POLLIES LOVE THE RAILWAY - BUT CANNOT SAY WHAT IT WILL CARRY. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
SA Premier Mike Rann last week labelled as "wankers" people who are unconvinced of the Alice to Darwin railway line's viability.
Yet none of the politicians nor the railway executives attending the cross-party orgy of political back slapping in Alice Springs, marking the joining of the railway's southern and new northern sections, was able to nominate any freight contracts for the new line.
The taxpayer is footing around two thirds of the project's cost: $550m is paid in cash, and the private operators for 50 years were also given the Tarcoola to Alice Springs line.
Said Mr Rann: "Let's Ð just for once Ð drop kick the knockers where they belong, and let's get behind a project that's going to be here for hundreds of years É making us a united nation, a continent, not just a country.
"There will be some announcements later on.
"For us that's an act of nation building," said Mr Rann.
"When the infrastructure is in, the freight will follow, I'm convinced of that.
"The whingers will sort of whinge out eventually, whingers and wankers."
Mr Rann said there would be significant announcements about freight contracts in the near future, but gave no details.
He and fellow Labor politician, Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin, were joined by former National Party Leader Tim Fisher Ð now the "railway ambassador" Ð and Senator Nigel Scullion, representing Prime Minister John Howard, in a chorus rich on rhetoric and poor on commercial detail.
Freightlink CEO Bruce McGowan managed to deliver a 10 minute address to 100 odd invited guests at the function near the old abattoir in Smith Street, without giving any details about freight deals Ð with the first freight train to run in just four months' time.
When asked by the Alice Springs News he confirmed no contracts for the new line were in place as yet.
He said: "We've put our final pricing and schedules to the freight forwarders, who are our major customers, and the furniture removalists, and the car carriers.
"We've had tremendous response, they are very happy about what we've put forward.
"They're talking to their customers, and we're very confident to pick up the freight."
But there are no contracts with Freightlink yet?
"What we're pleased about is the promotion of the railway by the freight forwarders, their positive support of it, and the support of our time tables and scheduling.
"It is terrific news."
Senator Scullion accepted as fact projections that had been put to him: "This isn't a new railway.
"We already carry 350,000 tonnes freight annually that comes up to Alice Springs, principally fuel and other goods.
"But it's actually going straight up to 800,000."
What makes him think that?
"Well, that's the figures that have been related to me, predictions about the actual use of the rail line.
"These are forward estimates given to me.
"These are sensible figures that have been put to me, I accept them on face value, and the practical side of me says this is really the way it's going to be.
"There is going to be an exciting finish to this."
Garnets and manganese out of Tennant Creek may contribute "some other 300,000 tonnes".
PEOPLE"But most importantly, this rail is also going to carry 30,000 people to Darwin," said Sen Scullion.
"That's going to have an incredible impact on regional Northern Territory, particularly on Darwin and Alice Springs."
Mr Fisher said the Ghan is a "bonus" with $6m worth of tickets already sold "as people line up for an experience of a lifetime".
But so far as freight is concerned, Ms Martin is equally vague on detail: "It's going to carry the freight that currently comes by road, and also the opportunities for É what we are working towards É is new freight like car parts, bulk minerals, time sensitive goods.
"And I think the opportunities are limited only by our imagination."
And what is clinched at this point?
"Clinched at this point is my confidence that Freightlink, who need to make a return on their considerable investment, $800m, are working very steadily and successfully towards getting that freight on the rail."
What happens if they make a loss, if the expectations are not met. Are there strategies for subsidies in place?
"The deal with the railway is that this is the responsibility of Freightlink for 50 years, and that is clearly the responsibility.
"It's a private sector project to run, and they will need to be looking at how they make those returns. That is the bottom line, absolutely."
Absolutely no opportunities for subsidies?
"I am absolutely confident that this will make a return and absolutely confident that we will get the freight on this rail, and that we will see it grow over the next five to 10 years."
What if it doesn't and the operators hold out their hand?
"I think it's absolutely hypothetical, Erwin, absolutely hypothetical, because I am confident, particularly when you look at the opportunities for land bridging to the north, that this will be a most successful infrastructure link."
So, under no circumstances will there be subsidies?
"I think it's so hypothetical, totally hypothetical, that the question really doesn't deserve an answer.
"This will make a return, and the government will not subsidise it because it is a private sector project Mr Rann ruled out subsidies unequivocally: "We've put enough money in and put about the right amount of money in and that's all the money we're putting in."
"No more. Definitely not."
True believers and sceptics alike, leaving the ceremony, could have tuned their car radio to 8-HA and heard the Talking Heads hit, "We're on the road to nowhere."
STOP THIEF - GIRL AGED 12. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
It was around lunchtime on a recent Friday.
A ruckus broke out in the corridor of a CBD office building I was in.
In the next second an office worker put her head in the door and asked for help.
She said she'd caught a young "coloured" girl trying to steal from her purse in her office.
I went into the corridor with her.
The girl at that moment burst out of a door, holding an artefact that she'd taken from the room.
Seeing us, she dropped it and tried to run, but the office worker grabbed her and held on to her.
The girl was already agitated. I later learnt that the office worker had locked her in the room while she went for help. The girl had managed to unlock another door leading from the room.
Aged about 12 or 13 years at most, the girl started screaming abuse, crying, lashing out with fists and kicking.
The office worker was holding on to her by her hooded jacket. I took the girl's hand and tried to speak with her, to get her to calm down.
