at the western edge of the town, and has key leverage over the use of large tracts of land elsewhere in the town area.
Lhere Artepe has 30 members Ð 10 each from the three major clan groups in Alice Springs.
While it was set up following a Federal Court decision as an independent body, it has been difficult to obtain comment from the chairman, Brian Stirling, an employee of the Central Land Council which appears to be running the affairs of the group.
The council's draft also says the mooted partnership should:
¥ enhance the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents;
¥ foster reconciliation;
¥ and accept that "Aboriginal residents of Alice Springs have a right to a level of local government services consistent with that provided to other sectors of the community".
Meanwhile the council will hold a public meeting about land availability tomorrow (Thursday) at 5.30pm in the Garden Room.Mr Mooney says the council has asked government representatives to bring the council and public up to date on current town planning issues, including proposals south of The Gap, the Larapinta land release and others.

READER FORUM: Don't talk down our town, says Toyne.

Sir,- It was interesting to read in the Alice News that the CLP's deputy leader by default, Dr Richard Lim, can't see the positive changes happening in his home town.
For a man who is supposed to be representing Alice Springs, a town I've always been proud to describe as having a "can do" attitude, Dr Lim seems happy to talk down the achievements of many Central Australians and sit back and claim he can't see any progress.
Dr Lim, I hope you'll open your eyes to the changes for the better that are happening in the Centre and I'll give you a leg up so you can see over the CLP's Berrimah wall.
I'm not denying that there's a way to go to make up for 25 years of CLP government neglect in areas like law and order, education, infrastructure and health.But I'm proud to point out the progress that has been made, and will continue to be made, in many important areas.
And I'll say that this progress has been aided by this Government's approach to working with the community at all levels rather than our Opposition's approach of running party political issues.
In the vital area of tourism, the Government successfully encouraged Virgin Blue to fly into the Alice, and the industry locally is gradually picking up from the hits it sustained globally.
The Government is continuing to work with Virgin Blue to encourage the airline to expand into other Territory routes.
If Dr Lim would care to drive along Larapinta Drive, he'll see the pink signs from the Development Consent Authority which outline the areas for new residential land release.
The Government's policy of consultation instead of confrontation will see sorely needed residential land opening up in Alice Springs after an historic agreement with native title holders.
The process is taking time but remember for 10 years Dr Lim's CLP ignored the reality of native title and instead tied up the land and millions of dollars in unsuccessful court action.
Imagine how much further along the road we'd be and how many house blocks we'd have if the CLP had decided to negotiate.The Martin Government made law and order a priority and the statistics released this week show crime is continuing to decline. We are making Alice Springs a safer place to live.
The Government's law and order initiatives, such as crime prevention councils and the commitment to putting the resources behind these groups, show our policy of being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime does work.
An example is the $150,000 we invested this year into crime prevention initiatives across the Centre.
I'm sure Dr Lim hasn't forgotten the historic parliamentary sittings in Alice Springs.
The Chief Minister has said that parliament will be back in Alice in 2005 and it's just one example of the commitment to providing open and accountable government for Territorians, no matter where they live.
Our belief in the future development of Central Australia is up there for all to see. For example:
¥ Providing $3 million now for the sealing of the Mereenie Loop Road, and up to $30m for this project over the next 10 years.
¥ More than $6 million to upgrade the Tanami road.
¥ $5 million for the upgrade of Traeger Park.
¥ 15 new accommodation units for nurses at the Alice Springs hospital.
¥ A new base for the Finke Desert Race.
¥ A multi-million dollar water re-use project.
¥ Millions committed to the Desert Knowledge project.
We have invested $1 million over the next three years to fund complementary measures to the liquor trial extension of sobering up shelter hours and day patrols and a mobile youth drop in centre.
The complementary measures funding agreement is the first of its kind, in partnership with the national Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation, and in total is worth more than $2.1 million.
We are taking a different approach to dealing with the youth that live on the fringes of Alice Springs.
Through a case management approach under the banner of Safe Families, we are helping those young people who may be at risk by supporting family links and helping their parents and families to care for them.
Through this approach we can move these young people into better behaviours and away from criminal activity, and give them some opportunity through schooling. It is a far better way than that of the past, when they were ignored and isolated from the community. The list goes on and this is after just two years of a Labor Government.
Central Australians also have a direct voice in government with the opening of the Office for Central Australia, run by staff who work with the community and are accessible to all.
And by the end of this year we will have an archive service to house the valuable history of our region.
As a representative of Centralians I believe in working with the community to achieve together, regardless of colour, creed or politics.
Alice Springs is a great town. A town where people have great ideas, are community minded, and proactive citizens. They look for the same in their representatives.I call on Dr Lim to refrain from his whingeing, stick to the truth, and contribute something worthwhile to the people of Alice Springs.
We don't like talking down our town, and particularly not when there is so much we have already achieved.
Dr Peter Toyne
Minister for Central Australia

