October 8, 2003.


The NT Labor Government says it is spending more money in Central Australia than its CLP predecessor but can not produce the figures to substantiate the claim.
Meanwhile MLA for MacDonnell John Elferink says local contractors are "bleeding".
He says: "There is no work around.
"Money is tight, people are leaving town and laying off staff."
The local economy is used to troughs but this is one of the longest on record.
The Alice News asked the government to provide comparative figures for government spending on goods and services with the private sector in Central Australia, two years before and two years after the 2001 election.
We asked for the "cash spend" Ð not including contracts arranged.
In reply a government spokesman said the figures were not available immediately but would be supplied to us later.
"Government strongly refutes any suggestion that it is spending less in Central Australia than the CLP," said the spokesman.
"The Martin Labor Government's first two full budgets clearly show that we are spending more across the entire Territory than has been spent previously."
However Mr Elferink says a substantial slice of this year's budget is made up of money not spent last year.
The announced $274m capital works budget this year includes a "re-vote" of $119m from 2002-2003, he says.
The government spokesman says "it would not be possible to reliably provide information on what has been spent in a particular region over a long period of time.
"Government expenditure is recorded by type of expenditure and the purpose of the expenditure.
"The Territory Government, like any other major purchaser, does not record expenditure by the location of that expenditure."
However, Mr Elferink says the Budget papers clearly break down expenditures into zones, across departments.
Meanwhile senior public servants are touring the Territory to promote changes in the government's buying practices.
Brian Gallaugher, Senior Director, Procurement, said in Alice Springs last week that there will be a "change of focus and emphasis", and the five Procurement Boards will be reduced to two before the end of the year.
He told the Alice News: "We're not buying purely and simply on price, we're trying to make a value for money decision, in terms of jobs for Territorians, environmental impact, use of local suppliers, product quality, performance and so on.
"We don't have fixed percentages and we specifically steer away from them."
Mr Gallaugher says the questions that will be asked will include: "Is the price reasonable?
"Is there a reasonable provision for profit?
"We need to make sure there is nobody dumping in the market and trying to kill other bidders.
"And then we need to make sure the tenderers have covered all the cost factors, and make sure they have the capacity to deliver.
"There are no hard and fast rules in any of this," says Mr Gallaugher.
"It essentially gets down to a value judgment, and our expectation is that the delegated officials within the public sector have to make those calls."
Recommendations to purchase are placed by the public service before a Procurement Review Board.
The current five boards, each consisting of four public servants and a private enterprise representative, are in Alice, Tennant, Katherine, Darwin and Nhulunbuy.
The new system Ð possibly from late November Ð provides for just two boards Ð one in Alice and one in Darwin Ð each consisting of three public servants and two industry reps, and in the Alice board one of them has to come from Tennant Creek.
Elliot McAdam, MLA for Barkly, representing Business Minister Paul Henderson, says the new system will be "more transparent, there are more avenues available for people who are aggrieved.
"And there will be an Indigenous representative on the Procurement Council because a lot of the work takes place in Indigenous communities."
Mr McAdam says "non price factors" include jobs for Terri-torians, jobs for Indigenous Territorians, and the training opportunities that tenderers are going to provide.
"It's a shift away from just a pure price focus."
Mr Gallaugher says because of treaty obligations a buying decision is not permitted to be influenced by whether a tendering company is Territory, interstate or foreign owned. He says the NT Government is bound by the Australian New Zealand Government Procurement Agreement which does not permit a buying decision to be influenced by whether a tendering company is Territory, interstate or NZ owned.
"We cannot differentiate between a supplier in Darwin, Melbourne or Auckland."
The Territory is also "aware of" the current negotiations between Australian and US about a free trade agreement.
It hasn't been signed yet but "there is a government procurement chapter in it".
At this stage no decision has been made on whether or the NT will sign that agreement.
The Territory has been invited to sign up on the Australia Singapore Free Trade Agreement, says Mr Gallaugher.
"Both of those free trade agreements are likely to preclude procurement decisions based on point of origin."


"It's almost like mission impossible.
"There's no simple solution.
"I'm not even contemplating coming up with one.
"We have to continue to look at all the issues."
Guess what we're talking about?
Alcohol in the Northern Territory, of course.
The quotes are from Daryl Manzie, former CLP Minister for Health.
He's talking about his latest assignment, heading up Ð together with Donna Ah Chee, currently acting director of the Aboriginal health service, Congress Ð the process of developing a new Alcohol Framework for the NT Government.
The framework aims "to strike the right balance between reducing levels of alcohol-related harm in the community and ensuring Territorians are able to enjoy a drink", saysMinister for Racing, Gaming and Licensing Syd Stirling.
"Most Territorians use alcohol sensibly, but there is a minority of people whose excessive drinking can lead them to harm themselves and others," he says.
"Government will be examining all issues of community concern surrounding alcohol, including health, enforcement, economic, community amenity and licensing issues."
Mr Manzie says the government deserves "some kudos for its holistic approach".
But haven't we been doing this for years? Haven't we heard it all before?
I was expecting to encounter review-fatigue.
"We have to keep updating approaches," says Mr Manzie and other "stakeholders" would seem to agree.
I spoke to Paul Wakefield, liquor coordinator for Venturin Nominees' Foodland group, recently commended for their responsible liquor trading practices.
"I welcome every review," says Mr Wakefield, "that gives us the opportunity to become a better trading area.