She continued to abuse and threaten the office-worker, saying she would come back and hit her, she knew where to find her and wouldn't forget her, that her family and friends would make her "bleed", and calling her, among other things, "a white c...".
The office worker asked that someone ring the police and that I fetch her boss, who was downstairs. Both things were done.
The boss helped the office worker calm the girl and when the police arrived a few minutes later, she was sitting down and much quieter.
Some little time later she was taken away.
I asked the office worker the next day what had happened with the police.
She said she hadn't laid charges: that would have been "a waste of time", because the girl was a minor and "nothing would come out of it".
However, she had wanted the incident to "go on the girl's record" so that "something could be done about it".
She said she'd been told that the girl was already on a "rehabilitation program".
"Family Services should take notice that this child is getting out of control," said the office-worker.
She said the girl had told police that her brother used to steal from the same office and that was how she knew to go there.
"That was the reason I was dead against letting her go," said the office-worker, "she'd only be back next week."
She said it was "sad to see someone young going astray".
"Something should be done before she's too much older and ends up locked up for good."
She also said, in relation to the girl's threats, "I'm looking over my shoulder all the time now".
I contacted the Alice Springs police to find out what had happened with the girl.
A spokesperson said she had been cautioned, "according to the request of the complainant".
She had then been taken home to her mother, who was told about the incident.
The incident was also reported to the Juvenile Diversion Unit, given that the girl had previously come to the attention of the police.
There will be no further follow-up from the police, as no charges were laid.
"It is limited what the police can do. We can only respond to a complaint and take the child to a safe place," said the spokesperson.
POWERAlthough police have the power to lay charges in their own right, they decided against doing so.
Further follow-up, like ensuring that the child goes to school, would be "up to other agencies", said the spokesperson.
I contacted Family and Children's Services (FACS) of the Territory's Department of Health.
Regional manager David Ross, speaking in general terms, said there was not necessarily a role for FACS where young people are involved in criminal activity.
"Our involvement would follow if information passed on to us by the police or others suggested that the young person was coming from a neglectful or abusive environment.
"There is sometimes a connection between juvenile crime and neglect or abuse but not always."
If a young person is not attending school, is there a role for FACS?
That is a "hazy area", said Mr Ross.
Schools themselves, through their attendance and home liaison officers as well as school counsellors, may be able to play an important role.
However, if the non-attendance is related to parents' drinking or abusive behaviour that would trigger FACS involvement.
Which agency should act if a child is generally going off the rails?
The legislation that governs FACS, the Community Welfare Act, does allow for intervention if the child is "persistently engaged in behaviour that is harmful to the community".
If the behaviour is of a criminal nature, then the young person should be referred to the Juvenile Diversion Unit.
"It is the responsibility of everyone in the community, including the police and the Juvenile Diversion Unit, to make a report to us if they believe there are child protection issues."
In general terms, are there children falling through the cracks in Alice Springs?
"There shouldn't be," says Mr Ross, "if people are making reports to us.
"We are a safety net.
"If we can't act ourselves, then wherever possible we would refer the young person to another agency, such as Reconnect, Congress, and the Safe Families program."
The Alice News asked the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) how it would respond to a case like this?
Russell Totham, General Manager Schools Central Australia, said there might be any number of reasons why a child would not be at school at a particular time.
In relation to the incident I witnessed (and with further information allowing him to identify the girl), he said "the transgression would appear to have been committed while the child was on her way home".
"This child's school finishes early on a Friday."
The recently appointed school-based attendance officer, Anita Kruger, has a close relationship with the child and her family, which is described as "stable, loving and caring".
Ms Kruger has also referred the girl and her family to Reconnect, a Commonwealth-funded service to prevent youth homelessness, helping families with a range of problems, whether they be with money, education, housing, or drugs and alcohol.
In general terms, Mr Totham said the department had had great success in recent months in "encouraging" up to 80 youngsters, mostly of primary school age, to enrol at local schools.
This had been due to "a marvellous effort" by Ms Kruger.
"Ms Kruger, who was only appointed at the start of the second semester, has been identifying children not enrolled at schools, talking to them and their families and working through the many issues involved," said Mr Totham.
"As a result, about 80 youngsters in Alice Springs have been enrolled at school during the past few months, many of them for the first time."
Ms Kruger's work relates mainly to those children and teenagers identified as not being enrolled at any school, or whose attendance is very irregular.
Mr Totham said it is the responsibility of school staff, including Aboriginal and Islander Education Workers and Home Liaison Officers, to monitor those children who are absent from school, for whatever reason, be it sickness, family reasons, or perhaps truancy.
The exact size of the attendance problem in Alice Springs is not known, but is the subject of collaborative research by Tangentyere Council and DEET.
A departmental spokesperson also commented that many of the children seen around town during school hours are from remote communities, in town with their families for a range of reasons, including health, legal and land tenure matters.
"There is a significant increased mobility of Indigenous families living in remote communities," said the spokesperson.
"This is a major issue for a whole range of government and non-government agencies and requires further research.
"DEET is examining how to respond to this mobility by providing some form of Alice Springs-based school experience when children are in town.
"Although this is at its very early stages, there is a recognition that, in consultation with families, a positive response will have to be found."
PARK DEAL WILL WORK WITH GOOD WILL: TOURISM LOBBY. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
If negotiations proceed with good will, there will "great outcomes" from the Territory Government's proposed Parks and Reserves (Framework for the Future) Bill 2003, says tourism industry spokesperson, Craig Catchlove.