Are Lim's fingers burning?

Sir,- re: "Lim hits govt. over land, Darwin focus" (last week's issue).
All right, I've got to say it Ð with all due respect to Richard Lim, but do his fingers burn???
Richard, you need to put the crack pipe down brother!!! If the current Labor government is "very Darwin-centric", what does that say for the previous Country Liberal Party efforts???
Just in case you're wondering about my political leanings, I have none. Aside from the fact that voting only encourages the ratbags, I've lived in the United States for the past eight years so I'm a bit like Switzerland Ð neutral.
Mark Fitzgerald
Boise, Idaho, USA

Alice unfriendly to pedestrians

Sir,- I sent the following letter to the mayor and aldermen of the Alice Springs Town Council.
On several previous occasions I have written to the local papers and a few times to members of the council and even to one of the Ministers in Darwin about this issue.
However I have never received a reply so far and have seen no actions taken by the council.
Alice Springs claims to be a tourist town but refuses to do something for the protection of the many Australian and overseas visitors we have here every year. Not only it ignores the tourists but also our local pedestrian population.
Apart from the Mall, which is a great place to walk around, there is no pedestrian friendliness in this town at all!
You spend lots of money on upgrading a skateboard ramp that is used by a small percentage of the children of this town, but when it comes to protecting the hundreds of pedestrians we have each day in the CBD there is no reaction at all.
In most overseas countries and other Australian states the pedestrian is looked after with clearly marked crossings where it is compulsory for drivers to stop and give way to pedestrians.
Whenever I drive through the CBD and I stop to give way to pedestrians I get very funny looks from the people and from other drivers as if to say, "Mate, you're an idiot, a pedestrian is fair game here in Alice Springs."
When will council start to realise that to keep tourists coming to our town we have to be more tourist friendly!!!!
Not only do we need clearly marked crossings with right of way for the pedestrian, but we could also do with a speed limit in the CBD that is lower than the current 60km/h.
People crossing the road in ASP are an endangered species!
Hopefully I will receive a reply to this letter this time and maybe one of you lot might take some action. After all that is why you have been elected!Also I'm not ashamed to put my full name and e-mail address on the bottom, not like many letter writers who are too sneaky to do so.
Patrick Boost
Alice Springs