"We have got to be actively doing something on a continuous basis for the betterment of the community and this industry."
Chairman of the Substance Misuse Action Group (SMAG) and manager of DASA, Nick Gill, speaking personally, also welcomes the review.
He says the framework will guide government decision-making on "all the substantive issues", including Sunday trading, about which he is greatly concerned.
He described as "constructive" the government's work to tie in the Alcohol Framework with other work to combat anti-social behaviour, such as the Itinerants' Strategy.
"They are not sweeping the issues under the carpet," says Mr Gill.Ashley Masters, who manages Alice Springs's two Liquorland stores but is also speaking personally, "just as Joe Public", was a little less positive.
"I have no problem with a review but in the end, whose views do we take notice of?
"The noise-making minority or the easy-going majority?
"It was the majority who suffered last time because they were not listened to."
Minister for Central Australia, Peter Toyne, says this latest process is different because there are "funded initiatives on the ground being progressed".
"So if you turn up at a grog meeting in Alice Springs today you are turning up to say what is the outcome of the first range of reforms that were brought in, and here's all the money coming in to fuel further community initiatives, how can we best proceed from here?"
Meanwhile, in the wake of the restrictions trial, now partially abandoned, people may not be drinking less but are drinking a little differently.
Mr Masters says there has been no substantial return by Indigenous drinkers to cheap bulk wines like Fruity Gordo.
This market is still mainly buying two litre casks of Tawny Port.
Neither has the general public "swarmed back to the four and five-litre casks," he says."Over 18 months their palates have been trained to drink a better quality wine."
The Foodland stores no longer stock cheap bulk wines.
Since restrictions on four and five litre casks were lifted, Mr Wakefield says they have decided to stock only one four litre cask of premium standard.
They do stock two litre ports at their Eastside and Flynn Drive stores (their licence does not allow them to stock it at Northside because of their proximity to a town camp) but produce it only on request.


Bromley, that naughty bear depicted in a children's book climbing Ayers Rock, is back in the book stores.
And its creator, author Alan Campbell, will be in The Alice next week, telling the Central Land Council (CLC) to put up or shut up about threats of a court injunction against the book.
Mr Campbell says "Bromley Climbs Uluru" unleashed a storm because several photographs showing the bear on the Rock were taken without a permit required for commercial photography in the Uluru National Park.
Mr Campbell says the CLC is "threatening all the time but will not go to court".
"We're now calling their bluff."
He says he has asked the land council's legal department to furnish him with a photocopy of an injunction application, or else a letter from the traditional owners saying they will not take any action.
"They are just stalling," says Mr Campbell.
He would like an opportunity of proving his innocence in court.
Mr Campbell says if taking photographs is offensive to Aboriginal people, how come hundreds of thousands of tourists every year are allowed to take pictures for private use.
"Why is a photograph in a children's book more offensive than happy snaps?
"It is just hypocritical."
Mr Campbell says no marked sacred sites are depicted in his book.
The Central Land Council did not respond to an invitation to comment.


People in Alice Springs flock to the cinema to see the latest Hollywood blockbusters but what about live theatre?
Alice Springs has a rich theatre culture just waiting to be discovered. This summer why not have a look at what local theatre has to offer?With exams coming up soon, a number of well-polished performances are on show for senior students' moderations.
St Philip's Stage One performance will be shown to the public in the Minnamurra Hall in November.
The production will be a group devised piece based on the Italian theatre style, Commedia dell'arte, an over-the-top physical style of comedy in which actors wear half masks and play outrageous characters.
Dance performances for St Philip's and OLSH year 12 students' moderations are being shown at Araluen on October 15.
Students at OLSH are performing "Incantations of Frida"; a contemporary piece based on the life of Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Students Haley Coulthard, Patricia Mabasa, Kristy Neil and Bianca Miller will dance key aspects of Frida's life, supported by Kael Murray, Juneta Bowey and Keith Talbot.
"Frida" will be the farewell performance of director Bryn Williams who is leaving Alice Springs for Paris. Bryn will also perform on the night, dancing Bob Fosse's "Mr Bojangles" with local rising talent, 16 year old, Shaun Ashcroft.
Shaun has been acting and dancing with Centre Stage and Trash theatre for over a year and has performed lead roles in "Titus", "The Wizard of Oz" and performed with OLSH in "Way out West", "Songlines" and in the Dreamtime Festival. He danced in Tennant Creek in the Croc Festival and will travel to the Gold Coast next week to attend a dance conference.
Totem Theatre's production of Charles Dyer's "Wanted One Body" opened last Friday.
Directed by Norman Alexander, the show is a British farce of a dark murder mystery.
The cast of nine are all suspects and the murderer isn't revealed until the curtain is about to close. A whodunit of mistaken identities and missing bodies, it's a family show Ð a bit scary but it won't do any lasting damage to the kids!
"Wanted One Body" shows again on October 10 and 11, with a matinee performance on the 11th at 2 pm.
The matinee audience will have a treat when a duo featuring Leah Clarke on keyboard and Glenn Pilton on vocals perform music from the 1920s and 30s during interval and before and after the show.
In November at Araluen, "Nunsense", a very glamorous musical comedy about a group of performing nuns, will also feature a number of local talents.
The play is about nuns putting on a play: the Little Sisters of Alice Springs can't afford to bury some of their nuns who have died of food poisoning.
While the sisters keep their dead in a freezer, they put on a benefit to raise the funds.