The general manager of the Central Australian Tourism Industry Association (CATIA) says joint management of parks with Aboriginal traditional owners is "not an issue".
"We're used to it, it works at Uluru.
"The plusses are that we could get more parks and reserves out of the new arrangements, which in our area will lead to an expanded West MacDonnells Park.
"We could also see an increased Indigenous experience for visitors, which we know is what people want when they come into our region."
On the preference being given by the Bill to future commercial activities in parks which involve Aboriginal traditional owners, Mr Catchlove said it would be a good idea for new enterprises to start thinking now about a joint venture approach.
"Again, we already see this happening, where commercial skills of non-Aboriginal entrepreneurs are allied with the intellectual property of traditional owners. Anangu Tours at Uluru is a good example."
ATSIC Commissioner Alison Anderson also welcomed the Bill, as opening the way "for increased Indigenous land owners' involvement in the management of parks and reserves, which will deliver opportunities for economic development".
As well, Ms Anderson endorsed negotiated settlements as "a far better alternative to being stalled in the courts and wasting millions of dollars in litigation".The Bill, to be tabled in the October sittings of Parliament for passage in November, looks like a win-win move all round, for the government and its budget, for Aboriginal interests, as well as for the tourism industry and all who enjoy what parks have got to offer.
Changes to land tenure of certain parks are conditional on a lease-back to the Territory for 99 years, during which no-fee no-permit access is guaranteed. After that, while the lease terms could change, the legislation stipulates continued use of the land as park.
Expensive litigation over land claims on parks, reasonably or highly likely to succeed, has been avoided. Aboriginal interest in the land has rather been recognised and a framework negotiated that gives it something more than symbolic value, balanced by the preservation of "wider community interests in conservation, recreation and tourism and mining development".
The government hopes that in line with the "Northern Territory Tourism Strategic Plan 2003-2007", Aboriginal involvement in park management will continue to develop the number and quality of indigenous tourism experiences "crucial to the continued growth and sustainability of tourism in the Territory".
Joint management agreements and Indigenous Land Use Agreements with traditional owners may also lead to an expansion of certain parks, adjacent to Aboriginal land recognised by the Land Rights Act.
Examples in Central Australia are likely to be an expanded West MacDonnells Park and the proposed Davenport Range National Park, south of Tennant Creek.
Living areas for traditional owners may be provided, subject to joint management agreements.
Not all Territory parks are affected by the framework Bill. More than 40 parks and reserves are unaffected and will retain their current status.
Various provisions of the new legislation will apply to 49 parks and reserves, including key sites in Central Australia.
Aboriginal Land Rights will be recognised in the following regional parks:
Arltunga; Chamber's Pillar; Corroboree Rock; Davenport Range; Devils Marbles; Emily and Jessie Gaps (including the Heavitree Range extension); Ewaninga Rock Carvings; Finke Gorge; N'Dhala Gorge; Trephina Gorge; and the West MacDonnell National Park (including Simpson's Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Pound, Serpentine Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge, Redbank and the proposed Alice Valley extension).
Park freehold title will be granted over the Dulcie Range National Park (north-east of Alice), Native Gap and Watarrka National Park.
Joint management agreements will be entered into for the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Mac Clark (Acacia Peuce) Conservation Reserve, Rainbow Valley and Ruby Gap.
Only 11 parks had been found to have no underlying title and had been subject to previously lodged claims under the Land Rights Act, so why is the government bringing so many parks into the new provisions?
The government says it sought a comprehensive response leading to certainty for the future of parks where "there is a distinct likelihood that some level of native title rights exist".
They took into account that, to date, each native title claim in the Territory heard by the courts had determined that native title rights and interests exist.
Their advice was also that the proximity of some of these parks to existing Aboriginal land under the Land Rights Act meant that it is highly likely that there are "traditional Aboriginal owners" of the land, as defined by the Land Rights Act.
Having negotiated the provisions of the Bill with the land councils should pave the way to an acceptance of the framework.
However, the Bill has a sunset clause that takes effect on June 30, 2004. The Chief Minister will be able to prescribe a later date only if she is satisfied there is substantial acceptance of the offer, and that full compliance will occur within a set timeframe, but no later than December 31, 2004.
The Chief Minister will also have the discretion to omit certain parks and reserves and Aboriginal land from the provisions if advised that the traditional owners of those areas will not comply with certain conditions but she will have to exercise that discretion once only, on or before July 31, 2004.
The leaseback arrangements of the Bill require preference to be given to the participation of the traditional owners in any commercial activities conducted in the park.
During the offer period, existing permits will be unaffected by the Bill's processes.
Where the period of a current permit expires during the offer period, it will be renewed by the Parks and Wildlife Commission where there is a reasonable expectation that it would be renewed.
FRED BROOKS' KILLING SPARKED THE MASSACRE. Part Three of a Feature by DICK KIMBER.
ÔReal True History': Coniston Massacre
The Killing of Fred Brooks
Part 3 of an historical perspective by DICK KIMBER
(For Parts 1 and 2 see Alice News, Sept 10 & 17)
Special Note: There are many versions of what occurred in and about the time of Fred Brooks' killing.
The majority of the following notes are based on yarns Dick Kimber had in the 1970s with the Warlpiri men George Morton, Darby Jampitjinpa, Jimmy Jungurrayi, and a number of other Warlpiri people to whom he was kindly introduced by Harry Jakamara Nelson; with former drover, camel-man and prospector Paddy Tucker, of Arrernte-European descent; and with retrobate old bushman Nugget Hunter.