The gold-fields, being "half-way" between the central Australian cattle-stations and Halls Creek, and the fact that the Federal Government took over the running of the Territory from South Australia in 1911, also led to other developments.
First, in 1909 John Bathern took up Napperby station, stocking it with 400 bullocks and his horse-plant of about 30, no doubt meaning to supply fresh meat to the miners as well as to southern markets. As with all stations of the era he soon had a team of local Aborigines working for him, and "bush blacks" on the periphery. Whenever a beast was killed it was, as Charles Chewings noted, "customary to give the blacks the head, feet, lungs, and entrails, and often the heart and liver", with the "working boys" receiving their share separately.
As old Bryan Bowman also recounted, the spearing of cattle on the edges of the far out stations, particularly when range country offered hideaways and escape routes, was still common in the 1920s and Ô30s. Such spearing had always increased whenever a drought occurred.
Secondly, and partly as a result of Davidson's earlier return through the general Napperby country, a prospecting, droving, and horse-stealing route was developed from Ryans Well on the Overland Telegraph Line through Napperby to The Granites and Tanami. (Joe Brown was the most famous of these prospectors and horse-thieves, and he kept the location of all of the waters he located, including Lake Surprise Ð as it was later named Ð at the end of the Lander River, to himself. It was always handy to know the location of a "secret" water when prospecting, or when dodging the police. Horse-stealing was just an honorable "game" for Joe).
Thirdly, there was a general Federal push to develop the Territory, including inspection of all of the pastoral potential, and encouragement of "claypan squatters" to take up the second-choice country.
Fourthly, legendary Sergeant Stott, based in Stuart Town (as Alice Springs was then known), became the key law-man in the Centre, ruling Ð as Cecil Madigan later put it Ð "with a rod of iron". However he was also a good family man, assisting with establishment of the first school and hospital, supporting the work of Pastor Carl Strehlow at Hermannsburg Mission, and encouraging a strong sense of community.
Fifthly and finally, there was a strong recommendation that the long-proposed Darwin -Oodnadatta railway should loop westerly through Tanami. Certainly there was much tub-thumping about extension of the railway but, while no extension through the Centre eventuated, the suggestion that it might encouraged others to consider the "desert" country as having greater potential than was the case.
By the beginning of World War 1, though, the old pick-and-shovel, dynamite and dry-blowing methods were no longer yielding more than "tucker money" at the gold-fields so that, when a drought also occurred, the cameleer prospectors abandoned the gold-fields.
Some of these men enlisted, and from elsewhere in Australia, as soon as they were able to, W. (Billy) Braitling and William George Murray also enlisted. The latter, known as George by his mates, was an ANZAC at Gallipoli; both were decorated for bravery on the Western Front; and both came to be regarded as heroes by later generations.
The combination of the early actual and potential developments in the Tanami Desert country led Randal Stafford to take up station country in 1917. As Michael Terry notes, Randal came from a distinguished British family: his "great-grandfather led the charge of the Inniskilling Dragoons at Waterloo; his uncle was the first white child born in Victoria".
He named his station Coniston, in remembrance of one of the most beautiful parts of England. Decades earlier he had worked on stations in the Innamincka country, and one of his mates there was Frederick Brooks. Randal apparently kept in contact with Fred, for he helped Randal to establish the station in the early 1920s and, although working elsewhere from time to time, he returned to help out his old mate again in the late 1920s.
At much the same time that Randal began stocking his property, William John ("Nugget") Morton took up neighbouring Broadmeadows. Nugget was an immensely powerful man. He showed his disdain for Aborigines by always sitting with his back to them in any camp. He was also ruthless and sadistic, the "cruellest" man Bryan Bowman ever knew.