Kellie Mackereth plays the lead role as Mother Superior with Michelle Raisbeck, Jessica Yates, Andrea Collins and Crystal Cleghorn as the other principle nuns. The show is choreographed by Michelle Raisbeck and designed by Kristina Kidd with musical direction by Liese Gordon.The show is very much a community production with an ensemble of 14 and a crew of local people.
There are still places - call Sally Peart on 89520153. The show opens on November 28 with performances on Saturday, November 29 and on Friday and Saturday, December 5 and 6.
"Nunsense" is very much a family show, director Steve Kidd says, "Children will love the singing, dancing and gags in the show, while adults will like the more sophisticated humour".
Araluen Cultural Precinct is producing the musical and was keen to have Steve direct after the huge success of "Les Miserables", which he directed in Darwin.
Steve, the head of drama at St Philip's College became involved in "Nunsense" because he wanted to do a quality local musical.
Trash Theatre is a relatively new youth theatre group, which was formed from the old members of Centre Stage Theatre, run by Bryn Williams.
Trash's opening production was a Gothic adaptation of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" performed by the senior group earlier this year.
The junior members put on their own show, in August, a hilarious take off of the Greek legend, "The Race for the Golden Fleece".
The junior actors, aged six to 16, are now working on a group devised piece, in which each person invents a monster to play and adds his or her own individual touch to Monsterland.
Some of the monsters include a man-eating frog, a giant broccoli, an imitating monster and a teenage monster that just doesn't shut up!
"Monsters" is likely to be shown in February next year.
Trash director Rob Evison is also planning an adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy, "Twelfth Night", in which the senior Trash members, 12 to 20 year olds, will memorise the entire script and staging of the play.
Only on the day of the performance the cast members will find out which character they are playing: blindfolded, they will pick articles of clothing from a pile, and the costume will determine the role they will play.
On the challenge of this performance, Rob said, "The script will be cut down a bit so it won't be super difficult. It will be a lot of work but it's a fun gimmick and a great lesson in production skills. The group will learn to work awesomely together."


Last week's issue presented an account of the murder of Fred Brooks that suggested the motivation for the killing was Brooks' refusal to return the wives of the killer, Kamalyarrpa Japanagka or "Bullfrog". The women had been doing domestic work in Brooks' camp and Bullfrog had not received his promised payment of food and tobacco.
I have also been told of another deep-seated resentment that Bullfrog felt towards Fred Brooks.
"I think he [Fred Brooks] had a brother, old policeman name of Brooks, " explained legendary old bushman Walter Smith.
Old Darby Jampitjinpa independently confirmed this perception. "That old Brooks, him bin have a brother. Old policemen. Him bin shootem three brother belong Bullfrog."
Could this have been so?
Paddy Tucker's perception that Bullfrog had, at least at the crucial time of the murder of Fred Brooks, three wives suggests this possibility, for he would be likely to become the caring husband of his brother's widows. But what of Fred Brooks' brother, the policeman?
Charles Edward Brookes (not Brooks) was born in Adelaide on 1st August, 1847. He was 5'10'' tall and working as a drover when he joined the S.A. Mounted Police in September, 1873. He then served for most of the period 1874-1911 in the Northern Territory. His police record of service simply indicates "Northern Territory" for much of his service, but the relevant entries indicate that he was at Barrow Creek in 1883-1886, and in Alice Springs from July, 1898 to April, 1905.
I have not been able to find any formal record of patrols that would indicate the possibility of Mounted Constable Charles Brookes having been involved, but Major Jangala told the following account, which can be dated to 1911-1912. Major learnt it from his father.
A Mounted Policeman with two Native Constables travelled from the Overland Telegraph Line out into Warlpiri country. He arrested six men near the Granites, and commenced the journey back to the Telegraph Line. One Warlpiri man, who had been resting in the shade about 50 to100 metres away when the arrests were made, had crawled and then run away while the arrests were being made, but when sure of his safety then returned and followed the patrol.
He was able to obtain water and camp a short distance off the line of march because he knew the rockholes and soakages of the country. Very occasionally he "finger-talked" to the prisoners, suggesting possibilities of escape, but had to be extremely careful, and normally stayed out of sight except at sundown and sunrise.
Each night the prisoners were chained to trees with neck-chains, one to a tree so that they could not readily contrive an escape. After a few days the policeman made a decision. He was friendly in manner as he gave each man along an almost straight line of trees some breakfast and a drink of water, and Major envisaged him saying to each prisoner, "Sorry old man". When they had finished their meal and drink, he and the Native Constables stood off at a short distance and shot them all. They took the chains off, left the men who were shot for the wedge-tailed eagles, falcons, crows and dingoes, and rode back towards the Overland Telegraph Line. The man who had been following the group fled, and became the teller of the story.
There is no confirmatory evidence whatsoever that Mounted Constable Brookes was the constable involved, and it is unlikely that he was the policeman because he was based at Illamurta from 1905. However it may be that his patrols of the 1880s and 1898-1905 involved travel into Warlpiri country, or that his name has become linked to a series of incidents involving other police. He must therefore be presumed entirely innocent unless a formal record can be located.
At the same time, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt Major Jangala's story. I knew him for years, travelled his country with him, and he was a man of strong character and integrity. I therefore do believe that an unknown policeman, not wishing to go through the trouble of long travel with Warlpiri prisoners and a court case, committed murder in the name of rough frontier justice well south-east of The Granites in about 1912.
