EDUCATION DEPT. NEW ALLEGATIONS: LIVES SHATTERED, MONEY SQUANDERED. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
Lives are being shattered, public money wasted and children's education compromised by the Department of Education, according to former or current employees.
They came forward following disclosure of the shafting of Diane deVere, a former principal of the Papunya school with an outstanding record (Alice News, November 12).
Ironically, the allegations coincide with the "Workforce Development Strategy" rolled out by the department which is stonewalling inquiries from the News.
¥ After about three months on the job, contract salary of $116,000 plus a vehicle, the principal of Boroloola school is pulled out at short notice following a spat with the parents' body. He gets a job as a senior teacher at Tennant Creek but his huge contract pay Ð more than double the going rate for a senior teacher Ð continues its three year term.
¥ Another bush principal is pulled out of Haast's Bluff also at short notice in the middle of a flood, forced to risk driving through creeks where the water came over the bonnet of the car carrying her three small children. Her husband says the department has settled out of court after a two year battle which caused the teacher extreme stress and anxiety. The pay-off is believed to have been between $70,000 and $80,000.
¥ A senior specialist teacher of 25 years' experience loses her position and suffers a prolonged period of depression and anxiety following administrative errors about her placement. This teacher has been granted Workers' Compensation for the mental health injury caused by the department's bungling.
This plus the expenses of her treatment is costing the department "bucketloads", she says Ð well over $200,000 so far and no resolution in sight.
¥ There are several other cases which the News is continuing to investigate.
Responsible are the senior managers in the Gap Road office, among them the local chief, Ralph Wiese, his wife, the HR manager, Jennifer Kerr, and Russell Totham, due to retire in three weeks' time.
However, complaints and grievance procedures by the teachers have gone all the way to the top.
The buck stops with CEO Peter Plummer, the Commissioner for Public Employment John Kirwan, and Education Minister Syd Stirling.
¥¥¥Former principal at Haast's Bluff, Ann Kerr (no relation to Jennifer), arrived in the community in 2000, after a period as principal of a bush school in Queensland.
She and her family wanted to come to Central Australia to be closer to an elderly relative of her husband's, who was suffering dementia.
Mrs Kerr is constrained from speaking to the Alice News by the terms of her out of court settlement, however, her husband Michael, who served in the Australian Army for 28 years and who witnessed the events at close quarters, is not so constrained.
He was prompted to call us when a friend from the Territory crossed paths with the family in outback NSW and showed them the Alice News carrying Diane deVere's story.
Mr Kerr, speaking with some bitterness, says his family were happy to go to Haast's Bluff. They liked the bush and the isolation and had previous experience living in Indigenous communities.
Trouble started once term began, however. The teacher of the junior class at the school had also applied for the principal's position and, according to Mr Kerr, did not take kindly to Mrs Kerr's seniority.
The Alice News has sighted extensive documentation by Mrs Kerr of the junior teacher's refusal to follow her directions.
Mr Kerr says the group school principal responsible, Hughen McConaghy, offered her no support in dealing with the situation. He says Mr McConaghy's attitude was to "put up with it and shut up".
He also says Mr McConaghy was a friend of the junior teacher and would visit the community to socialise with her and her husband, as well as with the community CEO and his wife. However, he did not take the opportunity of these visits to deal with the issues Mrs Kerr had at the school.
Matters came to a head around a break-in to the junior classroom by a group of little children. They left expensive equipment alone but poured cake mix and cordial onto the carpet making "a big mess"; pulled down posters, broke glass, emptied cupboards.
Mr Kerr says the junior teacher refused to teach her class for a week following the incident and, without Mrs Kerr's authority, called a community meeting at which she pushed for the suspension of the children (under seven years of age) from the school.
Mrs Kerr discussed the matter with the department and told the junior teacher and the community that the children would not be suspended, but the junior teacher continued her push for suspension.In the wake of this conflict Mrs Kerr demanded an investigation of the teacher's actions under the procedures of the Public Sector Employment and Management Act.
Some of the allegations made by Mrs Kerr were of a serious nature.
An officer was sent out to Haast's Bluff to investigate.Mr Kerr says the officer was accompanied by Mr McConaghey, who told Mrs Kerr that she would not get anywhere with her complaints. Mr Kerr says Mr McConaghey then spent the rest of the day with the junior teacher, staying on at her house overnight.
The end result was that the teacher was "counseled" by Mr Totham for the inappropriateness of some of her actions and transferred to another community for Term Four.
Mr Kerr says Mrs Kerr was left alone to teach in the school of 30 odd children for Term Four.
He says she was told by the human resource manager in the Gap Road office that she could not find a teacher for the junior class but if Mrs Kerr could find one, to go ahead. This Mrs Kerr did in the course of a professional development program and the new teacher began duties in the classroom at the start of Term One, 2001.
However, Mr Kerr says Mrs Kerr found the teacher's classroom practice unacceptable: she used to put videos on all morning and children began to stay away and parents to complain.
Mrs Kerr assigned the teacher to office duties and took the matter up with the managers in Gap Road.
Once again, Mr Kerr says Mrs Kerr's authority was undermined by her managers in Gap Road.