Alex Wilson, who worked for Nugget when he first came to the Centre, was a short man, 1.6 metres tall with his down-at-heel boots on. His Halls Creek wife, an attractive young Aboriginal woman, was taken from him by Nugget who, when Alex protested, took up his stock-whip and whipped Alex so badly that he sliced open his back from shoulder to waist. Fifty years later Alex, commenting on what a bastard of a man Nugget had been, lifted his shirt to show me the huge scar. Alex had no reason ever to respect Nugget, but every reason to fear him Ð as did most of the local Warlpiri people.
Meanwhile another old prospector and cattle-duffer, Jimmy Wickham, commenced poking about from the Lander country. While he kept notes of his travels, he was as close-lipped as Joe Brown about other matters. However, in 1925 he returned from the far west, and showed the late Margaret Hall (nee Nicker), who was visiting at a station "out west" of Ryans Well, a rich gold sample.
News of this rich find led to a swarm of prospectors out over the country and, while Jimmy's reef was never re-located, the country from Papunya to the Lander River, the Granites and Tanami, and out to the Western Australian border, was widely prospected.
Among these prospectors was Paddy Tucker, son of Owen Springs station-hand George Tucker and his Aboriginal wife. Paddy was out west, both as a member of cameleer prospecting parties and alone, "all over" the Warlpiri and eastern Pintupi country in 1925-1928 and, having a good ear for language, began to have a working knowledge of Warlpiri. And Joe Brown, now in his early 60's, was out there too, with Darby Jampijinpa as his camel "boy" assistant.
A dry spell, which commenced in 1923 in some parts, and increasingly developed into a universal drought as the next five years passed, began to have an impact on the Warlpiri, their south-eastern neighbours, the Anmatyerre, and their east-north-eastern neighbours, the Kaytetye (Kaitish).
In particular, the area from the Hanson Creek, almost due north of Alice Springs, through to the Lander River to the north-west, is important for this "Coniston story". Naturally this increasingly severe drought also had an impact on the cattle-station people of the north-west, in particular "Nugget" Morton on Broadmeadows and Randal Stafford of Coniston.
All other central Australians, and of course the natural bush foods as well as the cattle, horses, goats, and other domestic stock, began to suffer. Billy Braitling, who inspected much of the Warlpiri country in 1926 and prepared to take up what he later called Mount Doreen station, was unable to do so because of the drought until 1932.
As the dry times continued the Warlpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye had begun to do as they always had at times of drought. They began to fall back on their longest-lasting and permanent waters, including the rock-holes and soakages of the Lander and Cockatoo Creek country Ð now often opened up and used for watering stock. One important fall-back water was Yurrkuru Soakage.
Randal Stafford had named a nearby hill Mount Naval Action after a race-horse, and this name had also been loosely applied to the soakage. As with all distinctive features in the central Australian landscape it had totemic significance both in itself and in relationship to the surrounding country.
The Walpajirri bandicoot, native bee's honey ("sugar-bag") and Karnta (women) "Dreaming" trails all imbued the country here with their sacred life forces.
By this time Randal Stafford was living with a Warlpiri woman he called Alice, whose younger sisters were later to live with a prospector, wonderful tinsmith and sadly desperate alcoholic called McCormack, and with wiry Bryan Bowman, later owner of Coniston.
A concern that Randal had was that Jimmy Wickham, then at times intermittently camped further away on the Lander when out searching for his lost reef, was ruthless on Aborigines. As with numbers of the hard old Centre bushmen of the 1870s-1920s period, he was prepared to shoot first and ask questions later. Any Aboriginal who approached his camp without calling out and very obviously putting down his weapons, could expect to be shot.
NEXT WEEK: The Killing of Fred Brooks.