Whatever the case, Mounted Constable Charles Brookes was not the brother of Fred Brooks, but the confusion is understandable. Bullfrog's long-term deep-seated resentment was real because his three brothers had been shot, but derived from an incorrect perception (which was shared by Walter Smith and Darby Jampitjinpa) about the "brother" relationship.
In brief summary of the above, general resentment about pastoralists and prospectors was felt by the Warlpiri of the Lander River country, and Anmatyerre of the Lander and further east. It is clear that the drought increased the tensions, and that at least one group did not want cattle in their country. There is a strong possibility, in fact, as Michael Terry believed, that sizeable groups of them planned to drive cattle men from their country, in particular Randal Stafford at Coniston. However, the primary reason for the killing of Fred Brooks was that he would not return Bullfrog's wife (or wives) to him, and had not fulfilled his promise to pay Bullfrog in rations and other items.
Explorer-prospector Michael Terry, who first learnt of the killing of Fred Brooks from Harry Tilmouth later in 1928, formally gave the name Brooks' Soak to Yurrkuru, (though the map-makers confused matters by spelling it Brookes' Soak). A few years later he delivered a marble headstone, purchased by Randal Stafford, which was erected at the head of the grave. Its inscription reads: "In Memory of / Frederick Brooks / Murdered on 7th / August 1928. / Old Man In The Early / Days of Coniston, / Those Days When Our / Troubles Were Great / In The Years You & I / Worked Together / I Found You A True & / Staunch Mate. / His Old Mate / Randal Stafford."
To return now to the second week of August 1928: Mounted Constable George Murray had been instructed by Commissioner Cawood to investigate the cattle killings that had been reported from the Pine Hill and Coniston station country. He was on his way with two native constables in a motor vehicle, apparently certain that he would be able to borrow horses from Randal Stafford for any patrols, when John Cawood received Randal Stafford's telephone call telling him that Fred Brooks had been murdered.
It appears that Randal Stafford was told by Commissioner Cawood that George Murray was on his way, for Randal left TeaTree, met him and informed him of Brooks' murder. George Murray then returned to Ryan's Well where, in telephone conversation with John Cawood, he was told to arrest the culprits and also to give assistance to Joe Brown.
In the light of the rumours he had been hearing, as well as the reported facts of cattle-killings, threats of an attack on Randal Stafford, and now the murder of Fred Brooks, it is surprising that John Cawood's message to Mounted Constable Murray did not include to await further reinforcements of police from Alice Springs, Arltunga, Hatches Creek and Tanami. Perhaps, though, and understandably he had enough been impressed with George Murray's war service record and the fact that he had been a successful policeman-bushman on remote police outposts for nine years. Furthermore, it was clearly urgent that help be given to Joe Brown.
Whatever the case this good man Cawood, so recently arrived from a part of Australia where the last frontier violence had occurred in his grandfather's time, simply does not seem to have envisaged the possibilities of what "teach them a lesson" might have meant.
I suspect that he thought it meant that several arrests would be made and that at worst, in the event of "a proper stand-up battle" such as had been reported out at Tanami, only the main culprit, throwing spears and boomerangs rather than surrendering, might be shot rather than arrested.
Instead he later found that he had been the local Police Commissioner and Administrator distantly out-of-contact in charge of a punitive party.
An odd aspect is that, although John Cawood was the Police Commissioner, he appears not to have been influenced at all, at the time, by his newly appointed Stuart Town police sergeant, Sergeant Charles Herbert Noblet. Noblet had been a policeman for over 25 years, with "between 19 and 20 years' experience of blacks" when appointed to Stuart Town in April, 1928. That he had no role in matters until the very end of the police patrol, and then only in Alice Springs, seems quite extraordinary.
Although he later implies a defence of sorts by claiming an excessive work-load, with focus on mining matters, the possibility is that he was covering something up. Again, though, it indicates the possibility that things may well have been very different had old Sergeant Stott still been in charge.
The membership of this police party is worth considering in brief detail.
Mounted Constable George Murray, the leader, had lived through the glory years of the British Empire. He would undoubtedly have formally learnt of some of the heroic battles (as they were then presented) of his parents' and his own era, and known at first hand as neighbours some of the participants. The Zulu Wars in South Africa, and the Charge of the Light Brigade at Sebastopol in 1854 were universal folk-lore, with place-names throughout Australia commemorating them. Similarly the deeds of Lord Roberts in India and South Africa, the Relief of Mafeking during the South African War of 1899-1902, and all of Lord Kitchener's deeds were heroically portrayed. (Indeed, the author of these articles, Dick Kimber learnt these stories of heroic charges and relief victories during his 1940s education. Empire Day was a big day back then.)
George had voluntarily trained, effectively as a cavalryman, in his youth. However the circumstances of his World War 1 service had meant that he had not had the opportunity to take part in the last great Light Horse charges. It is likely that he regretted not being with some of his Victorian mates in the famous charge at Beersheba, the last great cavalry charge in history. While there is no doubt that, having served as a soldier throughout World War 1, he had displayed courage on numerous occasions, he probably thought that he had "missed out" on greater heroic possibilities. He had been 30 at the commencement of the War in 1914, and the good fortune that had allowed him to survive five dreadful years might be considered to have run out.
A man of 44 years of age can remain brave, yet also has a sense of his own vulnerability. Furthermore, much as he no doubt applied common sense to his tasks, he was not formally trained as a policeman.