Then in the 1970s and '80s Dick had a number of yarns with Dinny Japaltjarri and Alex Wilson, the latter the station-hand and prospecting off-sider who was the last surviving member of the police patrol associated with the Coniston Massacre; and with Rex and Margaret Hall (nee Nicker), who had been all through the Ryans Well Ð Coniston Ð Granites Ð Tanami country, and had looked after Jimmy Wickham in his pensioner years.
In the 1980s Dick yarned with legendary bushman Walter Smith; in the 1990s with Bryan Bowman, central Australian cattleman from the 1920s, and one time owner of Coniston station; and in 2003 with some of the last old Warlpiri and Anmatyerre people who remember any of the details.
These yarns have been complemented by research, yet every account varies. For considerably different versions readers are referred to Michael Terry's "Hidden Wealth and Hiding People" (c.1930), John Cribbins' "The Killing Times" (1984), and Peter and Jay Read's "Long Time, Olden Time" (1991). While John Cribbin's publication is partly creative fiction, it also usefully quotes in full the Commission of Enquiry.
Readers are also referred to the Central Land Council's notes of August 2003 entitled, "75th Anniversary of the Coniston Massacre Ð Making Peace with the Past." The articles appearing in the Alice Springs News are intended to "make peace with the past" by presenting the history as accurately as possible, and allowing readers to make their own judgements.
For a range of reasons which will never be totally clear, the Warlpiri and neighbouring Anmatyerre people made a series of attacks on pastoralists and prospectors in the general Coniston Ð Ryans Well area between 1926-1928.
In 1926 Bruce Chapman, a cameleer and station hand, had a large supply of rations pilfered at Mount Peake.
Later in the same year Mathews [probably George Mathews], who needed fresh native pasture for his cattle, walked a mob out to Mount Peake where, as Michael Terry records, one of a group of warriors told him, "This [country] no more longa white feller, longa black feller. White man can't sit down longa black feller. White man shift."
This is a clear enough statement about ownership of country, rejection of its use for cattle and a demand that the white man should "shift" back to where he had come from. Much as Mathews stood his ground at the time, he was constantly watched; thought that fires were deliberately lit to burn off native pasture he had intended to use for his cattle; and when, of necessity, away from his camp, had his rations and salted meat stolen. He shortly afterwards "shifted" back to the Telegraph Line country for safety.
At this time, George Murray, having joined the Territory police in 1919, without any training because of the dire need for police in remote localities, and having initially served at Ranken River and Lake Nash, was appointed to Barrow Creek.
Out west the prospecting parties were searching for Jimmy Wickham's "lost reef". How benevolent or how ruthless they were is not known, but they were all armed with rifles and revolvers. Clearly they wanted a peaceful time, and cooperation from the Warlpiri, but they weren't taking chances. Rifles were essential for shooting game, but both rifles and revolvers were also carried for protection against "wild blacks".
One legendary young bushman, named Ben Nicker, came upon a recently shot warrior on the upper Lander in January, 1926. He rode onwards, keeping a close watch, and came to Jimmy Wickham's camp, where Jimmy was mending some harness. After greeting one another, they sat down to share a billy of tea. Ben, knowing Jimmy's reputation as a "a man who would shoot you as soon as look at you", but also being of a family Jimmy knew as friends, bided his time.
When Jimmy was again focussed on the leather-work, he casually mentioned, "I noticed a dead blackfellow up the creek a bit, Jimmy." Jimmy did not respond, focussing instead on the stitching, so after a time Ben repeated his comment. This time Jimmy responded.
"You always were a talkative lad, Ben, but you've never been that observant. If you'd looked more closely, you would have seen that there were two dead blackfellows there."
They had approached Jimmy without waiting to be called up. He had shot them in case they had spears held between their toes, dragging them along so that Jimmy could not see them, or boomerangs, held in place by hair-string belts, hidden in the small of their backs. And his comment, very clearly delivered, was a warning to Ben too. Keep your mouth shut about matters that don't involve you.
By 1927 most of the prospecting parties had done what they could and, not finding the gold, the backing syndicates had cut their losses and the prospectors had moved on. Old Joe Brown was one of the few who kept at it.
As the drought increased, the Warburton, Lander River and Cockatoo Creek waterholes, with the exception of Boomerang Waterhole, dried up and, as they often did in any case, the Warlpiri and pastoralists alike relied on soakages.
Randal Stafford was still at his homestead on the Warburton, but Nugget Morton had shifted his camp up the Lander to a temporary home he simply called Mud Hut. Every indication is that he remained ruthless in his treatment of men and women alike. (Later accounts indicate that, following his custom of taking whichever women he wanted, he had raped some very young girls, and later again also killed an albino Warlpiri woman when she constantly fought him off).
Word came in to Randal Stafford of such incidents, and the ruthlessness of Jimmy Wickham and Nugget Morton troubled him. The few white men "out west" had to stick together, and depend upon one another in adversity however independent they generally were, but they also had their individual codes of conduct.
Because he had recently usurped numbers of the main waters, and had also taken an Aboriginal wife (Alice) who had previously been promised to a Warlpiri man, Randal also heard that threats were being made by "bush blacks" against his and Alice's lives.
It may also have been that, being an easier-natured man than either Jimmy Wickham or Nugget Morton, he was perceived as an easier target for revenge. Randal was certain that the threats were not just boasting Ð later a spear at night into his bunk bed, when he was fortunately absent, proved him correct.