With more than 50 events on the program, everyone had their own festival: mine was over-arched by two events (with a lot of fun in between) that went to the boundary between life and art.
The first was the "Words on Fire" writers' event, in which, without any orchestration, there was an extraordinary convergence of themes, around deep loss, real and potential, at the heart of the parent-child relationship, and conversely, deep love.
Who could have predicted that in the open mic section a poem about regret of unborn children would later link with an eloquent, moving prose piece by local writer Jo Dutton, remembering the still birth of twins?
That guest writer, Alison Croggon, would be able to respond with the unplanned reading of a short play, in the form of a dramatic monologue in the voice of the wife of John Batman, founder of the city of Melbourne? This was the scarifying lament of a woman who lost all her children to syphilis, inherited from their father.
That the work of a second local writer, Anne Harris, would also be in the form of a dramatic monologue Ð delivered in a powerful performance by Shay Brown Ð a strident, cynical teenage lament over her mother's abandonment of her?
That all this would act as a kind of permission to a man in the audience to speak spontaneously about his own abandonment and experience of other abuse, about being "nobody's child"? These were difficult moments, for the man and the audience, a risk for him of huge proportion, a challenge for the audience to be taken to such an unexpected, intimately painful place. We were witnessing the cathartic expression of raw experience that could be the foundation of a profoundly moving work and perhaps one day it will.
Who could have predicted that stepping up from the audience singer-songwriter M'Liss Scott would be able to respond to this man's despair with an affirmation of maternal love?
Craig Mathewson, acting as MC on the night, must have been struck by the way all of this material and this risk-taking was resonating with his own concerns.
In his play "Waiting for Grace" a week later Mathewson, the founder of Red Dust Theatre, also took the audience to an unexpected, intimately painful place and beyond, to his point of resolution.
The work was part story-telling Ð Mathewson's own from birth to adulthood, defined in a moment of grace when he knew to stop waiting; part a reflection on being a boy and man in Australia Ð the dangers, the fears and acts of bravery, the suffering, the exhilaration; part personal ritual of mourning and prayer Ð for his wounded self, for his dead friend, his murdered brother, his frightened dying father; part a kind of essay on performance; part a raunchy song of praise for the power of love and love-making; part a spiritual statement.
The whole made theatre of a very distinct kind, deeply moving for many in the audience.
I suspect that Mathewson's play, very revealing of himself, probably served him too as a catharsis, so how was it different from the act of the man from the audience in the "Words on Fire" event? How did it become theatre?
By fine, tight writing (although somewhat truncated, arriving too quickly at the end). By effective performance, including some outbursts of great dancing. By a well-linked episodic structure that held its own momentum. By some ingenious theatrical ideas, particularly the convincing use of a punching bag as a prop (I was much less taken with the ritual lighting of candles Ð worn almost threadbare in these times). By constantly working the relationship with the audience, treading that fine line between personal exchange and making art, leading the audience to be thinking all the time about the nature of what they were witnessing, participating in. By the bringing together of all of these things in a work that became more than the sum of its parts.
Could this play enter the repertoire of a theatre company? In its present form, probably not. Could anyone else perform the part? As it stands, I don't think so. Do these questions help define theatre? Not necessarily.
Mathewson has said he will perform the play again later in the year. It will be interesting to see how it evolves between now and then. In the meantime, I hope that sufficient support for Red Dust and its projects will materialise to keep this man of the theatre in Central Australia. With Red Dust's efforts in the first and second Alice Springs Festivals, Mathewson demonstrated his directorial talent. I, for one, am now looking forward to more from his pen.