It is also inconceivable that, during his spare time at Barrow Creek, he had not read the official correspondence associated with the attack by Kaytetye warriors there 55 years previously, which had resulted in two telegraph station men being speared to death and others wounded.
The police instructions of the time had included that the ammunition not be spared.
And, since the police party included a majority of bushmen volunteers, and justice must be seen to be done, it was also officially sanctioned that the rules of law could be flexibly interpreted.
(This flexibility appears to have been used in reports about the numbers of Kaytetj killed during patrols: the official figure is nine, but several other accounts suggest that "scores" were shot).
Even if this was not at all in George's mind, the latest news of frontier violence in the region into which he was going was that two of his fellow police officers, following the spearing of a police horse, had shot the main culprit and been exonerated.
He also understood that there had been cattle-killing and threats of violence to the cattlemen, and that a long-term frontier-experienced station hand had been killed.
His formal instructions from Cawood were to arrest the culprits, avoid violence in the process, and yet not to put the police party's lives at risk. He also tacitly understood that it was acceptable that he "teach them a lesson" Ð a phrase without specific instructions about the method of teaching. As he did not know either the Warlpiri or Anmatyerre language, he was at a disadvantage given that he was the leader.
And it is perhaps also worth keeping in mind that George Murray would have accepted and agreed with all state and later federal governments, the missionaries, the experts, and the statistical evidence of the entire 1860s to1940s period, that Aborigines were "a vanishing race", undoubtedly "doomed to extinction."
Native Constable Paddy was the Aboriginal tracker who had accompanied him as he left Stuart Town, and he was armed with a revolver. He was a Western Aranda man from Lukaria, a site on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges, a little west of north of Glen Helen, so could not speak the language of the Warlpiri and Anmatyerre of the Lander River country. According to Pastor P. Scherer this was "Police tracker Paddy Patika ("Padygar"), who served under Mounted Constable W.G. Murray [and] acquired notoriety in connection with the punitive expedition "under consideration".
Bryan Bowman, who knew him and had heard of his deeds in the Coniston country and elsewhere, described him as "murderous", as did noted linguist and 1930s patrol officer T. G. H. Strehlow. In that another man called Padygar is later mentioned, the tracker will hereafter be referred to as "Police Paddy", the name by which he was widely known. Police Tracker Major is an unknown figure in any detail, and was armed with a revolver.
He also appears to have been unable to speak either the Anmatyerre or Warlpiri languages, as Alex Wilson was used as the speaker in numbers of instances. (He is not the Warlpiri man who became known as Major Jangala).
NEXT: Murray recruits a posse and the massacre begins.


The faithful at Santa Teresa are invigorating Catholic liturgy with the stories from their lives and their Aboriginal traditions.
"From Charles Creek [Arrernte people] shifted together. / The army took them to Arltunga. / They camped that night at Cross Roads.
"From Paddy's Waterhole the children were taken away. / They were taken to a place in the north. / They lost their identity and their heritage.
"Today is a special day, / walking in their tracks / remembering how our people / came to be here.
"Today we are at Santa Teresa. / The place is developing. / You young generations keep in your mind / we are still together. / Don't forget."
This story, sung in Arrernte to a haunting melody, opened the Mass that last Saturday celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Santa Teresa, now also known by its Arrernte name, Ltentye Apurte.
The song was a sign of what was to follow. The Arrernte Catholics of this community are making of the liturgy and the missionary-built church something of their own.
This is in keeping with a strong message given to them in Alice Springs by Pope John-Paul II when he visited in 1986, as Sister Val O'Connell reminded the congregation Ð about half Arrernte, half European, with many visitors from Alice and from interstate.
"You do not have to be people divided in two parts," said the Pope, "as though an Aboriginal had to borrow the faith and life of Christianity, like a hat or a pair of shoes, from someone else who owns them."
It is also responding to a deeply-felt need. As Agnes Palmer told me: "When we are praying in language, I feel the Blessed Mother and Jesus can understand us, more so than if we were speaking English."
Her blended Arrernte-Christian spirituality gives her "freedom within" so that "I am not being stifled by life conditions because I have to live under this law and that law', she said.
The gospel was read in Arrernte as well as English; there were other Arrernte songs or hymns, including a second one remembering the people's "hard struggle", their "fight to survive", to quote Agnes again.
In a particularly moving act of prayer, several women stepped forward to sing a hymn to the "Lamb of God".
This was sung in English, with the women crossing their arms over their breast and then extending them in a powerful gesture Ð a kind of dance Ð of giving, of surrender. Many women in the congregation joined in from where they were seated.
I grew up in a devout Catholic family. The Mass as celebrated by Bishop Ted Collins of the diocese of Darwin was deeply familiar to me. The elements brought to it by the Arrernte at Santa Teresa infused the rite with an unfamiliar vitality. My impression was that these people were speaking and acting directly out of their own lives, not out of a learnt tradition.
The women who had stepped forward are those who have painted the walls of the church with astonishing murals.
Prayer and singing accompanied much of the work, in particular one hymn: "Come Holy Spirit, I need you, / Come sweet Spirit, I pray,"
This was being sung in harmony, over and over, very beautifully, recalled Cait Wait, as the Aboriginal face of the Creator emerged under her brush.