It seems that John Saxby Ð universally called Jack Ð who was working for him, also very much believed the rumours, and took practical precautions to prepare for this threatened attack.
Jack was so much a remote station worker (and intermittent prospector) throughout his life that Bryan Bowman thought that he must have been dodging the law about something. However he was a competent bushman and reliable bush worker, and Bryan also commented that he was an absolute marksman with a rifle.
On one of his rare visits to Stuart Town he went, as did everyone, to store-keeper George Wilkinson to pick up stores. Walter Smith, present at the same time, recalled being surprised at the quantity of rifle bullets he purchased. Fifty-four years later Walter still remembered that it was 1200 bullets.
Jack was no doubt purchasing them on behalf of Randal too and, in further preparation for what they believed was an imminent attack, they fortified the homestead as much as possible.
By now, as Dinny Japaltjarri put it during a yarn in 1980, the "long time, olden time people", finding that cattle had largely replaced kangaroos in the Coniston country, began spearing the cattle. Dinny's tone of voice did not suggest that this was a retaliatory thing so much as a logical outcome of the circumstances, a view not shared by pastoralists at the time.
Charles Young, a pastoralist on Cockatoo Creek who also spent much time prospecting with his mate Carter and an Aboriginal "camel boy", supported Randal's view that things were "bad" out Coniston way. He stated that in August, 1928 "close to Coniston Ñ the niggers seemed to be out of control".
"They came round our camp and demanded food and tobacco. They all had spears and boomerangs and were semi-civilised blacks. In our party there were only two white men and one black boy. We were armed with Winchester rifles all the time. I fired over the heads of the blacks several times with the result that they cleared out.
"[On about 2nd August] Ñ a few natives had demanded food and tobacco from us while about twenty or thirty others were hanging about carrying their boomerangs. As we shifted camp they would make demands for food and tobacco. They were the Lander River niggers. During our travels we met most of the people of the various stations [between Coniston and the Telegraph Line]. We heard complaints of everyone about the natives killing their cattle and goats, and the men from what I can gather were in a state of fear."
So concerned were the authorities with these and other threats, and the actual spearing of prospector Ted North in the shoulder, that Mounted Constables Don Hood and Dan Toohey were sent to establish a police outpost at Tanami.
Soon after they arrived "Warramullas" had raided Hood's camp and speared one of his best horses. The two police followed the spearmen's tracks and, in a confrontation, shot one of them. It was deemed a lawful shooting.
However as Michael Terry tells, by the time that the rumours reached the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, via "a mulga wire from bush blacks", the constables were involved in a "regular bust up", having had "a proper stand-up battle with a big mob of Wallmullas."
It is likely that every incident out west was exaggerated in like manner, with every ten kilometres from the scene exaggerating the situation still more.
Meanwhile those more southern Warlpiri, focussed about Central Mount Wedge, Lake Bennett and major rock-holes such as Watulpunyu and Yaripilong (later taken up as Mount Wedge, Newhaven and Gurner stations), commenced raiding down to the Glen Helen country. Here they began spearing cattle and, after an instant large meal, took just the choicest and most manageable bits, and returned to the safety of their distant range waters.
Fred Raggatt, owner of Glen Helen and, according to Bryan Bowman, the "meanest" man he had ever known, notified the authorities. Where Randal Stafford was more prepared to kill a beast to provide meat for Warlpiri station workers, knowing that some of the meat would be given to Warlpiri still living in the bush on the fringe of the station, Fred Raggatt was harder.
For decades he had saved every tin he had ever emptied, was so mean that he even saved his rarely used match-sticks, and he was defintely not inclined to be forgiving of anyone spearing his cattle. However, Randal Stafford didn't just run an open butcher shop for the Warlpiri either.
While all of this action was going on, in 1927 the first parliament was being opened in Canberra and, under The Northern Australia Act of 1926, Stuart Town became the capital of Central Australia in 1927.
Central Australia was a formally separate entity from the rest of the Territory, marked by the twentieth parallel of latitude, and old Sergeant Stott became Mr. Commissioner Stott. However, he retired to Adelaide in April, 1928 and, unused to the traffic, was killed by a train at Wayville a month later.
With his retirement the rule with a rod of iron, including over those police officers like George Murray who were directly responsible to him, was removed, and quite possibly with it the chance to keep the frontier circumstances in check.
He was replaced as Government Resident and Police Commissioner by John Charles Cawood who, having been born in about 1882, was of similar age to George Murray. He was a long-term public servant, qualified forester, magistrate, shire councillor and coroner from Parramatta and Bellingen in New South Wales, and had the assistance of an efficient public servant called V.G. Carrington in administrative work.
Despite his role as magistrate and coroner, there is no suggestion that he had actually engaged in police work, as had Sergeant Stott throughout his decades of life in the Territory.
Competent as he was as an organiser, John Cawood's appointment was akin to being "thrown to the wolves" in Central Australia. Proper accommodation was still under construction.
He found that his duties included the myriad roles that had accrued to Sergeant Stott: ensuring the policing of strict laws about where Aborigines had to camp to protect them from navvies working on construction of the railway line from Oodnadatta to Alice; hosting a stream of official visitors who were intent on seeing that this new "state" of Central Australia developed to its ever-envisaged potential of hundreds of thousands of settlers; and listening to the advice of long-term residents who always "knew" better than he did about anything and everything.