Thomas goes to Tennant. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

The animated stories of Thomas the Tank Engine were narrated by Ringo Starr.
He brought laconic charm to the series, creating perfect bedtime stories. I could never read the books without hearing that drowsy Liverpool voice in my head. In no time, the children and I would be far away in the land of nod.
This drowsiness affects local opinions of the Alice to Darwin Railway. Raise the subject at a barbeque and you'll see what I mean. People glaze over, they change the subject or they make a glib comment that gently shunts the conversation into the sidings. For this project, hundreds of people have been employed laying two million sleepers and 1,400 kilometres of track. The route has been carefully plotted around sacred sites, floodplains, wildlife habitats and other sensitive areas.
Out there in the bush is a genuine trans-continental engineering marvel. And yet it's a conversation stopper of the most unusual kind. Nobody seems interested any more.
The Thomas stories are always predictable. They start with a minor adventure about delivering coal or cleaning the station. This features some kind of conflict, misunderstanding or small accident, such as Thomas being derailed. The story unfolds and a few pages later everything turns out fine. Lessons are learned and the readers fall asleep.
Thankfully, there are no such dramas with the Alice to Darwin, but wouldn't it be good if our railway could muster the same clarity of purpose as Thomas and Friends.
The consultants who prepared the original feasibility study and the politicians who approved it must have been clear at the outset, long before my time, but now the locals seem to have forgotten. Only occasionally have I heard any clear reasoning on the value of the Alice to Darwin Railway.
For starters, there's the standard explanation about it opening up a new frontier with Asia. Darwin will become a trading hub with neighbouring countries. Trade will flow through Tennant Creek.
I never quite understood this notion. Surely it takes more than a slow train to an isolated town, not to mention a large number of ships choosing Darwin instead of Brisbane or Melbourne. And doesn't trade policy and international relations play just a small part?
Another apparent reason for the railway is to pep up the sluggish economies of the NT and South Australia, or so said the Economist magazine in its coverage of the project.
All those sleepers provide an injection to our impoverished manufacturing sector, at least until the construction is completed. And it creates lots of contract work, even if road train drivers could lose theirs.
One bash at deciding the purpose of this project goes to tourism, the last refuge of any nice-sounding idea in search of a justification.
Personally, I don't buy it. More tourists may come, but will it really make that much difference?
I may know nothing, but I reckon some people will choose the train instead of the bus or plane, and that's about it.
Last but not least is the pioneer spirit, not a reason that anyone would want to confess, but still a real one. Who can resist all those gentle locomotives ploughing across this vast landscape?
But then again, in a remark made to me as I praised the prospect of more public transport and the fact that the whole project costs just over a third of the costs of subsidies and maintenance to the country's roads each year, who would want to use nineteenth century transport anyway? This is the land of the oversized shiny 4WD.
So I conclude that the Alice to Darwin Railway would benefit from a helping of Thomas the Tank Engine. It needs some straightforward melodrama and a few arguments between cheeky tank engines and kindly signalmen.
It is crying out for a Fat Controller, an opinionated man in a suit who calls a spade a spade and has no problem with his own body image. He wouldn't let us forget what the railway is for.
But most importantly, just like the efforts of Thomas to be a Really Useful Engine, it still has to prove itself to be a Really Useful Project.

Outback towns: food for thought. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

When one (actually, two, because David was also there) is sitting on a sand dune overlooking the Tasman Sea, somewhere north of Rock-hampton, it's impossible to focus on Central Australian issues, or "iss-ewes", as Kath and Kim, in what is purportedly Australia's most successful television series ever, call the little problems they come up against weekly.
David and I were introduced to K and K by the little family in the east who enjoy the show.
Alice seems such a long way away so I'm concentrating instead on highlights of the trip home.
There are so many Tidy Town plaques along the Queensland roads Ð David's Mum, Alice, would have loved the quaint railway towns of Alpha and Jericho, and the "muriels" depicting life on the land in the Outback. She always admired the Alice muriels (as she called murals) on the walls of the Yeperenye and Coles buildings.
Heading across to Emerald, the family reunion was the priority and we didn't have time to stop at the Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach. We did so en route back to Alice: it's an amazing facility, architecturally and historically. It was poignant to hear Ted Egan's "Boss Drover", written about Matt Savage, playing in the background, as we wandered around. It's difficult to imagine how tough life on the land was in the early days, and is still, today. The Hall is a truly wonderful tribute to the pioneers of the Outback.At Winton we struck up conversation with two young girls, cousins, Raelene from Atherton and Rebecca from Isisford, both born into the mustering and droving way of life. Their days are long, over 12 hours, up at 5am, feeding selves, other workers, horses and dogs, and then droving, moving up to 2200 head of cattle (including weaners, calves and bullocks) at a time, along the roadside. They put them in "jiggers", enclosures bounded by electric tape, around 6pm for the night. It's a huge job.
Raelene enjoys the freedom, has been round the bush all her life and can't imagine any other way of life. Rebecca loves waking up to the bush and the birds, but is studying hard and hopes to be a qualified child carer one day.
The cattle were being moved south to Middleton where there was promise of better feed, and David and I decided to head along the Min Min By-Way, searching for that light, and stop in Middleton, which we'd heard about. It has an historic hotel in the middle of nowhere, with make-shift football stadium and golf course complete with sign: "Good luck!"
A coffee break there, and a chat with the owner's little daughter. She told us her grandfather had seen the Min Min light as he drove out of a creek bed late one night Ð he'd shot at it, and it had exploded into a thousand pieces, and he'd arrived home as white as a ghost. It was obviously a favourite story told to many passers-by.
The scenery along the way changes from flat desolate places into Boulder opal country with spectacular rocky outcrops, pinnacles and peaks, low shrubs and bushes and ranges on a distant hazy horizon: David commented on the similarity to the lunarscape around Coober Pedy.Boulia, another Tidy Towns winner (1996, 1997 and 1998), seems like the last frontier with its black stump, wide streets, corrugated iron houses and Burke River. It isn't the back of Bourke but there's a "Back to Boulia" celebration this weekend (20th and 21st) with gymkhana, whip cracking, mutton busting, shearing competition, talent quest, Claypan Olympics, motorbike sports and a dance, Saturday night.
We stuck to the narrow sealed road, noting that if we had spare wheels, camping gear and bush savvy, Alice via Tobermorey is only 806 kilometres, against 1300 plus via Mt Isa.
One thousand kilometres from home and I simply can't wait to get there Ð I never feel as though I'm really in the Territory until we get to Three Ways, and turn left: 530 kilometres along the home straight. Maybe next time, David and I will take the short cut? In the meantime, dare I say, it's good to be back in Alice, The Heart, The Soul, The Centre, a mini metropolis compared to most other Outback towns.