However, at the end of February, in the middle of floods, the managers flew into the community on a Monday, telling Mrs Kerr that teaching staff were being withdrawn from Haast's Bluff and that Mrs Kerr was to attend a meeting in Alice Springs on the Wednesday.
She and her family would have to leave the community on the Friday.
They were told their permits to live and work in the community had been revoked, which they contested.
Mr Kerr says they were told a letter signed by community members had requested their removal.
He says only three of the signatories to this letter were from Haast's Bluff.
He also understands a much more thorough process would have to be entered into for his and his wife's permits to be revoked.
Mrs Kerr then went to the top. Mr Kerr says she tried to speak to CEO Peter Plummer by phone six times until she received a call from Mr Totham in Alice Springs, saying that Mr Plummer had directed him to deal with the matter and that she was still to report to him on the Wednesday.
Mrs Kerr asked a union representative to go to the meeting with her. Mr Kerr says Mr Totham refused to allow the union rep to attend.
Mr Kerr says his wife was harangued by Mr Totham for two hours, and told she'd better look elsewhere for a job.
Mr Kerr says his wife had a counter letter signed by many members of the community, including the three who had signed the letter Mr Totham had, wanting her to stay.
Mrs Kerr put in for a transfer and won a position out of the region. Mr Totham refused to release her. She spent a period in schools in Alice Springs before being offered a Maths / Science position at Alice Springs High. She declined this position as she is not qualified to teacher at secondary level.Mr Kerr says she was told to either take the position or resign.
With no resolution being offered, Mrs Kerr decided to take legal action.
Mr Kerr says every time his wife attended mediation, the Education Department's representatives failed to attend. He says in all they failed to attend four mediation meetings.
He says their tactics were to wear Mrs Kerr down and deplete her resources.
She was by now on sickness benefits for stress-related disorders. She was being represented by NT Legal Aid.
He says the case was listed for hearing in February this year. The lawyer acting for Mrs Kerr had demanded the attendance for cross-examination of all signatories to the department's affidavits. This included at least three people who had moved interstate, Mr McConaghy among them. The Education Department made its out of court settlement offer, conditional on Mrs Kerr's resignation, one hour before the hearing.
Mr Kerr says his wife had at first loved the Territory. Now it is a place full of bad memories and she will never come back.
He says she will tell everyone she meets how badly teachers get treated here."We don't want what happened to us, not just to Ann but to the whole family, to happen to anyone else," he says.
Last week, Mrs Kerr did some relief teaching in a school in outback NSW.
"She loved it," says Mr Kerr.
"Ann still sees a psychologist once a week, but by the start of next year she wants to be able to put all this behind her and be able to get back into the classroom."
¥¥¥A senior specialist teacher waited more than 16 months for an apology from the department over the administrative errors that caused her to lose her position and to suffer chronic depression and anxiety.
She is still waiting, after nearly three years, for the offer of a suitable position that would assist her return to work.
The department is obliged under the Work Health Act to offer appropriate return to work positions, in line with the employee's doctor's recommendations and their previous employment.
The psychiatric reports on this teacher's Workers Compensation Progress Medical Certificate have repeatedly cited "resolution of workplace issues" as essential to her recovery since June 2001.
In that month when asked by the insurer about the teacher's treatment, the psychiatrist stated: "I think far more important than treatment as such, is resolution of this apparent communication problem between her and the Department of Education."
When asked about the expected period of incapacity, the psychiatrist responded: "I feel sure that if this matter could be resolved reasonably to her satisfaction and reasonably quickly, within a very short time she would have to be regarded as capable of returning to an appropriate position Ð consistent with her experience, training and medical requirement."[The prognosis] is good as long as this matter can be promptly resolved."
In August of that year her doctor reported: "Very frustrated by lack of response from department. Needs assistance re finding appropriate work."The essence of this message has been repeated with regular monotony until the present day.
The teacher began working for the department in 1991. (Her identity will be absolutely clear to the department. The Alice News is protecting her identity in this article because of outside workplace considerations.)
Before coming to the Territory she had been working in South Australia mostly as a teacher of the deaf and in special education. She has not taught in "mainstream" classrooms since 1977.
In the Territory she worked initially in the Aboriginal Hearing Program, which she says in the early Ônineties was an "international leader".
Subsequently she worked as an "unattached education officer" liaising with various health programs including the remote area paediatrician; an oral health program; nutritionists in a program called "Hunting for Health" and so on.
She was also an active member of the Australian Education Union, serving as Treasurer until her depression set in.
She says under new CEO Peter Plummer, who took up his post in July 2000, a decision was made to have no more unattached officers, ie positions not attached to a workplace.
She was advised that she would be assigned an attached position in the near future.
Suddenly, without consultation, she was assigned an early childhood classroom teaching position, a job for which she had no qualifications or experience.
She says when she asked that the decision be revisited, the request was refused as she had already rejected seven other placements.
She protested that this was the first placement that she had been made aware of.
She says she was assured that there was evidence of her repeated refusals.
The ensuing exchanges with the department resulted in, according to the psychiatrist's report of August 2002, her being "left with the impression that she was being accused of malingering, and of being unprofessional and work-shy during the past".