No sooner had he arrived, too, than he began to hear stories of unruly "blacks" and cattle-killing.
Shortly afterwards Randal Stafford and an eastern neighbour, T. Moar of Pine Hill, were so concerned with the problems and the threatening rumours that they requested that a police patrol be sent out into their station country. While arrests and a demonstration of authority were officially intended, another expression, "teach them a lesson", was also used. It hinted at harsher treatment being acceptable.
The "government" news was of no direct consequence to the "outside" bushmen, including Joe Brown, Alex Wilson and two Warlpiri "camel boys." In late July Joe, who had been out looking for Jimmy Wickham's lost gold-reef again, had fallen very ill with beri-beri at Tanami, but with Alex Wilson's and the Warlpiri men's help continued for a time towards Coniston.
When Joe's pain was very great, Alex made him comfortable in a bush camp near Mount Hardy, left a canteen of water by his side, told the Warlpiri men to look after Joe and the camels, and began to ride as fast as he could towards Coniston for help. This was possibly the 6th August.
At this stage Paddy Tucker, who had been "out west" prospecting, was also making his way in with his camel-team towards Coniston, while the 20-year-old Bruce Chapman, having a spell from prospecting, was at a camp 30 kilometres down the Lander from the station homestead.
A little earlier Randal Stafford had become concerned that he had not been able to repay a sizeable handshake loan from his old mate, Fred Brooks. Fred was not at all worried about this. He was 61, 65 or 67 (his death certificate has been differently interpreted, and other estimates were made at the time), and was contented with bush life.
He was unusual in not having an Aboriginal wife, or a series of short-term relationships. (As Old Bryan Bowman generalised, "All of them had them, and, I say, those who said that they didn't were, I say, I say, liars.") Fred was kind to the Warlpiri children, but had a strict rule, commonly applied by many white men on the frontier, that the Warlpiri men must always camp beyond the accurate spear-throwing distance of about 60 metres.
As it became apparent that Randal could not walk his cattle down to the Adelaide market, which was already flooded with closer-in stock from northern South Australia and the eastern states, Fred decided to have a spell away from the homestead, and do a bit of dogging, using Yurrkuru Soakage, 20 kilometres west of the station, as his base. The trapping, poisoning and shooting of dingoes was a common enough bush occupation, as they were considered vermin, and the government paid good money for every scalp (the proof of a killing).
Randal, who was about to go into Teatree, was concerned at his old mate's welfare, and warned him to be very wary because of the continuing bush telegraph news coming in from the west of an impending attack on Coniston.
However Fred, while taking his usual precautions, dismissed the concerns. After all, having now lived in the Coniston country for most of the last seven years, he felt he "knew" the local Warlpiri people.
He left Coniston on the 2nd August, 1928, taking two camels, two Aboriginal youths known as "Skipper" and "Dodger" as "camel boys" and dogging assistants, bullock hides to keep him occupied making saddles, and the equipment necessary for trapping and poisoning dingoes.
Late that day they set up camp at Yurrkuru Soakage (Brook's Soak), Fred in his and, as he always demanded, Skipper and Dodger at a distance in theirs. A number of Warlpiri families were also camped near the soak. Fred and his assistants presumably knew some of the Warlpiri camped there; some would have visited or done seasonal work at the station.
It is probable that Fred established a daily routine, with himself primarily attending to equipment and simply relaxing, and Skipper and Dodger regularly taking the camels out to patches of good feed away from the soakage, and laying poison baits for dingoes at localities that gave the best opportunity for "dog-stiffening".
From this point onwards there are many variations to the story. The strengths and weaknesses of oral history, which are often also the strengths and weaknesses of written history, are illustrated throughout the Coniston Massacre story. Two accounts of the same incident will be given here.
First, a boy called Lala, who had been present at the Warlpiri camp at Brooks' Soak (Yurrkuru), gave the following account.
He had heard two warriors, Padygar and Arkikra (apparently the man later known as "Bullfrog"), plotting to kill Fred Brooks [on the evening of the 6th August]. A "big mob" of other men also agreed to assist. After killing him they intended to take his tucker and tobacco.[On the morning of the 7th] they attacked, while a woman held Fred's hand behind his back. Padygar hit old Fred on the head with a yamstick "a mob" of times, while Arkirkra hit him several times on the head with an axe. Other men also hit him with boomerangs and axes. After killing him they put old Fred in a "bag" [his mosquito net] and out him in a rabbit hole. Lala saw Padygar and Arkirkra then take tucker, tobacco and steel knives.
NEXT: A different version of events.
Alice ... town of romance and surprise. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
WOW! Alice Springs! And you live thereÉ?
For some unknown reason, people always express surprise when they learn that there is a large permanent population base here Ð that some 27,000 plus of us call the Alice home.As my sister, Lynn (sorry, Norm, our sis!), said when she flew out on Monday after her ninth visit to the Alice, and her first Henley on Todd experience, everyone she talked to, prior to leaving Christchurch, New Zealand, and others she met in transit to various (other) places, wanted to know more about the Red Centre and expressed a desire to visit at some pointÉThe Alice is now well serviced carrier-wise with Qantas, Virgin Air, road and rail services.
The prospect of regular charter flights from Japan is an exciting one.
There's no reason for people not to put us on their itinerary, is there?It's still a matter of making sure that intending visitors receive the right information - that this region warrants more than the oft-promoted one night in the Alice and three/four down at Yulara and Kings CanyonÉ
In-town traders have had a quiet time lately, and were looking forward to the influx of people last week for the Supercruise brigade and Henley on Todd celebrations. Hopefully the visitors are having a great time in the Centre and will go away and promote the benefits of a holiday here.