The West footy club could not win a trick last Sunday, suffering losses in the Under 18, Reserve Grade, and A Grade finals at Traeger Park.
In the lead up matches, Federal defeated West's Under 18 side, 12.8 to 8.12, in a tightly contested game, decided by the side who could shoot straight.
The Reserves game proved to be cakewalk for Pioneer as they accounted for West 17.12 to 8.9 in a 57 point decision.
The game of the day, however, was the A Grade preliminary final when Wests were pitted against South.
The reigning CAFL champions, Wests, paved the way early by converting accurately to post six straight goals to 2.3 in the first quarter. Much of the West impetus was generated by Michael Gurney who was able to decipher the outcome of the centre bounce and send the Bloods into attack. Russell Satour registered the first two goals for West, with Gilbert Fishook and Kelvin Maher balancing the books at the Roos' end. At this point Jeremiah Webb was yellow carded, putting pressure on South, and West scored the next four successive goals.
Come the second term Wests were dealt a blow when Brett Stevens left the field with an apparent knee injury. More significantly Wests persevered with Curtis Haines as a ruckman. Once Haines came into the centre bounce equation, Shaun Cusack took control and pierced the ball into the waiting hands of their runners. In front of goals Malcolm Ross sniffed every opportunity and snared three quick goals to put South in contention at half time, down only 6.10 to 9.3, but well in front in terms of possession.
The third term was an even match with South scoring 5.0 to Wests 4.1. The Bloods rested with a six point breathing space, but the influence of Cusack, Malcolm Ross and the Maher brothers was staring them in the face.From the West point of view Damien Timms represented their best chance with a bustling display and a vital last goal for the quarter.In the run home South gained momentum and Wests went to sleep. The Roos plundered the scoring area, with Shane Hayes coming right into the picture. He scored the opening goal of the term and fired up Gilbert Fishook across the half forward line.
With Ross still dominant at full forward West had no answer to the Roos' fetish for fame. Souths booted five goals to nil for the quarter to run out 28 point winners.
Among the South best players, Shaun Cusack stood out. He set up play all day for his running players.
Kelvin and Charlie Maher were at the fall of the ball continuously, and Richie Morton played a significant role in the procession to full forward. Up in front of the sticks, Malcolm Ross and Gilbert Fishook were a perfect conversion combination.For West the season is over. They had a run of injuries prior to the finals and that doesn't help in any planning for a flag. Damien Timms showed the value of maturity as he excelled for the Bloods. Kevin Bruce and Darryl Lowe were driving forces in the attempt to reappear in a grand final. And the hard ball getters, Gurney and Matt Creeper cannot be forgotten.On Sunday the two clubs that absolutely live for the game in Alice Springs will come head to head in the grand final. The Eagles will be looking to make it premiership 30. South on the other hand are less modest and will be striving to win. It could be one of those games the fans remember forever.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Aussie Rules and grog rules.