Cait, a non-Aboriginal professional artist, was employed by the community to coordinate the painting of the murals. She was already well known there, as the founding coordinator of Keringke Arts, the community's Aboriginal art centre, now well-established and highly regarded around the country and overseas.
The murals are a collaboration between Cait and the Arrernte artists she has trained: Janie Oliver, Maryanne Ryder, Georgina Furber, Leeanne Ryder, Marie Therese Ryder, Paula Turner, Marie Therese Mulladad, Rachel Palmer, Agnes Palmer, Veronica Wallace, and on occasion, Kathleen Wallace and Benita Cavanagh.
Many of these artists had never painted before.
Cait is not a Catholic but she does describe herself as a "woman of faith" Ð faith that there is good in the world, that good things can happen between people, faith in the mystery of our origins and our destiny.
Agnes said there were no discussions about the mural process with the priests or brothers in the community.
"Our process was with Cait," she said.
It was built on "a very understanding and trustworthy relationship" as well as on her ability to say to the women "we've got to get this done".
The project started 18 months ago, with the first three months devoted to painting lessons: colour theory, perspective, the tricks of "making real", the decision having been made from the outset that the murals would be done in a realist, figurative style Ð "no dots".
Imagine then the scale of the task: eight neophyte artists and about 100 square metres of bare wall!
Georgina Furber told me the women got "frightened for painting the church".
"But we were really brave when Cait was there!"
Cait's message to the women was above all to create sacred imagery that was their own and to create it out of love.
There is much evidence of lovingness in the work, particularly in the delightful rendering of the smallest of creatures.
Creation from an Aboriginal perspective is celebrated in the southern wall: "It is like we are sitting somewhere round the country," said Paula Turner, "all mixed in together, our spiritual way and the church way."
Apart from the dove recalling Noah's Ark, here are the birds, animals and plants of Central Australia, totems for each of the community's families, among them spinifex pidgin, zebra finch, bush turkey, kangaroo (very large for there is an important kangaroo story for this place), perentie (nice and fat), porcupine, scorpion, carpet snake.
"Aboriginal spirituality is about tuning into Mother Nature Ð the many hidden stories in the land and the little spirit people all around us though you can't see them," explained Agnes.
The first ancestors are shown walking out into the desert, like Moses and his people. These figures are modelled on early photographs of Aboriginal people and are rendered without clothes. Initially there was some consternation about this.
"I told them, don't be ashamed of your nakedness," said Agnes."Our people walked on this land without clothes. The picture shows the interaction of people and animals living together in their nakedness."
The northern wall blends the story of the life of Christ with a celebration of Aboriginal family life. After the immaculate conception (a glorious golden virgin portrayed by the youngest of the artists, Janie Oliver), we see a young mother with her baby in a coolamon, attended by two older women and guarded in the distance by three warriors (the Three Wise Men). She is the Blessed Mother and every mother.
We see an idyll of bush childhood. Jesus at this age would have been shown working happily with Joseph in his carpentry shop. Here we see Aboriginal children with their parents (and the little spirit people, if you look carefully) in a bountiful land, playing and learning at the same time.
Looking at this scene, Agnes said, "I would give anything if I could change children's way of life here Ð take them out bush, let the spirits of the land strengthen their little spirits."
We see the emergence of a strong young man. This is at one level a depiction of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, but this Aboriginal Jesus has a power and a message all his own.
Maryanne Ryder said they painted him "to remember our young ones".
Men of all ages were absent from the artistic team as well as from the Mass Ð with the notable exception of the band members.
"We tried to get men involved but their interest fizzled out," Agnes said.
Of the baptism mural she said: "There are a lot of men spirits in the land. Here in this picture we have one that is kind of standing out.
"Jesus had colour. When we painted him black it was to relate to the men that they have the image of Jesus in them too."
She acknowledged the strength of the women in the community. She said it comes from the struggles they went through in the Ôseventies and Ôeighties, battling the impact of alcohol and fighting to get the community declared "dry", a fight that they won, though the battle with grog is not over.
She said the women "tap into" Jesus, the Blessed Mother, the Eucharist "to give them strength". Looking at the figure of St John, she likened the women to him, "a voice alone in the desert".
"We are like that, calling our people to come back to our choice of a better life."
The murals were blessed by Bishop Ted on Sunday but the project is not quite finished.
The western wall, either side of and above the main entrance, is waiting.
In sequence it comes after the crucifixion mural (a painted "stained glass" window, containing 10 oval-shaped rosettes, each representing the individual artist's understanding of the life, suffering and death of Jesus) and after a mural about fire and, as Cait said, "its transformative power".
An old tree is consumed with fire after a lightning strike and all around it the country has burnt to ash.
For Agnes, this mural reminds her that "at any moment we can die".
But an ending always promises a "resurrection" and that spirit will be expressed in the final mural: "There will be new growth, a new life for us."


Simone Lienert is either on a mission to "save the Aborigines", or on a nice little earner, or maybe both.
In any case, the German born woman's 15 years in The Centre as a faith healer and tour guide are further proof that her fellow countrymen have an insatiable thirst for all things Aboriginal, and are ready to pay good money for it.
Ms Lienert says she has been "sung" by the recently deceased senior Uluru elder (his name cannot be mentioned for cultural reasons) to "remember the cosmos story", and to go forth and spread the word about Aboriginal culture.
"If you really want to help my people teach your people," she says the man instructed her.
"Then the white society will understand the cosmos and what Tjukurrpa means."