Two and a half years later the teacher still has not been shown evidence of having been offered the seven positions she was supposed to have rejected.
A representative of the department finally acknowledged the error. In August 2002 the Assistant Manager, Employee Relations wrote:
"I can confirm that you had not been offered any of the positions which departmental representatives had claimed you were offered.
"Any suggestion that was made at the time that you had in fact been offered other vacancies and knocked them back is therefore incorrectÉ"I am sorry that these matters have not been dealt with before now, and I acknowledge that this delay has hampered your recovery to your pre-injury status."
There followed an apology for that officer's own delays in attending to matters he had discussed with the teacher, though he "could not speak on behalf of other people who may have been responsible".
He went on: "I am unsure as to why the Department did not talk to your union representative about your issues and can only advise that I consider that decision to have been misguided."
For the teacher this apology of sorts was "too little too late" and flawed by not being totally accurate in its representation of the facts.
It was also not matched by an offer of suitable work. Despite 25 years' experience and specialist training in an area of particular need, she has been offered part-time library assistant work in every school in Alice Springs.
Her psychiatrist's report states: "The apology has not helped to resolve the adjustment disorder to the extent that she has recovered. In fact I have commented on recent aggravations of her symptoms as a consequence of interactions in relation to future postings."
The diagnosis in that report described the teacher's condition as "chronic because of the ongoing nature of the stressors due to unresolved issues with the Department of Education."In August this year, the teacher began a short-term placement in workforce development with another government department.Her rehabilitation progress report of August 27 reads in part: "She is invigorated by the workÉ She is also considering all her options and has requested that financial options are presented to her if she chooses to exit from DEET."
It is now November and the teacher has still not had any response to this request from the department.
The teacher told the Alice News: "I need to leave the department. It's the only way I can get really well. But it's scary to go out into the workforce aged 48, feeling so damaged. I feel insecure about how capable and tough I am."
She describes a "culture of mediocrity" in the senior ranks of the department, with "nobody being made accountable for their actions".
She says the placement committee, whose errors have had such disastrous consequences for her professional and personal life, are at "second row" in terms of seniority in the department.
She says complaints to the public employment commissioner are handed back to the department to investigate.
She says the phrase "usual administrative action" is used to nullify most complaints.
She says teacher retention is such a problem in the Territory because "people get treated so badly".
The Alice News has requested a comprehensive statement from Education Minister Sid Stirling about the issues raised in this article and the article about Diane deVere and about the actions that will be taken to remedy the situation. We have requested this statement for publication before the end of the school year.
ATSIC COMMISSIONER KEEPS THE STORY TO HERSELF. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
ATSIC Commissioner Alison Anderson has joined the Education Department in keeping mum on the events at Papunya that led to the sacking in June 2001 of highly regarded bush principal, Diane deVere (Alice News, Nov 12).
At the end of October Ms Anderson had promised me an interview on the subject on November 22, last Saturday.
I arrived at the agreed time at her home where she has previously given me interviews.
Walking towards me, Ms Anderson said: "Have you come to get that story?"
Ms Anderson: "I'm not going to give it you."
Ms Anderson: "Because I don't feel like it."
"I think that's a shame."
Ms Anderson: "Why?"
"Because you're a leader and it's important for your actions to be transparent."
Ms Anderson : "My actions are totally transparent. That's a bullshit story that you ran. If you want to run bullshit that's your choice."
"I can only run another story if I get other information. So why don't you talk to me?"
Ms Anderson: "I'm the only person who makes that a story and I don't want to give it to you."
"You're not the only person in this story actually, but you are an important person."
Ms Anderson: "Well, I'm not talking."
I would have liked to have asked Ms Anderson about Papunya School's achievements during the years that Ms deVere, as principal, enjoyed her support.
I would have liked to ask what caused her to withdraw her support from Ms deVere.
Once she was no longer community advisor, how did she see her role vis a vis the school?
Who had stepped into her community advisor shoes when she was elected to her ATSIC position?
Have there been local government elections in the community since then?
What led to her involvement in the community meeting about the school of June 1, 2001, which resulted in the sacking of Ms deVere?
Was she aware that some members of the community, involved with the school, had asked that the meeting be postponed because they had to attend a funeral at that time?
What was discussed during the meeting?
How was it resolved that she would make the announcement about Ms deVere's eviction from the community?
Does she think it was appropriate that she, as ATSIC Commissioner, would make such an announcement?
Doe she think it appropriate that a dedicated staff member be told about her future in this manner, and in front of everyone?
Does she think she, as ATSIC commissioner, should have a role in on-the-ground management of government employees in a community?
What was the purpose of her intervention?
Has she achieved what she set out to achieve?
What does she have to say to the 27 community members, including Indigenous staff at the school and members of the school council, who signed a letter requesting Ms deVere's reinstatement?
Has Ms deVere's removal been a good thing for the school, its pupils and its Indigenous-trained staff?
How is the school faring at present?
We invite Ms Anderson, a noted champion of people's rights, to supply the answers.
GOVT. SAYS IT'S TIME TO GET CATTLE OUT OF WEST MACDONNELLS PARK. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The government is close to getting a handle on the problem of cattle and horses getting into the West MacDonnell National Park.