It was nice to see Helen and Dennis, ex Chateau Hornsby, and now living on the east coast somewhere north of Sydney, in Alice last week for a few days, and out on the town with friends, Lorna, Bob and Rita, Sue, Bob and others.
LAZYLynn mentioned that she loved those lazy Sundays out at the Chateau, the music, atmosphere, lunches, views, sense of space and peace É and would love to revisit the winery before she left.
Helen said (to me), "You obviously haven't driven out there lately [which I hadn'tÉ]".
Mid-week, sis and I did go for a drive, along Colonel Rose Drive, turning left at Petrick Road, still bearing the "old winery" sign, past Broken Elbow. Chateau Hornsby closed months ago, signage fading and, of course, the vines are quite dead, although some of the fruit trees were in full pink and white blossom.
It used to be one of our favourite spots: when David and I decided to put our pot plants together and, later, get married, we partied out at the Chateau H, before adjourning to Turner House, also long gone, for a superb dinner with lots of friends Ð the end of two eras?
On Thursday, after the rain, Lynn and I drove out along the Eastern Macs, to Jessie and Emily Gaps, and I told her that yet another local experience, the Ross River one, has also disappeared.
We'd had many great weekends out there over the years and photos to remind us, as if we'd ever forget Ð including one memorable New Year's Eve with my brother Norm, Lee and family, Ian, Francoise and others.
When Lynn first started visiting, the Telford, Riverside and Stuart Arms Hotels were popular Friday night meeting places, and the White Gums Restaurant was a pleasant little drive out west, through Honeymoon Gap, and a wonderful venue for functions, but obviously not enough of them.
Wallara Ranch was our "weekender" and if we wanted to venture further, we'd follow the dirt road through to Ayers Rock and party there.
Heading back into Alice a couple of weeks ago, David and I called in to see Greg at Aileron: busy renovating what was the original station homestead, built in the 1920s, and will be an art gallery. It's a huge project: the kitchen has the original old range wood-burner, timber mantle-pieces, tall ceilings throughout, wide passage-way and most rooms feature fireplaces: all manner of memorabilia is being found around the property, from the china family pot to kitchen implements and tools.
Greg is trying to think of ways to attract the townspeople north Ð as he says, it's not that far up the trackÉ
If we feel like a break "out" of town we have options: Jim's Place, Gem Tree, Glen Helen Homestead, Aileron and any number of prime camping spots and, the bonus, we don't have to drive far to get that sense of bush, nor battle car-loads of people along the way Ð enjoying the ride, the scenery and the essence of being in the Centre.
That's, we tell people when they enquire, and then express surprise, one of the reasons we live in Alice Springs.
Swimming against the tide. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
I have never understood the purpose of swimming. In fact, I have never heard a good explanation of what swimming is for. Apart from saving shipwrecked people and diving for pearls, what can be the point of it?
My alienation from swimming has never been important before. I have always avoided going into water altogether, which mattered to nobody. In case of emergencies, like being forced at gunpoint to swim by masked gangsters, I have always kept a pair of 1970s pink-chequered baggy bathers in a cupboard somewhere, but I have rarely needed them.
I didn't expect this happy situation to change when I arrived in Central Australia. After all, this is a desert. There are no beaches or lakes. So there can be no need to splash about in chemically-treated water feigning enjoyment.
So it came as a shock to learn that nobody can avoid swimming in Australia because everywhere you go there is a pool or spa. People even have meetings around them. Not only that, but my children are always going to the public pool in town and I have to take them there.
The immigration authorities should come clean about this. Instead of making everyone entering Australia answer questions about the plant material or infectious diseases they might be carrying, they should add a new box to the form that says, "Are you prepared to enter water wearing synthetic textiles? Please tick yes or no". If you answer no, two muscular uniformed men who have spent too much time exercising in pools appear to eject you from the country.
Under this kind of cultural pressure, the moment recently arrived for my vintage bathers to say goodbye to the world. The kids were embarrassed by them, which is probably the least forgivable act you can do to your kids, apart from all the other unforgivable ones. Apparently, my swimmers were not even fit for recycling. I took off to the shops to buy some modern ones.
At this point I was far away from the certainties of Alice Springs shopping (Kmart or Mensworld). So the safest bet was the local Myers. I reckoned I could be in and out of there in a jiffy, clutching a new pair.
The Myers staff directed me vaguely towards the male undergarment and sports apparel section, which is where I learned that my old swimmers were not the only product of the Ôseventies, because I am too.
In those days, the difference between boxers, soccer shorts, sleep wear and swimming gear was absolutely clear. But now, faced with a bewildering array of the finest that Chinese manufacturers can produce, I was confused. My jiffy of a shopping trip became a marathon of reading clothing labels to make sure I didn't wear underwear at the Alice Springs Town Pool.
I had a glimpse of the confusion that the range of choice and colour and style presents to people from another age.
Meanwhile, the shops that used to cater for people who want quiet, considered service are dying out. The malls move faster and faster. The old people stay away.
My uncles are from the flirty Ôfifties. I am from the dismal Ôseventies. But it makes little difference. I will keep this in mind in future.