She says he gave her a sacred stone, which she is now carrying on her person at all times, safekeeping the object until "a younger Aboriginal man is ready to work with it again".
Ms Lienert says the stone "protects me, gives me the power of truth".
"It is used for placing on the skin for healing purposes but I was told by the spirit that I must not do it," she says.
The 54 year old Berliner says she communes regularly with figures in the hereafter, a skill made easier by the fact that she herself is a returning Aboriginal ancestor, albeit in a white skin.
Ms Lienert says her engagement started with an old man at Ayers Rock.
He was speaking to a tour group and she was at the back of the crowd.
The man, with great insistence, told her to come forward, and putting her into a trance like state, gave her the initial instructions.
Ms Lienert's mission has a robust commercial manifestation.
Earlier this year she gave slide presentations in 28 German cities to 2000 people, paying five Euros (about $8) each.
For the first time she will hold two similar lectures in Alice Springs in the near future.
Hundreds of Germans took part in spiritual workshops (costing 20 to 40 Euros a head) with participants arranged in a circle around what Ms Lienert describes as a traditional painting from the Uluru region.
In 1987 Ms Lienert started Walkabout Australia, with a string of home-based piece workers producing Aboriginal artefacts and fabric designs.
That business was sold to Sew For You proprietors Colleen Byrnes and Margaret Healy in 2001.
Ms Lienert's next project Ð apart from another lecture tour of Germany Ð is to set up a "spiritual healing and learning centre" in the Top End with Bill Harney, the part-Aboriginal son of the legendary white Ayers Rock pioneer.
The German press, at least on two occasions, labelled Walkabout as an aid initiative, one of them using the adjective "without comparison".
Ms Lienert says the papers got it wrong, but she has no influence over what journalists write.
But she proudly displays a story in the popular mag Bella which describes her, in the headline, as "the white angel of a lost people".
A north German regional daily, sourcing its story to a press release by Ms Lienert, reports that participants in her workshops and lectures "are being led to the ancient power of the earth mother".
"They can participate in the healing power of the rock mountain [Uluru], as well as experiencing the miracle of Kata Tjuta from whose domes radiates the life energy of the ancestors".

In our own backyard. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.

Latest stats from the Bureau of Tourism indicate that visitor numbers are still well down in the Territory.
Family groups took advantage of school holidays to escape cooler climes elsewhere and almost 900 bakers last week attended a convention here: they experienced glorious days, the ferocity of a summer storm, thunder, lightning, and over half an inch of rain, a cleverly staged mini Henley on Todd regatta out at Simpson's Gap and made time to visit in-town must-sees and do a bit of serious eating, drinking and shopping.
I rang my sis, Lynn, now back in New Zealand, to say that David and I'd spent the weekend out around Glen Helen with Mim, my middle step-daughter, visiting (again) from Sydney: Lynn reminded me that on an earlier visit to the Alice we drove out west, stopping at beautiful places along the way, and when we reached GH, we could hear music, a flautist, sitting at the top of the ridge, playingÉit was truly uplifting, the sounds floating above the cliffs, echoing around the gorge.
How better to reintroduce anyone to the Centre than to head out along our magnificent Western Macs. The landscape is stunning Ð the water hole at Glen Helen is quite full, plenty of sand, almost a beach, and the cattle are well fed and happy. In the morning there were plenty of signs that they'd been right outside Ð unless it was lions padding aroundÉManagers, Sue and David are back after their interstate break and the lodge was bopping: Tim Rickards, resident guitarist/singer, now accompanied by his son Matt playing mandolin, entertained the crowd for hours. Locals mingled with visitors and it was hard to discern who was whoÉWe met a Swiss couple, Beatrice and Stefan, half way through their two month tour of Oz: they spent three days in Sydney before flying up to Darwin to hire a campervan for a leisurely drive through the Territory. Three weeks around the Top End, Kakadu, Litchfield, Katherine, Mataranka, through Alice, down to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon and the Western Macs. They were dropping the van off in Alice, staying for three nights to sightsee locally, then flying to Cairns and hiring another vehicle, for a month, to drive to Cooktown, around the Athertons and down to Brisbane.
They live and work in busy Bern and, as they said, a city is a city and it was the Outback that appealed: the Outback fly/self-drive Aussie holiday concept is being promoted in Switzerland.David, Mim and I did the White Gums walk around Ormiston on Sunday.
Friends Gary and Amanda did also: we saw only the personalised rego plate and an invitation to lunch flapping under the windscreen wiper.
Mid-week in our busy mall David and I bumped into the happy Swiss travellers poring over photos and we invited them around for a sun-downerÉ
Their highlight to date has been Ormiston Gorge Ð they decided to overnight so they could spend a few extra hours soaking up the spirit of OrmistonÉ
Stefan thought the terms gap/chasm/gorge quite funny Ð they had their Swiss/English phrase book and were trying to discover the differences. (Isn't that someone's catchcry, "discover the difference"?)
Anyway Stefan was intrigued: "gorge" is a deep sided valley or ravine; "chasm" is an abyss, gap, rift, ravine; "gap" is also rift, opening, gorge or ravine.
All the same, he laughed, but admitted that the gorges, gaps, chasms and rock formations they've seen in the Centre are each so very differentÉ B and S said they will promote the Red Centre wherever they travel and they hope to return.
If everyone continues promoting our particularly unique part of the world it should make a difference at some point, shouldn't it?