Chief District Ranger Chris Day says parks authorities have been grappling with the problem for decades, and it seems enforcing regulations banning non-native animals from NT parks may be the only viable option.
"We are aiming for a zero tolerance to large grazing herds," says Mr Day.
"But it will take us some time to get to that, Territory wide."
Mr Day says it is impossible to fully fence the West Macs park.
For example, its boundary runs through the summit of Mt Zeil.
However, several hundred thousand dollars have been spent fencing the areas where stock are coming in, but the fences get pushed down in floods.
Mr Day says the cattle are scattered in small mobs, "a maximum of 40 head each".
Generally, the large bulls are on their own and they are often the animals people complain about.
But tourists and tour operators say the cattle are very much in evidence and "mickey" bulls have been known to scare visitors.
Mr Day says agreements with pastoralists to fence the park may have been misunderstood: when the fences failed the cattle men blamed the parks authorities for their stock straying into public land.
Mr Day says it is clear that the onus is on the owners of the animals to keep them out of the park.
However, it is understood a recent case may be settled out of court: the parks service shot four animals considered to be a public risk, but the service later agreed to compensate the pastoralist who owned them.
The areas most affected are sections acquired some 10 years ago from Glen Helen, Derwent, Narwietooma and Milton Park stations.
Wild horses and cattle are also entering the park from the Hermannsburg Aboriginal land.
It is difficult to muster in the park because there are few areas where temporary yards can be set up and where road trains can get access.
This means the animals have to be walked over long distances and difficult terrain, and helicopters may need to be used Ð an expensive task.
PICTURED above is a bull on the bank of the Finke at "Two mile", snapped by photographer Deborah Clarke in July or August this year. Ms Clarke's partner, tour operator Charlie Carter Ð a tireless campaigner against cattle in the park - says: "The bull does not appear to be branded or earmarked, looked at carefully through binoculars.
"Just judging from its mongrel appearance it is not a selected breeding bull, it is a Ômickey'.
"The question is Ð who owns it?"It has been running in the Park for ages, probably still is.
"Why do Parks have to consult, or deal with pastoralists on the issue of what appear to be feral cattle?
"Why don't they muster them up and sell them and use contract musterers?
"I suspect the sale of Ôcleanskins' would cover the cost of the muster?"
Mr Day says the ownership of a beast can be determined despite the lack of a brand or an ear mark.
AYERS ROCK JOBS: WHO'S RIGHT? Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Claims by the Ayers Rock Resort that it wants to employ Aboriginal people but nobody wants a job were challenged by a manager of an Indigenous organisation.
Dave Oakes, coordinator of the Employment Services Program of the Nyangatjatjara Corporation, says over the past five years he spoke three times to the resort's human resources managers at the time.
Mr Oakes says each time he was told that the resort tries to employ people aged 19 to 23 who have completed Year 12.
"They did not offer any alternatives," says Mr Oaks.
Mr Oakes says he knows no Aborigines in the area who have completed Year 12.
"I don't think Year 12 is needed for picking up bags, gardening, labouring, things like that," he says.
The resort's spokesperson, Rachel Davidson, says: "We have not been able to substantiate Mr Oakes' claims. There are many positions available in the resort that do not require Year 12.
"Ayers Rock Resort is pro-active in relation to Aboriginal employment and Anagu are welcome to apply for any jobs we have available."
The resort has about 1000 employees, mostly people from interstate and overseas.
The nearby Mutitjulu community has an unemployment rate of about 90 per cent. Not a single person from Mutitjulu Ð inhabited by the owners of Ayers Rock Ð works at the resort.
Says Nyangatjatjara CEO Clive Scollay: "All the exit polls show that tourists were surprised that they didn't see a black face in the resort.
"There hasn't been a policy of recruiting Aboriginal people, as far as I can see."
He says it appears the resort is recruiting mainly from Brisbane and Sydney, with an average stay of six months.
Mr Scollay says things may change now as the resort has become a "Corporate Citizen", requiring it to employ a certain percentage of Indigenous people.
Mr Scollay says a work experience program has been run over the past three years with students from the Nyangatjatjara College, which is supported by the resort.
And now four young people are in a full time apprenticeship, with a fifth Ð from Mutitjulu Ð due to join the inaugural participants who are from Imampa, a small community between the resort and the Stuart Highway.
All apprentices are girls and students at the college.
They are taking a hospitality and tourism certificate course, supported by literacy and numeracy teaching at the college, and a mentor program.
Says Mr Scollay: "The students are very shy.
"They don't really want front of house roles until they have a bit of training."
But Mr Scollay says the new initiatives are set to make a big difference, prompting "middle management and the other workers to drop their resistances and prejudices".
"The paradigm is always, Aboriginal people are unreliable, go walkabout, are late for work, never wear clean clothes, and so on.
"Now they've been working with these girls, who've turned up to work regularly, and found them to be happy and well adjusted.
"The staff get on well with them.
"The whole paradigm is starting to break down. And that's what we've intended to do."
ARCHIVES: THE MYSTERY LIES INSIDE IT.
1800 boxes of records dating back to 1857 have a new home in the Central Australian archives, in the old Mines Department building in Hartley Street.