RULES GRAND FINAL: NO ROOM IN THIS YEAR'S STEW! Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The South's Aussie Rules Football Club proved on Sunday that they have the tradition and potential to be recognised as the emerging club in the CAFL. They won their sixth A Grade premiership on Sunday and buttered up with a handsome victory in the Reserves.
In the game of the year South scored 17.11 (113) to an incredibly accurate 17.1 (103) by Pioneers.
Traeger Park was a picture prior to the start of the game with some three thousand spectators ensuring that the southern end of the ground was bedecked in the blue and white colours of the Roos, and the northern end was all green and gold.
Pioneers entered the arena on time and running. They were without the services of Lachlan Ross and Trevor Dhu due to suspension. More significantly Ryan Mallard, who had kicked 90 goals for the year, withdrew with a broken hand. Adding to their challenge was the reality that several key Eagles players had already participated in Pioneers Under 18s premiership win earlier in the day.
While Pioneers warmed up on a 37 degree temperature day, South played their cards close to the chest. Rather than running onto the arena, Kelvin Maher walked his players with his young daughter in arms, to the club banner which reminded everyone that it is only one game in each year that really matters.
Equally as authoritative, it was the South boys who interlocked arms for the singing of the national anthem. They looked ready to win!
It was a nervous start from both sides, but Pioneer set up the early lead when Martin Hagan registered a point and then Nathan Flanagan planted a drifting ball through the big posts and put his side seven points in front.
In reply the effervescent Gilbert Fishook from 50 metres out planted a torpedo right through the centre to keep the Roos in the race. Joel Campbell and Marty Hagan put further goals on the board for Pioneer while Malcolm Ross and Fishook did likewise for South, having the sides rest at quarter time a point apart, with South three goals two to Pioneer three goals one.
In was in the second term that South established their ascendancy. They booted 6.4 to 4.0 from Pioneer. While the Eagles seemed to go to sleep early, Fishook took control across the Roos half forward line and presented for each and every South sortie into the forward line.
South took advantage of turnovers and rebounds to direct the ball goal wards.
In the Pioneer quarter Craig Turner proved his ability to contest when single-handedly he summed up the situation, well into the quarter, and belted the ball time and again into the Pioneer zone rather than trusting his comrades in the centre scrum. This kept the Eagles in the game.
Fortunately Pioneer were able to snare a goal off the boot of Ricky Mentha virtually on the bell to keep them competitive at half time, down only by 17 points.
Upon resumption of play, the Eagles struck immediately through the agency of Nathan Flanagan to put themselves well in the game. Over the quarter Pioneer scored five straight goals to South's 4.4, showing that accurate kicking is a real advantage in games that matter.
The last quarter proved to be an absolute pearler.
Pioneer were told in the huddle that they were kicking to the end that is all important on Traeger Park, and they responded accordingly. In a space of six minutes Wayne McCormack, Nathan Pepperill, Jethro Campbell and Peperill again, goaled and put Pioneer in front.
A further major from Jethro Campbell made Pioneer look ominous as they snared a 14 point lead and looked to have victory well within their sights.
During the onslaught, however, Wayne Braun, delivering a perfect shirt front from an era bygone, was " pinged" but calmed down the penetration that Geoff Taylor had been displaying around the packs.
From that point Ritchie Morton capitalised on a turnover and goaled for the Roos.
Tensions then brewed to boiling point when Daniel Craig and Kelvin Maher were given 10 minutes in the sin bin.
With a player from each side out the game continued to ebb and flow, with South able to conjure up some magic that ended in goals.
Shaun Cusack really rose to the occasion in the critical few minutes left in the game. He goaled to get South within two points of the lead, only to see the champion Malcolm Ross lob a set shot, from what seemed easy kicking distance, out of bounds on the full.
In a further burst towards the goals South found Fishook, who made no mistake with his ninth goal to put the Roos four points in front. Then in an incredible exhibition of bravery, Cusack snared a ball in the centre, and had it delivered down field to the waiting arms of Donny Scharber. From 50 metres out the Harts Range magician, who normally plays in defence, nailed the coffin well and truly shut.
South took the 2003 flag by 10 points but in doing so had 10 more scoring shots. It is a real tribute to have Pioneer able to kick only one behind in their 17 goal haul.
For South, however, it is reflective of the manner in which the game was played. The Roos were the better side.
Full marks must go to Greg McAdam. This year he has moulded a side together. He had them enter the arena as winners. They stuck to a game plan demanding discipline and continuous rests on the bench in order to counter the heat. They were headed early in the last quarter and responded as winners.
Gilbert Fishook's display was awesome. His marking and kicking set standards. In front of goals the performance of Malcolm Ross cannot be understated. He received plenty of attention on the day but stuck to his guns.
Charlie Maher was an absolute worm burner. He ran, received, and dispatched like a true professional. Shaun Cusack deserves every accolade for his workman-like 100 minutes of fine football. Kelvin Maher as captain led from the front all day.
In all it was a glorious day for 22 Super Roos. Special mention, however, should be made of the performances of Wayne Braun and Ali Satour, who have not played a full season, but rose to the occasion.
In the Pioneer camp honours must go to Craig Turner. All day he had two South ruckman running at him off the bench. At critical times it was Turner who took the game by the throat and kept Pioneer in the fight.
He was aided by a battling Aaron Kopp in the big man department. On the ground Richard McCormack, Geoffrey Taylor and Wayne McCormack were always prepared to take the hard ball. And in the last quarter, a lad who normally plays the game in the backline proved his worth in the forwards: Jethro Campbell showed his versatility.
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