Sir,- It has been reported that the Central Australia Football League (CAFL) are going to ban grog at Traeger Park next season.
Every weekend you can witness their liquor permit, issued by Town Council as custodians of the park, being flagrantly breached.
For all of this season there has been a pleasant girl serving alcohol alone at the main bar adjacent to the entrance. This young girl must be all of 18 or 19 years of age. She continues to serve people who are obviously intoxicated.
I don't, for one microsecond, hold her responsible. Her position would be untenable if she endeavoured to follow the law.
She is up against it from the start because people are allowed to enter the ground who are already affected by alcohol.
On grand final day last Saturday for the sale of alcohol, CAFL dropped the ball.
At the main bar it reminded me of "six-o'clock closing" days. There was no check on people if they were too intoxicated to be re-served.
The CAFL each week in their Football Record publish the rules of their Code of Conduct. A good initiative. It covers all players, officials (teams and CAFL), umpires and spectators. Point B in it says that all of these "shall not act in conflict of Liquor Licensing and Town Council regulations whilst at the venue of a CAFL fixture before, during or after a match".
Not only do they leave a young girl to "hang out to dry" by not having security at hand to vet who should not be served again, but they completely snub their own rules and those of the Town Council and Licensing Commission. Last year I wrote to CAFL, all local parliamentary representatives plus the Minister for Sport. I received the grand total of three replies. [Only] the Minister had some hint of action in his reply. My letter dealt with grant money available from the Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation (AE&RF). This Foundation money has a heavy bias towards indigenous programs. It would have been right up the alley of the CAFL.
The grant money would have cut out the need for the sale of alcohol at the football. Did they apply? No way.
One could be forgiven for being cynical but surprise, surprise, one of the major sponsors for CAFL is a brewery. [The CAFL's] general secretary contacted me and gave assurance that the money available from AE&RF would be investigated.
There are people in this town who should be speaking out about the outrageous absence of social responsibility on the part of CAFL. A good start would be the politicians and the Town Council.
The present position with the CAFL proposal on curbing alcohol sales is a smokescreen to downgrade the communities competition. Switching their games to Sunday is a retrograde step.
Just look at last Saturday's grand final crowd. It was a boomer. It is the community players who are carrying CAFL.
On actual football matters what a great result for Yuendumu Community. After a gross miscarriage of justice where the community was banned for season 2002 because of alleged actions by a couple of Yuendumu supporters (no charges were ever laid), they have come out and won the Lightning Carnival and now the season premiership.
At least your paper is prepared to publish letters without fear or favour. Thank you.
Graham Buckley
Alice Springs
The Alice News offered the CAFL right of reply to Mr Buckley's letter. General Manager Kym Ireland writes:
The CAFL has received a copy of Mr. Buckley's letter and I have since personally spoken with him regarding his concerns. These concerns will also be brought to the attention of the CAFL Board for their consideration when Mr. Buckley's letter is tabled at the next scheduled Board meeting.
I would however like to state that at this stage the CAFL Board has in no way made a final decision on the sale of alcohol at Traeger Park next season. This issue was raised with the CAFL Board at a meeting with representatives of clubs involved in the country competition. At this meeting it was requested by the clubs that the CAFL investigate the possibility of providing an alcohol free venue for their competition in 2004.
This proposal along with others the Board has received from clubs involved in both the CAFL and Country competitions will be investigated during a review of both competitions to be conducted in the off season.
Any proposals will be put back to the clubs of both competitions for their consideration.

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