Some of the material was stored in the AZRI complex on the South Stuart Highway, but most was "repatriated" from Darwin Ð a pet project coming to fruition for Minister for Central Australia, Peter Toyne.
The archivist, Pat Jackson, from Canberra, says "the archives is a wealth of information just waiting for a researcher to unlock".PAPERSShe says: "There are so many papers."
In most cases, all that's known is the name of the file, but "the mystery lies inside it", coming to light when Ð and if Ð a researcher begins to study it.
"I'm happy to help them," says Ms Jackson.
But she says there's a difference between a library and the archives.
"A researcher can't browse the stacks of records like one can browse the books in a library."
She's also a little apprehensive "but also excited" about the locals' passion for history and collecting.
"The records in this archives are unique unpublished material," she said in her speech at the opening last week.
"That means that we do not collect old newspapers or books that are kept elsewhere.
"However, a newspaper clipping about someone's life that comes as part of his or her personal records and is in context with the rest of that collection does become an archive.
"Personal records including oral histories are an invaluable part of this collection and it's this that sets the Northern Territory Archives Service apart from other government archives.
"Personal records are a rich and valuable resource for the community because it is the story of members of that community."
The more information that can be provided by donors about a collection, the better.
"One hundred beautiful sepia photographs with no descriptions are worthless in an archives.
"Five well-described pictures that tell you when and where are priceless.
"I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have such a committed and knowledgeable team of supporters in the group that call themselves the unofficial archivists, many who are here today.
"Archives are also about humanity and about life. An inclusive archives has records that can cause pain and joy.
"There are records that deal with the agony of separation, as the Aboriginal Advisory Group well knows. And there are records that deal with the joy of discovery.
"An archives is much more than records in boxes, it is above all about people, about humanity, about government, warts and all."
Ms Jackson is pictured with a copy of the Alice Springs Times dated November 4, 1965, found in Ly Underdown's collection.
LITTLE GIRLS CAPTURED: "DON'T LET US GO. HE WILL SHOOT US AS HE DID THE OTHERS." Part Twelve of a Feature by DICK KIMBER.
'Real True History': The Coniston Massacre
The Trial of Padygar and Arkirkra.
Part 12 of an historical perspective by DICK KIMBER
Miss Annie Lock, the missionary who had set up camp at Harding Spring well, became a significant character in the overall history of the times once she knew about the impending trial of the two men accused of Fred Brooks' murder. By this time, the well having given out, 24 of the 26 Aborigines had been forced to leave, going to the more reliable nearby Woodforde Well and soakages, and to Ti Tree.
Miss Lock arranged to travel up to Darwin, taking with her two small girls whom she had named Betsy and Dolly. One had had yaws, but her health had vastly improved after 20 months of care. However, by taking the girls Miss Lock had unwittingly broken two laws that then existed.
First, she should have sought formal approval for their removal from Harding's Spring camp from the local area Protector of Aborigines. This protector was none other than Constable George Murray at Barrow Creek.
It was just that he had not been wearing his protector's hat all that often for the previous three months.
And secondly, because the original Northern Territory had, the previous year, become two odd formal identities, Central Australia and the Northern Territory, she was breaking the law by taking them from one "state" to another without permission.
In Katherine she stayed and met with other devout Christians who were aware of the pending trial of the two alleged murderers in Darwin.
When they heard the stories she had to tell that had been coming in to her from the bush, they asked the question, "And isn't anybody going to be charged with the murder of the natives afterwards?"
It seemed a fair question, and one which I believe Sergeant Noblett might well have had in mind when he assisted George Murray with his final report.
RESPONSIBLEHowever much he was helping Murray to save his neck, as senior sergeant who had approved the patrols Sergeant Noblett was doubtless also aware that he might be drawn in as legally responsible too.
Doctor Johnson's quip about how a hanging focussed a man's mind most wonderfully well might have been playing on his mind a bit.
The trial itself was relatively brief. On 7th November, 1928, precisely three months after Fred Brooks had been murdered, the court in Darwin was convened. Padygar and Arkirkra were charged with his murder, and George Murray presented his evidence.
To do so he summarised the entirety of the first patrol, for Padygar had been arrested at its start and Arkirkra at its finish.
The problem with the case was, however, that no-one who was a reliable witness other than Bruce Chapman had seen the body of Fred Brooks, and Bruce had himself been buried for two months!
Annie Lock's own summarised version of the end of the trial, from the time when Constable Murray had concluded his evidence by telling of the shooting of the last four men, now follows.
SHOT TO KILL"The court asked the witness [Constable Murray] if he shot at their legs, and he replied that he had not done so.
"He shot to kill every time.
If he had shot to hit in the leg, what was he to do with a wounded blackfellow out there in the bush? In one instance a bullet killed a man, passed through him and killed another behind him. Here the judge remarked, ÔMowed them down wholesale'.
"After a retirement of fifteen minutes, the jury returned with a verdict of ÔNot Guilty.' Padygar and [Arkirkra] then were acclaimed innocent of the murder."
It was an intriguing trial, with Constable Murray giving minor details of the shootings not elsewhere mentioned, and Annie Lock perceiving that the decision automatically meant that the other 17 who had been admitted as shot must also all have been innocent!