Small inside. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.

Four wheel drive vehicles, superannuation, sports and Holly Valance's navel. I thought there was supposed to be more to the interests of modern men.
I was reading my arts magazine on the plane and surreptitiously glancing around at the reading matter of other males. One person was reading 4WD Monthly (can there really be enough to fill a whole magazine on four-wheel drives every single month?) and another was leafing through a golfing journal. I guarantee that a bloke in the front row was studying the financial pages to value their superannuation, although I didn't bother to go and find out.
Instead, I sighed in a deep and meaningful way about the state of middle-aged man. We are becoming more and more like Doctor Who's Tardis, but in reverse. We might be big on the outside, but inside we are very small. Or perhaps I should speak for myself. Never mind, at least I could feel smug about my own choice of magazine, which was clearly a superior piece of artistic analysis that marked me out as a person of depth. Then I glanced down and saw a picture of Holly Valance's navel.
This is how the world works. Wherever you go, however hard you try, there is no escaping your own stereotype. So eventually you just give in to it. I have stood quietly in queues of people waiting to do mundane things like check-in at camp grounds or buy raffle tickets. When I reached the front, the person behind the counter said "You're from England, aren't you?', as if I had a flag stuck to my forehead or looked liked I was about to complain about something.
George Orwell once wrote that the more you experience of life, the more horrible it becomes. I often think about that, especially whenever someone I know suffers a setback or becomes more cynical than before.
I recently heard the pop group Blur being cynical. I love Blur. They exude the right combination of boyish fun and political rant. Or they used to 10 years ago. But in a recent interview, the band talked about songs being no more than adverts for lifestyles. They spoke in a careworn fashion that made me give up hope that music and art might make a difference to anything. I thought Blur was a radical band with a new take on the world. Then again, I thought that Billy Connolly was a cool hairy bloke with a funny accent who had no truck with authoritarian types. Then I saw him advertising superannuation on the telly.
The magazines on the plane, the cynicism of former heroes. It all adds weight to the old theory that most people lead lives of quiet desperation. They worry about their health, the size of their stomach, their relationships, their financial state and their rellies. Behind the veneer of being upbeat and never whinging lies a deep mine of hidden concerns that rarely come to the surface.
Sometimes, I wish there was a clifftop walk in the Alice. Troubled souls and introverts could walk along it, gazing out to the horizon, raising their chins into the stiff breezes and grappling with the paradoxes of the day. I guess the hill in the Olive Pink Botanical will have to do. It has a tea shop, some steps and a view over the swamp and the YMCA. If you squint you can count the Austar aerials over the Eastside. As I was saying, surely there has to be more.


Spring is certainly in the air at Pioneer Park now that, from last Saturday, racing will be a weekly event until the crescendo on Melbourne Cup Day.
The four event card on Saturday proved an eye opener for better things to come as the three-year-olds make their appearances on the track, culminating in the running of the first two-year-old races on Cup day.
On that day the final of the Wes Martin Memorial will again be a feature.The 1400 metre Drifter Class B Handicap got proceedings under way on Saturday.
The even money chance Crown Pacific ridden by Ben Cornell showed a reversal of form to score by half a head from Sid's Eagle, with Fleeting Bird six lengths away third.
Phil Crich hunted Sid's Eagle to the lead from barrier six, while the Oldfield trained Crown Pacific settled among the back markers and enjoyed the run to the 600 metre mark where he began his surge.
On the turn Crown Pacific drew level with Sid's Eagle, but it took the run down the straight for him to gain the upper hand.
This was an impressive performance by Crown Pacific as he has had little experience in overtaking an opponent to win.
The Tjilpi Class Three handicap over 1000 metres proved to be a memorable day for trainer Nigel Moody, jockey Tim Norton and Getting Lucky.
The speed machine smashed the track record previously held by 2002-03 icon Scotro. Scotro had run 56.38 over the dash, and on Saturday Getting Lucky lowered the record to 55.84.
Staring at 2-1 on, Getting Lucky scored by eight and a half lengths from Anthony Player's Bysanto, with Classic Khan a further two and a half lengths in arrears in third place.
Moody elected to take the blinkers off Getting Lucky for the run and from barrier three Norton jumped the galloper to the lead. Bysanto remained honest in the running and appeared to be a chance as they turned into the straight. The favourite however grew an extra leg in the run home and duly romped in.Norton and Moody buttered up for a riding and training double in the next event, the Melbourne Cup Handicap over 1100 metres.
The race was set up for Queens Image when By Joe and He's Tough Enough set the pace.
The pair gave it everything and in the straight the strain showed as He's Tough Enough seemed to get the stitch, and soon after By Joe ran out of petrol.
This allowed Queen's Image to take control and rattle home a winner by a length and a half.
By Joe held on for second money and Tordean filled the placings.
The last of the day gave hoop Ben Cornell a riding double when he booted Jubes home in the Class Five Nappa Handicap over 1200 metres.
With Wolf Trap being a late scratching, the field was reduced to four. Jubes was happy to camp behind the other three runners, who duly took each other on.
The well-backed La Mexa was the first to concede as he was never able to get across and ran his race, while Ollettie and Tarcoola Magic continued to race keenly, setting the scene for Jubes to claim them in the run to the line.
Cornell duly timed his run and claimed the front runners with ease to pass the post four and a half lengths in front of Tarcoola Magic, with Ollettie a further length and a half away third.

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