CITY PEOPLEThe local Darwin correspondent for the Adelaide media (then primarily newspapers) summarised how city people, far removed from central Australia, were beginning to feel.
"Press, pulpit, and the general public unanimously agree with the jury's verdict in the aboriginal trial, and are shocked by the candid admissions of the police that they shot to kill natives who showed fight when overtaken.
"Some of them were shot eighty miles from the scene of the murder, and all of them were miserable, half-starved wretches.
"They were driven out by drought, and hunted way from waterholes by pastoralists. The natives are wandering the wilderness in starvation and despair."
His source of information for other than the trial details was the missionary, Miss Annie Lock.
No doubt George Murray and quite a few Central Australians were angry at the verdict, but to do anything directly to Padygar and Arkirkra was clearly "not on".
Murray was meant to escort them safely back to Barrow Creek, but by accident or design they escaped/were set free at Mataranka. Perhaps a walk of several hundred kilometres through hostile territory might manage what a jury could not.
Prior to this, though, there is little doubt that Murray, having failed to get a conviction when it most counted, decided to legally strike out at an irritant.
Miss Lock was his target, a missionary who had previously criticised him to his face about his care of bush Aborigines who were suffering ill-health, whom he probably knew had been suggesting that scores of deaths had occurred during his patrols, and who was now pointing out details that the newspaper correspondent might have overlooked.
He arrived at the compound where the girls were being cared for earlier than did Miss Lock, and they were in an army truck ready for him to take them away when she located them.
CRYThey jumped down and cried, "No, no, don't let us go. He will shoot us as he did the others."
She then took them to the railway station, where a considerable crowd was on hand, as was normal when a train was about to depart.
Constable Murray was one of them, and the local newspaper correspondent had his next story presented on a platter for him:-
"It appears that Sister Lock concluded her battle for the custody of black and half-caste girls in a dramatic manner.
The Barrow Creek Constable demanded the girls. ÔTake them,' said the courageous woman, Ôbut take them from my arms.' The constable pointed out that it was his duty.
ÔDuty,' exclaimed Sister Lock. ÔI did your duty for you.
ÔI rescued a starving, motherless babe, suffering from yaws and sores even to her very mouth, right under your nose at Ti-Tree Well, as you know.
ÔI fed her and cured her during twenty months at my own expense. I brought her here for final injections. Take her. Take her, but take her from my arms.'"
As the journalist further noted, a "sympathetic crowd gathered round the brave woman" and, while George Murray was still intent on his role, a local Darwin policeman "referred to the fair-sized crowd and the public opinion".
For the moment common-sense prevailed, and Annie Lock was able to keep and care for the children.
However, Murray was on firmer ground back in the Centre, whereas it began to slip away from Miss Lock.
When the superintendent at Hermannsburg commented, without any foundation whatsoever, that he supposed that Miss Lock would be happy to marry an Aboriginal, this became vicious slander against her (indicating the prejudices of the era, and that lasted for decades afterwards).
A southern press journalist seized on this, Annie Lock was "hooted as she walked down the street" in Stuart Town two months later, and was so shockingly reviled by the white men of the town that she had to seek police protection.
Murray, meanwhile, prepared his case against her, and was ultimately successful in having her prosecuted, the "half-caste" girl put into the Jay Creek "Bungalow" school west of Stuart Town, and the other little girl returned to a "tribal" group.
NEXT: The appointment of a board of enquiry.
It's a family affair. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Living in Alice Springs is good for families. Discuss.
The trouble with even approaching the subject of the family is that it becomes political very quickly.
Talk about family values and you are labelled as a "back-to-basics" dinosaur, harking back to a family model from the Ôfifties. Emphasise the freedom of parents to "express themselves" through both working full-time and you sound like an unreconstructed hippy who thinks that children bring themselves up. All this without even touching on the complexities of Indigenous family matters.But one thing is certain. Family relationships, whatever form the family takes, are coming under increasing pressure. For most of us, the culprits are technology, work and unbridled consumerism, all of which loosen the ties of family and intrude into the time that we used to devote to talking to each other.
I started wondering about this some time ago when my delightful and then small children used their enquiring minds to read the UN Declaration of Children's Rights. It was printed on a milk carton, of all places, and was recited every day while they poured milk onto a breakfast cereal whose contents would infringe the nutritional rights of a battery hen. One of the clauses was "the right to be listened to", a failing of mine that they like to point out.
But then again, who can dispute that poor listening is part of the problem. Most people are slaves to their mobiles. The phone chimes the melody of a pop song by a member of the cast of "Home and Away". What do we do? Stop listening to the people we live with and take the call.
An email arrives, ringing the first two notes of the same song and, naturally, we answer the message like obedient puppy dogs. Technology and work comes first, family second.
Then there's the work-buy-sleep-work-buy-some-more culture that has people labouring longer hours and answering the mobile chimes after close of business. We become too busy for the common rituals of family, like visiting the rellies and sending get well cards.
I contacted a very sick aunt of mine recently. She was surprised to even hear from me. This basic family duty isn't even expected any more.
The question for us, sitting in our armchairs reading a newspaper in remote Australia, is whether this state of affairs also applies here.
Clean air, quiet streets and the rosy climate are good for children. For these reasons alone, the Alice has to be healthy for families compared to the sprawl of the capitals or the spread of the coastal strip development.
But children do not modern families make. The family is now more diverse than it ever was, including any combination of adults, carers, ages and sexes. So the Alice effect goes much further than that.
The lack of close places to visit, the limited distractions and the short journeys around town pay time back into the family account. So we ought to have more available for family matters, providing any relatives live within 1500 kilometres. So here's the rub.
The Alice offers greater chance of achieving quality family relationships than other places we could name.
But most people who come here leave much of their family behind. I recently met yet another person who knocked back the chance for his family to share in our so-called quality of life, instead plumping for the strip malls and multi-lane highways of somewhere on the east coast.
Unless you already know the answer, we ought to ask ourselves why so many people cannot stomach Central Australia.
But this was an article about families and so that's a subject for another day in the same armchair. See you then.
The season for picking. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
That feeling of quiet following Sally and Harry's departure didn't last too long ÐMarjolein, from The Netherlands, whom we'd met in Brisbane earlier this year, and her boyfriend Enrico, from Germany, arrived on Sunday.
They stayed with us for three nights and, although they enjoyed our hospitality, the drama of summer storms over Alice, a movie, drinks at Bojangles and their Desert Park experience, they expressed disappointment in our town. It's just like any other place, it has no Outback feel (Charters Towers with its wide streets, swinging sign-boards, timber verandas, heritage buildings and Outback character was their favourite stopover to date).
They were shocked at "how wasted and lost" the Indigenous people they saw around the town looked. They agreed that Alice is a good base from which to visit surrounding areas but have made a quick (and harsh?) assessment of Alice Springs: an unremarkable town in the middle of some exceedingly remarkable country.
Marjolein and Enrico drove off to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon mid-week. They'd bought a 1981 Ford Station wagon in Gladstone for $2250. They'd also invested in the Lonely Planet Oz book, "Up Front, Outback, Down Under", which says of Alice Springs: "Dangers and Annoyances Ð It's not a good idea to be out walking alone at night in the town centre or on poorly lit streets. Get a taxi back to your accommodation if you're out late." Which probably applies to most places ÉI flicked to Coober Pedy: there were no nasties listed, no danger walking around dimly lit streets, or mining sites for that matter, and no need (obviously) to be aware of pit shafts!
They also had a copy of Barry Brebner's "Workabout Oz Ð Jobs Galore", which gives the traveller 12 months of seasonal work options around our big beautiful country. They'd worked around Childers, picking and sorting tomatoes, then further north in Bowen, (advertised as "Hawaii without the rain", which really attracts the back-packers!), where, every year up to 3500 pickers are needed to harvest tomatoes, mangoes, cucumbers, capsicums, corn, beans and pawpaws.
I haven't really thought about where our vegetables come from Ð apart from those which David grows (tomatoes, silver beet, lettuce, onions, beans and herbs) or those I buy at the supermarket. Enrico picked capsicums, back-breaking work but extremely good money: he put them into buckets: these were carted to the end of rows by another worker, then loaded onto a truck by somebody else, before being delivered to the shed for sorting by others, six months of picking and grading those peppersÉTi Tree got a mention in the book Ð grapes and mangoes, bunch thinning August and September, and picking, October through till December: according to national news a number of illegal workers were recently identified up there. M and E said that many pickers work without the necessary employment visas and permits.
Alice Springs also featured Ð hospitality positions, May till September, and grape picking. M and E hope to find work in South Australia, around Mt Gambier and the Limestone Coast, a very pretty part of Oz Ð 6500 seasonal jobs on offer and thousands of people vying for them, forestry and timber processing, grape picking, meat processing, hospitality, horticulture, hay- carting, shearing, seeding and cutting flowers.
It's possible to work full time around Oz following the seasonal harvests, and some people do. M and E keep running into fellow pickers and sorters along the way. They intend to drive that Great Ocean Highway just before Christmas and join some of the 10,000-12,000 workers at either Shepparton picking apricots or around the Yarra Valley where cherries are harvested. Nothing like Christmas in a hot climate, travelling and working, half way up a ladder, picking and sorting, bumping into old friends and meeting news ones.
David's school-friend, John, from Leicester, England, also joined us for four days last week. He's on a Rugby World Cup tour and will be ecstatic with Saturday's result. We didn't talk about the Oz/Kiwi game!
I've deleted messages: What do you call 15 Kiwis watching the World Cup Final? The All Blacks.
New Zealand and Australia now have four years to regroup: we'll be back: better and stronger.
John and David have known each other since school days Ð almost 50 years. John liked the Alice, the pace, the size of the town, meeting our friends, sundowners in Kingy's gazebo, travelling around the fairway in a golf buggy, the Western Macs É he could see why we live here ÉSo, no time for empty house syndrome Ð or to become overly sensitive about our (young) visitors' remarks Ð but it's possibly a good idea to take them on board. Visitors aren't here long enough to experience the ease of our lifestyle or the magic. And, whether we like it or not, most people still base their opinions on those all important first impressions.
RUGBY: DIEHARDS IN ACTION. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Representative rugby came to Alice Springs over the weekend when the Katherine team took on the locals.
For both unions the fixture was seen as a vital cog in the season's calendar as it was intended to allow the best from each region to step up a level and perform.
Last year Katherine made full use of representative opportunities winning the NT 10s, and downing both Alice Springs and Gove before proving too good in the capital city.
It was a different story this weekend, however, as the visitors went down to the locals by a point, losing 22 to 23. The game was physical as expected, and Katherine opened the scoring, using the flair of Clint St Clair, Mitch Jones and Pearce Kelly effectively.
In the Alice ranks it was Mick Hauser with two tries, Shane Hooper and Lincoln Peckham who balanced the scales allowing the hosts to celebrate the win.
Despite it being a close game the standard didn't reach any miraculous heights as both Katherine and Alice ran on far from at full strength.
Complacency was the problem in both camps with officials battling to attract enough starters for the game.
In both centres the competition is somewhat on a knife edge in terms of ensuring that all clubs can run on with a battery of reserves each week.
In Katherine's case the bus was delayed in departure as the scramble was on to attract enough players to tour. Officials added that during the week they had to spend around $200 in phone calls trying to attract participants.
In Alice the absence of gun players was evident with likes of Jono Swalger and Steve Barr unavailable through injury, and many regulars simply not committed to the cause.
When viewed in terms of the development of the game in the Territory it may well be that the NTRU need to rethink the format for the elite level. At present, there are regional representative games which presumably give officials an insight into potential players to be invited to join the NT Mosquitoes in the national competition.
The training and playing regime, however, at this level really does limit the ability of regional players to enjoy elite level play. For boys from the country it virtually means packing up and relocating to Darwin for training and then being able to take the time off work to tour.
With this making things almost prohibitive for players from the bush, the lure of participating in representative games is dissolved.
As an alternative, in country Queensland, representative squads seem to be catered for more effectively by bringing them together to train for a week ( or in some cases weekend) prior to big games.
Even at club level the regional centres are doing it hard. In Alice this season the reigning premiers, Eagles have had to virtually rebuild, and apart from the Warriors who recruited assertively in the off season the other clubs have battled to run on with a full complement.
In Katherine a similar saga prevails, and in seeking to solve their woes the Rucking Roos have sought to play in the Darwin competition. They will play five games in 2004 in this competition, giving their juniors a real chance to prove their worth and catch the eye of Mosquitoes selectors. The arrangement also negates the bye in the Darwin calendar.
ALICE HORSES IMPRESS IN ADELAIDE AND MELBOURNE. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Two of the stars of the local track scene tested themselves in better company in Adelaide and Melbourne on Saturday and impressed.The Nigel Moody trained Getting Lucky relocated to the Peter Moody stables in Melbourne, having cracked track records at Pioneer Park. Caulfield was the venue to test the three year old filly over 1000 metres, and she was up against some lively company.
Moody engaged top jockey Damien Oliver for the ride. Despite this the task was always going to be tough as she drew barrier eight out of eight. Oliver settled the filly well in fifth position and three wide only a length off the lead.
Interestingly she was beaten into third money, with NT apprentice Joel Hallam aboard the winner Carlton Spirit.
In Adelaide, at Morphettville, Greg Carige entered his three year old Drifter in the Caterfair handicap over 1200 metres. The former champion two year old who won on Cup Day in Darwin, led from barrier six, albeit under pressure. While the favourite Go Fuhrever took control and won easily, the second and third place getters Approved and Almost Never, only caught Drifter in the last 50 metres, to relegate him into fourth spot.
Locally racing continued at Pioneer Park with a three event card.
The first of the day was raced over 1100 metres, being the Dr John Flynn Handicap.
The ever reliable Nappa started at even money favourite, but in carrying a massive 60 kilograms found the handicapper's challenge just too much. Stable mate Our Mate Jack who ran around with 52 kgs on the back, led and had a two length break on the field as they turned for home. Nappa gave of his best to finish in second spot a length and a quarter off the pace. The third place getter, Queen's Image, came home well from last to collect a cheque.
While trainer Terry Gillett celebrated with the quinella it was a sad day for veteran trainer Emmy Weir. The best of her small stable, Star Damsel, broke her front leg within metres of the finish line and subsequently had to be humanely put down.The Gillett racing team continued their party in the second race the 1200 metre Tracy Wickham Class Three Handicap. The "Razor" racing team had invested with confidence in Earth Legend, and to date had failed to live up to expectations. On Saturday, however, it was a different story when jockey Tim Norton hunted him to the lead, stealing a two length break on the turn. Bright Vision had enjoyed the sit in fourth place on the rails and looked a chance, but in the run home proved no match for Earth Legend who went on to win by two lengths. Filling the placings was Origin Warrior who came home strongly from the rear of the field, indicating that good times are on the horizon for him.
The 1400 metre Imran Khan Trobis event completed the day's racing. As with the first two events it was the horse leading at the turn who took the money. Crown Pacific drew barrier one and hoop Daniel Stanley wasted no time claiming the lead. Sarason's Girl applied some pressure in the running, but faded, leaving Crown Pacific a clear run home to score by three and three quarter lengths.
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